UNION OF THE CROWNS OF ENGLAND AND IRELAND.
IRISH POLICY OF HENRY THE EIGHTH DURING THE LIFETIME OF CARDINAL WOLSEY.
Henry the Eighth of England succeeded his father on the throne, early in the year 1509. He was in the eighteenth year of his age, when he thus found himself master of a well-filled treasury and an united kingdom. Fortune, as if to complete his felicity, had furnished him from the outset of his reign with a minister of unrivalled talent for public business. This was Thomas Wolsey, successively royal Chaplain, Almoner, Archbishop of York, Papal Legate, Lord Chancellor, and Lord Cardinal. From the fifth to the twentieth year of King Henry, he was, in effect, sovereign in the state, and it is wonderful to find how much time he contrived to borrow from the momentous foreign affairs of that eventful age for the obscurer intrigues of Irish politics.
Wolsey kept before his mind, more prominently than any previous English statesman, the design of making his royal master as absolute in Ireland as any King in Christendom. He determined to abolish every pretence to sovereignty but that of the King of England, and to this end he resolved to circumscribe the power of the Anglo-Irish Barons, and to win over by “dulce ways” and “politic drifts,” as he expressed it, the Milesian-Irish Chiefs. This policy, continued by all the Tudor sovereigns till the latter years of Elizabeth, so far as it distinguished between the Barons and Chiefs always favoured the latter. The Kildares and Desmonds were hunted to the death, in the same age, and by the same authority, which carefully fostered every symptom of adhesion or attachment on the part of the O’Neils and O’Briens. Neither were these last loved or trusted for their own sakes, but the natural enemy fares better in all histories than the unnatural rebel.
We must enumerate some of the more remarkable instances of Wolsey’s twofold policy of concession and intimidation. In the third and fourth years of Henry, Hugh O’Donnell, lord of Tyrconnell, passing through England, on a pilgrimage to Rome, was entertained with great honour at Windsor and Greenwich for four months each time. He returned to Ulster deeply impressed with the magnificence of the young monarch and the resources of his kingdom. During the remainder of his life he cherished a strong predilection for England; he dissuaded James IV. of Scotland from leading a liberating expedition to Ireland in 1513— previous to the ill-fated campaign which ended on Flodden field, and he steadily resisted the influx of the Islesmen into Down and Antrim. In 1521 we find him described by the Lord Lieutenant, Surrey, as being of all the Irish chiefs the best disposed “to fall into English order.” He maintained a direct correspondence with Henry until his death, 1537, when the policy he had so materially assisted had progressed beyond the possibility of defeat. Simultaneously with O’Donnell’s adhesion, the same views found favour with the powerful chief of Tyrone. The O’Neils were now divided into two great septs, those of Tyrone, whose seat was at Dungannon, and those of Clandeboy, whose strongholds studded the eastern shores of Lough Neagh. In the year 1480, Con O’Neil, lord of Tyrone, married his cousin-germain, Lady Alice Fitzgerald, daughter of the Earl of Kildare. This alliance tended to establish an intimacy between Maynooth and Dungannon, which subserved many of the ends of Wolsey’s policy. Turlogh, Art, and Con, sons of Lady Alice, and successively chiefs of Tyrone, adhered to the fortunes of the Kildare family, who were, however unwillingly, controlled by the superior power of Henry. The Clandeboy O’Neils, on the contrary, regarded this alliance as nothing short of apostasy, and pursued the exactly opposite course, repudiating English and cultivating Scottish alliances. Open ruptures and frequent collisions took place between the estranged and exasperated kinsmen; in the sequel we will find how the last surviving son of Lady Alice became in his old age the first Earl of Tyrone, while the House of Clandeboy took up the title of “the O’Neil.” The example of the elder branch of this ancient royal race, and of the hardly less illustrious family of Tyrconnell, exercised a potent influence on the other chieftains of Ulster.
An elaborate report on “the State of Ireland,” with “a plan for its Reformation”—submitted to Henry in the year 1515—gives us a tolerably clear view of the political and military condition of the several provinces. The only portions of the country in any sense subject to English law, were half the counties of Louth, Meath, Dublin, Kildare, and Wexford. The residents within these districts paid “black rent” to the nearest native chiefs. Sheriffs were not permitted to execute writs, beyond the bounds thus described, and even within thirty miles of Dublin, March-law and Brehon-law were in full force. Ten native magnates are enumerated in Leinster as “chief captains” of their “nations”—not one of whom regarded the English King as his Sovereign. Twenty chiefs in Munster, fifteen in Connaught, and three in West-Meath, maintained their ancient state, administered their own laws, and recognized no superiority, except in one another, as policy or custom compelled them. Thirty chief English captains, of whom eighteen resided in Munster, seven in Connaught, and the remainder in Meath, Down, and Antrim, are set down as “rebels” and followers of “the Irish order.” Of these, the principal in the midland counties were the Dillons and Tyrrells, in the West the Burkes and Berminghams, in the South the Powers, Barrys, Roches—the Earl of Desmond and his relatives. The enormous growth of these Munster Geraldines, and their not less insatiable greed, produced many strange complications in the politics of the South. Not content with the moiety of Kerry, Cork, and Waterford, they had planted their landless cadets along the Suir and the Shannon, in Ormond and Thomond. They narrowed the dominions of the O’Briens on the one hand and the McCarthys on the other. Concluding peace or war with their neighbours, as suited their own convenience, they sometimes condescended to accept further feudal privileges from the Kings of England. To Maurice, tenth Earl, Henry VII. had granted “all the customs, cockets, poundage, prize wines of Limerick, Cork, Kinsale, Baltimore and Youghal, with other privileges and advantages.” Yet Earl James, in the next reign, did not hesitate to treat with Francis of France and the Emperor of Germany, as an independent Prince, long before the pretence of resisting the Reformation could be alleged in his justification. What we have here to observe is, that this predominance of the Munster Geraldines drove first one and then another branch of the McCarthys, and O’Briens, into the meshes of Wolsey’s policy. Cormac Oge, lord of Muskerry, and his cousin, the lord of Carbery, defeated the eleventh Earl (James), at Moore Abbey, in 1521, with a loss of 1,500 foot and 500 or 600 horsemen. To strengthen himself against the powerful adversary so deeply wounded, Cormac sought the protection of the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Surrey, and of Pierce Roe, the eighth Earl of Ormond, who had common wrongs to avenge. In this way McCarthy became identified with the English interest, which he steadily adhered to till his death—in 1536. Driven by the same necessity to adopt the same expedient, Murrogh O’Brien, lord of Thomond, a few years later visited Henry at London, where he resigned his principality, received back his lands, under a royal patent conveying them to him as “Earl of Thomond, and Baron of Inchiquin.” Henry was but too happy to have raised up such a counterpoise to the power of Desmond, at his own door, while O’Brien was equally anxious to secure foreign aid against such intolerable encroachments. The policy worked effectually; it brought the succeeding Earl of Desmond to London, an humble suitor for the King’s mercy and favour, which were after some demur granted.
