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O'NEIL'S POSITION--THE BATTLE OF BENBURB.

Ormond had amused the Confederates with negotiations for a permanent peace and settlement, from spring till midsummer, when Charles, dissatisfied with these endless delays, despatched to Ireland a more hopeful ambassador. This was Herbert, Earl of Glamorgan, one of the few Catholics remaining among the English nobility; son and heir to the Marquis of Worcester, and son-in-law to Henry O'Brien, Earl of Thomond. Of a family devoutly attached to the royal cause, to which it is said they had contributed not less than 200,000 pounds, Glamorgan's religion, his rank, his Irish connections, the intimate confidence of the King which he was known to possess, all marked out his embassy as one of the utmost importance.

The story of this mission has been perplexed and darkened by many controversies. But the general verdict of historians seems now to be, that Charles I., whose many good qualities as a man and a ruler are cheerfully admitted on all hands, was yet utterly deficient in downright good faith; that duplicity was his besetting sin; and that Glamorgan's embassy is one, but only one, of the strongest evidences of that ingrained duplicity.

It may help to the clearer understanding of the negotiations conducted by Glamorgan in Ireland, if we give in the first place the exact dates of the first transactions. The Earl arrived at Dublin about the 1st of August, and, after an interview with Ormond, proceeded to Kilkenny. On the 28th of that month, preliminary articles were agreed to and signed by the Earl on behalf of the King, and by Lords Mountgarrett and Muskerry on behalf of the Confederates. It was necessary, it seems, to get the concurrence of the Viceroy to these terms, and accordingly the negotiators on both sides repaired to Dublin. Here, Ormond contrived to detain them ten long weeks in discussions on the articles relating to religion; it was the 12th of November when they returned to Kilkenny, with a much modified treaty. On the next day, the 13th, the new Papal Nuncio, a prelate who, by his rank, his eloquence, and his imprudence, was destined to exercise a powerful influence on the Catholic councils, made his public entry into that city.

This personage was John Baptist Rinuccini, Archbishop of Fermo, in the Marches of Ancona, which see he had preferred to the more exalted dignity of Florence. By birth a Tuscan, the new Nuncio had distinguished himself from boyhood by his passionate attachment to his studies. At Bologna, at Perugia, and at Rome, his intense application brought him early honours, and early physical debility. His health, partially restored in the seclusion of his native valley of the Arno, enabled him to return again to Rome. Enjoying the confidence of Gregory XV. and Uban VIII., he was named successively, Clerk of the Chamber, Secretary of the Congregation of Rites, and Archbishop of Fermo. This was the prelate chosen by the new Pope, Innocent X., for the nunciature in Ireland: a man of noble birth, in the fifty-third year of his age, of uncertain bodily health, of great learning, especially as a canonist, of a fiery Italian temperament,--"regular and even austere in his life, and far from any taint of avarice or corruption,"--such was the admission of his enemies.

Leaving Italy in May, accompanied by the Dean of Fermo, who has left us a valuable record of the embassy, his other household officers, several Italian noblemen, and Sir Richard Belling, the special agent at Rome, the Nuncio, by way of Genoa and Marseilles, reached Paris. In France he was detained nearly five months, in a fruitless attempt to come to some definite arrangement as to the conduct of the Catholic war, through Queen Henrietta Maria, then resident with the young Prince of Wales--afterwards Charles II.--at the French court. The Queen, like most persons of her rank, overwhelmed with adversity, was often unreasonably suspicious and exacting. Her sharp woman's tongue did not spare those on whom her anger fell, and there were not wanting those, who, apprehensive of the effect in England of her negotiating directly with a papal minister, did their utmost to delay or to break off their correspondence. A nice point of court etiquette further embarrassed the business. The Nuncio could not uncover his head before the Queen, and Henrietta would not receive him otherwise than uncovered. After three months lost in Paris, he was obliged to proceed on his journey, contenting himself with an exchange of complimentary messages with the Queen, whom even the crushing blow of Naseby could not induce to waive a point of etiquette with a Priest.

On reaching Rochelle, where he intended to take shipping, a further delay of six weeks took place, as was supposed by the machinations of Cardinal Mazarin. Finally, the Nuncio succeeded in purchasing a frigate of 26 guns, the San Pietro, on which he embarked with all his Italian suite, Sir Richard Belling, and several Franco-Irish officers. He had also on board a considerable sum in Spanish gold, (including another contribution of 36,000 dollars from Father Wadding,) 2,000 muskets, 2,000 cartouch belts, 4,000 swords, 2,000 pike heads, 400 brace of pistols, 20,000 pounds of powder, with match, shot, and other stores. Weighing from St. Martin's in the Isle of Rhe, the San Pietro doubled the Land's End, and stood over towards the Irish coast. The third day out they were chased for several hours by two Parliamentary cruisers, but escaped under cover of the night; on the fourth morning, being the 21st of October, they found themselves safely embayed in the waters of Kenmare, on the coast of Kerry.

