O'Neill dynasty: Wikis


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Escutcheon of the Uí Néills, Kings of Ulster and Princes of Tyrone by Alexander Liptak.png
Red Hand of Ulster
Parent house Cenél nEógain / Uí Néill

foreign titles:

Founder Niall Glúndub
Current head disputed
Founding year 10th (5th) century

The O'Neill dynasty is an important collection of families that have held prominent positions and titles throughout European history. The O'Neills take their name from Niall Glúndub, an early 10th century High King of Ireland from the Cenél nEógain. Confusion then arises because the Cenél nEógain, descendants of Eógan mac Néill, were a branch of the Uí Néill dynasty who took their name from Niall of the Nine Hostages, a legendary 5th century King of Tara. The Uí Néill were in turn a branch of the Connachta, descendants of the legendary Conn of the Hundred Battles, son of Fedlimid Rechtmar, son of Tuathal Techtmar.



The sons of Niall of the Nine Hostages, seven in all, were Conall Gulban, ancestor of the Cenél Conaill dynasty, Éndae, progenitor of the Cenél nÉndai, Eógan mac Néill, ancestor of the Cenél nEógain dynasty, Conall Cremthainne, ancestor of both the Clann Cholmáin and Síl nÁedo Sláine dynasties, Coirpre, ancestor of the Cenél Coirpri, Lóegaire, progenitor of the Cenél Lóegaire, and Fiachu, progenitor the Cenél Fiachach.

Together these dynasties are known to historians as the Uí Néill. They are then divided into the Northern Uí Néill, comprising the first three mentioned above, and the Southern Uí Néill, comprising the remainder. The Northern Uí Néill established themselves in western Ulster with their capital at Ailech. The Kings of Ailech were the Northern Uí Néill overkings, who for several centuries rotated as Kings of Tara with the Southern Uí Néill overkings. For most of that period the Tara kingship was rotated exclusively between the dominant Southern Uí Néill Clann Cholmáin and the Northern Uí Néill Cenél nEógain. The system finally broke down in the 10th century.

The O'Neill dynasty is a continuation of the Northern Uí Néill Cenél nEógain dynasty, descendants of the 5th century Eógan mac Néill, through the 10th century Niall Glúndub.

A son of Niall Glúndub was Muirchertach mac Néill, father of Domnall ua Néill, who was the first king to be named High King of Ireland in his obituary. Through Domnall's grandson Flaithbertach Ua Néill descend the Kings of Tír Eógain, or Tyrone, and the O'Neill dynasty. Most closely related to the O'Neills are the Mac Lochlainns, also of the Cenél nEógain, who in addition to providing two High Kings, Domnall Ua Lochlainn and Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn, also contested the kingship of Tyrone with the O'Neills until the mid-13th century.

Later, both the chief rivals and allies of the O'Neills in Ulster were the O'Donnell dynasty of Tyrconnell, a continuation of the Northern Uí Néill Cenél Conaill.

O'Neills of Tyrone

Today there is no recognized head of the O'Neills of Tyrone, thus no O'Neill Mór. There are a few families that may, and some do, claim the rights of O'Neill of Tyrone. These claimants are made up of descendants of the first Earl's (Conn Bacach O'Neill) (Conn O'Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone) sons: Shane Diomas (Shane O'Neill) and Phelim Caoch O’Neill (Phelim Caoch O'Neill). The original earldom was granted by Henry VIII in 1542, on the creation of the Kingdom of Ireland. These include O'Neill of Corab, O'Neill of Waterford, McShane-O’Neill of Killetragh, and O’Neill of Dundalk. All descend from the Chiefs of O'Neill of Tyrone.

