634. Document endorsed :—"The Paper delivered in May 1596
by the Irish Confessor who came with the approval
of the Bishop-confessors. A true relation of the events
happening to the Catholics of Ireland, from the 1st
January 1596 to the 28th March 1596."
At the beginning of January the earl of Tyrone, who is now
Prince, and Grand O'Neil, commanding the Catholics, sallied from
his principality of Ulster, which is the fifth part of Ireland, and
entered Munster near Dublin, arriving within eight leagues of the
city, where many Catholic gentlemen joined him, especially a great
gentleman named O'Reilly, with all his following, his estates being
30 leagues long. They took a fortress called Cavan, and killed all
the heretics there. All the Catholic gentlemen of Meath sent word
that if the Catholic King would send them help they would join
2. About the same time Bernard O'Neil, cousin of the earl of
Tyrone, killed 400 English heretics near an English fort called
Newry (?), and as many more near another fort called Carlingford.
3. On the 13th February, in Connaught, where Galway alone
remains in English hands, two powerful Catholic chiefs, O'Donaill
and O'Rourke, gathered an army of 8,000 foot and 500 horse. They
arrived within three leagues of Galway, where they were met by
3,000 English, of whom but few escaped by flight to Galway. For
want of artillery the Catholics could not attack the place, but they
captured many horses and stores.
4. Three days after this victory, six great chiefs who were on the
English side, joined the Catholics, with all their vassals. They are
named O'Connor Don, who has 20 leagues of land, O'Kelly as much,
O'Connor Roe, (fn. 1) 12 leagues, Macguire (?) as much, Macdam, (fn. 2) 8 leagues,
O'Flaherty, 12 leagues, O'Malley, 8 leagues, all of which lands join.
The English then fled from that province to the neighbourhood
of Dublin. Only 300 English remained in the province, in two
fortresses called Killaloe and Roscommon, which the Catholics cannot
take for want of artillery.
5. Soon after, O'Rourke, a brave Catholic, killed 100 Englishman
near one of the said fortresses.
6. In the same month O'Rourke entered Meath near Dublin,
where he was joined by many Catholics. One, named O'Ferrall,
whose lands extend 10 leagues by 5, joined with all his vassals, over
600 of them. There also many principal Catholics, now subject to
the English, sent to say that if the king of Spain would send help
they would join him.
7. In Leinster a great chief named O'More has risen against the
English, and burnt 14 towns and villages of heretics, the English in
them being burnt and killed. O'Rourke and the Catholics of
Connaught sent aid to O'More, though he was 30 leagues from
Connaught, and on the way they burnt many English, with their
villages and castles.
8. The earl of Tyrone, the Catholic general, pays the soldiery
every month, and hitherto has paid them well. It was, therefore,
said that there was plenty of Spanish money in the Catholic army.
It was suspected that his Majesty was paying them, and it was
feared he might send an armed force from Spain.
9. When I left the city of Dublin on the 28th March, the
Catholics (although they had made a two months' truce with the
English, in the hope Spanish succour arriving), had two different
armies, 40 leagues apart ; one commanded by Tyrone, with 16,000
infantry and 2,000 horse, within eight leagues of Dublin (where
reside the Viceroy and General Norris, who has lost all his men),
and the other army, under O'Donnaill and O'Rourke, in Connaught,
near Galway, with 10,000 men. When the truce expires they
intend to follow the English into Munster, where (and in Dublin)
all that are still alive have taken refuge.
10. The Englishwoman is raising troops in England, and it is said
she intends to send 20,000 men to Ireland in this month of May,
but if his Catholic Majesty will send help, the Catholics do not fear
as many more.
11. The Catholics greatly need great artillery, muskets and
powder, and they have no doubt that when his Majesty sends aid,
with artillery to attack towns and fortresses in English hands, they
will have the whole country in their power.
12. The Catholics wish (if his Majesty sends the help, as they hope
to God he will) that he will send with it the bishops, priests, and
other Irishmen now in Spain, and that they (the Spaniards) should
enter Connaught by Galway, or Leinster near Dublin, where the
Catholics will at once join them.
13. This is all the bearer, who was confessor to O'Donnaill and
O'Rourke, knows of his own knowledge, having seen it. The
Catholics having no ships, he came disguised to Dublin, and out of
fear of the English, could bring no writing from the chiefs. He
may say in addition to the above that all that the bishop of Clonfert
has told his Majesty about Irish events is true.