The first intelligence which reached the Nuncio on landing, was the negotiation of Glamorgan, of which he had already heard, while waiting a ship at Rochelle. The next was the surrender by the Earl of Thomond, of his noble old castle of Bunratty, commanding the Shannon within six miles of Limerick, to the Puritans. This surrender had, however, determined the resolution of the city of Limerick, which hitherto had taken no part in the war, to open its gates to the Confederates. The loss of Bunratty was more than compensated by the gaining of one of the finest and strongest towns in Munster, and to Limerick accordingly the Nuncio paid the compliment of his first visit. Here he received the mitre of the diocese in dutiful submission from the hands of the Bishop, on entering the Cathedral; and here he celebrated a solemn requiem mass for the repose of the soul of the Archbishop of Tuam, lately slain before Sligo. Prom Limerick, borne along on his litter, such was the feebleness of his health, he advanced by slow stages to Kilkenny, escorted by a guard of honour, despatched on that duty, by the Supreme Council.

The pomp and splendour of his public entry into the Catholic capital was a striking spectacle. The previous night he slept at a village three miles from the city, for which he set out early on the morning of the 13th of November, escorted by his guard, and a vast multitude of the people. Five delegates from the Supreme Council accompanied him. A band of fifty students mounted on horseback met him on the way, and their leader, crowned with laurel, recited some congratulatory Latin verses. At the city gate he left the litter and mounted a horse richly housed; here the procession of the clergy and the city guilds awaited him; at the Market Cross, a Latin oration was delivered in his honour, to which he graciously replied in the same language. From the Cross he was escorted to the Cathedral, at the door of which he was received by the aged Bishop, Dr. David Rothe. At the high altar he intonated the Te Deum, and gave the multitude the apostolic benediction. Then he was conducted to his lodgings, where he was soon waited upon by Lord Muskerry and General Preston, who brought him to Kilkenny Castle, where, in the great gallery, which elicited even a Florentine's admiration, he was received in stately formality by the President of the Council--Lord Mountgarrett. Another Latin oration on the nature of his embassy was delivered by the Nuncio, responded to by Heber, Bishop of Clogher, and so the ceremony of reception ended.

The Nuncio brought from Paris a new subject of difficulty, in the form of a memorial from the English Catholics at Rome, praying that they might be included in the terms of any peace which might be made by their Irish co-religionists with the King. Nothing could be more natural than that the members of the same persecuted church should make common cause, but nothing could be more impolitic than some of the demands made in the English memorial. They wished it to be stipulated with Charles, that he would allow a distinct military organization to the English and Irish Catholics in his service, under Catholic general officers, subject only to the King's commands, meaning thereby, if they meant what they said, independence of all parliamentary and ministerial control. Yet several of the stipulations of this memorial were, after many modifications and discussions, adopted by Glamorgan into his original articles, and under the treaty thus ratified, the Confederates bound themselves to despatch 10,000 men, fully armed and equipped, to the relief of Chester and the general succour of the King in England. Towards the close of December, the English Earl, with two Commissioners from the Supreme Council, set forth for Dublin, to obtain the Viceroy's sanction to the amended treaty. But in Dublin a singular counterplot in this perplexed drama awaited them. On St. Stephen's day, while at dinner, Glamorgan was arrested by Ormond, on a charge of having exceeded his instructions, and confined a close prisoner in the castle. The gates of the city were closed, and every means taken to give eclat to this extraordinary proceeding. The Confederate Commissioners were carried to the castle, and told they might congratulate themselves on not sharing the cell prepared for Glamorgan. "Go back," they were told, "to Kilkenny and tell the President of the Council, that the Protestants of England would fling the King's person out at his window, if they believed it possible that he lent himself to such an undertaking." The Commissioners accordingly went back and delivered their errand, with a full account of all the circumstances. Fortunately, the General Assembly had been called for an early day in January, 1646, at Kilkenny. When, therefore, they met, their first resolution was to despatch Sir Robert Talbot to the Viceroy, with a letter suspending all negotiations till the Earl of Glamorgan was set at liberty. By the end of January, on the joint bail, for 40,000 pounds, of the Earls of Clanrickarde and Kildare, the English envoy was enlarged, and, to the still further amazement of the simple-minded Catholics, on his arrival at Kilkenny, he justified rather than censured the action of Ormond. To most observers it appeared that these noblemen understood each other only too well.

