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Making the Irish European: Gaelic honor politics and its Continental contexts.


The historiography of early modern Ireland rests largely upon two commonplaces: one, that the early seventeenth century saw the collapse of the Gaelic political order and, two, that encounters with Continental Europe allowed the people of Ireland to see themselves as Irish. The narrative goes roughly as follows. In the wake of the Battle of Kinsale (1601), in which crown forces defeated a confederacy of Gaelic lords, Ireland's Gaelic system went into precipitous decline. (1) Around the same time, educational, ecclesiastical, and political opportunities traditionally available in England became off-limits because of religious and ethnic differences. Consequently, Irish elites, Gaelic and Hiberno-Norman alike, began moving en masse to the Catholic states of the European mainland. From there they could look back and imagine the land they had left as constituting a single political unit: time spent with other exiles encouraged a corporate sense of common Irishness. In turn, the old Gaelic identifiers of Gael (native) and Gall (foreigner) would give way to a new term encapsulating these changed perceptions of state and self: Eireannach, or Irishman. This new identity would largely override traditional localist ones, and would be held together by a shared attachment to a confessionalized Catholicism, a further novelty bequeathed by contact with the Continent. As some of those emigres returned home, carrying with them the sterner ideological stuff of faith and fatherland, Ireland took an important step into the modern: defeat and exile may have meant the end of old Gaelic Ireland, but it meant the birth of an Irish Catholic national community.

While agreeing with the basic points of the above narrative, this article seeks to complicate it by reversing the direction of the inquiry that underlies it: instead of asking how contact with Continental Europe affected the experience of being, or becoming, Irish, here it will be asked how the Irish, specifically the Gaelic Irish, thought of themselves as European. This exercise is motivated in part by concern over what seems at times too strong a distinction drawn in the historiography between Europe and Ireland, European and Irish. (2) Such firm delimitation runs the danger of cutting off seventeenth-century Irish identity and mentality from that which came before, of making Europe look too modern and Ireland too medieval. Moreover, it creates a situation in which macro- and micropolitics, national and local issues, are separate and largely unconnected--which is to say that with the disappearance of individual lordships, Gaelic elites could only play at national politics. This article explores how some Gaelic observers tried to fashion Gaelic lords as elites worthy of inclusion in a European aristocracy. Moreover, it suggests that the means to this end were not provided solely by religion or budding interest in the patria, but rather by the perceived compatibility of traditional Gaelic cultural forms--in particular, notions of honor and nobility--with those on the Continent. As a result, this new European identity could be used to bolster traditional notions of status and hierarchy, and to undergird traditional claims to local authority in Ireland.

To make the case, this study focuses on two early seventeenth-century Irish-language texts. The first is Tadhg O Cianain's (d. 1610) chronicle of the Ulster lords Hugh O'Neill (ca. 1565-1616), Rory O'Donnell (1575-1608), and Cuconnuaght Maguire (d. 1609) traveling together through Continental Europe in 1607-09, the Imeacht na nIarlai. (3) This manuscript is generally ignored by historians, but here it will be argued that it reveals a very progressive and imaginative attempt by O Cianain to recast Gaelic notions of noble honor to fit a European, Catholic context. Crucially, however, the novelty of O Cianain's definition is tempered by connections to Gaelic tradition: he writes to uphold the traditional place of his subjects in Irish society against those, English and Irish alike, who wished to take advantage of the upheavals brought by the English conquest. The second text considered is Lughaidh O Cleirigh's (ca. 1580-ca. 1640) Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Ui Dhomhnaill. (4) Written sometime between 1616 and 1632, it is the only contemporary prose biography of a Gaelic lord. (5) Like O Cianain's Imeacht, the Beatha is a generically innovative text that defines Gaelic honor in the context of Continental--here, Spanish--norms, and reads events from the early part of the century as in large part driven by concerns over honor. Unlike O Cianain's discourse of honor, however, O Cleirigh's is more in keeping with the militaristic and lineal traditions of medieval Gaelic convention, and shows much less of the post-Trent religious precision, or the careful social taxonomy, displayed by O Cianain. And yet it is precisely the ancient virtue encapsulated in Gaelic aristocratic norms chat allows O Cleirigh to argue for his subjects' inclusion in a pan-European cohort of true nobility. Read together, these two texts reveal how Gaelic interactions with Continental Europe, rather than simply contributing to the collapse of the Gaelic order and of the cultural and political modes that defined it, could work in concert with, and even reinvigorate, traditional politics.


If the submission of Hugh O'Neill at Mellifont in 1603 suggested the end of Gaelic Ireland as a functioning sociocultural system--the sovereignty of its petty kings and the political role of its bardic intellectuals abolished--then the so-called Flight of the Earls of 1607 seemed to confirm it, at least in the popular memory. The self-exile of the Ulster lords O'Neill, Rory O'Donnell, and Cuconnuaght Maguire, accompanied by many of their relations and retainers, shocked the native intelligentsia. (6) The classic expressions of a Gaelic sense of loss and despair come from Eoghan Ruadh Mac an Bhaird's "Anocht is uaigneach Eire" ("Lonely is Ireland Tonight" (7), with its metaphor of the Egyptian captivity, and Fear Flatha O Gnimh's "Beannacht ar anmain Eireann" ("A Blessing on Ireland's Soul"), with its painful evocation of an Ireland desolate and defenseless before the forces of "the foreign host." (7) With hindsight, it is known that the Flight allowed for the massive plantation of Ulster, the last of Ireland's four provinces under Gaelic control, and thus the effective end of the Gaelic political system. Conditioned by this hindsight, the haunting, even wrenching, poems of Mac an Bhaird and O Gnimh strike us as natural reactions to the fait accompli of the collapse of the Gaelic order. That these poems continue to make the selection tor anthologies of Irish poetry attests not only to their popularity as examples of early modern Irish courtly verse, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to their ability to shape popular conceptions of English treachery and its role in ending Gaelic Ireland. (8)

Looking beyond the poetry, it becomes clear that not all contemporary Gaelic commentators depicted the Flight in such harrowing terms. One extraordinary example of an alternative reading of events to the Mac an Bhaird-O Gnimh school is Tadhg O Cianain's chronicle of the earls' travels from Lough Swilly to Rome, an untitled text generally referred to as the Imeacht na nIarlai. It has made little impression on historians' readings of this period, and even less upon popular ones. The one exception is Micheline Kerney Walsh, who makes extensive use of this text in her biography of the Earl of Tyrone. But she uses it as a travelogue, largely as a mine for nuggets of local color to adorn her retracing of the earl's footsteps. For, as Tomas O Fiaich explains in his foreword to Walsh's book, "O Cianain ... a simple unsophisticated scribe, somewhat naive and medieval in outlook, was obviously not au fait with the political chicanery which revolved around his master's destination and wrote like an Irish country lad seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time. We have to go to O Cianain, therefore, for the little personal touches on 'the path to Rome. '" (9)