In addition to the chiefships, there are numerous Continental titles held by descendants and ancestors of the 3rd Earl, Hugh. His title was recognized in two separate fashions at Hugh’s death by the Spanish crown in 1616. The title “Earl of Tyrone” passed to his son John as 3rd Earl, then to his son Hugh Eugene (4th Earl Tyrone), then Hugh Dubh (5th Earl), then Hugo (6th Earl), and finally Brian Roe (7th Earl). The title “Comte d' Tyrone” or “Count of Tyrone” was granted to the 3rd Earl’s son, Patrick O'Neill of Holland in 1623. He was recognized as such by the Spanish governor in the Netherlands, the Infanta Isabella for King Philip VI of Spain. The line of Counts of Tyrone via Patrick is continuous today. Jaques (James) d' Tyrone is the 9th holder of the rank Count of the Spanish Netherlands creation of the title.

An act of the English Parliament in 1569 for the retrospective attainer of Shane O'Neill banned the use of the title of "The O'Neill Mor". In addition, the title of "The O'Neill Mor" was not a patrilineal hereditary title, but rather was conferred upon the individual duly elected and inaugurated to rule Tir Eoghain.

O'Neills of Clanaboy

The current head of the Clanaboy O'Neill dynasty is Hugo Ricciardi O'Neill, son of Jorge Maria O'Neill, whose family has been in Portugal since the 18th century. He is officially recognized by the offices of arms throughout Europe as titular Prince and Count of Clanaboy, but he refuses to use this title, using instead the style The O'Neill of Clanaboy. The name Clanaboy (or Clandeboye) is a curruption of the Gaelic family name of 'Clann Aoidh Bhuí' or the 'Family of Fair Hugh' 'fair' being a reference to hair colour, most likely. The O'Neills of Bellaghy are of this line. The traditional title of the head of this family branch is The O'Neill Buidhe or The O'Neill of Clannabuidhe.

The O'Neill of Clanaboy is one of the hereditary Chiefs of the Name of Ireland.

O'Neills of the Fews

The O'Neill of the Fews dynasty, was led by a Spanish nobleman, Don Carlos O'Neill, 12th Marquess of la Granja. He is also stylized as the Prince of the Fews. From the same line is the family of Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet of New York. "The Fews" is an area in County Armagh and was a sub-territory under the O'Neills of Tyrone.


Descendants of Don Enrique

There were many O'Neills in the Caribbean especially the Counts of Tyron of the Aodh Mór mac Feardorcha Ó Néill line. Don Patrick O'Neill was born in the Spanish Netherlands (modern day Belgium) in 1622 and given the courtesy title of Count of Tyrone in deference to his father's title which was taken upon the death of Hugh O'Neill in Rome 1616. Patrick O'Neill and his cousin Eoghan Rua Ó Néill, anglicized as Owen Roe O'Neill (c. 1590–1649), "Red Owen", was a seventeenth century soldier and one of the most famous of the O'Neill family of Ulster. Red O'Neill was the son of Art O'Neill, a younger brother of Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone. As a young man, he left Ireland in the Flight of the Earls to escape the English conquest of his native Ulster. He grew up in the Spanish Netherlands and spent 40 years serving in the Irish regiment of the Spanish army. He saw most of his combat in the Eighty Years' War against the Dutch Republic in Flanders, notably at the siege of Arras, where he commanded the Spanish garrison. O'Neill was, like many Gaelic Irish officers in the Spanish service, very hostile to the English Protestant presence in Ireland. Both cousins returned to Ireland during the Irish Rebellion of 1641 to fight in the Irish Confederate Wars. Owen Roe O'Neill was poisoned by the Cromwell supporters and died in 1649. Patrick O'Neill left Ireland and took loyalty and arms for the King of France and moved his family to the Island of Martinique where they lived for 200 years. In the 1641 Irish Rebellion Sir Henry O'Neill remained loyal to the English crown while his sons and brothers played a prominent part in the 1641 Irish Rebellion, resulting in the confiscation of his lands, which were divided up among a number of Cromwellian settlers; the chief beneficiary was Thomas Ball whose various grants totaled more than 6,000 acres. Sir Henry O'Neill was banished to Connaught, Ireland, where he was awarded an estate in County Mayo, Ireland. In 1755, the 99-year lease on the lands of his son Henry O'Neill (Enrique O'Neill) in Meelick, Carrowrory, and Carrowconnell expired. Henry (Enrique) O'Neill and his wife Hanna O'Kelly, the daughter of counselor John O'Kelly of Keenagh, Co. Roscommon, moved with their family to Spain around 1758. In the result of a James Knox of Moyne of Killala, Co. Mayo took steps against O’Neill's to confiscate his lands. During the Cromwell and the English Protestant labored to make war with the policy of extermination of the Irish. There was an inhuman policy of selling Irish as slaves to plantation owners in the Leeward Islands especially Monserrat and other British governed Islands. The Leeward Islands lie east of Puerto Rico thus giving the perfect opportunity for the veterans of the Irish wars and Spanish Regiments who had fought in the Spanish Netherlands to exact revenge. Sometimes allied with French troops they attacked the British colonies resulting in the extermination of English plantation owners and the native inhabitants of these Islands.