The event, however, which most directly tended to the establishment of an English royalty in Ireland, was the depression of the family of Kildare in the beginning of this reign, and its all but extinction a few years later. Gerald, the ninth Earl of that title, succeeded his father in the office of Lord Deputy in the first years of Henry. He had been a ward at the court of the preceding King, and by both his first and second marriages was closely connected with the royal family. Yet he stood in the way of the settled plans of Wolsey, before whom the highest heads in the realm trembled. His father, as if to secure him against the hereditary enmity of the Butlers, had married his daughter Margaret to Pierce Roe, Earl of Ossory, afterwards eighth Earl of Ormond—the restorer of that house. This lady, however, entered heartily into the antipathies of her husband’s family, and being of masculine spirit, with an uncommon genius for public affairs, helped more than any Butler had ever done to humble the overshadowing house of which she was born. The weight of Wolsey’s influence was constantly exercised in favour of Ormond, who had the skill to recommend himself quite as effectually to Secretary Cromwell, after the Cardinal’s disgrace and death. But the struggles of the house of Kildare were bold and desperate.
THE INSURRECTION OF SILKEN THOMAS—THE GERALDINE LEAGUE—ADMINISTRATION OF LORD LEONARD GRAY.
The ninth and last Catholic Earl of Kildare, in the ninth year of Henry VIII., had been summoned to London to answer two charges preferred against him by his political enemies: “1st, That he had enriched himself and his followers out of the crown lands and revenues. 2nd, That he had formed alliances and corresponded with divers Irish enemies of the State.” Pending these charges the Earl of Surrey, the joint-victor with his father at Flodden field, was despatched to Dublin in his stead, with the title of Lord Lieutenant.
Kildare, by the advice of Wolsey, was retained in a sort of honourable attendance on the person of the King for nearly four years. During this interval he accompanied Henry to “the field of the cloth of Gold,” so celebrated in French and English chronicles. On his return to Dublin, in 1523, he found his enemy, the Earl of Ormond, in his old office, but had the pleasure of supplanting him one year afterwards. In 1525, on the discovery of Desmond’s correspondence with Francis of France, he was ordered to march into Munster and arrest that nobleman. But, though he obeyed the royal order, Desmond successfully evaded him, not, as was alleged, without his friendly connivance. The next year this evasion was made the ground of a fresh impeachment by the implacable Earl of Ormond; he was again summoned to London, and committed to the Tower. In 1530 he was liberated, and sent over with Sir William Skeffington, whose authority to some extent he shared. The English Knight had the title of Deputy, but Kildare was, in effect, Captain General, as the Red Earl had formerly been. Skeffington was instructed to obey him in the field, while it was expected that the Earl, in return, would sustain his colleague in the Council. A year had not passed before they were declared enemies, and Skeffington was recalled to England, where he added another to the number of Kildare’s enemies. After a short term of undisputed power, the latter found himself, in 1533, for the third time, an inmate of the Tower. It is clear that the impetuous Earl, after his second escape, had not conducted himself as prudently as one so well forewarned ought to have done. He played more openly than ever the twofold part of Irish Chief among the Irish, and English Baron within the Pale. His daughters were married to the native lords of Offally and Ely, and he frequently took part as arbitrator in the affairs of those clans. The anti-Geraldine faction were not slow to torture these facts to suit themselves. They had been strengthened at Dublin by three English officials, Archbishop Allan, his relative John Allan, afterwards Master of the Rolls, and Robert Cowley, the Chief Solicitor, Lord Ormond’s confidential agent. The reiterated representations of these personages induced the suspicious and irascible King to order the Earl’s attendance at London, authorizing him at the same time to appoint a substitute, for whose conduct he would be answerable. Kildare nominated his son, Lord Thomas, though not yet of man’s age; after giving him many sage advices, he sailed for England, no more to return.
The English interest at that moment had apparently reached the lowest point. The O’Briens had bridged the Shannon, and enforced their ancient claims over Limerick. So defenceless, at certain periods, was Dublin itself that Edmond Oge O’Byrne surprised the Castle by night, liberated the prisoners, and carried off the stores. This daring achievement, unprecedented even in the records of the fearless mountaineers of Wicklow, was thrown in to aggravate the alleged offences of Kildare. He was accused, moreover, of having employed the King’s great guns and other munitions of war to strengthen his own Castles of Maynooth and Ley—a charge more direct and explicit than had been alleged against him at any former period.
While the Earl lay in London Tower, an expedient very common afterwards in our history-the forging of letters and despatches-was resorted to by his enemies in Dublin, to drive the young Lord Thomas into some rash act which might prove fatal to his father and himself. Accordingly the packets brought from Chester, in the spring of 1534, repeated reports, one confirming the other, of the execution of the Earl in the Tower. Nor was there anything very improbable in such an occurrence. The cruel character of Henry had, in these same spring months, been fully developed in the execution of the reputed prophetess, Elizabeth Barton, and all her abettors. The most eminent layman in England, Sir Thomas More, and the most illustrious ecclesiastic, Bishop Fisher, had at the same time been found guilty of misprision of treason for having known of the pretended prophecies of Elizabeth without communicating their knowledge to the King. That an Anglo-Irish Earl, even of the first rank, could hope to fare better at the hands of the tyrant than his aged tutor and his trusted Chancellor, was not to be expected. When, therefore, Lord Thomas Fitzgerald flung down the sword of State on the Council table, in the hall of St. Mary’s Abbey, on the 11th day of June, 1534, and formally renounced his allegiance to King Henry as the murderer of his father, although he betrayed an impetuous and impolitic temper, there was much in the events of the times to justify his belief in the rumours of his father’s execution.
