Bagenal (d. 1590)
Born: 1509 (appx.)
Father: John Bagnall, Mayor of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England 1519, 1522, 1526, 1531, 1533
Mother: Elinor, daughter of Thomas Whittingham of Middlewich, Cheshire, England
Brothers: Ralph, Richard and two others killed at Bullogne.
Sisters: Mary and Margaret.
Married in 1556:
Eleanor, 3rd daughter and co-heiress of Sir Edward Griffith of Penrhyn, North Wales. Through this marriage Nicholas became seated at Plas Newydd, Near Bangor, and owner of considerable estates in Wales.
Children: (Sons) Henry, Dudley, Ambrose. (Daughters) Frances, Mary, Margaret, Isabel, Anne, Mabel.
1539: He fled England after involvement with other "light persons" in the death by misadventure of a man in a brawl in Leek, Staffordshire. Making his way to the court of Conn Baccagh (the lame) O'Neill in Ulster. He took employment there as a mercenary soldier, and it rapidly became evident that he was an arrogant and highly ambitious man. So began the saga of the Bagenal/O'Neill clan in the 16th century.
7 Dec 1542: A letter was sent by the Dublin Privy Council to London at the intercession of Conn Baccagh O'Neill recently created 1st Earl of Tyrone petitioning for a pardon for Bagenal.
2 Mar 1543: Pardon granted to "Nicholas Bagenal, or Bagnolde, or Bagenholde late of Wolston, Warwickshire, alias of Warwick, alias of Stafford, alias of Langfords, Derbyshire, Yeoman. General pardon of all murders and felonies by him committed."
1544: He received permission from the Dublin Privy
Council to depart Ireland for service in the French Wars. He was gone
for 3 years and on his return brought back with him a high reputation
as a soldier and he acquired a fearsome military reputation for the wholesale
slaughter of his enemy.
1548 - 1549: Bagenal served under Sir Edward Bellingham. It is with him that his reputation as a fearsome military opponent was further enhanced. A group of raiders led by one Cahir O' Connor were plundering in an area from Leix to North Carlow to South Kildare. In South Kildare Bagenal made contact. O'Connor retreated, even though Bagenals force was only in the ratio of 1 to 16 favouring O'Connor. However O'Connor and his raiders were trapped by a bog, which, Bagenal's force again making contact Bellingham was later able to report to the Privy Council "that the oldest man in Ireland never saw so many woodkerne (Irish foot soldiers) slain in one day".
Bellingham's policy of erecting strong defences on the borders of the Southern Pale was mainly responsible for the revival of English Supremacy in the district. Hence, it was he who established the "Black Castle" at Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, where stood a suppressed Carmelite Convent. A band of horse was kept there, under whose protection, the county slowly settled. This castle was situated in the Barony of Idrone owned by the Carews.
(Bagenal at a later date bought the Barony for one of, his sons, Dudley, who shortly afterwards was to meet a tragic and violent death there. That purchase began the shift of the Bagenals from their base in Ulster to the creation of another in this part of Leinster.)
1550: A full year for Nicholas. He became a member of the Irish Privy Council and also secured the position of Marshall General of the Army in Ireland. (By this time he had acquired a detestation of all things Catholic and Irish, including the people, their language, customs, beliefs and lifestyle. He was determined to suppress both them and their Church and Monastery, to supplant the Cistercians, to take the Lordships of Newry and of Mourne, to carve a military role for himself as Marshal and a political role as Privy Councillor and as M.P.).
He settled in Newry where he was to reside for the remainder of his life and he received a lease of 21 years on the Abbey lands, which were then made a grant of the town and lands of Newry. Added to these properties and other rights and lands, he also ultimately realised his ambition of gaining the Lordship of Mourne.
In 1550, two other major events occurred which were to pose a threat to English Rule in Ulster and eventually to English Supremacy in Ireland. In this, the Bagenal and O'Neill saga was to be irrevocably and indeed tragically interconnected.
