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The Principal Characters are the larger-than-life figures of the Elizabethan and Gaelic World– kings, queens, popes, noblemen and noblewomen, priests, pirates, soldiers, sailors, saints, scholars, adventurers, spies and rogues. Together, they unwittingly brought about the destruction of the old world and replaced it with modernity.

All are conflicted by religious righteousness, humanistic principles, greed, vaulting ambition, a desire for national identity, and feudal and dynastic claims. Those of noble birth lay claim to high office as a right. Others from humble origins must use their superior intelligence, bravado and ice-cool judgement to rise from relative obscurity to contend for power and influence in what becomes a deadly game.

All are brought to life in this historical fiction series which helps free them from the many distortions of centuries-old stereotypical prejudices and national myths.

Some of the players (alphabetical order) are:

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Adam Loftus (1533 – 1605)

Protestant Archbishop of Armagh 1563 – 1567, and of Dublin 1567 – 1605
Bibliophile and civil administrator. Founder of Trinity College, Dublin.

Lady Agnes Campbell (1526 – 1601)

Preeminent Woman in Ulster
Born into Scottish nobility, she went on to play a leading part in Irish resistance to English rule.

Lady Agnes Campbell was a younger daughter of Colin Campbell, 3rd Earl of Argyll and Lady Jean Gordon. She was probably born at the family seat at Inveraray Castle and grew up destined to become the wife of a Scottish noble. Her sister, Lady Elizabeth married James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, an illegitimate son of James IV, and Agnes herself helped form an alliance between the Campbells and the MacDonalds when she married James MacDonald of Dunyvaig and the Glens in 1545.

Links between western Scotland and Ireland were very strong during this period, and in 1565 James MacDonald died while being held prisoner by the Irish chieftain Shane O'Neill, who at the time supported the English.

In 1569 Lady Agnes went to Ireland to marry Turlough Luineach O'Neill, who had succeeded Shane O'Neill, taking with her a dowry of 1,200 Highland troops. Gaelic tradition allowed her to direct these troops herself, which she did, against English occupying forces. Lady Agnes proved herself a formidable leader. Before long she had become the power behind Turlough Luineach O'Neill and played an important role in the unsuccessful Second Desmond Rebellion against the English from 1579 – 1583. She became responsible for raising Scottish support for the rebellion and impressed those on the English side with whom she negotiated with her fluency in English and Latin. For the rest of her life, Lady Agnes worked with her daughter, Finola O'Donnell, to mobilise Scottish support for the Irish.

Alistair Og MacDonnell

Lord of the Isles and the Route, and sometimes Steward of Kintyre
In response to Irish resistence led by Sean O’Neill brings to Ulster 1,000 heavily armed Scots who encamp at Cushendem on Red Bay in Antrim.

Alonso Perez de Guman (1550-1615)

7th Duke of Medina Sidonia
Grandee of Spain, a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece since 1581. Commander-in-chief of the Spanish Armada.

Alvaro de Bazan (1526 – 1588)

1st Marquess of Santa Cruz
Captain General of the Seas, General Admiral
He was never defeated, a remarkable achievement in a fifty-year long career. His personal galley, La Loba (The She-Wolf), thus called by her golden figurehead, was feared by Spanish enemies and regarded with hope amongst Spanish sailors and allies.

Antonio Ghislieri (1504 – 1572)

Pope Pius Vth
Head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from January 8th 1566. Unbending adherent of orthodoxy in the face of heresy. Secretary of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition. Prepares to excommunicate Elizabeth for heresy and her persecution of Catholics. Moving to form a ‘Holy League’ in an alliance of Catholic States (mainly Spain, France and the Italian Republics) to meet the Islamic threat of the Ottoman Empire.

Archibald Campbell (1532 – 1573)

5th Earl of Argyle and Lord of the Isles
A sometimes supporter of Mary Queen of Scots, falls out with his Catholic clansmen the MacDonalds over his changing religious convictions as he moves to ally with John Knox and the Protestant Lords of the Congregation.

Bertrand de Salignac Fenelon (1523 – 1589)

Seigneur de la Mothe Fenelon
Nominally Ambassador of the young King of France to the Court of Saint James in London.  Comes from the Perigord and knows how to dine well. Keeps careful watch over Spanish intrigues while advancing the affairs of his actual superior the King’s mother Catherine de’ Medici the Regnant Queen of France. Jealously guards her interests in England and Scotland.

Bryan O’Hagan (1520 – 1585)

Foster father of Hugh O’Neill and his older brother Bryan. Known as ‘The O’Hagan,’ chief-of-the name. Hereditary Principal Brehon or ‘law-giver’ of the O’Neill Clan. He alone possesses the power to inaugurate a candidate as ‘The O’Neill’, Prince of Ulster and heir to the High Kingship of Ireland.  As custodian of the Lia Fail or Lac Ni Ri, the inaugural stone of Kingship located at his residence on the Hill of Tullaghogue in Tyrone, he is the guardian of the customs, knowledge and laws of the ancient Gaelic Order.

