Back to the video list: History of the British Isles


There have been several Anglo-Irish clashes over the centuries. In this context the Nine Years' War in Ireland was a significant event. The decisive English victory secured the English / British rule over Ireland for the next centuries, even though more Irish uprisings should follow.






  • Date: Aug 1594 – Mar 1603
  • Location: Ireland
  • Start: Irish attack in the Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits
  • End: Surrender of the Irish leader Hugh O‘Neill


Parties & Persons Involved

  • England
  • Irish Clans



  • The Normans / English take possession of Ireland during the 12th century
  • In the following centuries the Normans assimilate to the Irish & the Irish Clans & Earls gain power
  • Distribution of power in Ireland in the 16th century:
    • England controls the area around Dublin (The Pale)
    • Rural Ireland is under the control of Irish clans
  • English ambitions to extend the own area of influence over the Dublin region
  • Hugh O‘Neill, head of the most powerful clan, has personal ambitions to improve his influence
  • England is at war with Spain (1585 – 1604)



Irish Successes

  • 1592 – 1594: The clans O‘Donnell & Maguire resist the English administration & attack English outposts
  • Aug 1594: O‘Donnel & Maguire win the Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits
  • O‘Neill joins the rebellion
  • Mar 1495: O‘Neill & O‘Donnell wins the Battle of Clontibret
  • Aug 1598: O‘Neill wins the Battle of the Yellow Ford
  • O‘Neill appoints allies as earls & chieftains across Ireland, i.e. Fitzthomas as Earl of Desmond
  • There are rebellions all over Ireland & the English settlements in Munster (south) are entirely destroyed
  • The cities & the Dublin region remain loyal to the English crown


The Earl of Essex

  • Mar 1599: Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex is announced Lord Deputy of Ireland & lands with approx. 17,000 troops
  • Apr – Aug 1599: Essex brings the south under English control & launches expeditions to the north
  • Aug 1599: O‘Donnell wins the Battle Curlew Pass
  • 1599: Essex negotiates a ceasefire with O‘Neill
  • Sep 1599: Essex leaves Ireland for England without permission; later he is tried in London


English Victory

  • Jan 1600: Lord Mountjoy is appointed Lord Deputy & George Carew Lord President of Munster
  • From 1600: Mountjoy’s forces invade Ulster & destroy rebel territories
    • Consequence of the invasion of Ulster: Famine in Ulster & tying up Irish forces
  • Nov 1600: Carew wins the Battle of Aherlow against Fitzthomas (Earl of Desmond)
  • Jun 1601: Fitzthomas & Florence MacCarthy are arrested
  • Oct 1601: Spanish forces land near Kinsale
  • Mountjoy lays siege on Kinsale
  • Jan 1603: Mountjoy wins the decisive Battle of Kinsale against the Spanish forces, O‘Neill & O‘Donnell
  • 30 Mar 1603: O‘Neill surrenders


Consequences & Impact

  • The war costs approx. 100,000 lives, esp. because of starvation
  • 1603: The Treaty of Mellifont brings peace & a new order to Ireland:
    • O‘Neill remains his core territory
    • O‘Neill swears allegiance to the English crown
    • Introduction of English Law
    • English becomes official language
  • Deep mistrust remains between the Irish lords & England
  • 1607: O‘Neill, O‘Donnell & other Irish lords leave Ireland & fail to enlist Spanish military support (Flight of the Earls)
  • 1608: The territories of the emigrated Earls are confiscated for English settlers (Plantation of Ulster)
  • The English & later British rule in Ireland is secured for the next 3 centuries (despite further rebellions)