An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800
by Mary Frances Cusack
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The Parliament was summoned in 1536; but, as a remote preparation, the Lord Deputy made a "martial circuit" of Ireland, hoping thereby to overawe the native septs, and compel their submission to the royal will and pleasure. "This preparation being made," i.e., the "martial circuit"—I am quoting from Sir John Davies;[392] I request the reader's special attention to the statement—"he first propounded and passed in Parliament these Lawes, which made the great alteration in the State Ecclesiastical, namely, the Act which declared King Henry VIII. to be Supreme Head of the Church of Ireland; the Act prohibiting Apeales to the Church of Rome; the Act for first fruites and twentieth part to be paid to the King; and lastly, the Act that did utterly abolish the usurped Authoritie of the Pope. Next, for the increase of the King's Revenew. By one Act he suppressed sundry Abbayes and Religious Houses, and by another Act resumed the Lands of the Absentees."

The royal process of conversion to the royal opinions, had at least the merits of simplicity. There is an old rhyme—one of those old rhymes which are often more effectual in moving the hearts of the multitude than the most eloquent sermons, and truer exponents of popular feeling than Acts of Parliament—which describes the fate of Forrest, the Franciscan friar, confessor of the King's only lawful wife and the consequences of his temerity in denying the King's supremacy:—

"Forrest, the fryar, That obstinate lyar, That wilfully will be dead; Incontinently The Gospel doth deny, The King to be supreme head."

There is a grand and simple irony in this not easily surpassed. Some very evident proofs had been given in England, that to deny the King's spiritual supremacy was "wilfully to be dead," although neither the King nor the Parliament had vouchsafed to inform the victims in what part of the Gospel the keys of the kingdom of heaven had been given to a temporal prince. Still, as I have observed, the royal process was extremely simple—if you believed, you were saved; if you doubted, you died.

With the example of Sir Thomas More[393] before their eyes, the Anglo-Norman nobles and gentlemen, assembled in Parliament by the royal command, were easily persuaded to do the royal bidding. But the ecclesiastics were by no means so pliable. Every diocese had the privilege of sending two proctors to Parliament; and these proctors proved so serious an obstacle, that Lords Grey and Brabazon wrote to Cromwell, that they had prorogued the Parliament in consequence of the "forwardness and obstinacy of the proctors, of the clergy, and of the bishops and abbots;" and they suggest that "some means should be devised, whereby they should be brought to remember their duty better," or that "means may be found which shall put these proctors from a voice in Parliament."[394] The means were easily found—the proctors were forbidden to vote.[395] The Act was passed. Every one who objected to it having been forbidden to vote, Henry's agents on the Continent proclaimed triumphantly that the Irish nation had renounced the supremacy of Rome. A triumph obtained at the expense of truth, is but poor compensation for the heavy retribution which shall assuredly be demanded of those who have thus borne false witness against their neighbour. Men forget too often, in the headlong eagerness of controversy, that truth is eternal and immutable, and that no amount of self-deceit or successful deception of others can alter its purity and integrity in the eyes of the Eternal Verity.

The Irish Parliament, or, we should say more correctly, the men permitted to vote in Ireland according to royal directions, had already imitated their English brethren by declaring the marriage of Henry and Catherine of Arragon null and void, and limiting the succession to the crown to the children of Anna Boleyn. When this lady had fallen a victim to her husband's caprice, they attainted her and her posterity with equal facility. A modern historian has attempted to excuse Henry's repudiation of his lawful wife, on the ground of his sincere anxiety to prevent disputes about the succession.[396] But the King's subsequent conduct ought surely to have deterred any one from attempting so rash an apology. To doubt the royal supremacy, or the right of the lady, who for the time being held a place in Henry's affections, to royal honours, was an evidence of insincerity in devotion to himself which he could not easily pardon.

As it was now ascertained that the Irish people would not apostatize as a nation, an expedient was prepared for their utter extirpation. It would be impossible to believe that the human heart could be guilty of such cruelty, if we had not evidence of the fact in the State Papers. By this diabolical scheme it was arranged to till or carry away their cattle, and to destroy their corn while it was green. "The very living of the Irishry," observes the writer, "doth clearly consist in two things; and take away the same from them, and they are past power to recover, or yet to annoy any subject in Ireland. Take first from them their corn—burn and destroy the same; and then have their cattle and beasts, which shall be most hardest to come by, and yet, with guides and policy, they be often had and taken." Such was the arrangement; and it was from no want of inclination that it was not entirely carried out, and the "Irishry" starved to death in their own land.

The title of King of Ireland had not as yet been given to English monarchs, but the ever-subservient Parliament of this reign granted Henry this addition to his privileges, such as it was. We have already seen the style in which the "supreme head of the Church" addressed the bishops whom he had appointed; we shall now give a specimen of their subserviency to their master, and the fashion in which they executed his commands, before returning to secular history.

Henry's letter to Dr. Browne is dated July 7th, 1537; the Bishop's reply is given on the 27th September, 1537. He commences by informing his most excellent Highness that he had received his most gracious letter on the 7th September, and that "it made him tremble in body for fear of incurring his Majesty's displeasure," which was doubtless the most truthful statement in his epistle. He mentions all his zeal and efforts against Popery, which, he adds, "is a thing not little rooted among the inhabitants here." He assures the King of his activity in securing the twentieth part and first-fruits for the royal use (what had been given to God was now given to Caesar), and states what, indeed, could not be denied, that he was the "first spiritual man who moved" for this to be done. He concludes with the fearful profanity of "desiring of God, that the ground, should open and swallow him up the hour or minute that he should declare the Gospel of Christ after any sort than he had done heretofore, in rebuking the Papistical power, or in any other point concerning the advancement of his Grace's affairs."

Such a tissue of profanity and absurdity was seldom penned; but men who could write and act thus were fitting instruments for a man, who made it a point of conscience to commit immoral crimes that he might preserve the succession; who kept his mistress in the same palace with his queen; and only went through the form of marriage when he found his real or pretended wishes about the same succession on the point of being realized in a manner that even he could not fail to see would scarcely be admitted as legal or legitimate by public opinion, whatever an obsequious Parliament might do. It is at least certain that such letters never were addressed by Catholic prelates to the Holy See, and that those who speak of its tyranny and priestcraft, and the absolute submission it requires from its subjects, would do well to remember the trite motto, Audi alteram partem, and to inquire whether a similar charge might not be made more justly against the founders of the Protestant Establishment.

Dr. Browne and the Lord Deputy now rivalled each other in their efforts to obtain the royal approbation, by destroying all that the Irish people held most sacred, determined to have as little cause as possible for "the trembling in body" which the King's displeasure would effect. They traversed the land from end to end, destroying cathedrals, plundering abbeys, and burning relics—all in the name of a religion which proclaimed liberty of conscience to worship God according to individual conviction, as the great boon which it was to confer on the nation. However full of painful interest these details may be, as details they belong to the province of the ecclesiastical historian. The Four Masters record the work of desecration in touching and mournful strains. They tell of the heresy which broke out in England, and graphically characterize it as "the effect of pride, vain-glory, avarice, and sensual desire." They mention how "the King and Council enacted new laws and statutes after their own will." They observe that all the property of the religious orders was seized for the King; and they conclude thus: "They also made archbishops and bishops for themselves; and although great was the persecution of the Roman emperors against the Church, it is not probable that so great a persecution as this ever came upon the world; so that it is impossible to tell or narrate its description, unless it should be told by him saw it."[397]

The era of religious persecution was thus inaugurated; and if Ireland had made no martyrs of the men who came to teach her the faith, she was not slow to give her best and noblest sons as victims to the fury of those who attempted to deprive her of that priceless deposit. Under the year 1540, the Four Masters record the massacre of the Guardian and friars of the Convent at Monaghan, for refusing to acknowledge the spiritual supremacy of the King. Cornelius, Bishop of Down, a Franciscan friar, and Father Thomas FitzGerald, a member of the noble family of the Geraldines, and a famous preacher, were both killed in the convent of that Order in Dublin. Father Dominic Lopez has given a detailed account of the sufferings of the religious orders in Ireland during the reign of Henry VIII., in a rare and valuable work, entitled, Noticias Historicas de las tres florentissimas Provincias del celeste Ordem de la Ssma. Trinidad.[398] I shall give two instances from this history, as a sample of the fashion in which the new doctrine of the royal supremacy was propagated. In 1539 the Prior and religious of the Convent of Atharee were commanded to take the oath of supremacy, and to surrender their property to the crown. The Superior, Father Robert, at once assembled his spiritual children, and informed them of the royal mandate. Their resolution was unanimous; after the example of the early Christians, when threatened with martyrdom and spoliation by heathen emperors, they at once distributed their provisions, clothing, and any money they had in hand amongst the poor, and concealed the sacred vessels and ornaments, so that not so much as a single emblem of our redemption was left to be desecrated by men professing to believe that they had been redeemed by the cross of Christ. Father Robert was summoned thrice to recognize the new authority. Thrice he declined; declaring that "none had ever sought to propagate their religious tenets by the sword, except the pagan emperors in early ages, and Mahomet in later times. As for himself and his community, they were resolved that no violence should move them from the principles of truth: they recognized no head of the Catholic Church save the Vicar of Jesus Christ; and as for the King of England, they regarded him not even as a member of that holy Church, but as head of the synagogue of Satan." The conclusion of his reply was a signal for massacre. An officer instantly struck off his head with one blow. As the prisons were already full of "recusants," the friars were placed in confinement in private houses, some were secretly murdered, and others were publicly hanged in the market-place. These events occurred on the 12th and 13th of February, 1539.

