James Anthony Froude
Charles Scribner and Company.
THE IRISH REBELLION.
The Pander1 sheweth, in the first chapter of his book, called Salus Populi, that the holy woman, Brigitta, used to inquire of her good angel many questions of secrets divine; and among all other she inquired, ‘Of what Christian land was most souls damned?’ The angel shewed her a land in the west part of the world. She inquired the cause why? The angel said, for there is most continual war, root of hate and envy, and of vices contrary to charity; and without charity the souls cannot be saved. And the angel did shew to her the lapse of the souls of Christian folk of that land, how they fell down into hell, as thick as any hail showers. And pity thereof moved the Pander to conceive his said book, as in the said chapter plainly doth appear; for after his opinion, this [Ireland] is the land that the angel understood; for there is no land in this world of so continual war within itself; ne of so great shedding of Christian blood; ne of so great robbing, spoiling, preying, and burning; ne of so great wrongful extortion continually, as Ireland. Wherefore it cannot be denied by very estimation of man but that the angel did understand the land of Ireland.’2
Nine hundred years had passed away since the vision of the Holy Brigitta, and four hundred since the custody of the unfortunate country had been undertaken by the most orderly nation in the world; yet, at the close of all those centuries, ‘it could not be denied by very estimation of man’ that poor Irish souls were still descending, thick as hail showers, into the general abyss of worthlessness. The Pander’s satire upon the English enterprise was a heavy one.
When the wave of the Norman invasion first rolled across St George’s Channel, the success was as easy and appeared as complete as William’s conquest of the Saxons. There was no unity of purpose among the Irish chieftains, no national spirit which could support a sustained resistance. The country was open and undefended,3 and after a few feeble struggles the contest ceased. Ireland is a basin, the centre a fertile undulating plain, the edges a fringe of mountains that form an almost unbroken coast line. Into these highlands the Irish tribes were driven, where they were allowed to retain a partial independence, under condition of paying tribute; the Norman immigrants dividing among themselves the inheritance of the dispossessed inhabitants.4 Strongbow and his companions became the feudal sovereigns of the island, holding their estates under the English Crown. The common law of England was introduced; the King’s writ passed current from the Giant’s Causeway to Cape Clear;5 and if the leading Norman families had remained on the estates which they had conquered, or if those who did remain had retained the character which they brought with them, the entire country would, in all likelihood, have settled down obediently, and at length willingly, under a rule which, it would have been without power to resist.
An expectation so natural was defeated by two causes, alike unforeseen and perplexing. The Northern nations, when they overran the Roman Empire, were in search of homes; and they subdued only to colonize. The feudal system bound the noble to the lands which he possessed; and a theory of ownership of estates, as consisting merely in the receipt of rents from othet occupants, was alike unheard of in fact, and repugnant to the principles of feudal society. To Ireland belongs, among its other misfortunes, the credit of having first given birth to absentees. The descendants of the first invaders preferred to regard their inheritance, not as a theatre of duty on which they were to reside, but as a possession which they might farm for their individual advantage. They managed their properties by agents, as sources of revenue, leasing them even among the Irish themselves; and the tenantry, deprived of the supporting presence of their lords, and governed only in a merely mercenary spirit, transferred back their allegiance to the exiled chiefs of the old race.6 1 This was one grave cause of the English failure; but serious as it was, it would not have sufficed alone to explain the full extent of the evil. Some most powerful families rooted themselves in the soil, and never forsook it; the Geraldines, of Munster and Kildare; the Butlers, of Kilkenny; the De Burghs, the Birminghams, the De Courcies, and many others. If these had been united among themselves, or had retained their allegiance to England, their influence could not have been long opposed successfully. Their several principalities would have formed separate centres of civilization; and the strong system of order would have absorbed and superseded the most obstinate resistance which could have been offered by the scattered anarchy of the Celts.
Unfortunately, the materials of good were converted into the worst instruments of evil. If an objection had been raised to the colonization of America, or to the conquest of India, on the ground that the character of Englishmen would be too weak to contend successfully against that of the races with whom they would be brought into contact, and that they would relapse into barbarism, such an alarm would have seemed too preposterous to be entertained; yet, prior to experience, it would have been equally reasonable to expect that the modern Englishman would adopt the habits of the Hindoo or the Mohican, as that the fiery knights of Normandy would have stooped to imitate a race whom they despised as slaves; that they would have flung away their very knightly names to assume a barbarous equivalent;7 and would so utterly have cast aside the commanding features of their Northern extraction, that their children’s children could be distinguished neither in soul nor body, neither in look, in dress, in language, nor in disposition, from the Celts whom they had subdued. Such, however, was the extraordinary fact. The Irish who had been conquered in the field revenged their defeat on the minds and hearts of their conquerors; and in yielding, yielded only to fling over their new masters the subtle spell of the Celtic disposition. In vain the Government attempted to stem the evil. Statute was passed after statute forbidding the ‘Englishry’ of Ireland to use the Irish language, or inter-marry with Irish families, or copy Irish habits.8 Penalties were multiplied on penalties; fines, forfeitures, and at last death itself, were threatened for such offences. But all in vain. The stealthy evil crept on irresistibly.9 Fresh colonists were sent over to restore the system, but only for themselves or their children to be swept into the stream; and from the century which succeeded the Conquest till the reign of the eighth Henry, the strange phenomenon repeated itself, generation after generation, baffling the wisdom of statesmen, and paralyzing every effort at a remedy.
Here was a difficulty which no skill could contend against, and which was increased by the exertions which were made to oppose it. The healthy elements which were introduced to leaven the old became themselves infected, and swelled the mass of evil; and the clearest observers were those who were most disposed to despair. Popery has been the scapegoat which, for the last three centuries, has borne the reproach of Ireland; but before Popery had ceased to be the faith of the world, the problem had long presented itself in all its hopelessness. ‘Some say’ (this is the language of 1515), ‘and for the most part every man, that to find the antidotum for this disease is impossible—for what remedy can be had now more than hath been had unto this time? And there was never remedy found in this two hundred year that could prosper; and no medicine can be had now for this infirmity but such as hath been had afore this time. And folk were as wise that time as they be now; and since they could never find remedy, how should remedy be found by us? And the Pander maketh answer and saith, that it is no marvel that our fathers that were of more wit and wisdom than we, could not find remedy in the premises, for the herbs did never grow. And also he saith that the wealth and prosperity of every land is the common wealth of the same, and not the private wealth; and all the English noble folk of this land passeth always their private weal; and in regard thereof setteth little or nought by the common weal; insomuch as there is no common folk in all this world so little set by, so greatly despised, so feeble, so poor, so greatly trodden under foot, as the king’s poor common folk be of Ireland.’10 There was no true care for the common weal—that was the especial peculiarity by which the higher classes in Ireland were unfortunately distinguished. In England, the last consideration of a noble-minded man was his personal advantage; Ireland was a theatre for a universal scramble of selfishness, and the invaders caught the national contagion, and became, as the phrase went, ipsis Hibernis Hiberniores.
The explanation of this disastrous phenomenon lay partly in the circumstances in which they were placed, partly in the inherent tendencies of human nature itself. The Norman nobles entered Ireland as independent adventurers, who, each for himself, carved out his fortune with his sword; and, unsupported as they were from home, or supported only at precarious intervals, divided from one another by large tracts of country, and surrounded by Irish dependents, it was doubtless more convenient for them to govern by humouring the habits and traditions to which their vassals would most readily submit. The English Government, occupied with Scotland and France, had no leisure to maintain a powerful central authority; and a central disciplinarian rule enforced by the sword was contrary to the genius of the age. Under the feudal system, the kings governed only by the consent and with the support of the nobility; and the maintenance at Dublin of a standing military force would have been regarded with extreme suspicion in England, as well as in Ireland. Hence the affairs of both countries were, for the most part, administered under the same forms, forms which were as ill suited to the waywardness of the Celt, as they met exactly the stronger nature of the Saxon. At intervals, when the Government was exasperated by unusual outrages, some prince of the blood was sent across as viceroy; and half a century of acquiescence in disorder would be followed by a spasmodic severity, which irritated without subduing, and forfeited affection while it failed to terrify. At all other times, Ireland was governed by the Norman Irish, and these, as the years went on, were tempted by their convenience to strengthen themselves by Irish alliances, to identify their interests with those of the native chiefs, in order to conciliate their support; to prefer the position of wild and independent sovereigns, resting on the attachment of a people whose affections they had gained by learning to resemble them, to that of military lords over a hostile population, the representatives of a distant authority, on which they could not rely.
