Memorial of Hugh Roe O’Donnell and Hugh O’Neill to King Philip III of Spain Concerning the Irish College of Salamanca

“Hugh Roe O’Donnell leading his army” – at the Battle of Kinsale (1601), which saw the defeat of Irish and Spanish forces and ultimately the end of the Gaelic order. The defeat prompted this particular visit to King Philip.

The following memorial was sent to King Philip III of Spain in 1602 by Hugh Roe O’Donnell and Hugh O’Neill, kings of Tyrconnell and Tyrone respectively. It was presented personally to the King by O’Donnell and the remarkable Fr. Florence Conry (later appointed Archbishop of Tuam and founder of the Irish College at Leuvan). The following is the original, underneath it is a translation:

Un Memorial de la parte del Collegio de Salamanca que ha dado el Conde Odonel, a 22 de Mays del año 1602.

S. C. R. Magd.,

El Conde Odonel de Irlanda besa los pies de V. Magd. y dice que en los Reynos de V. Magd. ay algunos Collegos o Seminarios para instruir los estudiantes Irlandeses que por la persecucion de los hereges no pueden ser enseñados en la sana y Catholica doctrina, y en particular tiene V. Magd. un Collego en Salamanca, para este effecto sustentado con la limosna que V. Magd. le hace, y la que juntan los que le tienen a cargo de los prelados y Titulados de Hespaña.

En este collego preside un Religioso de la Compañia Irlandes y natural de las provincias subjectas ala Reyna y por consiguiente Sçismaticas, el qual no tiene pia afficion a los Irlandeses de Ultonia y Conaçia [Ulster and Connaught - shane] y Catholicos declarados y que tantos años ha que tienen las armas en defensa de la Fee: y a esta causa no quiere recibir los estudiantes de aquellas provincias, siendo verdad que estos mas que otros delrian ser sustendados de las limosnas de los fideles, lo uno por ser verdaderos Catholicos y vasallos de la iglesia y de V. Magd., por lo qual se espora haran mas fructo que los que se han criado con tan mala leche como la obediencia de la Reyna y entrañable armor a sus cosas, y fuera del gremio de la iglesia, que es fuerça que volviendo entre los suyos se haed de dexar llevar de la corriento, y hace mucho mas daño que sino huvieran estudiado. Por que estos enseñan que se puede obedecar ala Reyna y tomar armas contra V. Magd., y a los que hacen confiesan y absuelven y admetten alas missas y divines officios.

Mas estos estudiantes son communmente hijos de mercaderes ricos que podrian a costa de sus padres estudiar, y sino fuese para ahorrar la costa imbiarian a Ingalaterra al estudio como otros de los mismos haçen y dentro de Irlanda en aquellas provincias sujetas ala Reyna tienen alguna comodidad para estudiar. Pero los nuestros son Catholicissimos tienen entrañada la obediencia de la iglesia, y desde la cuna aborrecen la maldita seta de la Reyna y predican contra ella: por los guerras continuar no tienen modo ni aparato alguno para estudiar, los que vienen a Hespaña son hijos de nobles que han perdito sus haciendas por la Fee y no tienan comodidad por proveer los.

Por estas y otras raçones supplico a V. Magd. de parte de Onel [O’Neill – shane] y mia y que de aquellas dos provincias de V. Magd. mande que el dicho Seminario de Salamanca se reciban porlo menos la metad de los estudiantes de Ultonia y Conaçia [Ulster and Connaught - shane], y para que se execute sera neçessario remoner de la administraçion el religioso que esta en ella que se llama Thomas Vitus y que se ponga Rector Hespañoe que puntualmente obedezca lo que se le ordenare, porque este padre escierto que siempre pondra excusas aparentes, y quando los reçiba por fuerça, les hara tal tratamiento que no le podran suffrir, y en esto hara V. Magd. gran servicio a nro. señor, y los verdaderos Catholicos de Irlanda grandissimo beneficio y mersed singular.

Mauricio Ultano de la tierra del Conde Odonel y Edmundo Donaldino de la tierra del Conde Onel, hijos de basallos Ricos y Honrados de los dichos, que han perdido toda su hacienda y serviendoles por no ser admittidos a ningunas casas de estudios que los Irlandeses tenian en estas partes, Piden que su Magd. leshaga md de alguna comodidad en Salamanca con que puedan estudiar, su Magd. podia remediar esta necessidad de estos honrados estudiantes y de otros muchos que vernan adar enfado a esta corte, mandando que se reciba luego estos dos estudiantes en el Seminario Irlandes de Salamanca, y sera de mucha importancia y convendria para el bien da aquel Reyno que tambien mande expressamente que se recibaro en aquel seminario en adalanto tantos de la provincia de Conaçia y Ultonia quanteo de Monia y Laxenia pues aquellas dos tienen tanta tierra como los otras, y su Magd. fundo aquel collegio no para sola una provincia sino para todo el Reyno, y para que la dicha orden se guarde inviolablemento no no basta mandarla sin que señale su Magd. una persona del consijo por defensor y proctetor de aquel seminario.

Las raçones que al pe fr. Florencio le parece que ay para hacer esta reformacion son muchas de las quales algunas auia que no dexan de causar lastima en coraçon tan Catholico como el de su Magd. y en los muy Christianos coraçones de los de sus consejos.