An almost similar tragedy was enacted in the Trinitarian Convent of Limerick, where the Prior was coadjutor to the Bishop of that city. He also assembled the brethren, exhorted them to perseverance, distributed their few poor possessions, and concealed the sacred vessels. On the feast of St. John Baptist, 24th June, in the year of grace 1539, he preached in his cathedral against the new heresy, and exhorted his flock to persevere in the faith. The emissaries of Government were afraid to attack him openly; but that evening they visited him at his private residence, and offered him his choice between death and apostacy. For all reply the venerable prelate knelt down, and exclaimed: "O Lord, on this morning I offered to Thee on the altar the unbloody sacrifice of the body of my Saviour; grant that I may now offer, to Thy greater honour and glory, the sacrifice of my own life." Then he turned towards a picture of the most holy Trinity, which was suspended in his room, and scarce had time to pronounce the aspiration of his Order, "Sancta Trinitas, unus Deus, miserere nobis," ere his head was severed from his body, and he entered upon the beatific vision of the Three in One, for Whom he had so gladly sacrificed his life.

The Protestant Archbishop, Dr. Browne, the Lord Chancellor, and some other members of the Council, set out on a "visitation" of the four counties of Carlow, Wexford, Waterford, and Tipperary, in which the church militant was for the nonce represented by the church military. They transmitted an account of their expedition, and the novel fashion in which they attempted to propagate the Gospel, to England, on the 18th January, 1539. One brief extract must suffice as a specimen of their proceedings. "The day following we kept the sessions there [at Wexford]. There was put to execution four felons, accompanied with another, a friar, whom we commanded to be hanged in his habit, and so to remain upon the gallows for a mirror to all his brethren to live truly."[399]

There was One, whom from reverence I name not here, who said, when about to die, that, when "lifted up, He should draw all men unto Him." Centuries have rolled by since those most blessed words were uttered, but they have been verified in the disciples as well as in the Master. The "lifting up" of a friar upon the gallows, or of a bishop upon the block, has but served to draw men after them; and the reformations they failed to effect during their lives, by their preaching and example, have been accomplished after and because of their martyrdoms.

The reformers now began to upbraid each other with the very crimes of which they had accused the clergy in England. When mention is made of the immense sums of money which were obtained by the confiscation of religious houses at this period, it has been commonly and naturally supposed, that the religious were possessors of immense wealth, which they hoarded up for their own benefit; and although each person made a vow of poverty, it is thought that what was possessed collectively, was enjoyed individually. But this false impression arises (1) from a mistaken idea of monastic life, and (2) from a misapprehension as to the kind of property possessed by the religious.

A brief account of some of the property forfeited in Ireland, will explain this important matter. We do not find in any instance that religious communities had large funds of money. If they had extensive tracts of land, they were rather the property of the poor, who farmed them, than of the friars, who held them in trust. Any profit they produced made no addition to the fare or the clothing of the religious, for both fare and clothing were regulated by certain rules framed by the original founders, and which could not be altered. These rules invariably required the use of the plainest diet and of the coarsest habits. A considerable portion—indeed, by far the most considerable portion—of conventual wealth, consisted in the sacred vessels and ornaments. These had been bestowed on the monastic churches by benefactors, who considered that what was used in the service of God should be the best which man could offer. The monk was none the richer if he offered the sacrifice to the Eternal Majesty each morning in a chalice of gold, encrusted with the most precious jewels; but if it were right and fitting to present that chalice to God for the service of His Divine Majesty, who shall estimate the guilt of those who presumed to take the gift from Him to whom it had been given? We know how terrible was the judgment which came upon a heathen monarch who dared to use the vessels which had belonged to the Jewish Temple, and we may believe that a still more terrible judgment is prepared for those who desecrate Christian churches, and that it will be none the less sure, because, under the new dispensation of mercy, it comes less swiftly.

All the gold and silver plate, jewels, ornaments, lead, bells, &c., were reserved by special command for the King's use.[400] The church-lands were sold to the highest bidder, or bestowed as a reward on those who had helped to enrich the royal coffers by sacrilege. Amongst the records of the sums thus obtained, we find L326 2s. 11d., the price of divers pieces of gold and silver, of precious stones, silver ornaments, &c.; also L20, the price of 1,000 lbs. of wax. The sum of L1,710 2s. was realized from the sale of sacred vessels belonging to thirty-nine monasteries. The profits on the spoliation of St. Mary's, Dublin, realized L385. The destruction of the Collegiate Church of St. Patrick must have procured an enormous profit, as we find that Cromwell received L60 for his pains in effecting the same. It should also be remembered that the value of a penny then was equal to the value of a shilling now, so that we should multiply these sums at least by ten to obtain an approximate idea of the extent of this wholesale robbery.

The spoilers now began to quarrel over the spoils. The most active or the most favoured received the largest share; and Dr. Browne grumbled loudly at not obtaining all he asked for. But we have not space to pursue the disedifying history of their quarrels. The next step was to accuse each other. In the report of the Commissioners appointed in 1538 to examine into the state of the country, we find complaints made of the exaction of undue fees, extortions for baptisms and marriages, &c. They also (though this was not made an accusation by the Commissioners) received the fruits of benefices in which they did not officiate, and they were accused of taking wives and dispensing with the sacrament of matrimony. The King, whatever personal views he might have on this subject, expected his clergy to live virtuously; and in 1542 he wrote to the Lord Deputy, requiring an Act to be passed "for the continency of the clergy," and some "reasonable plan to be devised for the avoiding of sin." However, neither the Act nor the reasonable plan appear to have succeeded. In 1545, Dr. Browne writes: "Here reigneth insatiable ambition; here reigneth continually coigne and livery, and callid extortion." Five years later, Sir Anthony St. Leger, after piteous complaints of the decay of piety and the increase of immorality, epitomizes the state of the country thus: "I never saw the land so far out of good order."[401] Pages might be filled with such details; but the subject shall be dismissed with a brief notice of the three props of the Reformation and the King's supremacy in Ireland. These were Dr. Browne of Dublin, Dr. Staples of Meath, and Dr. Bale of Ossory. The latter writing of the former in 1553, excuses the corruption of his own reformed clergy, by stating that "they would at no hand obey; alleging for their vain and idle excuse, the lewd example of the Archbishop of Dublin, who was always slack in things pertaining to God's glory." He calls him "an epicurious archbishop, a brockish swine, and a dissembling proselyte," and accuses him in plain terms of "drunkenness and gluttony." Dr. Browne accuses Dr. Staples of having preached in such a manner, "as I think the three-mouthed Cerberus of hell could not have uttered it more viperously." And Dr. Mant, the Protestant panegyrist of the Reformation and the Reformers, admits that Dr. Bale was guilty of "uncommon warmth of temperament"—a polite appellation for a most violent temper; and of "unbecoming coarseness"—a delicate definement of a profligate life. His antecedents were not very creditable. After flying from his convent in England, he was imprisoned for preaching sedition in York and London. He obtained his release by professing conformity to the new creed. He eventually retired to Canterbury, after his expulsion from Kilkenny by the Catholics, and there he died, in 1563.


[380] Persecution.—Smith's Ireland Hist. and Statis. vol. i. p. 327.

[381] Doom.—See The Earls of Kildare, vol. i. p. 106, for Wolsey's reasons for not removing him from the Viceroyalty, notwithstanding his dislike.

[382] Ally.—He was charged with having written a letter to O'Carroll of Ely, in which he advised him to keep peace with the Pale until a Deputy should come over, and then to make war on the English. The object of this advice is not very clear.

[383] Salus Populi.—There is a copy of this book in MS. in the British Museum. The name of the author is not known.

[384] Letter.—The deposition accusing Kildare is printed in the "State Papers," part iii. p. 45. The following is an extract from the translation which it gives of his letter to O'Carroll. The original was written in Irish: "Desiring you to kepe good peas to English men tyll an English Deputie come there; and when any English Deputie shall come thydder, doo your beste to make warre upon English men there, except suche as bee towardes mee, whom you know well your silf."

