Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone

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Hugh O'Neill
(Aodh Ó Néill)
Earl of Tyrone
Hugh O'Neill, 1608.jpg
Predecessor Turlough Luineach O'Neill
Successor Henry O'Neill
Died20 July 1616 (aged about 76)
Rome, Italy
Buried San Pietro in Montorio, Rome
  • 1. Katherine O'Neill
  • 2. Joanna (Siobhán) O'Donnell
  • 3. Mabel Bagenal
  • 4. Katherine Magennis
Hugh, Henry, Alice, & others
Father Matthew O'Neill
MotherSiobhán Maguire

Hugh O'Neill (Irish: Aodh Mór Ó Néill; literally Hugh The Great O'Neill; c.1550 – 20 July 1616), was an Irish Gaelic lord, Earl of Tyrone [lower-alpha 1] (known as the Great Earl [1] ) and was later created The Ó Néill Mór, Chief of the Name. O'Neill's career was played out against the background of the Tudor conquest of Ireland, and he is best known for leading a coalition of Irish clans during the Nine Years' War, the strongest threat to the House of Tudor in Ireland since the uprising of Silken Thomas against King Henry VIII.


Family background and early career

Family tree
Hugh O'Neill with one of his wives, his father, and selected relatives [lower-alpha 2]
1st Earl

c. 1480 – 1559
1st Baron



c. 1530 – 1567
2nd Earl

d. 1562
de jure
3rd Earl

c. 1550 – 1616

d. 1591

c. 1585 – 1649

1st Earl

d. 1636

XXXSubject of
the article
XXX Earl of
XXX Earls of
XXX Baron
d.v.p. = decessit vita patris (predeceased his father)

Hugh O'Neill came from a line of the O'Neill dynastyderbfine—that the English authorities recognized as the legitimate successors to the Chiefs of the O'Neills and to the title of Earl of Tyrone. He was the second son of Matthew O'Neill, also called Feardorach, [4] reputed illegitimate son of Conn, 1st Earl of Tyrone.

Shane O'Neill, a legitimate son of Conn O'Neill, employed the ambivalent status of Matthew's paternity to affirm his own claim to the title "The O'Neill". This claim centred on the claim that Matthew was the son of a Dublin blacksmith surnamed Kelly and his wife Alison, whom Conn Bacagh had had an affair with. This would render Matthew illegitimate in both the Irish and English systems of succession. [5]

In the ensuing conflict for the succession, Matthew was killed by the O'Donnelly followers of Shane and Conn, placing his sons Brian and Hugh in a precarious situation. The continuing support for their claims came from the English administration in Dublin Castle, which was anxious to use the support of the sons of Matthew to break the independent power of the O'Neill lords of Ulster. This was part of a general English policy to transform Irish Gaelic titles into feudal titles granted under the Crown that would bring them entirely within the English legal system through a policy known as surrender and regrant, in which the Irish Clan Chiefs forcibly surrendered their lands to the Crown and had them granted back into their keeping as property of the Crown, rather than the property of the sept, or Gaelic extended family.[ citation needed ]

Hugh succeeded his brother, Brian, as baron of Dungannon, when the latter was assassinated by Shane's tanist Turlough Luineach O'Neill in 1562. [6] [7] Hugh O'Neill was proclaimed Earl of Tyrone in 1585 but when he went through the ancient ritual of becoming 'The O'Neill', the Chief of Tír Eoghain, in 1595, he had thrown down the gauntlet to Tudor power. O'Neill became a ward of the state and was brought up in the Hovendan household, an Anglo-Irish family, at Balgriffin, outside Dublin, in the Pale. Growing up in an area of English control he had knowledge of English customs and politics, mainly through his attendance at the Irish Parliament and the court in England. He was able to secure allies such as the Earls of Ormonde and Leicester. [8] [9] But after the death of Shane he returned to Ulster in 1567 under the protection of Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy of Ireland. [1] In Tír Eoghain, Hugh's cousin, Turlough Luineach O'Neill, had succeeded Shane O'Neill as The O'Neill, or chieftain, but was not recognized by the English as the legitimate Earl of Tyrone. The Crown, therefore, supported Hugh O'Neill as the rightful claimant and as an ally in Gaelic-controlled Ulster.[ citation needed ]

