HUGH O'NIELL - last of the Chieftans (1550-1616)

One of the great O'Neill clan of Ulster O'Neill he was born in 1550 and claimed a royal Irish heritage spanning over a thousands years. For co-operation early in his career with the English ruling class he was rewarded with the Earldom of Tyrone by Queen Elizabeth I. But his support for Irish resistance to foreign rule grew as he established his supremacy over the other lords and cheiftans in Ulster. In 1595 he lead confederation of chieftans in revolt adopting the role of champion of Christ's Catholic religion and appealed for help from Spain. During the winter of 1598 O'Neill ambushed and defeated a large English force in Armagh. He was then hailed as the 'Prince of Ireland'. In September of 1601 three and a half thousand Spaniards landed at Kinsale. Elizabeth's deputy Lord Mountjoy lay siege to the town. O'Neill marched south to link up with the Spaniards but met Mountjoy's forces before he could do so on Christmas Eve. Within hours O'Neill was defeated and submitted to Moutjoy. By 1607 he had abandoned hope of further revolt and sailed to Lough Foyle with other chieftans where he died in 1616. Known as 'The Flight of the Earl's' this marked the beginning of the end of Gaelic Ireland.