Shane O'Neill


Shane O'Neill
Shane O'Neill was a long-standing thorn in the side of the English during the drawn out Tudor re-conqeust of Ireland. The politics of Irish clan warfare is exceedingly difficult to follow, but the problem was essentially rooted in the fact that some of the methods the English used to subdue the Irish, did not work well. For example, the English sought to pacify Irish chieftains by assigning them English titles on the condition that they recognize English overlords, and support English interests. This worked well for a single generation, but English titles were always passed to the eldest son of a chief, whereas in Ireland, chieftains were generally elected. Shane O'Neill was the younger son, of a "titled" Chieftain, but did not inherit his fathers earldom. This instigated a series of clan wars, and England was frequently unresolved as regarding whom they should support.

Shane began consolidating power within the O'Neill clan even before the death of the existing "Earl of Tyronne". After one of his brothers died in battle, the rightful heir, according to the English, was a young boy, whom the English sought to protect. Meanwhile, Shane was doing as he pleased, alternately making alliances and war on surrounding clans. When Elizabeth came to the throne, her first idea was to make peace with Shane. He traveled to England and pretended to treat with her, but on his return to Ireland, he failed to keep any of the agreed upon conditions. Soon after England's relationship with Shane worsened as an attempt to poison him failed, and he won several important victories over Scottish clans in the region. Under Sir Henry Sidney, a lord of Ireland, a concerted effort was made to aid tribes hostile to Shane. He was eventually defeated at the Battle of Farsetmore, and slain by a hostile clan.

Key events during the life of Shane O'Neill:

Shane born to the chief of the O'Neill clan in Ireland.
  Shane usurps power from his brothers and rises to the defacto head of the O'Neill clan.
Queen Elizabeth comes to the throne.
Death of 'Earl of Tyrone'. Elizabeth invites Shane to England for negotiations.
Attempt to poison Shane fails. Peace is again attempted between England and Shane.
Title of 'Earl of Tyronne' passes to Hugh, a nephew of Shane. England resolves to protect the boy.
O'Neills defeat Clan MacDonald at Glentasie.
Slain by O'Donnell clan after the Battle of Farsetmore.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Under the Tudors  in  Ireland: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home

Image Links

Shane O'Neill and his clansmen interviewing Queen Elizabeth
 in Ireland: Peeps at History

Short Biography
Humphrey Gilbert Sea-faring adventurer. Founded the first English colony in Canada.
Elizabeth I Led England through tumultuous age of reformation and discovery. Reigned 45 years.
Earl of Tyrone Father of Shane O'Neill.
Sir Henry Sidney Lord Deputy of Ireland. Sought to destroy Shane O'Neill's influence.
Earl of Tyrone Leader of the Irish resistance during the Tudor re-conquest, Nine Year's War.