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The Spanish Armada in Ireland refers to the landfall made upon the coast of Ireland in September 1588 of a large portion of the 130-strong fleet sent by Philip II to invade England.In the Armada’s attempt to return home through North Atlantic they were driven off-course by bad weather and close on 24 ships were wrecked off the Irish coast from Antrim in the north to Kerry in the south. About 5,000 men in total perished in Ireland.In 1601, Spain supported Irish rebels fighting against England during the Nine Years War, and especially during the Siege of Kinsale.

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In this Episode Brian Nolan narrates the history and the unfortunate ending of the Spanish Armada. Next Episode Tyrone House in Kilcolgan…..

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Ireland and the Spanish Armada 1588 – The Irish Story

[…] Although Ireland had featured in previous drafts of Spanish invasion plans, it d not form a part of Spanish strategy in 1588. Nevertheless …

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The Spanish Armada in Ireland refers to the landfall made upon the coast of Ireland in September 1588 of a large portion of the 130-strong fleet sent by …

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Did the Spanish invade Ireland? – Quora

Never. · Although there are three occasions in which Spain participated in the Irish conflict against England. · The Spanish Armada’s plan to remove Elizabeth …

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The Spanish Armada – Clare County Library

Throughout 1587 and early 1588, rumours that Philip of Spain was assembling a massive fleet to conquer England and Ireland were spreading like wildfire.

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Ireland & Spain – History Ireland

A Spanish Armada finally disembarked in 1601. Too little, too late. O’Neill and O’Donnell having marched the length of Ireland committed themselves to an …

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The Spanish Armada: history, causes and timeline

The Spanish Armada was one part of a planned invasion of England by King Philip II of Spain. … Why d the Spanish Armada happen? Years of religious and …

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Where did the Spanish Armada sink in Ireland?

In the Armada’s attempt to return home through North Atlantic they were driven off-course by bad weather and close on 24 ships were wrecked off the Irish coast from Antrim in the north to Kerry in the south. About 5,000 men in total perished in Ireland.

Did the Spanish help Ireland?

In 1601, Spain supported Irish rebels fighting against England during the Nine Years War, and especially during the Siege of Kinsale.

What is the Spanish connection to Ireland?

The historic links between Spain and Ireland are intellectual, economic, political, religious and especially military. However there are no racial or genetic links. The Gaelic Irish we can categorically state do not have Spanish origins.

Where do Black Irish come from?

The term “Black Irish” is sometimes used outside Ireland to refer to Irish people with black hair and dark eyes. One theory is that they are descendants of Spanish traders or of the few sailors of the Spanish Armada who were shipwrecked on Ireland’s west coast, but there is little evidence for this.

Did the Irish help the Spanish Armada?

Although Ireland had featured in previous drafts of Spanish invasion plans, it did not form a part of Spanish strategy in 1588. Nevertheless, Ireland was, in the end, central to the defeat of the Armada. The Spanish fleet was blown north and west around the western Irish coast.

Do Irish originate from Spain?

It is believed that the most likely first settlers on the island of Ireland originated from Spain.

Who are the dark Irish?

Dubh (Doov) in the Irish language means dark or black and is used to describe someone by the color of their hair as in Roisin Dubh (Dark Rosaleen) or Hugh Dubh O’Neill (Black Hugh O’Neill), an Irish patriot of the 17th century best remembered for his defense of Clonmel in 1650.

Who are the Irish descended from?

From as far back as the 16th century, historians taught that the Irish are the descendants of the Celts, an Iron Age people who originated in the middle of Europe and invaded Ireland somewhere between 1000 B.C. and 500 B.C. That story has inspired innumerable references linking the Irish with Celtic culture.

Are Irish and Spanish people related?

THE Irish and Scots may be as closely related to the people of Spain and Portugal as the Celts of central Europe. Historians have long believed the British Isles were invaded by Iron Age Celts from central Europe in about 500 BC.

What do the Spanish think of the Irish?

An Indian person living in Spain revealed that Irish people are liked among the Spanish people as they are not English, writing: “I’m an Indian living in Spain and my partner and every Spaniard I know say they like every tourist except [the] English.

Who are the dark Irish?

Dubh (Doov) in the Irish language means dark or black and is used to describe someone by the color of their hair as in Roisin Dubh (Dark Rosaleen) or Hugh Dubh O’Neill (Black Hugh O’Neill), an Irish patriot of the 17th century best remembered for his defense of Clonmel in 1650.

Did the Irish come from Spain?

According to the book, the present Gaelic inhabitants of Ireland are descended from the “Milesians” of the north of Spain – who arrived in Ireland more than 2,500 years ago.

What happened at the Battle of Kinsale?

The Battle of Kinsale was one of the most important battles in Irish history. It finally brought success to England in its fight to conquer Gaelic Ireland. It was fought on Christmas Eve morning 1601, in the small unknown port of Kinsale.

Spanish Armada in Ireland

The Spanish Armada in Ireland refers to the landfall made upon the coast of Ireland in September 1588 of a large portion of the 130-strong fleet sent by Philip II to invade England.

Following its defeat at the naval battle of Gravelines the Armada had attempted to return home through the North Atlantic, when it was driven from its course by violent storms, toward the west coast of Ireland. The prospect of a Spanish landing alarmed the Dublin government of Queen Elizabeth I, which prescribed harsh measures for the Spanish invaders and any Irish who might assist them.

Up to 24 ships of the Armada were wrecked on a rocky coastline spanning 500 km, from Antrim in the north to Kerry in the south, and the threat to Crown authority was readily defeated. Many of the survivors of the multiple wrecks were put to death, and the remainder fled across the sea to Scotland. It is estimated that some 6,000 members of the fleet perished in Ireland or off its coasts.

Background [ edit ]

The Spanish Armada was a fleet of 130 ships that sailed from A Coruña in August 1588 under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia with the purpose of escorting an army from Flanders to invade England. It met with armed resistance in the English Channel, when a fireship attack off Calais broke its formation, and was driven into the North Sea after the Battle of Gravelines.

When the fleet entered the North Sea, 110 ships remained under Medina Sidonia’s command. Many were damaged by gunfire or were running low on supplies, making them unfit for service in the Atlantic Ocean. Some had cut their anchors in the flight from the fireships, which severely diminished their ability to navigate close to shore. Also, the Armada commanders made a large navigational error that brought the fleet too close to the dangerous Atlantic coasts of Scotland and Ireland.

The course home [ edit ]

The plotted course [ edit ]

After Gravelines the commanders of the Armada held a conference on Sidonia’s flagship. Some proposed a course for Norway, others for Ireland. The admiral made his choice, and orders were issued to the fleet:

Route taken by the Spanish Armada

The course that is first to be held is to the north/north-east until you be found under 61 degrees and a half; and then to take great heed lest you fall upon the Island of Ireland for fear of the harm that may happen unto you upon that coast. Then, parting from those islands and doubling the Cape in 61 degrees and a half, you shall run west/south-west until you be found under 58 degrees; and from thence to the south-west to the height of 53 degrees; and then to the south/south-west, making to the Cape Finisterre, and so to procure your entrance into The Groyne A Coruña or to Ferrol, or to any other port of coast of Galicia.[1]

The fleet was to approach the coast of Norway, before steering to the meridian of the Shetland Islands and on to Rockall. This allowed passage outside the northern tip of Shetland, clearing the coast of Scotland at a distance of 160 km. Once out in the broad Atlantic, the ships were to steer to a point 645 km beyond the Shannon estuary on the west coast of Ireland, giving themselves a clear run to northern Spain.[2]

The course taken [ edit ]

The Armada’s sailing orders were almost impossible to follow. The weather was difficult. Many of the ships and their crew members were in great distress. The navigators’ charts were primitive,[3] and their best training and experience in the techniques of dead reckoning and latitude sailing fell far short of what was needed to bring the fleet safely home.[4]

The Armada failed to keep its course around the north of Shetland at 611⁄2’N. Instead, on 20 August, it passed safely to the south, between Orkney and Fair Isle, and was carried into the Atlantic at about 59 1⁄2’N. From there it was due to sail from North Uist in the Hebrides Islands until it caught sight of the distant islet of Rockall, but failed again. Southerly winds blew from 21 August to 3 September, stirred up by an anticyclone over Scandinavia, which prevented the fleet from running west-south-west as ordered. One report reflects the frustration of the navigators: “We sailed without knowing whither through constant fogs, storms and squalls”.[5]

Mercator map of Europe: the west coast of Ireland on the extreme left.

The sailing orders were rendered useless by the weather, but the miscalculation of the Armada’s position contributed greatly to its destruction. The navigators were unaware of the effect of the eastward flowing Gulf Stream, which must have hindered the fleet’s progress – perhaps by as much as 30 km a day. The paymaster of the San Juan Bautista, Marcos de Aramburu, recorded a log of his progress from late August onwards, when the rest of the fleet was within sight. The inference from his observations is that his ship’s estimated position as it turned for home was entirely wrong, some 480 km to the west: its real position lay in the east, perilously close to the coasts of Scotland and Ireland. This single deficiency “made the difference between safety and disaster”.[6]

Rockall , a small, isolated rocky islet in the North Atlantic Ocean about 430 kilometres (270 mi) north-west of Donegal.

After seven weeks at sea the opportunity to make landfall and take on supplies and effect repairs must have been welcome, but navigation in these waters demanded intimate knowledge. The experience of Spanish mariners in the intricacies of north Atlantic conditions was largely confined to trading voyages to the south and south-west of Ireland, and it is likely that the fleet’s pilots preferred to maintain Sidonia’s course, despite the hardships on board their ships.

