The Causes of the Flight:
- The nine years war had left Ulster bereft of leaders. Gaelic families such as the O'Donnells, the O'Neills and the Maguires were left impoverished and divided.
- Tír Conaill (Donegal) and Tír Eoghan (Tyrone) had been ruled under Brehon Law. This was the law of the land that covered ownership of property, inheritance and contract as well as social status and the responsibilities of individuals.
- Incidents such as the kidnap of Red Hugh O' Donnell, the increase of the English garrisons and sheriffs in Tír Conaill.
- Anglo-Norman families, loyal to the crown, would not join O'Neill and O'Donnell to stem the incursions and claims to their lands by sheriffs.
- Foreign aid was sought from Spain but only arrived in 1601 at Kinsale - a little too late. O'Neill and O'Donnell, although ill prepared, attacked the English forces who in turn routed them. The Irish then fled and the Spanish surrendered.
- There was in-fighting amongst the O'Donnells after the battle and Red Hugh left for Spain.
- O'Neill and Lord Mountjoy signed the Treaty of Mellifont in 1603, the Gaelic chieftains were granted a full pardon.
- Queen Elizabeth died in 1603 and was succeeded by James I of Scotland. Times had now changed however. The O'Donnells leadership had altered and Hugh O'Neill saw the established Church and State claim some of his lands.
- Infighting and the dependence on Spanish help led to the O'Neills, O'Donnells, Maguires and extended families totaling 99 people leaving Ireland in 1607. They were to travel to Spain but weather conditions forced them to the French coast and they landed at Quillebeuf.
- Neither O'Donnell or O'Neill ever returned to Ireland.
Impact on Military History
The Irish with their Brehon Law system were not a match for the highly developed centralised administrative system of the English. There was no planning, resources or awareness of the common good in evidence in any of the undertakings of the native Irish in their dealings with the English. The following is a list of some of the influences, mostly negative, which contributed to the defeat and elimination of the old Gaelic way of life.
- The effects of the Nine Years War. 1594-1603.
- Clan system was based on power and influence e.g. O'Dohertys, Mc Sweeneys and O'Boyles supported O'Donnell of Tír Conaill.
- In 1541 Henry VIII introduced the scheme of 'surrender and re-grant.'
- English garrisons and sheriffs were symbols of power and control and these gradually confiscated more and more Gaelic lands.
- Kidnap of Red Hugh O'Donnell - distrust of the English.
- O'Neill was a skilled strategist and had a well organised army during the Nine Years War but he allowed O'Donnell to influence him at Kinsale.
- To take back the country O'Neill needed the support of Anglo Normans which was not forthcoming.
- The chieftains needed help and approached the Spanish -a Catholic country that had issues with the English.
- The inability of the Irish to prevent a united front against the English.
Impact on Social History
The Flight of the Earls had a devastating effect on every aspect of Irish life, the consequences of which we still experience today. The following are some of the issues:
- Ulster, the last area where Gaelic society flourished, was gone forever.
- The native population was leaderless.
- Brehon Law was gone forever.
- New arrivals were landing in Ulster and the land was planted with Servitors, undertakers and 'deserving Irish' (those who had changed sides during the Nine Years War).
- By 1608 the Irish had one quarter of the confiscated lands.
- The city of London guilds were granted lands on the banks of the Foyle.
- Protestant Church was granted lands formally owned by the Catholic Church.
- Catholics had to attend Protestant Church services.
- 6000 native Irish soldiers were deported.
- In the 1690s there was an influx of Scottish Presbyterians, later called Ulster Scots, who later became a majority population.
- Town growth expanded, and Ulster became part of a religious and social divide, which exists to this day.
- The minority native Irish living in Ulster became a part of a religious and social divide which exists to this day.
- The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 is endeavoring to bring peace to centuries of discord.