The Second Ormond Peace, 1649

On 3 October 1648, the King's Lord-Lieutenant the Marquis of Ormond returned to Ireland with authority to negotiate with the Confederates for an alliance with the Royalists. He immediately joined forces with Lord Inchiquin, who had recently abandoned the Parliamentarian cause and declared for the King. The Confederate Supreme Council agreed to negotiate a new treaty with Ormond in order to present a united front against the English Parliament. The breakaway faction headed by Archbishop Rinuccini continued to oppose negotiations with representatives of the heretic King Charles, but the Supreme Council condemned Rinuccini's followers and declared Owen Roe O'Neill a traitor.

The negotiations proceeded slowly because the Supreme Council demanded full religious liberty for Irish Catholics, the return of Catholic churches captured by Protestants during the wars and constitutional reform in Ireland. Ormond was wary of exceeding his authority in promising concessions but even so, Lord Inchiquin's Protestant troops were uneasy over the negotiations and mutinied early in November 1648 over fears that too many concessions would be granted to the Catholics. Although Ormond and Inchiquin succeeded in pacifying the mutineers, the situation remained tense and it appeared that the negotiations were unlikely to succeed. However, in December the Confederates became alarmed at developments in England, where the New Model Army forcibly purged Parliament of the King's supporters (Pride's Purge) and the Independent faction seized power. Realising that there was little hope of compromise with the radicalised English Parliament, the Supreme Council moderated its demands and reached an agreement with Ormond at the end of December 1648.

The Second Ormond Peace was signed on 17 January 1649. In the King's name, Ormond promised religious freedom to Roman Catholics in Ireland pending a full settlement when the King was restored to power and a free parliament could be convened. In return, the Confederates agreed to supply 18,000 troops to continue the war against Parliament. Under the terms of the treaty, the General Assembly was dissolved and twelve Commissioners of Trust were appointed to mediate between Ormond and the Confederates. The Confederate army was also restructured, with a central command replacing the four independent regional commands. Ormond became Lord-General of the combined Irish-Royalist army, with Inchiquin and Castlehaven as Lieutenant-Generals of Horse and Sir Patrick Purcell as Major-General of Foot.

Discouraged by the signing of the Ormond Peace, Archbishop Rinuccini left Ireland in February 1649, but Owen Roe O'Neill continued to oppose the Confederate-Royalist alliance. Ormond's envoys tried to persuade him to join the coalition, but O'Neill would only consider doing so on condition that six counties in Ulster were returned to Gaelic Irish ownership, which Ormond had no authority to promise. O'Neill's hostility prevented Ormond from concentrating his forces against the isolated Parliamentarian enclaves in Leinster and Ulster during the spring of 1649. Viscount Taaffe and the Earl of Castlehaven joined forces in Leinster while Lord Inchiquin marched his forces up from Munster against O'Neill. With hostile armies threatening separate flanks, O'Neill withdrew his forces into central Ulster.


S.R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War, vol iv (London 1894)

C.P. Meehan, The Confederation of Kilkenny (Dublin 1846)

Jane Ohlmeyer, The Civil Wars in Ireland (in The Civil Wars, a military history of England, Scotland and Ireland 1638-60), Oxford 1998

James Scott Wheeler, Cromwell in Ireland, (New York 1999)