Settlement > Flight > Plantation
These three interlinked events are essential to understanding the modern history of Ireland. Nearly everyone has heard of the Plantation of Ulster (September 1610). Many people have heard of the Flight of the Earls (September 1607). Until 2006, very few people had heard of the Hamilton & Montgomery Settlement (May 1606).
The Ulster-Scots Agency believes that to fully understand these three great events, their stories must be told in an interlinked manner.
Flight of the Earls, 1607
The popular name for the hurried departure from Ireland of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and Rory O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell, in September 1607. With its tragic and romantic connotations, it is considered one of the most mysterious events in Irish history. Historians have attempted to offer an explanation. The earls have been accused by some of abandoning their people to English rule; at the very least the flight is perceived as the inevitable consequence of the defeat of Hugh O’Neill’s forces during the Nine Years War (1594–1603). In this view it is considered to mark the final recognition that Ireland had succumbed to English control.
Why the earls fled in such hurried circumstances is addressed in alternative explanations. Alleged to have become involved in a new plot against the crown, they are portrayed by government officials at the time as fleeing because they feared that their treasonable activities were about to be exposed. For others, by contrast, the sudden nature of the flight is viewed as resulting from a campaign of harassment by crown officials who were bitter that O’Neill and O’Donnell had been pardoned at the end of the Nine Years War. According to this school of thought, the earls fled to the continent fearing that they were on the verge of being arrested, framed for treason and executed. If the debate about the causes of the flight will continue to rage, there is little disagreement about the enormous consequences of the event, paving the way, as it did, for the Plantation of Ulster.