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Sunday, November 2, 2014

22. a.b.a. Sir Richard Creagh - Archbishop of Armagh - Imprisoned in Tower of London - A cousin


Richard Creagh - Archbishop of Armagh


Before we left on our "Walking in the Ancestor's Footsteps" tour, I spent months researching each of the different people in the family tree.  There was so much information to be found for both sides of our family, and we designed our trip so as to visit places where they lived, worked, married and died.                                                                                                       

However, once on the trip we discovered so many more interesting facts and information.

Sir William Creagh was one great grandfather that proved to be a "brick wall" until finally one day, I read an article written about Sir Michael Creagh and discovered the missing link.
In doing so there was another very important Creagh in the family history.  He was poisoned in the Tower of London, supposedly on Queen Elizabeth's orders.

Chapel of St Peter and Vincula


I contacted the Tower of London, and they researched for me where he was buried, which was underneath the slab of the Chapel of St Peter and Vincula. 

The same place as Anne Boleyn was buried. 
We sat on the left hand side next to the column











 They also explained that the Chapel was closed and could only be accessed with a Tour of the Tower with the Beefeaters!  

They also advised no photos to be taken inside.  (The inside photos are from the internet)

     

So we lined up with hundreds more to do just that!   

Then we followed the path to the dungeons where he was kept.  Not a nice place at all.

But who was Richard Creagh the Archbishop?  and what is his relationship to Sir William Creagh?

Richard Creagh b 1525 died in the Tower in 1585,
was the son of Nicholas Creagh b 1500.
Nicholas was the son of William Creagh  b 1466 d 1521
who had a son Christopher Creagh b 1486 d 1541
his son was John Creagh  b  1525  d  1601
He had a son John Creagh    b  1561    d  1614
He had a son Michael Creagh   b  1595
His sons were Sir William Creagh, Sir Michael Creagh and Peter Creagh.

The computer tells me that he is 1st cousin, 12 times removed!


     
Perhaps the best stories relating to Richard Creagh can be found online and the following gives an account of his life.

(From wikipedia)

Richard Creagh (born at Limerick early in the sixteenth century; died in the Tower of London about December 1586) was an Irish Roman Catholic clergyman who was the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland in the second half of the sixteenth century.

The son of a merchant, he followed the same calling in his youth and made many voyages to Spain. A providential escape from shipwreck led him to embrace a religious life, and after some years of study abroad he was ordained priest. Returning to Ireland, he taught school for a time at Limerick.

He refused nominations for the See of Limerick and See of Cashel, but the Papal nuncio, David Wolfe, determined to conquer his humility, named him for the primacy when it became vacant, and would accept no refusal. Creagh was consecrated at Rome, and in 1564 returned to Ireland as Archbishop of Armagh.
Shane O'Neill was then the most potent of the Ulster chiefs. From the first he and Creagh disagreed. O'Neill hated England; Creagh preached loyalty to England in Armagh Cathedral, even in O'Neill's presence. O'Neill retorted by burning down the cathedral.


Creagh then cursed him and refused to absolve him because he had put a priest to death. Shane retaliated by threatening the life of the primate, and by declaring publicly that there was no one on earth he hated so much as Creagh, except Queen Elizabeth I, whom he confessed he hated more.
In spite of all this, Creagh was arrested and imprisoned by the English. Twice he escaped, but he was retaken and in 1567 lodged in the Tower of London, and kept there till his death. From his repeated examinations before the English Privy Council his enmity to Shane O'Neill and his unwavering loyalty to England were made plain. But his steadfastness in the Catholic faith and his popularity in Ireland were considered crimes, and in consequence the Council refused to set him free.
Not content with this, his enemies assailed his moral character. The daughter of his jailer was urged to charge him with having assaulted her. The charge was investigated in public court, where the girl retracted, declaring her accusation absolutely false.

Death

It has been said that Creagh was poisoned in prison, and this, whether true or false, was widely believed at the time of his death. The principal suspect was the notorious double agent Robert Poley, best known for his role as agent provocateur in the Babington Plot and his suspected role in the killing of Christopher Marlowe. Poley, who was a fellow prisoner in the Tower during Creagh's last years there, is said to have visited him several times, but the suspicion seems to be based on his general bad character, rather than on any direct evidence 

These following stories are interesting to read.

A dangerous man to be among the Irish”
Published in Early Modern History (1500–1700), Features, Gaelic Ireland, Issue 3 (Autumn 2000), Volume 8




Portrait of Elizabeth to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), depicted in the background. Elizabeth's hand rests on the globe, ...

In 1585 the English privy council branded Richard Creagh ‘a dangerous man to be among the Irish for the reverence that is by that nation borne unto him’, and ordered that he should be detained in the Tower of London. The eighteen-year incarceration of the Archbishop of Armagh in London and Dublin was acutely embarrassing for the authorities. He had been the subject of anxious enquiries on the part of King Philip II of Spain, was well known to Irish students at the law schools in London and had a wide circle of friends in many European countries.  How had this ageing dissident achieved such iconic standing as to be too dangerous for release from captivity?