During the Second Desmond Rebellion in Munster, he fought in 1580 with the English forces against Gerald FitzGerald, 14th Earl of Desmond, and assisted Sir John Perrot against Sorley Boy, the first Chief of Clan MacDonnell of the Glens in 1584. English commander Grey described him as the "first Irish lord to spill blood". [1] [9]

Engraving of a portrait Hugh O'Neill Engraving William Holl.jpg
Engraving of a portrait

Rise to power

In the following year he was summoned to attend the Irish House of Lords in Dublin as Earl of Tyrone and, [1] in 1587 after a visit to the Court in England, he was awarded a patent to the lands of his grandfather, the first earl, Conn O'Neill.[ citation needed ]

However, with Turlough now having succeeded Shane as The O'Neill, he had yet to choose as tanist. The position was contested by Hugh and Shane's sons, the MacShanes. Due to their father, the MacShanes were favoured within Tyrone, but outside the kingdom, they were disliked because of the cruelty of their father towards the various smaller Kingdoms under the overlordship of the O'Neills. Furthermore, the MacShanes had lost a valuable ally in their kin, the Fitzgeralds of Desmond, following their defeat in the Desmond Wars. [9]

Hugh, through marriage, was able to gain an important ally in the Red Hugh O'Donnell of Tír Chonaill, from whom he was able to secure Scottish mercenaries to fight the MacShanes. In turn, Hugh supported O'Donnell in a succession dispute within his own kingdom. [9]

Through his other contacts, Hugh had the support of lords and Earl's in Ormonde, Leicester and Argyll, and even had the support of Lord Deputy of Ireland Fitzwilliam, whom he bribed. With this overwhelming alliance, in 1592 Turlough was forced to name Hugh as his tanist. Afterwards, Hugh murdered Hugh Gavelagh McShane, whom he reputedly hanged over a Hawthorn tree with his bare hands. [9]

But it was during this war of succession that the English administration had begun to become suspicious of O'Neill's ambitions, and in 1587 they kidnapped Hugh's ally Red Hugh O'Donnell, holding him in Dublin Castle, along with Art MacShane O'Neill. After several failed attempts to break him out of prison, in the winter of 1591 O'Neill was finally able to successfully aid the escape of O'Donnell and MacShane, possibly through the bribing of high-level officials in Dublin. [9]

The pair of fugitives fled the city to the Wicklow Mountains, a stronghold of the O'Byrnes, who were led by Fiach McHugh O'Byrne, one of O'Neill's allies. An O'Byrne search party found the two buried in snow and close to death near Glendalough. Red Hugh famously lost his two big toes to frostbite, but MacShane died. While it is believed MacShane died of exposure, there has been some speculation as to whether O'Neill had the O'Byrnes kill MacShane when they found him, to remove him as a political opponent of O'Neill. [9]

His constant disputes with Turlough were fomented by the English with a view to weakening the power of the O'Neills,[ according to whom? ] but the two came to some agreement and Turlough abdicated in 1593. Hugh was subsequently inaugurated as The O'Neill at Tullyhogue in the style of the former Gaelic kings, and became the most powerful lord in Ulster. Turlough died in 1595. [1]


O'Neill's career was marked by unceasing power politics: at one time he appeared to submit to English authority, and at another intrigued against the Dublin government in conjunction with lesser Irish clan chiefs. [1] In keeping with the practice common at the time, he bribed officials both in Ireland and at Elizabeth I's court in London.[ citation needed ] Though entirely supported by the Dublin administration in his early years, he seems to have been unsure whether his position as Chief of the O'Neills was best secured by an alliance with the English or by rebellion against the advance of their government into Ulster from 1585.[ citation needed ]

O'Neill ruled as a sort of absolute monarch. Upon claiming the title of the O'Neill, Hugh decided that he needed to increase the revenue he was generating from the taxes on his subjects. Eventually, he was generating £80,000 of revenue. For comparison, in the 1540s the Tudor monarchy in England had been only making £40,000 of revenue. Although that figure had certainly increased since then, in financial terms O'Neill was in a position to challenge the English administration. [9]

He also tied the peasantry to the land, effectively making them serfs, increasing production of materials and guaranteeing his supply of labour. The increased revenue allowed him to purchase muskets, pikes and ammunition from Britain. He also had several Spanish and English military advisors in his pay, the Spanish ones having been sent by Philip II of Spain. [9]

