Your Weekly Dose of Spanish by Spaniology: Semana 2

Published in Dungarvan Leader Page 11 on Tuesday 20th of July 2021

Did you know that Ireland had a Spanish king?

King's County is Offaly's well-known moniker, which served as its official name for centuries until the 2001 Local Government Act. But what particular monarch was the Midlands county named after? Neither more nor less than Philip II, the King of Spain. And how precisely did the Spanish royal end up wriggling his way into Irish geography? By what in legal jargon is known as jure uxoris and in colloquial Spanish as braguetazo, i.e. right of marriage.

After the coronation of Mary I of England in 1553, the Catholic queen sought to reverse the protestant reformations commenced by her father Henry VIII, and finding a suitable Catholic consort to produce an heir became a priority. The King of Spain, Charles V —Holy Roman Emperor and, as it happened, Mary's cousin—, suggested his own son Felipe (Philip) as a suitable candidate. The young Spanish prince, already boasting some possessions in Europe and heir apparent to the largest empire in History, seemed a jolly good choice to Mary, herself of Spanish lineage as daughter of Catherine of Aragon. All the more since Spain was the main power at the time and self-proclaimed guardian of the Catholic faith

The marriage took place in 1554, whereafter Philip would enjoy his wife's titles and honours for as long as their marriage lasted. Thus Philip became King of England three decades before he set his ill-fated Armada upon her. Henry VIII had established the Kingdom of Ireland in 1542 to substitute the Lordship of Ireland, but as a Protestant creation it was not recognised by the Roman Church. Pope Paul IV soon remedied this by way of a papal bull in 1555, so the newly-wed Catholic couple would now be recognised as Queen and King of Ireland in addition to England.

Mind you, religious affinity with her Irish subjects did not thwart Mary's intentions to perpetuate the infamous Tudor conquest of Ireland initiated by her father, and she established the first plantations here in 1556. They were set in the territories roughly corresponding to the ancient Gaelic kingdoms of Uí Failghe and Leix, and were named King's County and Queen's County respectively in honour of the royal couple —later renamed Offaly and Laois—. They even gave their names to the county towns: Philipstown and Maryborough, now Daingean and Portlaoise respectively.

Mary's death in 1558 dispossessed Philip of her titles, and although he probably did not have much interest in the fate of the plantations and never set foot on the island, the ruler of the vast Spanish Empire donde nunca se pone el sol (where the Sun never sets) was for a few years King of Ireland, and bestowed an epithet on a Midlands county which remains part of popular parlance.

*Here is weekly dose of Spanish: Donde nunca se pone el sol

[Where the Sun never sets]

Sergio Fernández Redondo

Sergio hails from Asturias in northern Spain and has recently relocated to Dungarvan, where he is a PR assistant at Spaniology. Having an eclectic background in engineering, translation and linguistics, he is also a keen aficionado of history and languages.

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