This renunciation of allegiance was a declaration of open war. The chapter thus opened in the memoirs of the Leinster Geraldines closed at Tyburn on the 3rd of February, 1537. Within these three years, the policy of annexation was hastened by several events—but by none more than this unconcerted, unprepared, reckless revolt. The advice of the imprisoned Earl to his son had been “to play the gentlest part,” but youth and rash counsels overcame the suggestions of age and experience. One great excess stained the cause of “Silken Thomas,” while it was but six weeks old. Towards the end of July, Archbishop Allan, his father’s deadly enemy, left his retreat in the Castle, and put to sea by night, hoping to escape into England. The vessel, whether by design or accident, ran ashore at Clontarf, and the neighbourhood being overrun by the insurgents, the Archbishop concealed himself at Artane. Here he was discovered, dragged from his bed, and murdered, if not in the actual presence, under the same roof with Lord Thomas. King Henry’s Bishops hurled against the assassins the greater excommunication, with all its penalties; a terrific malediction, which was, perhaps, more than counterbalanced by the Papal Bull issued against Henry and Anne Boleyn on the last day of August—the knowledge of which must have reached Ireland before the end of the year. This Bull cited Henry to appear within ninety days in person, or by attorney, at Rome, to answer for his offences against the Apostolic See; failing which, he was declared excommunicated, his subjects were absolved from their allegiance, and commanded to take up arms against their former sovereign. The ninety days expired with the month of November, 1534.
Lord Thomas, as he acted without consultation with others, so he was followed but by few persons of influence. His brothers-in-law, the chiefs of Ely and Offally, O’Moore of Leix, two of his five uncles, his relatives, the Delahides, mustered their adherents, and rallied to his standard. He held the castles of Carlow, Maynooth, Athy, and other strongholds in Kildare. He beseiged Dublin, and came to a composition with the citizens, by which they agreed to allow him free ingress to assail the Castle, into which his enemies had withdrawn. He despatched agents to the Emperor, Charles V., and the Pope, but before those agents could well have returned—March, 1535— Maynooth had been assaulted and taken by Sir William Skeffington—and the bands collected by the young lord had melted away. Lord Leonard Gray, his maternal uncle, assumed the command for the King of England, instead of Skeffington, disabled by sickness, and the abortive insurrection was extinguished in one campaign. Towards the end of August, 1535, the unfortunate Lord Thomas surrendered on the guarantee of Lord Leonard and Lord Butler; in the following year his five uncles—three of whom had never joined in the rising—were treacherously seized at a banquet given to them by Gray, and were all, with their nephew, executed at Tyburn, on the 3rd of February, 1537. The imprisoned Earl having died in the Tower on the 12th of December, 1534, the sole survivor of this historic house was now a child of twelve years of age, whose life was sought with an avidity equal to Herod’s, but who was protected with a fidelity which defeated every attempt to capture him. Alternately the guest of his aunts married to the chiefs of Offally and Donegal, the sympathy everywhere felt for him led to a confederacy between the Northern and Southern Chiefs, which had long been wanting. A loose league was formed, including the O’Neils of both branches, O’Donnell, O’Brien, the Earl of Desmond, and the chiefs of Moylurg and Breffni. The lad, the object of so much natural and chivalrous affection, was harboured for a time in Munster, thence transported through Connaught into Donegal, and finally, after four years, in which he engaged more of the minds of statesmen than any other individual under the rank of royalty, was safely landed in France. We shall meet him again in another reign, under more fortunate auspices.
Lord Leonard Gray continued in office as Deputy for nearly five years (1535-40). This interval was marked by several successes against detached clans and the parties to the Geraldine league, whom he was careful to attack only in succession. In his second campaign, O’Brien’s bridge was carried and demolished, one O’Brien was set up against another, and one O’Conor against another; the next year the Castle of Dungannon was taken from O’Neil, and Dundrum from Magennis. In 1539, he defeated O’Neil and O’Donnell, at Bolahoe, on the borders of Farney, in Monaghan, with a loss of 400 men, and the spoils they had taken from the English of Navan and Ardee. The Mayors of Dublin and Drogheda were knighted on the field for the valour they had shown at the head of their train-bands. The same year, he made a successful incursion into the territory of the Earl of Desmond, receiving the homage of many of the inferior lords, and exonerating them from the exactions of those haughty Palatines. Recalled to England in 1540, he, too, in turn, fell a victim to the sanguinary spirit of King Henry, and perished on the scaffold.
SIR ANTHONY ST. LEGER, LORD DEPUTY—NEGOTIATIONS OF THE IRISH CHIEFS WITH JAMES THE FIFTH OF SCOTLAND—FIRST ATTEMPTS TO INTRODUCE THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION— OPPOSITION OF THE CLERGY—PARLIAMENT OF 1541—THE PROCTORS OF THE CLERGY EXCLUDED—STATE OF THE COUNTRY—THE CROWNS UNITED—HENRY THE EIGHTH PROCLAIMED AT LONDON AND DUBLIN.
Upon the disgrace of Lord Leonard Gray in 1540, Sir Anthony St. Leger was appointed Deputy. He had previously been employed as chief of the commission issued in 1537, to survey land subject to the King, to inquire into, confirm, or cancel titles, and abolish abuses which might have crept in among the Englishry, whether upon the marches or within the Pale. In this employment he had at his disposal a guard of 340 men, while the Deputy and Council were ordered to obey his mandates as if given by the King in person. The commissioners were further empowered to reform the Courts of Law; to enter as King’s Counsel into both Houses of Parliament, there to urge the adoption of measures upholding English laws and customs, establishing the King’s supremacy, in spirituals as in temporals, to provide for the defence of the marches, and the better collection of the revenues. In the three years which he spent at the head of this commission, St. Leger, an eminently able and politic person, made himself intimately acquainted with Irish affairs; as a natural consequence of which knowledge he was entrusted, upon the first vacancy, with their supreme directions. In this situation he had to contend, not only with the complications long existing in the system itself, but with the formidable disturbing influence exercised by the Court of Scotland, chiefly upon and by means of the Ulster Princes.
