Sunday, 13 November 2011

Flight of The Earls

Bloody Flight of The Earls

This is often not properly understood but the "Bloody Flight of The Earls" in Ireland is an important and poignant moment in Irish History.

Mountjoy and Carew destroyed crops as part of their strategy to starve the people fighting on behalf of any of the Earls in Ireland.  Hunger once again filled the country and with the Earls defeated, they now repeated this exercise in Ulster.  Red Hugh O'Donnell had a son called Rory and was the Earl of Tyrconnell had been planning revenge on his father's death in Spain, allegedly poisoned by an English agent.

Along with Cuchonnacht Maguire, head of the Maguires they were still trying to enlist help from the Spanish, but failed to do so. Maguire gave up and chartered a ship to take himself and 99 other Chieftains and their family to the Continent. O'Neill joined them and they sailed from Rathmullen in County Donegal, and event known as “The Flight of Earls”. They travelled across Europe to Rome, where O'Neill remained until his death in 1616.

The now leaderless Irish were then subject to the full rigours of the Plantation and were exiled to the poorest parts of Ireland. The Northern counties were then divided into lots of 1500 acres and given to undertakers. These undertakers agreed to manage their new estates, defend them and settle within them Protestants who were either English or Scottish.

James I of England

James I of England
At this time the Queen of England died and was replaced with James I and he was a king accepted by the Irish as their sovereign.  Although he was a protestant they believed that at heart he was a catholic.  O’Neill and O’Donnell both then went to England with Mountjoy and were well received by the new king.  He restored O’Neill as the Early of Tyrone and O’Donnell as the Earl of Tirconnell and gave them back their posessions.  English law was however introduced to both Tyrone and Tirconnell.  The waiting adventurers were infuriated by this as they ahd been expecting to take over the lands.  They continued to spy on both Earls and passed misinformation back to Mountjoy and the King.  This then led to the departure of the Earls from Ireland as described above.

The lands between the rivers Foyle and The Bann received special treatment and were given to the city of London. The city agreed to rebuild Derry and with the addition of a part of Tyrone then became the county of Londonderry.  Even today the name of this city still causes much controversy.

Catholics generally still call the city Derry and Protestants call the city, Londonderry.  Such are the actions and lasting political consequences of history. The Flight of Earls made its mark in Irish History and the Irish History Siege of Derry also had the same impact.