Camillo Borghese (1550 – 1621)

Pope Paul V (Latin: Paulus V; Italian: Paolo V)
Was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 16 May 1605 to his death. In 1611, he honoured Galileo Galilei as a member of the Papal Accademia dei Lincei and supported his discoveries. In 1616, Pope Paul V instructed Cardinal Bellarmine to inform Galileo that the Copernican theory could not be taught as fact, but Bellarmine's certificate allowed Galileo to continue his studies in search for evidence and use the geocentric model as a theoretical device. That same year Paul V assured Galileo that he was safe from persecution so long as he, the Pope, should live. Bellarmine's certificate was used by Galileo for his defense at the trial of 1633.




Catherine de' Medici (1519 – 1589)

Queen Regnant of France
Catholic daughter of Lorenzo II de’ Medici, Duke of Urbino, and mother and Regent of King Charles IX of France. Schemes to marry off her ten children to form alliances with the royal courts of Europe to preserve the throne of France for her sons and the dynasty of the House of Valois and de’ Medici.

Wary of both Elizabeth of England and the ambitions of King Philip II of Spain, she sets out to play one against the other to enable France to hold on to territories Spain has long disputed. Fears that conflict between her Huguenot and Catholic subjects will threaten her country’s ability to defend against both Spanish expansion and English support for the Protestant Reformation.

Walks a narrow path between the demands of the Pope to bring about religious conformity by repressing the Huguenots and the need to preserve the integrity of the nation by exercising a degree of religious tolerance among her strife-torn subjects.

Catherine MacLean (? – 1585)

Dowager Countess of Argyll
Daughter of Hector Mor Maclean, 12th Chief.  Former wife of Archibald Campbell, 4th Earl of Argyll, and wife of Calvagh ‘The O’Donnell,’ Lord of Tirconnell. Sean O’Neill captures Catherine and her husband whereupon she becomes Sean’s willing mistress. Then, like Helen of Troy, she becomes the unwitting cause of dynastic strife and war.

Charles Blount (1563 – 1606)

8th Baron Mountjoy
An English courtier, second-in-command in Ireland, and a lover of books and other men’s wives. From his disgraced superior, he inherits the seemingly hopeless task of retaining England’s diminishing hold on Ireland. He is a man marked out by fate as one of the unwitting architects of the modern world.

Charles Neville (1542 – 1601)

6th Earl of Westmorland
Catholic friend of Northumberland and the Catholic North. Also seeking to depose Queen Elizabeth.

Conn Bacach O’Neill (1480 – 1559)

Hugh O’Neill’s grandfather and once ‘The O’Neill’, Prince of Ulster and heir to the High Kingship of Ireland. Conn is created 1st Earl of Tyrone by King Henry VIII in return for the surrender of his independent Gaelic titles. Conn rebels and is executed, leaving his grown sons Mathew and Sean to fight over restoration of his land and confiscated titles.

Diego De Espinosa y de Arevalo (1502 – 1572)

Bishop of Siguenza, Inquisitor General of Spain, and minister in the government of King Philip II. Graduate in civil law, canon law and theology at the University of Salamanca. He is prepared to burn all heretics to preserve the Catholic faith.

Don Guerau de Spes (1524 – 1572)

Ambassador of the King of Spain
Accredited to the English Court of St. James and ardent fomenter of an uprising against Elizabeth by the Catholic and Protestant nobility of England and Scotland.

Don Juan Del Águila y Arellano (1545 – 1602)

Spanish General, Commander at Battle of Kinsale
He commanded the Spanish expeditionary Tercio troops in Sicily then in Brittany (1584 – 1598, also sending a detachment to raid England), before serving as general of the Spanish armies in the invasion of Ireland (1600 – 1602).

As a soldier, and subsequently Field Master of the Tercios, he was posted to Sicily, Africa, Malta, Corsica, Milan, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, France and Ireland, where he participated in major military events of his time, such as the Siege of Malta, the Looting of Antwerp, the Siege of Antwerp, the "Miracle of Empel", an expedition in support of the French Catholics, the Raid on Mount's Bay and another one in support of Irish rebels.

Edmund Spenser (1552 – 1599)

Poet and Irish Secretary
A poet and friend of his patron Sir Walter Raleigh. Hopes to take possession of a confiscated Gaelic swordland and build a feudal estate in the South of Ireland. Buried in Westminster Abbey’s poets’ corner.

Edward Tremaine

Captain in the English army of Ireland and an agent of Francis Walsingham and William Cecil.

Elizabeth I (1533 - 1603)

Queen of England and Ireland
Reigns from 1558 until her death in 1603. Defender and Head of the Anglican Church. Fends off Papal plots of treachery and assassination in a deadly struggle to hold onto the Kingdoms of England and Ireland and her father’s legacy of the Protestant Reformation.

Leading military and financial supporter of the Protestant Reformation both at home and abroad. Asserts her prerogative to rule not only her subjects but also jealously defends her control of the episcopalian governance of the Anglican Church by her right to appoint Bishops. Does not welcome independent and dissenting Presbyterians or Catholics but, if they outwardly pay lip service to the authority of the Church of England, and otherwise remain loyal subjects, she begrudgingly tolerates them.