Up to this period, the old political intimacy of Scotland and Ireland had known no diminution. The Scots in Antrim could reckon, soon after Henry’s accession to the throne, 2,000 fighting men. In 1513, in order to co-operate with the warlike movement of O’Donnell, the Scottish fleet, under the Earl of Arran, in his famous flagship, “the great Michael,” captured Carrickfergus, putting its Anglo-Irish garrison to the sword. In the same Scottish reign (that of James IV.), one of the O’Donnells had a munificent grant of lands in Kirkcudbright, as other adventurers from Ulster had from the same monarch, in Galloway and Kincardine. In 1523, while hostilities raged between Scotland and England, the Irish Chiefs entered into treaty with Francis the First of France, who bound himself to land in Ireland 15,000 men, to expel the English from “the Pale,” and to carry his arms across the channel in the quarrel of Richard de la Pole, father of the famous Cardinal, and at this time a formidable pretender to the English throne. The imbecile conduct of the Scottish Regent, the Duke of Albany, destroyed this enterprise, which, however, was but the forerunner, if it was not the model, of several similar combinations. When the Earl of Bothwell took refuge at the English Court, in 1531, he suggested to Henry VIII., among other motives for renewing the war with James V., that the latter was in league “with the Emperor, the Danish King, and O’Donnell.” The following year, a Scottish force of 4,000 men, under John, son of Alexander McDonald, Lord of the Isles, served, by permission of their King, under the banner of the Chieftain of Tyrconnell. An uninterrupted correspondence between the Ulster Chiefs and the Scottish Court may be traced through this reign, forming a curious chapter of Irish diplomacy. In 1535, we have a letter from O’Neil to James V., from which it appears that O’Neil’s Secretary was then residing at the Scottish Court; and as the crisis of the contest for the Crown drew near, we find the messages and overtures from Ulster multiplying in number and earnestness. In that critical period, James V. was between twenty and thirty years old, and his powerful minister, Cardinal Beaton, was acting by him the part that Wolsey had played by Henry at a like age. The Cardinal, favouring the French and Irish alliances, had drawn a line of Scottish policy, in relation to both those countries, precisely parallel to Wolsey’s. During the Geraldine insurrection, Henry was obliged to remonstrate with James on favours shown to his rebels of Ireland. This charge James’ ministers, in their correspondence of the year 1535, strenuously denied, while admitting that some insignificant Islesmen, over whom he could exercise no control, might have gone privily thither. In the spring of 1540, Bryan Layton, one of the English agents at the Scottish Court, communicated to Secretary Cromwell that James had fitted out a fleet of 15 ships, manned by 2,000 men, and armed with all the ordinance that he could muster; that his destination was Ireland, the Crown of which had been offered to him, the previous Lent, by “eight gentlemen,” who brought him written tenders of submission “from all the great men of Ireland,” with their seals attached; and, furthermore, that the King had declared to Lord Maxwell his determination to win such a prize as “never King of Scotland had before,” or to lose his life in the attempt. It is remarkable that in this same spring of 1540-while such was understood to be the destination of the Scottish fleet-a congress of the Chiefs of all Ireland was appointed to be held at the Abbey of Fore, in West-Meath. To prevent this meeting taking place, the whole force of the Pale, with the judges, clergy, townsmen and husbandmen, marched out under the direction of the Lords of the Council (St. Leger not having yet arrived to replace Lord Gray), but finding no such assembly as they had been led to expect, they made a predatory incursion into Roscommon, and dispersed some armed bands belonging to O’Conor. The commander in this expedition was the Marshal Sir William Brereton, for the moment one of the Lords Justices. He was followed to the field by the last Prior of Kilmainham, Sir John Rawson, the Master of the Rolls, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Bishop of Meath, Mr. Justice Luttrell, and the Barons of the Exchequer-a strange medley of civil and military dignitaries.
The prevention or postponement of the Congress at Fore must have exercised a decided influence on the expedition of James V. His great armada having put to sea, after coasting among the out-islands, and putting into a northern English port from stress of weather, returned home without achievement of any kind. Diplomatic intercourse was shortly renewed between him and Henry, but, in the following year, to the extreme displeasure of his royal kinsman, he assumed the much-prized title of “Defender of the Faith.” Another rupture took place, when the Irish card was played over again with the customary effect. In a letter of July, 1541, introducing to the Irish Chiefs the Jesuit Fathers, Salmeron, Broet, and Capata, who passed through Scotland on their way to Ireland, James styles himself “Lord of Ireland”—another insult and defiance to Henry, whose newly-acquired kingly style was then but a few weeks old. By way of retaliation, Henry ordered the Archbishop of York to search the registers of that see for evidence of his claim to the Crown of Scotland, and industriously cultivated the disaffected party amongst the Scottish nobility. At length these bickerings broke out into open war, and the short, but fatal campaign of 1542, removed another rival for the English King. The double defeat of Fala and of Solway Moss, the treason of his nobles, and the failure of his hopes, broke the heart of the high-spirited James V. He died in December, 1542, in the 33rd year of his age, a few hours after learning the birth of his daughter, so celebrated as Mary, Queen of Scots. In his last moments he pronounced the doom of the Stuart dynasty—”It came with a lass,” he exclaimed, “and it will go with a lass,” And thus it happened that the image of Ireland, which unfolds the first scene of the War of the Roses, which is inseparable from the story of the two Bruces, and which occupies so much of the first and last years of the Tudor dynasty, stands mournfully by the deathbed of the last Stuart King who reigned in Scotland—the only Prince of his race that had ever written under his name the title of “Dominus Hiberniae.”
The premature death of James was hardly more regretted by his immediate subjects than by his Irish allies. All external events now conspired to show the hopelessness of resistance to the power of King Henry. From Scotland, destined to half a century of anarchy, no help could be expected. Wales, another ancient ally of the Irish, had been incorporated with England, in 1536, and was fast becoming reconciled to the rule of a Prince, sprung from a Welsh ancestry. Francis of France and Charles V., rivals for the leadership of the Continent, were too busy with their own projects to enter into any Irish alliance. The Geraldines had suffered terrible defeats; the family of Kildare was without an adult representative; the O’Neils and O’Donnells had lost ground at Bellahoe, and were dismayed by the unlooked-for death of the King of Scotland. The arguments, therefore, by which many of the chiefs might have justified themselves to their clans in 1541, ‘2 and ‘3, for submitting to the inevitable laws of necessity in rendering homage to Henry VIII., were neither few nor weak. Abroad there was no hope of an alliance sufficient to counterbalance the immense resources of England; at home life-wasting private wars, the conflict of laws, of languages, and of titles to property, had become unbearable. That fatal family pride, which would not permit an O’Brien to obey an O’Neil, nor an O’Conor to follow either, rendered the establishment of a native monarchy—even if there had been no other obstacle— wholly impracticable. Among the clergy alone did the growing supremacy of Henry meet with any effective opposition.
At its first presentation in Ireland, and during the whole of Henry’s lifetime, the “Reformation” wore the guise of schism, as distinguished from heresy. To deny the supremacy of the Pope and admit the supremacy of the King were almost its sole tests of doctrine. All the ancient teaching in relation to the Seven Sacraments, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Real Presence, Purgatory, and Prayers for the Dead, were scrupulously retained. Subsequently, the necessity of auricular confession, the invocation of Saints, and the celibacy of the clergy came to be questioned, but they were not dogmatically assailed during this reign. The common people, where English was understood, were slow in taking alarm at these masked innovations; in the Irish-speaking districts—three-fourths of the whole country—they were only heard of as rumours from afar, but the clergy, secular and regular, were not long left in doubt as to where such steps must necessarily lead.
