"Scrambling forward" is, indeed, exactly what describes the process. We, too, must be content "to be the briefer," and to "scramble forward" across these intermediate and comparatively eventless periods in order to reach what lies beyond. The age of the Wars of the Roses is one of great gloom and confusion in England; in Ireland it is an all but complete blank. What intermittent interest in its affairs had been awakened on the other side of the channel had all but wholly died away in that protracted struggle. That its condition was miserable, almost beyond conception, is all that we know for certain. In England, although civil war was raging, and the baronage were energetically slaughtering one another, the mass of the people seem for the most part to have gone unscathed. The townsfolk were undisturbed; the law was protected; the law officers went their rounds; there seems even to have been little general rapine and pillage. The Church, still at its full strength, watched jealously over its own rights and over the rights of those whom it protected. In Ireland, although there was nothing that approached to the dignity of civil war, the condition of the country seems to have been one of uninterrupted and almost universal carnage, pillage, and rapine. The baronage of the Pale raided upon the rest of the country, and the rest of the country raided upon the Pale. Even amongst churchmen it was much the same. Although there was no religious dissension, and heresy was unknown, the jealousy between the churchmen of the two rival races, seems to have been as deep as between the laymen, and their hatred of one another probably even greater. As has been seen in a former chapter, no priest or monk of Irish blood was ever admitted into an English living or monastery, and the rule appears to have been quite equally applicable the other way.
The means, too, for keeping these discordant elements in check were ludicrously inefficient. The whole military establishment during the greater part of this century consisted of some 80 archers, and about 40 "spears;" the whole revenue amounted to a few hundred pounds per annum. The Parliament was a small and irregular body of barons and knights of the shires, with a few burgesses, unwillingly summoned from the towns, and a certain number of bishops and abbots, the latter, owing to the disturbed state of the country, being generally represented by their proctors. It was summoned at long intervals, and met sometimes in Dublin, sometimes in Drogheda, at other times in Kilkenny, as occasion suggested. Even when it did meet legislation was rarely attempted, and its office was confined mainly to the voting of subsidies. The country simply drifted at its own pleasure down the road to ruin, and by the time the battle of Bosworth was fought, the deepest depths of anarchy had probably been sounded.
The seaport towns alone kept up some little semblance of order and self-government, and seem to have shown some slight capacity for self-defence. In 1412, Waterford distinguished itself by the spirited defence of its walls against the O'Driscolls, a piratical clan of West Cork, and the following year sent a ship into the enemy's stronghold of Baltimore, whose crew seized upon the chief himself, his three brothers, his son, his uncle, and his wife, and carried them off in triumph to Waterford, a feat which the annals of the town commemorate with laudable pride. Dublin, too, showed a similar spirit, and fitted out some small vessels which it sent on a marauding expedition to Scotland, in reward for which its chief magistrate, who had up to that time been a Provost, was invested with the title of Mayor. "The king granted them license," says Camden, "to choose every year a Mayor and two baliffs." Also that its Mayor "should have a gilt sword carried before him for ever."
Several eminent figures appear amongst the "ruck of empty names" which fill up the list of fifteenth-century Irish viceroys. Most of these were mere birds of passage, who made a few experiments at government—conciliatory or the reverse, as the case might be—and so departed again. Sir John Talbot, the scourge of France, and antagonist of the Maid of Orleans, was one of these. From all accounts he seems to have quite kept up his character in Ireland. The native writers speak of him as a second Herod. The colonist detested him for his exactions, while his soldiery were a scourge to every district they were quartered upon. He rebuilt the bridge of Athy, however, and fortified it so as to defend that portion of the Pale, and succeeded in keeping the O'Moores, O'Byrnes, and the rest of the native marauders to some degree at bay.
In 1449, Richard, Duke of York, was sent to Ireland upon a sort of honorary exile. He took the opposite tack of conciliation. Although Ormond was a prominent member of the Lancastrian party, he at once made gracious overtures to him. Desmond, too, he won over by his courtesy, and upon the birth of his son George—afterwards the luckless Duke of Clarence—the rival earls acted as joint sponsors, and when, in 1451, he left Ireland, he appointed Ormond his deputy and representative.
Nine years later he came back, this time as a fugitive. The popularity which he had already won stood him then in good stead. Seizing upon the government, he held it in the teeth of the king and Parliament for more than a year. The news of the battle of Northampton tempted him to England. His son, the Earl of March, had been victorious, and Henry VI, was a prisoner. He was not destined, however, to profit by the success of his own side. In a temporary Lancastrian triumph he was outnumbered, and killed by the troops of Queen Margaret at Wakefield.
His Irish popularity descended to his son. A considerable number of Irish Yorkist partisans, led by the Earl of Kildare, fought beside the latter at the decisive and sanguinary battle of Towton, at which battle the rival Earl of Ormond, leader of the Irish Lancastrians, was taken prisoner, beheaded by the victors, and all his property attained, a blow from which the Butlers were long in recovering.
No other great Irish house suffered seriously. In England the older baronage were all but utterly swept away by the Wars of the Roses, only a few here and there surviving its carnage. In Ireland it was not so. A certain number of Anglo-Norman names disappear at this point from its annals, but the greater number of those with which the reader has become familiar continue to be found in their now long established homes. The Desmonds and De Burghs still reigned undisputed and unchallenged over their several remote lordships. Ulster, indeed, had long since become wholly Irish, but within the Pale the minor barons of Norman descent—Fingals, Gormanstons, Dunsanys, Trimbelstons and others—remained where their Norman fathers had established themselves, and where their descendants for the most part may be found still. The house of Kildare had grown in strength during the temporary collapse of its rival, and from this out for nearly a century towers high over every other Irish house. The Duke of York was the last royal viceroy who actually held the sword. Others, though nominated, never came over, and in their absence the Kildares remained omnipotent, generally as deputies, and even when that office was for a while confided to other hands, their power was hardly diminished. Only the barren title of Lord-Lieutenant was withheld, and was as a rule bestowed upon some royal personage, several times upon children, once in the case of Edward IV.'s son upon an actual infant in arms.
In 1480, Gerald, eighth Earl of Kildare, called by his own following, Geroit Mor, or Gerald the Great, became deputy, and, from that time forward under five successive kings, and during a period of 33 years, he "reigned" with hardly an interval until his death in 1513.
Geroit Mor is perhaps the most important chief governor who ruled Ireland upon thorough-going Irish principles. "A mighty man of stature, full of honour and courage." Stanihurst describes him as being "A knight in valour;" and "princely and religious in his words and judgments" is the flattering report of the "Annals of the Four Masters." "His name awed his enemies more than his army," says Camden. "The olde earle being soone hotte and soone cold was of the Englishe well beloved," is another report. "In hys warres hee used a retchlesse (reckless) kynde of diligence, or headye carelessnesse," is a less strong commendation, but probably not less true.
He was a gallant man unquestionably, and as far as can be seen an honest and a well-intentioned one, but his policy was a purely personal, or at most a provincial, one. As for the interests of the country at large they seem hardly to have come within his ken. That fashion of looking at the matter had now so long been the established rule that it had probably ceased indeed to be regarded as a failing.
THE KILDARES IN THE ASCENDANT,
When the Battle of Bosworth brought the adherents of the Red Rose back to triumph, Gerald Mor was still Lord-deputy. He was not deposed, however, on that account, although the Butlers were at once reinstated in their own property, and Sir Thomas Butler was created Earl of Ormond. According to a precedent now prevailing for several reigns, the Lord-Lieutenancy was conferred upon the Duke of Bedford, the king's uncle, Kildare continuing, however, practically to exercise all the functions of government as his deputy.
A dangerous plot, started by the discomfited Yorkist faction, broke out in Ireland in 1487. An impostor, named Lambert Simnel, was sent by the Duchess of Burgundy, and trained to simulate the son of Clarence who, it will be remembered, had been born in Ireland, and whose son was therefore supposed to have a special claim on that country. Two thousand German mercenaries were sent with him to support his pretensions.
This Lambert Simnel seems to have been a youth of some talent, and to have filled his ugly imposter's role with as much grace as it admitted of Bacon, in his history of the reign, tells us that "he was a comely youth, not without some extraordinary dignity of grace and aspect." The fashion in which he retailed his sufferings, pleaded his youth, and appealed to the proverbial generosity of the Irish people, to protect a hapless prince, robbed of his throne and his birthright, seems to have produced an immense effect. Kildare, there is reason to suspect, was privy to the plot, but of others there is no reason to think this, and with a single exception—that of the Earl of Howth—all the lords of the Pale and many of the bishops, including the Archbishop of Dublin, seem to have welcomed the lad—he was only fifteen—with the utmost enthusiasm, an enthusiasm which Henry's production of the real son of Clarence had no effect at all in diminishing.
Lambert Simnel was conducted in high state to Dublin, and there crowned in the presence of the Earl of Kildare, the chancellor, and other State officers. The crown used for the purpose was taken off the head of a statue of The Virgin in St. Mary's Abbey, and—a quainter piece of ceremonial still—the youthful monarch was, after the ceremony, hoisted upon the shoulders of the tallest man in Ireland, "Great Darcy of Flatten," and, in this position, promenaded through the streets of Dublin so as to be seen by the people, after which he was taken back in triumph to the castle.