Most of the fleet – 84 ships – avoided land, and most of those made it home, although in varying degrees of distress. The remainder were forced toward the coast of Ireland – perhaps 28 – and included several galleons and many merchantmen. The latter had been converted for battle and were leaking heavily, making sail with severely damaged masts and rigging, and with most of their anchors missing. The ships seem to have maintained contact until the beginning of September, when they were scattered by a south-west gale (described in the contemporary account of an Irish government official as one “the like whereof hath not been seen or heard for a long time”). Within days, this lost fleet had made landfall in Ireland.

Government preparations [ edit ]

The head of the English Crown administration at Dublin was Lord Deputy William Fitzwilliam. In August 1588 he was presented with credible intelligence that the battle in the English Channel had been won by the Spanish and that the invasion of England was set to be completed. Then it was understood that the Spanish were in the Atlantic and the entire fleet was about to fall on the coast of Ireland. The degree of alarm among the English at Dublin was extreme, and Fitzwilliam put out false reports that reinforcements from England were due to arrive with 10,000 troops.

The English feared the Spanish would land in disciplined formations, with the Irish rising out to join them from territories that were almost beyond the control of the government. But reliable intelligence was soon received at Waterford and Dublin that the ships were fetching up in a chaotic manner at disparate locations in the provinces of Ulster, Connacht and Munster, along a coastline spanning 300 miles (480 km). Fitzwilliam ordered that all Spaniards be captured and hanged summarily; and that anyone aiding them be tortured and charged as a traitor to the Crown.

Landfall [ edit ]

Munster [ edit ]

The Armada first made landfall in the southern province of Munster, which had been colonised by the English in 1583 following the suppression of the last of the Desmond Rebellions. Fitzwilliam received orders from London to lead an expedition there, and intelligence from the governor of Connacht, Richard Bingham, soon confirmed that further landfalls were being made throughout the west and north of the country.

Thomond: Many ships were sighted off the coast of County Clare: four at Loop Head, two of which were wrecked, including San Esteban (700 tons, 264 men) at Doonbeg, and probably the heavily damaged San Marcos (790 tons, squadron of Portugal, 409 men, 33 guns) at Lurga Point (modern day Seafield, Quilty, County Clare) inside Mutton Island. All survivors were put to death by the sheriff of Clare, Boetius MacClancy (some, according to tradition, at Gallows Hill, but more likely at Cnoc na Crocaire, Spanish Point).

Seven ships anchored at Scattery Roads, probably with a pilot who knew the coast. Their landing party was fought off, but they did secure some supplies and managed to repair their ships. One galleon, Anunciada (703 tons, 24 guns, 275 men), was fired and scuttled off Kilrush on 12 September,[7] and the crew transferred to Barco de Danzig, which made it safely to Spain after the squadron departed the Shannon estuary on 11 September.

Blasket Islands: One Armada commander, Juan Martínez de Recalde, did have experience of the Irish coast: in 1580 he had landed a Papal invasion force in the Dingle peninsula, in the run up to the Siege of Smerwick, and had managed to evade an English squadron of warships. In the Armada he had command of the galleon San Juan de Portugal (1,150 tons, 500 men, 50 guns) of the Biscayan squadron, which engaged with the English fleet in the Channel and held off Francis Drake in Revenge, John Hawkins in Victory, and Martin Frobisher in Triumph.

After the defeat at Gravelines Recalde’s galleon led San Juan de Bautista (750 tons, 243 men) and another small vessel (almost certainly a Scottish fishing smack seized to assist with navigation and inshore work). As these ships approached the coast of Kerry, Recalde’s lookouts sighted Mount Brandon on the Dingle peninsula and, to the west, the lofty Blasket Islands, a complex archipelago studded with reefs.

Recalde steered to the islands in search of shelter, riding on a swell through a tight gap at the eastern tip of the Great Blasket Island. His galleon made it through to calm water and dropped anchor over a sandy bottom beneath sheer cliffs. San Juan de Bautista and the smack soon followed. The anchorage ensured that the only wind that might drive the ships off would bring them clear to the open sea. It was a difficult manoeuvre, demanding prior knowledge of the coastline.

gap between the tip of the Great Blasket and Carraig Fhada (right-of-centre) to enter the sound (foreground). Look-outs for the crown army would have shared this clifftop view from the Recalde sailed through thebetween the tip of the Great Blasket and Carraig Fhada (right-of-centre) to enter the sound (foreground). Look-outs for the crown army would have shared this clifftop view from the Dingle peninsula.

Recalde’s ships remained within their shelter for several days, and a crown force led by Thomas Norris (brother of the soldier, John Norris) and Edward Denny (husband of Lady Denny) arrived in Dingle to guard against a landing. Recalde sent a reconnaissance party ashore, but all eight members were captured. At one stage a westerly gale caused Portugal to collide with San Juan de Bautista, and when the wind died down another ship, Santa Maria de la Rosa (900 tons, 297 men: Guipuzcoa squadron), entered the sound from the north and fired off a gun by way of distress signal.

As the tide ebbed, Recalde’s ships held their anchorage in the more sheltered part of the sound, while Santa Maria de la Rosa drifted and then simply sank — perhaps on striking Stromboli Rock — leaving one survivor for the English to interrogate. The survivor’s information was that the captain of Santa Maria de la Rosa had called the pilot a traitor and run him through with a sword just as the ship began to sink; he also asserted that the Prince of Ascoli, son of the king of Spain, had gone down with the ship — this information was false, but proved useful propaganda for the English.

Two more ships entered the sound — San Juan de Ragusa (650 tons, 285 men), the other unidentified. San Juan de Ragusa was in distress and sank — perhaps on striking Dunbinna reef. San Juan de Bautista attempted to take advantage of an ebb tide and sail south out of the sound, but ended up tacking about on the flood tide to avoid the numerous reefs, before sailing through the north-west passage. After a difficult night, the crew were dismayed to find themselves at the mouth of the sound once more. But the wind blew from the south-east, and San Juan de Bautista finally escaped on 25 September and made it home to Spain through a terrible storm.

Three days later Recalde led the remaining ships out of the sound and brought them to Spain, where he instantly died.[citation needed] Those survivors who had fallen into Denny’s custody were put to death at Dingle.

Fenit: The sloop Nuestra Senora del Socorro (75 tons) anchored at Fenit, in Tralee Bay on the coast of Kerry, where she was surrendered to crown officers. The 24 men on board were taken into custody and marched to Tralee Castle. On the orders of Lady Margaret Denny, they were all hanged from a gibbet.

Cliffs of Moher, looking south towards Hag’s Head.

Valentia Island: Trinidad (800 tons, 302 men) was wrecked on the coast of Desmond — probably at Valentia Island, off the coast of south Kerry — although there are no details of this event.

Zuñiga, depicted in the anonymous Greenwich Cartoon. An Armada galeass, similar to, depicted in the anonymous Greenwich Cartoon.

At Liscannor the oar-powered galleass Zuñiga (290, Naples) anchored off-shore with a broken rudder, having found a gap in the Cliffs of Moher, which rise sheer from the sea over 220 metres. The ship came under surveillance by the sheriff of Clare and, when a cock-boat was sent ashore in search of supplies, the Spanish were attacked by crown forces and had to withdraw to their ship. One captive was taken and sent for interrogation. Zuñiga escaped the coast with favourable winds, put in at Le Havre, and finally made it back to Naples the following year.

Ulster [ edit ]

Donegal: La Trinidad Valencera (1,000 tons, Levant squadron, 360 men, 42 guns) had taken on more water than could be pumped out. Yet as she approached the coast she managed to rescue 264 men from the Barca de Amburgo, another ship swamped in the heavy seas. Trinidad anchored in Glenagivney Bay, where she listed to such a degree that the order was given to abandon ship. Some locals were paid for the use of a small boat, and over the course of two days all 560 men were ferried to shore.[8]

Dunluce Castle.

During a seven-day march inland, the column of survivors met a force of cavalry under the command of Richard Hovenden and Henry Hovenden[9] foster-brothers of Hugh O’Neill, 3rd Earl of Tyrone.[citation needed] Upon pledges of safe conduct for their delivery into the custody of Fitzwilliam — given in the presence of the Earl of Tyrconnell — the Spanish laid down their arms.[citation needed] The noblemen and officers were separated out, and 300 of the ordinary men were massacred. The surviving 150 fled through the bog, ending up either with Sorley Boy MacDonnell at Dunluce or at the house of Redmond O’Gallagher, the bishop of Derry, and were sent to Scotland. The 45 noblemen and officers were marched to Dublin, but only 30 survived to reach the capital, where they were dispatched to London for ransom.

Three further ships — unidentified — were wrecked on the Donegal coast, one at Mullaghderg, one at Rinn a’ Chaislean. The third was found in 2010 at Burtonport.[10]

Antrim: The greatest loss of life was on the sinking of the galleass La Girona. She had docked for repairs to her rudder at Killybegs, where 800 survivors from two other Armada shipwrecks were taken aboard – from La Rata Santa Maria Encoronada and Duquesa Santa Ana, which went aground at Loughros Mor Bay, Donegal. La Girona set sail for Scotland, but on 26 October her rudder broke and she was wrecked off Lacada Point, County Antrim. Of the estimated 1300 people on board, only nine survived.[11]

Connacht [ edit ]

The Governor of Connacht, Richard Bingham, sought reinforcements from Dublin but his request was denied by Fitzwilliam, who had few resources at his disposal. A proclamation made it treason on pain of death for any man to help Spaniards. Many survivors were delivered to Galway from all over the province. In the first wave of seizures, 40 noblemen were reserved for ransom, and 300 men were put to death. Later, on the orders of Fitzwilliam, all the unarmed noblemen except two were also executed, along with six Dutch boys who had fallen into custody afterward. In all, 12 ships were wrecked on the coast of Connacht, and 1,100 survivors were put to death.[12][13]

Galway: Falcon Blanco (300 tons, 103 men, 16 guns) and Concepción de Juanes del Cano of Biscay (225 men, 18 guns) and another unknown ship entered Galway Bay. Falcon Blanco grounded at Barna, five km west of Galway City, and most of those on board made it to shore. Concepción de Juanes del Cano grounded at Carna 30 km further west, having been lured to shore by the bonfires of a party of wreckers from the Clan O’Flaherty

Sligo: Three ships grounded near Streedagh Strand, ten miles North of Sligo town, with 1,800 men drowned and perhaps 100 coming ashore. The wreck-site was discovered in 1985. Among the survivors was Captain Francisco de Cuellar, who gave a remarkable account of his experiences in the fleet and on the run in Ireland.