From 1534, the year of his divorce, until 1541, the year of his election, Henry attempted, by fits and starts, to assert his supremacy in Ireland. He appointed George Browne, a strenuous advocate of the divorce, some time Provincial of the order of St. Augustine in England, Archbishop of Dublin, vacant by the murder of Archbishop Allan. On the 12th of March, 1535, Browne was consecrated by Cranmer, whose opinions, as well as those of Secretary Cromwell, he echoed through life. He may be considered the first agent employed to introduce the Reformation into Ireland, and his zeal in that work seems to have been unwearied. He was destined, however, to find many opponents, and but few converts. Not only the Primate of Armagh, George Cromer, and almost all the episcopal order, resolutely resisted his measures, but the clergy and laity of Dublin refused to accept his new forms of prayer, or to listen to his strange teaching. He inveighs in his correspondence with Cromwell against Bassenet, Dean of St. Patrick’s, Castele, Prior of Christ’s Church, and generally against all the clergy. Of the twenty-eight secular priests in Dublin, but three could be induced to act with him; the regular orders he found equally intractable—more especially the Observantins, whose name he endeavoured to change to Conventuals. “The spirituality,” as he calls them, refused to take the oaths of abjuration and supremacy; refused to strike the name of the Bishop of Rome from their primers and mass-books, and seduced the rest into like contumacy. Finding persuasion of little avail, he sometimes resorted to harsher measures.
Dr. Sall, a grey friar of Waterford, was brought to Dublin and imprisoned for preaching the new doctrines in the Spring of 1538; Thaddeus Byrne, another friar, was put in the pillory, and was reported to have committed suicide in the Castle, on the 14th of July of the same year; Sir Humfrey, parson of Saint Owens, and the suffragan Bishop of Meath, were “clapped in ward,” for publicly praying for the Pope’s weal and the King’s conversion; another Bishop and friar were arrested and carried to Trim, for similar offences, but were liberated without trial, by Lord Deputy Gray; a friar of Waterford, in 1539, by order of the St. Leger Commission, was executed in the habit of his order, on a charge of “felony,” and so left hanging “as a mirror for all his brethren.” Yet, with all this severity, and all the temptations held out by the wealth of confiscated monasteries, none would abide the preaching of the new religion except the “Lord Butler, the Master of the Rolls (Allan), Mr. Treasurer (Brabazon), and one or two more of small reputation.”
The first test to which the firmness of the clergy had been put was in the Parliament convoked at Dublin by Lord Deputy Gray, in May, 1537. Anciently in such assemblies two proctors of each diocese, within the Pale, had been accustomed to sit and vote in the Upper House as representing their order, but the proposed tests of supremacy and abjuration were so boldly resisted by the proctors and spiritual peers on this occasion that the Lord Deputy was compelled to prorogue the Parliament without attaining its assent to those measures. During the recess a question was raised by the Crown lawyers as to the competency of the proctors to vote, while admitting their right to be present as councillors and assistants; this question, on an appeal to England, was declared in the negative, whereupon that learned body were excluded from all share in the future Irish legislation of this reign. Hence, whoever else are answerable for the election of 1541 the proctors of the clergy are not.
Having thus reduced the clerical opposition in the Upper House, the work of monastic spoliation, covertly commenced two years before, under the pretence of reforming abuses, was more confidently resumed. In 1536, an act had been passed vesting the property of all religious houses in the Crown; at which time the value of their moveables was estimated at 100,000 pounds and their yearly value at 32,000 pounds. In 1537, eight abbeys were suppressed during the King’s pleasure; in 1538, a commission issued for the suppression of monasteries; and in 1539, twenty-four great Houses, whose Abbots and Priors had been lords of Parliament, were declared “surrendered” to the King, and their late superiors were granted pensions for life. How these “surrenders” were procured we may judge from the case of Manus, Abbot of St. Mary’s, Thurles, who was carried prisoner to Dublin, and suffered a long confinement for refusing to yield up his trust according to the desired formula. The work of confiscation was in these first years confined to the walled towns in English hands, the district of the Pale, and such points of the Irish country as could be conveniently reached. The great order of the Cistercians, established for more than four centuries at Mellifont, at Monastereven, at Bective, at Jerpoint, at Tintern, and at Dunbrody, were the first expelled from their cloisters and gardens. The Canons regular of St. Augustine at Trim, at Conal, at Athassel and at Kells, were next assailed by the degenerate Augustinian, who presided over the commission. The orders of St. Victor, of Aroacia, of St. John of Jerusalem, were extinguished wherever the arm of the Reformation could reach. The mendicant orders, spread into every district of the island, were not so easily erased from the soil; very many of the Dominican and Franciscan houses standing and flourishing far into the succeeding century.
If the influence of the clergy counterbalanced the policy of the chiefs, the condition of the mass of the population—more especially of the inhabitants of the Pale and the marches—was such as to make them cherish the expectation that any governmental change whatever should be for the better. It was, under these circumstances, a far-reaching policy, which combined the causes and the remedy for social wrongs, with invectives against the old, and arguments in favour of the new religion. In order to understand what elements of discontent there were to be wrought to such conclusions, it is enough to give the merest glance at the social state of the lower classes under English authority. The St. Leger Commission represents the mixed population of the marches, and the Englishry of “the Pale” as burthened by accumulated exactions. Their lords quartered upon them at pleasure their horses, servants, and guests. They were charged with coin and livery—that is, horse-meat and man’s-meat —when their lords travelled from place to place—with summer-oats, with providing for their cosherings, or feasts, at Christmas and Easter, with “black men and black money,” for border defence, and with workmen and axemen from every ploughland, to work in the ditches, or to hew passages for the soldiery through the woods. Every aggravation of feudal wrong was inflicted on this harassed population. When a le Poer or a Butler married a daughter he exacted a sheep from every flock, and a cow from every village. When one of his sons went to England, a special tribute was levied on every village and ploughland to bear the young gentleman’s travelling expenses. When the heads of any of the great houses hunted, their dogs were to be supplied by the tenants “with bread and milk, or butter.” In the towns tailors, masons, and carpenters, were taxed for coin and livery; “mustrons” were employed in building halls, castles, stables, and barns, at the expense of the tenantry, for the sole use of the lord. The only effective law was an undigested jumble of the Brehon, the Civil, and the Common law; with the arbitrary ordinances of the marches, known as “the Statutes of Kilcash”—so called from a border stronghold near the foot of Slievenamon—a species of wild justice, resembling too often that administered by Robin Hood, or Rob Roy.
