Nicholas Bagenal

Sir Nicholas Bagenal or Bagenall or Bagnall (/ˈbæɡnəl/; 1509 – February 1591) was an English-born soldier and politician who became Marshal of the Army in Ireland during the Tudor era.

Nicholas Bagenal
probably Newcastle-under-Lyme, England
DiedFebruary 1591 (aged 81–82)
Spouse(s)Eleanor Griffith
ChildrenSir Henry Bagenal, Dudley Bagenal, Ambrose, Frances, Mary, Margaret, Isabel, Anne Sarsfield, Mabel.
Parent(s)John Bagenall, Eleanor Whittingham

Early lifeEdit

He was born the second son of John Bagenal (died 1558), a tailor who served as Mayor of Newcastle-under-Lyme, by his wife Eleanor, daughter of Thomas Whittingham of Middlewich, Cheshire and cousin of William Whittingham, Dean of Durham. His elder brother, Sir Ralph Bagenal, was one of Henry VIII's courtiers.[1]

In 1538 Nicholas fled to Ireland to escape justice for killing a man in the Staffordshire village of Leek; his two brothers were apparently also involved in this crime. In Ireland he became acquainted with Con O'Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone and on 7 December 1542 the Irish council, at the suit of Tyrone, begged the King to pardon Bagenal. Bagenal returned to England in April 1544 and took part in the campaign in France in the following summer.[1]

The Bagenals had family links with the Irish government through Sir Patrick Barnewall, who was the Master of the Rolls in Ireland and married to Anne Luttrell, a cousin of Nicholas. This connection may help to explain how Nicholas was recommended for military service in France in 1544. His descendants gave their name to Bagenalstown in Co. Carlow. During the Colonial wars, his whole family were involved in the undertaking of land in Ireland. The Barnewall connection continued: Bagenal's daughter Mary married Barnewall's nephew, the younger Patrick.


In March 1547 he was appointed Marshal of the Army in Ireland by Edward VI. In November 1551 he was sent by James Croft to expel the Scots who had invaded Dufferin. He was knighted in the same year, and on 22 April 1552 was granted the lands of St. Patrick's and Saint Benedict and St. Mary's Abbey, of Newry and the Cistercian abbey of Carlingford, County Louth. When Mary I’s accession took place, Bagenal lost his office of marshal, which she conferred on Sir George Stanley. Accordingly, with this change on 7 May 1556 he was fined a thousand pounds ?. In 1559 he was elected to Parliament as member for Newcastle-under-Lyme.

When Queen Elizabeth I of England succeeded to the throne on her sister's passing, Sir George Stanley was asked to continue as marshal in Ireland and on 23 April 1562 Bagenal wrote to the Queen complaining that his lands brought him in nothing, owing to the depredations of Shane O'Neill. Bagenal was reduced to the role of a Captain until Sir Nicholas Arnold's recommendations induced the Queen to reappoint him marshal in 1565, with Sir Henry Sidney as deputy. Bagenal's patent was dated 5 October 1565, but he had scarcely taken up the office when, early in 1566, he entered into an agreement to sell it and his lands to Sir Thomas Stukley who was a close friend of the Pope. The Queen was unhappy with the arrangement and insisted he remain marshal.[1] In May 1577 Sir Nicholas was also appointed chief commissioner of Ulster, with his son Henry Bagenal, born 1556 in Carlingford, as his assistant.

He was involved in some military disasters, such as a defeat at Glenmalure on 25 August 1580 when Arthur Grey, 14th Baron Grey de Wilton led the troops (with Bagenal one of the commanders of the rear) into battle with Fiach McHugh O'Byrne and Viscount Baltinglass in the Wicklow mountain passes. In 1584, Bagenal was colonel of the garrison at Carrickfergus when 1,300 of Sorley Boy MacDonnell's Scots landed on Rathlin Island. Bagenal attacked but was ambushed at Glenarm and had to retreat.

On 26 August 1583 his son, now Sir Henry Bagenal, obtained the reversion of the post of marshal and acted as his father's deputy. Sir Nicholas was appointed chief commissioner on 6 July 1584 for the government of Ulster, and in April 1585 he was returned to the Irish Parliament as member for County Down.[1]

In January 1586 Sir John Perrot complained that Nicholas Bagenal was too old to perform his duties as marshal; a feud between Bagenal and Perrot lasted until the lord deputy was recalled. On one occasion (15 July 1587) there was an affray between the two in Perrot's house, where they were both drinking heavily. Bagenal was pushed to the ground after lunging out at Perrot. On 20 October 1590 Bagenal resigned the office of marshal asking for the post to be conferred on his son, Sir Henry.[1]

It is generally presumed that Sir Nicholas died at Newry Castle in February 1591. It is more than likely the case that he died in the Green Castle where he lived with his son Henry (State Papers). He is presumed buried in the tower of Saint Patrick's church, which he is alleged to have built at 1578? (no records confirm this – another unknown date). Nicholas Bagenal was born in 1508. His son Henry was killed during the greatest defeat the English suffered in Ireland at the Battle of Yellow Ford on 14 Aug 1598.


Sir Nicholas married Eleanor Griffith, daughter of Sir Edward Griffith of Penrhyn,[1] and had at least nine children, some were born in Newry Castle, Henry was born in Carlingford:

Henry succeeded his father as Marshal, played a leading part in the Nine Years War, and was killed in action against his brother-in-law Tyrone at the Battle of the Yellow Ford in 1589 in County Armagh.

Dudley became a major landowner in County Carlow; he was ancestor of the Bagenal family of Bagenalstown. He was killed in a skirmish with the local Kavanagh family.

Mabel eloped with Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone; she became one of the most romantic figures in Irish history, being described as "the Helen of Troy of the Elizabethan Wars". Mabel and her sister Mary Barnewall are major characters in the play Making History by Brian Friel; their father and brother Henry are frequently referred to but do not appear on stage.

The landowner and politician Nicholas Bagenal, who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Anglesey and Custos Rotulorum of Anglesey, lived 1629 to 1712, was the grandson of Sir Henry.


Recent information has allowed for the correct date of the Marshall's death, this being Feb 1591.

There are two additional daughters found in "A Family Tapestry" by Eva Plewman Appleton. This being the History of the Phepoe, Bagnall, Rothwell and Plewman families. Their names are Ursula and Jane Bagnall. There is no marriage or children information beyond this.



  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainPollard, Albert Frederick (1901). "Bagnal, Nicholas". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography (1st supplement). Vol. I. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

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