Early life

Born in Limerick about 1523, Richard Creagh was of a family of Gaelic Ulster origin, as he became proudly aware. By the time of his birth the Creaghs were long enfranchised within the municipality and he probably lived on the street that bore the family name. He grew up in a heterogeneous milieu, imbibing the urban values of the Englishry and Gaelic culture through the Irish language. Creagh was apprenticed to a merchant in Limerick who dealt in spices and herbs. According to the early biographers, the young man was ill-at-ease in the commercial world. His dismay at the practice of adulterating saffron to increase its weight provoked a career change to the priesthood. Another more dramatic account has Creagh escaping drowning in Spain by lingering to hear Mass as his ship foundered.

To accomplish his plan Creagh equipped himself with a knowledge of Latin in Limerick, before departing for the university of Louvain where he studied philosophy and theology. He matriculated in 1549. While a scholar there he was sponsored by a bursary from the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Creagh was most likely ordained priest in the early 1550s in the diocese of Mechelin. On completing his postgraduate studies he returned to his native Limerick about 1557 to take up the work of school teaching. Shortly thereafter the restored Catholic regime under Queen Mary was overturned by the Reformation of Queen Elizabeth.

Abiding commitment to education

Richard Creagh founded and taught in a grammar school located in Limerick’s former Dominican priory. He was joined after 1560 by Thomas Leverous, former Bishop of Kildare, who had been deprived for refusing to take the oath of supremacy. The success of this academy was an early sign of Creagh’s abiding commitment to education. Throughout his career he displayed the humanist’s zeal for reform through pedagogy, advocating the foundation of more schools and a university in Ireland.  He prided himself on having obtained a bull from Pope Pius IV for the foundation of a pontifical college in Ireland, and seventeenth-century commentators attributed the foundation of seminaries for Irish students on the continent to his pioneering efforts.

Creagh’s own scholarly interests included Irish history and topography, the Irish language, ecclesiastical history and theology. Much of his output may be dated to the years immediately before and after his graduation as MA at Louvain.  He produced Chronicon Hiberniae, possibly incorporating Topographia Hiberniae for which he was also known.  A short summary of his treatise on Irish grammar survives, sufficient to show that he had a thorough grasp of the language. This work may have been written for his students in Limerick, as was his bilingual catechism, The essential duty of a Christian, produced about 1560. Clearly Richard Creagh was fixing his Catholic reforming mission on the Gaelic as well as the English community of Ireland.

Reluctant Archbishop of Armagh

By 1562 Creagh’s growing reputation as scholar and teacher  recommended him for promotion as bishop. He had already come to the attention of the curia while at Louvain, his name being canvassed by the general of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola, for the vacant sees of Cashel and Limerick, but the unambitious Creagh refused both offers. The papal emissary David Wolfe, whose brief included spotting persons of talent, adjured Creagh by his oath sworn to the papacy as bachelor of divinity to go to Rome to be appointed either as Archbishop of Cashel or Armagh.  Creagh departed from Limerick in August 1562 and arrived at Rome in January 1563, after surviving the perils of  pirates, Moors and storms.

Richard hoped that he would be allowed to enter the order of the Theatines in Italy, but he was ordered to await papal instructions. While resident in Rome on a subsidy from the pope, he befriended Thomas Goldwell, the exiled Bishop of St Asaph, and took an interest in the closing session of the Council of Trent. In 1564 he was formally proposed and consecrated as Archbishop of Armagh and primate of Ireland.  He set out on the journey northwards, passing through Venice, Innsbruck and Augsburg, where he met Peter Canisius, the famed theologian.  In the Low Countries he was joined by an English Jesuit, William Good, and together they sailed from Antwerp on 18 October 1564.

Rendering onto Caesar

There is no doubt that Creagh believed that he could serve both the Roman church and the crown in Ireland. On several occasions under interrogation later, the archbishop professed his steadfast loyalty to Queen Elizabeth. He said that he was ‘from youth brought up to serve the crown of England as of nature and duty I was bound, knowing and also declaring in diverse places the joyful life that Irishmen have under England’.


Before his second sortie into his diocese in 1566 he wrote a letter to the Earl of Leicester, professing his intention to perform religious tasks only and to render to Caesar that which was Caesar’s.
He was conscious that in opting for Armagh rather than Cashel in his native Munster he had consigned himself to conditions of ‘barbarous wildness, cruelty and ferocity’, but he saw himself as an agent of social and religious reform in Gaelic Ulster. Ominously, Shane O’Neill, the paramount chieftain of central Ulster, believed that Creagh had not used his ‘devoir’ in Rome to obtain the bishopric of Down and Connor for O’Neill’s own brother, and through his agents Shane had lobbied for the primacy to be conferred on his foster brother, Terence O’Donnelly. 

Creagh hoped, however, that he could make O’Neill serviceable to the crown and that the resources of the church in Armagh might be more readily disgorged to a papally appointed archbishop than to a state nominated one.