La Lavia (25 guns), was a Venetian merchantman and the Vice-flagship;

(25 guns), was a Venetian merchantman and the Vice-flagship; La Juliana (32 guns) was a Catalan merchantman; and

(32 guns) was a Catalan merchantman; and Santa Maria de Vison (de Biscione) (18 guns) was a Ragusan merchantman.

Mayo: In September a galleon was wrecked at Tyrawley (modern County Mayo). Tradition[example needed] has it that another ship was wrecked in the vicinity, near Kid Island, but no record remains of this event. Also, Gran Grin was wrecked at the mouth of Clew Bay.

Among those ships wrecked in Connacht was the merchant carrack La Rata Santa Maria Encoronada (419 men, 35 guns), which had run for the Irish coast in desperate need of repair, along with four other ships of the Levant squadron and four galleons. La Rata Santa Maria Encoronada carried an unusually large number of noblemen from the most ancient families of Spain — chief among them Don Alonso Martinez de Leyva — as well as the son of the Irish rebel, James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald.

La Rata Santa Maria Encoronada was skillfully handled along the northern coast of Mayo, but could not clear the Mullet Peninsula, and so anchored in Blacksod Bay on 7 September. The wind got up and the anchors dragged, until the ship was driven on to Ballycroy strand. All the crew got to shore under the leadership of de Leyva, and two castles were seized and fortified with munitions and stores from the beached ship, which was then torched. The rebel’s son, Maurice Fitzmaurice, had died on board, and was cast into the sea in a cypress chest.

The Spanish soon moved on to another castle, where they were met by a host of fellow survivors, approaching from the wreck in Broadhaven of another ship, which had entered that bay without masts. De Leyva’s host now numbered 600, and the governor of Connacht, Richard Bingham, chose not to confront them. After some days two ships of the Armada entered Blacksod Bay — the merchantman Nuestra Señora de Begoña (750 tons, 297 men) and the transport Duquesa Santa Ana (900 tons, 23 guns, 357 men). De Leyva and his 600 men boarded Duquesa Santa Ana. Nuestra Señora de Begoña sailed straight for Santander, Spain, arriving some time later. Duquesa Santa Ana, however, was somewhat damaged and it was decided to sail north for Scotland. Stormy weather soon hit Duquesa Santa Ana and she was grounded in Loughros Bay in Donegal, with all aboard reaching shore in what was friendly territory.

De Leyva, who had been seriously injured by a capstan, pitched camp on the shore of the bay for nine days, until news came of another ship of the fleet, the galleass Girona, which had anchored in Killybegs harbour while two other ships had been lost on attempting to enter the harbour. With the assistance of an Irish chieftain, MacSweeney Bannagh, Girona was repaired and set sail in mid-October with 1,300 men on board, including de Leyva. Lough Foyle was cleared, but then a gale struck and Girona was driven ashore at Dunluce in modern County Antrim. There were nine survivors, who were sent on to Scotland by Sorley Boy MacDonnell; 260 bodies were washed ashore.

A wild coast on Inishmore , largest of the Aran Islands.

Aran Islands: Two ships were sighted off the Aran Islands: one failed to land a party in hard weather, and it is not known what became of them.

Antrim: The single greatest loss of life occurred upon the wreck of the galleass Girona on the coast of Antrim after she had taken on board many survivors from other ships wrecked on the coast of Connacht (see Ulster, above).

Aftermath [ edit ]

Between 17 and 24 ships of the Grand Armada were lost on the Irish coast, accounting for about one-third of the fleet’s total loss of 63, with the loss of about 6,000 men.[14]

By the end of September 1588 Fitzwilliam was able to report to the Queen’s secretary, Lord Burghley, that the Armada alarm was over. Soon after, he reckoned that only about 100 survivors remained in the country. In 1596, an envoy of Philip II arrived in Ireland to make inquiries of survivors and was successful in only eight cases.

Following the defeat of the Armada the English sent their own fleet against the Iberian peninsula, but failed to press home their advantage and returned with similar losses. At the height of the Anglo-Spanish War the Spanish landed 3,500 troops in the south of Ireland to assist the Ulster rebel leader Hugh O’Neill, during the Nine Years’ War (1594–1603). This expedition also failed, and Spain and England concluded a peace in 1604.

By the time of the peace the Spanish had restored their dominance at sea, and treasure from the New World was flowing in to their Royal Treasury at an increased rate. Elizabeth’s successor James I neglected his fleet and chose to secure crown influence in Ireland: in 1607 the lords of Gaelic Ulster fled to the continent, and the English conquest of Ireland was largely completed on the seizure and colonisation of their territories in the Plantation of Ulster in 1610.

There is a myth that the Spanish Armada left descendents in Ireland, however research has discredited such claims.[15][better source needed]

Salvage [ edit ]

The first salvage attempts were made within months, on the coast of County Clare by George Carew, who complained[citation needed] at the expense “of sustaining the divers with copious draughts of usequebaugh” [Uisce Beatha – Irish for whiskey].

Sorley Boy MacDonnell recovered three brass cannon and two chests of treasure from the wreck of Girona.

In 1797 a quantity of lead and some brass guns were raised from the wreck of an unknown Armada ship at Mullaghderg in County Donegal. Two miles further south, in 1853, an anchor was recovered from another unknown Armada wreck.[16]

The Spanish Armada in art [ edit ]

The Grainuaile Suite (1985), an orchestral treatment of the life of the Irish sea-queen Gráinne O’Malley by Irish composer Shaun Davey, contains a lament on the Spanish landings in Ireland, sung by Rita Connolly.

The wrecking of La Girona was commemorated in illustrations of the Armada and the Antrim coast which appear on the reverse side of sterling banknotes issued by the First Trust Bank in Northern Ireland.

The final published novel of Anthony Burgess, Byrne: A Novel, features a protagonist who is specifically stated to be descended from Spanish survivors who remained in Ireland.

The Luck of the Irish and Darby O’Gill and the Little People are American films that make reference to the wrecking of the Spanish armada as an explanation for leprechauns having pots of gold.

The Spanish-Portuguese co-produced short animated film The Monkey (2021), influenced by the story of The Hartlepool Monkey, focuses on the treatment of the Spanish shipwrecked on Irish shores. The film, which stars Colm Meaney won the Goya, for best Best Animated Short Film in 2021.[17]

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

The Spanish Armada, Ireland and the Black Irish explained

How the Spanish Armada came to crash off the coast of Ireland:

It is well-known in Ireland that dark features of those from west coastal counties are attributed to bloodlines who survived Spanish Armada’s untimely shipwrecks. Here, Leonie O’Hara takes a closer look at tragic events of 16th-century disasters and their present-day evidence along stormy Sligo coast.

The historical events of the Spanish Armada of 1588, Spain’s great naval effort to conquer Protestant England, and the devastating consequences off the Irish coast have been well documented. In the Armada’s attempt to return home through North Atlantic they were driven off-course by bad weather and close on 24 ships were wrecked off the Irish coast from Antrim in the north to Kerry in the south.

About 5,000 men in total perished in Ireland. Many were put to death by Elizabeth’s army and the rest escaped to Scotland. The Spanish Armada was the largest naval invasion fleet ever known at the time, consisting of 130 ships and 29,450 men of various nationalities, including soldiers, sailors, a large number of priests and servants, all under command of Duke of Medina Sidonia, who ruled with an iron fist. Several events prior to the sailing of the Armada led to Philip II of Spain’s decision to take action against England.

Relations between England ruled by Protestant Elizabeth I and Catholic Spain were becoming increasingly strained and a potential war threatened for some time. Elizabeth had impeded in the war in Spanish-held Netherlands (at the time Spain controlled what was called Spanish Netherlands – modern day Holland and Belgium).

Also, Philip believed he had a claim to English throne having been consort to Mary (Mary Tudor) who was reigning Queen of England from 1554-1558. When Mary was executed by Elizabeth in February 1587, and in same year Sir Francis Drake attacked Spanish post of Cadiz, Philip’s decision was set. Preparations for the Armada were long and tedious. However, by May 1588, the fleet set sail from the mouth of Tagus in Spanish-held Lisbon, Portugal, in what was to become known as “Enterprise of England.”

Read more: Who were the Black Irish, and what is their story?

The purpose of the Spanish Armada was to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I, restore England to Catholicism, and quash the threat of an English war on Spain and her colonies. The proposed plan devised by Philip, Marquis of Santa Cruz and Duke of Parma, was that the fleet carrying 19,000 troops and equipment was to sail up the English Channel. Their orders were that if Queen’s ships attacked them they were, if possible, to destroy them.

It was thought that their sheer weight of numbers and arms would secure them control of Channel. Following this, the Armada was to make its way to Flanders to rendezvous with Duke of Parma’s forces and escort Parma’s army to attack England.

Reports of preparations of the Spanish Armada filtered through to English-occupied Ireland, mainly from crews of trading ships from Spain and France. For Irish rebels abroad, many of whom joined the fleet, the prospect of Armada’s invasion of England was good news.

The last Desmond rebellion had been crushed around 1583, by Elizabeth’s army and their lands confiscated. The defeated chieftains of Munster and their compatriots went into exile in Spain, many working in navy and army. These Irish exiles hoped that a Spanish victory might restore their lands.