Many circumstances concurring to promote plans so long cherished by Henry, St. Leger summoned a Parliament for the morrow after Trinity Sunday, being the 13th of the month of June, 1541. The attendance on the day named was not so full as was expected, so the opening was deferred till the following Thursday—being the feast of Corpus Christi. On that festival the Mass of the Holy Ghost was solemnly celebrated in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in which “two thousand persons” had assembled. The Lords of Parliament rode in cavalcade to the Church doors, headed by the Deputy. There were seen side by side in this procession the Earls of Desmond and Ormond, the Lords Barry, Roche and Bermingham; thirteen Barons of “the Pale,” and a long train of Knights; Donogh O’Brien, Tanist of Thomond, the O’Reilly, O’Moore and McWilliam; Charles, son of Art Kavanagh, lord of Leinster, and Fitzpatrick, lord of Ossory. Never before had so many Milesian chiefs and Norman barons been seen together, except on the field of battle; never before had Dublin beheld marshalled in her streets what could by any stretch of imagination be considered a national representation. For this singularity, not less than for the business it transacted, the Parliament of 1541 will be held in lasting remembrance.
In the sanctuary of St. Patrick’s, two Archbishops and twelve Bishops assisted at the solemn mass, and the whole ceremony was highly imposing. “The like thereof,” wrote St. Leger to Henry, “has not been seen here these many years.” On the next day, Friday, the Commons elected Sir Thomas Cusack speaker, who, in “a right solemn proposition,” opened at the bar of the Lords’ House the main business of the session—the establishment of King Henry’s supremacy. To this address Lord Chancellor Allen—”well and prudentlie answered;” and the Commons withdrew to their own chamber. The substance of both speeches was “briefly and prudentlie” declared in the Irish language to the Gaelic Lords, by the Earl of Ormond, “greatly to their contentation.” Then St. Leger proposed that Henry and his heirs should have the title of King, and caused the “bill devised for the same to be read.” This bill having been put to the Lords’ House, both in Irish and English, passed its three readings at the same sitting. In the Commons it was adopted with equal unanimity the next day, when the Lord Deputy most joyfully gave his consent. Thus on Saturday, June 19th, 1541, the royalty of Ireland was first formally transferred to an English dynasty. On that day the triumphant St. Leger was enabled to write his royal master his congratulations on having added to his dignities “another imperial crown.” On Sunday bonfires were made in honour of the event, guns fired, and wine on stoop was set in the streets. All prisoners, except those for capital offences, were liberated; Te Deum was sung in St. Patrick’s, and King Henry issued his proclamation, on receipt of the intelligence, for a general pardon throughout all his dominions. The new title was confirmed with great formality by the English Parliament in their session of 1542. Proclamation was formally made of it in London, on the 1st of July of that year, when it was moreover declared that after that date all persons being lawfully convicted of opposing the new dignity should “be adjudged high traitors”—”and suffer the pains of death.”
Thus was consummated the first political union of Ireland with England. The strangely-constituted Assembly, which had given its sanction to the arrangement, in the language of the Celt, the Norman, and the Saxon, continued in session till the end of July, when they were prorogued till November. They enacted several statutes, in completion of the great change they had decreed; and while some prepared for a journey to the court of their new sovereign, others returned to their homes, to account as best they could for the part they had played at Dublin.
ADHESION OF O’NEIL, O’DONNELL AND O’BRIEN—A NEW ANGLO-IRISH PEERAGE—NEW RELATIONS OF LORD AND TENANT—BISHOPS APPOINTED BY THE CROWN—RETROSPECT.
The Act of Election could hardly be considered as the Act of the Irish nation, so long as several of the most distinguished chiefs withheld their concurrence. With these, therefore, Saint Leger entered into separate treaties, by separate instruments, agreed upon, at various dates, during the years 1542 and 1543. Manus O’Donnell, lord of Tyrconnell, gave in his adhesion in August, 1541, Con O’Neil, lord of Tyrowen, Murrogh O’Brien, lord of Thomond, Art O’Moore, lord of Leix, and Ulick Burke, lord of Clanrickarde, 1542 and 1543; but, during the reign of Henry, no chief of the McCarthys, the O’Conors of Roscommon or of Offally, entered into any such engagement. The election, therefore, was far from unanimous, and Henry VIII. would perhaps be classed by our ancient Senachies among the “Kings with opposition,” who figure so often in our Annals during the Middle Ages.
Assuming, however, the title conferred upon him with no little complacency, Henry proceeded to exercise the first privilege of a sovereign, the creation of honours. Murrogh O’Brien, chief of his name, became Earl of Thomond, and Donogh, his nephew, Baron of Ibrackan; Ulick McWilliam Burke became Earl of Clanrickarde and Baron of Dunkellin; Hugh O’Donnell was made Earl of Tyrconnell; Fitzpatrick, became Baron of Ossory, and Kavanagh, Baron of Ballyan; Con O’Neil was made Earl of Tyrone, having asked, and been refused, the higher title of Earl of Ulster. The order of Knighthood was conferred on several of the principal attendants, and to each of the new peers the King granted a house in or near Dublin, for their accommodation, when attending the sittings of Parliament.
The imposing ceremonial of the transformation of these Celtic chiefs into English Earls has been very minutely described by an eye-witness. One batch were made at Greenwich Palace, after High Mass on Sunday, the 1st of July, 1543. The Queen’s closet “was richly hanged with cloth of arras and well strawed with rushes,” for their robing room. The King received them under a canopy of state, surrounded by his Privy Council, the peers, spiritual and temporal, the Earl of Glencairn, Sir George Douglas, and the other Scottish Commissioners. The Earls of Derby and Ormond led in the new Earl of Thomond, Viscount Lisle carrying before them the sword. The Chamberlain handed his letters patent to the Secretary who read them down to the words Cincturam gladii, when the King girt the kneeling Earl, baldric-wise, with the sword, all the company standing. A similar ceremony was gone through with the others, the King throwing a gold chain having a cross hanging to it round each of their necks. Then, preceded by the trumpeters blowing, and the officers at arms, they entered the dining hall, where, after the second course, their titles were proclaimed aloud in Norman-French by Garter, King at Arms. Nor did Henry, who prided himself on his munificence, omit even more substantial tokens of his favour to the new Peers. Besides the town houses near Dublin, before mentioned, he granted to O’Brien all the abbeys and benefices of Thomond, bishoprics excepted; to McWilliam Burke, all the parsonages and vicarages of Clanrickarde, with one-third of the first-fruits, the Abbey of Via Nova and 30 pounds a year compensation for the loss of the customs of Galway; to Donogh O’Brien, the Abbey of Ellenegrane, the moiety of the Abbey of Clare, and an annuity of 20 pounds a year. To the new lord of Ossory he granted the monasteries of Aghadoe and Aghmacarte, with the right of holding court lete and market, every Thursday, at his town of Aghadoe. For these and other favours the recipients had been instructed to petition the King, and drafts of such petitions had been drawn up in anticipation of their arrival in England, by some official hand. The petitions are quoted by most of our late historians as their own proper act, but it is quite clear, though willing enough to present them and to accept such gifts, they had never dictated them.