[385] Pierse Butler.—Called by the Irish, Red Pierse. Leland gives a curious story about him. He was at war with MacGillapatrick, who sent an ambassador to Henry VIII. to complain of the Earl's proceedings. The messenger met the English King as he was about to enter the royal chapel, and addressed him thus: "Stop, Sir King! my master, Gillapatrick, has sent me to thee to say, that if thou wilt not punish the Red Earl he will make war on thee." Pierse resigned his title in favour of Sir Thomas Boleyn, in 1527, and was created Earl of Ossory; but after the death of the former he again took up the old title, and resigned the new.

[386] Spared.—It is quite evident from the letter of the Council to Henry VIII. (State Papers, ciii.), that a promise was made. Henry admits it, and regrets it in his letter to Skeffington (S.P. cvi.): "The doyng whereof [FitzGerald's capture], albeit we accept it thankfully, yet, if he had been apprehended after such sorte as was convenable to his deservynges, the same had been muche more thankfull and better to our contentacion."

[387] Already.—Mant describes him as a man "whose mind was happily freed from the thraldom of Popery," before his appointment.—History of the Church of Ireland, vol. i. p. 111.

[388] Houses.—Lingard, vol. vi. p. 203.

[389] Charges.—Mr. Froude has adopted this line with considerable ability, in his History of England. He has collected certain statements, which he finds in the books of the Consistory Courts, and gives details from these cases which certainly must "shock his readers" considerably, as he expects. He leaves it to be implied that, as a rule, ecclesiastics lived in open immorality. He gives names and facts concerning the punishment of priests for vicious lives (History of England, vol. i. pp. 178-180); and asserts that their offences were punished lightly, while another measure was dealt out to seculars. He might as well select the cases of scandal given by Protestant clergymen in modern times from the law books, and hold them up as specimens of the lives of all their brethren. The cases were exceptions; and though they do prove, what is generally admitted, that the moral condition of the clergy was not all that could be desired in individual cases, they also prove that such cases were exceptional, and that they were condemned by the Church, or they would not have been punished. With regard to the punishment, we can scarcely call it a light penance for a priest to be compelled to go round the church barefoot, to kneel at each altar and recite certain prayers, and this while High Mass was singing. It was a moral disgrace, and keener than a corporal punishment. The writer also evidently misunderstands the Catholic doctrine of absolution, when he says that a fine of six-and-eightpence was held sufficient penalty for a mortal sin.

[390] Ancestors.—See the Phoenix, a collection of valuable papers, published in London, 1707; and the Harleian Miscellany, &c.

[391] Rome.—This was the invariable practice of the Irish Church. It will be remembered how letters and expostulations had been sent to the Holy See in regard to the temporal oppressions of the English settlers.

[392] Davies.—Cause why Ireland was never Subdued.—Thorn's Reprints, vol. i. p. 694.

[393] More.-Sir Thomas More's son-in-law, Roper, gives the following account of his condemnation: "Mr. Rich, pretending friendly talk with him, among other things of a set course, said this unto him: 'Admit there were, sir, an Act of Parliament that the realm should take me for king; would not you, Master More, take me for King?' 'Yes, sir,' quoth Sir Thomas More, 'that I would.' 'I put the case further,' quoth Mr. Rich, 'that there were an Act of Parliament that all the realm should take me for Pope; would not you then, Master More, take me for Pope?' 'For answer, sir,' quoth Sir Thomas More, 'to your first case, the Parliament may well, Master Rich, meddle with the state of temporal princes; but to make answer to your other case, I will put you this case. Suppose the Parliament should make a law that God should not be God, would you then, Master Rich, say that God were not God?' 'No, sir,' quoth he, 'that I would not, sith no Parliament may make any such law.' 'No more,' quoth Sir Thomas More, 'could the Parliament make the King supreme head of the Church.' Upon whose only report was Sir Thomas indicted for high treason on the statute to deny the King to be supreme head of the Church, into which indictment were put these heinous words—maliciously, traitorously, and diabolically."

[394] Parliament.—State Papers, vol. ii. p. 437.

[395] Vote.—Irish Statutes, 28th Henry VIII. c. xii.

[396] Succession.—Froude, vol. i. p. 94. He also quotes Hall to the effect that "all indifferent and discreet persons judged that it was right and necessary." Persons who were "indifferent" enough to think that any reason could make a sin necessary, or "discreet" enough to mind losing their heads or their property, were generally of that opinion. But Henry's difficulties in divorcing his wife are a matter of history.

[397] Saw it,—Four Masters, vol. v. p. 1445.

[398] Trinidad.—Madrid, 1714.

[399] Truly.—State Papers, vol. iii. p. 108.

[400] Use.—28th Henry VIII. cap. xvi. In Shirley's Original Letters, p. 31, we find the following order from the Lord Protector, Somerset, to the Dean of St. Patrick's: "Being advertised that one thousand ounces of plate of crosses and such like things remaineth in the hands of you, we require you to deliver the same to be employed to his Majesty's use," &c. He adds that the Dean is to receive "L20 in ready money" for the safe keeping of the same.

[401] Order.—The original letter may be seen in Shirley, pp. 41, 42.


Creation of the Earls of Thomond and Clanrickarde—How the King procured Money—Prayers in English—Opposition of Dr. Dowdall—Accession of Queen Mary—Joy of the Irish—The Catholic Service restored Publicly—Accession of Queen Elizabeth—Shane O'Neill obtains his Dominions—Parliament assembled—Unfair Dealing—Martyrs in the Reign of Elizabeth—The Protestant Archbishop advises Persecution—Cruelties enacted by English Officers—Shane O'Neill—The Deputy tries to get him Poisoned or Assassinated, with the Queen's Concurrence—His Visit to England—He refuses to Dress in the English Fashion.

[A.D. 1540-1567.]

Every official was now required to take the oath of supremacy, and the consequences of refusal were too well known to be estimated lightly. It has been asserted by several historians, that no Irish clergyman suffered death during this reign; but this statement is quite incorrect. A careful examination of the State Papers and of the private records of the religious orders, prove the contrary. In the spring of the year 1540, Lord Leonard Grey was recalled, and Sir William Brereton was appointed Chief Justice. Grey was soon after committed to the Tower, on a charge of high treason, and was executed in the following year. The usual feuds between the Irish chieftains and the settlers were continued during this period, as well as the usual feuds between the chiefs of each party. Sir Anthony St. Leger, who was appointed Deputy at the close of the year 1540, tried to reconcile the Ormondes and the Desmonds, and describes the latter as "undoubtedly a very wise and discreet gentleman"—a character which must be taken with some qualifications.

On the 1st of July, 1543, Murrough O'Brien was created Earl of Thomond and Baron of Inchiquin; and De Burgo, known by the soubriquet of Ulich-na-gceann ("of the heads"), from the number of persons whom he decapitated in his wars, was created Earl of Clanrickarde and Baron of Dunkellin. These titles were conferred by the King, with great pomp, at Greenwich; but the Irish chieftains paid for the honour, if honour it could be called where honour was forfeited, by acknowledging the royal supremacy.

The Four Masters record the following events under the year 1545:—A dispute between the Earl of Ormonde and the Lord Justice. Both repaired to the King of England to decide the quarrel, and both swore that only one of them should return to Ireland. "And so it fell out; for the Earl died in England, and the Lord Justice returned to Ireland." Sir Richard Cox asserts that the Earl and thirty-five of his servants were poisoned, at a feast at Ely House, Holborn, and that he and sixteen of them died; but he does not mention any cause for this tragedy. It was probably accidental, as the Earl was a favourer of the reformed religion, and not likely to meet with treachery in England. The Irish annalists do not even allude to the catastrophe; the Four Masters merely observe, that "he would have been lamented, were it not that he had greatly injured the Church by advice of the heretics."[402]

Great dearth prevailed this year, so that sixpence of the old money was given for a cake of bread in Connaught, or six white pence in Meath.

In 1546 they mention a rising of the Geraldines, "which did indescribable damages;" and two invasions of the Lord Justice in Offaly, who plundered and spoiled, burning churches and monasteries, crops and corn. They also mention the introduction of a new copper coin into Ireland, which the men of Ireland were obliged to use as silver.

The immense sums which Henry had accumulated by the plunder of religious houses, appear to have melted away, like snow-wreaths sunshine, long before the conclusion of his reign. His French and Scotch wars undoubtedly exhausted large supplies; his mistresses made large demands for their pleasures and their needy friends; yet there should have been enough, and to spare, for all these claims. When the monasteries were destroyed, the English clergy trembled for their own existence. The King could easily have dispensed with their services, and deprived them of their revenues. They were quite aware of their precarious tenure of office, and willingly agreed, in 1543, to give Henry ten per cent, on their incomes for three years, after the deduction of the tenths already vested in the crown. Their incomes were thus ascertained, and a loan was demanded, which, when granted, was made a gift by the ever-servile Parliament.

