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RECOLLECTIONS OF A JESUITS' SCHOOL IN SWITZERLAND
RELICS OF THE WILD GEESE
THE O'DONNELLS IN EXILE.
BY JOHN O'DONOVAN, ESQ., LL.D., M.R.I.A.
The fame of the Irish families on the continent of Europe since the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth, has been so conspicuous, that any new light thrown on their history, collectively or individually, cannot now fail to be of interest not only to the student in Irish history, but even to the general reader.
of all the Irish families who sought refuge on the Continent at this period of the downfall of the old Irish, and who continued to figure in history with unabated lustre on the Continent, from the latter part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth down to the present year, the O'Donnells are second to none; and at the present day they have attained to so eminent a point in European celebrity, that no apology is due to the reader of these pages for the trouble which we have taken to lay before him, briefly, a view of their modern history, and particularly of their brilliant career on the Continent since the period of their decadence in Ireland. We have been particularly induced to undertake this sketch in consequence of the many important original documents relating to them, which have been lately put into our hands by our learned and accomplished friend, Charles Count Mac Donnell (private secretary to Marshal Nugent of Austria), who has devoted his time to the collection of these fragments with a zeal which few but himself possess, and who has presented them to us for the express purpose of publication, with a generosity which nothing but his patriotic devotion to the illustration of the historical fame of his countrymen could have sug. gested, in order to fill up certain lacunæ in the pedigree of the family of the O'Donnells, observed by him in our edition of the Annals of the Four Masters, and in all other publications, the fact being that the requisite documents had never been collected before. To this we may add, that vast revelations of the secret springs and motives of action which have contributed to certain events in Ireland, have been very recently discovered in the State Paper Office, London, without which the history of the reign of Queen Elizabeth or her immediate successors down to the time of Cromwell, could not be well understood, or drawn up into anything like historical form. But the minute details of events, with their mediate or immediate causes, lately obtained from the State Paper Office, through the kindness of friends, have enabled us to clear up many historical facts which had been previously unintelligible.
As the early history of the family of the O'Donnells of Tirconnell has been rather copiously dwelt upon by
their own annalists, the Four Masters, we do not deem it here necessary to glance at it much earlier than the middle of the reign of Henry VIII., A.D. 1537, when Manus, son of Hugh O'Donnell, succeeded his father. Of the busy and troubled life of this chieftain, of the feuds in his family, and the rivalry of his sons, Calvagh and Hugh, it is unnecessary to dwell in this place. They form a considerable part of the history of Ireland ; and a large portion of the second and third volumes of the State Papers, temp. Henry VIII., lately published, is occupied with details connected with the then chieftains of Tirconnell and Tyrone. It may, however, be interesting to quote from the latter two passages relating to Manus O'Donnell; the one, illustrative of the extent of territory over which at that period the chieftains of Tirconnell had extended their sway, and the other, of the dress and appearance of Manus himself. Sentleger, in one of his despatches to Henry VIII., enclosed a note or minute “ of the more parte of the notable havons of Ireland to begin at Dublyn;" among which he mentions “west and by northe Brode haven, Slygo, Assaro, Dongal, Calbege, Arrane, Shepehaven, Northerborne, Loghswylle, Loghfoyle. All these be in O'Donnell's countrey" (vol. iii. p. 446). The same individual, writing of this O'Donnell himself, says:
“The said O'Donell's chief counseller desired me very instantly at his departing fro me for some apparaill for his Master. If it may stand with your Highness pleasure to geve him parliamente robes, I think him furnishte of other apparaill better than any Irishman ; for att suche tyme as he mette with me he was in a cote of cromoisin velvet, with agglettes of gold 20 or 30 payer; over that a greato doble cloke of right croimoisin saten, garded with black velvet; a bonette with a fether, sette full of agglettes of gold ; that me thought it strange to se him so honorable in apparaill, and all the rest of his nacion that I have seen as yet so vile" (vol. iii. p. 320).