His triumph was not, however, long-lived. Emboldened by this preliminary success, his partizans took him across the sea and landed with a considerable force at Fondray, in Lancashire, the principal leaders on this occasion being the Earl of Lincoln, Thomas Fitzgerald, brother to the Earl of Kildare, Lord Lovell, and Martin Schwartz, the commander of the German forces.
The enthusiasm that was expected to break out on their arrival failed however to come off. "Their snowballs," as Bacon puts it, "did not gather as they went." A battle was fought at Stoke, at which 4,000 of the rebels fell, including Thomas Fitzgerald, the Earl of Lincoln, and the German general Martin Schwartz, while Lambert Simnel with his tutor, Simon the priest, fell into the king's hands, who spared their lives, and appointed the former to the office of turnspit, an office which he held for a number of years, being eventually promoted to that of falconer, and as guardian of the king's hawks he lived and died.
He was not the only culprit whom Henry was willing to pardon. Clemency indeed was his strong point, and he extended it without stint again and again to his Irish rebels. He despatched Sir Richard Edgecombe, a member of the royal household, shortly afterwards upon a mission of conciliation to Ireland. The royal pardon was to be extended to Kildare and the rest of the insurgents on condition of their submission. Kildare's pride stood out for a while against submission on any conditions, but the Royal Commissioner was firm, and the terms, easy ones it must be owned, were at last accepted, and an oath of allegiance sworn to. Kildare, thereupon, was confirmed in his deputyship, and Sir Richard Edgecombe having first partaken of "much excellent good cheere" at the earl's castle at Maynooth, returned peaceably to England.
The Irish primate, one of the few ecclesiastics who had refused to support the impostor, was then, as it happened, in London, and placed strongly before the king the impolicy of continuing Kildare in office. Apparently his remonstrance had its effect, for Henry issued a summons to the deputy and all the Irish nobility to attend at Court, one which was obeyed with hardly an exception. A dramatic turn is given to this visit by the fact that Lambert Simnel, the recently crowned king, was promoted for the occasion to serve wine at dinner to his late Irish subjects. The poor scullion did his office with what grace he might, but no one, it is said, would touch the wine until it came to the turn of the Earl of Howth, the one Irish peer, as we have seen, who had declined to accept the impostor in his heyday of success. "Nay, but bring me the cup if the wine be good," quoth he, being a merry gentleman, "and I shall drink it both for its sake and mine own, and for thee also as thou art, so I leave thee, a poor innocent!"
Howth, whose speech is recorded by his own family chronicler, received three hundred pounds as a reward for his loyalty, the rest returned as they came, lucky, they must have felt under the circumstances, in returning at all.
Simnel was not the last Yorkist impostor who found credit and an asylum in Ireland. Peterkin, or Perkin Warbeck was the next whom the indefatigable Duchess of Burgundy started on the same stage and upon the same errand. This time the prince supposed to be personated was the youngest son of Edward IV., one of the two princes murdered in the tower. He is also occasionally spoken of as a son of Clarence, and sometimes as an illegitimate son of Richard III.—any royal personage, in fact, whose age happened to suit. In spite of the slight ambiguity which overhung his princely origin, he was received with high honour in Cork, and having appealed to the Earls of Desmond and Kildare, was accepted by the former with open arms. "You Irish would crown apes!" Henry afterwards said, not indeed unwarrantably. This time Kildare was more cautious, though his brother, Sir James Fitzgerald, warmly espoused the cause of the impostor. Perkin Warbeck remained in Ireland about a year, when he was invited to France and, for a while, became the centre of the disaffected Yorkists there. He was a very poor specimen of the genus impostor, and seems even to have been destitute of the commonplace quality of courage.
In spite of the unusual prudence displayed by him on this occasion, Kildare was, in 1497, removed from the deputyship, which was for a time vested in Walter Fitzsimons, Archbishop of Dublin, a declared enemy of the Geraldines. Sir James Ormond who represented his brother, the earl, was appointed Lord Treasurer in place of the Baron of Portlester, Kildare's uncle, who had held the office for thirty-eight years. Fresh quarrels thereupon broke out between the Butlers and the rival house, and each harassed the lands of the other in the usual approved style. A meeting was at last arranged to take place in St. Patrick's Cathedral between the two leaders, but a riot breaking out Sir James barred himself up in alarm in the Chapter House. Kildare arriving at the door with offers of peace, a hole had to be cut to enable the two to communicate. Sir James fearing treachery declined to put out his hand, whereupon Kildare boldly thrust in his, and the rivals shook hands. The door was then opened; they embraced, and for a while peace was patched up. The door, with the hole still in it, was extant up to the other day.
The quarrels between these two great houses were interminable, and kept the whole Pale and the greater part of Ireland in eternal hot water. Their war-cries of "Crom-a-Boo" and "Butler-a-Boo" filled the very air, and had to be solemnly prohibited a few years later by special Act of Parliament. By 1494 the complaints against Kildare had grown so loud and so long that the king resolved upon a new experiment, that of sending over an Englishman to fill the post, and Sir Edward Poynings was pitched upon as the most suitable for the purpose.
He arrived accompanied by a force of a thousand men-at-arms, and five or six English lawyers, who were appointed to fill the places of chancellor, treasurer, and other offices from which the present occupiers, most of whom had been concerned either in the Warbeck or Simnel rising, were to be ejected.
It was at a parliament summoned at Drogheda, whither this new deputy had gone to quell a northern rising, that the famous statute known as Poynings' Act was passed, long a rock of offence, and even still a prominent feature in Irish political controversy.
Many of the statutes passed by this Parliament—such as the one just mentioned forbidding war cries, others forbidding the levying of private forces, forbidding the "country's curse" Coyne and livery, and other habitual exactions were undoubtedly necessary and called for by the circumstances of the case. The only ones now remembered however are the following. First, that no parliament should be summoned by the deputy's authority without the king's special license for that purpose. Secondly, that all English statutes should henceforward be regarded as binding upon Ireland; and thirdly, that all Acts referring to Ireland must be submitted first to the king and Privy Council, and that, when returned by them, the Irish Parliament should have no power to modify them further. This, as will be seen, practically reduced the latter to a mere court for registering laws already passed elsewhere, passed too often without the smallest regard to the special requirements of the country. A condition of subserviency from which it only escaped again for a short time during the palmy days of the eighteenth century.
By this same parliament Kildare was attained—rather late in the day—on the ground of conspiracy, and sent prisoner to London. He lay a year in prison, and was then brought to trial, and allowed to plead his own cause in the king's presence. The audacity, frank humour, and ready repartee of his great Irish subject seems to have made a favourable impression upon Henry, who must himself have had more sense of humour than English historians give us any impression of. One of the principal charges against the earl was that he had burned the church at Cashel. According to the account given in the Book of Howth he readily admitted the charge, but declared positively that he would never have thought of doing so had he not been solemnly assured that the archbishop was at the time inside it. The audacity of this defence is not a little heightened by the fact that the archbishop in question was at the moment sitting in court and listening to it.
Advised by the king to provide himself with a good counsel, "By St. Bride"—his favourite oath—said he, "I know well the fellow I would have, yea, and the best in England, too!" Asked who that might be. "Marry, the king himself." The note of comedy struck at the beginning of the trial lasted to the end. The earl's ready wit seems to have dumbfounded his accusers, who were not unnaturally indignant at so unlocked for a result. "All Ireland," they swore, solemnly, "could not govern the Earl of Kildare." "So it appears," said Henry. "Then let the Earl of Kildare govern all Ireland."
Whether the account given by Irish historians of this famous trial is to be accepted literally or not, the result, at any rate, was conclusive. The king seems to have felt, that Kildare was less dangerous as sheep-dog—even though a head-strong one—than as wolf, even a wolf in a cage. He released him and restored him to his command. Prince Henry, according to custom, becoming nominally Lord-Lieutenant, with Kildare as deputy under him. The earl's wife had lately died, and before leaving England he strengthened himself against troubles to come by marrying Elizabeth St. John, the king's cousin, and having left his son Gerald behind as hostage for his good behaviour, sailed merrily home to Ireland.
Perkin Warbeck meanwhile had made another foray upon Munster, where he was supported by Desmond, and repulsed with no little ignominy by the townsfolk of Waterford; after which he again departed and was seen no more upon that stage. Kildare—whose own attainder was not reversed until after his arrival in Ireland—presided over a parliament, one of whose first acts was to attaint Lord Barrymore and the other Munster gentlemen for their share in this rising. He also visited Cork and Kinsale, leaving a garrison behind him; rebuilt several towns in Leinster which had been ruined in a succession of raids; garrisoned the borders of the Pale with new castles, and for the first time in its history brought ordnance into Ireland, which he employed in the siege of Belrath Castle. A factor destined to work a revolution upon Irish traditional modes of warfare, and upon none with more fatal effect than upon the house of Fitzgerald itself.
That Kildare's authority, even during this latter period of his government was wholly exercised in the cause of tranquility it would be certainly rash to assert. At the same time it may be doubted whether any better choice was open to the king—short of some very drastic policy indeed. That he used his great authority to overthrow his own enemies and to aggrandize his own house goes almost without saying. The titular sovereignty of the king could hope to count for little beside the real sovereignty of the earl, and the house of Kildare naturally loomed far larger and more imposingly in Ireland than the house of Tudor. Despotism in some form was the only practical and possible government, and Earl Gerald was all but despotic within the Pale, and even outside it was at any rate stronger than any other single individual. The Desmond Geraldines lived remote, the Butlers, who came next to the Geraldines in importance, held Kilkenny, Carlow, and Tipperary, but were cut off from Dublin by the wild mountains of Wicklow, and the wilder tribes of O'Tooles, and O'Byrnes who held them. They were only able to approach it through Kildare, and Kildare was the head-quarters of the Geraldines.