In 1545 a benevolence was demanded, though benevolences had been declared illegal by Act of Parliament. This method of raising money had been attempted at an early period of his reign; but the proposal met with such spirited opposition from the people, that even royalty was compelled to yield. A few years later, when the fatal result of opposition to the monarch's will and pleasure had become apparent, he had only to ask and obtain. Yet neither percentage, nor tenths, nor sacrilegious spoils, sufficed to meet his expenses; and, as a last expedient, the coin was debased, and irreparable injury inflicted on the country.

On the 28th of January, 1547, Edward VI. was crowned King of England. The Council of Regency appointed by Henry was set aside, and Seymour, Duke of Somerset, appointed himself Protector. St. Leger was continued in the office of Lord Deputy in Ireland; but Sir Edward Bellingham was sent over as Captain-General, with a considerable force, to quell the ever-recurring disturbances. His energetic character bore down all opposition, as much by the sheer strength of a strong will as by force of arms. In 1549 the Earl of Desmond refused to attend a Council in Dublin, on the plea that he wished to keep Christmas in his own castle. Bellingham, who had now replaced St. Leger as Lord Deputy, set out at once, with a small party of horse, for the residence of the refractory noble, seized him as he sat by his own fireside, and carried him off in triumph to Dublin.

In 1548 O'Connor and O'More were expelled from Offaly and Leix, and their territory usurped by an Englishman, named Francis Bryan. Cahir Roe O'Connor, one of the sept, was executed in Dublin, and a number of the tribe were sent to assist in the Scotch wars. The political cabals in England consequent on the youth of the King, who nominally governed the country, occasioned frequent changes in the Irish administration.

In 1551 the Lord Deputy Crofts succeeded Sir Thomas Cusack, and led an army into Ulster against the Scotch settlers, who had long been regarded with a jealous eye by the English Government; but he was defeated both at this time and on a subsequent occasion. No Parliament was convened during this short reign, and the affairs of the country were administered by the Privy Council. Dr. Browne and Dr. Staples were leading members. The Chancellor, Read, and the Treasurer, Brabazon, were both English. The Irish members were Aylmer, Luttrell, Bath, Howth, and Cusack, who had all recently conformed, at least exteriorly, to the new religion.

The most important native chieftain of the age was Shane O'Neill. His father, Con, surnamed Baccagh ("the lame"), had procured the title of Baron of Dungannon, and the entail of the earldom of Tyrone, from Henry VII., for his illegitimate son, Ferdoragh. He now wished to alter this arrangement; but the ungrateful youth made such charges against the old man, that he was seized and imprisoned by the Deputy. After his death Shane contended bravely for his rights. The French appear to have made some attempt about this period to obtain allies in Ireland, but the peace which ensued between that country and England soon terminated such intrigues.

All efforts to establish the new religion during this reign was equally unsuccessful. On Easter Sunday, A.D. 1551, the liturgy was read for the first time in the English tongue, in Christ Church Cathedral. As a reward for his energy in introducing the reform in general, and the liturgy in particular, Edward VI. annexed the primacy of all Ireland to the see of Dublin by Act of Parliament. There was one insuperable obstacle, however, in the way of using the English tongue, which was simply that the people did not understand it. Even the descendants of the Anglo-Norman were more familiar with the Celtic dialect, and some attempt was made at this time to procure a Latin translation of the Protestant communion service.[403]

Dr. Dowdall had been appointed, in 1543, to the primatial see of Armagh, by Henry VIII., who naturally hoped he would prove a ready instrument in his service; but, to the surprise of the court, he put himself at the head of the orthodox party, and was one of the most faithful opposers of the introduction of the Protestant form of prayer. In 1552 he was obliged to seek refuge on the Continent. On the death of Dr. Wauchop, petitions were sent to Rome, requesting his appointment to the see of Armagh. He was proposed in Consistory on the 1st of March, 1553.

Mary succeeded to the crown in 1553. A Protestant writer explains the difference between the religious persecutions of her reign, and those which occurred during the reign of Henry VIII., with admirable discrimination and impartiality: "The religious persecutions which prevailed in this reign, proceeded altogether from a different cause from that which stands as an everlasting blot on the memory of Henry VIII. In Henry's instance, people were tortured and murdered in the name of religion, but the real cause was their opposition to the will of an arbitrary tyrant; whereas those who suffered under Mary, were martyred because the Queen conscientiously believed in those principles to which she clung with such pertinacity."[404] One of the principal of these victims was Archbishop Cranmer, who had already caused several persons to suffer in the flames for differing from his opinions, and thus almost merited his fate. It is a curious fact that several Protestants came to Ireland during this reign, and settled in Dublin; they were subsequently the founders of respectable mercantile families.

Although the English people had adopted the reformed religion nationally, there were still a few persons whom neither favour nor indifference could induce to renounce the ancient faith; and this brief respite from persecution tended to confirm and strengthen those who wavered. In Ireland, always Catholic, the joy was unbounded. Archbishop Dowdall immediately prepared to hold a provincial synod at Drogheda, where enactments were made for depriving the conforming prelates and priests. Happily their number was so few that there was but little difficulty in making the necessary arrangements. The only prelates that were removed were Browne, of Dublin; Staples, of Meath; Lancaster, of Kildare; and Travers, of Leighlin. Goodacre died a few months after his intrusion into the see of Armagh; Bale, of Ossory, fled beyond the seas; Casey, of Limerick, followed his example. All were English except the latter, and all, except Staples, were professing Protestants at the time of their appointment to their respective sees. Bale, who owed the Kilkenny people a grudge, for the indignant and rather warm reception with which they treated him on his intrusion into the see, gives a graphic account of the joy with which the news of Edward's death was received. The people "flung up their caps to the battlements of the great temple;" set the bells ringing; brought out incense and holy water, and formed once more a Catholic procession, chanting the Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis, as of old. In fact, "on the accession of Mary to the throne, so little had been done in the interest of the Reformation, that there was little or nothing to undo. She issued a licence for the celebration of Mass in Ireland, where no other service was or had been celebrated worth mentioning, and where no other supreme head had been ever in earnest acknowledged but the Pope."[405]

But the Irish obtained no temporal advantages during this reign—an illustration of the truth of what I have before remarked, that the nation has suffered almost as much from political as from religious causes. The work of extermination still went on. The boundaries of the Pale were increased thereby. Leix was designated the Queen's county, and the fort of Campa obtained the name of Maryborough, in compliment to the Queen. Offaly was named the King's county, and the fortress of Daingean, Philipstown, in compliment to her Spanish consort.

In the year 1553 Gerald and Edward, the sons of the late Earl of Kildare, returned from exile, and were restored to the family honours and possessions. The Four Masters say that "there was great rejoicing because of their arrival, for it was thought that not one of the descendants of the Earls of Kildare or of the O'Connors Faly would ever again come to Ireland." They also mention that Margaret, a daughter of O'Connor Faly, went to England, "relying on the number of her friends and relatives there, and her knowledge of the English language, to request Queen Mary to restore her father to her." Her petition was granted, but he was soon after seized again by the English officials, and cast into prison.

Shane O'Neill made an unsuccessful attempt to recover his paternal dominions, in 1557. The following year his father died in captivity,[406] Dublin, and he procured the murder of Ferdoragh, so that he was able to obtain his wishes without opposition. Elizabeth had now ascended the English throne (A.D. 1558), and, as usual, those in power, who wished to retain office, made their religion suit the views of the new ruler. The Earl of Sussex still continued Viceroy, and merely reversed his previous acts. Sir Henry Sidney also made his worldly interests and his religious views coincide. A Parliament was held in Dublin, in 1560, on the 12th of January. It was composed of seventy-six members, the representatives of ten counties, the remainder being citizens and burgesses of those towns in which the royal authority was predominant. "It is little wonder," observes Leland, "that, in despite of clamour and opposition, in a session of a few weeks, the whole ecclesiastical system of Queen Mary was entirely reversed." Every subject connected with this assembly and its enactments, demands the most careful consideration, as it has been asserted by some writers—who, however, have failed to give the proofs of their assertion—that the Irish Church and nation conformed at this time to the Protestant religion. This certainly was not the opinion of the Government officials, who were appointed by royal authority to enforce the Act, and who would have been only too happy could they have reported success to their mistress.