635. Certificate given by Captain Alonso Cobos to the Irish
I, Captain Alonso Cobos, hereby certify that I arrived in this
realm of Ireland at the time when the Irish chiefs had almost concluded
peace with the Queen, on terms satisfactory to themselves,
and that solely on conscientious grounds, and out of affection for his
Majesty, they desisted from finally making peace, taking up arms
against the queen of England, and sincerely turning their hearts to
God, and the King, in whose services as faithful vassals they remain
during his Majesty's pleasure. As I know this to be the truth, I
give this solemn testimony at the request of the chiefs, under my
hand and seal.—Leffer, 15th May 1596.
636. Relation of Ensign Alonso Cobos of his Voyage To
Ireland. He left Santander on the 22nd April 1596.
(A detailed account is given of his journey, with particulars of
the country, from a military point of view, and of the strength of
the Catholic Chiefs, to whom he was sent to dissuade them from
continuing their peace negotiations with the English. As his
account differs in no material particular from that of Captains
Cisneros and Medinilla, who went to Spain in the following month,
it is not reproduced here.) There is also in the packet a similar
relation by Captain Ochoa, with several rough charts and soundings
of the Irish coast, and a nautical description of the same.
637. O'Neil and O'Donnaill to Juan De Idiaquez.
Letter sent by Ensign Cobos, assuring his Majesty that they
would stand firm, and would follow his wishes. Refers his Majesty
for information to the bishop of Clonfert (who resided at Burgos),
and Bernard O'Donnaill. (fn. 3) —Leffer (Lifford?), 16th May 1596.
|638. O'Neil and O'Donnaill to the King.
Letter also sent by Ensign Cobos, begging for armed force to be
sent to their aid in re-establishing the Catholic faith, and that
Philip will appoint the Cardinal Archduke Albert to be their Prince.
—Leffer (Lifford?), 16th May 1596.
639. O'Neil and O'Donnaill to the King.
Before the arrival of the King's messenger, very favourable offers
of peace had been made to them on behalf of the Viceroy, giving to
Catholics full freedom and liberty of conscience. They are unwilling
to make peace with the heretics, as it may be a subterfuge of the
English, but unless aid reaches them soon, they may be forced to do
so. Again beg for 6,000 soldiers and arms for 10,000 more.—
Donegal, 25th May 1596.
|640. MacWilliam (Eurke) to the King.
In the name of the oppressed Catholics risen against the tyranny
and cruelty of the English, he fervently prays for help to be sent to
them. (The terms of this letter are extremely violent, in contrast
with the more dignified tone of the letters of O'Neil and O'Donnaill,
which, however, seem to have been written by the same scribe.)—
Donegal, 25th May 1596.
Note.—Similar letters to the above were written to Philip about
the same date by the bishop of Raphoe, Macguire, Donatus
MacSuyne lord of Tyrbane, and O'Rourke. All the letters appear
to have been sent in duplicate or triplicate. Some are signed in
Irish, and some in Latin characters, the body of the letters, in all
cases, being in Latin.
641. Instructions given by Count Portalegre to Captains Luis
de Cisneros and de Medinilla, as to the questions they
are to ask the earl of Tyrone, and the information they
are to obtain, with the answers given thereto.
In virtue of your credence you will assure them (the Irish
Catholics) of his Majesty's goodwill, which they deserve for their
acts and quality, and especially for their defence of the Catholic
faith in Ireland. The King rejoiced greatly at their victory last
year, and the bravery that won it.
To keep the fruits, perseverance is needed, and he exhorts them
to stand firm, and to seek means to continue the war against the
heretics. The King sends Captain Medinilla to stay with them, and
advise and help them, and he has with him two experienced
soldiers. Cisneros will return to his Majesty to inform him of
what you have seen and heard. You are to seek detailed
information as to their present position, the strength of the enemy,
the plans of attack, and resistance, and as soon as you have gained
all the knowledge you can, you will start homeward. Let them
know that your speedy return will be advantageous.
1. You will ask them what they wish his Majesty to do for them.
Goodwill will never be wanting on his part in defence of their
faith and lands, so long as their demands be regulated by
prudence, and due consideration. You will also assure them
of my (Count Portalegre's) personal desire to serve them.
You will discuss with them the question of the aid they
request, and after getting from every assurance of sincerity,
firmness and means, you will hint softly at the difficulties in
the way, to see how they meet them, but do not push the
matter far enough to cause distrust.