One of Earl Gerald's last, and, upon the whole, his most remarkable achievement was that famous expedition which ended in the battle of Knocktow already alluded to in an earlier chapter, in which a large number of the lords of the Pale, aided by the native allies of the deputy, took part. In this case there was hardly a pretence that the expedition was undertaken in the king's service. It was a family quarrel pure and simple, between the deputy and his son-in-law McWilliam, of Clanricarde. The native account tells us that the latter's wife "was not so used as the earl (her father) could be pleased with," whereupon "he swore to be revenged upon this Irishman and all his partakers," The notion of a Fitzgerald stigmatizing a De Burgh as an Irishman is delightful, and eminently characteristic of the sort of wild confusion prevailing on the subject. The whole story indeed is so excellent, and is told by the narrator with so much spirit, that it were pity to curtail it, and as it stands it would be too long for these pages. The result was that Clanricarde and his Irish allies were defeated with frightful slaughter, between seven and eight thousand men, according to the victors, having been left dead upon the field! Galway, previously held by Clanricarde, was re-occupied, and the deputy and his allies returned in triumph to Dublin, whence the archbishop was despatched in hot haste to explain matters to the king.
A slight incident which took place at the end of this battle is too characteristic to omit. "We have done one good work," observed Lord Gormanston, one of the Lords of the Pale, confidentially to the Lord-deputy. "And if we now do the other we shall do well," Asked by the latter what he meant, he replied, "We have for the most part killed our enemies, if we do the like with all the Irishmen that we have with us it were a good deed." Happily for his good fame Kildare seems to have been able to resist the tempting suggestion, and the allies parted on this occasion to all appearances on friendly terms.
 Book of Howth.
FALL OF THE HOUSE OF KILDARE.
The battle of Knocktow was fought five years before the death of Henry VII. Of those five years and of the earlier ones of the new reign little of any vital importance remains to be recorded in Ireland. With the rise of Wolsey to power however a new era set in. The great cardinal was the sworn enemy of the Geraldines. He saw in them the most formidable obstacle to the royal power in that country. The theory that the Kildares were the only people who could carry on the government had by this time become firmly established. No one in Ireland could stand against the earl, and when the earl was out of Ireland the whole island was in an uproar. The confusion too between Kildare in his proper person, and Kildare as the king's Viceroy was, it must be owned, a perennial one, and upon more than one occasion had all but brought the government to an absolute standstill.
Geroit Mor had died in 1513 of a wound received in a campaign with the O'Carrolls close to his own castle of Kilkea, but almost as a matter of course his son Gerald had succeeded him as Viceroy and carried on the government in much the same fashion; had made raids on the O'Moores and O'Reillys and others of the "king's Irish enemies," and been rewarded with grants upon the lands which he had captured from the rebels. The state of the Pale was terrible. "Coyne and livery," it was declared, had eaten up the people. The sea, too, swarmed with pirates, who descended all but unchecked upon the coast and carried off men and women to slavery. Many complaints were made of the deputy, and by 1520 these had grown so loud and long that Henry resolved upon a change, and like his predecessor determined to send an English governor, one upon whom he could himself rely.
The choice fell upon the Earl of Surrey, son of the conqueror of Flodden. Surrey's survey of the field soon convinced him to his own satisfaction that no half measures was likely to be of any avail. The plan proposed by him had certainly the merit of being sufficiently sweeping. Ireland was to be entirely reconquered. District was to be taken after district, and fortresses to be built to hold them according as they were conquered. The occupation was thus to be pushed steadily on until the whole country submitted, after which it was to be largely repopulated by English colonists. The idea was a large one, and would have taken a large permanent army to carry out. The loss too of life would have been appalling, though not, it was represented to the king, greater than was annually squandered in an interminable succession of petty wars. Probably the expense was the real hindrance. At any rate Surrey's plan was put aside for the time being, and not long afterwards at his own urgent prayer he was allowed to lay down his uneasy honours and return to England.
Meanwhile Earl Gerald the younger had been rapidly gaining favour at Court, had accompanied Henry to France, and like his father before him, had wooed and won an English bride. Like his father, too, he possessed that winning charm which had for generations characterized his house. Quick-witted and genial, with the bright manner and courteous ease of high-bred gentlemen, such—even on the showing of those who had no love for them—was the habitual bearing of these Leinster Geraldines. The end was that Kildare after a while was allowed to return to Ireland, and upon Surrey's departure, and after a brief and very unsuccessful tenure of office by Sir Pierce Butler, the deputyship was restored to him.
Three years later he was again summoned, and this time, on Wolsey's urgent advice, thrown into the Tower. Heavy accusations had been made against him, the most formidable of which was that he had used the king's ordnance to strengthen his own castle of Maynooth. The Ormonds and the cardinal were bent upon his ruin. The earl, however, faced his accusers boldly; met even the great cardinal himself in a war of words, and proved to be more than his equal. Once again he was acquitted and restored to Ireland, and after a while the deputyship was restored to him, John Allen, a former chaplain of Wolsey's, being however appointed Archbishop of Dublin, and Chancellor, with private orders to keep a watch upon Kildare, and to report his proceedings to the English Council.
Yet a third time in 1534 he was summoned, and now the case was more serious. The whole situation had in fact in the meanwhile utterly changed, Henry was now in the thick of his great struggle with Rome. With excommunication hanging over his head, Ireland had suddenly become a formidable peril. Fears were entertained of a Spanish descent upon its coast. One of the emperor's chaplains was known to be intriguing with the Earl of Desmond. Cromwell's iron hand too was over the realm and speedily made itself felt in Ireland. Kildare was once more thrown into the Tower, from which this time he was never destined to emerge. He was ill already of a wound received the previous year, and the confinement and trouble of mind—which before long became acute—brought his life to a close.
His son Thomas—generally known as Silken Thomas from the splendour of his clothes—had been rashly appointed vice-deputy by his father before his departure. In the month of August, a report reached Ireland that the earl had been executed, and the whole house of Geraldine was forthwith thrown into the wildest convulsions of fury at the intelligence. Young Lord Thomas—he was only at the time twenty-one—hot-tempered, undisciplined, and brimful of the pride of his race—at once flew to arms. His first act was to renounce his allegiance to England. Galloping up to the Council with a hundred and fifty Geraldines at his heels, he seized the Sword of State, marched into the council-room, and addressing the Council in his capacity of Vice-deputy, poured forth a speech full of boyish fanfaronade and bravado. "Henceforth," said he, "I am none of Henry's deputy! I am his foe! I have more mind to meet him in the field, than to serve him in office." With other words to the like effect he rendered up the Sword, and once more springing upon his horse, galloped out of Dublin.
He was back again before long, this time with intent to seize the town. There was little or no defence. Ormond was away; the walls were decayed; ordnance was short—a good deal of it, the Geraldine enemies said, had been already removed to Maynooth. White, the commander, threw himself into the castle; the gates were opened; Lord Thomas cantered in and took possession of the town, the garrison remaining placidly looking on.
Worse was to come. Allen, the archbishop, and the great enemy of the Fitzgeralds made an attempt to escape to England, but was caught and savagely murdered by some of the Geraldine adherents upon the sea coast near Clontarf. When the news of these proceedings—especially of the last named—reached England, the sensation naturally was immense. Henry hastily despatched Sir William Skeffington with a considerable force to restore order, but his coming was long delayed, and when he did arrive his operations were feeble in the extreme. Ormond had marched rapidly up from the south, and almost single-handed defended the interests of government. Even after his arrival Skeffington, who was old, cautious, and enfeebled by bad health, remained for months shut up in Dublin doing nothing, the followers of Lord Thomas wasting the country at pleasure, and burning the towns of Trim and Dunboyne, not many miles from its walls.
The Earl of Kildare had meanwhile died in prison, broken-hearted at the news of this ill-starred rising, in which he doubtless foresaw the ruin of his house. It was not until the month of March, eight months after his arrival in Ireland, that Sir William ventured to leave Dublin, and advance to the attack of Maynooth Castle, the great Leinster stronghold and Paladium of the Geraldines. Young Kildare, as he now was, was away in the south, but managed to throw some additional men into the castle, which was already strongly fortified, and believed in Ireland to be impregnable. The siege train imported by the deputy shortly dispelled that illusion. Whether, as is asserted, treachery from within aided the result or not, the end was not long delayed. After a few days Skeffington's cannons made a formidable breach in the walls. The English soldiery rushed in. The defenders threw down their arms and begged mercy, and a long row of them, including the Dean of Kildare and another priest who happened to be in the castle at the time were speedily hanging in front of its walls. "The Pardon of Maynooth" was from that day forth a well-known Irish equivalent for the gallows!
