Journalist Ekin (The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates, 2006, etc.) chronicles the 1601 siege of Kinsale, 100 days that changed history.
The author’s gift for deep, comprehensive historical study and his ability to keep characters fresh in readers’ minds bring this battle between Spain’s best general and Queen Elizabeth’s favorite, Charles Blount, to the awareness it has been denied. Ekin succeeds in uncovering the truth about Irish perfidy, the lack of Spanish support, and the English attempt to control Ireland. King Felipe III (Philip to the English) wanted to control the English accession upon the death of Elizabeth. He hoped to establish the Spanish in Ireland, ready to invade with the help of the Catholic lords. Even with all his wealth from American silver, Felipe was broke, thus leaving his invasion armada poorly equipped. When Juan del Águila landed on the south coast, a result of adverse winds, Kinsale capitulated immediately. He expected insurgent leaders, the Earl of Desmond and Florence MacCarthy, to link up and provide food, men, and horses, followed by the northern lords Hugh O’Neill and Red Hugh O’Donnell. Unfortunately, the first two were prisoners in the Tower of London thanks to a spy in their midst, and the northerners took months to arrive. Del Águila was one of Spain’s finest fighters, and, facing a lack of support from his country, a couple of clerics trying to run the show, and a better-manned enemy, he almost pulled it off. The author explains the terrain, battles, siege construction, and weaponry well enough to please any military historian, but the real prizes here are the author’s discussions of the effect of the battle on Spain as its empire died and England’s colonies grew, the end of Spain’s religious wars, the shift of power in England, and the cataclysm as Gaelic Ireland declined and died.
A fantastic book that finally assigns Kinsale its rightful place in history.