A recent writer, whose love of justice has led him to take a position in regard to Irish ecclesiastical history which has evoked unpleasant remarks from those who are less honest, writes thus: "There was not even the show of free action in the ordering of that Parliament, nor the least pretence that liberty of choice was to be given to it. The instructions given to Sussex, on the 10th of May 1559, for making Ireland Protestant by Act of Parliament, were peremptory, and left no room for the least deliberation. Sussex had also other instructions (says Cox) to him and the Council, to set up the worship of God as it is in England, and make such statutes next Parliament as were lately made in England, mutatis mutandis. [Hist. Angl. Part I. p.313.] It is plain that her Majesty's command is not sufficient warrant for a national change of faith, and that a convocation of bishops only is not the proper or legal representative assembly of the Church. It is also plain that the acts of an unwilling Parliament, and that Parliament one which does not deserve the name of a Parliament, cannot be justly considered as the acts of either the Irish Church or the Irish people."[407]

The official list of the members summoned to this Parliament, has been recently published by the Irish Archaeological Society. More than two-thirds of the upper house were persons of whose devotion to the Catholic faith there has been no question; there were but few members in the lower house. No county in Ulster was allowed a representative, and only one of its borough towns, Carrickfergus, was permitted to elect a member. Munster furnished twenty members. No county members were allowed in Connaught, and it had only two boroughs, Galway and Athenry, from which it could send a voice to represent its wishes. The remaining fifty members were chosen from a part of Leinster. In fact, the Parliament was constituted on the plan before-mentioned. Those who were considered likely to agree with the Government, were allowed to vote; those of whose dissent there could be no doubt, were not allowed a voice in the affairs of the nation.

It might be supposed that, with the exception of a few members of the upper house, such a Parliament would at once comply with the Queen's wishes; but the majority made no secret of their intention to oppose the change of religion, and the penal code which should be enacted to enforce it. The Deputy was in an unpleasant Position. Elizabeth would not easily brook the slightest opposition to her wishes. The Deputy did not feel prepared to encounter her anger, and he determined to avoid the difficulty, by having recourse to a most unworthy stratagem. First, he prorogued the house from the 11th of January to the 1st of February, 1560; and then took advantage of the first day of meeting, when but few members were present, to get the Act passed; secondly, he solemnly swore that the law should never be carried into execution, and by this false oath procured the compliance of those who still hesitated. I shall give authority for these statements.

The letter of Elizabeth, with her positive instructions to have the law passed, was dated October 18, 1559, and may be seen in extenso in the Liber Munerum Hibernia, vol. i. p.113. There are several authorities for the dishonest course pursued by the Lord Deputy. The author of Cambrensis Eversus says: "The Deputy is said to have used force, and the Speaker treachery. I heard that it had been previously announced in the house that Parliament would not sit on that very day on which the laws against religion were enacted; but, in the meantime, a private summons was sent to those who were well known to be favourable to the old creed."[408] Father George Dillon, who died in 1650, a martyr to his charity in assisting the plague-stricken people of Waterford, gives the following account of the transaction: "James Stanihurst, Lord of Corduff, who was Speaker of the lower house, by sending private summons to some, without any intimation to the more respectable Irish who had a right to attend, succeeded in carrying that law by surprise. As soon as the matter was discovered, in the next full meeting of Parliament, there was a general protest against the fraud, injustice, and deliberate treachery of the proceeding; but the Lord Justice, having solemnly sworn that the law would never be carried into execution, the remonstrants were caught in the dexterous snare, and consented that the enactment should remain on the statute-book."[409] Dr. Rothe corroborates these statements, and records the misfortunes which followed the Speaker's family from that date.[410] Dr. Moran[411] has very acutely observed, that the day appointed for the opening of Parliament was the festival of St. Brigid, which was always kept with special solemnity in Ireland; therefore, the orthodox members would probably have absented themselves, unless informed of some business which absolutely required their attendance.

The Loftus MS., in Marsh's Library, and Sir James Ware, both mention the positive opposition of the Parliament to pass this law, and the mission of the Earl of Sussex to consult her Majesty as to what should be done with the refractory members. If he then proposed the treachery which he subsequently carried out, there is no reason to suppose her Majesty would have been squeamish about it, as we find she was quite willing to allow even more questionable methods to be employed on other occasions.

The Loftus MS. mentions a convocation of bishops which assembled this year, "by the Queen's command, for establishing the Protestant religion." The convocation was, if possible, a greater failure than the Parliament. If the bishops had obeyed the royal command, there would have been some record of their proceedings; but until the last few years, when the ipse dixit of certain writers was put forward as an argument—for proof it cannot be called—that the Irish Catholic bishops had conformed to the Protestant religion, so wild a theory was not even hazarded. It would be impossible here to go into details and proofs of the nonconformity of each bishop. The work has been already undertaken, with admirable success, by an Anglican clergyman.[412] I shall, however, give some of the impediments offered to the progress of the Reformation in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and of the cruel persecutions which were inflicted on those who dared to wish for liberty to worship God according to their conscience.

Notwithstanding the solemn promise of the Lord Deputy, the penal statutes against Catholics were carried out. In 1563 the Earl of Essex issued a proclamation, by which all priests, secular and regular, were forbidden to officiate, or even to reside in Dublin. Fines and penalties were strictly enforced for absence from the Protestant service; before long, torture and death were inflicted. Priests and religious were, as might be expected, the first victims. They were hunted into mountains and caves; and the parish churches and few monastic chapels which had escaped the rapacity of Henry VIII., were sacrificed to the sacrilegious emissaries of Elizabeth. Curry gives some account of those who suffered for the faith in this reign. He says: "Among many other Roman Catholic bishops and priests, there were put to death for the exercise of their function in Ireland, Globy O'Boyle, Abbot of Boyle, and Owen O'Mulkeran, Abbot of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, hanged and quartered by Lord Grey, in 1580. John Stephens suffered the same punishment from Lord Burroughs, for saying Mass, in 1597; Thady O'Boyle was slain in his own monastery at Donegal; six friars were slain at Moynihigan; John O'Calyhor and Bryan O'Freeor were killed at their monastery in Ulster, with Felimy O'Hara, a lay brother. Eneus Penny was massacred at the altar of his own parish church, Killagh. Fourteen other priests died in Dublin Castle, either from hard usage, or the violence of torture."

Dr. Adam Loftus, the Protestant Archbishop of Armagh, was one of the most violent persecutors of the Catholics. In his first report to the Queen, dated May 17th, 1565, he describes the nobility of the Pale as all devoted to the ancient creed; and he recommends that they should be fined "in a good round sum," which should be paid to her Majesty's use, and "sharply dealt withal."[413] An original method of conversion, certainly! But it did not succeed. On the 22nd of September, 1590, after twenty-five years had been spent in the fruitless attempt to convert the Irish, he writes to Lord Burleigh, detailing the causes of the general decay of the Protestant religion in Ireland, and suggesting "how the same may be remedied." He advises that the ecclesiastical commission should be put in force, "for the people are poor, and fear to be fined." He requests that he and such commissioners as are "well affected in religion, may be permitted to imprison and fine all such as are obstinate and disobedient;" and he has no doubt, that "within a short time they will be reduced to good conformity." He concludes: "And this course of reformation, the sooner it is begun the better it will prosper; and the longer it is deferred, the more dangerous it will be." When remember that such words were written, and such deeds were enacted, by the head of the Protestant Church in Ireland, and sanctioned by the head of the Protestant Church in England, they may surely be content to allow modern controversialists the benefit of their pleasant dream that Catholic bishops conformed. If they had conformed to such doctrines and such practice, it can scarcely be seen what advantage the Anglican Establishment could gain from their parentage.

Seven years later, when the same prelate found that the more the Church was persecuted the more she increased, he wrote to advise pacification: "The rebels are increased, and grown insolent. I see no other cure for this cursed country but pacification, [he could not help continuing] until, hereafter, when the fury is passed, her Majesty may, with more convenience, correct the heads of those traitors."[414] The prelate was ably seconded by the Lord Deputy. Even Sir John Perrot, who has the name of being one of the most humane of these Governors, could not refrain from acts of cruelty where Catholics were concerned. On one occasion he killed fifty persons, and brought their heads home in triumph to Kilmallock, where he arranged them as a trophy round the cross in the public square. In 1582 he advised her Majesty "that friars, monks, Jesuits, priests, nuns, and such like vermin, who openly uphold the Papacy, should be executed by martial law."[415] The English officers seem to have rivalled each other in acts of cruelty. One is said to have tied his victim to a maypole, and then punched out his eyes with his thumbs.[416] Others amused themselves with flinging up infants into the air, and catching them on the points of their swords.[417] Francis Crosby, the deputy of Leix, used to hang men, women, and children on an immense tree which grew before his door, without any crime being imputed to them except their faith, and then to watch with delight how the unhappy infants hung by the long hair of their martyred mothers.[418]

Father Dominic a Rosario, the author of The Geraldines, scarcely exceeded truth when he wrote these memorable words: "This far famed English Queen has grown drunk on the blood of Christ's martyrs; and, like a tigress, she has hunted down our Irish Catholics, exceeding in ferocity and wanton cruelty the emperors of pagan Rome." We shall conclude this painful subject for the present with an extract from O'Sullivan Beare: "All alarm from the Irish chieftains being ceased, the persecution was renewed with all its horrors. A royal order was promulgated, that all should renounce the Catholic faith, yield up the priests, receive from the heretical minister the morality and tenets of the Gospel. Threats, penalties and force were to be employed to enforce compliance. Every effort of the Queen and her emissaries was directed to despoil the Irish Catholics of their property, and exterminate them. More than once did they attempt this, for they knew that not otherwise could the Catholic religion be suppressed in our island, unless by the extermination of those in whose hearts it was implanted; nor could their heretical teachings be propagated, while the natives were alive to detest and execrate them."[419]

