Irish Account of the Flight of the Earls
Irish Account of the Flight of the Earls
Tadhg Ó Cianáin
In contrast to Sir John Davies's account, Tadhg Ó Cianáin, a Gaelic chronicler of the Maguires who accompanied the earls into exile, describes the event less as a flight than as a noble progress through a Catholic Europe which welcomed and celebrated these aristocratic Irish visitors.
SEE ALSO O'Neill, Hugh, Second Earl of Tyrone
About the middle of the same night they hoisted their sails. . . . They went out a great distance in the sea. The night was bright, quiet and calm, with a breeze from the south-west. . . . An exceeding great storm and very bad weather arose against them, together with fog and rain, so that they were driven from proximity to land. . . . Afterwards, leaving Tyrconnel on the left, they direct their course past the harbour of Sligo, straight ahead until they were opposite Croagh Patrick in Connacht. Then they feared that the King's fleet, which was in the harbour of Galway, would meet with them. They proceeded out into the sea to make for Spain straight forward if they could. After that they were on the sea for thirteen days with excessive storm and dangerous bad weather. A cross of gold which O'Neill had, and which contained a portion of the Cross of the Crucifixion and many other relics, being put by them in the sea trailing after the ship, gave them great relief.
On Sunday, the thirtieth of September, the wind came right straight against the ship. The sailors, since they could not go to Spain, undertook to reach the harbour of Le Croisic in Brittany at the end of two days and nights. The lords who were in the ship, in consequence of the smallness of their food supply, and also because of all the hardship and sickness of the sea they had received up to that gave it as their advice that it was right for them to make straight ahead towards France. . . .
On the next day, the fifteenth of October, they left Rouen with thirty-one on horseback, two coaches, three wagons, and about forty on foot. The Governor of Quilleboeuf and many of the gentry of the town came to conduct them a distance from the city. . . .
On Monday, the twenty-second of the same month, they bade farewell to the people of the city (Arras). They proceeded five more leagues to a famous city called Douai. The people there received them with great respect. They alighted at the Irish College, which was supported by the King of Spain in the town. They themselves stayed in the College, and they sent the better part of those with them through the city. They remained there until the following Friday. . . . Assemblies of the colleges received them kindly and with respect, delivering in their honour verses and speeches in Latin, Greek and English. . . .
The thirty-first of October, O'Neill's son (Henry), the Colonel of the Irish [regiment] came to them with a large well-equipped company of captains and of noblemen, Spanish and Irish and of every other nation. On the following Saturday the Marquis Spinola, the commander-in-chief of the King of Spain's army in Flanders, came to them from Brussels with a large number of important people and welcomed them. He received them with honour and gave them an invitation to dinner on the next day in Brussels. . . .
Early the next morning they went to Brussels. . . .Colonel Francisco, with many Spanish, Italian, Irish and Flemish captains, came out of the city to meet them. They advanced through the principal streets of the town to the door of the Marquis's palace. The Marquis himself, the Papal Nuncio, the Spanish Ambassador, and the Duke of Ossuna came ot take them from their coaches. . . . Afterwards they entered the apartment where the Marquis was accustomed to take food. He himself arranged each one in his place, seating O'Neill in his own place at the head of the table, the Papal Nuncio to his right, the Earl of Tyrconnel to his left, O'Neill's children and Maguire next [to] the Earl, and the Spanish Ambassador and the Duke of Aumale on the other side, below the Nuncio. . . . The excellent dinner which they partook of was grand and costly enough for a king. . . .
On Sunday, the twenty-third March, they proceeded to the great remarkable famous city Milan. . . .A great respected earl, Count de Fuentes by name, was chief governor and representative of the King of Spain over that city and over all Lombardy. He sent the King's ambassador at Lucerne, who happened to be in the city, to welcome them and to receive them with honour. On Wednesday the nobles went in person into the presence of the earl. He received them with honour and respect. There were many noblemen and a very great guard on either side of him. They remained three full weeks in the city. During that time the earl had great honour shown them. . . . The lords took their leave of Count de Fuentes on the twelfth of April. . . . He gave them as a token of remembrance a collection of rapiers and fine daggers, with hilts of ornamented precious stones, all gilt, and belts and expensive hangers. . . .
Peter Lombard, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, came . . . having a large number of coaches sent by cardinals to meet them to that place. . . . Then they proceeded in coaches (and) went on. . . through the principal streets of Rome in great splendour. They did not rest until they reached the great church of San Pietro in Vaticano. They put up their horses there and entered the church . . . afterwards they proceeded to a splendid palace which his Holiness the Pope had set apart for them in the Borgo Vecchio [and in the Borgo] Santo Spiritio. . . .
On the Thursday of Corpus Christi an order came from the holy Father to the princes that eight of their noblemen should go in person to carry the canopy over the Blessed Sacrament while it was being borne solemnly in the hands of the Pope in procession from the great Church of San Pietro in Vaticano to the Church of St. James in Borgo Vecchio and from there back to the Church of Saint Peter. . . . They carried the canopy over the Blessed Sacrament and the Pope, and never before did Irishmen receive such an honour and privilege. The Italians were greatly surprised that they should be shown such deference and respect, for some of them said that seldom before was any one nation in the world appointed to carry the canopy. With the ambassadors of all the Catholic kings and princes of Christendom who happened to be then in the city it was an established custom that they, in succession, every year carried the canopy in turn. They were jealous, envious and surprised, that they were not allowed to carry it on this particular day. The procession was reverent, imposing and beautiful, for the greater part of the regular Order and all the clergy and communities of the great churches of Rome were in it, and many princes, dukes and great lords. They had no less than a thousand lighted waxen torches. Following them there were twenty-six archbishops and bishops. Next there were thirty-six cardinals. The Pope carried the Blessed Sacrament, and the Irish lords and noblemen to the number of eight, bore the canopy. About the Pope was his guard of Swiss soldiers, and on either side of him and behind him were his two large troops of cavalry. The streets were filled with people behind. It was considered by all that there were not less in number than one hundred thousand.
Edited and translated from the Irish by the Reverend Paul Walsh and printed as an appendix to Archivium Hibernicum (Catholic Record Society of Ireland, 1916). Reprinted in Irish History from Contemporary Sources, edited by Constantia Maxwell (1923), pp. 205–208.