O'Neill, like his predecessor Shane O'Neill, introduced conscription to all men within his country, regardless of their social class. Ultimately, the increased cash flow, coupled with the production of materials from the larger labour force, allowed O'Neill to arm and feed over 8,000 men—quite impressive for a Gaelic lord. The force was trained and equipped with the latest European weapons and tactics. [9]

In the early 1590s, the English government in Ulster took the form of a Provincial Presidency, to be headed by the colonist, Henry Bagenal who lived at Newry.[ citation needed ] In 1591, O'Neill roused the ire of Bagenal by eloping with his sister, Mabel, but showed his loyalty to the crown with his military support for his brother-in-law in the defeat of Hugh Maguire at Belleek in 1593. [1] After Mabel's death,[ citation needed ] O'Neill gradually fell into a barely concealed opposition to the crown and sought aid from Spain and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. In 1595, Sir John Norris was ordered to Ireland at the head of a considerable force for the purpose of subduing him, but O'Neill succeeded in taking the Blackwater Fort before Norris could prepare his forces. O'Neill was instantly proclaimed a traitor at Dundalk. [1] The war that followed is known as the Nine Years' War.

Nine Years' War

O'Neill followed Shane's policy of arming his Clansmen, rather than relying as Turlough had done upon Scots mercenary soldiers, such as redshanks or Irish professionals employed under buannacht. This policy allowed him to field an impressive force, with calivers and gunpowder supplied from Spain and Scotland, and in 1595 he gave the crown authorities a shock by ambushing and routing a small English army at the Battle of Clontibret. He and other clan chiefs then offered the crown of Ireland to King Philip II of Spain who refused it.[ citation needed ]

In spite of the traditional enmity between his people and the Chiefs of Clan O'Donnell, O'Neill allied himself with Hugh Roe O'Donnell, son of Shane's former ally and enemy Hugh O'Donnell, and the two chieftains opened communications with King Philip II of Spain. In some of their letters to the king—intercepted by the lord deputy, Sir William Russell—they were shown to have promoted themselves as champions of the Roman Catholic Church, claiming liberty of conscience as well as political liberty for the native inhabitants of Ireland. In April 1596, O'Neill received promises of help from Spain and thereafter chose to temporize with the authorities, professing his loyalty to the crown whenever circumstances required. [10] This policy was a success and, even though Sir John Norris sought to bring him to heel, O'Neill managed to defer English attempts on his territory for more than two years.[ citation needed ]

In 1598, a cessation of hostilities was arranged and a formal pardon was granted to O'Neill by Queen Elizabeth. Within two months he was again in the field, and on 14 August he destroyed an English army at the Battle of the Yellow Ford on the Blackwater river, [11] in which engagement the English Commander, Henry Bagenal, was killed. [12] It was the greatest of all setbacks to English arms in Ireland.[ citation needed ] If the Earl had been capable of driving home his advantage, he might have successfully upset English power in the country, as discontent had broken out in every part—and especially in the south, where James Fitzthomas Fitzgerald with O'Neill's support was asserting his claim to the Earldom of Desmond at the head of a formidable army of clans loyal to the Geraldines—discontent broke into open rebellion. But Tyrone, who possessed but little generalship, procrastinated until the golden opportunity was lost. [11]

Eight months after the battle of the Yellow Ford, a new Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Essex, landed in Ireland [11] with an expeditionary force sent there from England of 16,000 troops and 1,500 horses. [13] After months of ill-managed operations in the south of the country, and the loss of three-quarters of his forces to disease, desertion, and execution of hundreds of troops for cowardice [14] he had a parley with Tyrone at a ford on the Lagan on 7 September 1599, when a truce was arranged. [11] [15] Elizabeth was displeased by the favourable conditions allowed to O'Neill, [11] as she pointed out, if she had intended to simply abandon Ireland she would not have needed to send Essex there,[ citation needed ] and by Essex's treatment of him as an equal. [11] The Lord Lieutenant then travelled back to the Queen's court near London without permission—a desperate move, which culminated, more than a year later, in a failed attempt at an uprising in London, and weeks after, his execution for high treason on 25 February 1601. [16]

