CHAPTER XX. ELIZABETH (v), 1558-78-IRISH AND ENGLISH
That exploit made Shan more completely master of Ulster than ever. The result was that in the summer of 1561, Sussex marched into the Northern Province. Shan after some preliminary skirmishes surprised his rearguard, and would have cut his whole force to pieces but for a desperate rally. When Elizabeth learned what had happened, she made up her mind that it would be best to concede O'Neill's demands, and induce him to visit England, while Sussex was actually trying to drive a bargain for his murder. The plot fell through, but Sussex received some supplies and was allowed to make another less disastrous expedition before Kildare was sent to negotiate with O'Neill on the Queen's behalf. The chief stipulated for complete amnesty, a safe-conduct, and the payment of his expenses, as a condition of his paying the desired visit.
[1561-2 Shan in England]
When Shan arrived in London, he made his formal submission, but was informed that though he had his safe-conduct for return the date when that return would be permitted lay with the Queen. He must wait for his rival, young Matthew, to have their claims tried. Meantime Shan, who seems to have adopted Henry VIII. as his matrimonial model, suggested that he should be given an English wife, and that he would manage the government of Ulster admirably in Elizabeth's interests, as soon as he went back - with the Earldom. But as time went on he learned that Matthew was being intentionally kept in Ireland. Then another of O'Neill's kinsmen, Tirlogh, succeeded in murdering Matthew, while Shan in England was vowing that his great desire was to be instructed in English ways by Dudley (not yet Earl of Leicester). Now he remarked on the necessity for his return to keep his kinsmen in order. There was a good deal of ground for believing that he was in fact the only person who could rule Ulster: and after four months (April 1562) he was allowed to return, with promises on his part to be a model ruler and on the Queen's part a concession of something not far short of sovereignty.
Before the end of the year it was evident enough that Shan's promises were not intended to be kept. His murder had been plotted; Sussex had certainly endeavoured to entrap him treacherously; his detention in England had been technically justified by a distinctly dishonourable trick. He did not mean to be tricked again, and if there was duplicity in his conduct the English had set the example. He entered into correspondence with the Queen's potential enemies on all hands, and proceeded to suppress every one in the North whose submission to himself was doubtful.
[1563 Shan's supremacy recognised]
So in the spring, Sussex made another futile raid, after which Elizabeth thought it best once more to play at conciliation, and to adopt the scheme of formally constituting Ulster, Munster and Connaught into Provinces, with O'Neill as President in the north, Clanricarde (Burke) or O'Brien in the west, and Desmond or Kildare in the south. Shan was to be so completely supreme that he was even to be free to make his own Catholic nominee Archbishop of Armagh. An indubitable attempt to poison O'Neill gave him a moral advantage, though the English authorities indignantly repudiated the perpetrator. Shan was content to allow the affair to be hushed up, and established his own rule throughout Ulster with a combination of barbarity and real administrative ability which to students of Indian History recalls the methods and the ethics of Ranjit Singh or Abdurrhaman. Within the Pale, the exceedingly corrupt administration of recent years was overhauled by Sir Nicholas Arnold; who was no respecter of persons, but outside the Pale regarded the Irish - in his own words - as so many "bears and bandogs" who were best employed in ravaging and cutting each other's throats. And in the south, the Butlers and Geraldines carried out that policy with devastatory results. It is to be noted however that Cecil found Arnold's views very difficult to stomach. [Footnote: State Papers, Ireland, i., p. 252.]
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that in spite of Shan's peculiar views as to marriage and murder, Ulster under his sway was on the whole better off than any other part of Ireland.
In 1565 Mary Stewart married Darnley, in pursuit, as we have seen, of an aggressive policy towards England. In this year, O'Neill was hand in glove with Sir Thomas Stukely, a gentleman-adventurer of Devon, who made the harbours of the west coast his base for piratical cruises in search of treasure-ships. Englishmen at home were devising paper schemes for an ideal government in the sister island, but something very different was required if Shan was not to become strong enough to endanger the very existence of English dominion there. There was considerable risk that Argyle, in disgust at Elizabeth's double-dealing, would sink his differences with the Irish Chief, and give him the active support of the Antrim Scots. Meantime, though Shan himself was careful to render plausible explanations of his very obvious activity, Sir Henry Sidney, a man of very different calibre from Sussex, was appointed to succeed that nobleman in the Deputyship.
[1566 Sir Henry Sidney Deputy]