In 1561 Sussex returned from England with reinforcements for his army, and marched to Armagh, where he established himself in the Cathedral. From thence he sent out a large body of troops to plunder in Tyrone, but they were intercepted by the redoubtable Shane O'Neill, and suffered so serious a defeat as to alarm the inhabitants of the Pale, and even the English nation. Fresh supplies of men and arms were hastily despatched from England, and the Earls of Desmond, Ormonde, Kildare, Thomond, and Clanrickarde assembled round the Viceregal standard to assist in suppressing the formidable foe. And well might they fear the lion-hearted chieftain! A few years later, Sidney describes him as the only strong man in Ireland. The Queen was warned, that unless he were speedily put down, she would lose Ireland, as her sister had lost Calais. He had gained all Ulster by his sword, and ruled therein with a far stronger hand, and on a far firmer foundation, than ever any English monarch had obtained in any part of Ireland. Ulster was his terra clausa; and he would be a bold, or, perhaps I should rather say, a rash man, who dare intrude in these dominions. He could muster seven thousand men in the field; and though he seldom hazarded a general engagement, he "slew in conflicts 3,500 soldiers and 300 Scots of Sidney's army."[420] The English chronicler, Hooker, who lived in times when the blaze and smoke of houses and haggards, set on fire by Shane, could be seen even from Dublin Castle, declares that it was feared he intended to make a conquest over the whole land.

Even his letters are signed, if not written, in royal style.[421] He dates one Ex finibus de Tirconail, when about to wage war with the neighbouring sept of O'Donnell; he dates another, Ex silvis meis, when, in pursuance of his Celtic mode of warfare, he hastened into his woods to avoid an engagement with the English soldiers; he signs himself Misi O'Neill—Me, the O'Neill. As this man was too clever to be captured, and too brave to be conquered, a plan was arranged, with the full concurrence of the Queen, by which he might be got rid of by poison or assassination. Had such an assertion been made by the Irish annalists, it would have been scouted as a calumny on the character of "good Queen Bess;" but the evidence of her complicity is preserved in the records of the State Paper Office. I shall show presently that attempts at assassination were a common arrangement for the disposal of refractory Irish chieftains during this reign.

The proposal for this diabolical treachery, and the arrangements made for carrying it out, were related by Sussex to the Queen. He writes thus: "In fine, I brake with him to kill Shane, and bound myself by my oath to see him have a hundred marks of land to him and to his heirs for reward. He seemed desirous to serve your Highness, and to have the land, but fearful to do it, doubting his own escape after. I told him the ways he might do it, and how to escape after with safety; which he offered and promised to do." The Earl adds a piece of information, which, no doubt, he communicated to the intended murderer, and which, probably, decided him on making the attempt: "I assure your Highness he may do it without danger if he will; and if he will not do what he may in your service, there will be done to him what others may."[422]

Her Majesty, however, had a character to support; and whatever she may have privately wished and commanded, she was obliged to disavow complicity publicly. In two despatches from court she expresses her "displeasure at John Smith's horrible attempt to poison Shane O'Neill in his wine." In the following spring John Smith was committed to prison, and "closely examined by Lord Chancellor Cusake." What became of John is not recorded, but it is recorded that "Lord Chancellor Cusake persuaded O'Neill to forget the poisoning." His clan, however, were not so easily persuaded, and strongly objected to his meeting the Viceroy in person, or affording him an opportunity which he might not live to forget. About this time O'Neill despatched a document to the Viceroy for his consideration, containing a list of "other evill practices devised to other of the Irish nation within ix or tenn yeares past." The first item mentions that Donill O'Breyne and Morghe O'Breyne, his son, "required the benefit of her Majesty's laws, by which they required to be tried, and thereof was denied;"[423] and that when they came to Limerick under the protection of the Lord Deputy, they were proclaimed traitors, and their lands and possessions taken from them. Several other violations of protection are then enumerated, and several treacherous murders are recorded, particularly the murder of Art Boy Cavanagh, at Captain Hearn's house, after he had dined with him, and of Randall Boye's two sons, who were murdered, one after supper, and the other in the tower, by Brereton, "who escaped without punishment."

In October, 1562, Shane was invited to England, and was received by Elizabeth with marked courtesy. His appearance at court is thus described by Camden, A.D. 1562: "From Ireland came Shane O'Neill, who had promised to come the year before, with a guard of axe-bearing galloglasses, their heads bare, their long curling hair flowing on their shoulders, their linen garments dyed with saffron, with long open sleeves, with short tunics, and furry cloaks, whom the English wondered at as much as they do now at the Chinese or American aborigines." Shane's visit to London was considered of such importance, that we find a memorandum in the State Paper Office, by "Secretary Sir W. Cecil, March, 1562," of the means to be used with Shane O'Neill, in which the first item is, that "he be procured to change his garments, and go like an Englishman."[424] But this was precisely what O'Neill had no idea of doing. Sussex appears to have been O'Neill's declared and open enemy. There is more than one letter extant from the northern chief to the Deputy. In one of these he says: "I wonder very much for what purpose your Lordship strives to destroy me." In another, he declares that his delay in visiting the Queen had been caused by the "amount of obstruction which Sussex had thrown in his way, by sending a force of occupation into his territory without cause; for as long as there shall be one son of a Saxon in my territory against my will, from that time forth I will not send you either settlement or message, but will send my complaint through some other medium to the Queen." In writing to the Baron of Slane, he says that "nothing will please him [the Deputy] but to plant himself in my lands and my native territory, as I am told every day that he desires to be styled Earl of Ulster."

The Lord Chancellor Cusack appears, on the contrary, to have constantly befriended him. On 12th January, 1568, he writes of O'Neill's "dutifulness and most commendable dealing with the Scots;" and soon after three English members of the Dublin Government complain that Cusack[425] had entrapped them into signing a letter to the unruly chieftain. There is one dark blot upon the escutcheon of this remarkable man. He had married the daughter of O'Donnell, Lord of one of the Hebrides. After a time he and his father-in-law quarrelled, and Shane contrived to capture O'Donnell and his second wife. He kept this lady for several years as his mistress; and his own wife is said to have died of shame and horror at his conduct, and at his cruel treatment of her father. English writers have naturally tried to blacken his character as deeply as possible, and have represented him as a drunkard and a profligate; but there appears no foundation for the former accusation. The foundation for the latter is simply what we have mentioned, which, however evil in itself, would scarcely appear so very startling to a court over which Henry VIII. had so long presided.

After many attempts at assassination, Shane-an-Diomais [John the Ambitious] fell a victim to English treachery. Sir William Piers, the Governor of Carrickfergus, invited some Scotch soldiers over to Ireland, and then persuaded them to quarrel with him, and kill him. They accomplished their purpose, by raising a disturbance at a feast, when they rushed on the northern chieftain, and despatched him with their swords. His head was sent to Dublin, and his old enemies took the poor revenge of impaling it on the Castle walls.

The Earl of Sussex was recalled from Ireland in 1564, and Sir Henry Sidney was appointed Viceroy. The Earls of Ormonde and Desmond had again quarrelled, and, in 1562, both Earls were summoned to court by the Queen. Elizabeth was related to the Butlers through her mother's family, and used to boast of the loyalty of the house of Ormonde. The Geraldines adhered to the ancient faith, and suffered for it. A battle was fought at Affane, near Cappoquin, between the two parties, in which Desmond was wounded and made prisoner. The man who bore him from the field asked, tauntingly: "Where is now the proud Earl of Desmond?" He replied, with equal pride and wit: "Where he should be; upon the necks of the Butlers!"


[402] Heretics.—Annals, vol. v. p. 1493.

[403] Service.—Shirley's Original Letters, p. 47. Dr. Browne gives an account of his signal failures in attempting to introduce the Protestant form of prayer in his letters to Cromwell. He says one prebendary of St. Patrick's "thought scorn to read them." He adds: "They be in a manner all the same point with me. There are twenty-eight of them, and yet scarce one that favoureth God's Word."—State Papers, vol. iii. p. 6.

[404] Pertinacity.—The Victoria History of England, p. 256.

[405] Pope.—Lib. Mun. Hib. part i. p. 37.

[406] Captivity.—Lord Chancellor Cusack addressed a very curious "Book on the State of Ireland" to the Duke of Northumberland, in 1552, in which he mentions the fearful condition of the northern counties. He states that "the cause why the Earl was detained [in Dublin Castle] was for the wasting and destroying of his county." This Sir Thomas Cusack, who took a prominent part in public affairs during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, was a son of Thomas Cusack, of Cassington, in Meath, an ancient Norman-Irish family, who were hereditary seneschals and sheriffs of that county.—Ulster Arch. Jour. vol. iii p. 51.

