A Journey into Forgotten History

Noting that Sir Walter Raleigh had first introduced tobacco to Britain, and had been born in Devon, I went searching on Google maps this morning for his birthplace, and found that it was only a mile or so from the river Otter, on whose banks I often sat after being exiled to the outdoors by the 2007 UK smoking ban.

Raleigh is recorded as being a English landed gentleman, writer, poet, soldier, politician, courtier, spy and explorer.  He was eventually executed by James I (author of A Counterblaste To Tobacco) in 1618, at the age of 65 – although for plotting against the king, rather than for smoking.

Having been one of the people to popularise tobacco smoking in England, he left a small tobacco pouch, found in his cell shortly after his execution. Engraved upon the pouch was a Latin inscription: Comes meus fuit in illo miserrimo tempore (“It was my companion at that most miserable time”).

Raleigh’s head was embalmed and presented to his wife. His body was to be buried in the local church in Beddington, Surrey, the home of Lady Raleigh, but was finally laid to rest in St. Margaret’s, Westminster, where his tomb may still be visited today. “The Lords”, she wrote, “have given me his dead body, though they have denied me his life. God hold me in my wits.” It has been said that Lady Raleigh kept her husband’s head in a velvet bag until her death. After Raleigh’s wife’s death 29 years later, his head was returned to his tomb and interred at St. Margaret’s Church.

My inquiry next led to Ireland. For some 17 years, Raleigh became a landowner in Ireland, after taking part in the suppression of the second Desmond Rebellion. As a reward for this he was given 40,000 acres of land in Ireland, including the towns of Youghal and Lismore.

In Ireland he also took part in the Siege of Smerwick, in which some 600 Spanish and Italian soldiers were massacred.

I’d never heard of the Desmond Rebellions or the siege of Smerwick. It took quite a while to hunt down the little promontory near Dingle where this siege and massacre took place, at latitude 52.190831ºN, -10.414610ºW. Here, after a three-day siege, and after they had surrendered, all 600 defending soldiers were beheaded, and their bodies thrown into the sea, while their heads were buried in a field which is still known as Gort na gCeann, “The Field of the Heads.”

In this field there now stands a stone memorial on which are 12 relief heads – the work of the Irish sculptor Clíodhna Cussen, who is still alive, so can’t be very old.

The episode seems to have more to do with the religious disputes of the time, rather than Angl0-Irish affairs. For the 600 Spanish and Italian soldiers were Catholics in the pay of Pope Gregory XIII, while the English (including Raleigh) were Protestants. For it had only been some 50 years earlier that the English had more or less completely suppressed Catholicism in England, which the papacy wished to recover. So the Siege of Smerwick would seem to belong more with the Spanish Armada of 1588.

Next wondering how long Englishmen like Raleigh had been in Ireland, I was led further back in history to the Norman Invasion of Ireland:

The Norman invasion of Ireland was a Norman military expedition to Ireland that took place on May 1, 1169 at the behest of Dermot MacMurrough, the King of Leinster. It was partially consolidated by Henry II on October 18, 1171 and led to the eventual entry of the Lordship of Ireland into the Angevin Empire. The invasion had the Pope’s blessing because Irish Christianity did not conform to Rome’s rules. Therefore, Ireland could be pacified and brought under the authority of the Pope. Later, papal blessing would sanction the imperial projects of Spain and Portugal. Immediate consequences were the end of the Irish High Kingship and the beginning of English rule in Ireland, which continued until 1922.

So 100 years after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, the Norman kings of England extended their rule to much of Ireland, with the blessing of the Pope. The blue areas on the map at right show those areas which were under Norman control a century later.

Over the next few centuries, it seems that much of Ireland reverted to Irish control, so that by 1450, the Norman-English crown only directly controlled an area around Dublin called The Pale (below).

It appears that it was only after about 1550 that the newly-Protestant English crown began to re-assert its control over Catholic Ireland. And by this time, the Norman kings of England had lost their Norman and French territories, shown in the map of the Angevin Empire in 1172 below:

It would seem that the role played by the Papacy in Rome during this period was much like that played by the EU today. Nobody could be allowed to break away, and the English reformation was the Brexit of its time.

And with that, an inquiry that had begun with Sir Walter Raleigh, and dug deep into Irish history, discovering a forgotten massacre in the process, came to an end.

About Frank Davis

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8 Responses to A Journey into Forgotten History

  1. garyk30 says:

    Interesting and one is never too old to learn something new.

    • beobrigitte says:

      God help us all!
      Chronologically, the first case-patient (probable case) reported was a male in his 30s, who worked as a game hunter and lived near a cave with a heavy presence of bats. On 20 September, he was admitted to a local health centre with high fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, and did not respond to antimalarial treatment. As his condition deteriorated, he was transferred to the referral hospital in the neighbouring district, where he died the same day. No samples were collected. He was given a traditional burial, which was attended by an estimated 200 people
      No samples were collected????? That is unlikely. It is standard procedure to do so.
      The sister (confirmed case) of the first case-patient nursed him and participated in the burial rituals. She became ill and was admitted to the same health centre on 5 October 2017 with fever and bleeding manifestations. She was subsequently transferred to the same referral hospital, where she died. She was given a traditional burial. Posthumous samples were collected and sent to the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI). On 17 October, Marburg virus infection was confirmed at UVRI by RT-PCR and it was immediately notified to the Ministry of Health.
      Even more scary:
      The third case-patient (suspected case) is the brother of the first two cases. He assisted in the transport of his sister to the hospital, and subsequently became symptomatic. He refused to be admitted to hospital, and returned to the community. His whereabouts are currently not known though there is an ongoing effort to find him.
      Houston, we’ve got a problem…
      The scariest bit, however:
      Public health response

      The Ugandan Ministry of Health has rapidly responded to the outbreak, with support from WHO and partners. A rapid response field team was deployed to the two affected districts within 24 hours of the confirmation.
      Which translates into the whole thing being brushed under the carpet like the EBOLA epidemic.
      And the WHO concentrating on what to do next to the tobacco industry and the buyers of their products. After all, tobacco “kills”?
      This useless organisation needs to be dissolved; it costs money and it’s money for nothing.
      I know enough about the Marburg virus to buy supplies and declare my house as ISOLATION the minute the first infected health worker is flown back into this country.
      The Marburg virus in 1967 killed. Full stop. It’s 50 years on and the thing will have mutated into being a survivor even more – that means more deadly for us.