(Reply.—"Arms for 10,000 footmen. Corseletes, pikes, morrions,
harquebusses and muskets, powder balls, cord, &c. One
thousand men should at once be sent with the munitions.")
|2. You will thus open the conference, and other points will
follow, which cannot all be foreseen here. You must especially
urge them to secrecy. If they are willing for Captain Medinilla
to stay, he may do so, but do not press it if they seem
First you must ascertain whether real unity exists amongst
these chiefs, and whether they will obey Tyrone. Does the
latter command by authority or prayers?
(Reply.—The earl of Tyrone and O'Donnel are like one man, and
the rest respect them.)
|3. Is this Catholic league of theirs really for the support of the
faith, or for any private ends of their own?
(Reply.—They are making war sincerely in defence of the Catholic
|4. Do they admits heretics who for any reason are willing to
join them against the Queen, if they grant liberty of conscience
(Reply.—They will not do so on any account.)
|5. What forces of horse and foot have they, and what means of
keeping them together, especially outside of their own lands?
(Reply.—They carry victuals with them for the time they
arrange beforehand to be away from their lands. They raise
6,000 foot and 1,200 horse.)
|6. Are the roads to the territories and ports they desire to conquer
fit for artillery?
(Reply.—No artillery could be sent from their land to any port
to which our fleet could go. It is very marshy.)
|7. Are there waggons for the guns? Inform yourself especially
about passes, fords, and bridges.
(Reply.—The passes of the rivers are difficult, but mostly
fordable. Some are crossed by boats or bridges. Inland the
passes are good.)
|8. What victuals can be had in the country, bread, meat, beer,
barley, flour, hay, &c.?
(Reply.—Although the land is desolated by war, they have
enough for their own support and no more.)
|9. Is there enough milling acccommodation for themselves, and
those who may be sent as well?
(Reply—The water-mills suffice for the people here, but there
are facilities for constructing many more.)
|10. How do they raise their troops. Do they use carts and
horses for transport?
|11. Inform yourself well about the quality of the ports in the
hands of the Queen ; and which of them is capable of receiving
a great fleet to attack the Catholics.
(Reply—The ports possessed by the Queen are the town of
Drogheda, with an ancient wall, the city of Dublin, also an
ancient fortress, and the residence of the Viceroy. The
munitions, &c., are kept there and a small garrison. Rosse is an
old fortress. Waterford has a tower with a little ordnance,
and a port capable of receiving a great fleet. Wexford an old
fortress, and Dungarvan a harbour with a castle and a few
Youghal is an ancient walled port.
Cork an ancient port.
Limerick an ancient walled city, capable of harbouring a
great fleet. Galway the same. These are all the ports held by
|12. You will discuss between yourselves, in view of what you see
and hear, the best way to carry out the enterprise.
What sort of ships, and what number of them will be
|13. Can they do without cavalry? If not, how many and how
(Reply.—A thousand lancers and two or three hundred mounted
harquebussiers, for whom horses may be bought here.)
|14. What spare ordnance should be sent to be landed, and how
many artillery mules? Can pioneers with tools be had there
used to the work? Must the tools be sent from here?
(Reply.—The pioneers can be obtained, but spades, picks, hatchets, &c.
must be sent and a full company of pioneers to teach the people.)
|15. Try to learn particulars of the fortresses they expect to gain,
as much depends upon that.
|16. Discover particulars of all the Queen's forces there.
|17. How many places has she fully garrisoned, the number of
troops and their nationality? How are they victualled, and
which of them are nearest to the Catholic strongholds?
Has she generally ships in the Irish ports, and how many?
Are there any hidden Catholics in the ports and fortresses
held by the Queen?
Are they (the Catholics) forced to stay with the heretics or
are they content to do so? If a strong force were to be sent,
would many declare against the hereties?
(Reply.—It is considered certain that, as soon as they saw our
fleet, they would declare for us.)
|18. Who commands in the island? Is John Norris or any other
important officer there?
(Reply.—The Viceroy is William Russell. John Norris is
You will endeavour to learn all this very thoroughly and
You are well aware of the difficulty there was in finding
the pilots who are to take you, and even they are not
experienced anywhere north of Galway. When you enter
Donegal, or any other port, let these pilots examine it
thoroughly ; and if it be not too far, and is possible, let two of
them go ashore and reconnoitre the coast as far as Cape Teelin.
At least let Sligo, Donegal, Easky and Teelin be well
reconnoitred. Ask the earl (of Tyrone) to give you a couple
of pilots, if there are any who know the coast well. Take
four, if you can get them, and offer them good wages on his