Captain Francisco de Cuéllar
The Armada, Ireland, and the Wars of the Spanish Monarchy, 1578–1606
Captain Francisco de Cuéllar was an officer who served with the ill-fated Spanish Armada. He was shipwrecked on the coast of Co. Sligo in September 1588. Known to Irish history for the extraordinary account he wrote of his experiences in Ireland, he survived a hurricane-force storm that destroyed his ship and killed most of those on board. A castaway, he found shelter among the Gaelic Irish of the northwest for seven months before he was helped to reach Scotland, and later, the Low Countries. But Captain Cuéllar’s Irish adventure was only one of many in a remarkable military career. Drawing on previously undiscovered documents from Spanish and Belgian archives, this book chronicles, for the first time, Cuéllar’s entire military service – from the earliest evidence of him as a soldier in 1578, to our final glimpse of him in 1606. For almost three decades Cuéllar traversed much of the Spanish Empire and beyond: Spain, Portugal, the Low Countries, Italy, France, the Caribbean, Brazil and Ireland. As a captain he was a member of a cohort of officials whose responsibility it was to recruit, maintain and lead the troops that protected the interests of the Spanish monarchy abroad. He participated in military actions on land and sea, commanding galleons and troops in some of the most celebrated campaigns of the era. Prone to controversy, he had a tendency to clash with superiors, which led to tribunals of inquiry and courts-martial. Besides an in-depth reassessment of his Irish experiences, this study explores the rise and fall of the enigmatic captain in the military profession. The story of Captain Cuéllar’s career encapsulates, in vivid detail, the life of a soldier of the late sixteenth century.
Francis Kelly is a native of Manorhamilton, County Leitrim. An alumnus of NUI Galway and University College Cork, he has written extensively about the Spanish Armada in Ireland.