His plans went badly awry, certainly on that first journey in the autumn of 1564. Instead of landing in Ireland, Creagh’s ship was driven by adverse winds to Dover. Separated from his travelling companion, Good, who made his own way to Ireland, Creagh journeyed to London and thence to the west coast to sail to Ireland. While awaiting suitable conditions, Creagh was arrested on suspicion of theft of the foreign coins in his possession. Explaining that he had spent ‘a piece of time in merchandise’, he was released, but he had barely set foot in his province when he was again captured while saying Mass in a monastery. 

He was imprisoned for three weeks in Dublin Castle and questioned about his ecclesiastical warrant. He was dispatched to London in chains with his letters of credence.  During his imprisonment in the Tower of London in the spring of 1565 he was interrogated three times, twice by Sir William Cecil.  The questioning centred on his contacts in Rome, Louvain and Ireland. In all of his answers Creagh stressed the transparency of his motives and actions.

Miraculous escape

This phase of captivity came to a sudden end when Richard Creagh escaped from the Tower on Low Sunday, 1565. For three days previously, as he later recounted, there were various portents of his impending flight. Eventually impelled to the door of his cell, he found it unlocked and walked through at least seven other doors which yielded to him. The guards at the gate half-heartedly challenged him and out he walked onto the streets of London. He managed to get a passage to Flanders despite the reward of £100 sterling on offer for his recapture. A search of his ship revealed the passenger as a fair-haired, French-speaking merchant, and not a white headed bishop, the object of pursuit.

Creagh’s liberation was greeted joyfully by his friends in Rome and Flanders. His emblematic status as escapee coupled with his own strengthened sense of purpose rendered him an important figurehead of the early Counter-Reformation. He stayed at Louvain for several months, corresponding with leading members of the curia and the Society of Jesus. In response to an appeal for funds, he was granted some subsidies by the Vatican. It became clear that the Roman authorities wished him to resume his Irish mission.
Louvan Cathedral Belgium in 1919 badly damaged in the Wars.

Copies of documents and letters, captured in 1565, were to be taken to Ireland by Miler Magrath, newly appointed as Bishop of Down and Connor, and a relative of Shane O’Neill who had the confidence of the Roman officials. By April 1566 Creagh was in Madrid where he briefed Philip II on his mission. He also attempted to assure his position by writing to the Earl of Leicester at the English court, telling of his desire to eschew political activity in Ulster.

Poisoned

En route to Ireland, the crew of the ship Creagh had chartered in Spain tried to poison him in the Bay of Biscay, assuming him to be a wealthy traveler. Left for dead by them at Blavet, near Nantes, he  recovered and proceeded on his journey, arriving in the north of Ireland by high summer 1566. In late August he conferred with Shane O’Neill at Inishdarell in Armagh in the company of Miler Magrath and Turlough Luineach O’Neill. Purporting to accept his appointment to the primacy, O’Neill demanded to know whether the archbishop would go on an embassy abroad for him, which Creagh refused. Shane then asked Creagh to preach to his soldiers on the following Sunday but the outcome was that Shane ‘rose up and in a very rage did swear or affirm to destroy the cathedral church of Armagh’, which he did within five days. The O’Neills were used to dominating the see of Armagh ‘inter Hibernicos’ and had obtruded upon ecclesiastical lands over several generations. Shane’s plans for aggrandisement in the region were obstructed by the very presence in Armagh of (in his eyes) an old Englishman instead of a Gaelic ally, such as Terence O’Donnelly.

Creagh attempted to convoke the Catholic bishops and clergy of his province to promulgate the decrees of the Council of Trent. But his mission was not aided by Shane’s accusation of heresy (backed by Miler Magrath) against the archbishop who seemed to side with the English. Creagh felt threatened by Shane’s behaviour, reporting that O’Neill claimed that ‘there was none living that he hated more than the queen of England and our primate, meaning my poor body’. It was against this background of rapidly deteriorating relations that Creagh sent a letter to Lord Deputy Sidney at Christmas 1566 in which he offered to mediate between Shane and the governor. He also asked Sidney whether Catholic services could be held in churches in Ulster in order to prevent their being despoiled by O’Neill. Instead of replying Sidney enclosed the archbishop’s letter in correspondence of his own to the privy council in London.

Capture, escape, recapture

Becoming dispirited by his failure to establish his ecclesiastical independence within the O’Neill sphere of influence, Creagh decided to withdraw for a sojourn among his Limerick relatives. In the company of his brother and the papal emissary, David Wolfe, Creagh journeyed from Ulster into Connacht through Sligo. 




King Philip II of Spain-Creagh was the subject of anxious enquiries from him. (Philip II of Spain c. 1580, National Portrait Gallery,  London)


While passing with a party of friars near Kinelea castle, County Galway,
he was recognised and captured by Roger O’Shaughnessy, the local magnate, on 27 April 1567 and sent to Dublin. Creagh staged another escape, this time with his keepers from Dublin castle, but was recaptured by Meiler Hussey, the steward of the Earl of  Kildare. Hussey renounced a proffered reward of £40, implicating his abettors in a conspiracy to win a bounty from Spain for the emancipation of one who was ‘counted a very holy man throughout Ireland’.