In 1755 the 99-year lease on his lands in Meelick, Carrowrory and Carrowconnell expired. Henry (Enrique) O'Neill and his wife Hanna O'Kelly, the daughter of counsellor John O'Kelly of Keenagh, Co. Roscommon moved his family to Spain around 1758. They became the parents of Don Arturo O'Neill de Tyrone born in 1736 in Dublin, Ireland. Latter known by the title of the 1st Marques Del Norte and Governor of the Yucatan on the 3rd of October, 1792. The successor of Don Jose Sabido de Vargas. Named Governor of West Florida and named into the Supreme Council of War of Spain (replacing Governor Miguel de Uztaraiz). His brother Lieutenant-Colonel. Niall 'Nicolas' O'Neill O'Kelly was b. 1734 died at Saragossa, Spain. Don Tulio O'Neill O'Kelly married Catherine O'Keffe y Whalen and became the parents of Arturo O'Neill O'Keffe and Tulio O'Neill O'Keffe born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies in 1784 became a General and won many distinctions during the Peninsular War. He married Manuela de Castilla the daughter of a Spanish Nobel. They became parents of Don Juan Antonio Luis O'Neill born in 1812 who married Dona Luisa de Salamanca. He latter inherited his mother's titles in 1847. Marques de la Granja, Marques de Caltojar, Count of Benajiar and Marques de Valdeosera (d.1877). From then on they are known as the O'Neill's of the Fews of Seville. Don Arturo O'Neill O'Keffe was born 1783 in St. Croix, Danish West Indies. Became Lieutenant Colonel on the 17th of August, 1828. in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. A Knight of the Royal Order of King Carlos the 3rd of Spain and 2nd Marques del Norte. He died in Sept 7, 1832 and is buried in the Roman Catholic Church of Frederiksted, Saint Croix (Santa Cruz), Danish West Indies. He was married to Joanna Chabert Heyliger whose parents were Protestant on April 19, 1802 in St. Croix, Danish West Indies. Recent findings are showing that other O'Neill's did settled in Puerto Rico in the 1770s or early 1700s in orders of the Spanish Royal Courts. The earliest record show that of a man named Patricio O'Neill arrived in Puerto Rico in the 1770s.

The English controlled the island of St. Croix until 1650. In that year the Spanish sent a fleet of five ships and 1,200 men to St. Croix from Puerto Rico and slaughtered every man, woman and child. After only 15 years of domination, the English were ousted. After a brief period they were replaced by the Knights of Malta under a French noble Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy. The Knights later sold the island to the French who sold it on to the Danes. History shows[citation needed] that the O’Neill's had previous knowledge of the Islands with the names of Rocco, Eammon, Constatino or Conn the name possibly referring to Conn O'Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone, Eoghan, Edmundo & Gill these were men who first in the Ultonia and Hibernia regiments for the Crown of Spain sometimes allied with the French to eliminate the English from these Islands.

