1607 – The Flight of the Earls.

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

In September 1607 a French ship sailed from the northern harbour of Rathmullan in Lough Swilly. On board were Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and Rory O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell, together with more than ninety of their family and followers. The ship was bound for Spain, but fierce storms forced them to disembark in France in early October. Thereafter they made their way to Rome, where they remained in voluntary exile, and where O’Neill died in 1616.

For centuries the native Irish had struggled to preserve the Gaelic way of life, with its distinct laws and customs. Through inter-marriage many of the Norman conquerors had become ‘more Irish than the Irish’, until the King of England’s rule had been confined to a small area around Dublin known as the Pale. During the sixteenth century, successive Tudor monarchs tried to extend their authority, but there was always strong resistance from the…

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