There is more to this text than the travel diary of innocents abroad. First and foremost, as already indicated, it paints a far less tragic picture of the Irish lords' journey to Rome than one gets from other Gaelic sources, such as the poems of Mac an Bhaird and O Gnimh. In doing so it complicates perceptions of Gaelic mentalities on the eve of the Ulster plantation. Moreover, in constructing his narrative of the Flight, O Cianain completely reworks the traditional bardic language of praise in the course of his descriptions of the Irish lords and their interactions with Continental elites. The text thus represents an attempt to recast not only the language of, but also the criteria for, Gaelic notions of honor and nobility along the lines of contemporary European norms. Finally, this text provides one of the clearest expositions of the multiple contexts in which the interests of Gaelic elites were fought out. In the poetry, and so in the minds of its readers, the self-exile of these lords was an event that played out on an English-Irish axis. But O Cianain's manuscript not only draws upon the European context of Anglo-Irish relations--it is, after all, a chronicle of events that took place on the Continent--it also serves as a reminder of the inter-Irish dynamic behind these events. O Cianain appears concerned not merely with English designs on the territory and powers of the Ulster lords. Worrisome too were those lesser Irish lords who sought to capitalize on the instability brought on by war and plantation in order to usurp the authority of their traditional superiors. O Cianain's text, then, was an attempt to make the Irish European, the point of which was to solidify the claim of the Ulster earls to rule their traditional territories against those of New English and Gaelic Irish competitors. (10)

Let us briefly consider the text and its author. O Cianain was from a bardic family that traditionally produced poets for the Maguires, lords of Fermanagh. There only survives one manuscript of the text, which is written in a very clear scribal hand--evidently O Cianain's--and covers nearly 140 pages. Although seemingly written in Rome in 1608-09, the manuscript spent time in libraries in Louvain and Rome before being brought to Dublin in 1872. The Reverend Paul Walsh prepared an annotated dual-language edition that was first serialized and then published as a book in 1916. Although the manuscript bears no title, Walsh dubbed it The Flight of the Earls.

As for its content, there is little flight in this Flight of the Earls. There is no discussion of what occasioned the decision by O'Neill and the rest to flee to the Continent, and their journey from Loch Swilly to Europe is quickly dispatched within the first few pages. And once the earls reach the Continent, touching down first in Normandy, they do not seem to be fleeing as much as going on tour. One could perhaps even think of it as the record of a noble progress through Western Europe. Despite its chroniclelike appearance, O Cianain's is hardly an objective record of the journey. On names and dates he is accurate enough, but contrary to O Cianain's rosy picture of earls on progress, Paul Walsh's extended footnotes present a counter narrative of forces actively working against the earls in their attempts to reach Spain and Rome, and of Continental elites and authorities reluctant to assist them. (12)

The work's tone, however, is more surprising and in greater need of explanation than the relative accuracy of the narrative. The Imeacht seems to have the atmospherics all wrong, at least when compared to the famous and frequently published poems about the episode and its aftermath by Mac an Bhaird and O Gnimh. (13) O Cianain's narrative has none of the melancholy of these poems, and, rather than fleeing in exile, his earls seem to be on something of a grand tour--albeit a grand tour taken in dangerous times. With but rare exception, O Cianain describes the earls as traveling from place to place and as being honorably received by princes and prelates from Normandy to the Vatican. They are put up in palaces and feted at grand banquets. The Duke of Lorraine, who entertains them in his "chief city" of Nancy, goes so far as to proclaim that "under severe penalty, that no one should accept gold or silver of them while they should be in the city, but that all their expenses during that time should be borne by the Duke." (14) They are shown the great guns of Milan by the Spanish governor, the Duke of Fuentes, a security clearance, O Cianain claims, granted only to the Spanish and the Irish. (15) They are toured through churches and cathedrals and shown holy relics. When they arrive at the Catholic College of Louvain, the "assemblies of the colleges received them kindly and with respect, delivering in their honour verses and speeches in Latin, Greek, and English." (16) The pope himself gives them presents of "a silver basket, a bortle full of wine, and a gilded loaf of bread." (17)

In a world dictated by codes of honor and rules of precedence, the place where one sat at a banquet or walked in a procession was perhaps even more important than the simple fact of one's presence. And O Cianain was often quite explicit on just where the Irish were placed among the assembled dignitaries. The most striking example of this comes from the seating arrangements in the house of the Marquis Spinola: the marquis has seated "O'Neill in his own place at the head of the table, the Papal Nuncio to his right, the Earl of Tyrconnell to his left, O'Neill's children and Maguidhir next the Earl, and the Spanish ambassador and the Duke of Aumale on the other side, below the Nuncio. The rest of the illustrious, respected nobles at table, the Marquis himself, and the Duke of Ossuna, were at the end of the table opposite O'Neill." (18) The extraordinary privilege shown the Irish earls could at times even cause jealousy among the nobles of other nations, for example, in O Cianain's description of the lords' participation in a Corpus Christi procession in Rome. He writes how the Irish were chosen, "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 then to be 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. (19) The earls, in turn, showed their respect for this hospitality and generosity by constantly touring churches, hearing special Masses, and completing brief, local pilgrimages.

Not only is the tone of these passages surprising: so too are the criteria by which the Irish lords are held up as nobility. Absent are traditional markers of Gaelic honor and nobility such as martial prowess, hospitality, ancient lineage, and physical beauty. In their place appear two new criteria: an adherence to a post-Trent Catholicism, and the easy acceptance these lords received from European elites. Perhaps more remarkable when comparing O Cianain's text with poems like those of Mac an Bhaird and O Gnimh is the difference in language used to refer to the Irish lords. Gone is the royal terminology: these men are neither flatha. or prionsal--terms that mean "prince"--nor, significantly, are they rithe, or "kings." (20) It is not that these terms are absent from the text, but when they are used they refer to internationally recognized monarchs and princes. Thus, for example, the reader encounters the contemporary King of Spain and the King of England, the historical King of Persia, and other "pagan kings" (righa paganta), who are introduced in the course of an aside about the holy house of Loreto. (21) The meanings attached to words of royalty may have changed in Gaelic prose over the course of the sixteenth century, but here those designations are simply dropped altogether. (22)

O Cianain instead makes use of status designations more in keeping with European norms when discussing the Irish. Those who have titles are often referred to accordingly: O'Donnell, for example, is almost always an t-iarla, or "the earl," and O'Neill's son, the Baron of Dungannon, is typically met as an barun. This is not entirely a break from bardic tradition, for peerage titles do show up in bardic poetry and annals, just not always quite correctly. For example, the Annala Rioghachta Eireann (Annals of the Four Masters), which dates from the 1630s, refers at various points to the "Earl O'Donnell." (23) In doing so, its compilers combine the Gaelic practice of referring to a chief by the name of his family (thus, "the O'Donnell") with the English and Continental custom of designating nobility by peerage titles based on territorial markers (say, the Earl of Essex). While this is an interesting mix of lineal and heraldic, or territorial, identifiers of nobility, it is a bastard construction not at home in either system. O Cianain, by contrast, gets it right. With him it is either "O'Donnell," or "the Earl of Tirconnell," and the two are never combined. (24)

When speaking of a group of elites, some title-bearing, others not, he employs a number of terms that can mean "nobles" or "gentlemen," including maithibh and daoine maithe (gentlemen), daoine uaisle (noblemen), and tiarnai (lords). These usages are all traditional in Gaelic writings, but here they are given a greater specificity simply because they are no longer synonymous with the royal designations ri, flaith, and so on. These men, then, are not royal, but noble, or gentle, and referred to as such. Moreover, O Cianain seems on occasion to produce a more exact, Continental-style taxonomy of relative status positions for his Irish elites. Thus, at one point when writing of O'Donnell in the company of a host of lesser lords, O Cianain introduces them not as an undifferentiated mass of daoine maithe, but rather as an t-ierla (O'Donnell), followed by assorted tighernaidhe (those just below the earl in status), and finally the maithibh (those even lower, but still worthy of mention). (25) This is not always consistent--maithibh, for example, at times refers to the earls themselves--but it seems to mark a greater concern for status hierarchies than one generally meets in other Gaelic writings of the time.

