few months preceded him, early in November 1593.
In 1594 Sir Owen MacCarthy died, and, according to the Irish custom of tanistry, was succeeded by his nephew, Donal-na-Pipi (d. 1612), who bound himself under a penalty of 10,000l. not to divert the succession from Florence, who stood to him in the relation of tanist or heir apparent. Florence meanwhile had been unsuccessfully prosecuting his suit for the recovery of his 500l. fine from Lord Barry, who retaliated by preferring a fresh charge of disloyalty against him. Florence, who was still only a prisoner at large, accordingly appeared before the council at Dublin in June 1594, and having formally replied to Barry's ‘articles’ implicating him in Sir W. Stanley's treasonable projects, he obtained permission to proceed to England, where he seems to have remained till the spring of 1596, occupied in vainly prosecuting his suit against Barry.
Towards the close of that year the Earl of Clancar died. By the terms of his grant his estate ought to have lapsed to the crown, he having died without legitimate issue male; but Florence, who claimed some interest in the property as a mortgagee and also in right of his wife, found himself in competition with Donal, a favourite illegitimate son of the earl, the Countess Honora, and Sir Nicholas Browne, to whom Clancar had mortgaged the signory of Molahiffe. Donal's and the countess's claims were soon disposed of, but those of Florence and Browne to the bulk of the property were less easily settled. In order to support his pretensions the former had returned to England in June 1598, and he was still there when in October the news arrived that Donal, ambitious of greater power than had been allotted him, had acknowledged O'Neill, and, relying on his support, had assumed the title of MacCarthy Mor, though as yet the rod of inauguration had been withheld from him by O'Sullivan Mor, who favoured Florence. Perceiving the necessity of meeting Donal on his own ground, the government consented to acknowledge, with certain reservations, Florence's claims, and to grant him a free pardon on condition that he immediately withdrew his followers from rebellion. But Florence, foreseeing the difficulties he would have to encounter as the nominee of the English government, manifested no eagerness to accept the terms offered him, and on one pretence or another continued to linger in England in the expectation that the enterprise of the Earl of Essex would simplify matters, and it was not till Essex had returned to England that he actually arrived at Cork at the close of 1599.
Considering the general conviction that the days of English rule in Ireland were numbered, it is not surprising that Florence, who was naturally of an irresolute disposition, and knew better than most Irishmen the resources of the crown, should have tried to trim his conduct with a view to his own safety in either case. Having secured the good opinion of the authorities at Cork, his first step was to visit the Sugan Earl of Desmond, who, with his followers, was quartered on his estate in Carbery. According to his own account he was not well received, partly on account of his ‘English attire,’ but chiefly because of his ‘piercing speeches in her majesty's behalf, and against their foolish, senseless, damned action to the undoing of themselves and all men else near them.’ It is certain that a day or so afterwards the Sugan Earl, followed reluctantly by Donal, quartered their men on Lord Barry's barony of Ibawne, and that Florence, having established himself at Kinsale, closed all the approaches into his country which was ‘the back and strength of all Munster.’ This in itself was suspicious, but worse was soon to follow. Early in 1600 O'Neill arrived in Munster, and among those who came to his camp between the Lea and the Bandon was Florence. Of what passed at the interview that took place nothing is known for certain, except that Donal was deposed and Florence appointed MacCarthy Mor. He pleaded, when excusing his conduct to his English friends, the force of circumstances, the innocency of his intentions, and his inability to oppose O'Neill. But he offered open resistance in April to Captain Flower, who had been commissioned to destroy the rebels in Carbery. Sir George Carew [q. v.], who succeeded to the government of Munster in the same month, while regretting Flower's expedition as likely to alienate him at a critical time, evidently placed little confidence in his professions of loyalty, and summoned him to Cork in order to explain his conduct. Florence, however, declined to come without a safe-conduct, and when he arrived he refused to put in his eldest son as a pledge of his loyalty, alleging in excuse his fear of Donal and Dermod O'Conor, captain of his mercenaries, and ‘more than to be a neutral he would not promise.’ At the same time he wrote at great length to Sir Robert Cecil urging the difficulties of his position. Carew grew more convinced of his duplicity, but the evidence, specious though it is, is hardly sufficient to convict either Carew or Cecil of a design to poison him. Carew was certainly determined to extract a definite announcement from him, but, failing in this, he thought