By late 1567 Creagh was lodged once more in the Tower of London, being interrogated very closely about his alleged traitorous relations with Shane O’Neill who had been killed the previous June. The conditions of his incarceration in fetters were reported as being particularly harsh, and Philip II instructed his London ambassador to protest to Queen Elizabeth about his treatment, writing that ‘I am sorry for the trouble that they have given the Archbishop of Armagh as I look upon him as a good servant of God’.


The queen rejected pleas for clemency, saying that the prisoner was ‘a traitor and a rebel’. In March 1570 he was sent back to Ireland to stand trial on charges of high treason and praemunire  for upholding the pope’s authority in Ireland.

Found not guilty

It appears that Creagh was tried before the chief justice, Sir John Plunket, and a local jury. The indictment for high treason included the charge that he had met with Shane O’Neill on 15 December 1566 at Lifford to conspire against the crown. Defending himself at his trial, Creagh roundly denied all the allegations, declaring that he was a Catholic bishop and not engaged in any political activity. Eventually the jurors returned a verdict of not guilty and were all imprisoned and fined heavily by the court of castle chamber.


Creagh was detained in chains in Dublin castle for nearly five years. According to observers, the archbishop had an influential role in explaining ‘the true service of God to many of the citizens who until then did hold it for no offence to go to church and learn the common prayer. But he told them that no man can serve two masters’.  In 1575 Lord Deputy Fitzwilliam wrote to Sir Francis Walsingham that Creagh ‘hindreth the Archbishop of Dublin’s [Loftus’s] godly endeavour to promote religion which hath inforced him to be importunate to me to send him away’.  


The English privy council used its police powers of remand to bring Richard Creagh back to the Tower of London.

By now Richard Creagh’s weakened physical state was compounded of many ailments, including the loss of the use of one of his legs from iron shackling. His plea to the privy council for release into exile ‘to live quietly and peaceably’, avoiding anything that would tend ‘to the disturbance of her majesty’s quiet government’, was turned down, but the conditions of his captivity were gradually eased. The Elizabethan regime, conscious of the support and sympathy for Creagh on the part of Irish law students in London, deemed it safer to confine him rather than release him to be a focus for politico-religious disaffection in Ireland.

Nevertheless Archbishop Creagh became emblematic of Catholic dissent in the Tower and outside. A network of sympathisers in Ireland, England and on the continent contributed materially to the alleviation of his prison predicament. Creagh appears to have maintained continuous correspondence with contacts in Italy, France, Spain and  Portugal. His cause was not aided, however, by the discovery by the privy councillors of a well intentioned but quixotic mission of Patrick Sedgrave to Rome in 1575 to endeavour to procure his release.

Allegations of sexual abuse

The Elizabethan government, faced with the dilemma of Creagh’s burgeoning reputation as a prisoner of conscience, attempted in 1577 to destroy him with an imputation of serious ‘villainy’.  He was charged with having sexually abused the young daughter of one his keepers, Humphrey Bowlande. The complaint was investigated by a commission established by the privy council but the results were inconclusive. The Spanish ambassador reported the refutation of the ‘false charges’ in the spring of 1578.  Creagh’s Catholic biographers were in no doubt that the archbishop’s vindication on the fabricated charge was a defining moment in his ordeal at the hands of his persecutors. Indeed they retell the story of how the girl, when confronted with her alleged abuser and asked to accuse him, exclaimed that she had never seen a holier man in her life.

During periods of political turbulence in Ireland Richard Creagh was subjected to most rigourous interrogation. At the end of the 1560s, for example, he was questioned in connection with the revolt of James Fitzmaurice in Munster. Creagh’s name had been invoked in an embassy to Philip II, proposing a transfer of Ireland to Spanish sovereignty. And the king’s ambassador in London reported that the archbishop was pressing on him the urgency of Spanish intervention in Ireland. 

Again in the late 1570s his case was being reviewed more pressingly as Fitzmaurice’s return from Europe initiated the second Desmond revolt. Creagh’s connections with the king of Portugal through the agency of Antonio Fogaza, a Portuguese dwelling in London, occasioned a fresh round of investigations of the primate, his keepers and abettors in the city. The tenor of the letters to Portugal was non-political in that Creagh importuned the authorities there to intercede with Queen Elizabeth on behalf of the prisoners of conscience in London and elsewhere. It seems that his very presence in jail rendered him a focus for conspiracy though there is no evidence of his participation in anti-government plotting. Throughout the years of captivity he constantly proclaimed his ‘bounden duty to my natural prince [Elizabeth] and my country’.

Prisoner ‘only for papistry’

In the final phase of his life Creagh managed to maintain his Olympian detachment, emerging as a confessorial figure among the Tower prisoners, debating issues of theology and strengthening the faith of correspondents. That he was regarded by the early 1580s as a prisoner ‘only for papistry’ was admitted in the reports of the Tower’s lieutenant. At one stage the authorities in the gaol put Creagh to the test by compelling him to attend a Protestant sermon. He was physically dragged to the chapel, held down while a divine preached against Rome and drowned out when he tried to take the preacher to task. He was referred to in the bills addressed by the lieutenant to the privy council annually as the chief prisoner for whom food and light had to be provided, the cost of keeping him down to 1586 mounting to £667 13s 4d. Yet releasing him to a triumphant homecoming in Ireland where recusancy was becoming more open and widespread was too alarming to contemplate.

