O'NEILL (ONEALE), Daniel (c.1612-64), of Belsize House, Hampstead, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



10 Jan. 1662 - 24 Oct. 1664

Family and Education

b. c.1612, 1st s. of Con O’Neill of Castlereagh, co. Down by da. of Art Oge O’Neill. m. Sept. 1660, Katherine, da. of Thomas, 2nd Baron Wotton of Marley, suo jure Countess of Chesterfield, wid. of Sir Henry Stanhope, Lord Stanhope, and Jan Polyander van der Kerchhove (Kirkhoven), lord of Henvliet, Zealand, s.p. suc. fa. 1619.1

Offices Held

Capt. of horse 1639, maj. 1640, lt.-col. (royalist) 1642-6; gov. Trim 1649; maj.-gen. 1649; col. of horse July-Dec. 1660; capt. R. Horse Gds. (The Blues) 1661-d.2

Groom of the bedchamber 1644-9, 1650-d.; commr. for trade Nov. 1660-d., plantations Dec. 1660-d.; jt. farmer, French shipping duty 1661-d.; postmaster-gen. 1663-d.; member, Societies of Mines Royal and Mineral and Battery Works 1663-d.; asst. R. Adventurers into Africa 1664-d.3

J.p. Kent, Mdx. and Surr. July 1660- d.; jt. surveyor of petty customs, London Dec. 1660-3; commr. for assessment, Mdx. 1661-3, Westminster 1663-4, loyal and indigent officers, Mdx. and Westminster 1662, highways and sewers, London and Westminster 1662.4

MP [I] 1661-d.


O’Neill was descended on both sides from a Celtic family powerful in Ulster since the 5th century that had provided many ‘high kings’ of Ireland. His father, head of the cadet branch, succeeded to a vast estate in county Down which he valued at £12,000 p.a.; but ‘a great debauch at Castlereagh’ in 1603 terminated in murder and riot, and he alienated most of it to two Scottish settlers to obtain his pardon. O’Neill and his brother accordingly succeeded under age to a mere £160 p.a., but he was ‘in subtlety and understanding much superior to the whole nation of the old Irish’, and was able ‘to support himself without dependence or beholdingness’. A convert to Anglicanism, from which he never wavered, he was the first of his race to gain influence at Whitehall. To ‘a natural insinuation and address which made him acceptable in the best company’ he added ‘a courage very notorious’, spending the winters at the Court of Charles I and the summers on campaign in the Low Countries, ‘which was as good an education towards advancement in the world as that age knew’. He also gained some experience in diplomacy. But he failed to blarney Lord Deputy Wentworth into dispossessing the settlers from Clandeboy and Ards, and during the debates on his enemy’s attainder petitioned the Long Parliament. Any chance of success was destroyed by his involvement in the army plots. He escaped from the Tower, and returned to England with Prince Rupert, becoming his second-in-command in the first Civil War. He was employed in negotiations with the Irish rebels, who were led by his maternal uncle, Owen Roe O’Neill, and was offered the command of their army and the chieftainship of the clan if he would change his religion. But he refused, and joined Charles II in the Worcester campaign. The remainder of the Interregnum he spent in royalist conspiracy (under the appropriate cover-name of ‘Subtle’) and diplomacy. He paid two visits to England, and together with Ormonde and Bristol, accompanied Charles on his fruitless journey to Fuentarrabia in 1659.5

At the Restoration O’Neill returned to England and took over one of the New Model cavalry regiments till its disbandment, when he was given a permanent commission in The Blues. About the same time he married Lady Chesterfield, a powerful figure in the dynastic politics of Stuart and Orange, who brought him the Boughton Malherbe estate in Kent. He leased the manor of Belsize from the crown, and built a great house ‘at vast expense’. With the Earl of Cork he was given a customs post in trust for the Roman Catholic widow of Endymion Porter. He formed a syndicate with Francis Vaughan, Lord Vaughan, and others which was given the sole right for 41 years to prospect for minerals in Wales and the north of England. Together with Sir George Carteret he farmed the duty of 5s. per ton imposed as a reprisal on French shipping under the Navigation Act. His most lucrative boon was undoubtedly his monopoly of supplying gunpowder to the Ordnance, but he may also have hoped to re-establish his position in Ireland; his pension of £500 was confirmed, he obtained the reversion of two Irish estates forfeited in 1641, and he represented County Down in the Dublin Parliament.6