The queen was in a tricky situation because political discourse was dominated by the issue of the succession to the throne, just as her most illustrious military commanders were being frustrated by O'Neill in the middle of the Anglo-Spanish War.[ citation needed ] Tyrone continued to concert measures with the Irish Clans in Munster, and issued a manifesto to the Catholics of Ireland, summoning them to join his standard as he protested that the interests of religion were his first care. After a campaign in Munster in January 1600, during which the Anglo-Irish Plantation of Munster was destroyed, he hastened north to Donegal, where he received supplies from Spain and a token of encouragement from Pope Clement VIII. [11] At this point the controversial Jesuit, James Archer, was effectively operating as his representative at the Spanish court.[ citation needed ]

In May 1600 the English achieved a strategic breakthrough, when Sir Henry Docwra, at the head of a considerable army, took up a position in O'Neill's rear at Derry; meanwhile, the new lord deputy, Sir Charles Blount, 8th Baron Mountjoy (a protégé of Essex [17] ), marched in support from Westmeath to Newry, compelling O'Neill to retire to Armagh. A large reward was offered for the rebel's capture, dead or alive. [11]

In October 1601, the long-awaited aid from Spain appeared in the form of an army under Don Juan de Aguila, which occupied the town of Kinsale in the extreme south of the country. [11] Mountjoy rushed to contain the Spanish, while O'Neill and O'Donnell were compelled to hazard their armies in separate marches from the north, through territories defended by Sir George Carew, in the depths of a severe winter. They gained little support en route.[ citation needed ] At Bandon they joined, and then blockaded the English army that was laying siege to the Spanish. [11] The English were in a poor state, with many of their troops disabled with dysentery, and the extreme winter weather made life in camp very difficult. But owing to poor communications with the besieged Spanish and a crucial failure to withstand the shock of a daring English cavalry charge, O'Neill's army was quickly dispersed. The Irish clans retreated, and the Spanish commander surrendered. The defeat at the battle of Kinsale was a disaster for O'Neill and ended his chances of winning the war.[ citation needed ]

O'Donnell went to Spain to seek further assistance, where he died soon afterwards (there was evidence to show poisoning by Anglo-Irish double agent James "Spanish" Blake was suspected, however, he most likely died of the flu). [11] With a shattered force, O'Neill made his way once more to the north, where he renewed his policy of ostensibly seeking pardon while warily defending his territory. English forces managed to destroy crops and livestock in Ulster in 1601–1602, especially in the lands of O'Neill's principal vassal, Donal O'Cahan. This led to O'Cahan's withdrawal from O'Neill, and fatally weakened his power. In June 1602 O'Neill destroyed his capital at Dungannon and retreated into the woods of Glenconkeyne. [18] Early in 1603, Elizabeth instructed Mountjoy to open negotiations with the rebellious chieftains, and O'Neill made his submission in the following April to Mountjoy, who skilfully concealed the news of the queen's death until the negotiations had concluded. [11]

Peace settlement

O'Neill went with Mountjoy to Dublin, where he heard of the accession of King James I. He presented himself at the court of the king in June, accompanied by Rory O'Donnell, who had become chief of the O'Donnells after the departure of his brother Hugh Roe. The English courtiers were greatly incensed at the gracious reception accorded by James to these notable rebels. [11]

Although O'Neill was confirmed in his title and core estates, upon his return to Ireland he immediately fell into dispute with Chichester's Dublin administration. [11] Under the 1603 peace agreement most of his land had been given to his former Brehon law tenants. in the case of the Bann Fishery, the government eventually established that his entitlement to the benefit of that property was nullified on account of the original Anglo-Norman conquest in 1172, a precedent of significant implications for the former Gaelic polity. [lower-alpha 3] In the meantime, it was the dispute over O'Neill's rights concerning certain of his former feudatories—Donal O'Cahan being the most important—that led to his flight from Ireland. They were now freeholders of the Kingdom of Ireland, with new legal rights, but O'Neill expected them to support him as in the past, which they declined to do. In O'Cahan's case, the Ó Catháin clan had traditionally inaugurated the O'Neill kings in the past. Chichester considered O'Cahan's case to be pivotal, as if he caved in to O'Neill then other Ulster chiefs might also be persuaded to give up their freehold rights, and another war might follow.[ citation needed ]