This is a partial account of the Irish difficulty. We must look deeper, however, for the full interpretation of it; and outward circumstances never alone suffice to explain a moral transformation. The Roman military colonists remained Roman alike on the Rhine and on the Euphrates. The Turkish conquerors caught no infection from Greece, or from the provinces on the Danube. The Celts in England were absorbed by the Saxon invaders; and the Mogul and the Anglo-Indian alike have shown no tendency to assimilate with, the Hindoo. When a marked type of human character yields before another, the change is owing to some element of power in that other, which coming in contact with elements weaker than itself, subdues and absorbs them. The Irish spirit, which exercised so fatal a fascination, was enabled to triumph over the Norman in virtue of representing certain perennial tendencies of humanity, which are latent in all mankind, and which opportunity may at any moment develope. It was not a national spirit—the clans were never united, except by some common hatred; and the normal relation of the chiefs towards each other was a relation of chronic war and hostility. It was rather an impatience of control, a deliberate preference for disorder, a determination in each individual man to go his own way, whether it was a good way or a bad, and a reckless hatred of industry. The result was the inevitable one—oppression, misery, and wrong. But in detail faults and graces were so interwoven, that the offensiveness of the evil was disguised by the charm of the good; and even the Irish vices were the counterfeit of virtues, contrived so cunningly that it was hard to distinguish their true texture. The fidelity of the clansmen to their leaders was faultlessly beautiful; extravagance appeared like generosity, and improvidence like unselfishness: anarchy disguised itself under the name of liberty; and war and plunder were decorated by poetry as the honourable occupation of heroic natures. Such were the Irish with whom the Norman conquerors found themselves in contact; and over them all was thrown a peculiar imaginative grace, a careless atmosphere of humour, sometimes gay, sometimes melancholy, always attractive, which at once disarmed the hand which was raised to strike or punish them. These spirits were dangerous neighbours. Men who first entered the country at mature age might be fortified by experience against their influence, but on the young they must have exerted a charm of fatal potency. The foster-nurse first chanted the spell over the cradle in wild passionate melodies.11 It was breathed in the ears of the growing boy by the minstrels who haunted the halls,12 and the lawless attractions of disorder proved too strong for the manhood which was trained among so perilous associations.
For such a country, therefore, but one form of government could succeed—an efficient military despotism. The people could be wholesomely controlled only by an English deputy, sustained by an English army, and armed with arbitrary power, till the inveterate turbulence of their tempers had died away under repression, and they had learnt in their improved condition the value of order and rule. This was the opinion of all statesmen who possessed any real knowledge of Ireland, from Lord Talbot under Henry VI. to the latest viceroy who attempted a milder method and found it fail. ‘If the King were as wise as Solomon the Sage,’ said the report of 1515, ‘he shall never subdue the wild Irish to his obedience without dread of the sword and of the might and strength of his power. As long as they may resist and save their lives, they will not obey the King.’13 Unfortunately, although English statesmen were able to see the course which ought to be followed, it had been too inconvenient to pursue that course. They had put off the evil day, preferring to close their eyes against the mischief instead of grappling with it resolutely; and thus, at the opening of the sixteenth century, when the hitherto neglected barbarians were about to become a sword in the Pope’s hands to fight the battle against the Reformation, the ‘King’s Irish enemies’ had recovered all but absolute possession of the island, and nothing remained of Strongbow’s conquests save the shadow of a titular sovereignty, and a country strengthened in hostility by the means which had been used to subdue it.
The events on which we are about to enter require for their understanding a sketch of the position of the various chiefs, as they were at this time scattered over the island. The English pale, originally comprising ‘the four shires,’ as they were called, of Dublin, Kildare, Meath, and Uriel, or Louth, had been shorn down to half its old dimensions. The line extended from Dundalk to Ardee; from Ardee by Castletown to Kells; thence through Athboy and Trim to the Castle of Maynooth; from Maynooth it crossed to Claine upon the Liffey, and then followed up the line of the river to Baltimore Eustace, from which place it skirted back at the rear of the Wicklow and Dublin mountains to the forts at Dalkey, seven miles south of Dublin.14 This narrow strip alone, some fifty miles long and twenty broad, was in any sense English. Beyond the borders the common law of England was of no authority; the King’s writ was but a strip of parchment; and the country was parcelled among a multitude of independent chiefs, who acknowledged no sovereignty but that of strength, who levied tribute on the inhabitants of the pale as a reward for a nominal protection of their rights, and as a compensation for abstaining from the plunder of their farms.15 Their swords were their sceptres; their codes of right, the Brehon traditions—a convenient system, which was called law, but which in practice was a happy contrivance for the composition of felonies.16
These chiefs, with their dependent clans, were distributed over the four provinces in the following order. The Geraldines, the most powerful of the remaining Normans, were divided into two branches. The Geraldines of the south, under the Earls of Desmond, held Limerick, Cork, and Kerry; the Geraldines of Leinster lay along the frontiers of the English pale; and the heads of the house, the Earls of Kildare, were the feudal superiors of the greater portion of the English counties. To the Butlers, Earls of Ormond and Ossory, belonged Kilkenny, Carlow, and Tipperary. The De Burghs, or Bourkes, as they called themselves, were scattered over Galway, Roscommon, and the south of Sligo, occupying the broad plains which lie between the Shannon and the mountains of Connemara and Mayo. This was the relative position into which these clans had settled at the Conquest, and it had been maintained with little variation.
The north, which had fallen to the Lacies and the De Courcies, had been wholly recovered by the Irish. The Lacies had become extinct. The De Courcies, once Earls of Ulster, had migrated to the south, and were reduced to the petty fief of Kinsale, which they held under the Desmonds. The Celtic chieftains had returned from the mountains to which they had been driven, bringing back with them, more intensely than ever, the Irish habits and traditions. Old men, who were alive in 1533, remembered a time when the Norman families attempted to live in something of an English manner,17 and when there were towns in the middle of Ireland with decent municipal institutions. The wars of the Roses had destroyed the remnants of English influence by calling away a number of leading nobles, such especially as were least infected by the Irish character; and the native chiefs had reoccupied the lands of their ancestors, unresisted, if not welcomed as allies. The O’Neils and O’Donnells had spread down over Ulster to the frontiers of the pale. The O’Connors and O’Carrolls had recrossed the Shannon, and pushed forwards into Kildare; the O’Connor Don was established in a castle near Portarlington, said to be one of the strongest in Ireland; and the O’Carroll had seized Leap, an ancient Danish, fortress, surrounded by bog and forest, a few miles from Parsonstown. O’Brien of Inchiquin, Prince—as he styled himself—of Thomond, no longer contented with his principality of Clare, had thrown a bridge across the Shannon five miles above Limerick, and was thus enabled to enter Munster at his pleasure and spread his authority towards the south; while the M’Carties and O’Sullivans, in Cork and Kerry, were only not dangerous to the Earls of Desmond, because the Desmonds were more Irish than themselves, and were accepted as their natural chiefs.
In Tipperary and Kilkenny only the Celtic reaction was held in check. The Earls of Ormond, although they were obliged themselves to live as Irish chieftains, and to govern by the Irish law, yet partly from an inherent nobility of nature, partly through family alliances and a more sustained intercourse with their English kindred, partly perhaps from the inveterate feud of their house with both branches of the Geraldines, remained true to their allegiance, and maintained the English authority so far as their power extended. That power, unfortunately, was incommensurate with their good will, and their situation prevented them from rendering the assistance to the Crown which they desired. Wexford, Wicklow, and the mountains of Dublin, were occupied by the highland tribes of O’Bryne and O’Toole, who, in their wild glens and dangerous gorges, defied attempts to conquer them, and who were able, at all times, issuing down out of the passes of the hills, to cut off communication with the pale. Thus the Butlers had no means of reaching Dublin except through the county of Kildare, the home of their hereditary rivals and foes.
This is a general account of the situation of the various parties in Ireland at the beginning of the sixteenth century. I have spoken only of the leading families; and I have spoken of them as if they possessed some feudal supremacy—yet even this slight thread of order was in many cases without real consistency, and was recognized only when fear, or passion, or interest, prompted. ‘There be sixty counties, called regions, in Ireland,’ says the report of 1515, ‘inhabited with the King’s Irish enemies, some regions as big as a shire, some more, some less, where reigneth more than sixty chief captains, whereof some calleth themselves kings, some king’s peers in their language, some princes, some dukes, that liveth only by the sword, and obeyeth to no other temporal person save only to himself that is strong. And every of the said captains maketh war and peace for himself, and holdeth by the sword, and hath imperial jurisdiction, and obeyeth no other person, English or Irish, except only to such persons as may subdue him by the sword.… Also, in every of the said regions, there be divers petty captains, and every of them maketh war and peace for himself, without license of his chief captain.… And there be more than thirty of the English noble folk that followeth this same Irish order, and keepeth the same rule.’18 Every man, in short, who could raise himself to that dishonourable position, was captain of a troop of banditti, and counted it his chief honour to live upon the plunder of his neighbour.