In the creation of this Peerage Henry proclaimed, in the most practical manner possible, his determination to assimilate the laws and institutions of Ireland to those of England. And the new made Earls, forgetting their ancient relations to their clans—forgetting, as O’Brien had answered St. Leger’s first overtures three years before, “that though he was captain of his nation he was still but one man,” by suing out royal patents for their lands, certainly consented to carry out the King’s plans. The Brehon law was doomed from the date of the creation of the new Peers at Greenwich, for such a change entailed among its first consequences a complete abrogation of the Gaelic relations of clansman and chief.
By the Brehon law every member of a free clan was as truly a proprietor of the tribe-land as the chief himself. He could sell his share, or the interest in it, to any other member of the tribe—the origin, perhaps, of what is now called tenant-right; he could not, however, sell to a stranger without the consent of the tribe and the chief. The stranger coming in under such an arrangement, held by a special tenure, yet if he remained during the time of three lords he became thereby naturalized. If the unnaturalized tenant withdrew of his own will from the land he was obliged to leave all his improvements behind; but if he was ejected he was entitled to get their full value. Those who were immediate tenants of the chief, or of the church, were debarred this privilege of tenant-right, and if unable to keep their holdings were obliged to surrender them unreservedly to the church or the chief. All the tribesmen, according to the extent of their possessions, were bound to maintain the chief’s household, and to sustain him, with men and means, in his offensive and defensive wars. Such were, in brief, the land laws in force over three-fourths of the country in the sixteenth century; laws which partook largely of the spirit of an ancient patriarchal justice, but which, in ages of movement, exchange, and enterprise, would have been found the reverse of favourable to individual freedom and national strength. There were not wanting, we may be assured, many minds to whom this truth was apparent so early as the age of Henry VIII. And it may not be unreasonable to suppose that one of the advantages which the chief found in exchanging this patriarchal position for a feudal Earldom would be the greater degree of independence on the will of the tribe, which the new system conferred on him. With the mass of the clansmen, however, for the very same reason, the change was certain to be unpopular, if not odious. But a still more serious change—a change of religion—was evidently contemplated by those Earls who accepted the property of the confiscated religious houses. The receiver of such estates could hardly pretend to belong to the ancient religion of the country.
It is impossible to understand Irish history from the reign of Henry VIII. till the fall of James II.—nearly two hundred years—without constantly keeping in mind the dilemma of the chiefs and lords between the requirements of the English Court on the one hand and of the native clans on the other. Expected to obey and to administer conflicting laws, to personate two characters, to speak two languages, to uphold the old, yet to patronize the new order of things; distrusted at Court if they inclined to the people, detested by the people if they leaned towards the Court—a more difficult situation can hardly be conceived. Their perilous circumstances brought forth a new species of Irish character in the Chieftain-Earls of the Tudor and Stuart times. Not less given to war than their forefathers, they were now compelled to study the politician’s part, even more than the soldier’s. Brought personally in contact with powerful Sovereigns, or pitted at home against the Sydneys, Mountjoys, Chichesters, and Straffords, the lessons of Bacon and Machiavelli found apt scholars in the halls of Dunmanway and Dungannon. The multitude, in the meanwhile, saw only the broad fact that the Chief had bowed his neck to the hated Saxon yoke, and had promised, or would be by and by compelled, to introduce foreign garrisons, foreign judges, and foreign laws, amongst the sons of the Gael. Very early they perceived this; on the adhesion of O’Donnell to the Act of Election, a part of his clansmen, under the lead of his own son, rose up against his authority. A rival McWilliam was at once chosen to the new Earl of Clanrickarde, in the West. Con O’Neil, the first of his race who had accepted an English title, was imprisoned by his son, John the Proud, and died of grief during his confinement. O’Brien found, on his return from Greenwich, half his territory in revolt; and this was the general experience of all Henry’s electors. Yet such was the power of the new Sovereign that, we are told in our Annals, at the year 1547—the year of Henry’s death —”no one dared give food or protection” to those few patriotic chiefs who still held obstinately out against the election of 1541.
The creation of a new peerage coincided in point of time with the first unconditional nomination of new Bishops by the Crown. The Plantagenet Kings, in common with all feudal Princes, had always claimed the right of investing Bishops with their temporalities and legal dignities; while, at the same time, they recognized in the See of Rome the seat and centre of Apostolic authority. But Henry, excommunicated and incorrigible, had procured from the Parliament of “the Pale,” three years before the Act of Election, the formal recognition of his spiritual supremacy, under which he proceeded, as often as he had an opportunity, to promote candidates for the episcopacy to vacant sees. Between 1537 and 1547, thirteen or fourteen such vacancies having occurred, he nominated to the succession whenever the diocese was actually within his power. In this way the Sees of Dublin, Kildare, Ferns, Ardagh, Emly, Tuam and Killaloe were filled up; while the vacancies which occurred about the same period in Armagh, Clogher, Clonmacnoise, Clonfert, Kilmore, and Down and Conor were supplied from Rome. Many of the latter were allowed to take possession of their temporalities —so far as they were within English power—by taking an oath of allegiance, specially drawn for them. Others, when prevented from so doing by the penalties of praemunire, delegated their authority to Vicars General, who contrived to elude the provisions of the statute. On the other hand, several of the King’s Bishops, excluded by popular hostility from the nominal sees, never resided upon them; some of them spent their lives in Dublin, and others were entertained as suffragans by Bishops in England.
In March, 1543, Primate Cromer, who had so resolutely led the early opposition to Archbishop Browne, died, whereupon Pope Paul III. appointed Robert Waucop, a Scotsman (by some writers called Venantius), to the See of Armagh. This remarkable man, though afflicted with blindness from his youth upwards, was a doctor of the Sorbonne, and one of the most distinguished Prelates of his age. He introduced the first Jesuit Fathers into Ireland, and to him is attributed the establishment of that intimate intercourse between the Ulster Princes and the See of Rome, which characterized the latter half of the century. He assisted at the Council of Trent from 1545 to 1547, was subsequently employed as Legate in Germany, and died abroad during the reign of Edward VI. Simultaneously with the appointment of Primate Waucop, Henry VIII. had nominated to the same dignity George Dowdal, a native of Louth, formerly Prior of the crutched friars at Ardee, in that county. Though Dowdal accepted the nomination, he did so without acknowledging the King’s supremacy in spirituals. On the contrary he remained attached to the Holy See, and held his claims in abeyance, during the lifetime of Waucop. On the death of the latter, he assumed his rank, but was obliged to fly into exile, during the reign of Edward. On the accession of Mary he was recalled from his place of banishment in Brabant, and his first official act on returning home was to proclaim a Jubilee for the public restoration of the Catholic worship.
