In 1601, Kinsale was the site of a battle in which English forces defeated an Irish/Spanish force, led by the princes Hugh Roe O’Donnell and Hugh O’Neill. Following this battle the Flight of the Earls occurred in which a number of the native Irish aristocrats, including the Earls of Tyrone and Tir Conaill abandoned their lands and fled to mainland Europe.
In 1690, James II of England and Ireland, following his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne, departed to France.
Charles Fort, located at Summer Cove and dating from 1677, is a fortification that guards the entrance to Kinsale harbour. It was built to protect the area and specifically the harbour from use by the French and Spanish in the event of a landing in Ireland. James’s Fort is located on the other side of the cove, on the Castlepark peninsula. An underwater chain used to be strung between the two forts across the harbour mouth during times of war to scuttle enemy shipping by ripping the bottom out of incoming vessels.
When the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915, some of the bodies and survivors were brought to Kinsale and the subsequent inquest on the bodies recovered was held in the town’s courthouse. A statue in the harbour commemorates the effort.