This condition of things might have been expected to work its own cure. The earth will not support human life uncultivated, and men will not labour without some reasonable hope that they will enjoy the fruit of their labour. Anarchy, therefore, is usually shortlived, and perishes of inanition. Unruly persons must either comply with the terms on which alone they are permitted to subsist, and consent to submit to some kind of order, or they must die. The Irish, however, were enabled to escape from this most wholesome provision by the recklessness of the people, who preferred any extremity of suffering to the endurance of the least restraint, and by the tyranny under which the labouring poor were oppressed. In England, the same hands were trained to hold the sword and to hold the plough. The labourers and the artisans in peace were the soldiers in war. In Ireland, labour was treated as disgraceful; the chiefs picked out the strongest and fiercest of their subjects, and trained them only to fight; the labourers were driven to the field as beasts of burden, and compelled to work on the chance that the harvest might be secured. By this precarious means, with the addition of the wild cattle which roamed in thousands among the woods and bogs, sufficient sustenance was extracted from the soil to support a scanty population, the majority of whom were supposed to be the most wretched specimens of human nature which could be found upon the globe. ‘What common folk in all this world,’ the report says, ‘is so poor, so feeble, so evil beseen in town and field, so bestial, so greatly oppressed and trodden under foot, fares so evil, with so great misery, and with so wretched life, as the common folk of Ireland? What pity is here, what ruth is to report, there is no tongue that can tell, ne person that can write. It passeth far the orators and muses all to shew the order of the nobles, and how cruel they entreateth the poor common people. What danger it is to the King against God to suffer his land, whereof he bears the charge and the cure temporal, to be in the said misorder so long without remedy. It were more honour to surrender his claim thereto, and to make no longer prosecution thereof, than to suffer his poor subjects always to be so oppressed, and all the nobles of the land to be at war within themselves, always shedding of Christian blood without remedy. The herd must render account for his fold; and the King for his.’19
The English writer did not exaggerate the picture, for his description is too abundantly confirmed in every page of the Celtic Annalists, with only but a single difference. To the Englishman the perpetual disturbance appeared a dishonour and disgrace; to the Celt it was the normal and natural employment of human beings, in the pursuit of which lay the only glory and the only manly pleasure.
A population of such a character presented in itself a difficulty sufficiently formidable; and this difficulty was increased by the character of the family on whom the circumstances of their position most obliged the English Government to rely. There were two methods of maintaining the show of English sovereignty. Either an English deputy might reside in Dublin, supported by a standing army; or it was necessary to place confidence in one or other of the great Irish noblemen, and to govern through him. Either method had its disadvantages. The expense of the first was enormous, for the pay of the common soldier was sixpence or eightpence a day—an equivalent of six or eight shillings; and as the arrival of an English deputy was the signal for a union throughout Ireland of all septs and clans against a common enemy, his presence was worse than useless, unless he could maintain a body of efficient troops numerous enough to cope with the coalition. At the same time the cost must have fallen wholly on the Crown, for the Parliaments would make no grants of money for the support of a mercenary army, except on extraordinary emergencies.
On the other hand, to choose an Irish deputy was to acquiesce in disorder, and to lend a kind of official sanction to it. It was inexpensive, however, and therefore convenient; and evils which were not actually felt in perpetual demands for money, and in uncomfortable reports, could for a time be forgotten or ignored. In this direction lay all the temptations. The condition of the country was only made known to the English Government through the deputy, who could represent it in such colours as he pleased; and the Government could persuade themselves that evils no longer complained of had ceased to exist.
This latter method, therefore, found most favour in London. Irish noblemen were glad to accept the office of deputy, and to discharge it at a low salary or none; but it was in order to abuse their authority for their personal advantage. They indemnified themselves for their exertions to keep order, which was not kept, by the extortion which they practised in the name of the Government which they represented; and thus deservedly made the English rule more than ever detested. Instead of receiving payment, they were allowed while deputies what was called ‘coyne and livery;’ that is to say, they were allowed to levy military service, and to quarter their followers on the farmers and poor gentlemen of the pale; or else to raise fines in composition, under pretence that they were engaged in the service of the Crown. The entire cost of this system was estimated at the enormous sum of a hundred pounds a day.20 The exactions might have been tolerated if the people had been repaid by protection; but forced as they were to pay black mail at the same time to the Irish borderers, the double burdens had the effect of driving every energetic settler out of the pale, and his place was filled by some poor Irishman whom use had made acquainted with misery.21
Nor was extortion the only advantage which the Irish deputies obtained from their office. They prosecuted their private feuds with the revenues of the State. They connived at the crimes of any chieftain who would join their faction. Every conceivable abuse in the administration of the Government attended the possession of power by the Geraldines of Kildare, and yet by the Geraldines it was almost inevitable that the power should be held. The choice lay between the Kildares and the Ormonds. No other nobleman could pretend to compete with these two. The Earls of Desmond only could take rank as their equals; and the lordships of Desmond were at the opposite extremity of the island. The services of the Earls of Ormond were almost equally unavailable. When an Earl of Ormond was residing at Dublin as deputy, he was separated from his clan by fifty miles of dangerous road. The policy of the Geraldines was to secure the Government for themselves by making it impossible for any other person to govern; and the appointment of their rival was a signal for the revolt of the entire sept, both in Leinster and Mimster. The Butlers were too weak to resist this combination; and inasmuch as they were themselves always loyal when a Geraldine was in power, and the Geraldines were disloyal when a Butler was in power, the desire to hush up the difficulty, and to secure a show of quiet, led to the consistent preference of the more convenient chief.
There were qualities also in the Kildare family which gave them peculiar influence, not in Ireland only, but at the English Court. Living like wild Irish in their castle at Maynooth, they appeared in London with the address of polished courtiers. When the complaints against them became too serious to neglect, they were summoned to give account of their conduct. They had only to present themselves before the council, and it was at once impossible to believe that the frank, humorous, high-minded gentlemen at the bar could be the monsters who were charged with so fearful crimes. Their ever-ready wit and fluent words, their show of bluntness and pretence of simplicity, disarmed anger and dispersed calumny; and they returned on all such occasions to Ireland more trusted than ever, to laugh at the folly which they had duped.
The farce had already continued through two generations at the opening of the Reformation. Gerald, the eighth earl, was twice in rebellion against Henry VII. He crowned Lambert Simnel with his own hand; when Lambert Simnel fell, he took up Perkin Warbeck; and under pretence of supporting a competitor for the crown, carried fire and sword through Ireland. At length, when England was quiet, Sir Edward Poynings was sent to Dublin to put down this new King-maker. He took the Earl prisoner, with some difficulty, and despatched him to London, where he appeared at the council-board, hot-handed from murder and treason. The King told him that heavy accusations would be laid to his charge, and that he had better choose some counsel to plead his cause. The Earl looked at him with a smile of simplicity. ‘I will choose the ablest in England,’ he said; ‘your Highness I take for my counsel against these false knaves.’22 The accusations were proceeded with. Among other enormities, Kildare had burnt the cathedral at Cashel, and the Archbishop was present as witness and prosecutor. The Earl confessed his offence: ‘but by Jasus,’ he added, ‘I would not have done it if I had not been told that my lord Archbishop was inside.’23 The insolent wit, and the danger of punishing so popular a nobleman, passed the reply as sufficient. The council laughed. ‘All Ireland cannot govern this Earl,’ said one. ‘Then let this Earl govern all Ireland,’ was the prompt answer of Henry VII.24 He was sent over a convicted traitor—he returned a knight of the Garter, lord deputy, and the representative of the Crown. Rebellion was a successful policy, and a lesson which corresponded so closely to the Irish temper was not forgotten.
‘What, thou fool,’ said Sir Gerald Shaneson to a younger son of this nobleman, thirty years later, when he found him slow to join the rebellion against Henry VIII. ‘What, thou fool, thou shalt be the more esteemed for it. For what hadst thou, if thy father had not done so? What was he until he crowned a king here, took Garth, the King’s captain) prisoner, hanged his son, resisted Poynings and all deputies; killed them of Dublin upon Oxmantown Green; would suffer no man to rule here for the King but himself! Then the King regarded him, and made him deputy, and married thy mother to him;25 or else thou shouldst never have had a foot of land, where now thou mayest dispend four hundred marks by the year.’26
These scornful words express too truly the position of the Earl of Kildare, which, however, he found it convenient to disguise under a decent exterior. The borders of the pale were partially extended; the O’Tooles were driven further into the Wicklow mountains, and an outlying castle was built to overawe them at Powerscourt. Some shadow of a revenue was occasionally raised; and by this show of service, and because change would involve the Crown in expense, he was allowed to go his own way. He held his ground till the close of his life, and dying, he left behind him a son trained on his father’s model, and who followed with the utmost faithfulness in his father’s steps.