Ominously the prison list of late 1586 categorised together Creagh and one Robert Poley. The latter had acted as agent provocateur of Sir Francis Walsingham in the Babington plot against Queen Elizabeth, urging the conspirators on and helping to entrap Mary, Queen of Scots. To preserve Walsingham’s cover Poley was imprisoned with the plotters in the Tower. It was he who administered a portion of poisoned cheese to the archbishop, according to Creagh’s biographers, the poisoning being discovered too late by his fellow prisoners for his life to be saved.


A physician who examined a urine sample smuggled out of the Tower by Creagh’s friends detected the poison and threw an antidote potion over the prison wall but it was not efficacious. He died in December 1586, aged sixty-three. It is possible that Creagh was quietly sacrificed as the grander design of the destruction of Mary, Queen of Scots, was being effected. An alternative symbol of Catholic defiance was removed before the queen’s execution in February 1587.

Creagh’s legacy

It may have taken some time for news of his death to have been made public in Ireland. By 1590, however, the process of his inclusion by Catholic writers on the roll of martyrs for their religion was well under way. In popular memory, his sanctity lived on. Locals treated the spot where he was captured by O’Shaughnessy in 1567 as unhallowed, and testified to its barrenness and unfruitfulness for long afterwards. 

His early biographers had no doubts about his sanctity and they also stressed his role as a pioneer of Roman Catholic education both as teacher and visionary of third-level training for Irish youth.  Despite his short ministry as archbishop, Creagh vigourously promoted Tridentine norms among the Irish clergy and laity. While rejecting any compromise with Protestantism, he remained professedly loyal to the English crown. As a scholar perhaps his major contribution lay in the first scientific treatment of the Irish language, and his use of it as a tool of instruction in his catechism of 1560.

He was above all a champion of the rights of the Roman Catholic church in Ireland against all obtruders, whether in the form of crown officials, ill-disciplined clergy or intrusive Irish magnates such as Shane O’Neill. It was not surprising therefore that he was reckoned to be ‘a dangerous man to be among the Irish’.

Colm Lennon is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Modern History, NUI, Maynooth.

Further reading:
C. Lennon, An Irish prisoner of conscience of the Tudor era: Archbishop Richard Creagh of Armagh, 1523-86  (Dublin 2000).
W.P. O’Brien, ‘Two Munster primates: Donnchadh Ó Taidhg (1560-2) and Richard Creagh (1564-85)’, Seanchas Ard Mhaca, xiv (1990).
'

 Quite fascinating, and another

The Last Years of Archbishop Creagh of Armagh.

Old Image of the Jesuit School in Limerick


By W. H. Grattan Flood.

[From The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 4th Series, Vol. XXVI, No. 501, September 1909]

ALTHOUGH Cardinal Moran, in his Spicilegium Ossoriense, added considerably to our knowledge of the life of Archbishop Creagh, yet recent research has brought to light many additional facts in connecion with the glorious confessor's last years. One thing is certain: the generally received date for Primate Creagh's death is incorrect.

 All authorities, including Stuart's Armagh, so capably edited by Father Ambrose Coleman, O.P., agree in fixing the Primate's death as occurring on October 14, 1585. The Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney in his memoir of Creagh, prefixed to Rothe's Analecta, writes as follows: 'The last reference to the imprisoned Primate that I have met with in the State Papers is dated the 27th of May, 1585.' Father Coleman adds: 'On October 14th of the same year he was dead.

It was generally believed at the time that he had been put to death by poison.' Bishop Rothe, in 1619, is responsible for the date usually given. His words are: 'Evaserat e turri anno Domini 1565, et plusculis annis interpositis reductus in eundem carcerem e vita migravit 14 Octobris, anno 1585.' As I shall prove later on, the Primate did not die in October, 1585, nor yet in October, 1586-even assuming an error in the year-and he was certainly alive on December eve, 1586.

But before bringing forward the new facts dealing with the last years of the saintly Primate, it will be well to trace very briefly the career of Archbishop Creagh, whose episcopate has been ably described by Rothe, Copinger, Mullan, O'Sullivan, Howling and Cardinal Moran.

Richard Creagh, the son of a wealthy merchant of Limerick, was born circa 1522, and for a time pursued a mercantile career, but, by a special dispensation of Providence was urged to adopt the ecclesiastical state, and, having studied at the University of Louvain, was ordained priest in 1555. His career at Louvain was particularly brilliant, and he graduated Bachelor of Theology in 1555,
returning to Limerick in 1556.
His school in 2014

 





From Lynch's MS. History it appears that Dr. Creagh opened a classical school in the dissolved Dominican Friary in his native city, where he taught with conspicuous success for two years, from 1560 to 1562. It is well to note that James FitzJohn, 14th Earl of Desmond, had given up the Dominican Friary to the Friars Preachers in 1554, and it remained in their possession till 1560.

This earl died at Askeaton, October 14, 1558, and was succeeded by his son Gerald, under whom, in 1562, the Priory became forfeited to the Crown. In August of the same year Dr. Creagh went to Rome.

