Tyrone’s complicity: no smoking gun?

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In historical circles there has been disagreement over Tyrone’s role in the war prior to February 1595. There is no known document that definitively shows that he was directing the conflict in 1593 and 1594, but there is substantial circumstantial evidence. Aside from the wholesale involvement by members of his household and family, Tyrone attended or convened gatherings of key northern lords and their followers that preceded the outbreak of spoiling and unrest in both years. Joan Kelly reported that Tyrone ordered raids in August 1594 and received spoils taken after the Irish victory at the Ford of the Biscuits. Furthermore, she noted the presence of Tyrone’s household troops at the battle (identified by their distinctive red livery). This was almost a year before they were seen in action at the Battle of Clontibret in May 1595. Could it be that Tyrone’s household were acting without orders? The ever-prescient Sir George Carew thought not. He advised in April 1594 that Tyrone’s brothers and bastard son Con were ‘the principal instruments to effect all his [Tyrone’s] designs’ and that Tyrone was ‘the absolute commander of all the north of Ireland’. Finally, who was supplying the gunpowder for the war in the west? Throughout the war Tyrone monopolised the control and supply of munitions. Without Tyrone’s support, Maguire et al. would have quickly exhausted their munitions. In 1600 Peter Lombard, the archbishop of Armagh, noted that Tyrone was surprised that the ruse had lasted for so long and took this as a sign of providence in his endeavours to overthrow English rule.

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