Sir Henry Bagnal

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXVII

In 1590, Hugh of the Fetters, an illegitimate son of the famous Shane O'Neill, was hanged by the Earl of Tyrone, for having made false charges against him to the Lord Deputy. This exercise of authority excited considerable fear, and the Earl was obliged to clear himself of blame before Elizabeth. After a brief detention in London, he was permitted to return to Ireland, but not until he had signed certain articles in the English interest, which he observed precisely as long as it suited his convenience. About this time his nephew, Hugh O'Donnell, made an ineffectual attempt to escape from Dublin Castle, but he was recaptured, and more closely guarded. This again attracted the attention of Government to the family; but a more important event was about to follow.

O'Neill's wife was dead, and the chieftain was captivated by the beauty of Sir Henry Bagnal's sister. How they contrived to meet and to plight their vows is not known, though State Papers have sometimes revealed as romantic particulars. It has been discovered, however, from that invaluable source of information, that Sir Henry was furious, and cursed himself and his fate that his "bloude, which had so often been spilled in reppressinge this rebellious race, should nowe be mingled with so traitorous a stocke and kindred." He removed the lady from Newry to her sister's house, near Dublin, who was the wife of Sir Patrick Barnwell. The Earl followed Miss Bagnal thither. Her brother-in-law received him courteously; and while the O'Neill engaged the family in conversation, a confidential friend rode off with the lady, who was married to O'Neill immediately after.

But a crisis was approaching; and while this event tended to embitter the English officials against the Earl, a recurrence of outrages against the northern chieftains prepared them for revolt. One of their leading men, O'Rourke, was executed this year (A.D. 1591) in London. He had taken refuge in Scotland some time before, from those who wished to take his life, as the easiest method of securing his property, but the Scots had given him up to the English Government. He was said to be one of the handsomest and bravest men of his times, and his execution excited universal pity. The apostate, Miler Magrath, attempted to tamper with his faith in his last moments, but the chieftain bade him rather to repent himself, and to return to the faith of his fathers.