On the death of Primate O'Tighe, in December, 1562, Father David Wolfe, S.J., Papal Nuncio, recommended his townsman, Dr. Creagh, for the see of Armagh. Accordingly, on Low Sunday, 1564, we find him consecrated Archbishop, and he received the pallium on May 12. Not many months later he set out for Ireland, and he landed in his native country in December of the same year. Meantime, on November 18, 1563, Seaghan O'Neill, Prince of Ulster, gave over the Cathedral of Armagh to the Dean, Turlogh O'Donnelly, who had been recommended by Queen Elizabeth as Archbishop.

Immediately after his consecration, and while still in Rome, Primate Creagh, knowing the vast amount of good to be gained from well-equipped colleges, petitioned the Holy See to grant a charter for the foundation of an Irish Catholic University, with constituent colleges, after the model of Paris and Louvain, and to place it under the control of the Jesuit Fathers.

The Pope acceded to his request, and issued a Brief, dated May 31, 1564, for the erection of a University in Ireland. During his stay on the Continent, Archbishop Creagh formed a friendship with many Jesuits, and he fortunately succeeded in securing the services of Father William Good, S.J., to accompany him to Ireland, with a view of becoming Rector of the proposed Catholic University. Father Good was admirably fitted for the position, as he had been Head Master of Wells Grammar School, under Queen Mary, and held a prebend in Wells Cathedral, but had to fly, in 1562, under Elizabeth, becoming a Jesuit at Tournai ere the close of the same year.

At Dover, early in October, 1564, Primate Creagh and Father Good separated, and, strange to say, never met again. The Archbishop proceeded to London, and thence to Chester. He then took shipping for Ireland, and landed there on December 19.

No sooner was the Primate landed than spies were on his track, and he was arrested a couple of days before Christmas, just after celebrating Mass near Drogheda. He was then sent in chains to London, where he was examined on February 22, 1565, by Cecil, Elizabeth's minister, and again on March 17 by the Recorder of London. Some weeks later, on April 29 1565, the Primate escaped-owing to miraculous intervention, as he himself believed-from the Tower, and fled to his Alma Mater, Louvain, where he was joyfully received. After a short sojourn there he went to Spain, and thence returned to Ireland in July, 1566. 


He preached before O'Neill and O'Donnell in Armagh Cathedral on the Feast of the Assumption, and impressed on the Ulster princes the desirability of making peace with the English. But, as the Lord Deputy wanted to make the cathedral an arsenal, Prince O'Neill burned it sooner than allow the temple of God to be so desecrated. On Christmas Day the Primate wrote to the Lord Deputy (Sir Henry Sydney), asking for permission to exercise his ministry, and mentions that Seaghan O'Neill had burned Armagh Cathedral 'for safeguard of his country.'



The front of St. Nicholas' Cathedral in Armagh
In the spring of the year 1567 the Primate visited his native city, and preached before the Lord Deputy in St. Mary's Cathedral on April 1. However, on the last day of April he was arrested in Connacht by Dermot reagh O'Shaughnessy, in Kinelea, whither he had journeyed to minister to the needs of the diocese of Kilmacduagh. The miserable man O'Shaughnessy was rewarded for his perfidy by an autograph letter from Elizabeth herself and by the grant of ill-gotten property in Gort

A packed Dublin jury-to their credit be it said- refused to find the Archbishop guilty, and, after being confined for over six months in Dublin Castle, the good Primate escaped through the connivance of the jailer. However, ere the close of October, 1567, the Primate was a third time arrested, being given up by Moelmuire (Meyler or Melchior) Hussey, a retainer of the Earl of Kildare. This man Hussey was actuated by a desire to obtain the proffered reward of £40, but his master, the Earl of Kildare, made a stipulation that the Primate's life should be spared, which promise was solemnly agreed to, 'on his honour,' by the Lord Deputy Sydney. Of course, Sydney's 'honour' was not of much account, but the Government could not easily afford to offend the powerful Gerald, 11th Earl of Kildare. 

Sydney sailed for England on October 21, and the Primate was lodged in the Tower of London on November 6, as we learn from the Spanish Calendar of State Papers. On December 22, Meyler Hussey wrote to the Privy Council to spare the life of Archbishop Creagh, and he refused to accept the £40 which had been offered by Sydney. The Primate was examined on the same day, and was re-examined on January 8, 1568. It is worthy of note that though the real crime with which the Archbishop was charged was 'his maintaining the Pope's authority,' yet the interrogatories were all framed with a view merely to his indictment for being associated with Seaghan O'Neill.

Father David Wolfe, S.J., who had been imprisoned with the Primate in Dublin Castle in 1567, was allowed to languish in a foul cell for five years. In September of that year he wrote an interesting letter which was discovered by Brother Foley, S.J., and is published in Rev. Dr. Hogan's Hibernia Ignatiana, from which it appears that Bishop Leverons of Kildare visited the cells and 'found the stench so intolerable that he was obliged to go away without transacting any business.' Father Wolfe states that the Primate was 'kept in irons in an underground, dark, and horrible prison, where no one is allowed to speak to him or to see him except his keeper. He has many sores on his body, and, although not over forty years of age, has lost all his teeth.' 