This dispute dragged on until 1607, when O'Neill was invited by King James to go to London to argue his case. Warned, however, that his arrest was imminent[ citation needed ] (and possibly persuaded by Rory O'Donnell, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell—whose relations with Spain had endangered his own safety) the decision was made to flee to Spain. [11]


"The Flight of the Earls" occurred on 14 September 1607, when O'Neill and O'Donnell embarked at midnight at Rathmullan on Lough Swilly on a voyage bound for Spain. Accompanying them were their wives, families and retainers, numbering ninety-nine persons. Driven by contrary winds to the east, they took shelter in the Seine estuary and were told by the Spanish to pass the winter in the Spanish Netherlands and not to proceed to Spain itself. In April 1608, they proceeded to Rome, where they were welcomed and hospitably entertained by Pope Paul V. [11] The journey to Rome was recorded in great detail by Tadhg Ó Cianáin. [19] In November 1607 the flight was proclaimed as treasonous by James I. [20] A bill of attainder was passed against O'Neill by the Parliament of Ireland in 1613. [11]

The hopes of the earls for military support foundered as Philip III of Spain wanted to maintain the recent 1604 peace treaty with James I of England, the Spanish economy had gone bankrupt in 1596 and its European fleet had been destroyed some months earlier by the Dutch Republic at the Battle of Gibraltar. This suggests that the Flight was impulsive and unplanned.[ citation needed ]

O'Neill died in Italy in the city of Rome on 20 July 1616 and was interred in the church of San Pietro in Montorio. [11] Throughout his nine-year exile he was active in plotting a return to Ireland, toying variously both with schemes to oust English authority outright and with proposed offers of pardon from London. When the former Crown loyalist Sir Cahir O'Doherty launched O'Doherty's rebellion by the Burning of Derry in 1608, it raised hopes of a return, but the rebellion was quickly defeated. Oghy (Eochaidh) O'Hanlon was Hugh's nephew and played a leading role in O'Doherty's rebellion. As a principal rebel leader, O'Hanlon had been stripped of his inheritance by Sir Arthur Chichester, and he may have been taken into protective custody before his exile to Sweden. O'Hanlon was pressed into Swedish military service and threatened with execution if he resisted. [21] [22]

Upon news of his death, the court poets of Ireland engaged in the contention of the bards.[ citation needed ]

Status in Ireland

In 1598 O'Neill appointed James FitzThomas FitzGerald, the so-called Sugán Earl, as Earl of Desmond. Two years later in his camp at Inniscarra near Cork city, he recognized the celebrated Florence MacCarthy as The MacCarthy Mor or Prince of Desmond. [23] The fiasco of the 1599 campaign by Essex in Ireland added to the power vacuum in most parts of Ireland.[ citation needed ]

O'Neill had little influence on the Lords of the Pale in Leinster, and his army had to feed itself by plunder, making him unpopular. He made enemies of some lords by interfering in their traditional autonomy if they did not give him their entire support. These included Lord Inchiquin; Ulick Burke, 3rd Earl of Clanricarde; the Magennis of west County Down and Tiobóid na Long Bourke.[ citation needed ]

O'Neill issued a proclamation to the Pale Lords on 15 November 1599, many of whom were Roman Catholic, protesting that his campaign was not for personal power but only for the freedom of the Catholic religion. [24] This was unconvincing to them, as before 1593 he had practised as an Anglican, and was not known for having any great interest in religion.[ citation needed ]

At the international level, O'Neill and O'Donnell had offered themselves as vassals of King Philip II of Spain in late 1595, and suggested that Archduke Albert might be crowned Prince of Ireland, which was declined. In late 1599, in a strong position after Essex's failed campaign, O'Neill sent a list of 22 proposed terms for a peace agreement to Queen Elizabeth, including a request on the status of future English viceroys. This amounted to accepting English sovereignty over Ireland as a reality while hoping for tolerance and a strong Irish-led administration. The proposal was ignored. [25]


O'Neill was married four times: [11]

It is probable O'Neill married a fifth time, for mention is made of a young Countess of Tyrone during his residence in Rome. He had, in addition, numerous illegitimate children, of whom one, Con, who was left behind at the time of the flight, was educated at Eton College as a Protestant, and died apparently about 1622 in the Tower of London. [27]