From January till June, Kilkenny was delivered over to cabals, intrigues, and recriminations. There was an "old Irish party," to which the Nuncio inclined, and an "Anglo-Irish party," headed by Mountgarrett and the majority of the Council. The former stigmatized the latter as Ormondists, and the latter retorted on them with the name of the Nuncio's party. In February came news of a foreign treaty made at Rome between Sir Kenelm Digby and the Pope's Ministers, most favourable to the English and Irish Catholics. On the 28th of March, a final modification of Glamorgan's articles, reduced to thirty in number, was signed by Ormond for the King, and Lord Muskerry and the other Commissioners for the Confederates. These thirty articles conceded, in fact, all the most essential claims of the Irish; they secured them equal rights as to property, in the Army, in the Universities, and at the Bar; they gave them seats in both Houses and on the Bench; they authorized a special commission of Oyer and Terminer, composed wholly of Confederates; they declared that "the independency of the Parliament of Ireland on that of England," should be decided by declaration of both Houses "agreeably to the laws of the Kingdom of Ireland." In short, this final form of Glamorgan's treaty gave the Irish Catholics, in 1646, all that was subsequently obtained either for the church or the country, in 1782, 1793, or 1829. Though some conditions were omitted, to which Rinuccini and a majority of the Prelates attached importance, Glamorgan's treaty was, upon the whole, a charter upon which a free church and a free people might well have stood, as the fundamental law of their religious and civil liberties.

The treaty, thus concluded at the end of March, was to lie as an escroll in the hands of the Marquis of Clanrickarde till the 1st of May, awaiting Sir Kenelm Digby with the Roman protocol. And then, not withstanding the dissuasions of Rinuccini to the contrary, it was to be kept secret from the world, though some of its obligations were expected to be at once fulfilled, on their side, by the Catholics. The Supreme Council, ever eager to exhibit their loyalty, gathered together 6,000 troops for the relief of Chester and the service of the King in England, so soon as both treaties--the Irish and the Roman--should be signed by Charles. While so waiting, they besieged and took Bunratty castle--already referred to--but Sir Kenelm Digby did not arrive with May, and they now learned, to their renewed amazement, that Glamorgan's whole negotiation was disclaimed by the King in England. In the same interval Chester fell, and the King was obliged to throw himself into the hands of the Scottish Parliament, who surrendered him for a price to their English coadjutors. These tidings reached Ireland during May, and, varied with the capture of an occasional fortress, lost or won, occupied all men's minds. But the first days of June were destined to bring with them a victory of national--of European importance--won by Owen O'Neil, in the immediate vicinity of his grand-uncle's famous battle-field of the Yellow Ford.

During these three years of intrigue and negotiation, the position of General O'Neil was hazardous and difficult in the extreme. One campaign he had served under a stranger, as second on his own soil. In the other two he was fettered by the terms of "cessation" to his own quarters; and to add to his embarrassments, his impetuous kinsman Sir Phelim, brave, rash, and ambitious, recently married to a daughter of his ungenerous rival, General Preston, was incited to thwart and obstruct him amongst their mutual clansmen and connections. The only recompense which seems to have been awarded to him, was the confidence of the Nuncio, who, either from that knowledge of character in which the Italians excel, or from bias received from some other source, at once singled him out as the man of his people. What portion of the Nuncio's supplies reached the Northern General we know not, but in the beginning of June, he felt himself in a position to bring on an engagement with Monroe, who, lately reinforced by both Parliaments, had marched out of Carrickfergus into Tyrone, with a view of penetrating as far south as Kilkenny. On the 4th day of June, the two armies encountered at Benburb, on the little river Blackwater, about six miles north of Armagh, and the most signal victory of the war came to recompense the long-enduring patience of O'Neil.

The battle of Benburb has been often and well described. In a naturally strong position--with this leader the choice of ground seems to have been a first consideration --the Irish, for four hours, received and repulsed the various charges of the Puritan horse. Then as the sun began to descend, pouring its rays upon the opposing force, O'Neil led his whole force--five thousand men against eight--to the attack. One terrible onset swept away every trace of resistance. There were counted on the field, 3,243 of the Covenanters, and of the Catholics, but 70 killed and 100 wounded. Lord Ardes, and 21 Scottish officers, 32 standards, 1,500 draught horses, and all the guns and tents, were captured. Monroe fled in panic to Lisburn, and thence to Carrickfergus, where he shut himself up, till he could obtain reinforcements. O'Neil forwarded the captured colours to the Nuncio, at Limerick, by whom they were solemnly placed in the choir of St. Mary's Cathedral, and afterwards, at the request of Pope Innocent, sent to Rome. Te Deum was chanted in the Confederate Capital; penitential psalms were sung in the Northern fortress. "The Lord of Hosts," wrote Monroe, "had rubbed shame on our faces, till once we are humbled;" O'Neil emblazoned the cross and keys on his banner with the Red Hand of Ulster, and openly resumed the title originally chosen by his adherents at Clones, "the Catholic Army."




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