Many efforts were made to effect Father Wolfe's release, and even the Sovereign Pontiff, St. Pius the Fifth, wrote to the Nuncio at Madrid, on March 13, 1568, to request the King of Spain to ask the Spanish Ambassador in London to obtain his liberation, as also that of the Primate. Yet it was only in September, 1573, that he escaped from his loathsome prison, and he sought refuge in Spain, returning, however, in May, 1574.


All previous writers, including Cardinal Moran and Father Coleman, seem to imagine that Archbishop Creagh was detained in the Tower of London from 1567 until his death, although the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney says that the Primate 'appears to have been transferred for a while to custody in Dublin, but he was soon again consigned a prisoner to the London Tower.' We now know from the Spanish Calendar of State Papers, under date of March 27, 1570, that Dr. Creagh some days previously had been 'released on bail,' and had returned to Ireland. Thus from March, 1570, to May, 1574-over four years-the saintly Primate laboured in his native country, although the particulars of his career during that time are not on record.

The Spanish Calendar bears out the Primate's own statement as to his confinement in the pestiferous underground cell of the Tower known as Alesboure (also written Halesboure and Whalesboure), described by Cardinal Allen as 'the grisly dungeon called Whalesboure,'. supposed by Dom Bede Camm to be the now destroyed Cole-harbour Tower. We learn that the Spanish Ambassador, in reply to the letters sent him by the Papal Nuncio at Madrid, had urged Queen Elizabeth 'to be more merciful to the Archbishop of Armagh, taking off his chains;' but her only answer was that 'she had made inquiries,' and that Creagh 'was a traitor and a rebel.'

These irons had deprived the Primate of the use of one of his legs, and the letter of the Spanish Ambassador (Guzman de Silva) to King Philip, dated July 17, 1568, is an interesting corroboration of previous accounts.

It is not unlikely that the Primate on returning to Ireland in March, 1570, joined in the project for the revival of the St. Patrick's University, founded by Clement V, and confirmed by Pope John XXII. This project was planned by Sir Henry Sydney, Viceroy of Ireland, and James Stanihurst, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, and it was intended to make Blessed Edmund Campion, S.J., then the tutor of Richard Stanihurst. in Dublin, the Rector.

But the proclamation of the Bull of St. Pius V against Elizabeth, and the strong Protestant opposition to the idea of a University, put an end to the project. The Bill was introduced on March 12, 1570, but owing to Cecil's strong opposition-probably distrustful of Campion-it was rejected by the Colonial Parliament on December 12, even though Sydney offered a large annual grant from his own estate in aid of the endowment of the Irish University.

As is well known, Blessed Edmund Campion left Drogheda on May 1, 1571; but it is remarkable that he set sail from that port disguised as 'Mr. Patrick,' a servant of 'Melchior ' Hussey, steward to the Earl of Kildare. This was the same man Hussey who had repented and foregone his reward for the arrest of Archbishop Creagh. Sydney himself sailed for England on March 25, and was replaced by Fitzwilliam. Owing to the very disturbed state of the province of Armagh, it is probable that the Primate spent the years 1572-1574 in the county of Limerick, in company with Father David Wolfe, S.J.

An agreeable incident of this period is the reconciling to the ancient faith of William Casey, Protestant Bishop of Limerick, who had been schismatically consecrated under Edward VI. Rev. Dr. Hogan, S.J., dates this incident as occurring in 1572, before Father Wolfe went to Spain but it must be at least a year later, for we find letters from Casey as Protestant Bishop of Limerick on November 18, 1573. The correct date is in June, 1574, when Wolfe had returned to Ireland. It is also well to note that on April 13,1575, the Pope empowered Bishop O'Gallagher of Derry to act as his Vice-Primate.
Cardinal Moran quotes a letter from the State Papers written by Primate Creagh as of the year 1574; but this is an error, as his Eminence was deceived by the official copy of the letter which was wrongly placed in the Calendar under December, 1574. 


Internal evidence would suffice to show that the letter cannot date earlier than March, 1575, but official documents give more detailed information. From the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, under date of May 17, 1574, it is certain that the Primate was arrested and brought a prisoner to Dublin Castle, where he was detained till the end of February in the following year. Yet, though a prisoner, he was able to transact a good deal of business; and his undeniable reputation of sanctity did incalculable good in bringing back many temporizing Catholics to the ancient faith.

At length, on February 14, 1575, Lord Deputy Fitzwilliam wrote a strong letter to Walsingham, urging him to send an order to have 'one Creagh, a Romish thing,' brought back to the Tower, inasmuch as the Primate 'wonderfully unfitteth the people, and hinderth the Archbishop [Loftus] of Dublin's godly endeavours to promote religion, which hath enforced to be importunate unto me for the sending of him away.' Though the State Papers give no clue as to the result of Fitzwilliam's appeal, we are fortunately enabled to fix the date of the Archbishop's transfer to the Tower from an entry in the Hatfield Papers,7 as occurring on March 4, 1575.

