Letter of Hugh O’Neill to King Philip III of Spain Concerning the Irish Seminary at Douai
The appeal below for the Irish seminary in Douai was sent to King Philip III of Spain in 1599 by Hugh O’Neill, King of Tyrone and then also regarded by his supporters in the war against Queen Elizabeth as the rightful King of Ireland. (Significantly, when the Spaniard Mateo de Oviedo was appointed Archbishop of Dublin the following year, Pope Clement VIII sent with him a crown made of peacock feathers for O’Neill.)
The Irish seminary at Douai (then part of the Spanish Netherlands) was founded around 1577 by Fr Ralph Cusack. King Philip endowed the Irish seminary in 1604 with 5,000 florins. (Incidentally it is little understood today just how crucial the support and generosity of the Kings of Spain was to the survival of Catholicism in Ireland.) After the Flight of the Earls, Hugh O’Neill would stay at the seminary in 1607 on his way to Rome (where Paul V welcomed him lavishly and the same King Philip awarded him with a substantial pension).
31 December, 1599.
Since nothing can be more beneficial to a Christian commonwealth than to have men, eminent in learning and virtue, to sow the word of God, instruct the people, and eradicate vice from the minds of men; of which men, alas, this realm is destitute, owing to a lengthened war [see here – shane] and the activity of heresy; wherefore, most powerful King, nothing could be more desirable for our commonwealth than to have such men, whom we cannot possess, unless Your Majesty, in your wonted kindness for the welfare of the whole commonwealth, the exaltation of the Catholic faith, and the extirpation of heresy, assign some allowance to our college at Douai, containing nearly one hundred students, living solely on the liberality and alms of others.
Almighty God long preserve Your Majesty to the universal Christian commonwealth and to us Irishmen.
Your Majesty’s most faithful subject,