The language used to praise the Irish also differs in O Cianain's text. Gone entirely are the bardic stock words clu and gloir. Clu can mean fame and reputation--though it may be a stretch to say it can mean honor--and was one of the most commonly used words to praise an Irish lord. Significantly, it is a term that figures prominently in the Maguire family poem book (duanaire) collected just prior to this period. (26) And bearing in mind that O Cianain came from a family of poets to the Maguires, the complete disappearance of the term seems all the more surprising. Gloir in bardic verse and annalistic compilations accords closely with the meaning of its English cognate, glory. Lords, then, are traditionally praised for their glory and fame, which was generally derived from their military victories. Although the word does appear in the Imeacht, it does so only three times and always in a religious context: the glory of Mary, God, and heaven. (27) Most dramatic, however, is the total disappearance of eineach, a word that expressly means honor. According to Brehon law, the native Irish legal system, eineachlann was one's honor price, the price a person had to pay if he insulted or injured someone, which was determined by the injured person's status. The bards also used the word eineach in a related, though less legalistically precise, sense when referring to the honor of individual lords. Throughout the late medieval period, eineach is the most common word to denote the honor of an Irish lord, and in the Imeacht it is gone entirely. (28)

Eineach is replaced in the Imeacht by onoir, a cognate, of course, with the English word honor. (29) It has a long history in Gaelic verse and prose, where it is often used in a religious sense to refer to the honor due the Lord and the saints. But in the Imeacht it takes on a sense that used to be fulfilled by eineach--that is, to refer to an individual's personal honor--and, simultaneously, a sense more in keeping with honor to mean an extralegal complex of attitudes and behaviors that regulated social behavior. This sense of personal honor obtained in Ireland too, but it was not usually described as such by Gaelic authors. It is rare to see in Gaelic writing from the sixteenth century the discussion of someone pledging his honor, whereas it is a garden-variety occurrence in English. O Cianain, however, is right at home with the language of the pledging of honor, a familiarity demonstrated by his discussion of the King of France's vowing as focal and as onoir (on his word and honor) to ensure the Irish lords safe passage through his territories. (30)

There are a few reasons why O Cianain's language and descriptions differ so radically from the Gaelic tradition, a tradition in which he was not only raised, but also trained. Most immediately, this work represents something entirely new in Irish writing, outside the bounds of established genres. Nothing like it appears until the 1640s, or at least nothing like it has survived. (31) Its style is something of a modified annalistic compilation: arranged chronologically, it is primarily a catalogue of facts (trustworthy or not) concerned with the actions of great men. Structurally, however, it is not organized by years, but rather by Roman numerals that mark off short episodes ranging in length from a day to a few weeks. There is also a tremendous indulgence in miracle tales and the like, which are quite rare in standard Irish annals. Given that the Imeacht is part annals, part prose panegyric, and part travelogue, its novel uses of vocabulary and rhetoric should perhaps not be so surprising.

Generic similarities can perhaps be found by looking outside the Gaelic tradition--a search that offers further clues to explain the peculiarities of this text. One place to look is in the long tradition of secretarial records of foreign expeditions. In the Irish context, one comparison that comes to mind is the record kept by Gerald of Wales while he accompanied the Norman invaders to Ireland in the 1180s. Another example is provided by Fynes Moryson, secretary to Lord Deputy Mountjoy, whose observations of the Nine Years' War represent one of our best sources for the period. (32) Both of these men not only kept a record of the movements and actions of their superiors, but also took notice of local customs, landmarks, political systems, geography, natural wonders, miracle tales, and the like. And so did Cianain.

This raises the question of audience. If this was in fact a secretarial chronicle, who was supposed to see it? (33) Nollaig O Muraile has noted that the text was housed in the library of St. Anthony's, the Irish Franciscan college in Louvain, in the seventeenth century. (34) This suggests the Irish community in Louvain as likely readers. (35) However, the text was probably also intended for an Irish audience in Ireland. O'Neill, up until his death in 1616, attempted to return to Ireland; (36) O Cianain, like the secretaries Gerald and Moryson before him, most likely expected to return as well. His ultimate audience, then, was likely a domestic Irish one. This would explain much of the disconnect between O Cianain's narrative of a stately progress through foreign parts and the much less exalted experience of the earls on the Continent as reconstructed by Paul Walsh. If the intended readership consisted of Irish supporters of the Ulster lords, it seems understandable that the delays and general discouragement the earls received from Continental elites were downplayed. Moreover, it would explain why the text may have been written, as has been recently argued, in a way that suggests it was Intended to be read aloud. (37) The exiled Irish in Louvain were literate, but many at home in Ireland were not, and so would need the benefit of public recitation to gain access to O Cianain's text.

The identification of an Irish audience may also help explain why O Cianain gives so little attention to events leading up to the Flight. On this point, Walsh suggests that those events were so well known that they did not require discussion. (38) Alternatively, it could be argued that the silence is not because everyone knew what precipitated the Flight, but rather is an attempt to short-circuit any in-depth discussion of the matter. Whether or not the earls were plotting against the crown and had to flee because the state learned of their designs has been a historical controversy for the last 400 years. And it was certainly a lively controversy at the time. Therefore, it seems likely that O Cianain intended to leave the impression that the Flight was precipitated by English oppression, because, without providing too much information or commentary on the subject, there are occasional, if understated, references to how the earls were driven from their patrimonies by the forces of greed and religious heresy.

The question remains, however, why O Cianain wished to write the things that he did, and in the way that he did, to his particular audience. One possibility is that he may have been partaking in a bit of political theorizing. The Irish intellectual classes were deeply engaged with trying to make Gaelic lordship compatible with monarchical rule; Fearghal Og Mac an Bhaird's poem "Three crowns in James's charter" is the most famous such attempt. (39) O Cianain's intense interest in the political oddities of the Swiss system, the only political system he comments on, suggests that perhaps there is a bit of that same project going on in the Imeacht. The following is representative of the remarks he makes on the Swiss political reality:
 [the earls] had traversed forty-six leagues o the country of the
 Swiss, and it was strong, well fortified, uneven, mountainous,
 extensive, having bad roads, and no supremacy, rule or claim to
 submission by any king or prince in the world over the inhabitants.
 In themselves they form a strange, remarkable, peculiar state. They
 make their selection of a system for the government of the country
 each year. They have fourteen important cities. Half of them are
 Catholics and the other half heretics, and by agreement and great
 oaths they are bound to one another for their defence and protection
 against any neighbor in the world who should endeavor to injure them
 or oppose them in upholding the public good with moderation and
 appropriateness. ... It is said of the people of this country that
 they are the most just, honest, and untreacherous in the world, and
 the most faithful to their promises. They allow no robbery or murder
 to be done in their country without punishing it at once. Because of
 their perfect honor they alone are guards to the Catholic kings and
 princes of Christendom. (40)

There may be some lesson here to be applied to the Irish situation: O Cianain's use of naisiun (nation) throughout the text does suggest that he was thinking along the lines of some sort of incipient national consciousness. But evidence for such an emergent consciousness is fragmentary, suggestive rather that conclusive. More likely this could be a simple description of the existence of other political modes by which Catholics and Protestants may coexist. It may even be something of a rebuke to the Irish and English for not upholding those precepts of honor that not only allowed the Swiss system to run, but also permitted the Swiss to be the guardians of Christendom. And it is on this last point that perhaps it can be seen, if not exactly what O Cianain was intending with this text, at least how he went about trying to make the case.