Gerald, son of Gerald, ninth earl, became deputy, almost it seemed by right of inheritance, in 1513; and things were allowed to continue in their old course for another five years; when at length Henry VIII. awoke to the disgrace which the condition of the country reflected upon him. The report of 1515 was the first step gained; the Earl of Ormond contributed to the effect produced by the report, with representations of the conduct of the deputy, who had been fortifying his own castle with Government stores; and the result was a resolution to undertake measures of real vigour. In 1520, the Earl of Kildare was deprived of his office, and sent for to England. His place was taken by the Earl of Surrey, who of all living Englishmen combined in the highest degree the necessary qualities of soldier and statesman. It seemed as if the old weak forbearance was to last no longer, and as if Ireland was now finally to learn the needful lesson of obedience.
But the first efforts to cure an inveterate evil rarely succeed; and Henry VIII., like every other statesman who has undertaken to reform Ireland, was to purchase experience by failure. The report had declared emphatically that the Irish chiefs would never submit so long as they might resist, and escape with their lives; that conciliation would be only interpreted as weakness; and that the tyrannical lords and gentlemen must be coerced into equity by the sword freely used.
The King, however, was young and sanguine; he was unable to accept so hard a conclusion; he could not believe that any body of human beings were so hopelessly inaccessible to the ordinary means of influence, as the Irish gentlemen were represented to be. He would first try persuasion, and have recourse to extremity only if persuasion failed.
His directions to the Earl of Surrey, therefore, were that at the earliest opportunity he should call an assembly of so many of the Irish chiefs as he could induce to come to him, and to discourse to them upon the elementary principles of social order and government.
‘We think it expedient,’ he wrote, ‘that when ye shall call the lords and other captains of that our land before you, as of good congruence ye must needs do; ye, after and amongst other overtures by your wisdom then to be made, shall declare unto them the great decay, ruin, and desolation of that commodious and fertile land, for lack of politic governance and good justice; which can never be brought in order unless the unbridled sensualities of insolent folk be brought under the rule of the laws. For realms without justice be but tyrannies and robberies, more consonant to beastly appetites than to the laudable life of reasonable creatures. And whereas wilfulness doth reign by strength without law or justice, there is no distinction of propriety in dominion; ne yet any man may say this is mine, but by strength the weaker is subdued and oppressed, which is contrary to all laws, both of God and man.… Howbeit, our mind is, not that ye shall impress on them any opinion by fearful words, that we intend to expel them from their lands and dominions lawfully possessed; ne yet that we be minded to constrain them precisely to obey our laws, ministered by our justices there; but under good manner to show unto them that of necessity it is requisite that every reasonable creature be governed by a law. And therefore, if they shall allege that our laws there used be too extreme and rigorous; and that it should be very hard for them to observe the same; then ye may further ensearch of them under what manners, and by what laws, they will be ordered and governed, to the intent that if their laws be good and reasonable, they may be approved; and the rigour of our laws, if they shall think them too hard, be mitigated and brought to such moderation as they may conveniently live under the same. By which means ye shall finally induce them of necessity to conform their order of living to the observance of some reasonable law, and not to live at will as they have used heretofore.’27
So wrote Henry in 1530, being then twenty-eight years old, in his inexperience of human nature, and especially of the Irish form of it. No words could be truer, wiser, or more generous; but those only listen effectively to words of wisdom and generosity, who themselves possess something of the same qualities; and the Irish would not have required that such an address should be made to them if they had been capable of profiting by it. If Surrey was sanguine of any good result, he was soon undeceived. He had no sooner landed than the whole country was in arms against him—O’Neile, O’Carroll, O’Connor, O’Brien, Desmond, broke into simultaneous rebellion, acting, as was proved by intercepted letters,28 under instructions which Kildare had sent from England. Surrey saw at a glance the justice of the language of the report. He informed Wolsey briefly of the state of the country, and advised that unless the King was prepared for extreme measures, he should not waste money in partial efforts.29 Writing subsequently to Henry himself, he said that the work to be done was a repetition of the conquest of Wales by Edward I., and it would prove at least as tedious and as expensive. Nevertheless, if the King could make up his mind to desire it, there was no insuperable difficulty. He would undertake the work himself with six thousand men. The difficulty would be then, however, but half overcome, for the habits the people were incurable. Strong castles must be built up and down the island, like those at Conway and Carnarvon; and a large immigration would be necessary of English colonists.30 Either as much as this should be done, the Earl thought, or nothing. Half measures only made bad into worse; and a policy of repression, if not consistently maintained, was unjust and pernicious. It encouraged the better affected of the inhabitants to show their good will to the Grovernment; and when the Irish were again in power, these persons were marked for vengeance.
Practical experience was thus laid against Henry’s philosophy; and it would have been well if the King could have discerned clearly on which side the truth was likely to lie. For the misfortune of Ireland, this was not the case. It was inconvenient at the moment to undertake a costly conquest. Surrey was maintained with a short retinue, and from want of power could only enter upon a few partial expeditions. He inflicted a heavy defeat upon O’Neil; he stormed a castle of O’Connor’s; and showed, with the small means at his disposal, what he might have done with far less support than he had required. He went where he pleased through the country. But his course was ‘as the way of a ship through the sea, or as the way of a bird through the air.’ The elements yielded without resistance, and closed in behind him; and after eighteen months of manful exertion, feeling the uselessness of further enterprises conducted on so small a scale, to the sorrow and alarm of the Irish council, he desired and obtained his recall.31
Meanwhile, in England, the Earl of Kildare had made good use of his opportunities. In spite of his detected letters, he had won his way into favour. He accompanied Henry to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, where he distinguished himself by his brilliant bearing; and instead of punishing him as a traitor, the King allowed him to marry Lady Elizabeth Grey, daughter of the Marquis of Dorset, and nearly related to the blood royal. He was then permitted to return to Ireland; not, however, immediately as deputy. An intermediate effort was made to govern through Lord Ormond, whose intentions were excellent, but unfortunately the Irish refused to submit to him. The Earl of Desmond remained in rebellion, and invaded Kilkenny from the south; and two years followed of universal insurrection, pillage, and murder. Kildare accused Ormond to the English council as responsible;32 Ormond retorted with similar charges against Kildare, and commissioners were sent over to ‘investigate,’ with instructions, if they saw reason, to replace Kildare in his old office.
The permission was sufficient; in 1524 he was again deputy; and no deliberate purpose of misrule could have led to results more fatal. The Earl, made bold by impunity, at once prepared for a revolt from the English Crown. Hitherto he had been contented to make himself essential to the maintenance of the English sovereignty; he now launched out into bolder measures, and encouraged by Henry’s weakness, resolved to dare the worst extremity. On the breaking out of the French war of 1523–24, his kinsman, the Earl of Desmond, opened a negotiation with Francis I. for the landing of a French army in Munster.33 Kildare, while professing that he was endeavouring to take Desmond prisoner, was holding secret interviews with him to concert plans for a united move,34 and was strengthening himself at the same time with alliances among the native chiefs. One of his daughters became the wife of the O’Connor; another married O’Carroll, of Leap Castle; and a third the Baron of Slane;35 and to leave no doubt of his intentions, he transferred the cannon and military stores from Dublin Castle to his own fortress at Maynooth. Lord Ormond sent information to England of these proceedings, but he could gain no hearing. For three years the Geraldines were allowed to continue their preparations undisturbed; and perhaps they might have matured their plans at leisure, so odious had become the mention of Ireland to the English statesmen, had not the King’s divorce, by embroiling him with the Pope and Emperor, made the danger serious.
The alliance of England and France had disconcerted the first scheme. No sooner was this new opportunity opened than, with Kildare’s consent, Desmond applied to Charles V. with similar overtures.36 This danger was too serious to be neglected; and in 1527 Kildare was a second time summoned to London. He went, so confident was he of the weakness of the Government, and again he was found to have calculated justly. He was arraigned before the council, overwhelmed with invectives by Wolsey,37 and sent to the Tower. But he escaped by his old arts. No sooner was he committed, than Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, who had accompanied him to England, hurried back across the Channel to the castle of her brother-in-law, O’Connor.38 The robber chief instantly rose and attacked the pale. The Marchers opened their lines to give his banditti free passage into the interior;39 and he seized and carried off prisoner the Baron of Delvin, who had been made vice-deputy on Kildare’s departure. Desmond meanwhile held Ormond in check at Kilkenny, and prevented him from sending assistance to Dublin; and the Irish council were at once prostrate and helpless.
Henry VIII., on receipt of this intelligence, instead of sending Kildare to the block and equipping an army, condescended to write a letter of remonstrance to O’Connor. ‘A letter from the King!’ said the insolent chieftain when it was brought to him, ‘what king? If I may live one year, I trust to see Ireland in that case that there shall be no more mention here of the King of England than of the King of Spain.’40 Still, however, it was thought inconvenient to venture extremities. Henry allowed himself to make use of Kildare’ s assistance to soothe the immediate storm.41 An old desire of the Irish had been that some prince of the blood should govern them;42 he nominated, therefore, his natural son, the Duke of Richmond, as viceroy; and having no adequate force in Ireland to resist an insurrection, and no immediate means of despatching any such force, he was once more obliged to pardon and restore the traitorous Gferaldine; appointing, at the same time, Sir William Skeffington, a moderately able man, though too old for duty, as the Duke of Richmond’s deputy, and directing him to govern with the advice and co-operation of the Earl of Kildare.
