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The History of Ulster
Some Results of the Flight

The Exiles' Adventures - They land in Normandy - The Earls well received - Spinola, the Captor of Ostend, entertains them - Tyrone meets his son, Henry O'Neill - So-called Conspiracy to take Dublin Castle and murder the Deputy and Council - Efforts made to implicate Tyrone - The Earls attainted and their Estates confiscated - King James's "Counter-Blast" to the Earls.

It is but right and natural in a history of Ulster to follow in their flight the Earls of Tyrone, Tirconnell, and their companions, these most illustrious of Ulster's sons.

The Irish Annalists enumerate the principal persons who sailed on that eventful trip. The passengers consisted chiefly of O'Neills and O'Donnells. Of the former there were the Earl and Lady Tyrone, her daughter Catherine, his three sons, Hugh, Baron of Dungannon, John, and Brian; Art Oge, the son of Tyrone's brother Cormac, and others of his relatives. The O'Donnells included the Earl of Tirconnell, his brother, Caffar, and his sister, Nuala, who was married to Nial Garv, but forsook her husband when he became a traitor to his country. Hugh O'Donnell, the Earl's son, was also on board, and other members of his family, with Cuconnaught Maguire and Owen Roe Mac Ward, chief bard of Tirconnell. In all there were ninety-nine persons, making "a distinguished gathering for one ship, and it is certain that the sea had not supported nor the winds wafted from Ireland in modern times a party of one ship more illustrious or noble".

Sir Cormac MacBaron, Tyrone's brother, when the vessel had sailed, repaired to Slane to inform Chichester, no doubt at Tyrone's request, of the departure. Sir John Davies sarcastically remarks: "Withal he was an earnest suitor to have the custodiam of his brother's country, which perhaps might be to his brother's use by agreement betwixt them; and therefore, for this and other causes of suspicion, the constable of the Castle of Dublin has the custodiam of him". The Lord Deputy forthwith repaired to Dublin to intercept the fugitives, and elaborate arrangements were made with that view; but John Bath, of Drogheda, kept clear of the coast, and having sighted the mountain of Croagh Patrick, at which, no doubt, the fugitives gazed with fond regret, he endeavoured to run for Corunna.

For thirteen days the little vessel tossed about, making no progress, and the captain at length determined to make for Croisic in Brittany, a little port destined centuries later to be the scene of one of Robert Browning's narrative poems. But Croisic was never reached; instead the vessel drove up channel almost to the Straits of Dover, narrowly escaping English cruisers instructed to be on the look-out for her, and a little later she landed her passengers at Quillebceuf, in Normandy, after their twenty-one days at sea. Here boats conveyed the women and children to Rouen, while Tyrone and his companions proceeded on horseback to Lisieux to meet the Governor of Normandy. The country people welcomed the exiles, who, having taken the precaution to be well supplied with money by having collected their rents in advance and by having realized convertible assets, were able to purchase provisions and wine, and secure lodgings for the night.

But though their welcome was cordial, and an application for their extradition was refused, the travellers were not allowed to remain in France, and accordingly they set out for Douai, where, says Mr. Bagwell, in his admirable precis from O'Keenary and other authorities, "the Earls were met by Tyrone's son Henry, who commanded the Irish regiment, and by all the captains serving under him. Among those captains was Tyrone's nephew, Owen Mac Art O'Neill, after so famous as Owen Roe, and Thomas Preston, scarcely less famous as his colleague, rival, and at last enemy. The Irish students in the seminary feasted them and greeted them in Latin and Greek odes and orations. Florence Conry and Eugene Mac Mahon, titular archbishops of Tuam and Dublin, met them also.

"At Tournai the whole population with the archbishop at their head came out to meet them. They then went on to Hal, where they were invited by Spinola and many of his officers. The captor of Ostend lent his carriage to take them to the Archduke at Binche, where they were received with much honour, and he afterwards entertained them at dinner in Brussels. Tyrone occupied Spinola's own chair, with the nuncio and Tirconnell on his right hand, the Duke of Aumale, the Duke of Ossuna, and the Marquis himself being on his left. The Earls left the city immediately afterwards and withdrew to Louvain, where they remained until the month of February. Edmondes remonstrated with the President Richardot about the favour shown to rebels against his sovereign, but that wily diplomatist gave him very little satisfaction.

"The greater part of the Irish who went over with Tyrone or who had since repaired to him were provided for by the creation of two new companies in Henry O'Neill's regiment, but the Earls were not allowed to go to Spain, and when they left Louvain in February, 1608, they passed through Lorraine to avoid French territory, and so by Switzerland into Italy. According to information received by the English Privy Council, the Netherlanders were glad to be rid of them, they having Meft so good a memory of their barbarous life and drunkenness where they were'."

But though this precious piece of information may have come from a tainted source, there is, alas! little doubt that Tyrone's habits did not improve with age. Six years later it was reported to the King, by one whose veracity is undoubted, and whose mode of life was more austere than was that of Tyrone, that the Earl " while he is his own man is always much reserved, pretending ever his desire of your Majesty's grace, and by that means only to adoperate his return into his country; but when he is vino plenus et ira (as he is commonly once a night, and therein is veritas) he doth then declare his resolute purpose to die in Ireland; and both he and his com- pany do usually in that mood dispose of governments and provinces, and make new commonwealths".