Exerts the English Crown’s customary Overlordship of Scottish affairs since Norman times. Prepares to fend off competing claims to her throne advanced by: Mary, Queen of Scots; King Philip of Spain; the Regnant Queen of France, Catherine de’ Medici; and many of England’s leading noble families.

Branded a heretic by Pope Pius V who seeks to publish a Papal Bull excommunicating her and thereby releasing her subjects from their sacred duty of  loyalty to the monarch. She turns to her trusted Secretary, William Cecil to help her steer a course to preserve her life, country, church and crown.

Felice Piergentile (1521 – 1590)

Pope Sixtus V
A Franciscan and Pope and ruler of the Papal States from 1585 – 1590. A zealot and autocrat yet open to new ideas and leader of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. He excommunicates both Queen Elizabeth and King Henri IV of France. Engaged in public works and completion of the dome of Saint Peter’s. Regards the Jesuits with suspicion and does not favour them. Seeks to defeat the Ottoman Empire and reclaim Egypt for Christianity. He views Philip II of Spain’s growing power with suspicion yet grants a huge subsidy to the Great Armada that is contingent on its success.

Fernando Alvarez de Toledo y Pimentel (1507 – 1582)

3rd Duke of Alva
Known as ‘The Iron Duke’. Uncompromising and ruthless Governor of the Spanish Netherlands; a Grandee of Spain; an experienced general and diplomat; Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

Sir Francis Drake (1540 – 1596)

Sea dog extraordinaire. With five ships and armed with a legal opinion that Spain has no right to the gold of the New World, he sets out to discover a rumored secret passage to the Pacific. Finds it near the tip of South America and then plunders Spain’s unguarded mines on the Pacific Coast. The ensuing consequences shake the world.

Sir Francis Walsingham (1532 – 1590)

Secretary of State
A commoner educated at Cambridge, a lawyer and committed Calvinist. William Cecil’s Assistant Secretary. He is an ardent anti-Catholic and therefore a relentless foe of Spain, France and the Vatican. A staunch defender of the Reformation, in England, on the continent of Europe, and wherever English Privateers roam on the high seas. He sets out to find evidence of treasonous plots against Elizabeth.

Emerges as a chief spymaster and, with his extensive network of European acquaintances, he founds England’s professional secret service. Intrigued with the prospects of exploration and colonization.


The Celtic tribes of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Mann. Closely related in customs, marriage and language. Kin to the Celts of Wales, Cornwall, and anciently the inhabitants of Briton and their continental kin: the Gauls of France, Northern Italy, Western Spain, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. Gaels of myth and legend left their homeland on the Shores of the Black Sea to roam far from home. First to smelt and cast iron. Sacked the Delphic Oracle of Greece. Briefly occupied Northern Turkey. Implacable foes of both Ancient Rome and its Empire and the Norse of Denmark, Norway and Normandy.

Gerald FitzGerald (1533 – 1583)

15th Earl of Desmond
A Catholic of Norman-Irish descent who jealously protects his independence and disregards the Queen’s authority. Holds the vast Earldom of Munster by ruling over the Clans like a Gaelic Lord in ancient times.  He is in the midst of a deadly dispute with his neighbour Thomas, Earl of Ormond, over the extent of his territorial holdings. Friend of Sean O’Neill and sympathetic with the latter’s efforts to throw off obedience to the Crown of England.

Grace O'Malley (1530 – 1603)

Irish – Grainne Mhaol – Warrior Queen
While Mary, Queen of Scots succumbed to Queen Elizabeth I — and the executioner’s axe — Grace O’Malley was another “queen” who defied the English monarch for almost 40 years by plundering English ships and fiercely repelling the forces that tried to take her family’s land.

This rebellious plunderer shared many traits with Elizabeth. They were both about the same age, had defied odds and thrived in a man’s world, had the allegiance of their subjects, and were used to winning.

But while Elizabeth ruled England, the other queen ruled a considerably smaller sea-faring clan. She was the Irish pirate queen, Grace O’Malley.

Grace O’Malley was born around 1530 to Owen O’Malley, the chieftain of a clan that ruled the area around Clew Bay on the west coast of Ireland for more than 300 years. During that time, they built wealth from both piracy and legitimate trade with France and Spain.

When O’Malley’s father died, she became the queen of her clan and she knew how to navigate the local political world of clans and chieftains by forging strategic alliances.

At the time, women were often used as a tool to create alliances through marriage that would make the men involved more powerful. But O’Malley’s story turns this notion on its head. Twice she married, but each time it was her power that increased.

Upon the death of her first husband in 1554, she inherited his fighting ships and castle at the age of just 23. In 1567, she divorced her second husband after one year of marriage, took control of his castle, and somehow still maintained his loyalty as an ally.

At the height of her power, she had hundreds of men and numerous ships at her disposal.

From Rockfleet castle and her keep on Clare Island, Grace would launch her galleys and board any ships that passed through the mouth of Clew Bay and demand levies in return for safe passage to Galway Town in the south.

