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Daniel O'Neill
Bornbetween 1602 and 1612
Died24 October 1664
Resting placeBoughton Malherbe[1]
Occupation(s)Soldier, spy
SpouseKatherine Stanhope

Daniel O'Neill (Irish: Dónall Ó Néill; c. 1612 in Castlereagh – 24 October 1664 in Whitehall) was an Irish army officer, politician, courtier and postmaster general. 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

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).[2] The date, and even the year of his birth is unknown. A monument on his tomb, erected by his step-son, reads: "He died A.D. 1663 aged 60", suggesting he was born in 1602 or 1603. The historian Donal F. Cregan points out that the inscription can not be relied upon, as it lists the wrong year for his death. A pamphlet from the First English Civil War described him as being around 30 in 1642, while in 1616 one of his younger brothers was described as being around four or five, suggesting he was born anywhere between 1602 and 1612.[3] His Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry lists his birth year as c. 1612.[2] In all, O'Neill had three younger siblings: two brothers; Aodh Buidhe and Con Og, and one sister; Catherine.[3]

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.[2]

Army service

Plotting and imprisonment

Royalist cause

Fleeing to Brussels, O'Neill gathered troops and arms for the royalist campaigns in the English Civil War. Formally, his first position in the royalist army was that of a major in Colonel Osborne's 14th regiment of foot, but as an experienced cavalry officer, he transferred to serve under Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the royalist cavalry general. His part association with the Palatinate family gave him good standing with the prince, who appointed him as a lieutenant colonel, commanding his own cavalry regiment. Early on in the war, he fought busily at the Battle of Powick Bridge, and later at Edgehill. He was sent to relieve Reading in 1643, but the force was repelled, and during the retreat was shot in the thigh. He subsequently fought at Chalgrove Field, where he killed the Parliamentarian standard bearer, regaining honours for his regiment they had lost at the Battle of Hopton Heath. He also later fought at the First Battle of Newbury.[4] 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.[2]

The Restoration

In September 1660, O'Neill married Katherine Stanhope, Countess of Chesterfield becoming her third husband.[5]

At The Restoration the post office was farmed for £21,500 to Henry Bishop for seven years . Bishop surrendered the balance of his lease to O'Neill having been accused of abuses. O'Neill was appointed Postmaster General of the United Kingdom in 1663, a position he held for just one year until his death.[6] He had a monopoly on the carrying of letters and had an obligation to search out unauthorised carriers.[7] The Court realised that farming the post was a good investment even though the rates and routes had to be adhered to.[6] A proclamation was made that none but O'Neale (sic) were permitted to carry or deliver letters and postmasters had, upon pain of dismissal, to provide a certificate of conformity from the Church of England within six months.[7]



Upon O'Neill's death King Charles II, wrote that:[1]
Poor O'Neill died this afternoon of an ulcer in his guts. He was as honest a man as ever lived. I am sure I have lost a very good servant by it.

O'Neill died on 24 October 1664 whereupon his wife Katherine Stanhope, retained his postmastership. Along with O'Neill, upon her death she was also interred in the parish church of Boughton Malherbe, Kent.[5]


  1. ^ a b c B.D. Henning, ed. (2019). "O'Neill (Oneale), Daniel (c.1612-64), of Belsize House, Hampstead, Mdx". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Casway 2008.
  3. ^ a b Cregan 1963, p. 69.
  4. ^ Cregan 1964, pp. 104–107.
  5. ^ a b  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainMcMullen Rigg, James (1892). "Kirkhoven, Catherine". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 31. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 217–219.
  6. ^ a b Joyce, Herbert (1893). The History of the Post Office. London: Richard Bentley & Son. p. 33.
  7. ^ a b Stone, J.W.M., ed. (1987). The Inland Posts (1392–1672). London: Robson Lowe. p. 141.


3 Annotations

First Reading

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

The best account of this person is given in his monumental inscription in Boughton-Malherbe church: "Here lies the body of Mr. Daniel O'Neale, who descended from that greate, honourable , and antient family of the O'Neales, in Ireland, to whom he added new luster by his own merit, being rewarded for his courage and loyalty in the civil warrs, under King Charles the First and Charles the Second, with the offices of Postmaster General of England, Scotland and Ireland, Master of the Powder, and Groome of His Majesty's Bedchamber. He was married to the right honourable Katherine Countess of Chesterfeild, who erected him this monument, as one of the last markes of her kindness, to show her affection longer than her weak breath would serve to express it. He died A.D. 1663, aged 60". (Warrington)

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

O'NEILL, DANIEL (1612?-1664), royalist soldier; nephew of Owen Roe O'Neill; became a protestant and frequented court of Charles I; wounded at siege of Breda, 1636; an active enemy of Strafford; captured by the Scots at Newburn, 1640; implicated in army plots; was impeached, but escaped from the Tower of London, 1642; fought at two battles of Newbury, 1643 and 1644, and at Naseby, 1645, and commanded Rupert's foot at Marston Moor, 1644; accompanied Randal MacDonnell on mission to Ormonde, and became groom of the bedchamber to Charles I, 1644; went to Ireland and negotiated between Ormonde and Owen Roe, 1649; defended Trim, 1649; commanded Ulster army during Owen Roe's illness; made terms with Ireton; captured in Scotland but released, 1650; joined in Charles IIs invasion of 1651; subsequently employed in royalist intrigues abroad, having great influence with Charles II; received pension and numerous grants of land at Restoration; postmastergeneral, 1663; nicknamed 'Infallible Subtle.'
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

Bill  •  Link

Daniell O'Neille (as he himself signed his name) was a wealthy man of good family, who was active during the Civil War in support of Charles I. He was concerned in 1641 with Digby, Wilmot, Goring, and Ashburnham, in the "Army Plot," the object of which was to support the king, uphold the church, and overawe the parliament. He was placed in the Tower, but managed to escape in woman's clothes, and a few months later he was Lieutenant-Colonel of Horse under Rupert. At Marston he led Prince Rupert's regiment of foot, and in 1658 he accompanied the Marquis of Ormonde in disguise to London, and remained there some time, holding meetings with the Royalists, and sounding them as to the prospect of a successful rising against Cromwell (see "The Pythouse Papers," ed. W. A. Day, 1879, pp. lvlvii, 25).
---Wheatley, 1899.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


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