Your Weekly Dose of Spanish by Spaniology: Semana 12

Published in Dungarvan Leader Page 19 on Tuesday 12th of October 2021


Last week it was the anniversary of the beginning of the Siege of Kinsale, one of the most momentous events in Irish History.

The Nine Years War had seen English rule being challenged by Gaelic Lords in a continuous war of attrition, aided by Spanish support, since 1593. Philip II had already attempted to send two large armadas to Ireland to put the matter to bed, although bad weather and other circumstances prevented their arrival. It was his son, Philip III, who finally managed to accomplish this feat in 1601.

A large expedition of ships and soldiers disembarked at Kinsale on the first of October, whereupon they fortified the place and awaited reinforcements just before the English laid siege the following day. Unfortunately, the bulk of the Irish rebel forces were in the North, under the command of Hugh O'Neill and Hugh Roe O'Donnell. The Gaelic lords eventually decided to march South across the whole country to join their Spanish allies and engage the English army in open battle.

For almost three months, the Spaniards, under the command of Juan del Águila, withstood the siege of the more numerous English forces led by Charles Blount. Finally, on the 24th of December, the Irish soldiers arrived at their destination and confronted the English army at the Battle of Kinsale, which ended in a resounding defeat.

In this situation, the Spanish and the English started negotiations to capitulate. Juan del Águila was an experienced and capable commander who received the soubriquet El hombre que nació sin miedo (The man who was born without fear), and it is said that a strong sense of respect and admiration was developed mutually between him and Charles Blount during the siege. The latter was willing to offer the Spaniards honourable conditions but they would have to surrender their Irish allies. The Spanish commander promptly replied that they would go back to war if that was mentioned again. Eventually, the Spanish contingent left Kinsale with their standards aloft and weapons by their side, undefeated, and having been granted a safe pass back to Spain, accompanied by some of their Irish comrades.

Failure to achieve a victory against the English at Kinsale foiled definitively any hope for the Irish lords to win this war, which forced O'Neill and most of the rebel lords to flee the country forever in what it is known as the Flight of the Earls. Lack of Gaelic aristocracy in Ireland paved the way for the final conquest of the island and consolidation of English control.

The fate of this country could have been very different had the Spanish-Irish forces managed to emerge victorious from Kinsale. Agus d’fhéadfaí an colún seo a scríobh i dteanga éile.

* Here is your weekly dose of Spanish: Pero cuando nos batamos en combate, estoy convencido de dejar a quinientos de tus mejores hombres por los suelos [But when we meet on the breach, I am confident upon reason to lay 500 of your best men on the earth (D. Juan del Águila to Charles Blount during the negotiations)]

Sergio Fernández Redondo

Sergio hails from Asturias in northern Spain and has recently relocated to Dungarvan, where he is a Spanish teacher and 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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