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The Irish in the Spanish Armies in the Seventeenth Century

The Irish in the Spanish Armies in the Seventeenth Century

Eduardo de Mesa
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Irish in the Spanish Armies in the Seventeenth Century
    Book Description:

    It is well-known that many Irishmen who refused to submit to the English in the reigns of Elizabeth and the early Stuart kings, including the famous earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, went to fight for the king of Spain, but what they did when they joined the Spanish armies is much less well-known. This book provides a wealth of detail on the activities of the Irish in the Spanish armies in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It outlines who the Irish soldiers were, how they were recruited and the terms under which they served. It discusses their military roles both in the wars in Flanders between the Spanish and their former Dutch subjects, and, later, in the Hispanic peninsula, showing how the Irish were often employed as elite troops who made significant contributions to major military actions, such as the siege of Breda in 1624. It examines military tactics, explores the politics of the Spanish armies, showing how the Irish fitted in, and discusses how, when the rebellion of 1641 broke out in Ireland, many Irish soldiers returned to Ireland to resume the fight against the English. Eduardo de Mesa completed his doctorate at University College Dublin. He is the author of La pacificación de Flandes. Spínola y las campañas de Frisia (1604-1609 (2009), and Discurso Militar del Marqués de Aytona (2008), co-author of La Monarquía de Felipe III/I? (2008), and author of numerous articles, chapters in edited collections, and encyclopedia entries.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-313-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vi-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiii)
    David Parrott

    The publication of Geoffrey Parker’sArmy of Flanders and the Spanish Road(1972) was a watershed moment in early modern military history. The book provided a comprehensive ‘inside’ view of the workings of the most significant military institution in Europe between 1560 and 1660, and set the agenda for subsequent debate about early modern military organisation and administration, discipline and motivation, and the centrality of logistics and communications to military operations. Although subsequent works have built on this original framework, they have generally shared Parker’s focus on the Spanish, more particularly the Castilian, element of the armies of the king...

  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
    Eduardo de Mesa
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xv)
  7. Glossary
    (pp. xvi-xvii)
  8. Conventions
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
  9. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Since the early 1990s a significant contribution has been made to the historiography of the relationship between the Spanish monarchy and Ireland during the early modern period. In building upon the earlier pioneering studies of Brendan Jennings, John J. Silke and Micheline Kerney Walsh, recent research – such as the work of Declan M. Downey, Enrique García, Benjamin Hazard, Gráinne Henry, Patricia O’Connell, Ciaran O’Scea, Igor Pérez, Óscar Recio, Ofelia Rey and Karin Schüller – has allowed for a comprehensive understanding of this relationship and its role in Spanish and Irish history. These excellent studies tend to focus on the...

  10. The Irish Military Contingent in Flanders, 1605–44

    • Chapter 1 Origins, Composition and Strength
      (pp. 7-38)

      According to the members of the Spanish Council of State, the Dutch Revolt and the ensuing Eighty Years’ War (or the War of Flanders as it was known by the Spanish) began in 1559.¹ After the return to Spain of Philip II, the son and heir of Emperor Charles V,² the Flemish and Walloon nobility felt aggrieved because they had been expelled from power. The Spanish monarch had chosen Philip’s half-sister, Margaret of Parma, as his governor-general, assisted by Antoine Perrenot, the future Cardinal Granvelle, as her main councillor. The local nobility’s influence and power of patronage consequently faded, and...

    • Chapter 2 Recruiting and Levies for the Irish Tercios in Flanders
      (pp. 39-66)

      The levy of soldiers into the army was one of the major problems facing the Spanish high command in Flanders. Every year the recruitment mechanism went into operation to replace the wastage of manpower from the previous campaigning season. Each ‘nation’ put into practice its own ways of recruitment in its home territory to fulfil the task. Spanish soldiers were recruited in different ways, although voluntary recruitment was still the main method for obtaining men from 1621 to 1644, while the Germans were always recruited by military entrepreneurs.¹

      The results of the levies of men for the Irish companies varied...