[407] People.—The Irish Reformation, by the Rev. W. Maziere Brady, D.D., fifth edition, pp. 32, 33.

[408] Creed.—Cambrensis Eversus, vol. iii. p. 19.

[409] Book.—Orationes et Motiva, p. 87.

[410] Date.—Analecta, p. 387.

[411] Dr. Moran.—Archbishops of Dublin, p. 68. Further information may be obtained also in Curry's Historical Review.

[412] Clergyman.—The Rev. W. Maziere Brady, D.D. Mr. Froude remarks, in his History of England, vol. x. p. 480: "There is no evidence that any of the bishops in Ireland who were in office at Queen Mary's death, with the exception of Curwin, either accepted the Reformed Prayer-Book, or abjured the authority of the Pope." He adds, in a foot-note: "I cannot express my astonishment at a proposition maintained by Bishop Mant and others, that whole hierarchy of Ireland went over to the Reformation with the Government. In a survey of the country supplied to Cecil in 1571, after death and deprivation had enabled the Government to fill several sees, the Archbishops Armagh, Tuam, and Cashel, with almost every one of the Bishops of the respective provinces, are described as Catholici et Confederati. The Archbishop of Dublin, with the Bishops of Kildare, Ossory, and Ferns, are alone returned as 'Protestantes'"

[413] Withal.—Shirley, Original Letters, p. 194.

[414] Traitors.—Letter of October 18, 1597.—State Paper Office.

[415] Law.—Letter to the Queen, in Government of Ireland under Sir John Parrot, p.4.

[416] Thumbs.—Despatch of Castlerosse, in State Paper Office, London.

[417] Swords.—O'Sullivan Beare, Hist. Cath. p. 238.

[418] Mothers.—Ibid. p. 99.

[419] Them.—Hist. Cath. p.133.

[420] Army.—See Dr. Stuart's History of Armagh, p. 261.

[421] Style.—In one of the communications from Sussex to O'Neill, he complains of the chieftain's letters as being "nimis superbe scriptae."—State Papers for 1561.

[422] May.—Moore's History of Ireland, vol. iv. p.33.

[423] Denied.—This document has been printed in the Ulster Arch. Jour. vol. ii, p.221, but the editor does not mention where the original was procured.

[424] Englishman.—Moore, vol. iv. p. 37, has "like a gentleman," but the above is the correct reading. In 1584 Sir J. Perrot tried to get the Irish chieftains to attend Parliament clothed in the English fashion, and even offered them robes and cloaks of velvet and satin. The chieftains objected; the Lord Deputy insisted. At last one of them, with exquisite humour, suggested that if he were obliged to wear English robes, a Protestant minister should accompany him attired in Irish garments, so that the mirth and amazement of the People should be fairly divided between them.—Sir J. Perrot's Life, p.198.

[425] Cusack.—One reason, perhaps, was that the Chancellor always treated O'Neill with the respect due from one gentleman to another. Flemyng mentions, in a letter to Cecil, November 29, 1563, that O'Neill told him, when about to take the oaths of his people to an agreement with the Queen, that "Cusack did not give them their oath so, but let me give them their oath."


Spenser's Castle—Sidney's Official Account of Ireland—Miserable State of the Protestant Church—The Catholic Church and its Persecuted Rulers—The Viceroy's Administration—A Packed Parliament and its Enactments—Claim of Sir P. Carew—An Attempt to plant in Ulster—Smith's Settlement in the Ards—His Description of the Native Irish—He tries to induce Englishmen to join him—Smith is killed, and the attempt to plant fails—Essex next tries to colonize Ulster—He dies in Dublin—Sidney returns to Ireland—His Interview with Granuaile—Massacre at Mullamast—Spenser's Account of the State of Ireland.

[A.D. 1567-1579.]

Kilcolman Castle, with its fair domains, were bestowed on the poet Spenser, who had accompanied Lord Grey to Ireland in 1579. He has left a fearful description of the miseries of the country; but it scarcely exceeds the official report of Sir Henry Sidney, which must first be noticed. At the close of the month of January, 1567, the Lord Deputy set out on a visitation of Munster and Connaught. In his official account he writes thus of Munster: "Like as I never was in a more pleasant country in all my life, so never saw I a more waste and desolate land. Such horrible and lamentable spectacles are there to behold—as the burning of villages, the ruin of churches, the wasting of such as have been good towns and castles; yea, the view of the bones and skulls of the dead subjects, who, partly by murder, partly by famine, have died in the fields—as, in truth, hardly any Christian with dry eyes could behold." He declares that, in the territory subject to the Earl of Ormonde, he witnessed "a want of justice and judgment." He describes the Earl of Desmond as "a man devoid of judgment to govern, and will be to be ruled." The Earl of Thomond, he says, "had neither wit of himself to govern, nor grace or capacity to learn of others." The Earl of Clanrickarde he describes as "so overruled by a putative wife, as ofttimes, when he best intendeth, she forceth him to do the worst;" and it would appear that neither he nor his lady could govern their own family, for their sons were so turbulent they kept the whole country in disturbance. In Galway he found the people trying to protect themselves, as best they might, from their dangerous neighbours; and at Athenry there were but four respectable householders, who presented him with the rusty keys of their town—"a pitiful and lamentable present;" and they requested him to keep those keys, for "they were so impoverished by the extortions of the lords about them, as they were no longer able to keep that town."

Well might he designate the policy by which the country had been hitherto governed as "cowardly," and contemn the practice of promoting division between the native princes, which was still practised. He adds: "So far hath that policy, or rather lack of policy, in keeping dissensions among them, prevailed, as now, albeit all that are alive would become honest and live in quiet, yet there are not left alive, in those two provinces, the twentieth person necessary to inhabit the same." Sidney at once proceeded to remedy the evils under which the unfortunate country groaned, by enacting other evils. We shall leave him to give his own account of his proceedings. He writes thus, in one of his official despatches: "I write not the names of each particular varlet that hath died since I arrived, as well by the ordinary course of the law, as of the martial law, as flat fighting with them, when they would take food without the good will of the giver, for I think it no stuff worthy the loading of my letters with; but I do assure you the number of them is great, and some of the best, and the rest tremble. For most part they fight for their dinner, and many of them lose their heads before they be served with supper. Down they go in every corner, and down they shall go, God willing."[426]

When we remember Sidney's own description of the desolation of country, and read of the fashion in which he remedied that desolation we cannot wonder at the piteous account given a few years later by the English poet; for who could escape the threefold danger of "ordinary law, martial law, and flat fighting." Nor was the state of religious affairs at all more promising. The Deputy describes the kingdom as "overwhelmed by the most deplorable immorality and irreligion;"[427] the Privy Council, in their deliberations, gives a similar account. "As for religion, there was but small appearance of it; the churches uncovered, and the clergy scattered."[428] An Act of Parliament was then passed to remedy the evils which Acts of Parliament had created. In the preamble (11th Elizabeth, sess. iii. cap. 6) it mentions the disorders which Sidney had found, and complains of "the great abuse of the clergy in getting into the said dignities by force, simony, friendship, and other corrupt means, to the great overthrow of God's holy Church;" and for remedy, the Act authorizes the Lord Deputy to appoint, for ten years, to all the ecclesiastical benefices of these provinces, with the exception of the cathedral churches of Waterford, Limerick, Cork, and Cashel.

But it was soon evident that Acts of Parliament could not effect ecclesiastical reform, though they might enforce exterior conformity to a new creed. In 1576, Sidney again complains of the state of the Irish Church, and addresses himself, with almost blasphemous flattery to the head of that body, "as to the only sovereign salve-giver to this your sore and sick realm, the lamentable state of the most noble and principal limb thereof—the Church I mean—as foul, deformed, and as cruelly crushed as any other part thereof, only by your gracious order to be cured, or at least amended. I would not have believed, had I not, for a greater part, viewed the same throughout the whole realm." He then gives a detailed account of the state of the diocese of Meath, which he declares to be the best governed and best peopled diocese in the realm; and from his official report of the state of religion there, he thinks her Majesty may easily judge of the spiritual condition of less favoured districts. He says there are no resident parsons or vicars, and only a very simple or sorry curate appointed to serve them; of them only eighteen could speak English, the rest being "Irish ministers, or rather Irish rogues, having very little Latin, and less learning or civility."[429] In many places he found the walls of the churches thrown down, the chancels uncovered, and the windows and doors ruined or spoiled—fruits of the iconoclastic zeal of the original reformers and of the rapacity of the nobles, who made religion an excuse for plunder. He complains that the sacrament of baptism was not used amongst them, and he accuses the "prelates themselves" of despoiling their sees, declaring that if he told all he should make "too long a libel of his letter. But your Majesty may believe it, that, upon the face of the earth where Christ is professed, there is not a Church in so miserable a case."

