Pre 1800, — January 30, 2010 12:48 — 0 Comments

Henry Bagenal under fire

In May 1586 Sir Nicholas Bagenal sent Sir Henry, his son to the court to report on the troubles in the Dublin Council with Lord Deputy Perrot.  He went equipped with references and petitions to Lord Burghley (Robert Cecil) demanding changes in government policy on Ulster.


One of these, The Description and Present State of Ulster (1586), is an edited extract from one of the many contemporary accounts of Ireland then in circulation.  Possibly the source was Sir Edward Waterhouse, a friend of both the lord deputy and of the Bagenals.  Bagenal’s tract was much concerned to point out the crown’s weakness in Ulster, where O’Neill was becoming more powerful and was bringing in Scottish mercenaries, and at a time when the Spanish Armada was more than a rhetorical threat. 

Bagenal recommended a division of O’Neill’s lands in Tyrone, a restraint on O’Neill’s control over the petty chiefs in Down, the enhancement of his own role as Marshal, and a presidency for Ulster with a shire hall and a provincial gaol to dispense royal justice.  Other proposals were even more obviously self-interested, such as his application to develop Newry, and to tax local lords to build walls and to fund a college where the sons of Ulster lords could be educated in ‘civility’ and concurrently kept hostage. Finally, he wanted a similar commission to that held by Sir Richard Bingham in Connaught.

At first the queen endorsed many of Bagenal’s demands including the grant of a commission similar to Bingham’s, but her letter of April 1587 was never enrolled as a patent in the Irish chancery. 

Hostilities between the Bagenals and Perrot reached crisis point when the latter claimed he had been defamed by a letter purportedly from Turlough Luineach O’Neill to the queen, but actually forged ‘by means of Sir Henry Bagenal and other of that Machiavellian device’ (CSP Ire., 1586-8, 277). 

In the council chamber in Dublin Sir Nicholas demanded that Perrot clear his son’s name of military incompetence – allegations made by Henry Wallop, the treasurer-at-war.  They accused each other of being liars, drunkards, and cowards and came to blows.  

Nicholas Dawtrey, who had been commissioned by Burghley to evaluate plans for Ulster, also attacked Bagenal’s covetousness and avowed that …

‘Mr Marshal hath neither agreed with English or Irish that hath had as much or more discretion in governing of Ulster than himself … [or with] … any commissioners that hath been employed in that province, except his sons’

(PRO, SP 63/129/nos. 3, 20).

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