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Shane O’Neill meeting Queen Elizabeth I in London, 1562.

Shane O’Neill (1530-1567) was a Gaelic Irish chieftain belonging to the Ó Neill family of Ulster. His father, Conn Bacach, was the chief of the O’Neills of Tyrone, Following Gaelic fosterage custom, O’Neill grew up with the O’Donnelly family until adulthood. Despite being the youngest of six sons, the death of several of his brothers and the removal of another to England saw Shane ascend to become the heir to his father and to adopt the title “The O’Neill”, which was recognised by Gaelic law but not by English law. In 1561, the Earl of Sussex, Thomas Radclyffe launched an armed campaign against the O’Neills in an effort to totally subjugate them, yet the greater part of Sussex’s army would be routed and later assassination attempts on Shane’s life would fail, forcing Queen Elizabeth to effectively cede to all of Shane O’Neill’s demands, formally recognising Shane as the legitimate holder to the title “The O’Neill”. Shane would eventually turn his attention to the Scottish settlers in Ulster, namely the MacDonnells, and in 1567 Shane would be killed by the MacDonnells in Cushendun, County Antrim.


Letters of Shane O’Neill (1561)