Neglected royal visit to Kinsale recalled in new book

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Posted on: 18th January, 2016

Category: Arts & Entertainment

Contributor: West Cork People

The forgotten story of how Kinsale represented Ireland during the visit of a future Holy Roman Emperor in 1518 is revived in a new book by Dr Hiram Morgan, Senior Lecturer at UCC’s School of History. ‘Ireland 1518: Archduke Ferdinand’s visit to Kinsale and the Dürer Connection’ provides a significant account of the remarkable hospitality received by Archduke Ferdinand and his party after, as result of a storm, he was forced to land in Kinsale.

Archduke Ferdinand, who subsequently succeeded his brother Charles as emperor in 1558, and his delegation spent four eventful days in the town and its vicinity. The account of the visit, translated from French, was by a servant named Laurent Vital and offers a unique description of Irish dress and customs.

The records, especially regarding dress, are patchy for the early 16th century so this account by Vital is crucial. Vital was very taken by the revealing nature of the women’s dress and his description of the men almost certainly leads to the Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer’s drawing of Irishmen three years later.

Geoffrey Parker, Andreas Dorpalen Professor of European History at the Ohio State University, commented that, “Laurent Vital left a marvellously detailed record of Habsburg voyages in 1517-18. I am delighted to see that an Irish historian has at last taken notice of the Ireland section of his travelogue and made such a lovely book out of it.”

Illustrated by Hector McDonnell, one of Ireland’s leading artists, with 12 original drawings and contemporary images depicting the events on Ferdinand’s voyage and in Kinsale, the publication stands apart from others in that compared with writings by contemporary Englishmen, Vital’s account of Irish customs is relatively positive.

In addition, Vital supplies the only medieval account of a visit to Lough Derg by an Irish woman. Vital asked in Kinsale about the pilgrimage to St Patrick’s Purgatory, one of the few things continentals knew about Ireland. Even though the site of pilgrimage was far off in Lough Derg, Donegal, it turned out Vital’s hostess in Kinsale had been there.

The book, which includes Dorothy Convery’s engaging translation of Vital’s original Old French text, was wholly produced in Cork – designed by Kieran O’Connor, printed by City Print and published by the Crawford Art Gallery.

“Kinsale has a rich history for a small town – this is the forgotten story of how it came to represent Ireland when a Renaissance prince came calling,” said Dr Glyn Redworth, Faculty of History, University of Oxford.

Available to purchase in bookshops and online at www.ireland1518.com, the book will receive its KInsale launch at Temperance Hall this Saturday, December 19, at 7pm.

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