Smerwick harborPosted: June 4, 2018 Filed under: Ireland Leave a comment
Poke into the history of just about any place in Ireland and sooner or later you’ll find an event of such violence and sorrow as to be almost ridiculous. Take Smerwick harbor. Here in 1580 six hundred luckless Italian and Spanish soldiers got massacred:
According to Grey de Wilton’s account, contained in a despatch to Elizabeth I of England dated 11 November 1580, he rejected an approach made by the besieged Spanish and Italian forces to agree terms of a conditional surrender in which they would cede the fort and leave. Lord Grey de Wilton claimed that he insisted that they surrender without preconditions and put themselves at his mercy, and that he subsequently rejected a request for a ceasefire. An agreement (according to Grey de Wilton) was finally made for an unconditional surrender the next morning, with hostages being taken by English forces to ensure compliance. The following morning, an English force entered the fort to secure and guard armaments and supplies. Grey de Wilton’s account in his despatch says “Then put I in certain bands, who straight fell to execution. There were six hundred slain.“
Shannon Luxton on Wiki took this photo of the massacre site:
According to the folklore of the area, the execution of the captives took two days,
Ask yourself — would you rather be beheaded day one, or day two?
with many of the captives being beheaded in a field known locally in Irish as Gort a Ghearradh(the Field of the Cutting); their bodies later being thrown into the sea. The veracity of these accounts was long disputed, until a local field known as Gort na gCeann (the Field of the Heads) was investigated by 21st-century archaeologists and found to be full of 16th-century skulls.
The Field of the Cutting. Jeezus, Ireland. And how about this monument to the heads?
Even for the time the Smerwick mass beheading was considered a bit much. Sir Walter Raleigh was in on it. Later his involvement was used against him.
Behead and ye shall be beheaded: eventually it was his turn:
Raleigh was beheaded in the Old Palace Yard at the Palace of Westminster on 29 October 1618. “Let us dispatch”, he said to his executioner. “At this hour my ague comes upon me. I would not have my enemies think I quaked from fear.” After he was allowed to see the axe that would be used to behead him, he mused: “This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all diseases and miseries.” According to biographers, Raleigh’s last words (as he lay ready for the axe to fall) were: “Strike, man, strike!”
Some four hundred thirty-eight years post Smerwick, the Spanish, Italians and Irish are on the verge of an England-less European Union. That my friends is called winning the long game.