Daniel O'Neill (Royalist)

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Daniel O'Neill
Born c.1612
Castlereagh, County Down, Kingdom of Ireland
Died 24 October 1664
London, Kingdom of England
Nationality Irish
Occupation Soldier, spy

Daniel O'Neill (Irish: Dónall Ó Néill; c.1612 in Castlereagh – 24 October 1664 in Whitehall) was an Irish army officer, politician and courtier. He was part of the O'Neill Dynasty of Ulster, the nephew of Owen Roe O'Neill and the great-nephew of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone.

Early life[edit]

O'Neill was the eldest son of Con Mac Niall O'Neill, lord of Clandeboye and his wife, Eilis (a paternal niece of Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone). His father lost land after defeat at the Siege of Kinsale, leaving O'Neill to inherit a small estate at a young age in 1619. He then became a ward of Chancery and was raised in England as an Anglican. His estate was later given to The 1st Viscount Montgomery and O'Neill and his brother were granted an annuity.

Army service[edit]

With little prospects in his native Ireland, O'Neill then served under Lord Conway in the Low Countries during the 1630s, gaining military experience and friends such as Elizabeth of Bohemia and her husband, Frederick V, Elector Palatine. Using these connections, he petitioned for his lands to be restored to him, but despite support by William Laud, Lord Arundel and Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine, he was rebuffed by the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Thomas Wentworth (later Earl of Strafford). Waiting for his petitions to be accepted, O'Neill returned to the Low Countries in 1637 and saw action at the Siege of Breda and later in the Bishops' Wars, where he was captured at the Battle of Newburn and imprisoned at Newcastle upon Tyne.

Plotting and imprisonment[edit]

After O'Neill's release, he conspired with the king to bring the English army to London against the radical Parliamentarians in what became known as the Second Army Plot, but the discovery of plot forced him to flee to the continent in mid-June 1641. Hoping for immunity, he returned to England a few months later and surrendered to John Pym but was sent to Gatehouse Prison to await his trial. His health began to suffer and in 1642, he was petitioned for better treatment and was transferred to the Tower of London where he escaped by tying bed sheets and a tablecloth together and dressing as a woman.

Royalist cause[edit]

Fleeing to Brussels, O'Neill gathered troops and arms for the royalist campaigns in the English Civil War, served under Prince Rupert of the Rhine and fought at Edgehill, Chalgrove Field and the First Battle of Newbury.

After failing to secure negotiations in the Irish Confederate Wars, O'Neill went on to serve as a spy to the de jure Charles II at The Hague.

The Restoration[edit]

Following The Restoration in 1660, O'Neill was rewarded and appointed to money-making positions by Charles II, including: as a Groom of the Bedchamber, Captain of the King's Troop in the Royal Horse Guards, Member of Parliament for St Ives, admittance to Gray's Inn, mining rights, monopoly of the manufacture of gunpowder to The Crown, warden of St James's Palace, Postmaster General and accountant for the regulation of ale houses. He subsequently became one of the richest men in the kingdom. In 1662, he married his old friend, Katherine Stanhope, Countess of Chesterfield and built Belsize Park for her. On his death in 1664, he left everything to his wife and was buried in the church of St Nicholas at Boughton Malherbe, his wife's estate.


Parliament of England
Preceded by
James Praed
and John Basset
Member of Parliament for St Ives
With: James Praed
Succeeded by
James Praed
and Edward Nosworthy
Political offices
Preceded by
Henry Bishop
Postmaster General
Succeeded by
The Countess of Chesterfield