Strange rumours had been set on foot before the Earls fled the country. One of these was an alleged plot to seize Dublin Castle with the Lord Deputy and Council in it. "Out of them", Tirconnell is reported to have said, "I shall have my lands and countries as I desire it." The account of this so called conspiracy is briefly referred to by Dr. Anderson, an English Protestant divine, in his Royal Genealogies, printed in London in 1736, and dedicated to the Prince of Wales. "Artful Cecil", he says, "employed one St. Laurence to entrap the Earls of Tyrone and Tirconnell, the Lord of Delvin, and other Irish chiefs into a sham plot which had no evidence but his. But these chiefs being basely informed that witnesses were to be hired against them, foolishly fled from Dublin, and so taking guilt upon them, they were declared rebels, and six entire counties in Ulster were at once forfeited to the Crown, which was what their enemies wanted."

Briefly the story of this alleged plot is as follows: On the 18th of May, 1607, an anonymous letter, addressed to Sir William Ussher, Clerk to the Privy Council, was dropped at the door of the council chamber. The contents mentioned a design, then in contemplation, for seizing the Castle of Dublin, murdering the Lord Deputy, and raising a general revolt, to be aided by Spanish forces. This letter came from George St. Laurence, Baron of Howth; and, although in it no names were mentioned, the writer assumed that the Government were already in possession of information that fixed the guilt of the conspiracy on the Earl of Tyrone.

When this letter was discovered Lord Howth was not in Ireland, but he arrived a month later, and Chichester, having noticed that the anonymous paper resembled letters addressed by Howth to Salisbury, examined him more than once with regard to the communication, and was somewhat incredulous as to the contents; but the flight of the Earls convinced him that there was an element of truth in the affair.

"The Earl of Tyrone", said the Lord Deputy when referring to the flight, "came to me oftentimes upon sundry artificial occasions, as now it appears, and, by all his discourses, seemed to intend nothing more than the preparation for his journey into England against the time appointed, only he showed a discontent, and professed to be much displeased with his fortune, in two respects: the one, for that he conceived he had dealt, in some sort, unworthily with me, as he said, to appeal from thence to His Majesty and your lordships in the cause between Sir Donald O'Cahan and him; the other because that notwithstanding he held himself much bound unto His Majesty, that so graciously would vouchsafe to hear, and finally to determine the same, yet that it much grieved him to be called upon so suddenly, when, as what with the strictness of time and his present poverty, he was not able to furnish himself as became him for such a journey and for such a presence.

"In all things else he seemed very moderate and reasonable, albeit he never gave over to be a general solicitor in all causes concerning his country and people, how criminal soever. But now I find that he has been much abused by some that have cunningly terrified and diverted him from coming to His Majesty, which, considering his nature, I hardly believe, or else he had within him a thousand witnesses testifying that he was as deeply engaged in those secret treasons as any of the rest whom we knew or suspected."

By their flight, as a matter of course, Tyrone and Tirconnell were attainted and their estates confiscated. The extent of the property confiscated was remarkable. It is to be recollected that there had not been any rising whatsoever, nor even an overt act of treason, nor any evidence to connect either of the Earls with an existing conspiracy. The only evidence against them was the fact of their flight and their subsequent conduct. Their voluntary exile and residence abroad, among either the suspected or avowed enemies of England, was a sufficient ground for a conviction of treason as against themselves, for their departure was a renouncing of their allegiance and an abandonment of the terms upon which their submission had been accepted.

The Earls might have been forced into this course by harsh and unjust treatment; but from whatsoever cause they had done so, the step they had taken was decisive and irrevocable. But every principle of law required that the forfeiture, which was inevitable, should not extend beyond the beneficial interest of the two Earls themselves. Their property should have vested in the Crown ; but every estate, right, or claim of innocent third parties should have been secured. This had been carefully considered in the Acts of Attainder in the reign of Henry VIII. But by this equity to third parties, this careful providing for the interests of the poor and unprotected, the plans of the Government and the hopes of expectant grantees would have been frustrated. What, even according to English law, should have been confiscated were the lands of the exiles, their personal property in their actual possession, and merely the rights of the chief over the residue of the tribe lands.

The Government, however, had determined to stretch the confiscation so as to enable the King to deal as absolute owner in fee of Tyrone and Tirconnell, discharged of every estate and interest whatsoever. For this purpose a theory was invented that the fee of the tribe lands was vested in the chief, and that the members of the tribe held merely as tenants at will. Than this, nothing could have been more false; they did not, indeed, hold by feudal tenure, nor in most instances possess what the English law described as the freehold; their titles were not entered upon the roll of a manor, nor could they produce parchment grants or muniments of title; yet the rights they possessed in the land were, according to their native laws, as clear and definite as any feudal grant could make them; and their properties, whatever they might be, had been possessed by their ancestors before English law had reached the country.

But, in spite of all this, the King declared that, because their interests could not square with the logical distinctions of the feudal code, but were defined by Brehon law which in the eyes of English lawyers was not law at all, but a damnable custom the population had no more interest in or title to the lands, which their ancestors had possessed time out of mind, than wild beasts or cattle could claim.

The King added insult to injury, for he published a declaration as to the true reason of the flight of the Earls, in which he said their object was to oppress his subjects, and the less said about their religion the better, "such being their condition and profession to think murder no fault, marriage of no use, nor any man to be esteemed valiant that did not glory in rapine and oppression". His Majesty added that he desired that his declaration would "disperse and discredit all such untruths as these contemptible creatures, so full of infidelity and ingratitude, shall disgorge against us and our just and moderate proceedings, and shall procure unto them no better usage than they would should be offered to any such pack of rebels born their subjects and bound unto them in so many and such great obligations".

In the language of the Royal Author, this fulmination was A Counter-Blast indeed!

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