Spanish Archaeologists Uncover Coffin At Burial Site Of Donegal Chieftan Red Hugh O’Donnell

Archaeologists in Spain have uncovered two coffins and numerous bones in the place they believe Red Hugh O’Donnell to be buried. They believe they are extremely close to finding Red Hugh’s remains.

They  say that they are now very close to uncovering the remains of Donegal’s most famous chieftan. In another exciting development, two underground walls which archaeologists hoped formed part of the chapel where O’Donnell was buried have been further uncovered. Their shape confirms that they are indeed part of the Chapel of Wonders.

The major excavation is taking place in the historic city of Valladolid in the Castille Y Leon region. O’Donnell is believed to be buried in the chapel which is within the now disappeared convent of San Francisco.

The Franciscan complex in Valladolid was one of the biggest of its kind in the 1600s. The fact that records show that O’Donnell was buried in the Chapel of Wonders significantly narrows down the search.

Could this coffin contain the remains of Donegal chieftan Red Hugh O'Donnell - Photo Cultural Turismo VLL-Twitter

Could this coffin contain the remains of Donegal chieftan Red Hugh O’Donnell – Photo Cultural Turismo VLL-Twitter

The discovery of the two chapel walls under the streets of Valladolid is in keeping with what archaeologists expected to find.

The dig is now focused on the inside of the chapel where Christopher Columbus is also believed to have been buried 100 years earlier, though his remains may have been moved.

Red Hugh O’Donnell arrived in Spain in early 1602 following the famously unsuccessful attempt in Kinsale to break the English siege on Spanish troops. This marked the end of the Nine Years War against the occupying English.

Death in Spain

O’Donnell was in Spain trying to garner further support from King Philippe III. The king promised troops but they never materialised.

In September 1602 while awaiting an audience with the Spanish king, O’Donnell died suddenly while en route to the then capital of Spain, Valladolid. He was just 29 years of age.

It is believed that he was poisoned by an Irish traitor paid by the English, though a tape worm infection has also been suggested.

King Philippe III ordered a royal funeral for the Donegal chieftan.

According to the Annals of the Four Masters: “His body was conveyed to the king’s palace at Valladolid in a four-wheeled hearse, surrounded by countless numbers of the king’s state officers, council, and guards, with luminous torches and bright flambeaux of beautiful wax-light burning on each side of him.”

O’Donnell was  laid to rest in the convent of San Francisco at Valladolid.

As the excavation continues, some bones have been found but they are not those of Red Hugh O’Donnell.

Historians say O’Donnell’s skeleton will be easily identifiable since it is well documented that he lost toes to frostbite in his escape from Dublin Castle in 1591.

The excavation has generated huge interest around the world.

O’Donnell is being described as the William Wallace of Ireland. The Spanish are particularly interested in this major excavation in their former capital city.

(Source – Donegal Democrat/Donegal Live – Siobhan Mc Namara – 27/05/2020)

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