Two of the Sons of Conn Baccagh O'Neill, Shane (or Sean)
and Matthew fell out over the succession to their father. The result was
that Shane took up arms against his brother, and, from time to time, against
the English. In this year also was born the man who was destined to become
one of the most famous soldiers of the Ireland of that century, and indeed,
into the early Part of the next. With him, one might well argue that the
nation of Ireland, or, at the very least; the idea of an Irish Nation
was born. He was the man who would one day marry a daughter of Bagenal
- Mabel, and also be responsible for the death of one of his sons, Henry,
at the Battle of the Yellow Ford. Who was he? He was Hugh O'Neill, 2nd
Earl of Tyrone and second son of Matthew.
1551: Sir James Croft - the then Lord Deputy, after his failure to capture Rathlin Island (in which Sir Ralph, Nicholas' brother, was involved) ordered Bagenal to keep the peace in Tyrone. Accordingly he raided into that area. Shane (Sean) O'Neill was his target, but he was elusive,
making little resistance, and remaining in the woodland.
However he did eventually come in on parole to make a truce. Enticed to
Dublin, O'Neill was detained there for over a year.
Bagenal and Matthew (Shane's brother) worked together in this effort at re-establishing order in Tyrone. In the same rear Bagenal made a successful expedition against the Antrim O'Neills. Again in this year a letter from the Privy Council in England, requested Bagenal with others named, to attend there "for the better understanding of the matter informed against Sir Anthony St. Leger by the Archbishop of Dublin".
Probably living in the abbots house in Castle Street (Newry) at this period he subsequently built a castle called Greencastle. Here he brought his Welsh wife, raised his family (the descendants later for the most part, were to marry into anglo-irish families, and become caught up, in the web of 17th century Irish Civil Wars).
1553: Saw the arrival of Mary to the English throne.
A Catholic, she was determined that England would return to communion
with Rome. Although Bagenal was apparently not as ardent a reformer as
his brother Sir Ralph, he nevertheless fell under suspicion, and he was
removed from his post as Marshall of the Army in Ireland, Sir George Stanly
No doubt the period of Mary's reign (1553-1558) was a difficult one for Bagenal. He had to enter into substantial recognizances for his future loyalty. How this must have struck at the very heart of such a proud man as Nicholas one can but only speculate.
1556: He married Elinor Griffith (see above) and was also made a knight. His brother Sir Ralph assigned his property in Staffordshire to him before fleeing to France. 12000 acres were in turn remitted by Sir Nicholas to one Valentine Browne, with a clause of warranty against Sir Ralph.
1558: Sir Nicholas was returned as Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Stoke-upon-Trent, England. (Elizabeth's Reign, 1558 - 1603). No doubt it was with a sigh of relief that he saw the arrival of Elizabeth I to the throne in that year. However his hopes of becoming Marshall were not to be realised just yet, for the moment he had to be content with a captaincy. Shane O'Neill was in rebellious form at this period, it would not end until his death at the hands of the Scots at Cushendun in June 1567.
1565 - 1567: Sir Henry Sidney, became Lord Deputy (1565-71) (1575-78).
Sir Nicholas had served under him in a former Vice Royalty. Sidney was
a friend of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, (d.1588) who was a patron
of of Nicholas. These two men along with a recommendation of the Lord
Justice Sir N. Arnold succeeded in having Queen Elizabeth promote Sir
Nicholas to Marshall of the Army - replacing Sir George Stanly.
Having written to Cecil in 1562, complaining that the followers of Shane (Sean) O'Neill "have greatly spoiled his lands and tenants", one can be sure that Sir Nicholas was only too anxious to get to grips with him. However it was not to be. Sir Henry and Sir Nicholas were eluded, despite all their endeavours. It was Hugh O'Donnell who finally defeated O'Neill. Having crossed the River Swilly at Farset Moor, which is near Letterkenny. Shane was suddenly swooped upon by O'Donnell, and his forces routed. He escaped and made his way to the Scots at Cushendum where on the 2 June 1567, following a quarrel, he was killed; his head eventually ending up on a spike at Dublin Castle.
