Saint Patrick’s History, 4: Richard Boyle, earl of Cork, power, politics and intrigue in Elizabethan & Stuart Ireland.

18 thoughts on “Saint Patrick’s History, 4: Richard Boyle, earl of Cork, power, politics and intrigue in Elizabethan & Stuart Ireland.”

    1. thank you very much Andrew. I’m looking forward to finding a bit of time over the next few days and giving your El Cid piece the proper attention and reading it deserves. Look forward to that. Thanks very much for your visit, and kind words. -Arran.

  1. To me, your post works like a housekeeper who pushes aside a piece of furniture and finds a pile of dirt to sweep up. I like how you take something concrete — this large wood memorial to the Boyles — and shove it aside to show us all of the dirt. Boyle: what an incredible opportunist! In spite of everything, I guess I have to admire his survival skills. He outlived just about all of his foes.

    Your final line about the descendants not paying for the memorial’s upkeep is a killer: It just shows that the acorns don’t fall too far from the ancestral tree! Great post. thank you.

    1. Thank you very much, not everyone has the time or the commitment to sit down properly and read a long piece like this so I’m really glad you did, and even more chuffed you clearly enjoyed it. Thanks very much for taking the time too to comment, blogs are enjoyable eh? but they also take a lot of time, we all put a lot of effort in and so it makes a big difference when people take the time to respond. Its late here in Ireland but I’ll pay a proper, reciprocal visit to your blog soon, I look forward to seeing what you’ve been up to. Very best regards- Arran.

  2. There’s a typo you should really correct. You’ve got Sir Francis Walsingham as Sir Rancis Wallisham. … Unless of course that was his undercover name in Ireland given that James bond would have seemed quite incongruous at the time.

    A very interesting and thorough account, though, with lots of details I was not aware of.

    1. Done. Thanks Murray for the heads up, very glad to get that sorted, although I know I do make typos. Partly an occupational hazard of long posts full of old names and places, partly just my own bad spelling! Glad to catch it now. Delighted you read and enjoyed the article, and the others too, on the cathedral and on Carnac. I like you comment on the origin of the Carnac standing stones, and your explanation for the Roman conquest of Gaul!

  3. I’m glad I set aside some time to come over for a visit! I have to say I like the wooden memorial as well. Marble can sometimes seem so antiseptic and removed. The wooden sculpture feels more accessible, more connected to the time somehow. The colors help as well. It’s funny, as I was reading about Richard Boyle I wondered if he was related to Robert Boyle (he was one of the founders of the Royal Society, I did graduate work in the history of science so enjoyed rummaging through their papers). Funny that the Boyle family is still holding a grudge after all these years. And the Earl of Essex always reminded me of a gigolo—with the queen being the ultimate client. But it really didn’t pay off for him in the end, did it. As always, a great read, Arran!

    1. Many thanks, Madame Weebles, always a pleasure to have you visit and get your perceptive comments. Speaking of Boyle and that whole generation of scientists, did you ever read that fascinating novel, (at least I thought it was fascinating) called An Instance of the Fingerpost ? Yes, bizarre title i know, from a poem by Alexandra Pope I think. (he of the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind) Anyway, its set in Oxford and parts in London and many of the leading intellectuals, mathematicians, scientists and others appear, (Locke, Boyle, John Wallis etc) and is a terrific read. PS: I am wrong about Pope, just rechecked and apparently the title was drawn from the writings Francis Bacon. Oh well, thank Goodness for Wikipedia et al. ! Still, I heartily recommend the book, if you haven’t already read it. Think you would find much of resonance to amuse and intrigue you. best regards – Arran.