To this disastrous weakness there was but one counterpoise—that the English party in the council of Ireland was strengthened by the appointment of John Allen to the archbishopric of Dublin and the office of chancellor. Allen was one of the many men of talent who owed their elevation to Wolsey. He was now sent over to keep watch on Kildare, and to supply the Government with, accurate information which might be relied upon as a ground for action. Till this time (and the fact is one which ought to be borne in mind), the Government had been forced to depend for their knowledge of the state of the country either on the representations of the deputy, or the private accusations of his personal enemies; both of them exceedingly untrustworthy sources. Henceforward there runs a clear stream of light through the fog and night of confusion, furnished either by the Archbishop or by Allen, Master of the Rolls, who was most likely his kinsman.
The policy of conciliation, if conduct so feeble deserves to be called a policy at all, had now reached its limit; and it amounted to confessed imbecility. Twice deposed from power on clear evidence of high treason, Lord Kildare was once more restored. It cost him but a little time to deliver himself of the presence of Skeffmgton; and in 1532 he was again sole deputy. All which the Earl of Surrey had foretold came to pass. Archbishop Allen was deprived of the chancellorship, and the Archbishop of Armagh, a creature of the Geraldines, was substituted in his place. Those noblemen and gentlemen who had lent themselves to the interests of the English in the Earl’s absence were persecuted, imprisoned, or murdered. They had ventured to be loyal from a belief in the assurances which had been made to them; but the Government was far off and Kildare was near; and such of them as he condescended to spare ‘were now driven in self-defence, maugre their wills, to follow with the rest.’43 The wind which filled the sails of the ship in which Kildare returned, blew into flames the fires of insurrection; and in a very Saturnalia of Irish madness the whole people, with no object that could be discovered but for very delight in disorder itself, began to tear themselves to pieces. Lord Thomas Butler was murdered by the Geraldines; Kildare himself was shot through the body in a skirmish; Powerscourt was burnt by the O’Tooles; and Dublin Castle was sacked in a sudden foray by O’Brien Oge. O’Neil was out in the north; Desmond in the south; and the English pale was overrun by brigands.44 Ireland had found its way into its ideal condition that condition towards which its instincts perpetually tended, and which at length it had undisputedly reached. The Allens furnished the King with a very plain report of the effect of his leniency. They dwelt boldly on the mistakes which had been made. Re-echoing the words of the Report of 1515, they declared that the only hope for the country was to govern by English deputies; and that to grudge the cost seemed ‘consonant to the nature of him that rather than he will depart with fourpence he will jeopard to lose twenty shillings—which fourpence, disbursed in time, might have saved the other.’45 They spoke well of the common Irish. ‘If well governed,’ they said, ‘the Irish would be found as civil, politic, and active, as any other nation. But what subjects under any prince in the world,’ they asked, ‘would love or defend the rights of that prince who, notwithstanding their true hearts and obedience, would afterwards put them under the governance of such as would persecute and destroy them?’ Faith must be kept with those to whom promises had been made, and the habit of rewarding treason with concessions must be brought to an end. ‘Till great men suffer for their offences,’ they added, significantly, ‘your subjects within the English pale shall never live in quietness, nor stand sure of their goods and lives. Therefore, let your deputy have in commandment to do justice upon great thieves and malefactors, and to spare your pardons.’46
These were but words, and such words had been already spoken too often to deaf ears; but the circumstances of the time were each day growing more perilous, and necessity, the true mother of statesmanship, was doing its work at last.
The winter months passed away, bringing only an increase of wretchedness. At length opened the eventful year of 1534, and Henry learnt that excommunication was hanging over him—that a struggle for life or death had commenced—and that the Imperial armies were preparing to strike in the quarrel. From that time onward the King of England became a new man. Hitherto he had hesitated, temporized, delayed—not with Ireland only, but with the manifold labours which were thrust upon him. At last he was awake. And, indeed, it was high time. With a religious war apparently on the eve of explosion, he could ill tolerate a hotbed of sedition at his door; and Irish sedition was about to receive into itself a new element, which was to make it trebly dangerous.
Until that moment the disorders in Ireland had arisen out of a natural preference for anarchy. Every man’s hand was against his neighbour, and the clans made war on each other only for revenge and plunder, and the wild delight of the game. These private quarrels were now to be merged in a single cause—a cause which was to lend a fresh stimulus to their hatred of England, and was at once to create and consecrate a national Irish spirit.
The Irish were eminently Catholic; not in the high sense of the word—for ‘the noble folk’ could ‘oppress and spoil the prelates of the Church of Christ of their possessions and liberties’ without particular scruple47—but the country was covered with churches and monasteries in a proportion to the population far beyond what would have been found in any other country in Europe; and there are forms of superstition which can walk hand in hand with any depth of crime, when that superstition is provided with a talisman which will wash away the stains of guilt. The love of fighting was inherent, at the same time, in the Celtic nature. And such a people, when invited to indulge their humour in the cause of the Church, were an army of insurrection ready made to the hands of the popes, the value of which their Holinesses were not slow to learn, as they have not been quick to forget.48
Henry was aware of the correspondence of Desmond with the Emperor. He, perhaps, also expected that the fiction might be retorted upon him (as it actually was) which had been invented to justify the first conquest of the island. If Ireland was a fief of the Pope, the same power which had made a present of it to Henry II. might as justly take it away from Henry VIII.; and the peril of his position roused him at length to an effort. It was an effort still clogged by fatality, and less than the emergency required: but it was a beginning, and it was something.
In February, 1534, a month before Clement pronounced his sentence, the Earl of Kildare was required, for the third and last time, to appear and answer for his offences; and a third time he ventured to obey. But England had become a changed country in the four years which had passed since his last presence there, and the brazen face and fluent lips were to serve him no more. On his arrival in London he was sent to the Tower, and discovered that he had overstepped his limits at last.49 He was now shrewd enough to see that if a revolt was contemplated no time was to be lost. He must play his last card, or his influence was gone for ever. Lord Thomas Fitzgerald, his eldest son, who in his boyhood had resided in England,50 had been left as vice-deputy in his father’s absence. The Earl before his departure had taken precautions to place the fortresses of the pale, with the arms and ammunition belonging to the Government, in the hands of dependents whom he could absolutely trust. No sooner was his arrest known than, in compliance with secret instructions which had been left with them, or were sent from England, his friends determined upon rebellion.51
The opportunity was well chosen. The April. Government of Ireland was in disorder. Skeffington was designed for Kildare’s successor, but he was not yet appointed; nor was he to cross the Channel till he had collected a strong body of troops, which was necessarily a work of time. The conditional excommunication of the King was then freshly published; and counsels, there is reason to think,52 were guiding the Irish movement, which had originated in a less distempered brain than that of an Irish chieftain. Rumours were flying in the southern counties in the middle of June that a Spanish invasion might be immediately looked for, and the Emperor’s chaplain was with the Earl of Desmond. His mission, it was said, was to prepare the way for an Imperial army; and Desmond himself was fortifying Dungarvan, the port at which an invading force could most conveniently land.53 There is, therefore, a strong probability that Charles V., who had almost promised to execute the Papal sentence in the course of the summer, was looking for the most vulnerable point at which to strike; and, not venturing to invade England, was encouraging an Irish rebellion, with a view to following up his success if the commencement proved auspicious.54
Simultaneously with the arrival of these unwelcome news, the English Grovernment were informed by letters from Dublin, that Lord Thomas Fitzgerald had thrown off his allegiance, and had committed infinite murders, burnings, and robbings in the English pale; making ‘his avaunt and boast that he was of the Pope’s sect and band, and that him he would serve, against the King and all his partakers; that the King of England was accursed, and as many as took his part.’55 The signal for the explosion was given with a theatrical bravado suited to the novel dignity of the cause. Never before had an Irish massacre been graced by a Papal sanction, and it was necessary to mark the occasion by unusual form. The young lord, Silken Thomas, as he was called, was twenty-one years old, and an accomplished Irish cavalier. He was vice-deputy, or so he considered himself: and, unwilling to tarnish the honour of his loyal house by any action which could be interpreted into treachery, he commenced with a formal surrender of his office, and a declaration of war. On the eleventh of June the council were sitting in St Mary’s abbey, when a galloping of horses was heard, and Lord Thomas, at the head of a hundred and forty of the young Geraldines, dashed up to the gate, and springing off his horse, strode into the assembly. The council rose, but he ordered them to sit still, and, taking the sword of state in his hand, he spoke in Irish to the following effect:—
‘However injuriously we be handled, and forced to defend ourselves in arms, when neither our service nor our good meaning towards our prince’s crown availeth, yet say not hereafter, but in this open hostility which we profess here, and proclaim, we have showed ourselves no villains nor churls, but warriors and gentlemen. This sword of state is yours, and not mine; I received it with an oath, and have used it to your benefit. I should offend mine honour if I turned the same to your annoyance. Now I have need of mine own sword which I dare trust. As for this common sword, it flattereth me with a golden scabbard; but it hath in it a pestilent edge, and whetteth itself in hope of a destruction. Save yourselves from us, as from open enemies. I am none of Henry’s deputy; I am his foe; I have more mind to conquer than to govern, to meet him in the field than to serve him in office. If all the hearts of England and Ireland that have cause thereto would join in this quarrel, as I trust they will, then should he be a byword, as I trust he shall, for his heresy, lechery, and tyranny; wherein the age to come may score him among the ancient princes of most abominable and hateful memory.’56 ‘With that,’ says Campion, ‘he rendered up his sword, adding to his shameful oration many other slanderous and foul terms.’
