Massacre at Fort del Ore

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXVII

But the crowning tragedy was at hand. The expedition commanded by San José now arrived in Ireland. The Fort del Ore was once more occupied and strengthened; the courage of the insurgents was revived. Meanwhile Lord Grey was marching southward with all possible haste. He soon reached the fort, and, at the same time, Admirals Winter and Bingham prepared to attack the place by sea. In a few days the courage of the Spanish commander failed, and he entered into treaty with the Lord Deputy. A bargain was made that he should receive a large share of the spoils. He had obtained a personal interview in the Viceroy's camp,[5] and the only persons for whom he made conditions were the Spaniards who had accompanied him on the expedition. The English were admitted to the fortress on the following day, and a feast was prepared for them. All arms and ammunition were consigned to the care of the English soldiers, and, this accomplished, the signal for massacre was given: and, according to Lord Grey's official [6] account, 600 men were slain in cold blood. So universal was the reprobation of this fearful tragedy, that Sir Richard Bingham tried to make it appear that it had not been premeditated. Grey's official despatch places the matter beyond question, and Dr. Saunders' letter supplies the details on authority which cannot be disputed.


[5] Camp.—Dr. Saunders' letter, Moran's Archbishops, p. 202.

[6] Official.—Lord Grey says, in his official despatch to the Queen, dated "From the camp before Smerwick, November 12, 1580:" "I sent streighte certeyne gentlemen to see their weapons and armouries laid down, and to guard the munition and victual, then left, from spoil; then put in certeyne bandes, who streighte fell to execution. There were 600 slayn. " After this exploit, "Grey's faith"—Graia fides—became proverbial even on the Continent. Grey appears to have a touch of the Puritan (by anticipation) in his composition, for we find him using very unctuous language about one John Cheeke, who "so wrought in him God's Spirit, plainlie declairing him a child of His elected;" and he calls the Pope "a detestable shaveling." Raleigh is said to have had the execution of this butchery; his friend, Spenser, was "not far off," according to his own account. He has attempted to excuse his patron, Lord Grey, but his excuse simply shows that the massacre was reprobated by all persons not destitute of common humanity.