While in the English Channel, the Armada moved in a tight crescent shape to ensure protection from attack. At first, this confused the English who were at a loss as to how to assail enemy. However, eventually, they successfully broke crescent formation by sending in fire ships by night. This caused panic among the Spanish fleet and the subsequent attack, which became known as The Battle of Gravelines, resulted in a critical loss of men and ships for Spanish.

The English fleet, however, remained virtually unscathed. When ammunition stocks were almost exhausted and the wind changed drastically, Sidonia ordered the fleet to sail north around Scotland, and along the coast of Ireland. However, violent storms meant some ships detached from the fleet and crashed along Irish coastlines. The scattered ships of Armada began to be seen off the west coast of Ireland in September 1588.

Read more: Historians find possible mass grave of Spanish Armada victims in Co. Clare

In Dublin, Elizabeth’s government issued dire warnings about how Spanish were to be dealt with, along with any Irish who attempted to aid them immediate death. Philip’s Spanish Armada was unsuccessful. From the outset, the fleet was beleaguered with misfortune. Inclement weather hampered progress and commanding officer of the entire fleet, Sidonia, although an outstanding general, had never been to sea before and spent much of voyage seasick.

Another possible contributor to Spanish failure is that English ships were better made. Food which was kept in unseasoned casks at sea in summer was open to decay, filth, weevils, maggots and waterlogging. By the time some of the fleet’s ships were wrecked off the coast of Ireland provisions were low and the crew was weak with sickness, malnutrition and exhaustion. In County Sligo, where three ships of fleet sunk off the coast in a treacherous gale on September 25, 1588, a recent exciting discovery has confirmed their existence.

The remains of these ships have lain undisturbed on the seabed of a small beach off the coast of Sligo for 397 years. The final resting place of wrecks of ships La Lavia, La Juliana, and Santa Maria de Vision that were part of Philip II of Spain’s great fleet lies at bottom of the sea in Streedagh Strand which is near the village of Grange in County Sligo on the northwestern coast of Ireland.

In a landmark discovery, wrecks were detected by members of Streedagh Armada Group in May 1985. The search was led by Steven Birch, who, with his team of English divers made groundbreaking discovery of what remains of ships in Streedagh.

Although the fact had been known locally since the time of wreckings, this was the first search that verified the existence of Armada ships in this area. Dr. Colin Martin, Armada historian and specialist underwater archaeologist officiated, and sites were recorded. Due to exposed nature of their location, three cannons were removed for preservation and subsequently retrieved by Office of Public Works for safekeeping. They are now held in Collins Barracks museum in Dublin where they are exhibited to the public.

A Letter of one who was with the Armada of England and an Account of Expedition was written by de Cúellar in Antwerp in 1589. De Cúellar’s testimony provides us with evidence of what occurred and is an important social and historical document detailing often horrific events he witnessed as he journeyed throughout areas of north Sligo, Leitrim and on Causeway coast of north Antrim.

What happened that fateful day is documented in de Cúellar’s record. The three ships had become detached from their squadron and drifted off the coast of Streedagh. A westward wind was howling and ships had few anchors, having cut them at English fire ship attack near Calais. They were hit by Atlantic storm and lifted as pounding waves on seaward side forced them over.

Eventually, the vessels rapidly broke up. Since the issue of ownership of wrecks has been a subject of contentious dispute and complicated legalities, after much legal dispute, it was finally ascertained that ownership of wrecks was to be designated to Irish State who now acts as a protector to these sites.

There is also another important aspect to events of Streedagh in 1588. One of Spanish aboard La Lavia who escaped subsequent massacre ashore, lived to tell the tale, outlining what happened in a letter. Francisco de Cúellar’s record of events when he was washed up, exhausted and broken, in Streedagh and his subsequent travels until he eventually got back to Spain survives. De Cúellar, a native of Castille-Y-Leon in Spain originally joined the fleet as captain of galleon San Pedro which was part of the squadron of Castille (he lost his rank and was transferred to La Lavia for disobeying orders).

There she drifted along, rolling over in different

directions with waves until she went ashore, where

she settled wrong side up…

It is estimated that from three vessels about 1,800 men drowned and the rest came ashore at Streedagh. The English George Bingham’s army killed 140 Spanish at Streedagh. However, even before English forces arrived, surviving Spanish had to deal with Irish. Thousands of Irish natives gathered in sparsely populated Streedagh, beach now littered with bodies, flotsam and injured. Several Irish attacked (but contrary to popular view at the time, did not kill) Spanish, instead they took their money, clothes, jewelry and whatever could be salvaged from ships.

Having escaped, de Cúellar’s now famous testimony records his epic journey. He found refuge from friendly chieftains (O’Rourke and McClancy) in then English-garrisoned North County Sligo/Leitrim. De Cúellar also witnessed much cruelty, arriving at nearby Staid Abbey he found “twelve Spaniards hanging within the church by act of Lutheran English.” Later, after being forced to work as a blacksmith in Glenade valley de Cúellar fetches up at McClancy castle at Rossclogher, Lough Melvin, County Leitrim and spent his days telling fortunes to women.

After defending McClancy’s castle from English forces, de Cúellar was offered, as a token of gratitude, hand in marriage of McClancy’s sister. However, de Cúellar slipped away quietly and resumed his journey home. Subsequently, Brian O’Rourke, Prince of Breffni and McClancy who had helped de Cúellar were both executed by the English crown. The tragic events of September 1588 are commemorated every September in Grange, County Sligo, by the Grange Armada Development Association to pay homage to all who perished.

My thanks to Fergus O’Hagan of Moneygold, Grange, County Sligo for his help with writing this article.

* Originally published in July 2013 in Ireland of the Welcomes.

Ireland–Spain relations

Bilateral relations

Ireland–Spain refers to the current and historical relations between the Republic of Ireland and the Kingdom of Spain. Both states are members of the European Union, the Eurozone and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

History [ edit ]

Early relations [ edit ]

The first awareness and contact between both nations was through stories about Celtic migration from Iberia to Ireland as mentioned in the Lebor Gabála Érenn regarding the Milesians.[1]

The first diplomatic contact between Irish and Spanish nobility happened in April 1529 when the Spanish ambassador, Don Gonzalez Fernandez, visited Ireland and met with The 10th Earl of Desmond. The agreement, known as the Treaty of Dingle, gave a formal legal and constitutional foundation to the rights of citizenship and other privileges that Irish exiles and émigrés enjoyed in Habsburg Spain, Habsburg Austria and Habsburg Netherlands from the 16th to the early 20th centuries.[2] Both nations felt united in their common beliefs of Catholicism, but this was not an issue in 1529.[1] In 1554-58 Philip Prince of Asturias was married to Mary I and was named as titular King of Ireland in the Papal Bull Ilius ad quem. As a result, during the first plantations of Ireland what is now County Offaly was shired as “King’s County”, and Philipstown (now Daingean) was named in his honour, the first Irish place named after someone from Spain. Soon after Mary’s death he succeeded as Philip II of Spain.

In 1601, Spain supported Irish rebels fighting against England during the Nine Years War, and especially during the Siege of Kinsale. At the time, the Catholics of Ireland saw Spain as a potential liberator of their country from Protestant England and in 1595 Hugh O’Neill offered the crown of Ireland to Philip II of Spain. Philip refused the offer, having already been the titular King of Ireland.

Many Irishmen in rebellion against English rule subsequently sought refuge in Spain following the Flight of the Earls (1607), and for the next two centuries Irish soldiers contributed to Spanish Army of Flanders and fought side by side during the Dutch Revolts and during the Thirty Years’ War.[3] During the Anglo-Spanish War (1625–1630) proposals were made in 1627 to launch an invasion of Ireland under Shane O’Neill and Hugh O’Donnell, but did not go further than the planning stage.[4]

Irish soldiers in the service of Spain also participated in the colonization of the Americas.[5] Several prominent Spanish officials of Irish origin governed and administered Spanish colonies as Viceroy’s, such as Juan O’Donojú in Mexico and Ambrosio O’Higgins in Peru, or became ministers in the Spanish government, most notably Leopoldo O’Donnell and his relatives Carlos O’Donnell and Juan O’Donnell. There were also Irish soldiers allied in the British Legions who fought for the independence of Gran Colombia against Spain.[5]

Independence for the Republic of Ireland and the Spanish Civil War [ edit ]

Memorial to Limerick International Brigade

In January 1801, Ireland became a part of the newly created United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and all relations between Ireland and Spain were henceforth carried out through the Court of St James’s. Napoleon’s Irish Legion took part in suppressing the Dos de Mayo Uprising. After the Napoleonic Wars the Regiment of Hibernia was disbanded at the demand of their British allies.

In December 1922, most of Ireland gained a form of independence within the British Empire as the Irish Free State and, in 1924, diplomatic relations were officially established between the new Irish Free State and the Kingdom of Spain.[6] That same year, Spain opened its first consulate in Dublin. In 1935, the first Irish Minister was appointed to Spain with residence in Madrid.[7]

In 1936, Spain was engulfed in a Civil War between the Republican faction led by President Manuel Azaña; and the Nationalist faction led by General Francisco Franco. The Free State was a member of the Non-intervention Committee. However, Ireland (North and South) was divided in opinion over the war. Many Irish Catholics sided with Francisco Franco. A smaller number sided with the Spanish Republican faction.[8] In 1936 the Irish Christian Front was established to financially support Francisco Franco and the Irish Brigade was created to fight for the Nationalist side and contributed 700 Irish volunteer soldiers to Franco.[8] The Irish-American politician Joe Kennedy stopped the US Congress from supplying arms to the Republic. At the same time, 250 Irish socialist volunteers joined the International Brigades and fought for the Spanish Republican faction.[8] Both Irish factions took part in the Battle of Jarama in February 1937. By the summer of 1937, the Irish Brigade was “disarmed and ordered out of Spain by Franco” (Fearghal McGarry);[8] most of the socialists stayed until late 1938, although they were frequently treated as pariahs on their return home, and many emigrated to the UK.[8] After the war ended in 1939, the Irish Minister presented his credentials in Burgos and formally recognized the new Spanish government under General Franco.[7][9]

Post-war relations [ edit ]

In 1973, both Northern Ireland (as part of the United Kingdom) and the Republic of Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC), and Spain followed suit in 1986. In July 1986, King Juan Carlos I of Spain paid his first official visit to the Republic of Ireland.[10] In 1993, Mary Robinson became the first Irish President to pay an official visit to Spain.[11] Since then, there have been numerous visits between leaders of both states. Recently, in January 2017, Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny paid a visit to Spain.[12]

Spain has increasingly become an important tourist destination for Irish travelers. In 2016, 1.4 million Irish citizens visited Spain for tourism. At the same time, 263,000 Spanish tourists visited Ireland.[13] In 2016, 35,000 Spanish nationals studied English in Ireland.[13] Several Irish and Spanish airlines provide direct services between both nations.