Harry Hoveden (1550 – 1621)

Born in Ireland and bookish son of a minor English official. Sent to be educated in England whereupon he becomes the friend and secretary to Hugh O’Neill. It is to Harry’s authorship that the account of these tumultuous times is ascribed in ‘A Desolate Peace’.

Henri I (1550 – 1588)

3rd Duke of Guise
Prince of Joinville, Duke of Guise, Count of Eu
Founder of the Catholic League. Sometimes called Le Balafré (Scarface), was the eldest son of Francis, Duke of Guise, and Anna d'Este. His maternal grandparents were Ercole II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, and Renée of France. Through his maternal grandfather, he was a descendant of Lucrezia Borgia and Pope Alexander VI.

Henri IV (1553 - 1610)

King of France
Also known by the epithet Good King Henry or Henry the Great, was King of Navarre (as Henry III) from 1572 and King of France from 1589 – 1610. He was the first monarch of France from the House of Bourbon, a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty. He was assassinated in 1610 by François Ravaillac, a Catholic, and was succeeded by his son Louis XIII.

A Protestant who comes to believe that Paris might be “worth a Mass” if he is to be crowned Henri IV of France.  Pope Clement is inclined to agree providing it thwarts Spanish ambitions but the bargain comes at a steep price - the necessity of religious tolerance and, ultimately, the fate of the Gaels and the Protestant Reformation.

Henry Hastings (1536 – 1595)

Loyal Puritan entrusted to secure Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots.

Sir Henry Killigrew

English agent, Privateer and sea captain from a branch of the Cornish Killigrew family. A trusted Calvinist to be entrusted with saving England from financial ruin and revolution.

Sir Henry Sidney (1529 – 1586)

A staunch Puritan, and Acting Lord Deputy of Ireland (1559). Also Acting Lord President of Wales and pressed into continuous soldiering because of his debts incurred in previous service to the Queen. Risks both his life and health by again serving the Crown in Ireland as Lord Deputy. Attempts to extend English authority over both the fiercely independent Gaelic and Norman-Irish Lords. The O’Hagan requests that he succor his young foster son, Hugh O’Neill, whom Henry then takes home to be brought up as a loyal subject by his wife in England.

Henry Stuart (1545 – 1567)

Lord Darnley (Duke of Albany) King Consort of Scotland
Is 2nd husband to Mary Queen of Scots. Formerly, Queen Elizabeth’s court favourite and Master of the Horse. Sent to Scotland by Elizabeth to marry Mary so as to have a loyal English Protestant control her. He is a dissolute wastrel jealous of Mary’s Italian Secretary David Rizzio whom he accuses of fathering her unborn son (future James 6th of Scotland and 1st of England). In a bid to force Mary to give him the Crown Matrimonial so as be first in the line of succession, he and his accomplices murder Rizzo in front of Mary. The victim is stabbed 56 times. Later, Darnley is in turn murdered and the suspected accomplice is Mary.

Hugh O’Neill (1550 – 1616)

A descendent of the High Kings of Ireland. As a boy lives first at Tullaghogue, in Tyrone, Ulster with The O’Hagan, his foster father. Later as Baron of Dungannon returns to Ireland after an English upbringing. He serves as a loyal soldier of the English Crown while harboring the hope that the Queen will someday reward him with restoration of his rebellious grandfather’s lost title of Earl of Tyrone.

He is the enigmatic and unlikely protagonist of ‘A Desolate Peace’.  The fate of the old world turns around him.

Hugh Roe O'Donnell (1572 - 1602)

Irish Nobleman
Hugh Roe O'Donnell (Irish: Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill), also known as Red Hugh O'Donnell, was a sixteenth-century Irish nobleman. He became Chief of the Name of Clan O'Donnell and Lord of Tyrconnell in 1593 after a succession dispute within the O'Donnell dynasty, and after escaping a five-year imprisonment in Dublin Castle by the English. Along with his father-in-law Hugh O'Neill of Tyrone, he led an alliance of Irish clans in the Nine Years' War against the English government in Ireland. Hugh Roe led an Irish army to victory in the Battle of Curlew Pass. After defeat in the Siege of Kinsale, he travelled to Spain to seek support from King Philip III. Unsuccessful, he died in Spain and was succeeded by his younger brother Rory O'Donnell. He is sometimes also known as Aodh Ruadh II or Red Hugh II, especially in his native County Donegal.

Sir Humphrey Gilbert (1539 – 1583)

English Adventurer and Explorer
A leading English Privateer. A sea captain of Devon with connections. He is anxious to carve out a military reputation in Munster. Half-brother of Walter and Carew Raleigh and cousin of Richard Grenville. A graduate of Eton College and Oxford. He dreams of exploration and founding colonies as Spain has done. He and his relatives decide to support Sir Peter Carew in his effort to exert his claim to valuable lands in Munster.

