Con Bacagh O'Neill

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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O'Neill, Con Bacagh (the Lame), Earl of Tyrone, was inaugurated as The O'Neill, upon the death of his brother in 1519. He was soon afterwards received into royal favour, upon a resolve taken by Henry VIII. that Ireland should be governed by "sober waies, politique drifts, and amiable perswasions." In 1523 he bore the sword of state before the Lord-Deputy. In 1534, however, he became involved in Silken Thomas's rebellion, and in 1538, buoyed up by hopes of foreign assistance, he joined Manus O'Donnell, and marched upon the Pale, and reviewed his forces at Tara. He next year turned homewards; but was overtaken by Lord Grey, at Ballahoe, in Monaghan, and defeated in a bloody engagement.

In January 1542, at Maynooth, he renounced the Pope's supremacy, and Henry VIII. desiring his presence in London, he set sail for England and presented himself at Court on the 24th September. He was created Earl of Tyrone and renounced the name of O'Neill, engaging that he and his heirs should adopt the English dress and language, that he would be obedient to the King's laws, assist the Deputy in his hostings, and not succour any of the King's enemies, traitors, or rebels.

His illegitimate son Matthew was created Baron of Dungannon (a title to be afterwards borne by the heirs apparent of Earls of Tyrone), and two of the Maguire family who accompanied him were knighted. "And for his reward we [Henry VIII.] gave unto him a chayne of three score poundes and odde; we payd for his robes and the charges of his creation three score and fyve poundes, tenne shillings, two pens, and we gave him in redy money oon hundreth poundes sterling." Mr. Richey says of his submission to Henry VIII.: "Although Con O'Neill might for himself accept any title from the King of England, he, acting as chief of his tribe, had no shadow of right to take a grant of all their tribal lands to himself; but in their eyes the King's granting was simply a nullity."

Before long, however, Con regretted his submission, and is said to have cursed any of his posterity who should learn to speak English, sow wheat, or build castles. In 1551, on the accusation of his son, the Baron of Dungannon, he was taken prisoner and confined in Dublin, whilst his younger sons waged war with the English and with the Baron, and his territories were devastated. Con died of a broken heart in 1559, within the precincts of the Pale. "His death would have been," according to the Four Masters, "a great cause of regret to Kinel Owen, but for his great age and infirmities, and that he left an heir worthy of him, i.e., John." His wife, by whom he had his son Shane, or John, was Alice, daughter of the 8th Earl of Kildare. His son Feardoragh, or Matthew, Baron of Dungannon, who was killed in battle two years before him, was the reputed offspring of Alison, wife of a Dundalk blacksmith.

Sources

134. Four Masters, Annals of Ireland by the: Translated and Edited by John O'Donovan. 7 vols. Dublin, 1856.

140. Froude, James A.: History of England, from the Fall of Wolsey to the death of Elizabeth. 12 vols. London, 1862-'70.

174. Ireland, History of, Lectures on the: Alexander G. Richey. 2 vols. Dublin, 1869-'70.

196. Irishmen, Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished, Rev. James Wills, D.D. 6 vols. or 12 parts. Dublin, 1840-'7.

224. MacDonnells of Antrim, Historical Account: Rev. George Hill. Belfast, 1873.

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