Nor is it deemed necessary in this place to trace tlıc career of his son Sir Hugh, nor that of “Red Hugh,” his more illustrious grandson, who died in Spain, 1.D. 1602, without issue, their history having been given in the Annals of the Four Masters, and in other works lately presented to the public. Our intention in the present paper is to lay before the reader a full account of the O'Donnells in exile.
After the death of the “ dauntless Red Hugh” in Spain without issue, in 1602, his brother Rory or Roderic O'Donnell, on his submission to the crown of Eng. land, received the title of Earl of Tirconnell, in the peerage of Ireland, and a confirmation of the hereditary territories of his family; but neither of these did he long enjoy.
A fourth ycar was not run out from the time when
Rory surrendered his princely rank, and accepted from England, with the title of Earl, the lands over which his ancestors held sway for many centuries, when, threatened, it would appear, by one of Cecil's unscrupulous contrivances, with the loss of his possessions and his freedom, if not of his life, he fled abroad, bearing with him to final exile his infant son, who, as the Four Masters inform us, was then only eleven months old. Along with the Earl Rory fled his brother, Caffar, together with his young wife, the sister of Sir Cahir O'Doherty, chief of Inishowen, and their only son, Hugh, aged about two years and a balf. With them, too, fled their sister, the Lady Nuala, wife of Sir Niall Garve O'Donnell, Baron of Lifford, who died in the year 1626 in the Tower of London, after he had lain there for eighteen years, a victim of that government in the service of which he had expended his valour against the cause of his tribe and his fatherland. Besides these, there went several gentlemen of the same lineage, some of the principal followers of the chieftain's family, and of the hereditary officers of bis little court. Together with these, and for the same reasons, fled the chieftain of the once royal bouse of O'Neill, and several of his noble adherents of the old lordly families of Ulster. In recording this event, the Four Masters exclaim mournfully : “Wo to the heart that meditated ! wo to the mind that conceived ! wo to the council that decided the project of their setting out on this voyage, without knowing whether they should ever return to their hereditary principalities, to the world's end."
The illustrious exiles whose departure is thus mournfully chronicled, debarked in France, and passed thence to the court of Brussels, where the Archduke-governor received them with much compassion. From the Low Countries they continued their pilgrimage towards Rome, visiting the principal monuments of religion on their way, and receiving every where from the princes and charchmen the honours and expressions of sympathy due to their misfortunes, their condition, and their cause. In the Eternal City, Pope Paul V. welcomed the exiles with paternal affection. They visited each day some one of the venerable stations of Rome, wbich are still, during winter and spring, points of convergence for the evening or morning walk of the pious inhabitants and sojourners of the Eternal City, just as they were then, two centuries and a half ago. Guided by the learned and accomplished Lombard, Archbishop of Armagh, who was in Rome, they went day after day to those venerable sanctuaries, and met in his apartments every day to recite with bim litanies of the Irish saints, which he had composed, to implore the divine compassion upon their afflicted native land.
We have hardly any details of the lives of the Earls in Rome; a letter, however, from that city, dated June, 1608, and found on the person of a Father Midford, who was arrested on landing in England, shows that O'Neill and O'Donnell were treated with almost regal courtesy by Pope Paul V. We are indebted to E. P. MacCarthy, Esq., a diligent investigator of documents relating to Irish history, for the following valuable ex
tracts from that most interesting letter now in the State Paper Office :
“My verie deere Sr.-I must not omytt to wryte unto you when occasion of wryting is offered. These Holidaies, the Thursday before Trinnytie Sunday, was canonized St. Francisca, which was donne in St. Peeter's with all pompe, splendor, and tryumphe, the setting forth whereof cost the Romans 20,000 crowns; and I never saw a more statelie sighte or more relligyous ceremonyes; the Pope himself in his Patriarcall habitte did sing masse ; all the Cardynalls, Byshops, Prelates, Cannons, and Relygious for the most part were present. Over night his Holiness gave order that the Earle of Tirone and the rest with him should have the best place in the church, which myself sawe performed ; and to grace the matter more, his Holyness's neece went in coache to the Earle's house and brought with her the Countess to St. Peeter's, giving her both in place and church the better hand, which she had also of the Pope's sisters amongst all the Dutchesses and other nobyllitie of Rome ; and when all the ceremonyes were ended, the same neece that fetched the Countess carryed her home agayne to her own palace from whence she tooke her. The Italyans speake much and verie honorablie of these Earles, and the Earles themselves keepe their state gallantly. Alsoe at the procession on Corpus Christi day, the Pope ordayned that the chiefest of these Irishe should alone carrye the canopy over him, which Eight of them did.”