Bilateral agreements [ edit ]

Both the Republic of Ireland and Spain have signed several bilateral agreements (mostly prior to both states joining the European Union), such as an Agreement on the Exchange of Diplomatic Pouches (1935); Agreement on the Exchange of Information regarding Meteorology (1950); Extradition Treaty (1957); Cultural Cooperation Agreement (1980); Spanish Agreement on Renouncing Historic Rights of Fishing in Irish Waters (1980) and an Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation (1994).[14]

Trade [ edit ]

In 2015, trade between the Republic of Ireland and Spain totaled 4.5 billion Euros.[14] Ireland’s exports to Spain include: pharmaceutical products, electrical equipment, perfume and chemical based products. Spain’s exports to Ireland include: automobiles, clothing and organic chemical products.[14] That same year, Irish investments in Spain totaled 200 million Euros while at the same time, Spanish investments in the Republic of Ireland totaled 4 billion Euros.[14]

Resident diplomatic missions [ edit ]

Ireland has an embassy in Madrid. [15]

Spain has an embassy in Dublin.[16]

Embassy of Ireland in Madrid

Embassy of Spain in Dublin

See also [ edit ]

Ireland & Spain

Ireland & Spain

Published in Features

The historic links between Spain and Ireland are intellectual, economic, political, religious and especially military. However there are no racial or genetic links. The Gaelic Irish we can categorically state do not have Spanish origins. When the Lebor Gabála Érenn—the Book of Invasions—was composed as an integrative myth for the peoples of Ireland with the Gaels top-dogs, its scholarly creators latched onto geographical ideas emanating from the other great intellectual fulcrum of early Christian Europe, Visigothic Spain. In this origin myth the sons of King Milesius of Spain (Míl Espáine) became the ‘Milesians’, the founders of the all-conquering Gaels of Ireland.

During the Middle Ages trade links between Spain and Ireland flourished. Iron and wine were shipped to Ireland and hides and fish to Spain. Many Irish went as pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia; a bolder few travelled in the other direction to St Patrick’s Purgatory, Lough Derg, County Donegal. These carrying trades were boosted by association with the growing Spanish/ Basque exploitation of Ireland’s maritime fishery from the Late Middle Ages. Gaelic Irish lords on the west coast taxed and protected this fishery.

In the sixteenth century the relationship became political. The Gaelic Irish under pressure from the advancing English conquest sought alliance with Catholic Spain, the leading power of the day, who in turn recognised Ireland as a strategically-sited back door to England. In a sense the Armada of 1588 had not been a complete failure. In spite of the drowning and execution of thousands of Spaniards on Irish shores, the event had demonstrated to the Irish the high level of Spanish commitment against England. A Spanish Armada finally disembarked in 1601. Too little, too late. O’Neill and O’Donnell having marched the length of Ireland committed themselves to an unnecessary pitched battle at the urging of the Spaniards inside the walls of Kinsale. The Spaniards evacuating Kinsale denounced their allies as a barbarous undisciplined rabble. Though Ireland was lost to the Irish; the Irish weren’t lost to Spain. Its depleted armies and military aristocracy needed replenishment.

The Irish themselves played the Milesian card. They renovated the old myth to emphasise Spanish origins and ultimately to gain citizenship. O’Donnell, when he first wrote seeking Spanish assistance, claimed his ancestors came from Cantabria and when he arrived in Coruña from the defeat at Kinsale he was taken to visit the Tor Bregon. Irish regiments were established in Spanish service and aristocratic hauteur, pure blood and religious orthodoxy provided their commanders with a ready entry into the Spanish governing class via the military orders. Ireland provided Spain with prime ministers in Alejandro O’Reilly in the eighteenth and Leopoldo O’Donnell in the nineteenth century. Other Irish fought in Spain’s American empire—some to build and maintain it but others to contest it and ultimately dismantle it. Spain also gave back to Ireland. Most notably it trained Catholic priests in the Irish colleges to return to Ireland to fortify the faith when none could be trained at home.

Irish Catholics had the opportunity to return the favour at the time of the Spanish Civil War when many volunteered for and many more contributed money to General Franco’s Nationalist cause. A smaller number of Irish Republicans and Socialists went to fight for the beleaguered Spanish Republic in what they too saw as a war to save civilisation. It is an interesting twist of historical memory that modern, secular Ireland now finds their minority cause the more compelling!

Today many Spaniards come to Ireland to study and many Irish who holiday abroad head for Spain. Both countries pursuing their particular paths in Europe have many problems in common and for comparison. These include issues of economic expansion, environment, immigration, fisheries and the respective peace processes in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country.

Ireland and the Spanish Armada 1588 – The Irish Story

Ireland’s role in the inglorious end of Phillip of Spain’s attempt to invade England. By John Dorney

On September 16, 1588 seven Spanish ships appeared off Liscannor, sighted by Nicholas Cahane, an agent of Boetius Clancy, the High Sherriff of County Clare. They were the miserable remnants of a once mighty Spanish fleet.

They anchored off Kilrush, where the starving sailors attempted to trade with the locals for food and water. Six ships sailed away unscathed, but another, the Annunciada sank off Scattery Island, was set alight by crew and looted by locals. Two other ships were also lost: the San Estaban and San Marcos, with the loss of around 800 lives.

Crawling ashore, half drowned, malnourished and in no fit state to resist, the survivors, about 300 men, were massacred at Spanish Point by both Irish forces raised by the O’Briens and English soldiers led by the Sherriff, Boetius Clancy. [1]

Introduction-The Invincible Armada

The Spanish Armada, also known as the ‘Invincible Armada’ (La Armada Invencible), was an attempt by the Spanish King Phillip II at a seaborne invasion of the Kingdom of England. The Armada was the culmination of long running rivalry between England and Spain over strategic, trade and religious issues.

The Spanish Armada was the Spanish fleet charged with escorting the Spanish Army of Flanders to England’s shores.

The ‘Armada’ itself refers to the Spanish fleet assembled for the operation, which was intended to escort the Spanish Army of Flanders across the English channel, past the English fleet. Although Ireland had featured in previous drafts of Spanish invasion plans, it did not form a part of Spanish strategy in 1588.

Nevertheless, Ireland was, in the end, central to the defeat of the Armada. The Spanish fleet was blown north and west around the western Irish coast. As many as 27 ships and perhaps up to 9,000 Spanish soldiers and sailors lost their lives off the Atlantic coast of Ireland, either through drowning or were killed by English troops or Irish chieftains after they were washed ashore.

At the same time some Irish who were sympathetic to the Spaniards sheltered them and some kept them on as soldiers.

The European Context

Spain was the leading power in Europe and arguably the world. Phillip II of the house of Habsburg inherited European possessions including not only the Spanish kingdoms of Castille and Aragon, but also the Kingdom of Naples in southern Italy, the Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily, several principalities in northern Italy and what was then known as the Spanish Netherlands.

In 1580-81 when the King of Portugal died without an heir, Phillip managed to make himself head of that kingdom too, together with its Atlantic fleet and overseas possessions.

Spain was the superpower of 16th century Europe. England as yet was a bit player.

Additionally the Spanish crown controlled vast swathes of central and South America, including modern Mexico (‘New Spain’), and most of what is now Spanish-speaking South America (the Vice-Royalty of Peru). From there the Spaniards shipped back huge quantities of gold and other precious metals, which funded further conquests. Phillip’s empire also included the modern Philippines, and since the union with Portugal, the coast of modern Brazil and outposts in India and Africa as well.

England by contrast, was not yet a major European power. It had no permanent standing army and though it controlled (as yet shakily) the Kingdom of Ireland, its foreign possessions paled in comparison with those of the Spanish monarchy – including only some outposts in north America and in modern Bangladesh.

The Anglo Spanish War broke out against the background of religious turmoil in Europe. The Protestant ‘Reformation’ aimed initially at Reforming the Catholic Church had by the late 16th century, hardened into a number of breakaway Christian faiths. At a time when the monarch was generally taken to be ‘God’s anointed’, where the subjects and the monarch differed over religion it almost inevitably led to civil war, as it did in France, the German states and, since the 1560s, between the Catholic Spanish rulers of the Netherlands (modern Netherlands and Belgium) and their predominantly Calvinist Dutch subjects.

Rivalry between Spain and England was part religious warfare and part strategic competition.

Between England and Spain and between their monarchs Phillip II and Elizabeth I there was personal religious animosity. Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII had broken with the papacy but his daughter Mary I, product of Henry’s marriage to a Spanish princess had reversed Henry’s policy and restored Catholicism as state religion. Mary married Phillip II of Spain who was thus (joint) King of England and Ireland with Mary between 1553 and Mary’s death, without children, in 1558.

When Elizabeth Tudor, who had been imprisoned under her sister Mary, took over as queen she reversed the counter-reformation and founded an enduring Protestant monarchy with a state Church of England.

This was a blow to Phillip’s pride, his religious scruples and represented a loss of a strategic ally, but was not enough in itself to spark war between England and Spain.

