( c1590 - 1649)
Owen Roe O'Neill's father was
Art O'Neill younger brother of Hugh O'Neill,
he was educated in Spain and served in the army of that country.
He formed his own regiment and distinguished himself in Spain's
war against France, one of his French opponents said that he had
'Surpassed us in all things save
for good fortune.'
When the 1641 rebellion broke
out in Ireland, Owen Roe O'Neill arranged his release from the Spanish
army, and set sail for Ireland arriving in Lough Swilly, County
Donegal in July 1642. He joined his cousin Sir Phelim O'Neill and
became general of the Ulster force.
sometimes referred to as the Old English, joined the native Irish
in 'The Confederation
of Kilkenny' throwing their weight behind Charles I as his dispute
with parliament turns into civil war. In November 1642 O'Neill took
the confederacy oath and received supplies to fight General Monroe
a Scottish general leading the parliamentary forces.
The Old English favoured a political
settlement with the King's deputy the Earl of Ormond, the native
Irish anxious to regain their confiscated land favoured removing
the Protestant settlers. O'Neill inflicted a crushing defeat on
Munroe at Benburb
in County Tyrone, it was the first Irish victory in a formal pitched
battle, however O'Neill failed to follow up this success.
The papal nuncio in Ireland
was Cardinal Rinuccini, O'Neill was heavily influenced by him. Rinuccini
rejected a peace offer from Ormond which was favoured by the Old
English. Thomas Preston's leadership in Leinster proved to be ineffectual
and inept, after disagreeing with Preston O'Neill abandoned a siege
on Dublin and Ormond surrendered it to the parliamentary forces,
which resulted in further defeats on Preston and the confederate
army in Munster.