A return to O Cianain's use of language is necessary to see what is really going on here: a reworking of the criteria for, and language of, Gaelic honor and nobility. This becomes apparent when we compare the words he uses to denote Gaelic nobles, nobility, and honor, with other things he describes in the same terms. On the one hand, the same terms used to refer to the Irish lords--duine uasal, maithibh, and tiarnai, iarla, and so on--are used to describe the Continental elites they encounter. The impression the reader is to take from this, it seems, is that these men are all members of a European aristocracy. Stripped of its connection to a mythohistorical age of kings, and more carefully stratified according to relative status position, O Cianain's language of a social hierarchy of Irish elites is more in line with European norms than traditional Irish ones. It marks a concerted effort to create an image of the Irish as participants in a post-Trent European polity in which their nobility and honor is no longer determined chiefly by martial valor, nor praised using terms derived from Brehon law. Rather, it is also constructed in part by adherence on the part of the Irish elites to a proper reformed Catholicism, and by their respect for rigid social hierarchy.

This is something new. For O Cianain's subjects are not Gaelic kings, in the tradition of bardic panegyric, but neither are they Mac an Bhaird's and O Gnimh's tragic, scattered nobles at the end of an era, nor are they mere warlords, as Katherine Simms describes the petty lords of early modern Gaelic Ireland.4 Rather, these are daoine onoracha (men of honor) whose social equals are found throughout the Catholic states of Europe. And yet O Cianain, it seems, is eager to downplay the novelty of his classification, an attempt that comes into focus by looking once more at how he uses the words onoir (honor) and uasal (noble). Both of these words are also deployed to refer to inanimate objects: stones, grottos, banquets, churches, ceremonial progresses, palaces, napkins, cemeteries, and many other things are described as onorach (honorable) or uasal (noble). (42) The meaning here seems to be that those things that accord to their own nature are honorable and noble. And given that contemporaries often made the distinction between gentlemen--a class constructed through education, crown patronage, or some other means--and aristocrats, mankind's natural elites, 0 Cianain's terminology suggests the organic, undeniable nobility of his Irish subjects. (43) What is new in his text, then, is masked by a rhetoric of antiquity and naturalness.

When constructing this new description, or definition, of Gaelic honor and nobility, O Cianain undoubtedly was drawing a distinction between his patrons O'Neill and O'Donnell and the New English officers and settlers who stood to take possession of their property in Ulster. In addition, and perhaps even more importantly, he probably had in mind those lesser Irish lords who remained in Ulster and stood to profit from the crown's redistribution of the earls' territories. Historians tend to think of the conflicts and interactions of this period in Anglo-Irish history as revolving exclusively around an English-Irish axis. In doing so, they run the risk of losing sight of the inter-Irish dynamic, which to contemporaries was just as real, threatening, and exasperating as relations with the New English. Rory O'Donnell's troubles with Niall Garv O'Donnell, and O'Neill's with his traditional inferiors the O'Canes, remind us that there was a world-turned-upside-down element to the changes that were facing Gaelic lords in this period. Poems like "Faisean Chlair Eibhir" and the anonymous prose work Pairlement Chloinne Tomdis lampoon the pretensions of Gaelic upstarts who sought to benefit from the social chaos occasioned by war and plantation to rise above the status of those who were traditionally their superiors. (44) O Cianain's depiction of O'Donnell and O'Neill would have served to remind these upstarts that not only were his patrons the natural rulers of Ulster, and perhaps of all Ireland, but that they were accepted as such by the preeminent social, political, and religious figures of Catholic Europe.

In his preface to the printed edition, Walsh claims that the oddity of the text can be explained by O Cianain's circumstances: he was not privy to decisions made by the earls. (45) Quite possibly this is true, but, as argued above, there is probably more to it. Although the Imeacht did serve as a chronicle of the earls' travels through Europe on their way to Rome, its purpose was larger: a propaganda effort chat broke with existing generic forms in Irish. In making this break it also split from bardic language, adopting new criteria for, and language of, lordly praise. Moreover, the author cleverly situates his argument within a larger European context, trying to impugn the incursions of the crown into Ulster, not by reference to any particular theory of Irish sovereignty, local or national, but by damning it as the unlawful, perhaps immoral, encroachment upon the rights and property of noblemen. And thus it seems more useful to approach O Cianain's text not as the curious scribblings of an unsophisticated Gael awed before the majesty of Renaissance Europe--as suggested by O Fiaich--but rather as an effort to move the Ulster lords squarely into the court of the European nobility and so portray them as members of an international cohort of aristocrats. (46) For this reason it makes more sense to see in this manuscript not the description of a flight into decline, obscurity, and loss--an impression left by the poems of Mac an Bhaird and 0 Gnimh--but rather as the grand tour of Irish aristocrats in temporary exile, seeking support to return home to claim their rightful patrimonies (duchais) from rival claimants, English and Irish alike.


Like O Cianain's Imeacht, Lughaidh O Cleirigh's Beatha is a generic oddity. (47) On one hand, the Beatha is an aggressive bit of archaism. It is constructed in the traditional form of annals--organized by years, covering the deeds of great men, and so on--and its style and vocabulary have more in common with works of, say, the fifteenth century than of the seventeenth. (48) Yet the text is also highly original in that the production of annals as personal memorials was entirely unique. Moreover, it is less sparse than the typical annals and engages with intimate questions of good lordship and practical politics, the bulk of the narrative following Red Hugh's fortunes after his inauguration as chief of the O'Donnells, and focusing particularly on his role in the Nine Years' War. Also, like the Imeacbt, themes of honor and nobility pervade the text. Indeed, these twin themes form the central elements of O Cleirigh's argument about O'Donnell's prosecution of the war. The way in which O Cleirigh constructs these themes, however, is markedly different from O Cianain's treatment. The presence of religion in the definition of honor is significantly muted here, if not absent. In its place appear the more traditional criteria of blood, militarism, and good lordship. Yet, as I will argue, these honor codes are not as conflicting as they may appear. For like O Cianain, O Cleirigh sees his honorable Gaelic lord as attentive to both religious reform and Continental, aristocratic modes of conduct.

The language O Cleirigh uses in the Beatha marks a return to much of the traditional bardic terminology eschewed by O Cianain. He makes full use of royal terminology, regularly referring to the Ulster lords as fiaith (prince) and ri (king), to their territories as flaithiusa (kingdoms), and to their local authority as righe (sovereignty). (49) For matters of personal, internal worth, such as the honor possessed by an individual or family, he uses eineach, while he reserves onoir--O Cianain's choice when addressing such matters--for external displays of respect. (50) Typically, onoir appears in religious contexts, to designate the honor shown God, Mary, and so on, or in reporting deaths and burials. (51) O Cleirigh also resurrects much of the traditional criteria of Gaelic honor that O Cianain dispenses with, proving on some points to be even more retrograde than Mac an Bhaird and O hEoghusa. The role of lineage, important to O Cianain but never explicitly discussed, takes center stage in the Beatha. It colors nearly every description of people, political units, and even the land itself. O'Donnell is repeatedly referred to using genealogical identifiers, such as the "scion of Conall," the mythohistorical ancestor of the O'Donnells and founder of the dynasty; his political position is described as head of the Cenel Conaill, literally "the people of Conall"; and the territory over which be governed is referred to as Tir Connaill, or the "land [tir] of Conall." (52)