    • Chapter 3 Irishmen in the War of Flanders, 1621–44
      (pp. 67-94)

      As soon as the first IrishTerciobegan to serve, the unit acquired a remarkable reputation. The brave performance of its men under fire at the siege of Rheinberg in 1606 justified the confidence invested by the high command in the soldiers.¹ The unit was maintained during the Twelve Years’ Truce (1609–21), even though part of the Army of Flanders was disbanded. With the resumption of war, theTerciowould soon return to action in every campaign. At the end of August 1621 the Spanish forces numbered around sixty-thousand soldiers, while the Dutch army numbered around forty-eight thousand soldiers,...

    • Plates and maps
      (pp. 95-108)
  11. The Irish Tercios in the Peninsula, 1630–44

    • Chapter 4 An Urgent Need of Soldiers for Spain
      (pp. 111-136)

      The emergence of different battlefronts in which the Spanish monarchy was involved from 1630 onwards strained Spain’s military resources. There was an urgent need for men as the population of Castile, the main pool of recruitment in Spain itself, was insufficient. For that reason, the Council of War tried several times to levy Irish troops in massive numbers on the proposals of Irish entrepreneurs. The wars of the seventeenth century were managed to a high degree by military entrepreneurs, and Irish officers were not strangers to this phenomenon.¹ The objective was to recruit enough soldiers to raise IrishTerciosfor...

    • Chapter 5 The War Experience of Tyrone’s Tercio, 1638–42
      (pp. 137-164)

      On 24 March 1638 a convoy of thirty ships under the command of Don Lope de Hoces sailed from Dunkirk and Mardyck to the Peninsula escorted by thirteen ships of the Armada of Flanders and three privateer ships.¹ The vessels carried Tyrone’s and Tyrconnell’sTercios(around 1,500 men with their wives and children), Archduke Carlos of Austria, and Prince Tommasso di Savoia-Carignano who was returning to Savoy via Spain.² At the end of the expedition, the fleet of Hoces had captured more ships than the number of vessels under his command with a total tonnage larger than his own fleet.³...

    • Chapter 6 The Long Journey of Tyrconnell’s Tercio, 1639–44
      (pp. 165-192)

      In July 1639 the sergeant major of Tyrconnell’sTercio, Nelan O’Boyle, received orders to incorporate the unit into the division of the Army of Cantabria, which was going to be deployed in Spanish Rosellón.¹ TheTercioreceived twenty-two muskets, thirty-seven arquebuses and forty pikes and was made ready for action.² The French had invaded the region earlier in June and were besieging Perpiñán and Salses, the key strategic fortress of Rosellón.³ The soldiers behaved badly on the way to the battlefront, as they plundered the towns of Navarra through which they passed. Local authorities denounced the soldiers’ extortions, robberies and...

    • Chapter 7 The Irish in the War against Portugal, 1641–4
      (pp. 193-212)

      Between 1580 and 1640 Portugal was united with the Spanish monarchy. However, internal socio-economic tensions and some nobles’ ambitions, compounded by the pressure of Dutch attacks on overseas Portuguese possessions from the Twelve Years’ Truce onwards, led to an open revolt against Spanish-Habsburg rule in December 1640. Headed by the duke of Bragança, the insurrection achieved independence for Portugal and he was crowned as John IV.¹

      From 1641 to 1668, intermittent warfare ravaged the long frontier between Portugal and Castile.² Spanish resources were seriously overstretched in military engagements in Flanders, northern Spain and elsewhere. The escalation of the Catalan revolt,...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 213-216)

    In 1644 the IrishTercioshad suffered major losses in soldiers and officers on both the Flemish and Spanish battlefronts. Since 1621, the Irish contingent had been fighting continuously without respite. During that time fiveTercioshad been raised and almost all had been disbanded, having suffered from high mortality rates and an inability to recruit sufficient replacements.

    After the resumption of war against the Dutch in 1621, Tyrone’sTerciorepresented 5.7 per cent of the infantry of the Army of Flanders. In 1628, the year for which we have the last surviving full muster of thatTercioin Flanders,...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-232)
  14. Index
    (pp. 233-242)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 243-243)