This was the end of the rebellion. The destruction of Maynooth Castle seems to have struck a cold chill to the very hearts of the Geraldines. For a while, Earl Thomas and his brother-in-law, the chief of the O'Connors, tried vainly to sustain the spirits of their followers. The rising seems to have melted away almost of its own accord, and within a few months the young leader himself surrendered to Lord Leonard Grey, the English commander, upon the understanding that his life was to be spared. Lord Leonard was his near relative, and therefore no doubt willing, as far as was compatible with safety to himself, to do the best he could for his kinsman. Whether a promise was formally given, or whether as was afterwards asserted "comfortable words were spoken to Thomas to allure him to yield" the situation was considered too grave for any mere fanciful consideration of honour to stand in the way. Lord Thomas was not executed upon the spot, but he was thrown into prison, and a year later with five of his uncles, two of whom at least had had no share whatever in the raising, he was hanged at Tyburn. Of all the great house of the Leinster Geraldines only a boy of twelve years old survived this hecatomb.
THE ACT OF SUPREMACY.
In spite of his feeble health and feebler energies, Sir William Skeffington was continued Lord-deputy until his death, which took place not many months after the fall of Maynooth—"A good man of war, but not quick enough for Ireland"—seems to have been the verdict of his contemporaries upon him. He was succeeded by Lord Leonard Grey, against whom no such charge could be made. His energy seems to have been immense. He loved, we are told, to be "ever in the saddle." Such was the rapidity of his movements, and such the terror they inspired that for a while a sort of awe-struck tranquillity prevailed. He overran Cork; broke down the castles of the Barrys and Munster Geraldines; destroyed the famous bridge over the Shannon across which the O'Briens of Clare had been in the habit of descending from time immemorial upon the Pale, and after these various achievements returned triumphantly to Dublin.
His Geraldine connection proved however his ruin. He was accused of favouring the adherents of their fallen house, and even of conniving at the escape of its last legitimate heir; of playing "Bo Peep" with him, as Stanihurst, the historian puts it. Ormond and the deputy were never friends, and Ormond had won—not undeservedly—great weight in the councils of Henry. "My Lord-deputy," Lord Butler, Ormond's son had declared, "is the Earl of Kildare born over again." Luttrell, on the other hand, declared that "Ormond hated Grey worse than he had hated Kildare." All agreed that Lord Leonard was difficult to work with. He seems to have been a well-intentioned man, a hard worker, and a keen soldier, but neither subtle enough nor conciliatory enough for his place. He was accused of treasonable practices, and a list of formidable charges made against him. At his own request he was summoned to court to answer these. To a good many he pleaded guilty—half in contempt as it would seem—and threw himself upon the mercy of the king. No mercy however followed. Like many another "well-meaning English official" of the period, his life ended upon the scaffold.
A more astute and cautious man, Sir Anthony St. Leger, next took the helm in Ireland. His task was chiefly one of diplomacy, and he carried it out with much address. In 1537 a parliament had been summoned in Dublin for the purpose of carrying out the Act of Supremacy. To this proposal the lay members seem to have been perfectly indifferent, but, as was to be expected, the clergy stood firmer. So resolute were they in their opposition that the parliament had to be prorogued, and upon its re-assembling, a Bill was hastily forced through by the Privy Council, declaring that the proctors, who had long represented the clergy in the Lower House, had henceforward no place in the Legislature. The Act of Supremacy was then passed: thirteen abbeys were immediately suppressed, and the firstfruits made over to the king in place of the Pope. The foundation of the new edifice was felt to have been securely laid.
This was followed five years later by another Act, by which the property of over four hundred religious houses was confiscated. That the arguments which applied forcibly enough in many cases for the confiscations of religious houses in England had no application in Ireland, was a circumstance which was not allowed to count. In England, the monasteries were rich; in Ireland, they were, for the most part, very poor: in England, they absorbed the revenues of the parishes; in Ireland, the monks as a rule served the parishes themselves: in England, popular condemnation had to a great degree already forestalled the legal enactment; in Ireland, nothing of the sort had ever been thought of: in England, the monks were as a rule distinctly behind the higher orders of laity in education; in Ireland, they were practically the only educators. These however were details. Uniformity was desirable. The monasteries were doomed, and before long means were found to enlist most of the Irish landowners, Celts no less than Normans, in favour of the despoliation.
At a great parliament summoned in Dublin in 1540, all the Irish lords of English descent, and a large muster of native chieftains were for the first time in history assembled together under one roof. O'Tooles and O'Byrnes from their wild Wicklow mountains; the McMurroughs from Carlow, the O'Connor, the O'Dunn, the O'Moore; the terrible McGillapatrick from his forests of Upper Ossory—all the great O's and Macs in fact of Ireland were called together to meet the Butlers, the Desmonds, the Barrys, the Fitzmaurices—their hereditary enemies now for four long centuries. One house alone was not represented, and that the greatest of them all. The sun of the Kildares had set for a while, and the only surviving member of it was a boy, hiding in holes and corners, and trusting for the bare life to the fealty of his clansmen.
Nothing that could reconcile the chiefs to the new religious departure was omitted upon this occasion. Their new-found loyalty was to be handsomely rewarded with a share of the Church spoil. Nor did they show the smallest reluctance, it must be said, to meet the king's good dispositions half way. The principal Church lands in Galway were made over to McWilliam, the head of the Burkes; O'Brien received the abbey lands in Thomond; other chiefs received similar benefices according to their degree, while a plentiful shower of less substantial, but still appreciated favours followed. The turbulent McGillapatrick of Ossory was to be converted into the decorous-sounding Lord Upper Ossory. For Con O'Neill as soon as he chose to come in, the Earldom of Tyrone was waiting. McWilliam Burke of Galway was to become Earl of Clanricarde; O'Brien of Clare, Earl of Thomond and Baron of Inchiquin. Parliamentary robes, and golden chains; a house in Dublin for each chief during the sitting of Parliament—these were only a portion of the good things offered by the deputy on the part of his master. Could man or monarch do more? In a general interchange of civilities the "King's Irish enemies" combined with their hereditary foes to proclaim him no longer Lord, but King of Ireland—"Defender of the Faith, and of the Church of England and Ireland on earth the Supreme Head."
THE NEW DEPARTURE.
So far so good. Despite a few trifling clouds which overhung the horizon, the latter years of Henry VIII.'s life and the short reign of his successor may claim to count among the comparatively halcyon periods of Irish history. The agreement with the landowners worked well, and no serious fears of any purpose to expel them from their lands had as yet been awakened. Henry's policy was upon the whole steadily conciliatory. Tyrant as he was, he could be just when his temper was not roused, and he kept his word loyally in this case. To be just and firm, and to give time for those hitherto untried varieties of government to work, was at once the most merciful and most politic course that could be pursued. Unfortunately for the destinies of Ireland, unfortunately for the future comfort of her rulers, there was too little patience to persevere in that direction. The Government desired to eat their loaf before there was fairly time for the corn to sprout. The seed of conciliation had hardly begun to grow before it was plucked hastily up by the roots again. The plantations of Mary's reign, and the still larger operations carried on in that of her sister, awakened a deep-seated feeling of distrust, a rooted belief in the law as a mysterious and incomprehensible instrument invented solely for the perpetration of injustice, a belief which is certainly not wholly extinguished even in our own day.
For the present, however, "sober ways, politic shifts, and amicable persuasions" were the rule. Chief after chief accepted the indenture which made him owner in fee simple under the king of his tribal lands. These indentures, it is true, were in themselves unjust, but then it was not as it happened a form of injustice that affected them unpleasantly. Con O'Neill, Murrough O'Brien, McWilliam of Clanricarde, all visited Greenwich in the summer of 1543, and all received their peerages direct from the king's own hands. The first named, as became his importance, was received with special honour, and received the title of Earl of Tyrone, with the second title of Baron of Dungannon for any son whom he liked to name. The son whom he did name—apparently in a fit of inadvertence—was one Matthew, who is confidently asserted to have not been his son at all, but the son of a blacksmith, and who in any case was not legitimate. An odd choice, destined, as will be seen, to lead to a good deal of bloodshed later on.
One or two of the new peers were even persuaded to send over their heirs to be brought up at the English Court, according to a gracious hint from the king. Young Barnabie FitzPatrick, heir to the new barony of Upper Ossory, was one of these, and the descendent of a long line of turbulent McGillapatricks, grew up there into a douce-mannered English-seeming youth, the especial friend and chosen companion of the mild young prince.
While civil strife was thus settling down, religious strife unfortunately was only beginning to awaken. The question of supremacy had passed over as we have seen in perfect tranquillity; it was a very different matter when it came to a question of doctrine. Unlike England, Ireland had never been touched by religious controversy. The native Church and the Church of the Pale were sharply separated from one another it is true, but it was by blood, language, and mutual jealousies, not by creed, doctrine, or discipline. As regards these points they were all but absolutely identical. The attempt to change their common faith was instantly and vehemently resisted by both alike. Could a Luther or a John Knox have arrived, with all the fervour of their popular eloquence, the case might possibly have been different. No Knox or Luther however, showed the slightest symptom of appearing, indeed hardly an attempt was made to supply doctrines to the new converts. The few English divines that did come knew no Irish, those who listened to them knew no English. The native priests were silent and suspicious. A general pause of astonishment and consternation prevailed.
