The Flight of the Earls
Uploaded by Kerrytom on Aug 11, 2012
In 1607 an event occurred in Ulster commonly known as the ‘The Flight of the Earls’ which has gone down as a monumental occurrence in Irish history. This was the fleeing of Hugh O’Neill, second Earl of Tyrone, and Rory O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell and Cuconnaught Maguire, Lord of Fermanagh, from the lands they held or used to hold in Ulster. Many have argued that this left the way clear for the plantation of Ulster by the British, and the driving out of Catholic Irish from Ulster lands, where they had always been dominant over the Protestants.
The causes of why this fleeing occurred has been argued and contested by many historians over the years, with many conflicting views on why it happened. A shroud of mystery surrounds it, with definitive answers almost impossible to achieve. However there is some reasonable explanation to be drawn by looking at the events directly preceding the flight to Europe.
To tackle this question of the causes of the exit of the Earls from Ulster, it is necessary to look at O’Donnell’s and O’Neill’s situation in Ulster after the end of the nine years war. They were treated very leniently by King George retaining their lands and receiving full pardons, however they now had to swear loyalty to the crown, lost control over their dependants and also lost their Irish titles. “O’Neill and O’Donnell- Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell- were allowed to return to their lands and live among their people.” In the aftermath the situation of both men in Ulster began to change.
O’Donnell was not as savvy with his dealings with the British after the war as O’Neill and because of this lost a lot of his land to new freeholders. This meant a big loss in terms of prestige and also in earnings. “Rory had striven to deprive the McSweeneys and O’Boyles of their traditional possessions in County Donegal, and the commissioners insisted that he rectify this injustice, and ‘name them to be freeholders of part thereof, reserving their ancient rents in certainty.’”
O’Neill however had outwitted the British commissioners, and was able to keep hold of his lands and power. “O’Neill outmanoeuvred the officials by appointing his supporters as freeholders in Tyrone.”
However when Lord Mountjoy, who O’Neill was on good terms with, was replaced as Lord Deputy by Lord Chichester, things became more troublesome for O’Neill. He sought...