Book looks at personal side of ‘Flight of the Earls’

A NEW book edited by a Kilkenny historian offers insights into “The Flight of the Earls.”

A NEW book edited by a Kilkenny historian offers insights into “The Flight of the Earls.”

Edited by the Rev Dr Feargus Ó Fearghail, ‘Tadhg Ó Cianáin: An Irish Scholar in Rome’ contains essays by the editor, Colm Lennon, Nollaig Ó Muraíle, Benjamin J. Hazard, Bernadette Cunningham, Míchael Mac Craith and Padraig Ó Macháin.

Tadhg Ó Ciánáin died in Rome on September 23, 1610. Of an ancient family of hereditary Irish historians, at the time of his death he was secretary to Hugh Ó Néill, Earl of Tyrone (died 1616), who left Ireland from Lough Swilly in September 1607, an event commonly referred to as “The Flight of the Earls.”

Ó Cianáin wrote a valuable narrative in Irish of the departure of Ó Neill and his party, of their arrival in France, of their journey from Louvain to Rome the following year, and of their ensuing activities in Rome, including sightseeing.

The essays throw light on the everyday activities of the Earls and their families, how they were received by the states they passed through en route to Rome and how the pope received them.

In Milan, for instance, which was then renowned for the making of weapons and armour, the Earls – O’ Donnell as well as O’ Neill – received a gift of rapiers and fine daggers, which with a fine horse were necessary items for any gentleman and aristocrat. Tadhg Ó Cianáin also noted that the Spanish army in Lombardy was second only in size to the Spanish army in Flanders. The vast Sforza Castle in Milan was armed with 500 canons and guarded by 1,000 soldiers. Some Irish-born soldiers were noted amongst them, and this long before the “Wild Geese” became such a feature of continental military life in late 17th century.

The book is available in local bookshops.