The order for the destruction of relics broke this silence, and sent a passionate thrill of opposition through all breasts, lay as well as clerical. When the venerated remains of the golden days of the Irish Church were collected together and publicly destroyed, especially when the staff of St. Patrick, the famous Baculum Cristatum, part of which was believed to have actually touched the hands of the Saviour, was burnt in Dublin in the market-place, a spasm of shocked dismay ran through the whole island. Men who would have been scandalized by no other form of violence were horror-stricken at this. Differences of creed were so little understood that a widespread belief that a new era of paganism was about to be inaugurated sprang up all over Ireland. To this belief the friars, who, though driven from their cloisters, were still numerous, lent their support, as did the Jesuits, who now for the first time began to arrive in some numbers. Even the acceptance of the supremacy began to be rebelled against now that it was clearly seen what it was leading to. An order to read the new English liturgy was met with sullen resistance—"Now shall every illiterate fellow read mass!" cried Archbishop Dowdal of Armagh, in hot wrath and indignation. Brown, the Archbishop of Dublin, was an ardent reformer, so also was the Bishop of Meath, but to the mass of their brethren they simply appeared to be heretics. A proposal was made to translate the Prayer-book into Irish, but it was never carried into effect, indeed, even in the next century when Bishop Bedell proposed to undertake the task he received little encouragement.
The attempt to force Protestantism upon the country produced one, and only one, important result. It broke down those long-standing barriers which had hitherto separated Irishmen of different blood and lineage, and united them like one man against the Crown. When the common faith was touched the common sense of brotherhood was kindled. "The English and Irish," Archbishop Brown wrote in despair to Cromwell, "both oppose your lordship's orders, and begin to lay aside their own quarrels." Such a result might be desirable in itself, but it certainly came in the form least likely to prove propitious for the future tranquillity of the country. Even those towns where loyalty had hitherto stood above suspicion received the order to dismantle their churches and destroy all "pictures and Popish fancies" with sullen dislike and hostility. Galway, Kilkenny, Waterford, each and all protested openly. The Irish problem—not so very easy of solution before—had suddenly received a new element of confusion. One that was destined to prove a greater difficulty than all the rest put together.
THE FIRST PLANTATIONS.
With Mary's accession the religious struggle was for a while postponed. Some feeble attempts were even made to recover the Church property, but too many people's interests were concerned for much to be done in that direction. Dowdal, Archbishop of Armagh, who had been deprived, was restored to his primacy. Archbishop Brown and the other conforming bishops were deprived. So also were all married clergy, of whom there seem to have been but few; otherwise there was no great difference. As far as the right of exercising her supremacy was concerned, Mary relished Papal interference nearly as little as did her father.
Although the religious struggle was thus for a time postponed, the other vital Irish point—the possession of the land—now began to be pressed with new vigour. Fercal, Leix, and Offaly, belonging to the fierce tribes of the O'Moores, O'Dempseys, O'Connors, and O'Carrols, lay upon the Kildare frontier of the Pale, and had long been a standing menace to their more peaceful neighbours. It was now determined that this tract should be added to the still limited area of shire land. The chiefs, it is true, had been indentured by Henry, but since then there had been outbreaks of the usual sort, and it was considered by the Government that nowhere could the longed-for experiment of a plantation be tried with greater advantage.
There was little or no resistance. The chiefs, taken by surprise, submitted. The English force sent against them, under the command of Sir Edward Bellingham, was irresistible. O'Moore and O'Connor were seized and sent prisoners to England. Dangen, which had so often resisted the soldiers of the Pale was taken. The tribesmen whose fathers had fed their cattle from time immemorial upon the unfenced pastures of the plains were driven off, and took refuge in the forests, which still covered most of the centre of Ireland. The more profitable land was then leased by the Crown to English colonists—Cosbies, Barringtons, Pigotts, Bowens, and others. Leix and a portion of Offaly were called Queen's County, in compliment to the queen, the remainder King's County, in compliment to Philip. Dangen at the same time becoming Phillipstown, and Campa Maryborough. The experiment was regarded as eminently successful, and congratulations passed between the deputy and the English Council, but it awakened a deep-seated sense of insecurity and ill-usage, which argued poorly for the tranquillity of the future.
Of the rest of Mary's reign little needs to be here recorded. That indelible brand of blood which it has left on English history was all but unfelt in Ireland. There had been few Protestant converts, and those few were not apparently emulous of martyrdom. No Smithfield fires were lighted in Dublin, indeed it is a curious fact that in the whole course of Irish history—so prodigal of other horrors—no single execution for heresy is, it is said, recorded. A story is found in the Ware Papers, and supported by the authority of Archbishop Ussher, which, if true, shows that this reproach to Irish Protestantism—if indeed it is a reproach—was once nearly avoided. The story runs that one Cole, Dean of St. Paul's, was despatched by Mary with a special commission to "lash the heretics of Ireland." That Cole slept on his way at an inn in Chester, the landlady of which happened to have a brother, a Protestant then living in Dublin. This woman, hearing him boast of his commission, watched her opportunity, and stole the commission out of his cloak-bag, substituting for it a pack of cards. Cole unsuspiciously pursued his way, and presenting himself authoritatively before the deputy, declared his business and opened his bag. There, in place of the commission against the heretics, lay the pack of cards with the knave of clubs uppermost!
The story goes on to say that the dean raged in discomfited fury, but that the deputy, though himself a Roman Catholic, took the matter easily. "Let us have another commission," he said, "and meanwhile we will shuffle the cards." The cards were effectually shuffled, for before any further steps could be taken Mary had died.
WARS AGAINST SHANE O'NEILL.
Upon the 17th of November, 1558, Mary died, and upon the afternoon of the same day Elizabeth was proclaimed queen. A new reign is always accounted a new starting-point, and in this case the traditional method of dividing history is certainly no misleader. The old queen had been narrow, dull-witted, bigoted; an unhappy woman, a miserable wife, plagued with sickness, plagued, above all, with a conscience whose mission seems to have been to distort everything that came under its cognizance. A woman even whose good qualities—and she had several—only seemed to push her further and further down the path of disaster.
The new queen was twenty-six years old. Old enough, therefore, to have realized what life meant, young enough to have almost illimitable possibilities still unrevealed to her. No pampered royal heiress, either, for whom the world of hard facts had no reality, and the silken shams of a Court constituted the only standpoint, but one who had already with steady eyes looked danger and disaster in the face and knew them for what they were. With a realm under her hand strong already, and destined before her death to grow stronger still; with a spirit too, strong enough and large enough for her realm; stronger perhaps in spite of her many littlenesses than that of any of the men she ruled over.
And Ireland? How was it affected by this change of rulers? At first fairly well. The early months of the new reign were marked by a policy of conciliation. Protestantism was of course, re-established, but there was no eagerness to press the Act of Conformity with any severity, and Mass was still said nearly everywhere except in the Pale.
As usual, troubles began in the North. Henry VIII., it will be remembered, had granted the hereditary lands of Tyrone to Con O'Neill, with remainder to Matthew, the new Baron of Dungannon, whereas lands in Ulster, as elsewhere in Ireland, had always hitherto, by the law of Tanistry, been vested in the tribe, who claimed the right to select whichever of their late chiefs' sons they themselves thought fit. This right they now proceeded to exercise. Matthew, if he was Con's son at all, which was doubtful, was unquestionably illegitimate, and, therefore, by English as well as Irish law, wrongfully put in the place. On the other hand, a younger son Shane—called affectionately "Shane the Proud" by his clansmen—was unquestionably legitimate, and what was of much more importance, was already the idol of every fighting O'Neill from Lough Foyle to the banks of the Blackwater.
Shane is one of those Irish heroes—rather perhaps Ulster heroes, for his aspirations were hardly national—whom it is extremely difficult to mete out justice to with a perfectly even hand. He was unquestionably three-fourths of a savage—that fact we must begin in honesty by admitting—at the same time, he was a very brilliant, and, even in many respects attractive, savage. His letters, though suffering like those of some other distinguished authors from being translated, are full of touches of fiery eloquence, mixed with bombast and the wildest and most monstrously inflated self-pretension. His habits certainly were not commendable. He habitually drank, and it is also said ate a great deal more than was good for him. He ill-used his unlucky prisoners. He divorced one wife to marry another, and was eager to have a third in the lifetime of the second, making proposals at the same time to the deputy for the hand of his sister, and again and again petitioning the queen to provide him with some "English gentlewoman of noble blood, meet for my vocation, so that by her good civility and bringing up the country would become civil." In spite however of these and a few other lapses from the received modern code of morals and decorum, Shane the Proud is an attractive figure in his way, and we follow his fortunes with an interest which more estimable heroes fail sometimes to awaken.
The Baron of Dungannon was in the meantime dead, having been slain in a scuffle with his half-brother's followers—some said by his half-brother's own hand—previous to his father's death. His son, however, who was still a boy, was safe in England, and now appealed through his relations to the Government, and Sir Henry Sidney, who in Lord Sussex's absence was in command, marched from Dublin to support the English candidate. At a meeting which took place at Dundalk Shane seems however to have convinced Sidney to some degree of the justice of his claim, and hostilities were delayed until the matter could be reported to the queen.
Upon Sussex's return from England they broke out again. Shane, however, had by this time considerably strengthened his position. Not only had he firmly established himself in the allegiance of his own tribe, but had found allies and assistants outside it. There had of late been a steady migration of Scotch islanders into the North of Ireland, "Redshanks" as they were familiarly called, and a body of these, got together by Shane and kept as a body-guard, enabled him to act with unusual rapidity and decision. Upon Sussex attempting to detach two chieftains, O'Reilly of Brefny and O'Donnell of Tyrconnel, who owed him allegiance, Shane flew into Brefny and Tyrconnel, completely overawed the two waverers, and carried off Calvagh O'Donnell with his wife, who was a sister-in-law of the Earl of Argyle. The following summer he encountered Sussex himself and defeated him, sending his army flying terror-stricken back upon Armagh. This feat established him as the hero of the North. No army which Sussex could again gather together could be induced to risk the fate of its predecessor. The deputy was a poor soldier, feeble and vacillating in the field. He was no match for his fiery assailant; and after an attempt to get over the difficulty by suborning one Neil Grey to make away with the too successful Shane, he was reduced to the necessity of coming to terms. An agreement was entered into with the assistance of the Earl of Kildare, by which Shane agreed to present himself at the English Court, and there, if he could, to make good his claims in person before the queen.