Sidney accompanied by the Marshall now turned his attentions south and marched into a period of history known as the Desmond Wars, or Desmond Rebellion. For a brief period Sidney returned to England, but he was back again in late 1568, campaigning with the Marshall and this time too, he had the services of Hugh O'Neill, now Baron of Dungannon. It is not the purpose of this page to go into that period, suffice to say it was a bloody and brutal period, where not only the subjugation of the native Irish was an issue, but also the power-play between the various powerful Lords such as that between the Butlers and Carew. "Rape of mother and virgin, burning, plundering, slaughter; not even the children spared from the sword". Indeed, a cruel and vicious conflict.
1569: The value of Sir Nicholas to the Lord Deputy may be gathered
from an extract of this letter by Sidney to Cecil in 1569 "I have
not a man of the Council of any action or effect, but Cusack and Bagenal".
1571: Sidney handed over the office of Lord Deputy to Sir William Fitzwilliam, under whom Sir Nicholas now served (1571-1575) .
Sir John Perrot also arrived this year. Between him and Sir Nicholas there was to be bitter faction fighting and recriminations for many years to come.
1573: Sir Nicholas is expressing his willingness "to support
the young Baron" (Hugh O'Neill). He is now showing his first suspicions
of Hugh O'Neill, when he voices his fear that O'Neill and Turlough Luineach
(a nephew of Shane (Sean) O'Neill and headman of the tribe) were about
to join forces. As it happened this did not occur. However the dangerous
potential of such an alliance of these two O'Neills would not have been
lost on the Marshall or on the English.
This voicing of suspicion against O'Neill shows how alert Sir Nicholas was to the affairs of Ulster as well as to the remainder of the country. In time these suspicions of the Marshall, about the ambition and loyalty of this Baron of Dungannon, were to prove well founded.
1576 - 1578: Sir Henry Sidney again took over the Lord Deputyship.
The importance of Sir Nicholas is again stressed by Sir Henry when writing
to the Privy Council in London in 1576 he asks them to "like well
of him". with what "good endeavour" he carried out their
commands, and that he was a "great stay" in Newry.
In 1577/8 Sir Henry was summoned to London. He placed Sir Nicholas in charge of the Service during his absence for the prosecution of the rebels, making him Lieutenant of Leinster and Munster. Writing in April 1578, the Lord Deputy giving a general account of the situation in Ulster says "Amongst your Majesty's servants the best instrument for the border is the Marshall, Sir Nicholas Bagenal, who till of late, that I your Deputy employed him in your service in Leinster, where he hath done your Majesty's good and very acceptable service, did remain upon his own lands, and was the only countenance of the Northern border".
1585: It in this year that Hugh O'Neill received his grant to
the Earldom of Tyrone and Sir Nicholas became an M.P. for the County Down.
He also bought the Barony of Idrone on behalf of his son Dudley, for the
sum of £2000, purchasing lt from Sir George Carew.
1587: Two major occurrences in this year. Firstly the amazing confrontation between Sir John Perrot (now Lord Deputy) and the Marshall in which blows were actually struck. An account of this is given in the Calendar of State Papers, Ir1, 1586 -1588. pp 360-361.
Secondly, in March he received news of the death of his son Dudley, killed in an ambush, near Ballyrnoon Castle, in Co. Carlow.
1590: Because of age and infirmity, he resigned his office of
Marshall. Soon afterwards, in February, at his castle in Newry he died.
The esteem and respect in which he was held was reflected in the attendance
of those at his funeral.
thanks to Reynolds Fieldcrest author of the pamphlet: "A Brief Glimpse
at the History of an Anglo-Irish Family - The Bagenals" from which the
above is extracted, published in 1990 and sold at Dunleckney, Muine Bheag