At the general election of 1661 O’Neill was unsuccessfully recommended by the Earl of Portland for the Isle of Wight borough of Newtown. He was chiefly responsible for arranging for the return to England and the appointment to office of his old friend Sir Henry Bennet. In January 1662 he defeated Edward Nosworthy I at St. Ives with the assistance of Francis Godolphin, and obtained a letter from the King to the Exeter chapter urging them to transfer the reversion to two of their manors from Nosworthy, who had bought them ‘in the late times’, but whose actions had not been ‘such as to merit favour’. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, O’Neill was appointed to sixteen committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in two sessions. He was one of four Members sent on 19 Feb. to ask the King to send Sir Henry Vane and General John Lambert to London for trial, and ten days later he served on the delegation from the Commons to thank him for his gracious speech. On 10 Mar. he was named to the committee to confirm the charter given to the Royal Fishery Company, a matter of great concern to his constituency. With two other courtiers, William Legge and Robert Phelips, he planned to introduce a bill ‘tending to amendment of debauchery and loose living’. They petitioned for the office of farmers or accountants for regulating ale-houses; but the bill never reached the statute book.7

Despite his many rewards O’Neill was dissatisfied with his position at Court. He wrote to Ormonde on 11 Oct. 1662:

I know that I shall be but a porter still unless I have it from your favour, which I doubt not to come by the earnest you give me. ... You know my melancholy humour makes me apprehend more than there is cause for.

There was certainly no cause for his apprehension; in March 1663 he was granted the very lucrative place of postmaster-general, to which the Stanhope family had an hereditary claim. But he lived to enjoy it for little more than a year. He was noted as a court dependant in 1664, when he was among those to whom the petition from the loyal and indigent officers was committed. But on 24 Oct. 1664 the King wrote: ‘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.’ He was buried at Boughton Malherbe, the last of the family. Clarendon described him as ‘a great observer and discerner of men’s natures and humours’ and ‘very dexterous in compliance when he found it useful. ... Though his inclinations were naturally to ease and luxury, his industry was indefatigable when his honour required it, or his particular interest, which he was never without and to which he was very indulgent, made it necessary or convenient.’ But Samuel Pepys, who had cousins in Ireland, believed that the death of ‘the great O’Neill’ would be to the content of all the Protestant land-claimants in that kingdom.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Basil Duke Henning


DNB; Procs. R. Irish Acad. xl. pt. 3, table C.

  • 1. DNB; Procs. R. Irish Acad. xl. pt. 3, table C.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1639-40, p. 422; 1640, p. 574; E. Peacock, Army Lists, 17; HMC 5th Rep. 194.
  • 3. Clarendon, Rebellion, iii. 521; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 372; CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 102; BL Loan 16; T70/75.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 420; Tudor and Stuart Proclamations ed. Steele, i. 405.
  • 5. Procs. R. Irish Acad. xl. pt. 3, p. 201; W. Reeves, Eccles. Antiqs. of Down, 347; Clarendon, i. 206; iii. 513; vi. 130; E. Warburton, Mems. Prince Rupert, i. 112; HMC 4th Rep. 61; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 117, 219; Clarke, Jas. II, i. 372.
  • 6. HMC 5th Rep. 194; DNB sub Kirkhoven; Hasted, Kent, v. 413; Evelyn Diary, iv. 92; CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 369, 432, 504; CSP Ire. 1660-2, pp. 295-6, 371.
  • 7. Procs. Hants Field Club, ii. 98; CSP Dom. 1661-2, pp. 227, 260; Add. 1660-70, p. 663; CJ, viii. 368, 376.
  • 8. Bodl. Carte 32, f. 68; C. H. Hartmann, The King My Brother, 114; Clarendon, Life, ii. 199, 226-8; Rebellion, iii 513; Pepys Diary, 24 Oct. 1664.