Few scenes are more picturesque, or stand out more vividly before our imagination than this visit of the turbulent Ulster chieftain to the capital of his unknown sovereign. As he came striding down the London streets on his way to the Palace, the citizens ran to their doors to stare at the redoubtable Irish rebel with his train of galloglasses at his heels—huge bareheaded fellows clad in saffron shirts, their huge naked axes swung over their shoulders, their long hair streaming behind them, their great hairy mantles dangling nearly to their heels. So attended, and in such order, Shane presented himself before the queen, amid a buzz, as may be imagined, of courtly astonishment. Elizabeth seems to have been equal to the situation. She motioned Shane, who had prostrated himself, clansman fashion upon the floor, to rise, "check'd with a glance the circle's smile," eyeing as she did so, not without characteristic appreciation, the redoubtable thews and sinews of this the most formidable of her vassals.
Her appreciation, equally characteristically, did not hinder her from taking advantage of a flaw in his safe-conduct to keep Shane fuming at her Court until he had agreed to her own terms. When at last he was allowed to return home it was with a sort of compromise of his claim. He was not to call himself Earl of Tyrone—a distinction to which, in truth, he seems to have attached little importance—but he was allowed to be still the O'Neill, with the additional title of "Captain of Tyrone." To which the wits of the Court added—
"Shane O'Neill, Lord of the North of Ireland; Cousin of St. Patrick. Friend of the Queen of England; Enemy of all the world besides."
Shane and his galloglasses went home, and for some two years he and the Irish Government left one another comparatively alone. He was supreme now in the North, and ruled his own subjects at his own pleasure and according to his own rude fashion. Sussex made another attempt not long after to poison him in a gift of wine, which all but killed him and his entire household, which still included the unhappy "Countess" and her yet more unhappy husband Calvagh O'Donnell, whom Shane kept securely ironed in a cell at the bottom of his castle. The incident did not add to his confidence in the Queen's Government, or incline him to trust himself again in their hands, which, all things considered, was hardly surprising.
That in his own wild way Shane kept the North in order even his enemies admitted. While the East and West of Ireland were distracted with feuds, and in the South Ormond and Desmond were wasting one another's country with unprecedented ferocity, Ulster was comparatively peaceable and prosperous. Chiefs who made themselves objectionable to Shane felt the weight of his arm, but that perhaps had not a little to say to this tranquillity. Mr. Froude—no exaggerated admirer of Irish heroes—tells us apropos of this time, "In O'Neill's county alone in Ireland were peasants prosperous, or life and property safe," though he certainly adds that their prosperity flourished largely upon the spoils collected by them from the rest of the country.
That Shane himself believed that he had so far kept his word with Elizabeth is pretty evident, for in a letter to her written in his usual inflated style about the notorious Sir Thomas Stukeley, he entreats that she will pardon the latter "for his sake and in the name of the services which he had himself rendered to England." Whether Elizabeth, or still more Sidney, were equally convinced of those services is an open question.
Shane's career however was rapidly running to a close. In 1565 he made a sudden and unexpected descent upon the Scots in Antrim, where, after a fierce combat, an immense number of the latter were slaughtered, a feat for which he again had the audacity to write to Elizabeth and assure her that it was all done in her service. Afterwards he made a descent on Connaught, driving back with him into his own country over 4000 head of cattle which he had captured. His game, however, was nearly at an end. Sir Henry Sidney was now back to Ireland, this time with the express purpose of crushing the rebel, and had marched into Ulster with a considerable force for that purpose. Shane, nevertheless, still showed a determined front. Struck up an alliance with Argyle, and wrote to France for instant aid to hold Ulster against Elizabeth, nay, in spite of his recent achievement, he seems to have even hoped to win the Scotch settlers over to his side. Sidney however was this time in earnest, and was a man of very different calibre from Sussex, in whom Shane had previously found so easy an antagonist. He marched right across Ulster, and entered Tyrconnel; reinstated the O'Donnells who had been driven thence by Shane; continued his march to Sligo, and from there to Connaught, leaving Colonel Randolph and the O'Donnells to hold the North and finish the work which he had begun.
Randolph's camp was pitched at Dorry—not then the protegee of London, nor yet famed in story, but a mere insignificant hamlet, consisting of an old castle and a disused graveyard. It was this latter site that the unlucky English commander selected for his camp, with, as might be expected, the most disastrous results. Fever broke out, the water proved to be poisonous, and in a short time half the force were dead or dying, Randolph himself being amongst the former. An explosion which occurred in a magazine finished the disaster, and the scared survivors escaped in dismay to Carrickfergus. Local superstition long told tales of the fiery portents and miracles by which the heretic soldiery were driven from the sacred precincts which their presence had polluted.
With that odd strain of greatness which ran through her, Elizabeth seems to have accepted this disaster well, and wrote "comfortable words" to Sidney upon the subject. For the time being, however, the attack upon Shane devolved of necessity wholly upon his native foes.
Aided by good fortune they proved for once more than a match for him. Encouraged by the disaster of the Derry garrison, Shane made a hasty advance into Tyrconnel, and crossed with a considerable force over the ford of Lough Swilly, near Letterkenny. He found the O'Donnells, though fewer in number than his own forces, established in a strong position upon the other side. From this position he tried to drive them by force, but the O'Donnells were prepared, and Shane's troops coming on in disorder were beaten back upon the river. The tide had in the meantime risen, and there was therefore no escape. Penned between the flood and the O'Donnells, over 3000 of his men perished, many by drowning, but the greater number being hacked to death upon the strand. Shane himself narrowly escaped with his life by another ford.
The Hero of the North was now a broken man. Such a disaster was not to be retrieved. The English troops were again coming rapidly up. The victorious O'Donnells held all the country behind him. A French descent, even if it had come, would hardly have saved him now. In this extremity a desperate plan occurred to him. Followed by a few horsemen, and accompanied by the unhappy "Countess" who had so long shared his curious fortunes, he rode off to the camp of the Scotch settlers in Antrim, there to throw himself on their mercy and implore their support. It was an insane move. He was received with seeming courtesy, and a banquet spread in his honour. Lowering looks however were bent upon him from every side of the table. Captain Pierce, an English officer, had been busy the day before stirring up the smouldering embers of anger. Suddenly a taunt was flung out by one of the guests at the discomfited hero. Shane—forgetting perhaps where he was—sprang up to revenge it. A dozen swords and skeans blazed out upon him, and he fell, pierced by three or four of his entertainers at once. His body was then tossed into an old ruined chapel hard by, where the next day his head was hacked off by Captain Pierce, and carried to Sidney, who sent it to be spiked upon Dublin Castle. It was but too characteristic an end of an eminently characteristic career.
BETWEEN TWO STORMS.
By 1566 Sir Henry Sidney became Lord-deputy, not now in the room of another, but fully appointed. With the possible exception of Sir John Perrot, he was certainly the ablest of all the viceroys to whom Elizabeth committed power in Ireland. Unlike others he had the advantage, too, of having served first in the country in subordinate capacities, and so earning his experience. He even seems to have been fairly popular, which, considering the nature of some of his proceedings, throws a somewhat sinister light, it must be owned, upon those of his successors and predecessors.
After the death and defeat of Shane the Proud a lull took place, and the new deputy took the opportunity of making a progress through the south and west of the island, which he reports to be all terribly wasted by war. Many districts, he says, "had but one-twentieth part of their former population." Galway, worn out by incessant attacks, could scarcely defend her walls. Athenry had but four respectable householders left, who "sadly presenting the rusty keys of their once famous town, confessed themselves unable to defend it."
Sidney was one of the first to relinquish what had hitherto been the favourite and traditional policy of all English governors, that, namely, of playing one great lord or chieftain against another, and to attempt the larger task of putting down and punishing all signs of insubordination especially in the great. In this respect he was the political parent of Strafford, who acted the same part sixty years later. He had not—any more than his great successor—to reproach himself either with feebleness in the execution of his policy. The number of military executions that mark his progress seem to have startled his own coadjutors, and even to have evoked some slight remonstrance from Elizabeth herself. "Down they go at every corner!" the Lord-deputy writes at this time triumphantly in an account of his own proceedings, "and down, God willing, they shall go."
A plan for appointing presidents of provinces had been a favourite with the late deputy, Sussex, and was now revived. Sir Edward Fitton, one of the judges of the Queen's Bench, was appointed to the province of Connaught—a miserably poor appointment as it turned out; Sir John Perrot a little later to Munster; Leinster for the present the deputy reserved for himself. This done he returned, first pausing to arrest the Earl of Desmond and carrying him and his brother captive to Dublin and eventually to London, where according to the queen's orders he was to be brought in order that she might adjudicate herself in the quarrel between him and Ormond.