      Ironically in 2014:
      http: //www.who.int/csr/don/10-october-2014-marburg/en/
      The confirmed case was a healthcare worker who had onset of disease on 11 September 2014 while working at Mengo Hospital, Kampala. The case presented to Mpigi District Health Center on 17 September 2014, and transferred to Mengo Hospital, Kampala, on 23 September 2014. On admission the case presented with symptoms including fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea and died on 28 September 2014.
      The public never heard about that one.
      And, in 2014: (remember, COP 6, Moscow, caviar and champagne for the WHO officials for what to do next to tobacco product companies and buyers)
      WHO recommendations

      Marburg virus disease is a severe and highly fatal disease caused by a virus from the same family as the one that causes Ebola virus disease. Both viruses can cause large outbreaks such as the ongoing Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa. The last outbreak of MVD in Uganda occurred in 2012 during which 20 cases, including 9 fatal cases were reported from Kabale District, Kampala, Ibanda, Mbarara, and Kabarole.

      WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on Uganda based on the current information available on this outbreak.

      Enough said.

  2. Tony says:

    Quite a story that. Thanks.

    Some thoughts on his execution:

    ”He was eventually executed by James I (author of A Counterblaste To Tobacco) in 1618, at the age of 65 – although for plotting against the king, rather than for smoking.

    Reading James’ book, it is clear that he was an anti-smoking fanatic of the worst kind. It seems to me that he would have hated Raleigh with a vengeance. Just look at MJM’s wall of hate. And possibly the feeling was reciprocated.

    Your post of yesterday: ‘Smokers and Antismokers Cannot Coexist’ might provide insight. James 1st believed he was appointed by God to be King and he ruled by divine right, having almost total power. So Raleigh’s continuing to smoke would itself have been seen as defiance and possibly, given his fame and popularity, even rebellion. So James had good reason to want to frame him. Of course, by the same token, Raleigh himself had good reason to want remove the king.

    Looking at Raleigh’s wikipedia entry, it seems that having been kept in the Tower for years, he was freed but later re-arrested and executed as a sop to the king of Spain. I rather doubt Elizabeth 1st would have done so had she still been alive.

    • Rose says:

      On Sir Walter Raleigh

      “Now to the corrupted basenesse of the first use of this Tobacco, doeth very well agree the foolish and groundlesse first entry thereof into this Kingdome. It is not so long since the first entry of this abuse amongst us here, as this present age cannot yet very well remember, both the first Author, and the forme of the first introduction of it amongst us. It was neither brought in by King, great Conquerour, nor learned Doctor of Phisicke.

      With the report of a great discovery for a Conquest, some two or three Savage men, were brought in, together with this Savage custome. But the pitie is, the poore wilde barbarous men died, but that vile barbarous custome is yet alive, yea in fresh vigor: so as it seemes a miracle to me, how a custome springing from so vile a ground, and brought in by a father so generally hated, should be welcomed upon so slender a warrant.”

      But even he didn’t think his rant would be believed.

      To the Reader
      “If any thinke it a light Argument, so is it but a toy that is bestowed upon it. And since the Subject is but of Smoke, I thinke the fume of an idle braine, may serve for a sufficient battery against so fumous and feeble an enemy. If my grounds be found true, it is all I looke for; but if they cary the force of perswasion with them, it is all, I can wish and more then I can expect.”

  3. KJP says:

    I only realised this quite recently, that the invasion of Ireland was a Norman rather than (a later) English thing. Quite a few Welsh were involved too on behalf of their Norman overlords.

    The Pope’s involvement is interesting: first against the Celtic church which disappeared then likely making matters worse for Roman Catholics centuries later. Elizabeth was not as punitive on Catholics as Mary had been to Protestants but Pope Pius V issuing his Regnans in Excelsis in 1570, urging basically insurrection by Roman Catholics against Elizabeth must have been provocative and led to suspicion and suppression.

    Pale means an area of jurisdiction and the term beyond the pale comes from this. It probably comes from the Pale of Dublin but there was an earlier one in Calais and a later one in Russia.

  4. Clicky says:

  5. Roobeedoo2 says:

    This is priceless! No smoke… *shrugs…* No real fire…

    ‘Brazile describes the 10th floor of Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters, where senior staff worked: “Calm and antiseptic, like a hospital. It had that techno-hush, as if someone had died. I felt like I should whisper. Everybody’s fingers were on their keyboards, and no one was looking at anyone else. You half-expected to see someone in a lab coat walk by.

    ‘During one visit, she writes, she thought of a question former Democratic congressman Tony Coelho used to ask her about campaigns: “Are the kids having sex? Are they having fun? If not, let’s create something to get that going, or otherwise we’re not going to win.”

    ‘“I didn’t sense much fun or [having sex] in Brooklyn,” she deadpans.’


    And */thinks…*


    Smoking Girl Power! */lights up…*

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