It is but rational at this distance of time to conjecture, in the absence of direct evidence, that these exiled chieftains hoped to obtain from the Pope, at least ex. hortations to the Catholic sovereigns to lend aid to Catholic Ireland. They probably thought that the Pontiff would feel bound to make some great effort to prevent the extermination of a Catholic people. Disenchantment of his dreams, or despair for bis native land and tribe, rapidly bore down the generous O'Donnell to his mother earth. The gallant chieftain died broken-hearted, in the prime of his days, aged only thirty-three years, beneath the lovely sky of Rome, in course of the evsuing summer; and beneath a simple slab in front of the high altar of St. Peter's, in Montorio, above which was enthroned ther, and for nearly two hundred years after, the greatest and last of Raphael's work,-his divine Transfiguration in a site of majestic beauty, one of the seven immortal hills, facing that incomparable chain of azure mountains wbich, rising beyond the solemn Campagna, forms the zone of the Eternal City,—the last princely O'Donnell that reigned over the valiant and devoted mountaineers of Tirconnell, awaits the trumpet of the last judgment.
His brother Caffar, though in the flower of life, being only in his twenty-fifth year, survived him but for a few weeks. Sorrow and disappointment bad also apparently done their work upon his genial Irish heart. In the early autumn the pilgrims once more approached in procession the fresh grave, and laid therein his mortal exuviæ, amidst sobs that bad a long echo among the hills and broken tribes of his native Tirconnell.
Their sister, the Lady Nuala, beheld her two gallant brothers espire, and followed their mortal remains to this grave, in the hallowed earth of Rome, it is true, but still in the land of the stravger; and the aged bard of her race, who had faithfully followed his prince into exile, and to this premature tomb, has depicted in lines
of deepest pathos and beauty, the desolation that overwhelmed this noble daughter of Kinel-Connell after the death of her two brothers, and of her nephew the youthful O'Neill, who sleeps beside them. This threnode was translated into English verse by the late gifted Clarence Maogan, and its wild beauties are now familiar to Irish readers. With instinct almost prophetic, the bard concludes with the following touchiog prayer for the land of his home and his affections :
“And thou, Oh mighty Lord ! whose ways
Our fallen land !
Roll sadly on,
The blood of Con."
D. 0. M.
Qui pru religione Catholica
In sago pariter et in toga
Apostolicæ Romanæ Fidei
Lustratis in Italia, Gallia-Belgio
Præcipuis sanctorum monumentis
Singulari amore et honore
Paterno affectu susceptus
Summum dolorem attulit suis
Quem mox secutus eodem tramite
Periculorum et exilij socius
De ejus nobilitate animi
Philippus ni. Hispaniarum Rex
Mortuum honorifice funerandum curavit Vallisoleti in Hispania 11. Idus Septemb. A.S. MDCII.
Over these inscriptions are the O'Donnell arms, inlaid in mosaic: Coronet, five strawberry leaves and four raised pearls. Arms : Sinister arm embowed, issuing from the sinister side of the shield, all proper, holding a cross gules. Supporters : Dexter lion, sinister bull, both or.
