Betrayal of Clannabuidhe

Betrayal of Clannabuidhe
LocationEdendubhcarrig (now Shane's Castle)
Result Death of Lord Brian Ó Néill, his wife, children and brother-in-law, Rory Oge Mac Quillan. Massacre of O'Neills. Partition of Brian's title of Lord of Clannaboy.
 Kingdom of England O'Neill Clan of Clanaboy
Commanders and leaders
Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex Lord Brian O'Neill
Unknown Unknown number of soldiers
Casualties and losses
Unknown, likely little to none. 200-500 guests slaughtered. Brian, his wife, and brother-in-law, Rory Oge Mac Quillan, executed at Carrickfergus, quartered, and their body parts scattered throughout Ireland.

The Betrayal of Clannabuidhe in 1574 was a massacre of the O'Neill clan of Clannaboy by the English forces of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex. The betrayal led to the slaughter of all present, regardless of age or sex, and the executions of Sir Brian Ó Néill, his wife, and his brother-in-law, Rory Oge MacQuillan, and the partitioning of his title of Lord of Clanaboy.


Sir Brian mac Felim Ó Néill was the sovereign Lord of Clanaboy, consisting of what would become Clandeboye, Upper Clandeboye and the Great Ardes, and had been knighted in 1568 for his service to the Crown. However, he fell out of favour with the Queen and adopted a scorched-earth policy, burning the abbeys, priories and major buildings across the region to prevent any incoming English army using them as garrisons. Ó Néill fought against the English when he learned of plans for imposed settlements. He burned the original colony on his lands of Sir Thomas Smith.

The massacre

In the hopes of peace, Sir Brian invited Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, to a feast at his castle at Castlereagh, The Eagle's Nest, or, in Irish, An Caislean Riabhach. It did not happen at his other castle Edaindubhcarrig as commonly stated. After the feast ended, the Earl betrayed Sir Brian's trust and a massacre began. Sir Brian, his wife, and brother-in-law were seized and were forced to watch helplessly as the English forces massacred his guests—up to 500 men, women and children. Sir Brian and his family were then taken to Carrickfergus where they were all hanged, drawn and quartered for treason to the English crown.


Upon his execution, the Lordship of Clanaboy was partitioned in three by the English, as part of their divide-and-plunder strategy. His tanaiste Con mac Brian was given one moiety, his other son Shane mac Brian one moiety, and the other to their cousin Hugh Ó Néill. In 1586, Con mac Brian was murdered by agents of Hugh, who was then killed in retribution by agents of Shane mac Brian. Eventually Shane's son Sir Henry Ó Néill conformed to the English and converted to Anglicanism, which under the Penal Laws eventually allowed them to acquire the bulk of the estates of their brothers and cousins. His line apparently became extinct, in the male line, in 1855, with the death of Viscount John Bruce Richard Ó Néill. This line of Protestant Clanaboy Ó Néills is now represented by the O'Neill-Chichesters of Shane's Castle.

See also


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