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Regiment of Hibernia: Wikis


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Uniform and colonel’s flag of the Hibernia Regiment, mid-eighteenth century, (A. Valdés Sánchez. Brown University Library, Madrid, 1993)
Private of the Hibernia Regiment, in typical red jacket and green facings, late 18th century(Bueno Correa 1986)

The Regiment of Hibernia, called by many O´Neills in Spain, the "O'Neill's Regiment" was formed in 1710 from some of the many Irishmen who fled their own country in the wake of the Flight of the Earls and the penal laws and who became known as the Wild Geese a name which has become synonymous in modern times for Irish soldiers throughout the world.

Although the Wild Geese are more associated with the French Army and are indeed seen as the precursors of the French Foreign Legion the regiment [1] the Regiment of Hibernia served with the Spanish Army, one of many Irish regiments to do so.

Due to the number of wars Spain was involved in during the early 18th century the country could not provide itself with enough soldiers for its own campaigns. This was also exacerbated by the severe loss of manpower as a result of a plague epidemic. Diplomatic approaches were made to a number of countries with requests for the recruitment of mercenaries to fight for Spain.

Germans, Italians and Wallons were recruited but the Spanish were particularly keen to engage Irishmen because of their reputation as soldiers. The Confederation of Kilkenny established licences for the recruitment of Irishmen to fight with the King of Spain.

It is remarkable that for almost a century the Irish regiment of Hibernia in Spain was never without at least one O'Neill among its senior officers. At the formation of the regiment in 1709 the senior captain was Arthuro O'Neill. [2]

There is also a Felix de O´Neill, (Ultonia, Ireland, 1720 - Lieutenant General 1779 - Zaragoza, Spain, 1792), military governor at Vigo, Girona and Barcelona, Captain General of Aragon and first Director of the still existent Sociedad Económica de Amigos del Pais in 1791 and 1792.

In order to understand the name of the person to be discussed now we must point out that the first Count of Tyrone, county now located in Northern Ireland, Ulster, was Conn O´Neill, (1480 - 1559), the second Count being Hughes O´Neill, (1540 - 1616).

A certain Owen Roe O´Neill, (1582 - near Cavan, 1649) , mercenary since 1603 under Archduke Albert of Austria, (1559–1621), son of Maximilian II, the Holy Roman Emperor, who was Governor of the Low Countries, Spanish Netherlands, Flanders, and became a Captain in 1606, fought for Spain during the Thirty Years War against the French Troops of Cardinal Richelieu, being one of the defenders of Arras in 1640 and in Ireland since 1642 taking part in 1646 in the Battle of Benbur against Scottish Protestants.

One of the many O´Neill´s at the service of the Spanish Crown can be tracked on the 1755, when at the 99 years end of lease on his lands in Meelick,(County of Galway?), Carrowrory and Carrowconnell expired, a certain Henry (Enrique) O'Neill and his wife Hanna O'Kelly , the daughter of counsellor John O'Kelly of Keenagh, Co. Roscommon who moved the family to Spain about 1758.

They were the parents of Don Arturo O'Neill de Tyrone y O´Kelly, (8 January 1736 Dublin, Ireland - Madrid, 9 December 1814).

He would be known later by the title of the 1st Marqués Del Norte and Governor of the Yucatan in 10.03.1792, the successor of Don Jose Sabido de Vargas. Named Governor of West Florida being named also into the Supreme Council of War of Spain replacing Governor Miguel de Uztariz.

His brother Lieutenant. Colonel. Niall 'Nicolas', Tully O'Neill y O'Kelly was b. 1734, being the 2nd Marques del Norte by succesion and died at Saragossa, Spain.

This second Marquis, really the father of the 2nd Marquis, nephew thus of th 1st Marquis, seems to have been posted at the Caribbean small islands, being described in dispatches as, Don Tulio O'Neill y O'Kelly, and on marrying Catherine O'Keffe y Whalen became the parents of:

1)Arturo O'Neill y O'Keffe, born 1783 in St. Croix, became Lieut. Colonel in 17 August 1828 in Bayamon , Puerto Rico.

2)Tulio O'Neill y O'Keffe, also born in St. Croix Island , but Tulio in 1784. This Arturo appears also, or however as 2nd Marques del Norte and married later a Johanna Chabert y Heyliger (born 19 April 1802). They got descendents named "O´Neill y Chabert" in Puerto Rico .

Arturo O´Neill y O´Keef became in time, apparently, a General, and won many distinctions during the Peninsular War.

On the other hand, his younger brother Tully or Tulio, (born in the Caribbean Island of Saint Croix in 1794 - 1821), married Luisa de Castilla y Quevedo, (Sevilla 1800 - 1827). She was the daughter of wealthy nobleman Antonio Maria de Castilla y Tous de Monsalve.

These "Tous de Monsalve" people held quite a few nobility titles, in such a way that Tulio O´Neill y O´Keefe became in due time through the status of Consort of the Spanish Lady Luisa de Castilla:

8th Conde de Benagiar, (title by King Charles II of Spain, of 19 February 1691), 7th Marqués de la Granja, , 6th Marqués de Valdeosera

Tulio O´Neill and Luisa de Castilla became parents of Juan Antonio Luis O'Neill y de Castilla, (born in 1812 - 1877) who married Dona Luisa de Salamanca.

He later inherited his mothers titles in 1847, (perhaps 1827?), being 8th Marques de la Granja, 7th Marques de Caltojar, 9th Count of Benagiar and 7th Marques de Valdeosera (d.1877).

From then on, they are known as the O'Neill's of the Fews of Seville.

One remarkable facet of so many Irishmen fighting for opposing nations in Europe was that they occasionally faced each other as enemies on foreign battlefields.

The Hibernia Regiment found itself in this position at the siege of Badajoz, Storming of Badajoz, a most bllody encounter, in 1811, when they faced the Irish Legion under the command of the French.[2]


Campaigns & Battles



External links


  • The Spanish Monarchy and Irish Mercenaries.- The Wild Geese in Spain 1618-68. (R.A. Stradling)
  • The Irish Brigades in the Service of France, J.C. O'Callaghan.
  • The Wild Geese, M. Hennessy
  • The March of O'Sullivan Beare, L.J. Emerson.
  • The O' Neills in Spain, Spanish Knights of Irish Origin, Destruction by Peace, Micheline Kerney Walsh. The Irish Sword, Vol 4-11
  • The Wild Geese, Mark G. McLaughlin.
  • Wild Geese in Spanish Flanders,1582-1700, B. Jennings.
  • Spain under the Habsburgs, John Lynch
  • The Flight of the Earls, John McCavitt


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