  4. Great post this, Arran; I love this subject (from Richard Boyle, a second son, leaving Canterbury in the 1580s with a degree from Cambridge, a dagger, a rapier, a diamond ring and 27 pounds in his money belt, to his becoming, over the next 40 or 50 years, a full-blown Renaissance prince, as rich as any man in Europe, and then it all ending in the chaos and mayhem an horror and regicide of the 1640s). Epic. But just now I want to thank you for your comment on my blog about the MA at UCC. Do especially see the ‘Welcome to Pine Point’ website, it is simply the best. Also I’m going to repost what I said in reply to your comment here because you may not get back to my blog to see it there (I do not know whether WordPress alerts you when someone replies to a comment on a blog post; I don’t think so). So here is what I said in reply to your comment (which, I feel, will not be out of place at the bottom of this post). Hi Arran, great to hear from you. MA is working out very well, really interesting; everything I’d hoped for. Thanks for telling me about 1641 depositions, which interest me very much (flawed, as you say, a C17th ‘dodgy dossier’, but hugely influential nonetheless because so many people took them for gospel [so to say] which, true or not, make them supremely interesting, historically). Of course, this will nicely compliment the Down Survey project too. And both together were powerful demonstrations of ‘paper politics’ if you know what I mean: the power of the written word and the effectiveness of a well governed filing system and maps and so forth. A bit like that section in ‘Wolf Hall’ when [the Thames-rat] Thomas Cromwell puts Harry Percy, the Earl of Northhumberland, in his place (viz the source of REAL power in this world), Mantel writes: “How can he explain it to him? This world is not run from where he thinks. Not from his border fortresses, not even from Whitehall. The world is run from Antwerp, from Florence, from places he has never imagined; from Lisbon, from where ships with sails of silk drift west and are burned up in the sun. Not from castle walls, but from counting houses, not by the call of the bugle but by the click of the abacus, not by the grate and click of the mechanism of the gun but by the scrape of the pen on the page of a promissory note that pays for the gun and the gunsmith and the powder and shot.” (p. 378).

    1. Great to hear from you Perry, and so pleased, (although not remotely surprised) the MA is going so well, sure you’re already planning or doing great things with the technology and the approaches. I look forward to seeing the results some time over the next year or so, or whenever you feel it’s right to go live on-line. Will also, I promise, investigate the Pine Point project, first available opportunity, especially with your ringing endorsement.

      On the 1641 Depositions,and other recently digitized 17thC source, I Could not agree with you more, yes they are outrageously flawed. We know this. not merely because of the in-built bias, bigotry and political agenda of the people recording the depositions, (recording a motive for later revenge in fact, (via Cromwell, as it turned out) ) but also because of internal, & textual evidence. I love the History Ireland festival in Co Carlow and 2 years ago there, the 17th C historians Jane Olymyer and Micahael O’Sorchu gave a talk & presentation on the 1641 material, where O’Sorchu noted drily just how many of the victims, asked to estimate the amount of cash &/or jewels stolen in the Uprising, said “£100!” – ie: then both an enormous, but also a suspiciously “neat” round figure!
      In a similar vein, the infamous woodcuts of the Ulster Uprising in full swing, with those barbaric images of Catholic rebels tossing babies in the air with pikes, and disemboweling Protestants, are also historically farcical, pretending to be based on “eye-witness” reports, but in reality simply reusing continental woodcuts, of earlier, if related events in France/Germany/Holland etc)
      Quite agree with you this bias is part of what makes them (both woodcuts and Depositions) so “historical” and so entirely of their (political/ historical/religious strife/European & international context- times. Food for thought indeed.
      Love your larger, more expansive point , about this (the 16th- 17th Cs) being a sort of turning point in the entire direction and sensibility of the entire world, from medieval barons (essentially part of a very ancient elite warrior caste) to the new reality we know so well today, of counting houses and international trade and finance. So very true, and something I try in my own small way that i try to impress on my students or visitors here in Dublin, whether its a walking tour in the city centre, an art history class,, or a talk in the Natural Galley, – where, as you can well imagine- the 17th century Dutch genre paintings illuminate the point perfectly! (I’m thinking especially of that amazing, exquisite image of a young businessman in international trade, by Gabrielle Metsu)

      Anyway, I’ve gabbled on far too long! But its a pleasure to be in touch again, and my warm compliments from Dublin to Cork! Very kind wishes Perry. -Arran.

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