Letter of Shane O’Neill to the Earl of Sussex, Viceroy of Ireland, 1561

Eleanor Hull
Volume I, Appendix VII

In the name of God, Amen.

“A blessing from O’Neill to the Justiciary, as in duty bound; and to the rest of the Council. And I am asking of them, what have I done that would go [tend] to the dishonour or to the injury of the Queen? Or to you, on account of which you have, since your arrival in Ireland, violated your engagements to me without reason or cause and for which you have offered to invade me without sending me a messenger or a letter, inasmuch as we were obedient to the Justiciary whom you left in your place in Ireland; and inasmuch as it was not malice that prevented me from appearing in my own proper person in the presence of her gracious Majesty the Queen, but that I asked the Queen for a small sum of money, because the money of Ireland does not pass current in England; and I offered to give up my own hostages for this money-loan until I myself should return from England; and these hostages would be the best son I have, my foster-brother, and also my foster-father, my foster-mother, and my brother; after giving these in pledge for the small sum of money, to show that I would not break my promise, which indeed I would not do if I had delivered up no pledge at all; and when I sent my own people and the people of the Justiciary to request this again of the Queen for a pledge, and when we thought that it would be sent to us at your coming into Ireland, it was not thus you acted, but you did what we never anticipated would have been done by you; and, in good sooth, we also sent ten or twelve letters to the Justiciary who was appointed in Ireland after your departure, and now let these letters be produced in witness for me; and I also appeal to such of the Council as wish to hear conscientious evidence that it was not malice or negligence that prevented me from going hitherto in [to] the presence of the Queen’s gracious Majesty, but the want of that loan-money which we expected to reach us.

“And the intention which we had of visiting the Queen we would have still, but for the amount of obstruction which you have seemingly thrown in my way, by sending a force of occupation into my territory without a cause. For as long as there shall be one son of a Saxon in my territory against my will, from that time forth I will not send you either settlement or message, but will send my complaint through some other medium to the Queen, to inform her how you have baffled me in my said intention, and I will exercise my utmost against this force [of your soldiers] and against every one who will place them there, until they are removed.

“And if it be your determination not to prevent me any more, take your people away with you, if it so please your Honour, and I will appoint a day with you as soon as ever you take your people with you, to fulfil every promise and every offer which I made to the Queen; and be assured that it was not from fear of war that I promised to go and visit her before, but on account of her honour and her graciousness to preserve everything that each party possesses, and to exalt me from this time forth, in order that I might bring the wild countries which are under me to civilization and to prosperity and that I myself and those who should come after me, might spend our time to the honour and service of the Queen and of the official sent by her to Ireland. And all Ireland would be the better of my going to visit the Queen (by the permission of God) for there would not be in Ireland one man who would give trouble, small nor great, to her Deputy, as these troubles would be stayed by the power of God and the Queen’s clemency and the service that I would render to the Deputy. That is enough; but I pray you to send me every secret and every answer which you have touching this matter without malice, and not to do anything more against me until you bring me news, and show my letters to the chief men of the Council. I am, O’Neill [Misi Onell].”

[Written in Irish, July 4, 1561.]


Gilbert, in his Facsimiles, vol. iv, Part I, No. 4, prints the original from the document in the Public Record Office, London.