Ineen Dubh (MacDonnell) O’Donnell (1570-1608)

Consort of Hugh, the O’Donnell
Seeks to elevate her son to the Lordship of Tirconnail. A powerful and resolute woman who, by using her wits, finds her way easily in what is supposed to be a man’s world.

Ippolito Aldobrandini (1536 – 1605)

Pope Clement VIII
From 1592 he effects tolerance and the reconciliation of the Huguenot and Henry IV of France (Prince Henri of Navarre) to the Catholic Faith. He establishes an alliance against the Ottoman Empire. He mediates a dispute between Dominican and Jesuit Orders over the issue of efficacious grace and free will.

On the grounds it would cause suffering of the faithful, Clement considers calls by English Catholics to have him refuse requests from the leaders of Irish independence. The Gaels want him to order Irish and English Catholics to put aside their loyalty as subjects of the Queen on pain of excommunication.

James Charles Stuart VI (1566 – 1625)

King James VI of Scotland and I of England
First introduced as Mary Queen of Scots’ infant son, he becomes known as the wisest fool in Christendom and will do anything to succeed to Elizabeth’s throne, including contemplating her overthrow. Fulfils the prophecy of the “Stone of Destiny”. Ruthlessly surprises friends and foes alike.

James FitzMaurice FitzGerald (1545 – 1579)

Captain of Desmond
Cousin of Gerald, Earl of Desmond. Takes command of the Munster uprising in the absence of the Earl of Desmond. Seeks help from Spain and the Vatican.

Leader of a Papal Crusade destined for Ireland.

James Hepburn (1534 – 1578)

4th Earl of Bothwell, 1st Duke of Orkney
3rd husband of Mary Queen of Scots. Enlists both Sir James Balfour, Lord Pittendreigh, Secretary to the Queen of Scots, Privy Councillor and Principal Clerk and Archibald Douglas, Parson of Douglas and Glasgow, Master of Arts, and a clergyman to murder Lord Darnley.

He becomes a prime suspect in the murder of Robert Darnley, King Consort to Mary Queen of Scots.

James Stuart (1531 – 1570)

Ist Earl of Moray
Illegitimate son of King James V. Regent and half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots. A Calvinist who becomes Regent of Scotland from 1567 – 1570 for Mary Queen of Scots’ infant son, King James VI. Joins Knox and Protestant Lords of the Congregation including the Duke of Chatelherault (Hamiltons), and the Earls of Argyle, Glencairn and Morton, Lord Lorne and Erskine of Dun.

John Knox (1514 – 1572)

Presbyterian Preacher
Scottish born priest who rises in exile and becomes a Protestant and royal chaplain to King Edward VI of England. He influenced the Book of Common Prayer, preached with Calvin, and becomes the Scottish Nobility and Reformation’s intractable conscience of Kings and Queens. In 1558, he preaches in Perth “The First Blast of the Trumpet” calling together a number of Scottish Lords including James Stuart, Earl of Moray under the pact “Lords of the Congregation” to eventually oust Mary Queen of Scots’ mother and Regent, Mary of Guise. He espouses a doctrine that Queen Elizabeth fears, namely that subjects may resist by force any Monarch who exceeds their lawful limits. Knox vehemently rejects religious toleration.

Lords of the Congregation (1558)
With John Knox as their spiritual voice, a group of Scotland’s nobles who fear French influence on Scottish affairs undertake the Protestant Reformation of Scotland leading to independence of the Kirk from the Church of Rome and the historic alliance with Catholic France. Comprised of the Duke of Chatelherault (Hamiltons), and the Earls of Argyle, Glencairn and Morton, Lord Lorne and Erskine of Dun, they are joined by James Stuart, Earl of Moray.

They become wary of Mary Queen of Scots, a Catholic, when she assumes the throne.

[The] MacDonnells, Lords of Antrim and the Isles - wait for the opportunity to seize Antrim in the North of Ulster and thirst to take revenge upon Sean O’Neill for humiliating their Clan.

Sir Martin Frobisher (1535 – 1594)

Sea captain, explorer and, while serving both William Cecil and Francis Walsingham, a secret agent of the Crown.

Mary (Dudley) Sidney (1530 – 1586)

Intellectual wife of Sir Henry Sidney, mother to budding gallant and poet, Sir Philip Sidney, and sister of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Formerly a favourite Lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Mary nurtures Hugh O’Neill, transforming him into an English gentleman of the Puritan faith.

Mary Stuart (1542 – 1587)

Queen of Scots
Child of Mary of Guise and James V of Scotland. Formerly Queen Consort of France when married to Francis II, son of Queen Catherine de’ Medici. Following his death, Mary becomes the Catholic Queen of Scotland. Marries, for the second time, the dissolute Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. She is paramount heir and claimant to Queen Elizabeth’s throne through her grandmother, Margaret Tudor, sister of King Henry VIII. A member of the powerful French Catholic family of Guise. Her supporters include the leading members of the Catholic Counter Reformation in France, Spain and Rome. They seek to replace the Protestant Elizabeth with the Catholic Mary and her infant son, James.