The King’s Bishops during the last years of Henry, and the brief reign of Edward, were, besides Browne of Dublin, Edward Staples, Bishop of Meath, Matthew Saunders and Robert Travers, successively Bishops of Leighlin, William Miagh and Thomas Lancaster, successively Bishops of Kildare, and John Bale, Bishop of Ossory—all Englishmen. The only native names, before the reign of Elizabeth, which we find associated in any sense with the “reformation,” are John Coyn, or Quin, Bishop of Limerick, and Dominick Tirrey, Bishop of Cork and Cloyne. Dr. Quin was promoted to the See in 1522, and resigned his charge in the year 1551. He is called a “favourer” of the new doctrines, but it is not stated how far he went in their support. His successor, Dr. William Casey, was one of the six Bishops deprived by Queen Mary on her accession to the throne. As Bishop Tirrey is not of the number—although he lived till the third year of Mary’s reign—we may conclude that he became reconciled to the Holy See.
The native population became, before Henry’s death, fully aroused to the nature of the new doctrines, to which at first they had paid so little attention. The Commission issued in 1539 to Archbishop Browne and others for the destruction of images and relics, and the prevention of pilgrimages, as well as the ordering of English prayers as a substitute for the Mass, brought home to all minds the sweeping character of the change. Our native Annals record the breaking out of the English schism from the year 1537, though its formal introduction into Ireland may, perhaps, be more accurately dated from the issuing of the Ecclesiastical Commission of 1539. In their eyes it was the offspring of “pride, vain-glory, avarice, and lust,” and its first manifestations were well calculated to make it for ever odious on Irish soil. “They destroyed the religious orders,” exclaimed the Four Masters! “They broke down the monasteries, and sold their roofs and bells, from Aran of the Saints to the Iccian Sea!” “They burned the images, shrines, and relics of the Saints; they destroyed the Statue of our Lady of Trim, and the Staff of Jesus, which had been in the hand of St. Patrick!” Such were the works of that Commission as seen by the eyes of Catholics, natives of the soil. The Commissioners themselves, however, gloried in their work, and pointed with complacency to their success. The “innumerable images” which adorned the churches were dashed to pieces; the ornaments of shrines and altars, when not secreted in time, were torn from their places, and beaten into shapeless masses of metal. This harvest yielded in the first year nearly 3,000 pounds, on an inventory, wherein we find 1,000 lbs. weight of wax, manufactured into candles and tapers, valued at 20 pounds. Such was the return made to the revenue; what share of the spoil was appropriated by the agents employed may never be known. It would be absurd, however, to expect a scrupulous regard to honesty in men engaged in the work of sacrilege! And this work, it must be added, was carried on in the face of the stipulation entered into with the Parliament of 1541, that “the Church of Ireland shall be free, and enjoy all its accustomed privileges.”
The death of Henry, in January, 1547, found the Reformation in Ireland at the stage just described. But though all attempts to diffuse a general recognition of his spiritual power had failed, his reign will ever be memorable as the epoch of the union of the English and Irish Crowns. Before closing the present Book of our History, in which we have endeavoured to account for that great fact, and to trace the progress of the negotiations which led to its accomplishment, we must briefly review the relations existing between the Kings of England and the Irish nation, from Henry II. to Henry VIII.
If we are to receive a statement of considerable antiquity, a memorable compromise effected at the Council of Constance, between the ambassadors of France and England, as to who should take precedence, turned mainly on this very point. The French monarchy was then at its lowest, the English at its highest pitch, for Charles VI. was but a nominal sovereign of France, while the conqueror of Agincourt sat on the throne of England. Yet in the first assembly of the Prelates and Princes of Europe, we are told that the ambassadors of France raised a question of the right of the English envoys to be received as representing a nation, seeing that they had been conquered not only by the Romans, but by the Saxons. Their argument further was, that, “as the Saxons were tributaries to the German Empire, and never governed by native sovereigns, they [the English] should take place as a branch only of the German empire, and not as a free nation. For,” argued the French, “it is evident from Albertus Magnus and Bartholomew Glanville, that the world is divided into three parts, Europe, Asia, and Africa;—that Europe is divided into four empires, the Roman, Constantinopolitan, the Irish, and the Spanish.” “The English advocates,” we are told, “admitting the force of these allegations, claimed their precedency and rank from Henry’s being monarch of Ireland, and it was accordingly granted.”
If this often-told anecdote is of any historical value, it only shows the ignorance of the representatives of France in yielding their pretensions on so poor a quibble. Neither Henry V., nor any other English sovereign before him, had laid claim to the title of “Monarch of Ireland.” The indolence or ignorance of modern writers has led them, it is true, to adopt the whole series of the Plantagenet Kings as sovereigns of Ireland—to set up in history a dynasty which never existed for us; to leave out of their accounts of a monarchical people all question of their crown; and to pass over the election of 1541 without adequate, or any inquiry.
It is certain that neither Henry II., nor Richard I., ever used in any written instrument, or graven sign, the style of king, or even lord of Ireland; though in the Parliament held at Oxford in the year 1185, Henry conferred on his youngest son, John lack-land, a title which he did not himself possess, and John is thenceforth known in English history as “Lord of Ireland.” This honour was not, however, of the exclusive nature of sovereignty, else John could hardly have borne it during the lifetime of his father and brother. And although we read that Cardinal Octavian was sent into England by Pope Urban III., authorized to consecrate John, King of Ireland, no such consecration took place, nor was the lordship looked upon, at any period, as other than a creation of the royal power of England existing in Ireland, which could be recalled, transferred, or alienated, without detriment to the prerogative of the King.
Neither had this original view of the relations existing between England and Ireland undergone any change at the time of the Council of Constance. Of this we have a curious illustration in the style employed by the Queen Dowager of Henry V., who, during the minority of her son, granted charters, as “Queen of England and France, and lady of Ireland.” The use of different crowns in the coronations of all the Tudors subsequent to Henry VIII. shows plainly how the recent origin of their secondary title was understood and acknowledged during the remainder of the sixteenth century. Nothing of the kind was practised at the coronation of the Plantagenet Princes, nor were the arms of Ireland quartered with those of England previous to the period we have described—the memorable year, 1541.