The End of Gaelic Ireland The great majority of Irish people of the 16th and 17th centuries would not accept the tenets of the Reformation; so disagreements between Catholic Ireland and Protestant England had been endemic since the rule of Henry VIII; and in 1541 he was the first English monarch to declare himself King of Ireland. These little local difficulties grew into full-blown warfare during the reign of Elizabeth I. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 did not solve her problems totally. Queen Elizabeth still found herself under attack from both Spain and Ireland, two allies in the Catholic cause, and she found fighting on two fronts extremely costly. The Nine Year War in Ireland raged on from 1594 until 1603. The multiplicity of Irish chieftains lead to internal conflicts; but Sir Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone gradually emerged as the senior commander. Even with this disunity, Elizabeth’s armies were frequently on the loosing side in these skirmishes. However, her commanders did win the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. The Battle of Kinsale 1601 and its aftermath In September 1601 a Spanish army of some 3,000 soldiers invaded Ireland and occupied several castles and the town of Kinsale Co. Cork. The English besieged them there, not only by land; but also at sea with a hostile English fleet. An Irish army under the general command of Hugh O’Neill arrived just north of Kinsale in November with 12,000 men and immediately surrounded the English forces. By Christmas Eve 1601 the English army, (in its tents and trenches), found itself dangerously exposed as it became sandwiched between the Spaniards to their south (relatively comfortably barracked in town dwellings), and the large roaming army of Ulstermen.. However, a combination of errors in both timing and tactics – including very poor communication and lack of coordination between the allies - caused Tyrone’s downfall on this occasion. His whole army retreated in disarray. The Spanish were forced to surrender and were sent home. Mountjoy, in charge of the English army, negotiated with Aguila, the Spanish commander. Under the terms of the surrender Aguila, agreed to hand over the castles of Castlehaven, Donneshed (Baltimore), Donnelong (Sherkin), and Dunboy, and promised not to take up arms again even if reinforcements arrived. In return the Spanish were provided with enough shipping and food to allow them to transport their men, Spaniards and Irish, back to Spain with all their arms, artillery, money, ensigns, and so forth. In the event, reinforcements did arrive two days after the surrender on board three vessels under the command of Captain Martin de Belleville. On arriving at Kinsale, Ballecilla discovered that the town had surrendered, and so promptly returned to Spain. (Sources) But, Tyrone’s main adversary Queen Elizabeth was aging. Just before her death Tyrone was forced to concede defeat. She died in her 70th year in 1603, and although bowed O’Neill was not broken. Tyrone made one further bid to hang on to power when he sought, and thought he had won, reconciliation with King James I during a visit to his new court in London. The Earls were allowed to regain control of their lands by surrendering them to the crown, which then re-granted them. By agreeing to this, the Earls acknowledged the supremacy of King James I. The Treaty of Mellifont appeared to ratify this in 1603. But Tyrone and his associates had created far too many enemies among the ranks of government administrators and army generals for this treaty to succeed. The plotting of their downfall was relentless. Sir Arthur Chichester pursued a personal vendetta towards the Earl of Tyrone; it was this that fuelled the controversial circumstances preceding the Flight of the Earls. Tyrone's forces had killed Chichester's brother during the Nine Years War, and Sir Arthur Chichester vowed personal revenge by planning to have Tyrone beheaded. Although the war ended officially in 1603, the bitter rivalry between Tyrone and Chichester was rekindled when Sir Arthur was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1605. The Flight of the Earls By the summer of 1607 O’Neill felt that he was in imminent danger of arrest, imprisonment, and probable execution. In his judgment the only alternative was self-imposed exile. Because of this assumption the whole situation changed dramatically. On Friday 4 September 1607 Hugh O'Neill Earl of Tyrone and Rory O'Donnell Earl of Tyrconnell with a group of about 100 people that included a great number of the chieftains of the province of Ulster. They boarded a ship on Lough Swilly bound for continental Europe; ‘and sailed away, never to return’. So the cream of the Gaelic aristocracy of Ulster opted out of an unequal struggle. This single event became known as ‘The Flight of the Earls’ (Sources 3). How very different Irish history might have been had Tyrone ever fulfilled his life-long desire to return! One of the great ironies of the situation was that Tyrone was only to become recognised as the 'leader' of catholic Ireland when he was already in exile. But, as it turned out, he never did take up the baton, and he died in exile in Rome in 1616.