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The Catholic Historical Review 87.4 (2001) 738-740

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Book Review

Irlanda y el Rey Prudente

An Irish Prisoner of Conscience in the Tudor Era: Archbishop Richard Creagh of Armagh, 1523-1586.

Irlanda y el Rey Prudente. By Enrique García Hernán. [Colección Hermes, No. 2.] (Madrid: Ediciones del Laberinto, S.L. 2000. Pp. 286; 5 maps. Paperback.)

An Irish Prisoner of Conscience in the Tudor Era: Archbishop Richard Creagh of Armagh, 1523-1586. By Colm Lennon. (Dublin: Four Courts Press. Distributed in the United States by ISBS, Portland, Oregon. 2000. Pp. 166. $39.50.)

Those Irish who resisted Tudor centralist and Reformation policies based their appeals to France, Spain, and Scotland now on religious grounds, now on the advantages to be gained by England's foreign enemies in a military diversion in Ireland. As the sixteenth century wore on, they increasingly played the card of Ireland as the "English Netherlands," where Philip II might trump Elizabeth by supporting revolt, at reasonable cost and with prospect of incalculable gain. Other Irish, of course, accepted royal supremacy and, if clergy, ecclesiastical preferment, if laity, English ennoblement. Still others like Archbishop Creagh sought to combine loyalty to the pope in spirituals with loyalty to the crown in temporals.

Until 1571 Philip, as García remarks, was chiefly engaged in the Mediterranean, against Turks and Moriscos. Victory at Lepanto allowed him to turn to the north, keeping in mind that removal of Elizabeth might result in a hostile union of France, England, and Scotland (the latter two ruled by Mary Queen of Scots). He thus gave but limited encouragement to English or Irish revolt and made no undue effort to save Creagh (poisoned by his gaolers in 1586) or Mary (beheaded in 1587). Mary's death, however, cleared the way for him to venture the Armada. Afterwards the struggle reverted to land, with action in France and the Netherlands. A northern Irish confederacy of bishops and chiefs appealed to Philip in 1593, but he allowed them to battle on their own until, provoked by Essex's attack on Cadiz, he launched two armadas which failed because of adverse weather, one destined for Ireland in 1596, the other for England in 1597. O'Neill and O'Donnell won a great victory at the Yellow Ford on August 15, 1598. Did Philip, before death released him in September, perhaps reflect that had a tercio made up of exiles from Elizabeth's dominions been there in support of the Irish chieftains the English might have been driven from Ireland?

It is good to see a young Spanish historian bringing his perspective to bear on the story of Philip's relations with Ireland. García has an enviable command of archival sources and has read widely in secondary works. Como's dispatches are calendared in Archivium Hibernicum, VII (1918-1922), not IV (1915). It is hyperbolic to speak of Irish 'wars' of 1565-1578 and 1578-1593. García's remarks on Irish communities in Spanish dominions and their organization are suggestive. That Creagh was ever involved in plots (García, p. 74; Lennon, pp. [End Page 738] 101-102, 140-141) is most unlikely. Plotters, Irish, English, and Scottish, regularly claimed support that was more hoped for than actual. In García's monograph it is at times hard to see the wood for the trees. Long ago (1966) the Dublin Historical Society allowed this reviewer thirty pages in which to exhibit the wood, but he pleads not guilty to a 1970 Captain Juan Aguila. Given some necessary corrections in Irish geography and history, García's volume would merit a second edition and an English translation.

Lennon's is a thoroughly professional study, comprehensive as to title, which has grown out of his work on Creagh's cause for beatification. Here Lennon aims to place Creagh in "the new historiographical context" of Irish Reformation studies. He eschews confessionalism and hagiography, but the picture that emerges is of...


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