Mathew O’Neill (1520 – 1558)

Father of Bryan and Hugh O’Neill. Eldest son and designated heir of Conn O’Neill. King Henry VIII created Conn as Earl of Tyrone and Mathew as 1st Baron of Dungannon and Conn’s legal successor to the Earldom of Tyrone. Loyal to the Crown, Mathew attempts to resist efforts by his half-brother Sean and the Scots of Antrim. to unseat him and his sons Bryan and Hugh. It is believed that Sean O’Neill issues an order to have him killed.

Maurice (Reagh) Fitz Gibbon (dates unknown)

Archbishop of Cashel
An emissary of the Norman and Gaelic Lords of Ireland in the face of Privateer confiscations in Munster. Despairing of English justice, the leaders of the up-rising send Maurice as their envoy to offer the High Kingship of Ireland to foreign powers in return for armed assistance against the English Privateers.

Sir Peter Carew (1514 – 1575)

A rustic Knight who leads a Privateer force of Puritans including many of his relatives (Francis Drake, John and William Hawkins, Richard Grenville, Humphrey Gilbert, Walter Raleigh) from Devon and Cornwall to seize part of Munster from the Earl of Desmond.

They attempt to settle the territory with their own feudal retainers and recruit English settlers. Carew maintains he has proof that his own Norman title is stronger than Desmond’s. Consequently, the Norman-Irish and Gaelic Lords of Munster, most of whom are Catholic, see their ancient title claims threatened and rise up to resist. He and his men are significant players on the stage that leads to a desolate peace.

Philip II (1527 – 1598)

King of Spain
Of the House of Hapsburg. Son of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Philip is King of Castile and Aragon, Naples and Sicily; Duke of Milan; and also King of England and Ireland while married to Queen Mary 1st otherwise known as ‘Bloody Mary’.

Philip is also Lord of the Provinces of the Netherlands; King of Sardinia; and Count of Charolais. Takes control of the Kingdom of  Portugal and his combined domains include possessions in an empire girdling the globe upon which it is soon said, ‘the sun never sets.’

The gold and silver of the Americas floods his treasury. He is a reformed and ardent Catholic after a dissolute youth. Now seeks to exert his claim and influence over the thrones of England, France and the Papacy itself. Finds it convenient to support the Pope in the foundation of a Catholic League with the Guises of France to thwart both the expansionist Islamic empire of the Ottoman Turks and the spreading Protestant heresy of the Lutheran, Calvinist and Huguenot faiths.

Philip III (1578 - 1621)

King of Spain
He was also, as Philip II, King of Portugal, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia and Duke of Milan from 1598 until his death in 1621.

A member of the House of Habsburg, Philip III was born in Madrid to King Philip II of Spain and his fourth wife and niece Anna, the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II and Maria of Spain. Philip III later married his cousin Margaret of Austria, sister of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor.

Queen’s Privy Council (1560)

[The] Queen’s Privy Council commencing initially with the 1560s – The Nobles mainly Catholics: Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Darby and a  staunch Catholic; William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke and a rough and proudly illiterate Puritan; Howard of Effingham, Lord Chamberlain and a Catholic; Henry Fitz Allen, Earl of Arundel, High Constable of England and a Catholic; Edward Clinton, the crusty Lord Admiral, acknowledged  as a military expert and a devout Catholic; William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, Lord Treasurer, Lord President of the Council and a Catholic; Thomas Young, Archbishop of York; Sir Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford recently appointed to the Council with the post of Warden of the East Marches and a leading Protestant; Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, the only Duke of the entire realm and ostensibly an Anglican but possibly a secret Catholic, the only Duke of the entire realm.

The Commoners mainly committed Protestants either Anglican or Puritan: Sir John Mason, Treasurer of the Chamber and President of Oxford University; Sir Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury and York; Sir William Parr the Marquisate of Northampton; Sir Nicholas Bacon, a leading Protestant and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and brother-in-law of William Cecil; Sir Richard Sackville, Under Treasurer; Sir Edward Rodgers 1st Vice Chamberlain and Comptroller of the Household; Sir Francis Knollys, Vice Chamberlain and Captain of the Halberdiers; Sir Ambrose Cave, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and also bother-in-law to William Cecil; Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Thomas Radcliffe,3rd Earl of Sussex; and William Cecil, Principal Secretary to the Queen.

Robert Devereux (1565 – 1601)

Earl of Essex
A vain glorious young nobleman and a favorite of Queen Elizabeth, becomes Commander-in-Chief of the English army in Ireland. What brought him to meet with the leader of an Irish insurrection in the middle of river without witnesses? Friend of Shakespeare and other playwrights. Heir of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester his father-in-law.

Robert Dudley (1532 – 1588)

1st Earl of Leicester
The favourite of the Queen Elizabeth.  Harbours an ambition to marry her. Rumours abound he has murdered his wife Amey Robsart to clear the way for him to marry Elizabeth.

Vain glorious, hot headed and envious of those from whom Elizabeth takes counsel such as William Cecil.

