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Magnanimous Rebel

Anecdotes Home




Sir Phelim O'Neil, one of the leaders in the Irish
rebellion of 1641, while in prison, previous to his trial, was frequently
solicited, by promises of a free pardon, and large rewards, to bear
testimony that the king (Charles the First) had been actively instrumental
in stirring up that rebellion. It was one of the arts of the factions of
that period to throw the odium of the massacre which followed the Irish
rebellion upon Charles; but whatever may have been the political sins of
that unhappy prince, impartial history has not ranked this among the
number. Sir Phelim declared, that he could not, in conscience, charge the
king with any thing of the kind. His trial was drawn out to the length of
several days, that he might be worked upon in that time; but he persisted
with constancy and firmness in rejecting every offer made to him by the
commissioners. Even at the place of execution, the most splendid advantages
were pressed upon him, upon the condition of falsely accusing King Charles
in that point. Men saw with admiration this unfortunate chieftain under all
the terrors of death, and the strongest temptations man could be under,
bravely attesting the king's innocence, and sealing the truth of his
testimony with his blood. When on the ladder, and ready to be thrown off,
two marshals came riding in great haste, and cried aloud, "Stop a little."
Having passed through the, crowd of spectators and guards, one of them
whispered something into the ear of Sir Phelim, who made answer in so loud
a voice, as to be heard by several hundreds of the people. "I thank the
lieutenant-general for the intended mercy; but I declare, good people,
before God and his holy angels, and all of you that hear me, that I never
had any commission from the king for what I have done, in levying, or in
prosecuting this war; and do heartily beg your prayers, all good Catholics
and Christians! that God may be merciful unto me, and forgive me my sins."
On this the guards beat off those that stood near the place of execution,
and in a few minutes Sir Phelim was no more.





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