The Anglo Spanish War

Starting in 1562, Elizabeth authorized English ‘privateers’ that is freelance naval captains, to raid Spanish shipping crossing the Atlantic. As so much of Spanish wealth depended on the importation of American gold this was a very serious potential risk to Spanish interests.

The stakes were further raised with the outbreak of rebellion against the Elizabethan English state in both northern England and southern Ireland (the First Desmond Rebellion, which last until 1573) in 1569. Both revolts had an aspect of Catholic crusade. The Pope Pius V formally excommunicated Elizabeth in 1570. This was a very serious matter as it meant that any Catholic monarch could legitimately overthrow her and that rebellions against her now had religious sanction.[2]

The Spanish decision to invade England and depose Elizabeth was taken after raids on Spanish shipping in the Atlantic and Carribean in 1586.

Both the Spaniards and the Papacy gave military aid to Irish Catholic Geraldine rebels 1579-80 in the Second Desmond rebellion and a 600 strong Papal force of both Italian and Spanish soldiers landed at Smerwick, in Kerry in 1580 to aid the uprising, only to be captured and massacred by English forces.[3]

Furthermore in 1584, Spain committed itself to fight the spread of Protestantism in France.

By way of reprisal, England began aid to aid Protestant Dutch rebels against Spain with troops and money 1585. So by the mid 1580s, England and Spain were locked in mutually antagonistic rivalry, both aiding what would now be called proxy forces in their respective domains.

However the final straw for Phillip II did not come until 1586, when English attacks on shipping off Galicia, the Canaries and the Caribbean caused significant losses in ships and cargo. Losses on this scale could not be allowed to continue and it was only now that Phillip II directed his ministers to prepare for an invasion of England to force a change of regime.[4]

The Irish Context

Where did Ireland fit in to this conflict?

Ireland prior to 1542 had been a ‘Lordship’ of the monarch of England. It was only in that year that that Henry VIII declared the Kingdom of Ireland and himself as King of Ireland. It was one thing however to proclaim himself thus and a very different thing to actually control the whole island.

At that date English Crown control extended no further than the Pale, a small fortified area based around Dublin on the east coast and a handful of coastal towns such as Waterford and Cork. Outside of that were dozens of what amounted to small kingdoms, some of which were controlled by lords of mixed Irish and English ancestry such as the Fitzgeralds of Kildare and Desmond and the Butlers of Ormonde and others by indigenous Gaelic Irish chieftains.

Henry’s plan was that Irish lords would ‘surrender’ their lands to him, be re-granted them under English law and become, over generations ‘civilised’ English aristocrats. They would abandon their private armies and also abandon Irish language and customs and also adopt the Protestant state religion. The English, throughout the century spoke of a religious and civil ‘reformation’ in Ireland.

Ireland was in middle of a process of violent absorption into the English monarchy – what the English described a ‘civil reformation’.

It would not be true to say that the Irish lords en masse rejected the advance of the English state in Ireland. Many did accommodate themselves to it and adopt English titles. But for a complex mixture of reasons, some because they did not want any intrusion into their territory by anyone, some because succession disputes or rivalry between Irish lordships dragged in English forces and also by resistance to the imposition of an alien culture and religion, the English ‘civilizing mission’ in Ireland was marked by bouts of ferocious military conquest.

The Desmond Rebellions, in 1569-73 and 1579-83, were a combination of all of these factors and ended in the destruction of the Fitzgerald Earldom of Desmond and the Plantation of Munster with English settlers in the 1580s. Historians disagree over the level of Catholic Counter Reformation penetration of Ireland in this period but it is undeniable that the rebels declared themselves to be fighting for the One True Faith against ‘heresy’ and actively sought military aid from Catholic Europe. Refugees from the Desmond wars ended up in Spain and to a lesser extent France.

The first Irish regiment in Spanish service was born in 1587 when an Irish unit raised under an English Catholic, William Stanley and sent to the Netherlands, defected to the Spanish side. [5]

As a result Ireland appeared to the Spanish to be an obvious weak point for England, with a restive Catholic population that could be mobilized in their favour.

As the reception of the Armada off Ireland’s west coast in 1588 would show, however, the reality of Irish politics was far more complex and fragmented.

The Composition of Connacht

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the western province of Connacht, where much of the Spanish fleet would end up in September 1588.

In an effort to establish military control over the province, the English created the ‘Presidency of Connacht’ in 1569. The President was an English Military Governor, based in Athlone, whose job it was to enforce English authority, taxes and culture in return for recognising the English titles of designated Irish lords. In return, the local chieftains were supposed to give up their private armed forces, except for a small band of personal retainers. This was known as the ‘Composition of Connacht’. In 1588 the Lord President was Richard Bingham. [6]

The ‘Presidency’ was often brutal and generally unpopular, but was not universally resisted.

The composition of Connacht was the imposition of English style land-holding on the province overseen by a military governor.

The Presidency worked to the advantage of the two biggest Lords in Connacht – O’Brien of Thomond (in modern Clare, then considered part of Connacht) and Burke of Clanricard (in modern south and east Galway), whose leading families kept a firm grip on succession and who consolidated their power over their dependent clans with English backing.

Elsewhere though, the English presence provoked serious violence. The MacWilliam Burkes of north Mayo, for instance revolted after the English attempted to back an unpopular candidate for chieftain in 1585. In the same year, in a scheme known as the Composition of Connacht, Irish titles were abolished and English settlers were introduced into the province, mainly on confiscated monastic land.

The MacWilliams, joined by other discontented chieftains such as Brian O’Rourke in Leitrim, fought English forces led by President Richard Bingham throughout 1586. Only after the slaughter of 800 Scottish gallowglass soldiers they had brought in did they, for the time being, submit. [7]

So in 1588, when the Spaniards ended up off the coast of Ireland, they may have expected to find a sympathetic Catholic population ready to help them. What actually existed however was a highly fragmented political scene, in which the loyalties of individual lords depended not so much on ideology as on their immediate relationship to English power.

Spanish Plans

But the Spaniards, of course, never expected to arrive on Ireland’s west coast in 1588.

Spain was no stranger to naval warfare or to seaborne invasions. Sixteen years before the attack on England, at the battle of Lepanto 1571, a Spanish-led Catholic fleet –the ‘Holy League’ – had crushed the fleet of the Ottoman Turks, hitherto the dominant naval power in the eastern Mediterranean. And just six years previously in 1582, Phillip’s forces had successfully mounted an amphibious invasion of the Azores islands, the only Portuguese possession to resist the ‘Union of Crowns’ with Spain by force. [8]

While the invasion of England – an Atlantic power with formidable maritime expertise – was a challenge of a different order, it was clear that the Spanish threat to England was real.

Initial Spanish plans included a diversionary landing in Waterford but this was later dropped

Initially, Spanish strategists came up with a plan for a three pronged attack on England in 1586-87. Interestingly, this included a landing at Waterford, in south eastern Ireland in order to draw off English resources from the main assault over the English Channel. The Spanish fleet was to draw off its English counterpart as it went to deal with the Irish landing, and meanwhile the Spanish Army of Flanders was to cross the English Chanel unopposed.[9]

All had to be postponed however after the English naval commander Francis Drake launched a devastating attack on the Spanish port of Cadiz in 1587, destroying many ships and much of their stores.

The following year the Spaniards came up with a simpler plan. The ‘Invincible Armada’ – a fleet of 130 warships and supply ships, led by Duke Medina Sidonia – was to sail from Lisbon via Corunna, link up with the Army of Flanders, led by Allessando Farnese, the Duke of Parma. This force, 37,000 soldiers strong, was waiting at Calais to be escorted in a further 260 transport barges across the Channel onto the English coast. [10]

Had the Army of Flanders made it across the English channel there is little doubt there would have been ‘regime change’ in Protestant England.

There is little doubt that, had the Army of Flanders crossed into England, the veteran Spanish troops would have swept aside the raw English militias that Elizabeth could put into the field. In that event, Elizabeth was to be deposed and Parma was to act as interim military ruler until the Pope and Phillip II named a new, Catholic monarch. [11]

Elizabeth herself created a legend by addressing her troops at Tilbury in Essex, assembled (incidentally nowhere near the where the Spaniards intended to land) with the immortal words,

I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma[12] or Spain[13], or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.[14]

Stirring words no doubt, but in reality everything, for the English depended on stopping the Spaniards from crossing the channel.

In this they had some advantages. Their fleet may have been smaller than the Armada, but in terms of well armed warships, suitable for northern seas the English may even have had the edge. The operation was at the very limits of what the Spanish Empire was able to accomplish. Some ships had had to be hijacked in Spanish ports and pressed into service for the invasion. Many others were Mediterranean vessels, unsuited for the wild seas of the Atlantic. Some cannon had been hurriedly cast and burst when fired.

Most importantly of all, Spanish logistics were insufficient. Not enough food or water was supplied and some of it was begin to spoil by the time the great Armada set sail from Corunna. Many sailors got sick and supplies were perilously low by the time they reached English waters. [15]

Sea Battle

Sea battle was joined from July to late August 1588 as the Armada fought its way towards the coast of Flanders. It culminated in fierce encounter off the Gravellines, or the coast of the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium), with the English attempting desperately to break up the Armada and to prevent it from reaching its rendezvous with the Army of Flanders.

The English under Admiral Howard succeeded in breaking up the Spanish formation by use of ‘fire-ships’, vessels set alight with pitch and tar and sent towards the Spanish fleet. In the fighting that followed, superior English gunnery managed to bloody the Spaniards somewhat and to keep them away from the Duke of Parma’s army at the disembarkation point at Calais.

Superior English gunnery prevented the Armada from linking up with its land forces but it was the weather and lack of supplies that defeated it.