Another very curious lamentation for the downfall of the Irish families is supposed to have been written about half a century later, by an Irish poet, while reading the inscriptions on the tombs of O'Neill and O'Donnell at
Rome. It has been published by Hardiman in his Irish Minstrelsy, vol. ii., p. 307 to 339, with a spirited translation by Henry Grattan Curran, Esq. The fullowing lines from this translation will convey to the reader a vivid idea of the veneration which the Irish continued to cherish for these two far-famed chieftains :
“Lonely I strayed on Cepha's golden hill,
When from that grave I turned me to depart, A wild emotion shook the maiden's heart : It passed at length, that agony, and then What human heart might brook her melting strain? The rifted rock, in sternest solitude, Had poured its echoes in a tone subdued ; Her hands uplift to heaven, her streaming eyes, Raised with her fervent accents to the skies; In words half broken by the labouring groan, She poured her sorrows to the Eternal throne." The light of O'Neill and O'Donnell left the English government, and its ministers in Ireland, free to carry into effect the Plantation of Ulster. Without trial, without proof, without a shadow of a cause for suspicion, the vast possessions of the O'Neills, O'Donnells, and their feudatories, were confiscated, and soon partitioned among the needy adventurers from England and Scotland that crowded around the spoils of prostrate Ulster. The lands that had belonged to these descendants of kings, became the prey of younger sons of English, and Scotch Lowlanders, who in less than a century afterwards were destined to overturn the Stuart dynasty in Ireland. Since then how many a trading Scot, or English adventurer, has fattened into wealth, and blossomed into honours, upon fragments of the vast domains of the O'Neills and O'Donnells, the contents of whose principalities, as ascertained by the Ordnance Survey, amounted to over two millions three hundred thousand acres, without taking into account the adjoining territories over which these princes claimed and exercised ancient suzerainty !
On the flight of the Earl Rory, his countess did not accompany him ; she is said to have been shortly after confined of a daughter. There is a history connected with this girl of so singular and romantic a character, that we are tempted to translate it here from the pages of the Abbé MacGeoghegan's Histoire dell' Irelande, pp. 645, 649:
“We may in this place insert the history of the courageous resistance of a heroine of the house of O'Donnell :—When Rory O'Donnell, Earl of Tirconnell, had
quitted his country in 1605 [recte 1607], on account of a Countess of Kildare, her grandmother. In effect, she pretended conspiracy with which he had been charged, he was cited to appear before the council to give an account left the countess his wife with child. She wished to follow of her conduct. Mary saw clearly that it was time to prothe earl her husband to the foreign countries to which vide for her safety. She confided her secret to a Catholic lic had fled ; and while she sought the means of leaving lady who attended her as a companion, and to a valetIreland secretly, was prevented by the viceroy, who de-chambre, of whose prudence and fidelity she was sent her well guarded to England, where she was deli
Her design was to go and find the young Earl vered of a daughter, who was baptized Mary. The of Tirconnell in Flanders ; he was at the court of king was informed of it; and although he had perse- Isabella Infanta of Spain, and governess of the Low cuted the Earl of Tirconnell, he wished to honour the Countries, who gave an asylum to all the nobility who father in the person of his daughter; he took her under were persecuted on account of their religion. To conhis protection, and ordered her to be named Mary ceal her sex it was necessary to disguise herself. Mary Stuart, instead of Mary O'Donnell, which was her true sent for a tailor, who clothed her as a cavalier, as also
