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Earl of Tyrone, Hugh O'Neill

Medieval skeleton remains may reveal Ireland's 'Helen of Troy'

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Earl of Tyrone, Hugh O'Neill

Experts at Galway University believe that they may have uncovered the remains of Ireland's "Helen of Troy," the wife of the Earl of Tyrone, Hugh O'Neill. The skeletal remains were unearthed at Dungannon's Castle Hill.

Luckily the skeletal remains are in good condition and now the most advanced studies of forensic anthropology can be performed.

Speaking to the Tyrone Times a source from the archaeological dig said: "It appears she was married to a high ranking male given the respect afforded to her at her burial. There is even speculation that she might have been a wife of Hugh O’Neill.”

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It is possible that these remains could be identified as Mabel Bagenal, O’Neill’s third wife. Mabel was a Protestant beauty who was known as Ireland’s "Helen of Troy." She became O’Neill’s implacable enemy, before dying in Dungannon in 1591.

The experts have already established that the woman was in her late 40s or 50s, of slight build and short in stature.

It is hoped that such a huge discovery will boost the number of tourist visitors to the site. Dungannon Council plan to mount an exhibition with her skeleton at its center along with a model of her face.
It could turn out that the remains are not Mabel but one of O'Neill's three other wives. He also had a number of legitimate and illegitimate children.

O'Neill divorced his first wife in 1574. His second wife died in 1591 and in August of that year he married Mabel Bagenal, the daughter of Marshal Bagenal. She refused to give O'Neill her dowry and therefore became his enemy.

Their relationship came to an end when O'Neill told her "I affected two other gentlewomen." Mabel left him and made a public complaint against him.

Mabel died in Dungannon in December 1595 and O'Neill married his fourth wife, Catherine Magennis, in the spring of 1596.

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