The two earls—they were stepson and stepfather by the way—had for years been at fierce feud, a feud which had desolated the greater part of the South of Ireland. It was a question of titles and ownership, and therefore exclusively one for the lawyers. The queen, however, was resolved that it should be decided in Ormond's favour. Ormond was "sib to the Boleyns;" Ormond had been the playmate of "that sainted young Solomon, King Edward," and Ormond therefore, it was quite clear, must know whether the lands were his own or not.
Against the present Desmond nothing worse was charged than that he had enforced what he considered his palatinate rights in the old, high-handed, time-immemorial fashion. His father, however, had been in league with Spain, and he himself was held to be contumacious, and had never been on good terms with any of the deputies.
On this occasion he had, however, surrendered himself voluntarily to Sidney. Nevertheless, upon his arrival he was kept a close prisoner, and upon attempting, sometime afterwards, to escape, was seized, and only received his life on condition of surrendering the whole of his ancestral estates to the Crown, a surrender which happened to fit in very conveniently with a plan upon which the attention of the English Council was at that time turned.
The expenses of Ireland were desperately heavy, and Elizabeth's frugal soul was bent upon some plan for their reduction. A scheme for reducing the cost of police duty by means of a system of military colonies had long been a favourite one, and an opportunity now occurred for turning it into practice. A number of men of family, chiefly from Devonshire and Somersetshire, undertook to migrate in a body to Ireland, taking with them their own farm servants, their farm implements, and everything necessary for the work of colonization. The leader of these men was Sir Peter Carew, who held a shadowy claim over a vast tract of territory, dating from the reign of Henry II., a claim which, however, had been effectually disposed of by the lawyers. The scheme as it was first proposed was a truly gigantic one. A line was to be drawn from Limerick to Cork, and everything south of that line was to be given over to the adventurers. As for the natives, they said, they would undertake to settle with them. All they required was the queen's permission. Everything else they could do for themselves.
So heroic a measure was not to be put in force at once. As far as Carew's claims went, he took the matter, however, into his own hands by forcibly expelling the occupiers of the lands in question, and putting his own retainers into them. As fortune would have it, amongst the first lands thus laid hold of were some belonging to the Butlers, brothers of Lord Ormond, and therefore probably the only Irish landowners whose cry for justice was pretty certain just then to be heard in high quarters. Horrible tales of the atrocities committed by Carew and his band was reported by Sir Edward Butler, who upon his side was not slow to commit retaliations of the same sort A spasm of anger, and a wild dread of coming contingencies flew through the whole South of Ireland. Sir James Fitzmaurice, cousin of the Earl of Desmond, broke into open rebellion; so did also both the younger Butlers. Ormond himself, who was in England, was as angry as the fiercest, and informed Cecil in plain terms that "if the lands of good subjects were not to be safe, he for one would be a good subject no longer."
It was no part of the policy of the Government to alienate the one man in Ireland upon whose loyalty they could depend at a pinch. By the personal efforts of the queen his wrath was at last pacified, and he agreed to accept her earnest assurance that towards him at least no injury was intended. This done, he induced his brothers to withdraw from the alliance, while Sir Henry Sidney, sword in hand, went into Munster and carried out the work of pacification in the usual fashion, burning villages, destroying the harvest, driving off cattle, blowing up castles, and hanging their garrisons in strings over the battlements. After which he marched to Connaught, leaving Sir Humphrey Gilbert behind him to keep order in the south.
For more than two years Sir James Fitzmaurice continued to hold out in his rocky fastness amongst the Galtese mountains. A sort of grim humour pervades the relations between him and Sir John Perrot, the new President of Munster. Perrot had boasted upon his arrival that he would soon "hunt that fox out of his hole." The fox, however, showed a disposition to take the part of the lion, sallying out unexpectedly, ravaging the entire district, burning Kilmallock, and returning again to his mountains before he could be interfered with. The following year he marched into Ulster, and on his way home burnt Athlone, the English garrison there looking helplessly on; joined the two Mac-an-Earlas as they were called, the sons of Lord Clanricarde, and assisted them to lay waste Galway, and so returned triumphantly across the Shannon to Tipperary. Once Perrot all but made an end of him, but his soldiers took that convenient opportunity of mutinying, and so baulked their leader of his prey. Another time, in despair of bringing the matter to any conclusion, the president proposed that it should be decided by single combat between them, a proposal which Fitzmaurice prudently resisted on the ground that though Perrot's place could no doubt readily be supplied, his own was less easily to fill, and that therefore for his followers' sake he must decline.
At last the long game of hide-and-seek was brought to an end by Sir James offering to submit, to which Perrot agreeing, he took the required oaths in the church of Kilmallock, the scene of his former ravages, and kissed the president's sword in token of his regret for "the said most mischievous part." This farce gravely gone through, he sailed for France, and Munster for a while was at peace. It was only a temporary lull though. The Desmond power was still too towering to be left alone, and both its defenders and the Government knew that they were merely indulging in a little breathing time before the final struggle.
THE DESMOND REBELLION.
The tale of the great Desmond rebellion which ended only with the ruin of that house, and with the slaughter or starvation of thousands of its unhappy adherents, is one of those abortive tragedies of which the whole history of Ireland is full. Our pity for the victims' doom, and our indignation for the cold-blooded cruelty with which that doom was carried out, is mingled with a reluctant realization of the fact that the state of things which preceded it was practically impossible, that it had become an anomaly, and that as such it was bound either to change or to perish.
From the twelfth century onwards, the Desmond Geraldines had been lords, as has been seen, of a vast tract of Ireland, covering the greater part of Munster. Earlier and perhaps more completely than any of the other great Norman houses, they had become Irish chieftains rather than English subjects, and the opening of Elizabeth's reign found them still what for centuries past they had been, and with their power, within their own limits, little if at all curtailed. The Desmond of the day had still his own judges or Brehons, by whose judgment he professed to rule. He had still his own palatinate courts; he still collected his dues by force, driving away his clansmen's cattle, and distraining those who resisted him. Only a few years before this time, during an expedition of the kind, he and Ormond had encountered one another in the open field at Affane, upon the Southern Blackwater, each side flying their banners, and shouting their war cries as if no queen's representative had ever been seen or heard of.
Such a state of things, it was plain, could not go on indefinitely, would not indeed have gone on as long but for the confusion and disorder in which the country had always been plunged, and especially the want of all settled communication. The palatinate of Ormond, it is true, was theoretically in much the same state, but then Ormond was a keener sighted and a wiser man than Desmond, and knew when the times demanded redress. He had of late even made some effort to abolish the abominable system of "coyne and livery," although, as he himself frankly admits, he was forced to impose it again in another form not long afterwards.
Sir James meanwhile had left Ireland, and at every Catholic Court in Europe was busily pleading for aid towards a crusade against England. Failing in France, he appealed to Philip of Spain. Philip, however, at the moment was not prepared to break with Elizabeth, whereupon Fitzmaurice, undeterred by failure, presented himself next before the Pope. Here he was more successful, and preparations for the collection of a considerable force was at once set on foot, a prominent English refugee, Dr. Nicolas Saunders, being appointed to accompany it as legate.
Saunders, who had distinguished himself not long before by a violent personal attack against Elizabeth, threw himself heart and soul into the enterprise, and in a letter to Philip pointed out all the advantages that were to be won by it to the Catholic cause. "Men," he assured him, "were not needed." Guns, powder, a little money, and a ship or two with stores from Spain, and the whole country would soon be at his feet.
Although absurdly ignorant, as his own letters prove, of a country of which he had once been nominally king, Philip knew rather more probably about the circumstance of the case than Saunders, and he met these insinuating suggestions coldly. A fleet in the end was fitted out and sent from Civita Vecchia, under the command of an English adventurer Stukeley, the same Stukeley in whose favour we saw Shane O'Neill appealing to Elizabeth. Though it started for Ireland it never arrived there. Touching at Lisbon, Stukeley was easily persuaded to give up his first scheme, and to join Sebastian, king of Portugal, in a buccaneering expedition to Morocco, and at the battle of Alcansar both he and Sebastian with the greater part of their men were killed.
Fitzmaurice meanwhile had gone to Spain by land, and had there embarked for Ireland, accompanied by his wife, two children, Saunders, the legate, Allen, an Irish priest, a small party of Italians and Spaniards, and a few English refugees, and bringing with them a banner especially consecrated by the Pope for this service.
Their landing-place was Dingle, and from there they crossed to Smerwick, where they fortified the small island peninsula of Oilen-an-Oir, or "Gold Island," where they were joined by John and James Fitzgerald, brothers of the Earl of Desmond, and by a party of two hundred O'Flaherties from Iar Connaught, who, however, speedily left again.
But Desmond still vacillated helplessly. Now that the time had come he could not make up his mind what to do, or with whom to side. He was evidently cowed. His three imprisonments lay heavily upon his soul. He knew the power of England better too than most of his adherents, and shrank from measuring his own strength against it. What he did not realize was that it was too late now to go back. He had stood out for what he considered his own rights when it would have been more politic to have submitted, and now he wanted to submit when it was only too plain to all who could read the signs of the times that the storm was already upon him, and that no humility or late-found loyalty could avail to avert that doom which hung over his house.
