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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, his family (see Creagh) were Gaelic-Irish but had lived in Limerick town for some generations. 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.
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 of his guilt.
His grand-nephew, Peter Creagh, was Bishop of Cork and Cloyne from 1676 to 1693. He was imprisoned for two years in consequence of the false accusations of Titus Oates, but acquitted (1682), was transferred to the Archdiocese of Tuam in 1686. He followed James II of England to the Continent, was appointed Archbishop of Dublin in 1693, but was never able to return and take possession. He became Coadjutor Bishop of Strasbourg, where he died (July, 1705).
- "Archbishop Richard Creagh". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
- Lennon, Colm (2004). "Creagh (Crevagh), Richard (c.1523–1586?)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/6658. Retrieved 2013-02-20. (subscription or UK public library membership required). His date of death is given as 14 October 1585 in: Moody, T. W. et al., eds. (1989). A New History of Ireland. 8: A Chronology of Irish History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-821744-2.
- Charles Nicholl The Reckoning; the Murder of Christopher Marlowe 2nd Edition Random House 2002 p.193