Magauran, Edmund (c.1548–93), archbishop of Armagh and catholic primate of Ireland, was a member of the family the lordship of which comprised the barony of Tullyhaw in north Co. Cavan. He appears to have been educated abroad, either at Louvain or at one of the Irish colleges in Spain, and was provided to the see of Ardagh on 11 September 1581. In the summer of 1585 he went to Spain, where he quickly emerged as the leading figure in a community of émigrés who were plotting a catholic recovery in Ireland. The esteem in which he was held is evident from his selection by King Philip II to perform the consecration ceremony for the new basilica at the Escorial in August 1586.
In 1587 he went to Rome, where he was translated to the see of Armagh and the primacy of all Ireland on 21 June, and was reported to have presented the pope with a commission of some sort from the northern princes and bishops. In 1588 he was in Lisbon, and in the following year he visited Brussels, where he made contact with Irish officers in the Spanish army in Flanders; two years later he wrote to Capt. Oliver Eustace from Madrid, expressing the hope that some of them would be included in a Spanish expedition to expel the English from Ireland. In May 1592, however, he was reported, from Lisbon, to have abandoned hope of returning to Ireland because of the execution of his chief contact, Brian O'Rourke (qv).
In September 1592, while Philip was at Burgos on royal progress, Magauran was granted an audience, in the course of which (presumably in response to Magauran's account of the developing situation in the north of Ireland) the king promised that Spanish troops would be sent to aid the Irish in the summer. Magauran undertook to convey this message to the Irish chiefs and to ascertain the strength and willingness of the Irish in the north. Philip arranged and financed Magauran's passage to Ireland, and early in October he sailed from Bilbao with two servants. On the way, the ship was attacked by pirates. Magauran escaped, dressed as a sailor, and eventually reached Drogheda in December on a vessel owned by James Fleming, a local merchant.
By Christmas he was in Tyrconnell, where he held a conference of seven northern bishops; by January 1593 he had taken up residence with Hugh Maguire (qv) in Fermanagh. Further meetings followed in the spring and resulted in the dispatch of a sequence of letters. On 4 April Magauran wrote to Juan de Idiáquez, Philip's chief councillor dealing with English and Irish matters, informing him of extensive Irish support for a Spanish invasion. Hugh Roe O'Donnell (qv) wrote to King Philip on 7 April, assuring him that it was a propitious time for an invasion of Ireland because it would cost little and would divert the English from Flanders. On 8 May a third letter was sent from Enniskillen castle, signed by Hugh Maguire and countersigned by Magauran, six northern bishops, Brian Óge O Rourke, and others. Emphasising the oppression they had suffered since succouring the armada survivors, they requested an invasion force of 8,000–10,000 men by 8 September. These letters were carried to Spain by James O'Hely, archbishop of Tuam (1591–5), who was received in the Spanish court in September. By then, events in Ireland had already outrun the ‘bishops' conspiracy’, as it became known.
Hostilities flared up in Fermanagh in May after the arrival of a government-appointed sheriff. He was ejected by Maguire, who went on to lead a large force into Sligo to attack Ballymote, in support of O'Rourke in a quarrel with the Binghams. Sir Richard Bingham (qv) reported that Magauran was always with Maguire, urging him on ‘to every rebellious action, riding on his chief horse with his staff and shirt of mail and hath been the chiefest mean to combine all the north together’ (Kerney Walsh, ‘Archbishop Magauran’, 77). The available evidence, however, suggests that Bingham exaggerated Magauran's influence, probably to further his own ambitions in western Ulster.
Despite his stature in Spain, in Ireland Magauran appears to have become a dependent of Maguire, on whose behalf he mediated between the Gaelic lords. The fact that his death in a skirmish between Maguire and Sir William Clifford on 23 June 1593, near Tulsk, Co. Roscommon, did not bring Maguire's attacks on neighbouring territories to an end suggests that it was the Gaelic lords who controlled the tide of events, rather than the religious leaders.