To His Catholic Royal Majesty,

The Count O’Donnell, of Ireland, kisses the feet of Your Majesty, and says that, in the kingdoms of Your Majesty, there are several colleges or seminaries for the instruction of Irish students, who, through the persecution of the heretics, cannot [in their own country - shane] be instructed in the sound and Catholic doctrine; and that in particular Your Majesty has a college at Salamanca, which is maintained for this purpose by the charity of Your Majesty, added to the funds set apart for its support by the bishops and titularies of Spain.

Over this college presides a religious, a member of the Irish order of Jesuits, and a native of those provinces that are subject to the queen, and consequently schismatical, who does not entertain a pious affection for the open and avowed Irish Catholics of Ulster and Connaught, who have for so many years held arms in defence of the faith, and on this account does not wish to receive the students of those provinces; the truth being, that they more than any others ought to be sustained by the alms of the faithful, because of their having remained true Catholics and vassals of the Church and of Your Majesty, on which account it may be expected that they will produce better fruit than those who have been reared on such bad milk as obedience to the queen and an affectionate love for her interests, and [for people - shane] outside the pale of the Church; the result being, that, when they return among their own people, they will let themselves be carried with the current, and thus do much more evil than if they had not studied at all, because they teach that it is permissible to obey the queen and to take arms against Your Majesty; and those that do so, they confess and absolve, and admit to Mass and the divine offices.

But those students are usually the sons of rich merchants, who could be educated at the expense of their parents, and who, if it were not to save the cost, would be sent to pursue their studies in England, like others of the same class. Even in Ireland itself, in those provinces subject to the queen, there are considerable facilities for study; but ours are Catholic of the Catholic, who cherish in their hearts obedience to the Church, and who from their cradle abhor the accursed sect of the queen, and proclaim against it. Owing to continual wars, they have no means or opportunities of study; those who come to Spain are the sons of the nobles who have lost their properties for the faith, and have no means of obtaining the advantages possessed by the others.

For these and other reasons I supplicate Your Majesty, on the part of O’Neill and of myself, and on behalf of those two provinces, that Your Majesty will command that the said seminary of Salamanca shall receive one-half of its students from Ulster and Connaught. For the carrying out of this arrangement, it will be necessary to remove from the administration of the college the religious who at present directs it, whose name is Thomas White, and to appoint a Spanish rector to preside over it, who will punctually obey the orders he shall receive, because it is certain that the father referred to will always be prepared with plausible excuses for rejecting those students; and even should he be compelled by force to receive them, he will treat them in a way that will be impossible to be endured. In thus acting, Your Majesty will do a great service to our Lord, and confer the greatest possible benefit and an especial favour on the true Catholics of Ireland.

Maurice Ultan, of the country of the Count O’Donnell [Tyrconnell – shane], and Edmund Donaldino, of the country of the Count O’Neill [Tyrone – shane], sons of rich and honourable vassals of those lords, who have lost all their property in their service, and who, in consequence, were not admitted into any of the houses of study which the Irish have in these parts, entreat His Majesty that he may be pleased to make some arrangement for their studies at Salamanca.

His Majesty could remedy this necessity of these honourable students, and many others who are suffering much anxiety at this court, by commanding that these two students be received forthwith into the Irish seminary of Salamanca; and it would be of great importance, and would materially tend to the advantage of that kingdom, if it were expressly commanded that, for the future, as many students should be received into that seminary from Connaught and Ulster as from Munster and Leinster, since the two former divisions contain as much land as the two latter, and because His Majesty founded that college, not for one province alone, but for the whole kingdom. And that the said order may be carried out in its integrity, it is not enough that His Majesty should command it, but that he should name a member of the council to be the defender and protector of that seminary.

The reasons which seem to the father friar Florence to require this reformation are numerous, some of which cannot fail to move the compassion of a heart so Catholic as that of His Majesty, as well as of the very Christian hearts of the members of his council.

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Posted on November 23, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. CONGRATULATIONS! FANTASTIC BLOG!
    welcome to the site: http://www.virgemdeguadalupe.blogspot.com

  2. Thanks! – for the compliments and the link.

  3. Nice document!

    Do you know who was the Jesuit hereby denounced? “Over this college presides a religious, a member of the Irish order of Jesuits, and a native of those provinces that are subject to the queen, and consequently schismatical, who does not entertain a pious affection for the open and avowed Irish Catholics of Ulster and Connaught…”

    Thank you!

  4. Gualterio, thanks. I put up a similar letter a few days ago. It is a reference to the Clonmel-born rector, Fr Thomas White, S.J., and it reflects the tensions in the clerical diaspora between the Gaelic Irish and the sons of wealthy Old English merchants living in the towns of the east coast. (The ‘Old English’ were descendents of Norman settlers but had remained Catholic during the Reformation, and many of them were totally Gaelicized at this stage.) The memorial accuses Fr White of being unduly partial to the latter. This accusation offended him and he denied it. The memorial also calls for a Spaniard to be appointed instead (which seems to have succeeded as Fr White stood down a year later and the next three College rectors were Spaniards.)

  5. Muy interesante. Visited Salamanca in 2008 to visit my daughter who was there on her Erasmus year. Found a tablet on a wall which read ‘Colegio de los nobles Irlandeses’. Thought it poignant. A beautiful city. Estoy feliz. He leido esto en Espanol!

  6. bellitum, very interesting. The College closed in 1951, but before then the Irish presence had been a feature of the city life. A Spanish friend tells me that when he studied in Salamanca in the early 1980s, the memory of the Irish seminarians and clergy was still very much alive.

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