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Daniel O'Neill
Died24 October 1664
OccupationSoldier, 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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Annotations

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)

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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