A Protestant nobleman, after citing some extracts from this document, concludes thus: "Such was the condition of a Church which was, half a century ago, rich and flourishing, an object of reverence, and a source of consolation to the people. It was now despoiled of its revenues; the sacred edifices were in ruins; the clergy were either ignorant of the language of their flocks, or illiterate and uncivilized intruders; and the only ritual permitted by the laws was one of which the people neither comprehended the language nor believed the doctrines. And this was called establishing the Reformation!"[430]

It should be observed, however, that Sir Henry Sidney's remarks apply exclusively to the Protestant clergy. Of the state of the Catholic Church and clergy he had no knowledge, neither had he any interest in obtaining information. His account of the Protestant clergy who had been intruded into the Catholic parishes, and of the Protestant bishops who had been placed in the Catholic dioceses, we may presume to be correct, as he had no interest or object in misrepresentation; but his observation concerning the neglect of the sacrament of baptism, may be taken with some limitation. When a religious revolution takes place in a Catholic country, there is always a large class who conform exteriorly to whatever opinions maybe enforced by the sword. They have not the generosity to become confessors, nor the courage to become martyrs. But these persons rarely renounce the faith in their hearts; and sacrifice their conscience to their worldly interest, though not without considerable uneasiness. In such cases, these apparently conforming Protestants would never think of bringing their children to be baptized by a minister of the new religion; they would make no nice distinctions between the validity of one sacrament and another; and would either believe that sacraments were a matter of indifference, as the new creed implied, or if they were of any value that they should be administered by those who respected them and that their number should remain intact. In recent famine years, the men who risked their spiritual life to save their temporal existence, which the tempter would only consent to preserve on his own terms, were wont to visit the church, and bid Almighty God a solemn farewell until better times should come. They could not make up their minds to die of starvation, when food might be had for formal apostacy; they knew that they were denying their God when they appeared to deny their religion. It is more than probable that a similar feeling actuated thousands at the period of which we are writing; and that the poor Celt, who conformed from fear of the sword, took his children by night to the priest of the old religion, that he might admit them, by the sacrament of baptism, into the fold of the only Church in which he believed.

It is also a matter of fact, that though the Protestant services were not attended, and the lives of the Protestant ministers were not edifying, that the sacraments were administered constantly by the Catholic clergy. It is true they date their letters "from the place of refuge" (e loco refugii nostri), which might be the wood nearest to their old and ruined parish-church, or the barn or stable of some friend, who dared not shelter them in his house; yet this was no hindrance to their ministrations; for we find Dr. Loftus complaining to Sir William Cecil that the persecuted Bishop of Meath, Dr. Walsh, was "one of great credit amongst his countrymen, and upon whom (as touching cause of religion) they wholly depend."[431] Sir Henry Sidney's efforts to effect reformation of conduct in the clergy and laity, do not seem to have been so acceptable at court as he might have supposed. His strong measures were followed by tumults; and the way in which he obtained possession of the persons of some of the nobles, was not calculated to enhance his popularity. He was particularly severe towards the Earl of Desmond, whom he seized in Kilmallock, after requiring his attendance, on pretence of wishing him to assist in his visitation of Munster. In October, 1567, the Deputy proceeded to England to explain his conduct, taking with him the Earl of Desmond and his brother, John, whom he also arrested on false pretences. Sidney was, however, permitted to return, in September, 1568. He landed at Carrickfergus, where he received the submission of Turlough O'Neill, who had been elected to the chieftaincy on the death of Shane the Proud.

The first public act of the Lord Deputy was to assemble a Parliament, in which all constitutional rules were simply set at defiance (January 17th, 1569). Mayors and sheriffs returned themselves; members were sent up for towns not incorporated, and several Englishmen were elected as burgesses for places they had never seen. One of these men, Hooker, who was returned for Athenry, has left a chronicle of the age. He had to be protected by a guard in going to his residence. Popular feeling was so strongly manifested against this gross injustice, that the judges were consulted as to the legality of proceedings of whose iniquity there could be no doubt. The elections for non-corporate towns, and the election of individuals by themselves, were pronounced invalid; but a decision was given in favour of non-resident Englishmen, which still gave the court a large majority.[432] In this Parliament—if, indeed, it could be called such—Acts were passed for attainting Shane O'Neill, for suppressing the name, and for annexing Tyrone to the royal possessions. Charter schools were to be founded, of which the teachers should be English and Protestants; and the law before-mentioned, for permitting the Lord Deputy to appoint persons to ecclesiastical benefices for ten years, was passed.

Sir Philip Carew came to Ireland about this time, and renewed the claim of his family to possessions in Ireland. This plea had been rejected in the reign of Edward III.; but he now produced a forged roll, which the corrupt administration of the day readily admitted as genuine. His claim was made in right of Robert FitzStephen, one of the first adventurers; his demand included one-half of the "kingdom of Cork," and the barony of Idrone, in Carlow. Several engagements ensued, in one of which Carew boasted of having slain 400 Irish, and lost only one man. If his statement be true, it is probable the engagement was simply a massacre. The war became so formidable, that the MacCarthys, FitzGeralds, Cavanaghs, and FitzMaurices united against the "common enemy," and at last despatched emissaries to the Pope to implore his assistance. It is strange to find native Irish chieftains uniting with Anglo-Norman lords to resist an English settler.

Sidney now began to put his plan of local governments into execution; but this arrangement simply multiplied the number of licensed oppressors. Sir Edward Fitton was appointed President of Connaught, and Sir John Perrot, of Munster. Both of these gentlemen distinguished themselves by "strong measures," of which cruelty to the unfortunate natives was the predominant feature. Perrot boasted that he would "hunt the fox out of his hole," and devoted himself to the destruction of the Geraldines. Fitton arrested the Earl of Clanrickarde, and excited a general disturbance. In 1570 the Queen determined to lay claim to the possessions in Ulster, graciously conceded to her by the gentlemen who had been permitted to vote according to her royal pleasure in the so-called Parliament of 1569. She bestowed the district of Ards, in Down, upon her secretary, Sir Thomas Smith. It was described as "divers parts and parcels of her Highness' Earldom of Ulster that lay waste, or else was inhabited with a wicked, barbarous, and uncivil people." There were, however, two grievous misstatements in this document. Ulster did not belong to her Highness, unless, indeed, the Act of a packed Parliament could be considered legal; and the people who inhabited it were neither "wicked, barbarous, nor uncivil." The tract of country thus unceremoniously bestowed on an English adventurer, was in the possession of Sir Rowland Savage. His first ancestor was one of the most distinguished of the Anglo-Norman settlers who had accompanied De Courcy to Ireland. Thus, although he could not claim the prescriptive right of several thousand years for his possessions, he certainly had the right of possession for several centuries. An attempt had been made about ten years before to drive him out of part of his territory, and he had written a letter to "The Right Hon. the Earl of Sussex, Lieutenant-General of Ireland," asking for "justice," which justice he had not obtained. He was permitted to hold the Southern Ards, because he could not be expelled from it without considerable difficulty, and because it was the least valuable part of his property.

Smith confided the conduct of the enterprise to his natural son who has already been mentioned as the person who attempted to poison Shane O'Neill. The first State Paper notice of this enterprise is in a letter, dated February, 8, 1572, from Captain Piers to the Lord Deputy, stating that the country is in an uproar "at Mr. Smith coming over to plant in the north." There is a rare black letter still extant, entitled, ["Letter by F.B. on the Peopling of the Ardes"] which Smith wrote to induce English adventurers to join him in his speculation. It is composed with considerable ability. He condemns severely the degeneracy of the early English settlers, "who allied and fostered themselves with the Irish." He says that "England was never fuller of people than it is at this day," and attributes this to "the dissolution of abbeys, which hath doubled the number of gentlemen and marriages." He says the younger sons who cannot "maintain themselves in the emulation of the world," as the elder and richer do, should emigrate; and then he gives glowing accounts of the advantages of this emigration.

Strange to say, one of the principal inducements he offers is that the "churle of Ireland is very simple and toylsomme man, desiring nothing but that he may not be eaten out with ceasse [rent], coyne, and liverie." He passes over the subject of rent without any comment, but he explains very fully how "the churle is eaten up" with the exactions of "coyne and liverie." He says these laborious Irish will gladly come "to live under us, and to farm our ground;" but he does not say anything about the kind of treatment they were to receive in return for their labour. His next inducement is the immense sale (and profit) they might expect by growing corn; and he concludes by relieving their fears as to any objections which the inhabitants of this country might make to being dispossessed from their homes and lands, or any resistance they might offer. He considers it immaterial, "for the country of Lecale [which had been taken in a similar manner from Savage] was some time kept by Brereton with a hundred horses, and Lieutenant Burrows kept Castle Rean [Castlereagh], and went daily one quarter of a mile to fetch his water, against five hundred Irish that lay again him."

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