Dramatic portrayals

Notes and references


  1. Hugh is usually referred to as the 2nd Earl of Tyrone (Canny 2004). But if his elder brother Brian is counted, Hugh is 3rd.[ citation needed ] By the patent of the earldom, Brian was de jure earl between their grandfather's death in 1559 and his own assassination in 1562. He never claimed the earldom and did not call himself earl. He may not have been of age to take his seat in the Irish House of Lords, and he certainly did not control Tyrone.[ citation needed ]
  2. This family tree is based on genealogies of the MacDonnels of Antrim [2] and the O'Neills of Tyrone. [3] Also see the lists of children in the text.
  3. See Peter Carew for similar legal moves in support of colonial policy


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 McNeill 1911, p. 109.
  2. Cokayne 1910, pp.  174–179. "Genealogies of the Earls of Antrim"
  3. Cokayne 1896, pp.  448–470."Genealogies of the Earls of Tyrone"
  4. O'Hart 1892, p.  723. "Feardorach (or Mathew) son of Conn Bacchach ..."
  5. Brady 2015, p.  29. "The eldest, Feardorcha, was the most controversial. Shane, notoriously, charged that he was not an O'Neill at all, but the son of Alison and John Kelly, a blacksmith of Dundalk ..."
  6. Morgan 1993, p.  214.
  7. O'Faolain 1942, p.  57.
  8. Morgan 1993, pp.  92–93.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Dorney, John (10 January 2019). "Hugh O'Neill and the Nine Years' War 1594–1603". The Irish Story. Archived from the original on 1 April 2019.
  10. McNeill 1911, pp. 109–110.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 McNeill 1911, p. 110.
  12. Lennon 2005, p.  298. "... the vanguard suffered severe losses including that of the marshal himself ..."
  13. Strachey 1930, p.  199.
  14. Strachey 1930, p.  202. "... he executed a lieutenant, and he had every tenth man in the rank file put to death."
  15. Strachey 1930, p.  209. "The two men met alone, on horseback, at a ford on a river ..."
  16. Strachey 1930, pp.  239–263.
  17. Strachey 1930, p.  180. "Thus Mountjoy, doubly bound to the earl, had become—or so it seemed—the most faithful of his adherents."
  18. McCavitt 2002, p. 44.
  19. Ó Cianáin, T., "The Flight of the Earls", CELT (UCC) Archived 7 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  20. A Proclamation touching the Earles of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, 1607; CELT (UCC) Archived 7 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  21. Canny 2001.
  22. Henry 1997.
  23. O'Hart 1892, p.  119, left column. "In 1600, in The O'Neil's camp at Inniscarra, near Cork, Florence was solemnly created The MacCarthy Mór, whith all the rites and ceremonies ... which title and dignity was formally approved by Aodh (or Hugh) O'Neill ..."
  24. Morgan 1994.
  25. "Hugh O'Neill's War aims", online version published by CELT (UCC) Archived 7 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  26. 1 2 3 4 5 Canny 2004.
  27. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Dunlop 1895, p. 196.
  28. “Heroines or Victims? The Women of the Flight of the Earls”, Jerrold Casway in New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Spring, 2003), pp. 56–74
  29. Edited by Donald E. Meek (2019), The Wiles of the World Caran an t-Saohgail: Anthology of 19th-century Scottish Gaelic Verse, Birlinn Limited. Pages 348–351, 458–462.



Further reading

Secondary sources

Primary sources

Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone
Regnal titles
Preceded by Ó Néill
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by Earl of Tyrone

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Hugh McShane O'Neill was an early modern Irish nobleman and rebel associated with the McShanes of Glenconkeyne and Killetra. This group was also called the "Wild Clan Shanes of Killetragh" or the "McShane-O'Neills". His parentage is disputed however he is claimed by some as being either a grandson or great-grandson of Conn O'Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone, and Gearoid Mór Fitzgerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, and of the primary line of the O'Neill of Tyrone clan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clandeboye</span> Former Gaelic Kingdom on the island of Ireland

