English Account of the Flight of the Earls

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English Account of the Flight of the Earls


Sir John Davies

To most Protestant observers, including Sir John Davies (attorney general for Ireland, 1606–1619), the flight of the earls to Catholic Europe in 1607 was both good riddance and implicit evidence of their complicity in continuing outbreaks of rebellion in the north.

SEE ALSO O'Neill, Hugh, Second Earl of Tyrone

It is true that they are embarked and gone with the most part of that company of men, women and children, who are named the proclamation: it is true they took shipping the 14th of this present September; that the Saturday before the Earl of Tyrone was with my Lord Deputy at Slane . . . that from thence he went to Mellifont, Sir Garret Moore's house, where he wept abundantly when he took his leave, giving a solemn farewell to every child and every servant in the house, which made them all marvel, because it was not his manner to use such compliments. From thence, on Sunday, he went to Dundalk; on Monday he went to Dungannon, where he rested two whole days; on Wednesday night, they say, he travelled all night with his impediments, that is, his women and children; and it is likewise reported that the Countess, his wife, being exceedingly weary, slipped down from her horse, and, weeping, said she could go no farther; whereupon the Earl drew his sword, and swore a great oath that he would kill her in the place, if she would not pass on with him, and put on a more cheerful countenance withal. Yet, the next day, when he came near Lough Foyle, his passage that way was not so secret but the Governor there had notice thereof, and invited him and his son to dinner; but their haste was such that they accepted not that courtesy, but they went on, and came that Thursday night to Rathmullan, a town on the west side of Lough Swilly, where the Earl of Tyrconnel and his company met him. . . .

It is certain that Tyrone, in his heart, repines at the English government in his country, where, until his last submission, as well before his rebellion as in the time of his rebellion, he ever lived like a free prince, or rather like an absolute tyrant there. But now the law of England, and the ministers thereof, were shackles and handlocks unto him, and the garrisons planted in his country were as pricks in his side; besides, to evict any part of that land from him, which he has hitherto held after the Irish manner, making all the tenants thereof his villeins . . . this was a grievous unto him as to pinch away the quick flesh from his body. Those things, doubtless, have bred discontentment in him; and now his age and his burdened conscience . . . have of late much increased his melancholy, so that he was grown very pensive and passionate; and the friars and priests perceiving it, have wrought nightly upon his passion. Therefore it may be he has hearkened unto some project of treason, which he fears is discovered, and that fear has transported [him] into Spain. . . . As for them that are here, they are glad to see the day wherein the countenance and majesty of the law and civil government hath banished Tyrone out of Ireland, which the best army in Europe and the expense of two millions of sterling pounds did not bring to pass. And they hope His Majesty's happy government will work a greater miracle in this Kingdom than ever St. Patrick did, for St. Patrick only banished the poisonous worms, but suffered the men full of poison to inhabit the land still; but His Majesty's blessed genius will banish all those generations of vipers out of it, and make it, ere it be long, a right fortunate island.

Irish History from Contemporary Sources, edited by Constantia Maxwell (1923), pp. 203–204.

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English Account of the Flight of the Earls

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