Spanish-Irish Relations in the 16th Essay

  • Length: 7 pages
  • Subject: Military
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #60916525
  • Related Topic: Monarchy, Ireland, Spain

Excerpt from Essay :

However, as officials issued these directives, they were convinced that the initial scheme was defective principally because it had relied excessively on the educational efficacy of model settlements which would be erected within an Irish environment (Leerssen, 1986). Therefore, it came to be assumed that such settlements could never endure if left in isolation, and Spenser's idea, that the entire country would have to be subjected to a scheme of plantation which would be promoted by the army, was adopted as a matter of principle by those who upheld the crown's interests in the country, even if this idea was not endorsed as official government policy. Therefore, this first experience at plantation in Munster was to have a lasting influence on the formulation of English policy for Ireland until well into the seventeenth century.

Once account is taken of the designs of continentally trained priests to dismantle the cultural barriers that had obtained for centuries in Ireland, it appears that the essential division among traditional Irish elites was not, as previously had been the case, between lords of Old English and Gaelic lineage, but rather between those who remained in Ireland and those who opted for life on the Continent. Those of gentry background who responded to the changes that were being enforced by the government by taking refuge on the Continent were, by their very actions, making an uncompromising statement (McDermott, 2006).

Whether they were victims of plantation, or younger sons who could not expect to inherit any property once English common law came into practice, or people who could not contemplate living under a Protestant regime, these gentry exiles either became pensioners of the Spanish crown or enlisted as officers in the Irish regiment that was established within the Spanish army stationed in Flanders. The officers were responsible for establishing communities in exile, which included women as well as men, in the various garrison towns of Spanish Flanders and they maintained regular contact with their kinsmen who had remained at home, not least because they needed their co-operation in mobilizing fresh recruits for the continental service without which the Irish regiment would have melted away through the heavy attrition associated with service in Flanders (Murphy, 2002).

These, and the Irish priests who served as chaplains to the Irish regiment, were watchful for any opportunity to stage an armed invasion of Ireland which would facilitate a cancellation of the plantations which had been imposed upon the country and a reinstatement of Catholicism as the official religion of Ireland. Because these exiles occasionally revealed their aspirations, the movement of men and information between Ireland and the Continent was always regarded with suspicion by the Protestant population in Ireland, but the government had, from the outset of the century, concluded that, for all its drawbacks, the continued recruitment of soldiers for Spanish service should be permitted because it served to rid the country of fighting men who would otherwise be a security threat within Ireland itself (Leerssen, 1986). Those of the exiles who became pensioners (the most distinguished being Hugh O'Neill, earl of Tyrone, who had been denied access to the Spanish court but enjoyed Spanish support in Rome until his death there in 1616) soon became disillusioned with their mendicant position in foreign lands and hankered after a return to their former glory in Ireland. Pope Adrian IV had granted Ireland to the kings of England by the 1155 bull Laudabilitears a sort of medieval UN mandate with the objective of 'Christianizing' and civilizing the Irish. With the queen of England now an excommunicated heretic, was it not time that Ireland was given a new Catholic monarch? This idea would be developed further during the revolt of Hugh O'Neill, earl of Tyrone at the end of the century (Morgan, 2004). Their spokesmen, either priests who had accompanied their patrons into exile and then entered into Counter-Reformation seminaries to round off their education, or members of the Gaelic learned classes who trained for the priesthood after they had reached the Continent, bewailed the loss of property and status the Irish lords had suffered because of military reverse and the ensuing plantations, and they too expressed concern that the people they had left behind in Ireland would be persuaded to betray their ancestral faith for that of the planters. After the treaty of London, which restored peace between the British and the Spanish monarchies, there was scant prospect that they would have an opportunity to resolve these problems in the short-term, and they were left hankering after a renewed breach between England and Spain which, they hoped, would reopen the possibility of a Spanish invasion of Ireland (Murphy, 2002).

The political preference of these exiles, like that of John Cusacke, was generally for monarchical rule, but it is clear-despite the valiant efforts of Breandan O' Buachalla to persuade us to the contrary-that the support of the exiles for the Stuart claims to the crown of Ireland was always tentative and qualified (Leerssen, 1986). Thus while in his capacity as Catholic primate of Armagh in exile, 160'-25, the Old English cleric Peter Lombard adhered to the preferred political position of the reigning Pope in advocating loyalty to the Stuarts, the faithful whom he addressed, whether in Ireland or on the Continent, could hardly forget that this same Peter Lombard, only a short few years previously, had prevailed upon the papacy to declare the revolt of Tyrone a religious war, and Lombard had then wanted Ireland to become a dependency of King Philip III of Spain.


It was consistent with his revised teaching that Lombard, with his Gaelic associate Flaithri O' Maol Chonaire (Florence Conroy), the nominated Catholic archbishop of Tuam, should, in the years after 1618, become an active supporter in Spain of the proposed match between Prince Charles and a Spanish infanta, and under these circumstances, as Glyn Redworth has ably demonstrated, these clerics could formulate documents by which the Spanish royal house would seek to negotiate with the English monarchy for a toleration for Catholicism in Ireland.

However, it was equally unsurprising in 1625, when the collapse of those marriage negotiations brought Spain and England close to war that the Irish clerics on the Continent should then lobby the Spanish government to include an invasion of Ireland, under the command of the sons of the deceased earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, as part of their military strategy. Who would have become king of Ireland, in the event of such an invasion proving successful, was never spelt out, and it was at this juncture that the exiles toyed with the idea of Ireland becoming a republic (Hernan, 2009); perhaps modeled after the United Provinces rather than Venice, where a landed oligarchy would wield effective political authority, albeit under some remote monarch, or perhaps, like Savonarola, with Christ as king of the republic.

Works Cited

Hernan, Garcia Enrique. Ireland and Spain in the Reign of Philip II. Dublin: Four Courts, 2009.

Canny, Nicholas. The Elizabethan Conquest of Ireland: A Pattern Established, 1565-1576. Brighton, 1976.

McDermott, James. England and the Spanish Armada: The Necessary Quarrel by; the Confident Hope of a Miracle: The True Story of the Spanish Armada. The Journal of Military History, Vol. 70, No. 3. Jul., 2006, pp. 821-824

Morgan, Hiram. 'Never Any Realm Worse Governed': Queen Elizabeth and Ireland. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Sixth Series, Vol. 14. 2004, pp. 295-308.

Smyth, William J. Map-Making, Landscapes, and Memory: A Geography of Colonial and Early Modern Ireland c. 1530-1750. 2006.

Murphy, Andrew. Revising Criticism: Ireland and…

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