In addition to high birth, in this text the holder of noble honor has to demonstrate autonomy of action. The word saor (free), occurs twenty-one times as a means to define Gaelic elites, and signifies that the person or family was free from paying tribute to superiors. It also implies that others were to obey the free noble unquestioningly--Red Hugh O'Donnell (ca. 1571-1602), the reader learns, was a "lion in strength and force, with threatening and admonishing so that it was not allowed to gainsay his word, for whatever he ordered bad to be done on the spot." (53) This judgment is emphasized in the description of O'Donnell's treatment of certain lords who had not attended his inauguration as chief in 1592. O Cleirigh writes that since "it was no honor or glory to him that one chief of his people should be in opposition and enmity to him," Red Hugh immediately set out to physically remind absentees of the honor due him. (54) An honorable noble was to be sensitive regarding insult to his name and personal honor, and quick to defend the same. This, according to the Beatha, was a near obsession for O'Donnell, "a man who did not allow himself to be injured or afflicted, cheated or insulted, without repaying and avenging it immediately." (55) Even O'Donnell's military decisions, at least as O Cleirigh explains them, were based as much on protecting his personal and family honor as on overall military strategy. His setting an ambush for a certain Captain Martin, a commander under Sir Richard Bingham, governor of Connaught, in order to "teach him a lesson" for his insolence is but one representative example. (56)

As the Captain Martin episode suggests, true honor as described in the Beatha flourished on the battlefield. The importance of war and militarism to Irish notions of honor, as depicted by O Cleirigh, can hardly be overestimated. He praises Irish lords above all for their warrior qualities: O'Donnell was "a determined, fierce, and bold invader of districts; a warlike, predatory, aggressive plunderer of others' territories; and a destroyer of any of the English and Irish that opposed him": "a powerful war-dog" whose anger and wrath even the great O'Neill was afraid to rouse. (57) But Gaelic honor was not founded purely on good lineage and martial valor, and O Cleirigh was careful to show that the militarism and freedom of action of the Gaelic lord was constrained, on the one hand, by certain duties and responsibilities grounded in notions of good lordship and, on the other, by obediance to higher secular authorities in Europe, namely the King of Spain. (58) And, as will be discussed below, O Cleirigh believed a lord's actions were bounded ultimately by the threat of Providential displeasure.

What constituted good lordship should not look odd to anyone with a passing familiarity with medieval notions of good kingship. There was the obligation to protect the common sort, and O'Donnell was "their pillar of support, their bush of shelter, and their shield of protection against every trouble." (59) Evidently he discharged these duties with gusto, for O Cleirigh claims he was known as the "legal executioner" for his readiness to hang robbers and outlaws. (60) A good lord was also a generous one. The Irish words flaithiuil (generous) and flaith (prince) make this connection clear. As chief of the O'Donnells, Hugh showed hospitality to people across the social hierarchy commensurate with their station, thus, "he gave entertainment throughout his territory in his farmhouses and landholdings to the wretched poor people, to the inhabitants and to the weak and feeble." When Alonzo Cobos, the representative of Philip III, arrived, he feasted him for three days. (61) With his social peers Hugh was steadfast and true to his word. Once he entered into a bond of friendship, that bond, so O Cleirigh tell us, was eternal. For example, after Feilim O Tuathail helped O'Donnell escape Dublin, the two men, through "bidding farewell and giving blessings," cemented a friendship between them and their descendants that "would last to the end of time." (62) There was also the obligation to patronize the learned classes and, as the font of honor, preside over the naming of new chiefs in neighboring lordships. To reiterate the importance of good lordship to Gaelic honor, O Cleirigh includes something of an antihero in the text, the north Connaught lord O'Conor Sligo: the onetime loyalist, reluctant rebel, and traditional foe of the O'Donnelis, the negative depictions of whom serve to reinforce the presentation of O'Donnell as a model governor.

Despite his depiction in the Beatha as a man of royal blood, O'Donnell did have superiors to whom he owed deference, most importantly, the King of Spain. O Cleirigh describes a clear descent of legitimacy leading from Philip to O'Donnell and O'Neill, to the lesser lords allied with them, and finally to the soldiers. When, in 1600, Spanish support of the war effort came in the less-than-princely sum of [pounds sterling]6,000, instead of a hoped-for army, the Ulster lords "fcar[ed] their people and friends will be distrustful of them once they learn how little concern the King of Spain has for them." (63) At first they decided to refuse the money, but then changed their minds, as they did not wish to "awaken the wrath of the King of Spain. For there was no true friend to whom they could complain of their trials and troubles, who had power to aid them in the straits they were in but the King of Spain. They took the money for that reason and not for avarice or a desire for wealth." (64) In the Beatha, O'Donnell appears to have been well aware of the need to treat his only international ally with proper respect and deference. Moreover, he echoes the European-wide sense that to show too great an interest in money was to act ignobly. Thus, the claim by some historians that Gaelic honor was dominated by both the idea that might makes right and by the maximization of individual autonomy cannot be sustained by a reading of the Beatha. (65)

The most curious aspect of O Cleirigh's construction of Gaelic honor is the minimized role played by religion. As discussed above, O Cianain places reformed Catholicism at the center of his definition of Gaelic honor. O Cleirigh, by contrast, approaches religion with something like medieval piety rather than with post-Reformation confessional certainty. He was not blind to the confessional nature of the conflict between the Ulster lords and the crown, as his eulogy to the fallen Hugh Maguire, lord of Fermanagh, demonstrates. Maguire, he writes, "killed and defeated many parties both gentle and simple of the foreign race with whom he contested and fought to protect his faith and native land until he fell by them then." (66) But this is the only discussion of the defense of a confessionalized faith made in the entire work, despite the fact that O'Donnell and O'Neill themselves made a great play to faith and fatherland in the course of the conflict. Red Hugh instead appears in the pages of the Beatha as "a dove in meekness and gentleness to privileged men of the church," and not as an adherent to Tridentine certainties or as a defender of the faith against heretics.'' He is thus portrayed as having been content to follow the time-honored religious devotions and practices of clerical protection and patronage adhered to by Gaelic lords throughout the medieval period.

In trying to explain the Beatha's archaic tone, one could perhaps argue that the language and criteria of noble honor deployed by O Cleirigh is simply a function of his writing about a period prior to the conclusion of the Nine Years' War. Individual Gaelic lordships still existed, as did the relationship between bardic poets and lords, and so perhaps it only stands to reason that O Cleirigh should speak of Gaelic kings and ancient dynasties. Writing about the same events and the same period as O Cleirigh, the compilers of the Annala Rioghachta Eireann, however, follow a different approach. (68) They placed far greater importance on the role of orthodox Catholicism in the actions of O'Donnell and O'Neill. For instance, they write that Red Hugh sought the assistance of the King of Spain because he "was the person who could render [Red Hugh] most relief, and who was the most willing to assist those who always fought in defence of the Roman Catholic Religion. (69) In the Beatha, by contrast, there is no mention of matters of faith when describing Red Hugh's mission to Spain. Nor do the Four Masters play up O'Donnell's sensitivity to insult, as O Cleirigh does. When they introduce the encounter with Captain Martin, they merely note that he was a proud and haughty youth who could not bear to be in eye contact with his enemies without attacking them; remarking on his death, they simply record that he was struck, carried off by his men, and later died. (70) In the Beatha, by contrast, Martin is first introduced as a captain, then described as committing a series of challenges to Maguire's honor, "crying out and blustering against Aodh Maguire continually and against every one of the Irish whose name, fame, or repute for skill, especially in the matter of skill in horsemanship, he had heard of." (71) On the subject of Martin's death, O Cleirigh details how the javelin "pierced his heart in his breast as his misdeeds deserved; for he who was wounded there was a merciless rogue, and his hatred of the Irish was very great, and his evil deeds many wherever he had been throughout the whole province from Limerick to the Drowes." (72) Nor do the Four Masters claim, as O Cleirigh does, that a nasty wrangle between O'Neill and O'Donnell over who should march into battle at the front of the troops was largely to blame for the disaster at Kinsale because God was punishing them for their pride. The focus on aristocratic honor, good lordship, and Gaelic cultural tradition, then, was a matter of choice for the author and nor determined solely by the historical setting of his subject.

