Ireland : Tyrone's Rebellion 1594-1603

A.) Prehistory

Queen Elizabeth I., aware of the precarious position of herself on the throne, pursued a careful religious policy. She was successful in integrating the vast majority of England's Catholics into the Anglican church. Ireland was a different matter, because of the social structure of the population. Troubles were caused by the Catholic Church and King Philip II. of Spain, who grew increasingly hostile and regarded Ireland as the place to ignite rebellions which could lead to the removal of Queen Elizabeth. A Spanish expedition supported the Desmond Rebellion 1579-1583; the Spanish Armada 1588 had the same objective. In order to reduce the power of potential enemies among Irish lords, Elizabeth established the first settlements in Ireland (Monaghan 1591). These again threatened the hold the Irish nobles had on land and population.

B.) The Rebellion

Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, came to terms with his enemy, Robert O'Donnell; both took the lead in Tyrone's Rebellion 1594-1603. They allied with Spain. They took a number of English forts; in 1598 the rebel victory at Yellow Ford is regarded the climax of the rebellion; the rebels controlled Ulster. In 1601 a small Spanish force landed at Kinsale, in Ireland's south, where they were checked by a superior English force of 6.500, commanded by Mountjoy. Hugh O'Neill marched a rebel force of 12,000 across Ireland to Cork. On Dec. 24th 1601 his Irish force, attempting to link up with the Spaniards, was defeated in the Battle of Kinsale, in which the Spaniards, commanded by Don Juan del Aguila, did not participate.
Mountjoy now went on the offensive, raiding Ulster and establishing forts. In 1603, Hugh O'Neill accepted the Queen's pardon in return for laying down his arms; he was permitted to hold on to his titles and lands.

C.) The Legacy

In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I. died. England and Spain formally concluded peace. King James I., aware of the precarious position of English rule over Ireland, but also of potential Irish rebels no longer being able to rely on Spanish aid, intensified the policy of settlement (Ulster Plantation), thus sowing the seed for future rebellions.

Tyrone's rebellion begins 1594-1597, from BBC History
Hugh O'Neill, from Princess Grace Irish Library
Battle of Kinsale, from Irish Clans, from BBC History, from Irish Battles

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 21st 2004, last revised on November 17th 2004

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