Most O'Neill families of Puerto Rico have for many generations resided in the districts of Hato Nuevo, Mamey, and Sonadora of the city of Guaynabo located on the northern coast of the island of Puerto Rico. Other O'Neill families have settled in the cities of Río Piedras and Caguas. Many other O'Neill families that immigrated from Barbados settled on the Island of Vieques. The O'Neill's have produced a few mayors in their respected cities.


Coats of Arms

It is a common misconception that there is one coat of arms associated to everyone of a common surname, when, in fact, a coat of arms is property passed through direct lineage.[2] This means that there are numerous families of O'Neill under various spellings that are related, but because they are not the direct descendants of an O'Neill that owned an armorial device do not have rights or claims to any arms themselves.

The coat of arms of the O'Neills of Ulster, which held the title of High Kings of Ireland, were white with a red left hand cut off below the wrist, and it is because of this prominence that the red hand (though a right hand is used today, rather than the left used by the high kings) has also become a symbol of Ireland, Ulster, Tyrone and other places associated with the ruling family of O'Neills. The red hand by itself has become a symbol of the O'Neill name, such that when other O'Neill family branches were granted or assumed a heraldic achievement, this red hand was often incorporated into the new coat of arms in some way.[3]

The red hand is explained by several slightly differing legends, but which tend to have a common theme that begins with a promise of land to the first man that is able to sail or swim across the sea and touch the shores of Ireland. Many contenders arrive, including a man named O'Neill, who begins to fall behind the other. Using his cunning, O'Neill cuts off his left hand and throws it onto the beach before the other challengers are able to reach shore, thus technically becoming the first of them to touch land and wins all of Ireland as his prize. However, the legends seem to originate in the seventeenth century, several many centuries after the red hand was already borne by the O'Neill families.[4]

Escutcheon of Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone by Alexander Liptak.png Escutcheon of the O'Neills of Tyrone, The O'Neills by Alexander Liptak.png Escutcheon of the O'Neills, Princes and Counts of Clanaboy by Alexander Liptak.png
The coat of arms of Hugh O'Neill,
2nd Earl of Tyrone.
The arms of the O'Neills of Tyrone,
who claimed the title of The O'Neill.
The achievement of the O'Neills of
Clanaboy. The O'Neills of The Fews
claim the same arms as a junior
branch of Clanaboy.

Today there are three ancient O'Neill dynasties or principalities. The original titles passed under the elective derbfine system of Irish Brehon law. Incumbents were then granted further titles that could be inherited under primogeniture by various Roman Catholic kingdoms in Europe.

Early O'Neills in Scotland

There are four or five Scottish clans who have traditionally claimed descent from the O'Neill dynasty, through Ánrothán Ua Néill, son of Áed, son of Flaithbertach Ua Néill, King of Ailech and Cenél nEógain, died 1036.

See also


References and sources

  1. ^ Eric Beerman, Arturo O'Neill: First Governor of West Florida during the Second Spanish Period, in The Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 1 (July 1981): 29-41
  2. ^ "College of Arms FAQ". College-of-arms.gov.uk. http://www.college-of-arms.gov.uk/Faq.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  3. ^ "About the name O'Neill"". Araltas.com. http://www.araltas.com/features/oneill/. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  4. ^ "Uí Néill". Encyclopedia.com. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O70-UNill.html. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  • The Spanish Monarchy and Irish Mercenaries, R.A.Stradling
  • The O' Neills in Spain, Spanish Knights of Irish Origin, Destruction by Peace, Micheline Kerney Walsh. The Irish Sword, Vol 4-11
  • Erin's Blood Royal: The Gaelic Nobel Dynasties of Ireland, Peter Berresford Ellis
  • The Wild Geese, Mark G. McLaughlin.
  • Wild Geese in Spanish Flanders,1582-1700, B. Jennings.
  • General History of Martinique, 1650-1699
  • Archivo General de Simancas
  • Archivo General de Indias
  • Archivo de la Chancilleria de Valladolid
  • Archivo Histórico Nacional, Spain
  • Registro demografico de Puerto Rico
  • Obispado de San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • The History of Irish Brigades in the service of France, Shannon (1969)

External links


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