Irish Exiles (The Wild Geese)

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

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An insurrection was organized, and its main supports were some of the best and bravest of the old race, who had been driven by political and religious persecution to other lands, where their bravery had made them respected, and their honorable dealings had made them esteemed. Spain had received a considerable number of these exiles. In June, 1635, an Irish regiment in the Spanish service, commanded by Colonel Preston, had immortalized themselves by their heroic defence of Louvain. Wherever they went they were faithful to the sovereign under whom they served; and French and Spanish generals marvelled how the English nation could be so infatuated as to drive their noblest and bravest officers and men into foreign service.

An important official document still exists in the State Paper Office, which was prepared by a Government spy, and which details the names, rank, and qualifications of many of these gentlemen. They were serving in Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Poland, and the Low Countries. Don Richard Burke—strange that the first on the list of Irish exiles should be of Anglo-Norman descent—was Governor of Leghorn, and had seen great service in Italy and in the West Indies; "Phellemy O'Neill, nephew to old Tyrone," lived with great respect in Milan. There were one hundred able to command companies, and twenty fit to be made colonels under the Archduchess alone. The list of the names would fill several pages, and those, it should be remembered, were leading men. There were, besides, to be considered, an immense number of Irish of the lower classes, who had accompanied their chiefs abroad, and served in their regiments. The report says: " They have long been providing of arms for any attempt against Ireland, and had in readiness five or six thousand arms laid up in Antwerp for that purpose, bought out of the deduction of their monthly pay, as will be proved; and it is thought now they have doubled that proportion by those means. "[5]

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[5] Means.—This curious document was first published in the Nation of February 5th, 1859.


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