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Hugh O'Neill Tyrone, 2d earl of

Tyrone, Hugh O'Neill, 2d earl of, 1540?–1616, Irish chieftain. He was the son of Matthew O'Neill, the illegitimate son of the 1st earl. Hugh succeeded his murdered older brother, Brian, as Baron Dungannon in 1562 and was sent to England for safety. He returned (1568) to Ulster following the death of his cousin Shane O'Neill. He served with the English against the rebel Gerald Fitzgerald, earl of Desmond, in 1580 and in 1585 was made earl of Tyrone. In 1593 he displaced his kinsman Turlough Luineach O'Neill as the O'Neill chieftain and quickly became the most powerful nobleman in Ulster. Dissatisfied with the English government's persistent policy of playing the chiefs against one another, Tyrone was also angered by the English refusal to restore the lands granted to his grandfather. At last he formed an alliance with the other Irish chiefs and sought aid against Protestant England from Catholic Spain. He achieved something like unity among his allies and, after 1595, defeated some of Queen Elizabeth's best commanders in Ireland. In 1599 he made a short-lived truce with the 2d earl of Essex. In 1601 Tyrone's Spanish allies landed in the S of Ireland, where they were besieged at Kinsale by the English lord lieutenant, Lord Mountjoy. Tyrone marched south to relieve the siege but was defeated, as were the Spanish later. His Irish allies dispersed, and Tyrone retreated to Ulster. In 1603 he made peace with the English, surrendering his tribal authority. King James I pardoned him, but he never recovered his power in Ireland. In 1607, Tyrone suspected that a summons to London to settle a quarrel was a pretext to obtain his imprisonment, and he fled to Flanders with Rory O'Donnell, earl of Tyrconnel, and a boatload of other Irish noblemen. The "flight of the earls" marked the end of tribalism in Ireland. Eventually Tyrone lived in Rome, pensioned by Spain and the pope.

See S. O'Faoláin, The Great O'Neill (1942).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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