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Hugh O'Neill (c.1550 - 1616):
Irish chieftain


Hugh O'Neill was born in Dungannon, County Tyrone, and as an infant was fostered in Tyrone by the O'Hagans and the O'Quinns. After the death of his father, he became a ward of the crown and lived with an English settler family in the Pale. When war broke out between the crown and Shane O'Neill in 1566, he fought on Queen Elizabeth's behalf. Between 1573 and 1575 he soldiered for the Earl of Essex in Ulster, but in 1579, he reached an agreement with the crown which lasted until 1587. The English government became increasingly dependent upon him to defend the Pale, and he had the title Earl of Tyrone conferred on him. He was proclaimed a traitor when he declared himself The O'Neill, chief of Tyrone in 1595. He captured the Blackwater fort and fought in Munster during the Nine Years' War against the English. After many military successes he was eventually defeated at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and returned to Ulster to find that the majority of his lands had been confiscated; though he accepted the terms of Queen Elizabeth I in order to retrieve them. Possibly learning that, in response to an alleged conspiracy, the English government was planning to arrest him, he fled to France and then to Rome, where he spent the rest of his life. In his later years he became blind. There is a memorial stone to him in the Church of San Pietro in Montorio. [Biography by John Mitchel]

Born: c.1550
Died: 20 July 1616
Kate Newmann