Cromer, Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of Armagh, a creature of Kildare, ‘more like his parish priest or chaplain, than king’s chancellor,’57 who had been prepared beforehand, rose, and affected remonstrance; but, speaking in English, his words were not understood by the crowd. A bard in the Greraldine train cut short his speech with an Irish battle chant; and the wild troop rushed, shouting, out of the abbey, and galloped from the town.
In these mock heroics there need not have been anything worse than folly; but Irish heroism, like Irish religion, was unfortunately limited to words and feelings. The generous defiance in the cause of the Catholic faith was followed by pillage and murder, the usual accompaniments of Irish insurrection, as a sort of initial holocaust to propitiate success. The open country was at the mercy of the rebels. Fitzgerald, joined by O’Connor, proceeded to swear- in all such of the inhabitants of the pale as would unite against England; promising protection if they would consent, but inflicting fire and sword wherever he met refusal. The unfortunate people, warned by experience that no service was worse requited in Ireland than loyalty, had no spirit to resist. The few who were obnoxious were killed; the remainder submitted; and the growing corn was destroyed, and the farms were burnt, up to the gates of Dublin, that when the English army arrived, they might find neither food to maintain, nor houses to shelter them.58 The first object of Fitzgerald, however, was to seize Dublin itself, where a portion of the citizens were in his favour. In the last week in July he appeared with his followers under the walls; a small force which had attempted to resist was defeated and driven in; and, under a threat of burning the city, if he was refused, he demanded the surrender of town and castle. The danger was immediate. The provident treachery of Kildare, in stripping the castle of its stores and cannon, had made defence all but impossible. Ormond was far off, and weeks must pass before relief could arrive from England. Sir John White, an English gentleman, with a handful of men-at-arms, had military command of the city; and the Archbishop of Armagh implored him to have pity on the citizens, and not to expose them to the consequences of a storm.59 White was too stout a soldier to listen to such timid counsels; yet his position was one of extreme difficulty; his little garrison was too weak to defend the lines of the town without the assistance of the citizens, and the citizens were divided and dispirited. He resolved at length to surrender the city, and defend the castle to the last. Fitzgerald threatened that he would hold the townsmen responsible for the submission of the troops; but, savage as the English commander knew him to be, he calculated, with justice, that he would not ruin his popularity by cutting the throats of an unresisting crowd.
Hastily gathering together sufficient stores to enable him to hold out for a few weeks, and such arms and ammunition as could be collected in the emergency, White withdrew into the fortress, taking with him the Master of the Rolls, the Chief Baron, and such other of the council as desired to be his companions. The inhabitants of Dublin were then empowered to make terms with the rebels. The gates were opened on Fitzgerald’s promise to respect life and property, the city was occupied, and siege was immediately laid to the castle. This was on the 27th of July. The morning which followed was marked by one of those atrocities which have so often unfortunately distinguished Irish rebellions. Archbishop Allen, to whose exertions the exposure of Kildare’s proceedings had been principally due, either fearing the possible consequences to himself if the castle was taken, as the Irish writers say,60 or more probably to hasten in person the arrival of the deputy and his troops, instead of remaining with White, volunteered to cross to England; and before the gates were opened, he went on board a vessel and dropped down the river. He had placed himself unknowingly in the hands of traitors, for the ship was commanded by a Geraldine,61 and in the night which followed was run aground at Clontarf, close to the mouth of the Liffey. The country was in possession of the insurgents, the crew were accomplices, and the stranded vessel, on the retreat of the tide, was soon surrounded. The Archbishop was partly persuaded, partly compelled to go on shore, and was taken by two dependents of the Earl of Kildare to a farm-house in the village of Artayne. Here he was permitted to retire to bed; but if he slept, it was for an early and a cruel wakening. The news of his capture was carried to Fitzgerald, who was then in the city, but a few miles distant, and the young lord, with three of his uncles, was on the spot by daybreak. They entered the house and ordered Allen to be brought before them. The Archbishop was dragged from his bed; and in his shirt as he was, bare-legged and bare-headed, he dropped upon his knees, and begged for mercy. As well might the sheep have asked mercy of the famished wolf. He had but time to bequeath his soul to heaven, and his skull was cloven as he knelt; and, to make clean work, his chaplains, his servants, all of English blood who were with him, were slaughtered over his body.62 Such was the pious offering to God and holy Church on which the sun looked down as it rose that fair summer’s morning over Dublin Bay; and such were the men whose cause the Mores and the Fishers, the saintly monks of the Charterhouse and the holy martyrs of the Catholic faith, believed to be the cause of the Almighty Father of the world.63
The morning’s work was still but half completed. To massacre a heretic archbishop was a meritorious, or at least a venial act; but it was desirable that an opinion in favour of it should be pronounced by authority; or that the guilt, if guilt there was, should be washed off without delay. The Archdeacon of Kells,64 therefore, was despatched to the Pope and to the Emperor, to press the latter to send assistance on this happy success, and to bring back absolution from his Holiness,65 if the murder required it. The next object was to prevent news from reaching England before the castle should be taken. The river was watched, the timely assistance of an English pirate enabled Fitzgerald to blockade the bay; and Dublin was effectively sealed. But the report of the murder spread rapidly through Ireland. In three days it was known at Waterford, and the Prior of Kilmainham,66 who had taken refuge there, crossed into Wales on the instant, intending to ride post to London.67 He was delayed at St David’s by an attack of paralysis; but he sent forward a companion who had left Ireland with him; and the death of the Archbishop was made known to Henry in the second week in August.
If Skeffington could set out on the instant, the castle might be saved, and Dublin recovered. Couriers were despatched to urge him to make haste; and others were sent to Ireland to communicate with Ormond, and, if possible, with the party in the castle. But Skeffington, who was too old for his work, had loitered over his preparations, and was not ready; and the delay would have been fatal, except for the Earl of Ormond, the loyalty of whose noble house at that crisis alone saved the English authority in Ireland. On the arrival of Henry’s courier, he collected his people and invaded Kildare. The country was unenclosed—not a fence nor a hedge broke the broad surface of moor and meadow, save where at intervals a few small patches were enclosed for corn crops. Infinite herds of cattle grazed at will over the expanse of pasture, and these cattle were the chief dependence of the people. Ormond, by the suddenness of his inroad, and the absence of the owners, was enabled to sweep clear the whole tract which was occupied by the Greraldines; and Fitzgerald was forced to retire from Dublin to defend or recover his property. He Left a detachment in the city, to prevent the troops in the castle from obtaining supplies,68 and then hurried off to revenge the foray. Entering Carlow, he took a castle on the Slaney, and murdered the garrison. Thence he turned towards Kilkenny, and was bearing down upon Ormond with a strength which it would have been hard for the Butlers to resist, when he learnt that the citizens of Dublin, encouraged by the news that an English army was actually coming, had repented of their patriotism, and to earn their pardon from Henry, had closed their gates, and had seized and imprisoned the party who were left before the castle. The prize for which he had played so deeply was slipping from his hands at the moment when it was all but won. He was forced to return in haste; but before he left Kilkenny, he made an effort to induce Ormond to join him. He promised, that if the Earl would assist him in driving out the English, he would ‘take him as his father,’ that he would make a present to his son, Lord James, of half the inheritance of the Kildares, and that they two should together rule Ireland.69
Promises when extorted by presence of danger from a Geraldine were of indifferent value; but if Fitzgerald’s engagements had been as sure as they were false and fleeting, they would have weighed little with this gallant old nobleman. Ormond replied, that if the rebels would lay down their arms and sue for mercy, they might perhaps find it; but for himself, ‘if his country were wasted, his castles won or prostrate, and himself exiled, yet would he never shrink to persevere in his duty to the King to the death.’70 Failing here, and having at the same time received a check in a skirmish, Fitzgerald next endeavoured to gain time. The Irish clans were gathering, but they were still at a distance, and his own presence was instantly required elsewhere. He offered a truce, therefore; and to this Ormond, being hard pressed by the Earl of Desmond, was ready to consent. But it was only treachery. Ormond broke up his camp, and his people were scattered; and within three days, O’Neile having joined Fitzgerald, he was taken at a disadvantage; his son, Lord James, was severely wounded; and a cordon of Irish being drawn round him, to prevent him from relieving Dublin, the rebel army hastened back to renew the siege.71 They had the cannon with them which Kildare had taken from the castle,72 but were happily ill-provided with ammunition, or resistance would have been desperate.