But that choice was also not determined by insular Irish contexts alone, for the language of honor here is constructed quite consciously in a European context. The obsession with lineage set the stage for O Cleirigh to couch international relations in terms of kinship responsibilities and family honor. O'Donnell's appeal for Spanish aid for the war effort was, according to O Cleirigh, based upon the supposed common ancestry of the two peoples. In May of 1596, the Ulster lords entertained a Spanish envoy, Alonzo Cobos, who had come to Ireland "to confer with and get information from the Gaels, for the Gaels of Fodhla were friendly to and united with the King of Spain on account of their having come from Spain long before, and a number of learned men and historians of the Irish had set down in remembrance and recollection for the king the doings and history of the sons of Mil, and besides, the people that were driven into exile by the English from the island of Erin, after their patrimony had been filched from them, used to go to complain of their hardship to him and his ancestors for a long time." (73) The Spanish, O Cleirigh claims, thus had a responsibility to assist the Irish lords because of blood connections, not because of concerns over defense of the faith or matters of international realpolitik. (74)

The focus on honor imperatives also offers an explanation for the evolution of military events at Kinsale. There the Irish abandoned the strategy of ambushes and limited engagements that they had pursued successfully since the start of the war six years earlier, and chose to meet the English in pitched battle. The results were, of course, disastrous. But in a preemptive answer to questions regarding the change in military strategy, O Cleirigh explains the switch as the only honorable option available at the time. Among the various forces prior to the battle, those of the Irish and Spanish forces were in a vastly superior position. Although the Spanish were pinned down in the town of Kinsale by besieging English troops, once the Irish arrived from the north, the English were caught in a vice. In theory a favorable situation for the Ulster lords, it was weakened because the Spanish were suffering terribly from the siege. The two Irish lords disagreed on how to proceed. O'Neill, confident that the Spanish could hold, favored starving out the English, but O'Donnell felt it was a matter of shame to leave their allies to suffer in that way. Moreover, O'Donnell held pitched battle to be more honorable than O'Neill's plan of victory by privation. O'Donnell's case was strengthened by the arrival of Spanish messengers appealing to them to attack the English and lift the siege. This request played strongly on O'Donnell's belief that it was "a shame and disgrace to be taunted with the great straits Don Juan and the Spanish were in, without making an attempt to relieve them though his death would come of it, and besides, lest the Irish be thought little of and despised by the King of Spain, if they suffered his soldiers to be in hardships and straits from their enemies without being aided as they requested." (75) Although O'Neill's position may have been more strategically sound, O'Donnell's was more in keeping with honor principles, and it was O'Donnell that prevailed in the end.

Predictably, O Cleirigh brings in Providence to show why a properly honorable military strategy could have ended in defeat. O Cleirigh writes that in the early days of O'Donnell's lordship the young chief had enjoyed nothing but success: he had banished the English from Tirconnell, he had returned peace and order to his patrimony, and he had made successful raids into Connaught and had chastised those who resisted his authority. But "as worldly power without reverses and happiness without eclipse are not pleasing to the one God, he gave a reverse of fortune to the success of the race of Lughaidh, son of Setna for a while . . . lest pride or haughtiness, desire or self-will, should turn O'Donnell aside from the straightness of his judgment, his probity in ruling his kingdom, and lest by reason of his leadership and victory over the neighboring territories he might set his mind and thoughts on his own strengths and powers, rather than on the decrees and gifts of the Lord of Heaven and earth, who is able to humble the valiant and exalt the miserable." (76)

Alrthough generally seen as antithetical to one another, in the Beatha martial prowess and good governance are, in fact, presented as complementary traits of the good ruler. (77) Thus, Red Hugh O'Donnell's martial valor appears prominently in the text, not merely because this is a tale of life during wartime, nor because O Cleirigh pined for the days of autonomous Gaelic warlords, but because such a description echoes the text's generic models and serves as a rhetorical stance for its intended audience. As Damian McManus has argued, the models for this sort of biography of a king-hero were the early Irish sagas, and thus Red Hugh was bound to appear in the Beatha as both a model of a warrior and a good lord. (78)

But if the sagas provided the model, who was the audience of the Beatha? This remains a matter of pure conjecture. The most recent attempt to address the issue is Micheal Mac Craith's suggestion that the text was intended as propagandistic support for a potential military campaign in Ireland by Red Hugh's nephew, aided by Spanish troops. (79) If this is correct, it would explain O Cleirigh's depiction of the decline of Gaelic honor in Ulster. For if honor was so vital a feature of legitimate rule, then he had no choice but to highlight its loss from Ireland in the wake of the Ulster plantation and the eclipse of O'Donnell's imperium. Significantly, it is only at the end of the text that O Cleirigh uses onoir to mean honor as something possessed internally, which had been previously described as eineach. He deploys it in a collective sense to mean the honor of the Gaels and, by extension perhaps, of Ireland itself: the defeat at Kinsale brought not only the death of many Irish notables, but also the death of the "nobility and honour" of the "Gaels of Ireland" themselves. (80) Only the return of the O'Donnells would restore honor to the region, and with it justice, good government, and some approximation of the Gaelic cultural order of lords, bards, and brehons. Moreover, the focus on honor would seem a wise strategy when pursuing Spanish assistance, since it played on the contemporary Spanish obsession with the same. As John Elliott has noted, the Spanish had a very highly developed sense of honor in this period. (81) Consequently, they would have been sympathetic to appeals for its restoration. And here O Cleirigh would prove particularly clever, for in pushing the bonds of fictive kinship, and thus the duties of family honor, and in blaming the military disaster of Kinsale on the honorable decision of O'Donnell to assist the besieged Spanish, he implicated the honor of the Spanish crown and people in the fate and future of Irish honor.