Clandeboye or Clannaboy was a kingdom of Gaelic Ireland, comprising what is now south County Antrim, north County Down, and the barony of Loughinsholin, Northern Ireland. The entity was relatively late in appearance and is associated partly with the Gaelic resurgence of the High Middle Ages. The O'Neill Clandeboy who reigned in the territory descended from Hugh Boy O'Neill, a king of Tyrone. His descendants took advantage of the demise of the Earldom of Ulster during the latter 14th century and seized vast portions of territory. Clandeboye's main seats of power were Shane's Castle and Castle Reagh.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tír Eoghain</span> Gaelic kingdom of ancient and Medieval Ireland

Tír Eoghain, also known as Tyrone, was a kingdom and later earldom of Gaelic Ireland, comprising parts of present-day County Tyrone, County Armagh, County Londonderry and County Donegal (Raphoe). The kingdom represented the core homeland of the Cenél nEógain people of the Northern Uí Néill and although they ruled, there were smaller groups of other Gaels in the area. One part of the realm to the north-east broke away and expanded, becoming Clandeboye, ruled by a scion branch of the O'Neill dynasty. In one form or another, Tyrone existed for over a millennium. Its main capital was Dungannon, though kings were inaugurated at Tullyhogue Fort.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">O'Neill dynasty</span> Group of families prominent in Ireland, elsewhere

The O'Neill dynasty are a lineage of Irish Gaelic origin that held prominent positions and titles in Ireland and elsewhere. As kings of Cenél nEógain, they were historically the most prominent family of the Northern Uí Néill, along with the O'Donnell dynasty. The O'Neills hold that their ancestors were kings of Ailech during the Early Middle Ages, as descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">MacShane</span> Surname list

MacShane is a patronymic surname originating in Ireland. The surname evolved from the given name Shane, a derivative of John, of Hebrew origin. Early records spelled the name Mac Seáin or Mac Seagháin. Historically, the MacShanes from Ulster are a branch of the O'Neills, while in County Kerry, the surname was adopted by the Fitzmaurices. MacShane is uncommon as a given name.

Con(n) MacShane O'Neill (1565–1630) was an Irish flaith or Prince of Ulster, the Lord of Clabbye, nobleman, rebel, and political leader in the late 16th century and early 17th century.

Henry MacShane O'Neill or Anraí MacSéan Ó Néill was an Irish flaith, a son of Shane O'Neill. He was the leader of the MacShane in the late 16th century and early 17th century, and sought control of the O'Neill Clan, fighting with his brother against Hugh O'Neill.

Sir Arthur O'Neill or Sir Art O'Neill was an Irish soldier and landowner. He was part of the O'Neill dynasty, which was the most powerful Gaelic family in Ireland at the time. He was the son of Turlough Luineach O'Neill, the head of the O'Neill dynasty until 1595. He was the second son of Turlough, but his eldest brother Henry O'Neill died in 1578. At times he had a strained relationship with his father, and offered his support to Turlough's rival Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone. When Tyrone succeeded Turlough as head of the O'Neills and began Tyrone's Rebellion, Arthur offered tacit support to his distant cousin.

Sir Turlough McHenry O'Neill is known for having been killed together with his father, Henry, fighting for the crown in O'Doherty's Rebellion and for being the father of Sir Phelim O'Neill, who started the Irish Rebellion of 1641.

Brian Ó Néill, Baron Dungannon was an Irish aristocrat of the Elizabethan era. He was part of the O'Neill dynasty, a Gaelic family in Ulster.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Assault on the Blackwater Fort</span> 1595 engagement in Ireland

On 16 February 1595, a Gaelic Irish force assaulted and captured the English-held Blackwater Fort at Blackwatertown in County Armagh. The Irish were led by Art MacBaron O'Neill, brother of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and marked Tyrone's break with the English Crown as he openly waged war against the English forces in Ireland.

The Battle of Belleek, also known as the Battle of the Erne Fords, was fought on the River Erne near Belleek in Fermanagh, Ireland, on 10 October 1593. It was part of the buildup to the Nine Years' War. The battle was fought between a Gaelic Irish army under Hugh Maguire, lord of Fermanagh—who had begun a revolt against the English—and an English Crown expeditionary force under Sir Henry Bagenal, supported by Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone. Maguire's force was defeated, but the bulk of his army was unscathed. Hugh O'Neill would later join Maguire in war against the English.