The siege opened at the beginning of September. The month passed away, and the place was still untaken. If the deputy would only arrive, there was still time to save it. Each hour he was looked for, yet through these priceless days he was loitering at Beaumaris. From the fatality which has for ever haunted the dealings of English statesmen with Ireland, an old man past work, weak in health, and with all the moral deficiencies of a failing constitution, had been selected to encounter a dangerous rebellion. The insurrection had broken out in June; every moment was precious, the loss of a day might be the loss of the whole country; yet it was now the fourth of October; the ships were loaded; the horses were on board; they had been on board a fortnight, and were sickening from confinement. The wind was fair, at that critical season of the year a matter of incalculable importance. Yet Skeffington was still ‘not ready.’73 All would have been lost but for the Earl of Ormond. The city was at the last extremity, when he contrived to force his way through the Irish into Kildare; he again laid waste the country, and destroyed the newly-gathered harvests.74 On the 14th of October Fitzgerald was forced finally to raise the siege, that his followers might save the remnant of their property from destruction. The relief was but just in time, for the resources of Dublin were exhausted. Before retreating, the rebel lord exacted from the corporation an engagement that at the end of six weeks they should either have procured his pardon from the King, with the deputation of Ireland for his life, or else should surrender the city. For the fulfilment of these insolent terms he took as pledges sixteen of the children of the most important families of the city, with three of the corporation themselves.75
And now, at length, on the same 14th of October, the English anchors were finally raised, and the deputy, with Sir William Brereton and Sir John Salisbury, several hundred Northumberland horse trained in the Border wars, and a number not specified, but probably from two to three thousand archers and men-at-arms,76 were under way. Whether the blame of the delay lay with the incompetency of Skeffington, or the contempt of the English, which would not allow them to make haste into the presence of an enemy who never dared to encounter them in the field, but carried on war by perjury, and pillage, and midnight murder—whatever the cause was, they were at length on their way, and, through the devotion of Ormond, not too late to be of use.
The fleet crossed the Channel in a single night, and the next morning were under Lambay Island,77 where they had run in for shelter. Here news was brought them that Dublin Castle was taken. They did not believe it; but a council of war was held, and Skeffington resolved that for himself he might not risk the attempt to land; Brereton and Salisbury might try it, if they could do so ‘without casting themselves away;’ the deputy would go on to Waterford with the body of the army, and join Sir John St Loo, who had crossed to that port in the week preceding from Bristol.
Accordingly, on the morning of the 17th of October, Sir William Brereton, with five hundred men, sailed into the mouth of the Liffey; and running up the river, instead of an enemy drawn up to oppose his landing, he found the mayor and corporation waiting at the quay, with drums, and flags, and trumpets to welcome him as a deliverer.78
Skeffington was less successful; he remained under Lambay waiting for a wind for Waterford, and in the mean time Fitzgerald, hearing of the arrival of the fleet, was in force upon the hills overlooking the anchorage. The English commander, though aware that the insurgents were in the neighbourhood, allowed himself, with extreme imprudence, to land a detachment of troops, with directions to march to Dublin. He himself went with the fleet to the Skerries,79 where he conceived, under false information, that a party of the rebels were lying. He found nothing there but a few fishing-boats; and while he was engaged in burning these, Fitzgerald attacked the division which had been sent on shore, and cut them off to a man. Nor was this the only misfortune. The pirate ships which had been watching Dublin Bay hovered round the fleet, cutting off straggling transports; and although one of them was chased and driven on shore, the small success poorly counterbalanced the injury which had been inflicted.80
After a week of this trifling, Skeffington consented to resign his intention of going to Waterford, and followed Brereton into Dublin. Why he had delayed a day after discovering that the river and the city were open to him, it is impossible to conjecture. But his presence was of little benefit, and only paralyzed his abler subordinates. As soon as be had brought his army into the city, he conceived that he had done as much as the lateness of the season would allow. November.The November weather having set in wild and wet, he gave up all thought of active measures till the return of spring; and he wrote to inform the King, with much self-approbation, that he was busy writing letters to the Irish chiefs, and making arrangements for a better government; that Lord Thomas Fitzgerald had been proclaimed traitor at the market-cross; and that he hoped, as soon as the chancellor and the vicar-general could come to an understanding, the said traitor might be pronounced excommunicated.81 All this was very well, and we learn to our comfort that in due time the excommunication was pronounced; but it was not putting down the rebellion—it was not the work for which he was sent to Ireland with three thousand English soldiers.
Fitzgerald, as soon as the army was landed, retired into the interior; but, finding that the deputy lay idle within the walls, be recovered heart, and at the head of a party of light horse reappeared within six miles of Dublin. Trim and Dunboyne, two populous villages, were sacked and burnt, and the blazing ruins must have been seen from the battlements of the Castle. Yet neither the insults of the rebels nor the entreaty of the inhabitants could move the imperturbable Skeffington. He lay still within the city walls;82 and Fitzgerald, still further encouraged, despatched a fresh party of ecclesiastics to the Pope and the Emperor, with offers of allegiance and promises of tribute,83 giving out meanwhile in Ireland that he would be supported in the spring or summer by the long-talked-of Spanish army. Promises costing Charles V. nothing, he was probably liberal of them, and waited for the issue to decide how far thej should be observed.
If this was so, the English deputy seemed to be determined to give the rebellion every chance of issuing as the Emperor desired. The soldiers were eager for employment, but Skeffington refused to give his officers an opportunity for distinction in which he did not share,84 and a few ineffectual skirmishes in the neighbourhood were the sole exploits which for five months they were allowed to achieve. One expedition, as far as Drogheda, the deputy indeed ventured, towards the end of November; and in the account of it which he sent to England, he wrote as if it were a matter of congratulation that he had brought his army back in safety. Nor were his congratulations, at least to himself, without reason, for he owed that safety to God and to fortune. He had allowed the archers to neglect the old precaution of taking cases for their bows. They were overtaken by a storm, which wetted the strings and loosened the feathers of the arrows; and thus, at disadvantage, they were intercepted in a narrow defile,85 and escaped only because the Irish were weak in numbers.
He excused himself for his shortcomings on the plea that he was in bad health—an adequate apology for his own inaction, but none for his appointment on a service so dangerous. Yet perhaps his failure is explained by the scene of it. Elsewhere, Sir William Skeffington may have been a gallant soldier and a reasonable man; but the fatal atmosphere of Ireland seems at all times to have had a power of prostrating English intellect. The Protector Cromwell alone was cased in armour which could defy its enchantments. An active officer might have kept the field without difficulty. The Master of the Rolls, to prove that the country, even in mid-winter, was practicable without danger, rode to Waterford in November with only three hundred horse, through the heart of the disturbed districts, and returned unmolested.86 The Earl of Ossory, with Sir John St Loo, inade an appointment to meet Skeffington at Kilcaa,87 where, if he brought cannon, they might recover the castles of the Government which were held by the Geraldines. He promised to go, and he might have done so without danger or difficulty; but he neither went nor sent; only a rumour came that the deputy was ill;88 and in these delays, and with this ostentation of imbecility, the winter passed away, as if to convince every wavering Irishman that, strong as the English might be in their own land, the sword dropped from their nerveless hands when their feet were on Irish soil. Nor was this the only or the worst consequence. The army, lying idle in Dublin, grew disorganized; many of the soldiers deserted; and an impression spread abroad that Henry, after all, intended to return to the old policy, to pardon Fitzgerald, and to restore him to power.89
The clear pen of the indefatigable Allen 1534.5. lays the state of affairs before us with the most painful distinctness. ‘My lord deputy,’ he wrote to Cromwell on the 16th of February, ‘now by the space of twelve or thirteen weeks hath continued in sickness, never once going out of his house; he as yet is not recovered. In the mean time the rebel hath burnt much of the country, trusting, if he may be suffered, to waste and desolate the Inglishry, and thus to enforce this army to depart. Sirs, as I heretofore advertised you, this rebel had been banished out of all these parts or now, if all men had done their duties. But, to be plain with you, except there be a marshal appointed, which must do strait correction, and the army prohibited from resorting to Dublin (but ordered to keep the field), the King shall never be well served, but his purpose shall long be delayed.90
The wages, also, were ill-paid, though money in abundance had been provided. The men were mutinous, and indemnified themselves at the expense of the wretched citizens, whose houses they pillaged at will under pretence that the owners were in league with the rebels.91 The arms, also, which had been supplied to the troops, were of the worst kind: they had been furnished out of ordnance which had been long on hand, and were worthless.92
The conduct of the King, when the representations of Allen were laid before him, was very unlike what the popular conception of his character would have led us to expect. We imagine him impatient and irritable; and supposing him to have been (as he certainly was) most anxious to see the rebellion crushed, we should have looked for some explosion of temper; or, at least, for some imperious or arbitrary message to the unfortunate deputy. He contented himself, however, with calmly sending some one whom he could trust to make inquiries; and even when the result confirmed the language of the Master of the Rolls, and the deputy’s recall was in consequence urged upon him, he still refused to pass an affront upon an old servant. He appointed Lord Leonard Grey, brother of the Countess of Kildare, chief marshal of the army; but he would not even send Grey over till the summer, and he left Skeffington an opportunity of recovering his reputation in the campaign which was to open with the spring.93 The army, however, was ordered to leave Dublin without delay; and the first move, which was made early in February, was followed by immediate fruits. Two of the pirates who had been acting with Fitzgerald were taken, and hanged.94 Several other offenders of note were also caught and thrown into prison; and in two instances, as if the human ministers of justice had not been sufficiently prompt, the higher powers thought fit to inflict the necessary punishment. John Teling, one of the archbishop’s murderers, died of a foul disorder at Maynooth;95 and the Earl of Kildare, the contriver of the whole mischief, closed his evil career in the Tower of London ‘for thought and pain.’96 He was attainted by the Parliament which sat in the autumn, and lay under sentence of death when death came unbidden to spare the executioner his labour.