Full details as to the Primate's life in the Tower from 1575 to 1585 will be found in Rothe's Analecta, by Cardinal Moran, including the glorious confessor's many examinations and petitions and professions of loyalty to the Crown.


It must be added, however, that Archbishop Creagh was enabled to afford spiritual consolation to the English prelates confined in the Tower, and also to some of the English martyrs, including Archbishop Heath, of York, who died in the Tower on December 8, 1578. Seven years later the Lords of the Council ordered 'that the Primate should remain in prison,' as he was 'a dangerous man to be among the Irish, for the reverence that is by that nation borne unto him.'

It only remains to correct the generally received date for the death of the Primate, namely, October 14, 1585. The Tower Bills leave no room for doubt. For Christmas, 1585, we find among 'the demands of Owen Hopton, Knight,' Lieutenant of the Tower, 'the sum of £8 13s. 4d.' for 'the diet and charges of Richard Creagh, beginning the 29th of September and ending the 27th of December following, being thirteen weeks, at 13s. 4d. the week.' Also, 'one keeper, at 5s. the week-£3 5s.'; likewise, 'fuel and candle, at 4d. the week-£2 12s.'

Precisely similar bills are on record for Lady Day, 1586, Midsummer, 1586, and Michaelmas, 1586, which go to prove that the Primate was living in the Tower on the 30th of September, 1586.

Unfortunately, the Tower Bills for Christmas, 1586, are missing; but the Acts of the Privy Council go to prove that the Primate was alive for at least two months after Michaelmas. It may be noted that the Tower Bills do not contain the name of the Venerable Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, who was a prisoner in the Tower from 1585-1595; and who, doubtless, must have received spiritual consolation from Archbishop Creagh; but this is explained by the fact that Queen Elizabeth compelled men of means to pay for themselves.

From the Report of Sir Francis Walsingham of the resolutions of the Privy Council, held on November 30, 1586, we learn that it was ordered that 'Creagh be continued in the Tower.' This is the very last official reference to the Primate, and we can fairly assume that he died early in December of that year. 


Rothe, in his Analecta, tells us that the Archbishop's end was hastened by poison administered to him by a warder of the Tower named Culligy-a fact attested by 'a Catholic doctor named Arclow' This doctor was the famous physician, Dr. Edward Astlow, a Fellow of New College, Oxford, who had been ejected as a 'recusant,' and had been a prisoner in the Tower from 1574 to 1575.

The Primate, learning of this, was perfectly resigned, and fortunately he was able to avail of the ministrations of Father William Creighton, S.J., who was his fellow-prisoner from September 16, 1584. Fortified by the rites of the Church, the holy martyr died a glorious death. The fact of his having been poisoned, in odium fidei, is not wholly derived from Rothe's Analecta, but is quoted by that distinguished prelate from Stanihurst's letter to Usher (Brevis Praemonitio: Douay, 1615), in which the learned Anglo-Irish writer distinctly says that Archbishop Creagh was poisoned in the Tower of London.

Nor is it at all incredible that the minions of Elizabeth would poison the venerable Primate, who had languished continuously for thirteen years in the Tower. Elizabeth herself, after signing the death warrant of Mary Queen of Scots, on February 1, 1587, wrote to Sir Amyas Paulet, expressing her displeasure 'that he had not found out some way to shorten the life of his prisoner.' It is certain that Elizabeth was a party to the assassination of Seaghan O'Neill, and she undoubtedly gave her sanction to, and even conferred rewards on, the murderers of Irish chieftains, bishops, and priests.

Father Creighton, S.J., who attended the Primate in his last hours, was in Paris towards the end of May, 1587, and started for Rome on June 1; and he doubtless conveyed the details of the Primate's death to the Holy See. I shall merely add that Redmond O'Gallagher, Bishop of Derry, was Vice-Primate from 1575 to July 1, 1587, when Edmund Magauran, Bishop of Ardagh (who was then in Rome), was translated to the primatial see, as successor of the martyr, Richard Creagh.

W. H. Grattan Flood






Irish Catholic Martyrs were dozens of people who have been sanctified in varying degrees for dying for their Roman Catholic faith between 1537 and 1714 in Ireland.  Richard Creagh is one of them.

Limerick Castle and the River Shannon



Creagh's departure from Limerick in 1562 was to mark the end of whatever hope he may have had of a scholarly or contemplative life, as in March 1564 he was appointed archbishop of Armagh, a posting to a hostile and disorganized mission field. Regardless of Creagh's personal belief in the possibility of loyalty to the monarch and Catholic adherence, he was to be a marked man for the rest of his life.

 Arrested in Ireland on his way to his diocese, Creagh began the first of his many incarcerations in the name of conscience. Eventually sent to the Tower, he was variously interrogated by the earl of Leicester, Sir Henry Sidney, the earl of Sussex, and Sir William Cecil. The archbishop adamantly professed his loyalty to Queen Elizabeth and pleaded for religious toleration in Ireland. In a subsequent letter to the earl of Leicester he argued for an apolitical Catholic episcopacy in Ireland, for the possibility of rendering "to Caesar his own and to God his own."  

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