her companion. The better to carry out her assumed “The Earl of Tirconnell having died at Rome, his character, she thought it proper to change her name; wife obtained the permission of the court to return to she assumed the name of Rodolose Huntly, her compaIreland with her daughter. This virtuous mother made nion took the name of Jacques Hués, and the valet-deit her duty to give Mary a Christian education ; she chambre that of Richard Stratsi-names under which instructed her with care in the principles of the religion they were known during their voyage. of her ancestors ; she often represented to her that the “ All was prepared; these three cavaliers took postdownfall of her father was the effect of his attachment horses and set out from London before daybreak; and to that religion to which all the greatness of this world efter encountering many adventures, related by the narought to be sacrificed. Mary was twelve years old when rator of this story, Mary embarked with her companions she was invited to England by the Countess of Kildare, at Bristol, and after a long and perilous voyage, arrived her grandmother ; she presented her to the king; this at La Rochelle, where having reposed after her fatigues, monarch assigned her a considerable sum of money in she continued her journey through Paris as far as order to get her married ; and the Countess of Kildare, Brussells, where she found the Earl of Tirconnell, her who was very rich, appointed her as heir to her property; brother, who presented her to the most serene Infanta ; so that the protection of the king, an illustrious birth, this princess received her with all the tenderness and and a brilliant fortune, caused her to be sought for in respect imaginable. The fame of the courageous resomarriage by the lords of the first distinction in England. lution of Mary Stuart soon spread itself throughout There was among the others, a lord of good family and Europe ; they compared her to the Eufrosina of Alexextremely rich, who paid assiduous court to the young andria, the Aldegonde, and other Christian virtues of princess; he addressed himself also to the Countess of antiquity. Urban VIII., who governed the church, Kildare, her guardian, and persuaded her that he had rea- then paid her a distinguished compliment in the followson to bope for a happy issue; but he was of the so-called ing letter: Reformed religion, nothing more was wanting to deprive him of the affections of Mary; that illustrious heroine,
" To our dear Daughter in Jesus Christ, Mary STUART,
Countess of Tirconnell, Pope URBAN VIII. sendetli seeing herself persecuted by the countess and by her greeting and Apostolical Benediction. other relations, in favour of an alliance which she con- “It is necessary at length that the sacrilegious slander sidered incompatible with her honour and conscience,
should fall to the ground which has not been ashamed to formed the resolution of avoiding it by flight. An un
say, that the inspired impulses of Christianity enervate the
soul and throw obstacles in the way of the enterprises of a foreseen event hastened its execution.
generous heart. You have given, our dear daughter, to all “There was a violent persecution against Catholics in nations a proof to the contrary, that it is strength and Ireland ; O'Dogherty was in arms for the defence of courage which give an orthodox faith, which is beyond his religion ; the government had arrested some Catho
dangers, and superior to the efforts of hell itself. o how
heroic is this courage, and how worthy of the protection of lic chiefs who were suspected ; of this number was
Rome and the eulogiums of fame, expressing no less a Connor Constantine O'Donnell, and Hugh O'Rourke, a hatred for a heretical marriage than for a treacherous connear relation of Mary Stuart; they were brought pri- flagration. The court had no attractions for you, and the soners to England to assure their conduct in times of threats of sovereigns only served to render you insensible
to them. The sea, the retreat of winds and storms, and trouble. Despite the vigilance of their guards, these
the ever-frightful abode of terror, is opposed to your flight ; lords escaped from their hands, and found the means to it was ignorant that you bore off more honour than pass into Flanders. Mary Stuart did not escape the triumph; but when the mountains were hidden among the suspicion of having contributed to the flight of her re
bosom of the waves, your confidence in the goodness of God lations : she was forewarned by a lord of the court;
did not abate, since your country is one where religion sits
upon the throne. You have succeeded in escaping the perhe counselled her, in order to prevent the misfortunes secutions of the English inquisitors; but under the guid. which menaced her, to conform to the religion of the ance of angels you have escaped the dangers of your voyage; state, and to espouse some lord of that belief capable of
you have not been able to escape our paternal regards for
having been conducted to the court of the Infanta ; you protecting her against her enemies; he insinuated to her
received her religion in your own, and Europe served you that it was the only way to content the king and the for a theatre. Considering which, our dear daughter in