However, this was a tactical defeat for the Armada, not a catastrophe – only 5 ships were lost, though many others were damaged. Medina Sidonia, in command of the Armada had other problems however. Logistics had always been insufficient and now food and water supplies were beginning to run out altogether. Moreover, a ‘Protestant Wind (southerly and westerly), in early September forced the Spanish to head for home, north around the coast of Scotland and Ireland back to Corunna.

This turned out to be a far more costly enterprise than the battle itself.

The Armada in Ireland

As the Armada rounded the northern Irish coast, it was in dire need of re-provision of both food and water. For this reason the fleet had to approach the unfamiliar coast of Ireland. There it was hit by westerly gales and crashed into the rocky Atlantic coast. In all 24 ships and c.5-7000 men lost off Ireland, mostly by drowning. All sailing ships were, to a degree, at the mercy of the weather, the Armada, many of whose vessels were built for the much calmer Mediterranean, was more vulnerable than most.

The Annals of the Four Masters recorded;

Great numbers of the Spaniards were drowned, and their ships were totally wrecked in those places. The smaller part of them returned to Spain; and some say that nine thousand of them were lost on this occasion. [16]

Those who made it ashore generally fared little better than those lost at sea.

The Armada lost far more ships and men wrecked off Ireland than it battle with the English fleet.

The English Lord Deputy of Ireland, Fitzwilliam, issued a proclamation whereby ‘Harbouring Castaways’ was punishable by death. To his own officers he wrote;

‘Whereas the distressed fleet of the Spaniards by tempest and contrary winds, though the providence of God have been driven on the coast… where it is thought, great treasure and also ordinance, munitions [and] armour hath been cast. We authorize you to… to haul all hulls and to apprehend and execute all Spaniards found there of any quality soever. Torture May be used in prosecuting this inquiry.’[17]

This chilling order, not to spare prisoners ‘of any quality [i.e. rank or social status] whatsoever’ was startlingly ruthless. Accordingly Richard Bingham, the President of Connacht, and his brother George Bingham, executed up to 1,100 Spanish survivors of the wrecks who made it ashore in the western province. For instance, at Galway city, 300 Spanish prisoners including 40 aristocrats were beheaded on Fitzwilliam’s orders – though Bingham apparently regretted the loss of ransom money. Only a handful such as Don Luis de Cordoba, managed to secretly buy their way to safety.[18]

English treatment of Spanish prisoners in Ireland was ruthless, almost all were killed.

Native Irish treatment of the Spanish survivors was extremely varied.

In Connacht, most Irish lords cooperated with Bingham, particularly the largest lords O’Brien, Earl of Thomond, and Burke, Earl of Clanricarde. Other clans such as the O’Flahertys also handed over Spanish prisoners. Others, seem simply to have seen the Armada as an opportunity for personal gain. Dubhdarach O’Malley Roe, on Clare Island, for instance killed the Spanish survivors and kept their gold for himself.

Elsewhere, at Streedagh in modern County Sligo for instance, where four ships were lost, the locals robbed the Spaniards of any valuables they could find, but did not kill them.

However, in modern north Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim, areas which had very recently been in armed revolt against the English Crown – chieftains such as MacWilliam Burke, and Brian O’Rourke harboured Spaniards. [19]

Though some Irish lords sheltered the Spaniards, it seems the majority either looted them or handed them over to the English.

A rather ungrateful captain, Francisco de Cuellar, who was taken in by O’Rourke, wrote of ‘passing seven months among mountains and woods with savages’. Cuellar was shipwrecked on Streedagh beach, Sligo, spoke first of the ‘savages’ stripping and looting his ship, and the ‘English Lutherans’ hanging or cutting off the heads of his comrades wherever they captured them.

O’Rourke, whom he described as ‘a savage but a very good Christian and an enemy of the heretics, always carrying on war with them’, sent him through the territory of several other friendly clans including the McClancys and the O’Cahans to Derry, from where he secretly took ship back to the Spanish Netherlands. [20]

Although Cuellar reported that the Catholic Irish, with whom he conversed in Latin, repeatedly asked for a Spanish invasion, the Irish Annals were clear that, apart from O’Rourke and his allies, most of the Irish had sided with the Crown;

A great army was mustered by the Lord Justice of Ireland, Sir William Fitzwilliam; Sir Richard Bingham, Governor of the province of Connaught; and Sir Thomas Norris, Governor of the two provinces of Munster; together with the most of the men of Ireland… except the people of Ulster, the O’Rourke and Mac Sweeny-na-dTuath, who had formed friendship and alliance with some of the Spanish fleet which we have before mentioned. These forces spoiled every thing to which they came in their course, not belonging to the Queen’s people, from the Suck to the Drowes, and from the Drowes to the Finn. [21]

In Ulster, which was still largely outside of English control, the Spaniards seem to have fared somewhat better, at least if they survived shipwreck. In Antrim the Scottish/Irish MacDonnell clan led by Sorley Boy (Somhairle Buidh) helped up to 500 Spaniards escape to Scotland. [22].

The position of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, the most powerful northern leader, at this point still proclaiming himself a loyal subject to Elizabeth I, was hard to pin down. He sheltered and kept on a number of Spanish commanders to train his own forces, whom he was soon to lead in a war against the Elizabethan state. [23] Nevertheless, he also reported to Fitzwilliam the Lord Deputy that he had ‘put a large number of Spaniards to the sword’ in Inishowen (modern Donegal).[24]

Ironically enough, those Spaniards lucky enough to be shipwrecked in England itself were generally treated much more leniently. Most were taken prisoner and eventually repatriated.

Ireland, where English authority was tenuous enough for them feel that extreme ruthlessness was a necessity, was the real grave of the ‘Invincible Armada’.

Aftermath

The defeat of the Armada, as much by bad weather, poor planning and bad luck as by battle, seemed a providential escape to English Protestants – literally gift sent by God. Nevertheless, war between England and Spain continued indecisively until 1604 – an ‘English Armada’, sent to destroy the port at Corruna 1589 was itself defeated with 40 ships sunk and 10,000 men lost.

In Ireland itself the immediate effects of the Armada are hard to gauge. The frantic military activity all over the west destabilized the always fragile political situation there. North Connacht rose in rebellion again in 1589, though again, mainly over local grievances. Brian O’Rourke who had harboured many Spaniards fled to Scotland but was handed over the English and hanged.

Certainly however, those areas, principally in the north, who had helped the wrecked Spaniards in 1588, helped to forge an enduring connection between Catholic Ireland and Catholic Spain.

During Hugh O’Neill and Hugh O’Donnell’s Nine Years War (1595-1603) against the English Crown, both lords were in constant communication with Phillip II, who aided them with weapons, money and finally a landing of Spanish troops at Kinsale in 1601-2.

Despite the fate of the Armada in Ireland, the late 16th century saw a strong bond created between Irish Catholics and the Spanish monarchy, through mutual hostility to Protestant England.

None of this should obscure the reality however that in the year of the Armada, the Irish weather and probably the majority of the Irish concerned helped to seal the fate of Spanish Armada.

This article is a version of a talk given at Kilrush, County Clare, on August 14, 2015 for the Office of Public Works (OPW). By My thanks to Padraig Og O Ruairc for inviting me.

References

[1] John O’Brien, The Other Clare, Vol 3, 1979, http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/history/spanish_armada.htm

[2] See the Bull here http://tudorhistory.org/primary/papalbull.html

[3] Colm Lennon, Sixteenth Century Ireland, The Incomplete Conquest, Gill & MacMillan, Dublin 1994, p226

[4] Geoffrey Parker ,Empire War and Faith in Early Modern Europe, p50

[5] William Marmion, Irish regiments in the Spanish Army of Flanders https://www.theirishstory.com/2015/07/28/irish-regiments-in-the-spanish-army-of-flanders/#.VdNqkbJVhHw

[6] Lennon, Sixteenth century Ireland, p240-248

[7] Lennon, p249-255, Gallowglass refers to Gall Oglaigh, ‘foreign warriors’ traditional Scottish Gaelic soldiers for hire.

[8] Parker, Empire War and Faith p23-24

[9] Parker, Empire, War and Faith, p50

[10] Ibid. p55-57

[11] Ibid, p55-56

[12] Alessando Farnese Duke of Parma, an Italian who commanded the Spanish Army

[13] King Phillip II of Spain

[14] Online here http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item102878.html

[15] Geoffrey Parker, Colin Martin, The Spanish Aramda, (1999), p140

[16] Annals of the Four Masters 1588, parts 10

[17] Calendar of Carew Manuscripts 1575-1588, online here.

[18] Parker, Martin The Spanish Armada, p224, see also this blog article http://ronangearoid.blogspot.ie/2011/01/1588-dark-year-for-galway.html

[19] Lennon, Sixteenth Century Ireland p237

[20] Captain Cuellar’s letters are online here http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T108200.html

[21] Annals of the Four Masters 1588, part 14, online here http://www.ucc.ie/celt/online/T100005E/text009.html

