The Mylesian myth, and the fact that both Spaniards and Irish were devout Catholics, created an extremely strong bond between them.
This book tells the story of the Wild Geese from the creation of the first Irish Tercio of the Spanish Army in until , when the last three Irish regiments of Bourbon Spain were disbanded in the aftermath of the Peninsular War. Chapters are also dedicated to the Irish officers who fought for Austria, Russia and other countries during these two and a half centuries.
This book is not only a story of battles.
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Care is taken to give the historical background of the many wars in which the Irish participated. It must be stressed, however, that the book is essentially a military and political narrative and avoids the extensive sociological analysis of recent academic works dedicated to the Irish emigration to continental Europe. London and Madrid became irreconcilable enemies and the intermittent state of war between them only came to an end at the beginning of the 19th century, when the Latin America became independent and Spain ceased to be a major power.
Spain, the leader of the Counter-Reformation, had a natural affinity with these men, and England was the common enemy of both Irish and Spaniards. However, Spanish assistance to Irish insurrections was unsuccessful and ended in disaster: Smerwick and Kinsale This is where the story of the Wild Geese starts. In , Elizabeth I sent an English army to the Netherlands under the Earl of Leicester, to support the insurrection.
In the summer of the following year, an Irish unit of men arrived in the Low Countries, to reinforce these troops. This was asking for trouble. Not surprisingly, in January , Stanley and his men went over to the Spanish and surrender the town of Deventer, which they were garrisoning, to the enemy. Although Stanley accepted a bribe, his defection also seems to have been a matter of conscience.
In the last decades of the 16th century, English Catholics found themselves in a very difficult situation and had to choose between their religion and loyalty to their country.
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During its 17 years of existence, it distinguished itself at Bois-le- Duc, Amiens and several other battles. Stanley died in Ghent in , aged Many other Irish regiments served in the Spanish Netherlands until that territory was ceded to Austria at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in The emigration of Irish soldiers and their dependants to Flanders was continuous, but the numbers fluctuated, reaching peaks in the aftermath of failed Irish rebellions against the English and periods of economic hardship.
Many of the men who joined the unit were Irishmen who had left their country during or shortly after the Nine Years War , and particularly after the battle of Kinsale in Several of the retainers who had accompanied them, however, were permitted to remain in the Netherlands and joined the regiment. After Kinsale, Spain found herself faced with an immigration wave which she could not absorb. The answer was to enroll as many men as possible in the Army of Flanders and send them to fight against the Dutch and the French. Having an Irish regiment also provided Madrid with a weapon against London and a means of pressure in times of peace : the Irish Tercio was the ideal spearhead of any invasion of Ireland and its existence caused concern in both London and Dublin.
However, for the English it was better to have these Irish soldiers employed on the continent. Were the regiment to be dissolved, many of these men would probably have no alternative but to return to their native country, where they could start another rebellion. Thus, for political reasons the English authorities not only allowed but also encouraged Irish military emigration to the Spanish Netherlands.
There was also an important economic dimension: Madrid paid for its soldiers and the raising of mercenary units in Ireland became a very profitable industry for both the English government and private contractors. John assumed operational command of the Tercio in The regiment was transferred to Spain in , to deal with the emergency caused by a French invasion, soon followed by a Catalonian insurrection.
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It was annihilated in an attack against the Castle of Montjuich, near Barcelona, in It was destroyed in , in a naval battle against the French, with its colonel and hundreds of his men dying in action. In , the Irish rose against the English.
A number of Irishmen who had served in the French army also returned home to help the insurrection. The war ended in defeat for the Irish in and yet another wave of emigration to France and Spain. According to one version of events, he settled in France and entered the service of the exiled King Charles II. According to another, he rejoined the Army of Flanders. There were many other Irish Tercios in the Spanish Netherlands. In this summary, it is sufficient to say that Irish troops fought in the Thirty Years War and in the many conflicts between Spain and France.
This allowed the creation of an Irish Brigade, composed of three regiments: the Irlanda, the Hibernia and the Ultonia. Brand: Wyatt.
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