If Desmond himself was slow to rise, the whole South of Ireland was in a state of wild tumult and excitement when the news of the actual arrival of Fitzmaurice and the legate became known. Nor in the south alone. In Connaught and the Pale the excitement was very little less. Kildare, like Desmond, held back fearing the personal consequences of rebellion, but all the younger lords of the Pale were eager to throw in their lot with Fitzmaurice. Alone amongst the Irishmen of his day, he possessed all the necessary qualifications of a leader. He had already for years successfully resisted the English. He was known to be a man of great courage and tenacity, and his reputation as a general stood deservedly high in the opinion of all his countrymen.
That extraordinary good fortune, however, which has so often befallen England at awkward moments, and never more conspicuously than during the closing years of the sixteenth century, did not fail now. Fitzmaurice started for Connaught to encourage the insurrection which had been fast ripening there under the brutal rule of Sir Nicolas Malby, its governor. A trumpery quarrel had recently broken out between the Desmonds and the Mayo Bourkes, and this insignificant affair sealed the fate of what at one moment promised to be the most formidable rebellion which had ever assailed the English power in Ireland. At a place called Harrington's Bridge, not far from Limerick, where the little river Muckern or Mulkearn was then crossed by a ford, Fitzmaurice was set upon by the Bourkes. Only a few followers were with him at the time, and in turning to expostulate with one of his assailants, he was killed by a pistol shot, and fell from his horse. This was upon the 18th of August, 1579. From that moment the Desmond rising was doomed.
Desmond meanwhile still sat vacillating in his own castle of Askeaton, neither joining the rising, nor yet exerting himself vigorously to put it down. Malby, who had newly arrived from Connaught, took steps to hasten his decision. Ordering the earl to come to him, and the latter still hesitating, he marched against Askeaton, utterly destroyed the town up to the walls of the castle, burning everything in the neighbourhood, including the abbey and the tombs of the Desmonds, the castle itself only escaping through the lack of ammunition.
This hint seems to have sufficed. Desmond was at last convinced that the time for temporizing was over. He rose, and all Munster rose with him. Ormond was still in London, and hurried over to find all in disorder. Drury had lately died, and the only other English commander, Malby, was crippled for want of men, and had been obliged to retreat into Connaught. The new deputy, Sir William Pelham, had just arrived, and he and Ormond now proceeded to make a concerted attack. Advancing in two separate columns they destroyed everything which came in their way; men, women, children, infants, the old, the blind, the sick all alike were mercilessly slaughtered; not a roof, however humble, was spared; not a living creature that crossed their path survived to tell the tale. Lady Fitzmaurice and her two little children seem to have been amongst the number of these nameless and uncounted victims, for they were never heard of again. From Adare and Askeaton to the extreme limits of Kerry, everything perishable was destroyed. The two commanders met one another at Tralee, and from this point carried on their raid in unison, and returned, to Askeaton and Cork, leaving the whole country a desert behind them. There was little or no resistance. The Desmond clansmen were not soldiers; they were unarmed, or armed only with spears and skeans. They had just lost their only leader. They could do nothing but sullenly watch the progress of the English forces. Desmond, his two brothers, and the legate were already fugitives. The rising seemed to be all but crushed, when a new incident occurred to spur it into a momentary vitality.
Four Spanish vessels, containing 800 men, chiefly Italians, had managed to pass unperceived by the English admiral, Winter's, fleet, and to land at Smerwick, where they established themselves in Fitzmaurice's dismantled fort. They found everything in confusion. They had brought large supplies of arms for their Irish allies, but there were apparently no Irish allies to give them to. The legate and Desmond had first to be found, and now that arms had come, the Munster tribesmen had for the most part been killed or dispersed. Ormond and Pelham's terrible raid had done its work, and the heart of the rising was broken. The Pale, however, had now caught the fire, and though Kildare, its natural leader, still hung back, Lord Baltinglass and some of the bolder spirits flew to arms, and threw themselves into the Wicklow highlands where they joined their forces with those of the O'Byrnes, and were presently joined by Sir John of Desmond and a handful of Fitzgeralds.
Lord Grey de Wilton had by this time arrived in Ireland as deputy. Utterly inexperienced in Irish wars, he despised and underrated the capabilities of those opposed to him, and refused peremptorily to listen to the advice of more experienced men. Hastening south, his advanced guard was caught by Baltinglass and the other insurgents in the valley of Glenmalure. A well-directed fire was poured into the defile; the English troops broke, and tried to flee, and were shot down in numbers amongst the rocks.
Lord Grey had no time to retrieve this disaster. Leaving the Pale to the mercy of the successful rebels, he hastened south, and arrived in Kerry before Smerwick fort. Amongst the small band of officers who accompanied him on this occasion were Walter Raleigh and Edmund Spenser, both then young men, and both of them all but unknown to fame.
The English admiral, Winter, with his fleet had long been delayed by bad weather. When at length it arrived, cannon were landed and laid in position upon the sand hills. Next day the siege commenced. There was heavy firing on both sides, but the fort was soon found to be untenable. The garrison thereupon offered to capitulate, and an unconditional surrender was demanded. There being no alternative, these terms were accepted. Lord Grey thereupon "put in certain bands," under the command of Captain Raleigh. "The Spaniard," says Spenser, who was an eye-witness of the whole scene, "did absolutely yield himself, and the fort, and all therein, and only asked mercy," This, "it was not thought good," he adds, "to show them." They were accordingly all slaughtered in cold blood, a few women and priests who were with them hanged, the officers being reserved for ransom. "There was no other way," Spenser observes in conclusion, "but to make that end of them as thus was done."
 "View of the State of Ireland," pp. 5, 11.
This piece of work satisfactorily finished, Grey returned rapidly to Dublin to crush the Leinster insurgents. Kildare and Delvin, though they had kept themselves clear of the rebellion, were arrested and thrown into prison. Small bands of troopers were sent into the Wicklow mountains to hunt out the insurgents. Baltinglass escaped to the Continent, but the two Eustaces his brothers, with Garrot O'Toole and Feagh McHugh were caught, killed, and their heads sent to Dublin. Clanricarde's two sons, the Mac-an-Earlas, were out in the Connemara mountains and could not be got at; but Malby again overran their country, burning houses and slaughtering without mercy. In Dublin, the Anglo-Irishmen of the Pale were being brought to trial for treason, and hung or beheaded in batches. Kildare was sent to England to die in the Tower. With the exception of the North, which on this occasion had kept quiet, the whole country had become one great reeking shambles; what sword and rope and torch had spared, famine came in to complete.
The Earl of Desmond was now a houseless fugitive, hunted like a wolf or mad dog through the valleys and over the mountains of his own ancestral "kingdom." His brothers had already fallen. Sir John Fitzgerald had been killed near Cork, and his body hung head downwards, by Raleigh's order, upon the bridge of the river Lee. The other brother, Sir James, had met with a similar fate. Saunders, the legate, had died of cold and exposure. Desmond alone escaped, time after time, and month after month. Hunted, desperate, in want of the bare necessities of life, he was still in his own eyes the Desmond, ancestral owner of nearly a hundred miles of territory. Never in his most successful period a man of any particular strength of character, sheer pride seems to have upheld him now. He scorned to make terms with his hated enemy, Ormond. If he yielded to any one, he sent word, it would be only to the queen herself in person. He was not given the chance. Hunted over the Slemish mountains, with the price of L1,000 on his head, one by one the trusty companions who had clung to him so faithfully were taken and killed. His own course could inevitably be but a short one. News reached the English captain at Castlemain one night that the prey was not far off. A dozen English soldiers stole up the stream in the grey of the morning. The cabin where the Desmond lay was surrounded, the door broken in, and the earl stabbed before there was time for him to spring from his bed. The tragedy had now been played out to the bitterest end. As formerly with the Leinster Geraldines, so now with the Munster ones, of the direct heirs of the house only a single child was left, a feeble boy, afterwards known by the significant title of the "Tower Earl," with the extinguishing of whose sickly tenure of life the very name of Desmond ceases to appear upon the page of Irish history.
BETWEEN TWO MORE STORMS.
Two great risings against Elizabeth's power in Ireland had thus been met and suppressed. A third and a still more formidable one was yet to come. The interval was filled with renewed efforts at colonization upon a yet larger scale than before. Munster, which at the beginning of the Desmond rising had been accounted the most fertile province in Ireland, was now little better than a desert. Not once or twice, but many times the harvest had been burnt and destroyed, and great as had been the slaughter, numerous as were the executions, they had been far eclipsed by the multitude of those who had died of sheer famine.
Spenser's evidence upon this point has been often quoted, but no other words will bring the picture before us in the same simple, awful vividness; nor must it be forgotten that the man who tells it was under no temptation to exaggerate having himself been a sharer in the deeds which had produced so sickening a calamity.
"They were brought to such wretchedness," he says, "that any stony heart would rue the same. Out of every corner of the woods and glens, they came, creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs could not bear them. They looked like anatomies of death; they spoke like ghosts crying out of their graves. They did eat the dead carrions, where they did find them, yea and one another soon after, in as much as the very carcases they spared not to scrape out of their graves; and if they found a plot of watercresses or shamrocks, there they thronged as to a feast."
To replace this older population, thus starved, slaughtered, made away with by sword and pestilence with new colonists was the scheme of the hour. Desmond's vast estate, covering nearly six hundred thousand Irish acres, not counting waste land, had all been declared forfeit to the Crown. This and a considerable portion of territory also forfeit in Leinster was now offered to English colonists upon the most advantageous terms. No rent was to be paid at first, and for ten years the undertakers were to be allowed to send their exports duty free.