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The Story of Ireland By Emily Lawless Characters: 8141

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

A very different man from the chivalrous and quixotic Essex now took the reins. Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, had expected to be sent to Ireland when Essex had suddenly been appointed with ampler powers and a more extended consequence, and the disappointment had caused him to follow the course of that ill-starred favourite with ill-concealed jealousy to its tragic end.

Mountjoy was himself a man of cold, clear-sighted, self-seeking temperament. In almost all English histories dealing with this period his steadiness and solid unshowy qualities are contrasted with Essex's flightiness and failure, to the natural disadvantage of the latter. This, however, is not perhaps quite the last word upon the matter, and it is only fair to Essex that this should be realized.

No master hand has as yet made this special portion of Irish history his own. When he does so--if the keen edge of his perceptions, that is to say, has not been dimmed by too strong an earlier prepossession--we shall perhaps learn that the admitted failure of Essex, so disastrous to himself, was more honourable than the admitted and the well-rewarded success


(From the "Pacata Hibernia," of Sir G. Carew.)

1. Ormond and his followers; 2. Rebel horse and foot;

3. Rebels concealed in woods; 4. Bogs.

of Mountjoy. The situation, as every English leader soon found, was one that admitted of no possible fellowship between two alternatives, success and pity; between the commonest and most elementary dictates of humanity, and the approval of the queen and her Council. There was but one method by which a success could be assured, and this was the method which Mountjoy now pushed relentlessly, and from which Essex's more sensitively attuned nature evidently shrank. The enemies it was necessary to annihilate were not so much Tyrone's soldiers, as the poor, the feeble, the helpless, the old, the women, and the little children. Famine--oddly called by Edward III. the "gentlest of war's hand-maids"--was here the only certain, perhaps the only possible agent. By it, and by it alone, the germs of insurrection could be stamped out and blighted as it were at their very birth.

There was no further shrinking either from its application. Mountjoy established military stations at different points in the north, and proceeded to demolish everything that lay between them. With a deliberation which left little to be desired he made his soldiers destroy every living speck of green that was to be seen, burn every roof, and slaughter every beast which could not be conveniently driven into camp. With the aid of Sir George Carew, who enthusiastically endorsed his policy, and has left us a minute account of their proceedings, they swept the country before them. The English columns moved steadily from point to point, establishing themselves wherever they went, in strongly fortified outposts, from which points flying detachments were sent to ravage all the intermediate districts. The ground was burnt to the very sod; all harvest utterly cleared away; starvation in its most grisly forms again began to stalk the land; the people perished by tens of thousands, and the tales told by eye-witnesses of what they themselves had seen at this time are too sickening to be allowed needlessly to blacken these pages.

As a policy nothing, however, could be more brilliantly successful. At the arrival of Mountjoy the English power in Ireland was at about the lowest ebb it ever reached under the Tudors. Ormond, the Lieutenant-General of the kingdom, had recently been taken captive by the O'Mores in Leinster, by whom he was held for an enormous ransom. Success, with all its glittering train, seemed to have gone bodily over to Tyrone. There was hardly a town in the whole island that remained in the hands of the Deputy. Before Mountjoy left all this was simply reversed. Not only had the royal power regained everything that had been snatched from it, but from sea to sea it stood upon a far firmer and stronger basis than it h

ad ever done before.

Gradually, as the area over which the power of the Deputy and his able assistant grew wider and wider, that of the Tyrone fell away and faded. "The consequence of an Irish chieftain above all others," observes Leland most weightily, "depended upon opinion." A true success, that is to say, of which the gleaming plumes and trophies were not immediately visible, would have been far more disastrous than a real failure which could have been gilded over with a little delusive gleam of triumph. There was no gleams, real or imaginary, now. Tyrone was fast coming to the end of his resources. Surrender or starvation were staring him with ugly insistence in the face.

The war, in fact, was on the point of dying out from sheer exhaustion, when a new element came to infuse momentary courage into the breasts of the insurgents. Fifty Spanish ships, with Don Juan d'Aguilar and three thousand soldiers on board, sailed into Kinsale harbour, where they proceeded to disembark and to occupy the town.

The instant the news of this landing reached Mountjoy, he, with characteristic vigour, hurried south with every soldier he could collect, so as to cut off the new arrivals before their allies had time to appear. Not a moment was lost. The Spaniards had landed on the 20th of September, 1601, and by the 23rd the first English soldiers appeared before the town, and before the end of the month Mountjoy and Carew had concentrated every man they had in Ireland around Kinsale.

Tyrone and O'Donnell also hurried south, but their progress was slower, and when they arrived they found their allies closely besieged on all sides. Taking advantage of a frost, which had made the bogs passable, O'Donnell stole round the English forces and joined another party of Spaniards who had just effected a landing at Castlehaven. All Kerry was now up in arms, under two local chiefs, O'Sullivan Beare and O'Driscoll. The struggle had resolved itself into the question which side could hold out longest. The English had the command of the sea, but were the Spanish fleet to return their position would become to the last degree perilous. The game for Tyrone to play was clearly a waiting one. The Spaniards in Kinsale were weary however of their position, and urged him to try and surprise the English camp. Reluctantly, and against his own judgment, he consented. The surprise failed utterly. Information of it had already reached Carew. The English were under arms, and after a short struggle Tyrone's men gave way. Twelve hundred were killed, and the rest fled in disorder. The Spaniards thereupon surrendered Kinsale, and were allowed to re-embark for Spain; many of the Irish, including O'Donnell, accompanying them.

This was practically the end. Tyrone retreated to the north, collecting the remnants of his army as he went. Carew went south to wreak a summary vengeance upon O'Sullivan Beare, and the other Kerry insurgents, while Mountjoy, following in the wake of Tyrone, hemmed him gradually further and further north, repeating at the same time that wasting process which had already been only too brilliantly successful.

Tyrone had wit enough to see that the game was played out. On the other hand, Mountjoy was eager to bring the war to an end before the queen's death, now hourly expected. Terms were accordingly come to. The earl made his submission, and agreed to relinquish the title of O'Neill, and to abjure for ever all alliances with foreign powers or with any of the enemies of the Crown. In return he was to receive a full pardon for himself and his followers, and all his titles and lands were to be confirmed to him.


Two days after this the queen's death was announced. We are told that Tyrone, upon hearing of it, burst into a flood of tears. As he had been in arms against her up to a week before, it can scarcely have been a source of very poignant anguish. Probably he felt that had he guessed the imminence of the event he might have made better terms.


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