While suggestive, Mac Craith's thesis is speculative, and therefore the question of audience remains open. Language alone suggests an Irish-speaking, rather than a Continental, audience. Moreover, O Cleirigh's themes suggest intellectual and ideological concerns common throughout aristocratic, confessionalized Europe. And, thus, while the intended audience for the Beatha cannot at present be known with certainty, one can at least look for some potential generic comparisons. Fulke Greville's (1554-1628) The Life of the Renowned Sir Philip Sidney (1609-14) seems a likely candidate. It is nearly contemporary with the Beatha, both are reflections on events that took place during Europe's fin-de-siecle wars of religion, and they also share a sense of despair that true honor had gone to the grave with their protagonists. At first sight, the end of honor as described in these books and personified in the deaths of Sidney and O'Donnell closely mirrors modern historiographical arguments of medieval chivalric codes of personal honor retreating before the rise of the modern state. (82) But the evidence may be read more subtly, as testimony to the continued relevance of such older forms of conduct on an emerging stage of honor occupied by elites of different nations. Lineage, for example, was important to both Greville and O Cleirigh, and both favored action over passivity. Sidney, for instance, may have earned historical reputation as a man of letters, but as Greville saw it: "his end was not writing, even while he wrote; nor his knowledge moulded for tables, or schooles; but both his wit, and understanding bent upon his heart, to make himself, and others, not in words or opinions, but in life, and action good and great." (83) Sensitivity to insult, and the quick defense of one's good name, were requisite for the man of honor, and O'Donnell's punishment of those who dishonored him by their absence from his inauguration finds its analogue in Sidney's famous challenge to the Earl of Oxford on the tennis courts of Greenwich in 1579. (84) Both authors claim that their subjects also held proper respect for their honorable betters: Sidney for Elizabeth, O'Donnell for Philip II and Philip III, And, finally, there was a supranational religious element to both authors' depictions of honor, as evinced by Sidney's fighting in the Low Countries for the Protestant cause and by O Cleirigh's celebration of Maguire as a defender of the faith. Both of these works, then, in spite of their culturally specific influences and inflections, appear as products of a European-wide neochivalric thinking, a phenomenon that would fuel the revival of the Court of Chivalry under Charles I and the proceedings over honor and reputation in both London's Star Chamber and Dublin's Castle Chamber during the 1620s and 1630s. Thus, if Greville's hagiography was a critique of the lowborn of the Jacobean court, so O Cleirigh's may have been a critique of those who allied themselves with crown and castle in the wake of the Flight. Like O Cianain's Imeacht, the Beatha too may have been aimed at Irish and English competitors for authority in Ulster.


O Cianain's Imeacht and O Cleirigh's Beatha are two very different texts. Nevertheless, there are important links between them. First, both show a dynamic response to the changes to Gaelic culture and society occasioned by anglicization and crown centralization. These works are hardly records of a Gaelic mind in collapse or retreat. (85) Rather, they are examples of ways in which genre and mentalite could be reworked to make Irish elites ready for an international stage. Second, they feature honor as a theme. Historians who have treated Gaelic material as something dynamic have tended to read it for the first buds of national consciousness in the material. (86) But as the texts reviewed here demonstrate, Gaelic lords and intellectuals were as concerned to preserve their own status and authority as they were to argue the abstraction of nationhood. And the language of honor was well-suited to the preservation of status. Third, both texts demonstrate a willingness to push generic boundaries.

In the end, however, what is most significant is the intellectual trajectory these works chart when read together. Both O Cianain and O Cleirigh attempt to recast Gaelic nobles as members of an international aristocracy. This refashioning is important to bear in mind given the current emphasis on the development of faith-and-fatherland ideologies among Gaelic elites in this period. Undoubtedly, these ideologies figured prominently in the thoughts and actions of those with political agency. Nevertheless, caution should be taken against assigning too modern a character to these changes: national consciousness is not nationalism, and Tridentine Catholicism was not a leveling religion. Those who advocated these new ideas envisioned them working in concert with traditional patterns of social differentiation: faith and fatherland may have required defense, but it was traditional elites who felt entitled to do the defending. And as political and religious conceptions became internationalized in this period, so too did the criteria of aristocratic honor that marked the natural ruler from the lowborn interloper. These two texts, then, demonstrate the sorts of politically charged prose pieces that Irish literati penned in support of Irish nobles who not only physically moved between Ireland and the Continent, but also thought outside of an Irish-English axis and within a pan-European context. They also demonstrate the vital connection between traditional Gaelic cultural norms and novel European identities. Indeed, one could hardly lay claim to the latter without first abiding by the former.



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* Earlier versions of parts of this essay were read at the Renaissance and Early Modern Colloquium, Princeton University (29 November 2001); the Irish Studies Seminar, Columbia University (4 April 2003); the Keough Institute for Irish Studies, University of Notre Dame (12 November 2004); and the Flight of the Earls conference, Letterkcnny Institute ol Technology (19 August 2007). I wish to thank the attendees at those talks for their comments and criticisms. Individual thanks are due Peter Lake, Micheal Mac Craith, Breundan 0 Buachalla, Eamonn 0 Qardha, Brian 0 Conchubhair, Clare Carroll, and the anonymous readers lor Renaissance Quarterly, all of whom were extremely generous in their efforts to sharpen both this article and my thinking on early modern Ireland. Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to the University of Notre Dam's Keough Institute and to Princeton University's Center for Human Values for providing material and intellectual support, without which this article could not have been written.

(1) The phrase Gaelic system" is used here as a blanket description encapsulating political, cultural, and social elements that prevailed outside English-controlled areas of Ireland. In essence, this meant a political system of small lordships, a native legal system (Brehon law), and an intellectual class (the bards, or filt) that served as the arbiters of political legitimacy.

(2) O'Reilly; Cunningham, 141; Canny, 94.

(3) The title is known in English as The Plight of the Earls. It will be referenced hereafter as Imaecht.

(4) The title is known in English as The Life of Red Hugh O'Donnell. It will be referenced hereafter as Beatha.

(5) On attempts to date the text, see Breatnach, 127.

(6) The self-exile of O'Neill, O'Donnell, and Maguire allowed the crown to establish authority over Ulster, the last of Ireland's four provinces to remain under Gaelic aristocratic control. The collapse of Gaelic political power brought the decline of the native intellectual and legal classes, the bards and brehons. Power in Ireland from that point forward would emanate from London and have a distinctly anglicized character.

(7) O Cleirigh, 2:137-47; Bergin, 115-17. 264-65. Little is known about the manuscript and publication history of these poems, which were probably written ca. 1607-08.

(8) This theme of irreversible loss is often replicated in the historiography: see, for example, O Hainle, 72, who writes that "joy was not fated for Ireland. There was nothing for the poets to do but to keen for dead Ireland and place a blessing on her soul, which they did. The world in which those poets lived was ended; the patronage on which they lived would be no longer. A new era was starting, that of street poetry." Author's translation.

(9) M. K. Walsh, 10.

(10) "New English" refers to the English planters, government officials, and military figures who came to Ireland after it was made a kingdom under the English crown in 1541.

(11) O Muraile, 53.

(12) M. K. Walsh has checked the accuracy of daces and places and found them largely in concordance with other sources.

(13) These are poems of unrelenting gloom, as the following quatrains from Eoghan Ruadh Mac an Bhaird's "Lonely is Ireland Tonight" demonstrate: "Lonely is Ireland tonight: / The outlawry of her native stock / Fills with tears the cheeks of her men and her lair women: / That the land should be desolate is unusual // Lonely tonight is Connla's Plain, / Though crowded with a foreign host: / The strong, vigorous land's complement / Have been banished to Spain." O Cleirigh, 2:137-47: "Anocht is uaigneach Eire / Do-bheir fogra a firfhreimhe / Gruaidhe a fear 'sa fionnbhan flioch / Treabh is iongnadh go huaignioch // Uaigneach anocht clar Connla / Ge Ian d'fhoirinn allmhardha; / Saith an chlair fhionnacraigh fheil / Don Sbain ionnarbthair iaidsein.' Or witness these stanzas from Fear Flatha O Gnimh's "A Blessing on Ireland's Soul": "Her nobles and freemen dead, / She cannot cure her shame. / It is a shameful step for the Gael, / If we dare presume to say it // By a blow of Balor's eye, / Her lovely land is sickened, / Her corn blossomless in the clay--/ and I pray God rest her soul." Kinsella, 162-64; for the original, see Bergin, 115-17: "D'eag a huaisle 's a hoireacht / Gan toidheacht aice on oilbheim / Da lamhadh sinn a mhaoidheamh / D'fhine Gaoidheal is oilcheim. // Ata O bheim sul Balair / I dteidhm galair a gealghort / A hioth gan bhlath i dtalmhain / Biodh ar a hanmain beannacht."