[22] Parker, martin The Spanish Armada, p225

[23] Ibid. P228

[24] Hiram Morgan, Tyrone’s Rebellion p106

The Spanish Armada

Throughout 1587 and early 1588, rumours that Philip of Spain was assembling a massive fleet to conquer England and Ireland were spreading like wildfire. Reports came to Ireland mainly from the crews of trading ships returning from the ports of Spain and France. English intelligence sources confirmed these rumours but Elizabeth evidently believed that a war situation could be avoided, even up to early 1588, when the massive fleet was nearing readiness to sail from Lisbon. From the outset, the fleet seemed destined for bad luck. After a month at sea, little progress had been made due to unfavourable winds. Food which was badly packed had already gone rotten and drinking water had gone stagnant. Scarcely had the major part of the fleet reached the shelter of Corunna, in the North West of Spain, than a fierce gale arose in the Bay of Biscay, scattering the remaining ships. By the time these had made their way back to Corunna and were ready to sail again with fresh provisions, it was July 12th. Morale was much higher as the fleet of over 130 vessels, galleons, galleys, merchantmen, galleasses, supply ships and pataches, carrying almost 30,000 men, hoisted sails for the English channel. The purpose of the Armada was firstly to enable the huge army of the Duke of Parma to cross in safety from France to England, and having accomplished this, its second objective was to wipe out the English fleet. From the mouth of the channel the Armada moved in a tight crescent-shaped formation, defying and puzzling the English. However, the English succeeded in breaking the formation by sending in fireships by night, causing panic among the Spaniards. In the subsequent sea battle of Gravelines, grave losses of ships and men were incurred by the Spanish fleet while the English fleet came through unscathed. The battle ended when ammunition stocks were almost exhausted. The wind changed to south south-west and the commander of the Armada, the Duke of Medina Sidonia ordered that the fleet should sail North, around Scotland and wide around Ireland and back to Spain. When Boetius Clancy, High Sheriff of Clare, looked out from the Cliffs of Moher at the two large ships lurking off the Aran Islands on September 16th he was a rather worried man. News of the sighting of ships was coming from all along the western coast of Ireland, and the English authorities, with a lack of supplies and manpower, were greatly concerned. The fact that the English fleet had been victorious and that the Spanish fleet had been badly battered, was not generally known. Indeed, rumours to the contrary were prevalent and it is only natural that the possibility of an invasion of Ireland by an army of such power and reputed ferocity, would frighten the English authorities. This must be borne in mind when one reads the following extract from an order signed by William Fitzwilliam, the Lord Deputy, but in no way excuses the ruthless barbarity with which the order was carried out.

” we authorise you to make inquiry by all good means, both by oath and otherwise, to take all the hulls of ships, stores, treasures, etc. into your hands and to apprehend and execute all Spaniards found there of what quality so ever. Torture may be used in prosecuting this inquiry. On the same day, another Spanish ship, the Zuniga, appeared off Liscannor. This was one of the four galleasses which sailed with the Armada, a long narrow ship, powered both by oars and a large square sail. It had seen a lot of action and distress, and supplies on board were severely rationed. Clancy reported to Bingham, Governor of Connaught, that some Spaniards had attempted a landing but had failed due to the terrible gales which swept the west coast for most of that month. It would appear that the Spaniards did succeed in landing and in getting some provisions and on one of these expeditions, the ship’s purser, Pietro Baptista of Naples was captured by the English and he told them of the true state of the fleet. The Zuniga left the bay and eventually reached Le Havre.

Meanwhile at the other end of the county seven ships were sighted by Nicolas Cahane, an agent of the High Sheriff. These anchored off Kilrush and some heavily armed soldiers came ashore to barter for food and water, but they were given nothing.

Before they set sail, one of the ships which was irreparably damaged, the Annunciada of the Levant Squadron from the Adriatic was stripped of everything of value by its crew and set alight. The winds which enabled the six ships to sail from Kilrush were not so kind to two other vessels, and scarcely had calm been restored at Kilrush, than news of disasters further north along the coast brought Nicholas Cahane rushing to the scene. On reaching the White Strand, north of Doonbeg he writes as follows: “God hath cast to the shore a great ship from San Sebastian wherein were 300 men all drowned but three score or thereabout. Another ship is cast in at I Brickane and lost, they had both men and munitions from Flanders.” Both of these ships were lost on September 20th. The San Esteban from the Guipuzcoa Squadron went down off the White Strand. It was a vessel of 736 tons and carried 246 men and 26 guns from the port of Corunna. The other ship seems to have been the San Marcos, a Portugese galleon of 790 tons. When it sailed from Corunna, it carried 33 guns and 409 men, 292 soldiers and 117 sailors. In addition there were servants so it is probable that over 450 lives were lost when this massive galleon broke up on the reef between Mutton Island and Lurga point. Only four survivors were taken from the San Marcos, and these, together with the survivors from the San Esteban were held prisoners by Clancy at his castle near Spanish Point. Evidently some had been killed on the shore by both the English and the natives but all those who were taken, were hanged on Cnoc na Crocaire near Spanish Point. This mass execution was presided over by Clancy, Turlough O’Brien of Tromra Castle, George Cusack, Captain Mordaunt and a Mr. Morton. The bodies were buried in a mass grave known to this day as Tuama na Spaineach.

Ireland & Spain

Ireland & Spain

Published in Features

The historic links between Spain and Ireland are intellectual, economic, political, religious and especially military. However there are no racial or genetic links. The Gaelic Irish we can categorically state do not have Spanish origins. When the Lebor Gabála Érenn—the Book of Invasions—was composed as an integrative myth for the peoples of Ireland with the Gaels top-dogs, its scholarly creators latched onto geographical ideas emanating from the other great intellectual fulcrum of early Christian Europe, Visigothic Spain. In this origin myth the sons of King Milesius of Spain (Míl Espáine) became the ‘Milesians’, the founders of the all-conquering Gaels of Ireland.

During the Middle Ages trade links between Spain and Ireland flourished. Iron and wine were shipped to Ireland and hides and fish to Spain. Many Irish went as pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia; a bolder few travelled in the other direction to St Patrick’s Purgatory, Lough Derg, County Donegal. These carrying trades were boosted by association with the growing Spanish/ Basque exploitation of Ireland’s maritime fishery from the Late Middle Ages. Gaelic Irish lords on the west coast taxed and protected this fishery.

In the sixteenth century the relationship became political. The Gaelic Irish under pressure from the advancing English conquest sought alliance with Catholic Spain, the leading power of the day, who in turn recognised Ireland as a strategically-sited back door to England. In a sense the Armada of 1588 had not been a complete failure. In spite of the drowning and execution of thousands of Spaniards on Irish shores, the event had demonstrated to the Irish the high level of Spanish commitment against England. A Spanish Armada finally disembarked in 1601. Too little, too late. O’Neill and O’Donnell having marched the length of Ireland committed themselves to an unnecessary pitched battle at the urging of the Spaniards inside the walls of Kinsale. The Spaniards evacuating Kinsale denounced their allies as a barbarous undisciplined rabble. Though Ireland was lost to the Irish; the Irish weren’t lost to Spain. Its depleted armies and military aristocracy needed replenishment.

The Irish themselves played the Milesian card. They renovated the old myth to emphasise Spanish origins and ultimately to gain citizenship. O’Donnell, when he first wrote seeking Spanish assistance, claimed his ancestors came from Cantabria and when he arrived in Coruña from the defeat at Kinsale he was taken to visit the Tor Bregon. Irish regiments were established in Spanish service and aristocratic hauteur, pure blood and religious orthodoxy provided their commanders with a ready entry into the Spanish governing class via the military orders. Ireland provided Spain with prime ministers in Alejandro O’Reilly in the eighteenth and Leopoldo O’Donnell in the nineteenth century. Other Irish fought in Spain’s American empire—some to build and maintain it but others to contest it and ultimately dismantle it. Spain also gave back to Ireland. Most notably it trained Catholic priests in the Irish colleges to return to Ireland to fortify the faith when none could be trained at home.

Irish Catholics had the opportunity to return the favour at the time of the Spanish Civil War when many volunteered for and many more contributed money to General Franco’s Nationalist cause. A smaller number of Irish Republicans and Socialists went to fight for the beleaguered Spanish Republic in what they too saw as a war to save civilisation. It is an interesting twist of historical memory that modern, secular Ireland now finds their minority cause the more compelling!

Today many Spaniards come to Ireland to study and many Irish who holiday abroad head for Spain. Both countries pursuing their particular paths in Europe have many problems in common and for comparison. These include issues of economic expansion, environment, immigration, fisheries and the respective peace processes in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country.

The Spanish Armada: history, causes and timeline

The Spanish Armada was the defining moment of Elizabeth I’s reign. Spain’s defeat secured Protestant rule in England, and launched Elizabeth onto the global stage.

History of the Spanish Armada

The Spanish Armada was one part of a planned invasion of England by King Philip II of Spain.

Launched in 1588, ‘la felicissima armada’, or ‘the most fortunate fleet’, was made up of roughly 150 ships and 18,000 men. At the time, it was the largest fleet ever seen in Europe and Philip II of Spain considered it invincible.

What happened?

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I (© National Maritime Museum, London).

Why did the Spanish Armada happen?

Years of religious and political differences led up to the conflict between Catholic Spain and Protestant England.

The Spanish saw England as a competitor in trade and expansion in the ‘New World’ of the Americas.

Spain’s empire was coveted by the English, leading to numerous skirmishes between English pirates and privateers and Spanish vessels. English sailors deliberately targeted Spanish shipping around Europe and the Atlantic. This included Sir Francis Drake’s burning of over 20 Spanish ships in the port of Cadiz in April 1587.

Meanwhile, Walter Raleigh had twice tried – unsuccessfully – to establish an English colony in North America.

Plans for invasion accelerated however in 1587.

The turning point came following the execution of Mary Queen of Scots – Spain’s Catholic ally. The killing of Mary Queen of Scots, ordered by Elizabeth, was the final straw for Philip II in the religious tensions between the two countries.

Royal history in Greenwich

How did the campaign begin?

In 1588, Philip II intended to sail with his navy and army, a total of around 30,000 men, up the English Channel to link up with the forces led by the Duke of Parma in the Spanish Netherlands. From there they would invade England, bring the country under Catholic rule, and secure Spain’s position as the superpower of Western Europe.

Beacons were lit as soon as the Armada was sighted off the English coast, informing London and Elizabeth of the imminent invasion.

According to legend, Francis Drake was first told of the sighting of the Armada while playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe. He is said to have answered that ‘there is plenty of time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards’ – but there is no reliable evidence for this.

Drake playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe, as the Spanish Armada is sighted (PAJ2845)

The English ships were longer, lower and faster than their Spanish rivals. The decks fore and aft had been lowered to give greater stability, and this meant more guns could be carried to fire lethal broadsides. The ships were also more manoueverable than the heavy Spanish vessels.

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