Leicester holds the office of Master of the Horse, and has been appointed a Member of the Privy Council. He is the foremost patron of the Puritan movement and a supporter of non-conformist preachers at home and Protestant sects internationally such as Lutherans, Calvinists, and French Huguenots. He is in favour of strong military action against Sean O’Neill in Ireland and to thwart the encroaching Scots from Antrim. His sister Mary is wife of Sir Henry Sidney, The Lord deputy of Ireland.

Sean O’Neill (1530 – 1567)

Younger brother of Mathew O’Neill. Seeks to capture and murder Mathew and his sons, Bryan and Hugh, and anyone else preventing him from obtaining both the O’Neillship as Prince of Ulster in the Gaelic World and the English title of Earl of Tyrone. Captures Hugh O’Donnell and his wife and makes her his concubine. Considering a marriage of convenience to Agnes Campbell widow of James MacDonald whom he has captured.

Holds in utter contempt Queen Elizabeth’s claim to the Kingdom of Ireland.

Accepts an offer advanced by Elizabeth of an enormous loan and the Earldom of Tyrone requiring him to come to London and renounce his claims to the O’Neillship.

Somhairlie (Sorley) Buidhe MacDonnell (1505 – 1590)

A scion of the MacDonnells of the Glens, of the same family as Ineen Duv (MacDonnell) O’Donnell and a branch in Ireland of the Catholic Clan MacDonald of Dunnyveg of Scotland. Obtains the Lordship of the territory in the Glens of Antrim from his brother the Chieftain, James MacDonald. The Scots expand into Antrim and settle in great numbers in opposition to Sean O’Neill. Sorley and his brother James are taken prisoner by Sean.

Thomas Butler (1531 – 1614)

10th Earl of Ormond
Childhood friend of Queen Elizabeth and a nominal member of the Anglican Church. A rival of the Earl of Desmond and loyal to the Crown.  Sir Edmund Butler and the Hon. Edward Butler, his brothers, serve as his Captains.

Thomas Howard (1536 – 1572)

4th Duke of Norfolk, KG
Protestant, second cousin of Queen Elizabeth and the leading nobleman of England. Stands at fortune’s threshold. Cautiously considers a secret plan to marry Mary Queen of Scots either with or without Queen Elizabeth’s permission. The plan is supported by the Spanish ambassador to the Court of Elizabeth who is conspiring with the Catholic and Protestant Noblemen on the Privy Council and others to depose Elizabeth.

Thomas Percy (1528 – 1572)

7th Earl of Northumberland
Leading peer of England and a fervent Catholic in favour of rebellion and placing Mary Queen of Scots upon Elizabeth’s throne with Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, as her reliable and moderate Protestant consort.

Thomas Radclyffe (1525 – 1583)

3rd Earl of Sussex KG
Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1559 - 1564. Fails to exert the Crown’s authority much beyond Dublin in an area known as “The English Pale”. He is threatened by the Catholic Gaels who despise the Crown’s pretensions to govern Ireland. Sean O’Neill rebels and the Scots increasingly move from the Lordship of the Isles to settle in Antrim and the Glens. He faces fierce criticism from England during  his lack-lustre tenure in office. Sir Henry Sidney is sent to succeed him.

Thomas Stukeley (1520 – 1578)

Younger son of a Devon knight and master mariner. Sets out to colonize Florida but instead becomes a pirate, a spy, a friend of Kings and Popes, and later a general commanding a Papal Crusade. A bombast, adventurer, soldier of fortune, debaucher, embezzler, pirate, gun runner, liar and a triple agent. Ostensibly a Catholic. Friend of Sean O’Neill, acquaintance of the Queen, and, by times, a trusted agent of Sean O’Neill, the Munster Irish, the Bishop of Cashel, England, Spain, and Popes Pius V and Gregory XIII.

Sir Tirlough Luineach O’Neill (1532 – 1595)

Irish Gaelic Lord of Tír Eoghain
Sean O’Neill’s cousin. Serves Sean by carrying out assassinations of rivals. Aims to become Sean’s successor to the O’Neillship and Earldom of Tyrone.

Sir Turlough Lynagh O'Neill (Irish: Sir Toirdhealbhach Luineach mac Néill Chonnalaigh Ó Néill) was an Irish Gaelic lord of Tír Eoghain in early modern Ireland. He was inaugurated upon Shane O’Neill’s death, becoming The O'Neill. From 1567 – 1595, Sir Turlough Luineach O'Neill was leader of the O'Neill clan, the most powerful family in Ulster, the northern province in Ireland. He was knighted in 1578.

Turlough O’Hagan (1549 – 1601)

Son of Bryan, The O’Hagan, and foster brother of Hugh O’Neill. Believes firmly in the centuries-old Gaelic customs his family is honour-bound to uphold. Becomes Captain of the Clan’s Cavalry which is equipped and trained in the use of modern guns by Hugh O’Neill.

