CHAPTER III. ACCESSION OF QUEEN ELIZABETH - PARLIAMENT OF 1560 - THE ACT OF UNIFORMITY - CAREER AND DEATH OF JOHN O'NEIL "THE PROUD."
The daughter of Anna Boleyn was promptly proclaimed Queen the same day on which Mary died - the 17th of November, 1558. Elizabeth was then in her 26th year, proud of her beauty, and confident in her abilities. Her great capacity had been cultivated by the best masters of the age, and the best of all ages, early adversity. Her vices were hereditary in her blood, but her genius for government so far surpassed any of her immediate predecessors as to throw her vices into the shade. During the forty-four years in which she wielded the English sceptre, many of the most stirring occurrences of our history took place; it could hardly have fallen out otherwise, under a sovereign of so much vigour, having the command of such immense resources.
On the news of Mary's death reaching Ireland, the Lord Deputy Sussex returned to England, and Sir Henry Sidney, the Treasurer, was appointed his successor ad interim. As in England, so in Ireland, though for somewhat different reasons, the first months of the new reign were marked by a conciliating and temporizing policy. Elizabeth, who had not assumed the title of "Head of the Church," continued to hear Mass for several months after her accession. At her coronation she had a High Mass sung, accompanied, it is true, by a Calvinistic sermon. Before proceeding with the work of "reformation," inaugurated by her father, and arrested by her sister, she proceeded cautiously to establish herself, and her Irish deputy followed in the same careful line of conduct. Having first made a menacing demonstration against John the Proud, he entered into friendly correspondence with him, and finally ended the campaign by standing godfather to one of his children. This relation of gossip among the old Irish was no mere matter of ceremony, but involved obligations lasting as life, and sacred as the ties of kindred blood. By seeking such a sponsor, O'Neil placed himself in Sidney's power, rather than Sidney in his, since the two men must have felt very differently bound by the connection into which they had entered. As an evidence of the Imperial policy of the moment, the incident is instructive.
Bound the personal history of this splendid, but by no means stainless Ulster Prince, the events of the first nine years of Elizabeth's reign over Ireland naturally group themselves. Whether at her Majesty's council-board, or among the Scottish islands, or in hall or hut at home, the attention of all manner of men interested in Ireland was fixed upon the movements of John the Proud. In tracing his career, we therefore naturally gather all, or nearly all, the threads of the national story, during the first ten years of Queen Mary's successor.