It was no wonder that there was whispering in Tir-Eoghain when the new Earl came back, whispering and shaking of heads and a threatening handling of swords on this side and that. ‘This Conn is the first O’Neill who bent his knee to a foreign King,’ said they, and they cast their eyes on Shane, Conn’s eldest son.
‘There is the making of a King in him,’ they said to each other; ‘wait till he grows up. See that long, curly fair hair on him, and those two fiery grey eyes he has. He is growing fast. He is more than six feet in height already. Look at him closely; see how broad-shouldered, well-knit, and sinewy he is, as straight as a spear, as fleet as a stag, as bold as the bull of a herd. Shane shall be prince over us, and Henry the Eighth’s new Earl will have to take himself off.’
Conn O’Neill heard the whispering and it troubled him. He heard men talking together, with daggers (lit. an edge) in their looks. ‘He prefers the bastard son, Matthew, the dark man, to Shane, his own lawful son, whom his lady gave him—the noblest woman in Ireland, too!’
Shane’s mother was a daughter of the Geraldine, the Earl of Kildare, the most powerful man in Ireland.
Henry VIII asked Conn to name his heir. ‘Matthew,’ said Conn, and Matthew was made Baron Dungannon forthwith. ‘I must get my right,’ said Shane. Conn O’Neill saw the flash in his son’s eyes; he saw the sullenness of the clan. ‘Shane shall be my heir,’ said he at last, after a great deal of persuasion.
Matthew asked assistance from England and he got it immediately, for the foreigners liked the excuse to put the family of O’Neill to worrying each other. Word was sent at once to Conn O’Neill in order to get satisfaction out of him for displacing Matthew, but he would not go back on his promise to Shane, and he was thrown into prison in Dublin.