Ugo Boncompagni (1502 – 1585)

Pope Gregory XIII
Pope from May 1572. Sets out to enlist all Christendom and the Spanish treasury to defeat the Ottoman Empire, The Reformation, and dethrone Queen Elizabeth. He suspends his predecessor’s Papal Bull Regnans in Excelsis to allow Catholics to be outwardly loyally compliant. He condones three Vatican murals in the Sala Regia Hall commemorating the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and supports Catherine de’ Medici. He launches a Papal crusade to aide Irish rebellions against Privateer and English confiscations. Implements the reforms of the Council of Trent. Patron of the Jesuits. Reformed the Calendar reducing the year by 11 minutes. In his name, commissions the Vatican’s Gallery of Maps expanding the known world.

Walter Devereux (1541 – 1576)

1st Earl of Essex, KG, English Nobleman and General
From 1573 until his death he fought in Ireland in connection with the Plantations of Ireland, most notably the Rathlin Island massacre. He was the father of Robert, 2nd Earl of Essex, who was Elizabeth I's favourite during her later years.

Walter Raleigh (1552 – 1618)

English Statesman and Soldier
A protégé of the Gilbert and Drake privateering families from Devon and Cornwall. Lands with an English force on Rathlin Island where the wives and children of Sorley Buidhe MacDonnell are in hiding. Joins his relatives to confiscate Munster from the Fitzgeralds and Gaels. A poet, explorer, swordsman, courtier and polymath. Friend and patron of Edmund Spenser.

Sir Walter Raleigh, also spelled Ralegh, was an English statesman, soldier, writer and explorer. One of the most notable figures of the Elizabethan era, he played a leading part in English colonisation of North America, suppressed rebellion in Ireland, helped defend England during the Spanish Armada and held political positions under Elizabeth I.

Raleigh was born to a Protestant family in Devon, the son of Walter Raleigh and Catherine Champernowne, and a cousin of Sir Richard Grenville and younger half-brother of Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Little is known of his early life, though in his late teens he spent some time in France taking part in the religious civil wars. In his 20s he took part in the suppression of rebellion in the colonisation of Ireland; he also participated in the siege of Smerwick. Later, he became a landlord of property in Ireland and mayor of Youghal in East Munster, where his house still stands in Myrtle Grove. He rose rapidly in the favour of Queen Elizabeth I and was knighted in 1585. He was granted a royal patent to explore Virginia, paving the way for future English settlements. In 1591, he secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, without the Queen's permission, for which he and his wife were sent to the Tower of London. After his release, they retired to his estate at Sherborne, Dorset.

Sir Walter was executed by King James VI of Scotland and 1st of England for raiding a Spanish settlement in contravention of the peace treaty between Spain and England.

Sir Warham and Lady Ursula St. Leger (1525 – 1597)

Warham, an importunate English knight, convinces his wife Ursula to help him repair his broken family fortune by assisting the Privateers with a plan to seize land belonging to the Earl of Desmond. Sir Warham aims to go to Ireland with his wife Ursula and their friends the Grenville’s.

William Cecil (1520 – 1598)

Lord Treasurer
A commoner, lawyer, principal advisor and the emerging statesman of Elizabeth’s reign. Deftly navigates around the nobility who fear their loss of ancient entitlements to power and influence and who plot to remove both him and the Queen. Moderate adherent of the Reformation and the Church of England. Careful administrator of the treasury and chief architect of a government to be served by highly educated and dedicated commoners. Hopes to be created a Baron. Advocates avoidance of costly wars and seeks to unite the crowns of England, Ireland and Scotland. Appointed Master of the Wards, a lucrative patronage office managing the affairs and estates of orphaned nobles who have not reached the age of majority.

William Piers (c. 1510 – 1603)

English Constable
A Puritan and English spy in Ireland. Walsingham’s agent.
Was an English constable, who spent most of his life in Ireland. He was the first mayor and practical founder of Carrickfergus. He was noted in particular for his attempts to drive out the Scots from Ulster and the great lengths that he went to in attempting to enhance the power of local chiefs at the expense of the Scots. Granted Tristernagh Abbey as a reward for his military services, he made it into his family home from the late 1560s until his death in 1603.

William the Silent (1533 - 1584)

Leader of the Netherlands Revolt Against Spanish Rule
Also known as William the Taciturn (translated from Dutch: Willem de Zwijger), or, more commonly in the Netherlands,William of Orange (Dutch: Willem van Oranje), was the main leader of the Dutch Revolt against the Spanish Habsburgs that set off the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1581. Born into the House of Nassau, he became Prince of Orange in 1544 and is thereby the founder of the Orange-Nassau branch and the ancestor of the monarchy of the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, he is also known as Father of the Fatherland (Pater Patriae) (Dutch: Vader des Vaderlands).

A wealthy nobleman, William originally served the Habsburgs as a member of the court of Margaret of Parma, governor of the Spanish Netherlands. Unhappy with the centralisation of political power away from the local estates and with the Spanish persecution of Dutch Protestants, William joined the Dutch uprising and turned against his former masters. The most influential and politically capable of the rebels, he led the Dutch to several successes in the fight against the Spanish. Declared an outlaw by the Spanish king in 1580, he was assassinated by Balthasar Gérard (also written as "Gerardts") in Delft in 1584.

Principal Characters