(14) O Cianain, 1913-15, 78-79.

(15) Ibid., 97.

(16) Ibid., 36.

(17) Ibid., 187.

(18) Ibid., 47.

(19) Ibid., 189-91.

(20) It could be argued that genre plays a role here, namely that terminology deemed appropriate for poetry was thought inappropriate for verse. This would be only partly true. On the one hand, regal designations for Irish lords continue in at least one major annalistic compilation of the sixteenth century: the Annals of Loch Ce. On the other hand, the Beatha is awash with royal terminology applied to Irish subjects, as discussed below. See Hennessy, 2:3%, 396, 398,

(21) These quotations can be found, respectively, at ibid., 104: "ri na Spainne"; 10: "rig Saxan"; 112: "Ri na Persia"; 114: "righa paganta."

(22) Simms, 19-40.

(23) O'Donovan, 6:2369: "Iarla ua nDomhnaill."

(24) O Cianain, 1913-15, 46: "an t-ierla Tire Conaill." This is not to say that he always gets it right when speaking of the new sociopolitical dispensation. See his reference to Chichester, the Lord Deputy as "Justice of Ireland" ("giustiss na hEirenn"): ibid., 60.

(25) Ibid, 20.

(26) Greene.

(27) Cianain, 1913-15, 150, 156, 160.

(28) This judgment is based on reading the poetry of the tare medieval and early modern periods that is available in print.

(29) The eclipsing of eineach by onoir in the Irish lexicon is discussed more generally in Simms, 110.

(30) O Cianain, 1913-15, 30.

(31) O Meallain.

(32) Cambrensis; Moryson.

(33) Feargus O Fearghail has discovered an Italian reference to the 1610 death of "il segretario del Principe d'Ibernia." If O Fearghail's suggestion that this refers to O Cianain is correct, it would lend further support to the argument advanced here that the Imeacht was a secretarial record with propagandistic intent. See 0 Fearghail, 73. I would like to thank Dr. Nollaig 0 Muraile for this reference.

(34) O Muraile, 2007a, 54.

(35) "Ibid; Carroll.

(36) M. K. Walsh; Mac Craith, 45.

(37) C Muraile, 2007b. I wish to thank Dr, O Muraile for sharing the text of this talk with me.

(38) O Cianain. 1916, x.

(39) O Buachalla; Caball, 85-89.

(40) O Cianain, 1913-15, 93: here I have used the editor's translation. Curiously, P. Walsh renders the original ffirinne as "perfect honor." A more literal translation is "perfect honest}'" or "perfect truthfulness." Nevertheless, I agree with Walsh that, given the important connection in the text between keeping one's word and one's sense of honor, "perfect honor" is what O Cianain has in mind here.

(41) Simms.

(42) See the following examples in 0 Cianain, 1913-15, 172: "cloch uassal" ("noble clock"); 200: "da leic onoracha" ("two honorable flagstones"); 208: "Cavarello i. inadh aoibhinn on6rach" ("the beautiful, honorable Cavarello grotto"); 192: "eaclus onorach" ("honorable church"); 176: "prosesion on6rach" ("honorable procession"); 168: "palas to-onorach" ("honorable palace"); 176: "naipicin uassal" ("noble napkin"); 34: "reilic is ferr 7 is onoraighe" ("best and most honorable cemetery"); 68: "bangced onorach" ("honorable banquet").

(43) See, for instance, Stone, 21-128; Cust. See Schalk for an opposing view that posits that nobility went from being defined in the medieval period as a profession to being seen in the seventeenth century as an aspect of blood.

(44) De Brun, O Buachalla, and O Concheanainn, 1:11.

(45) Cianain, 1916, x.

(46) For 6 Fiaich, see M. K. Walsh, 10.

(47) O Cleirigh. For the discussion that follows I will be relying on che editor's translation.

(48) See McManus.

(49) For examples, see O Cleirigh, 1:33, 129, 319 (flaith); 55, 265, 337 (ri); 275 (flaithiusa and righe).

(50) Ibid., 53, 191, 337 (eineach); 39, 233, 249 (onoir).

(51) For the use of onoir in the context of burial, see ibid., 167, 343: in the first example, the earl of Kildare is interred "in the tomb of his predecessors and ancestors with the honor and respect they were meet."

(52) It should be noted that new persons in the narrative are almost never introduced by first name alone, but rather trailing a full complement of ancestors. A wonderful example of this comes in O Cleirigh's description of the MacWilliam succession of 1595. The MacWilliam Burkes were lords of territory in northern Connacht in present-day County Mayo. Out of a large field of claimants, two emerged as the frontrunners. O Cleirigh introduces the first as William Burke of Shrule, and the second as Tibbot, son of Walter Ciotach, son of John, son of Oliver. It is a clear sign of who is going to win the election, and indeed Tibbot prevails: ibid., 2:113-19.

(53) Ibid., 345.

(54) Ibid., 57: "niruo miadh no maisi lais aontoiseach dia mhuintir dhilis do bhith occ frithbheirt 7 occ forran fris."

(55) Ibid., 347.

(56) Ibid., 105.

(57) Ibid., 347, 243.

(58) McGettigan, 125-26, claims that it was O'Donnell, not Hugh O'Neill, who engineered the Spanish alliance during the Nine Years' War, and chat he wished Co transfer Irish sovereignty to the Spanish king. See Morgan for an opposing opinion.

(59) O Cleirigh, 2:113.

(60) Ibid., 123.

(61) Ibid., 113, 121.

(62) lbid., 26.

(63) Ibid., 284.

(64) Ibid., 284-85.

(65) See Leerssen, 151-202; Palmer.

(66) O Cleirigh, 2:241. Maguire was killed in a skirmish in 1600.

(67) Ibid., 345.

(68) I include this brief comparison also to counter the notion that the Beatha and the Annalariogbachta offer near verbatim descriptions of events. For this claim, see Falls, 378. The question of the relation between these two texts has recently been explored by Breatnach.

(69) O'Donovan, 6:2291.

(70) Ibid., 1977.

(71) O Cleirigh, 2:105.

(72) Ibid., 107.

(73) Ibid., 121.

(74) Mctiettigan, 76, offers evidence chat supports this point by noting chat O'Donnell was ashamed by the state of his lodgings in the presence of these Spanish envoys, and thus set about refurnishing them so as to make a better impression during any future negotiations.

(75) O Cleirigh, 2:329-31.

(76) Ibid., 275.

(77) See, for instance, Leerssen's discussion of the increasing militancy of Gaelic verse in the late sixteenth century: Leerssen, 164-89.

(78) McManus, 72-73.

(79) Mac Craith.

(80) Cleirigh, 1:339.

(81) See Elliott, 20. 215-16; O'Scea.

(82) See, for example, James; Nueschel.

(83) Greville, 20-21.

(84) Ibid., 73-81.

(85) See Canny; O Riordan. More generally, however, much of the work done on Gaelic Ireland simply assumes the existence of a monolithic Gaelic worldview: this, for example, is the impression given in Palmer.

(86) For example, Caball; Bradshw.
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