Meantime, the spring opened at last, and affairs further improved. Skeffington’s health continued weak; but with the advance of the season he was able to take the field; and on the 14th of March he appeared under the walls of Maynooth. This castle was the strongest in the possession of the Geraldines. Vast labour had been recently expended on its fortifications, for which the King’s subjects had been forced to pay. It was defended by the ordnance from Dublin, and held by a small but adequate garrison. It was thought to be impregnable, and in the earlier stages of the science of gunnery it might possibly have defied the ordinary methods of attack. Nay, with a retrospective confidence in the strength of its defences, the Irish historians have been unable to believe that it could have been fairly taken; they insist that it resisted the efforts of the besiegers, and was on the point of being saved by Fitzgerald,97 when it was delivered to the English commander by treachery. A despatch to the King, which was written from the spot, and signed by the deputy and all the members of the Irish council, leaves but little remaining of this romance.
An authentic account of an attack by cannon on a fortified place at that era, will scarcely fail to be interesting. The castle, says this document, was so strongly defended both with men and ordnance, ‘as the like had not been seen in Ireland since the Conquest.’ The garrison consisted of a hundred men, of which sixty were gunners. On the third day of the siege the English batteries opened on the north-west side of the donjon, and destroying the battlements, buried the cannon on that part of the wall under the ruins. The siege lines were then moved ‘to the north side of the base court of the castle, at the north-east end whereof there was a new-made, very strong, and fast bulwark, well garrisoned with men and ordnance.’ Here a continual fire was sustained for five days, ‘on that wise that a breach and entry was made there.’ Whereupon, continues the despatch, ‘The day, being Tuesday next before Easter-day, there was a galiard assault given before five o’clock in the morning, and the base court entered; at which entry there were slain of the ward of the castle about sixty, and of your Grace’s army no more but John Griffin, yeoman of your most honourable guard, and six others which were killed with ordnance of the castle at the entry. Howbeit, if it had not pleased God to preserve us, it were to be marvelled that we had no more slain. After the base court was thus won, we assaulted the great castle, which within a while yielded.’ Thirty-seven of the remaining garrison were taken prisoners, with two officers, two Irish ecclesiastics who had distinguished themselves in promoting the insurrection, and one of the murderers of the Archbishop.
The place was taken by fair fighting, it seems, without need of treachery; and the capture by storm of a fortified castle was a phenomenon altogether new to the Irish, who had yet to learn the effect of well-served cannon upon walls.98
The work was at length begun in earnest, and in order to drive the lesson home into the understanding of the people, and to instruct them clearly that rebellion and murder were not any longer to be tolerated, the prisoners were promptly brought up before the provostmarshal, and twenty-six of them there and then, under the ruins of their own den, were hung up for a sign to the whole nation.99
A judicial operation of this kind had never before been witnessed in Ireland within the known cycle of its history, and the effect of it was proportionately startling. In the presence of this ‘ Pardon of Maynooth/ as it was called, the phantom of rebellion vanished on the spot. It was the first serious blow which was struck in the war, and there was no occasion for a second. In a moment the noise and bravado which had roared from Donegal to Cork was hushed into a supplication for forgiveness. Fitzgerald was hastening out of Thomond to the relief of his fortress. When they heard of the execution, his army melted from him like a snowdrift. The confederacy of the chiefs was broken up; first one fell away from it, and then another; and before the summer had come, O’Brien of Inchiquin, O’Connor, who had married Fitzgerald’s sister, and the few scattered banditti of the Wicklow mountains, were all who remained of the grand association which was to place the Island of Saints at the feet of the Father of Christendom.
Sadder history in the compass of the world’s great chronicle there is none than the history of the Irish: so courageous, yet so like cowards; so interesting, yet so resolute to forfeit all honourable claims to interest. In thinking of them, we can but shake our heads with Lord Chancellor Audeley, when meditating on this rebellion, and repeat after him, ‘they be a people of strange nature, and of much inconstancy.’100
Lord Fitzgerald was now a fugitive, with a price upon his head. He retreated into Thomond, intending to sail for Spain, and to attempt with his own lips to work persuasion with the Emperor.101 There was an expectation, however, that the Spaniards might be already on their way; and O’Brien persuaded him to remain, to prevent the complete disintegration of his party. Sir James de la Hyde was therefore sent to Charles; and the wretched young nobleman himself wandered from place to place, venturing, while Skeffington still lay at Maynooth, into the neighbourhood of his home, among his own people, yet unable to do more than evade the attempts which were made to capture him. The life of the rebellion was gone from it.
There was no danger that he would be betrayed. The Irish had many faults—we may not refuse them credit for their virtues. However treacherous they were to their enemies, however inconstant in their engagements, uncertain, untrue in ordinary obligations, they were without rivals in the world in their passionate attachments among themselves; and of all the chiefs who fell from Fitzgerald’s banner, and hastened with submission to the English deputy, there was perhaps not one who, though steeped in the blood of a hundred murders, would not have been torn limb from limb rather than have listened to a temptation to betray him.
At length, after a narrow escape from a surprise, from which he rescued himself only by the connivance of the Irish kerne who were with the party sent to take him, the young earl, as he now called himself, weary of his wandering life, and when no Spaniards came, seeing that his cause was for the present hopeless, offered to surrender. It was by this time August, and Lord Leonard Grey, his father’s brother-in-law, was present with the army. To him he wrote from O’Connor’s Castle, in King’s County, apologizing for what he had done, desiring pardon ‘for his life and lands,’ and begging his kinsman to interest himself in his behalf. If he could obtain his forgiveness, he promised to deserve it. If it was refused, he said that he ‘must shift for himself the best that he could.’102
In reply to this overture, Grey suggested an interview. The appointment of so near a relative of the Kildares to high office in Ireland, had been determined, we may be sure, by the Geraldine influence in the English council. The marshal was personally acquainted with Fitzgerald, and it is to be observed that the latter in writing to him signed himself his ‘loving friend.’ That Lord Leonard was anxious to save him does not admit of a doubt; he had been his father’s chief advocate with the King, and his natural sympathy with the representative of an ancient and noble house was strengthened by family connection. He is not to be suspected, therefore, of treachery, at least towards his kinsman. The interview was agreed upon, and on the eighteenth of August, Grey, with Sir Rice Mansell, Chief Justice Aylmer, Lord James Butler, and Sir William St Loo, rode from Maynooth into King’s County, where, on the borders of the Bog of Allen, Fitzgerald met them. Here he repeated the conditions upon which he was ready to surrender. Lord Grey said that he had no authority to entertain such conditions; but he encouraged the hope that an unconditional surrender would tell in his favour, and he promised himself to accompany his prisoner to the King’s presence. Fitzgerald interpreting expressions confessedly intended ‘to allure him to yield,’103 in the manner most favourable to himself, placed himself in the hands of the marshal, and rode back with him to the camp.
The deputy wrote immediately to announce the capture. Either the terms on which it had been effected had not been communicated to him, or he thought it prudent to conceal them, for he informed Henry that the traitor had yielded without conditions, either of pardon, life, lands, or goods, ‘but only submitting to his Grace’s mercy.’104 The truth, however, was soon known; and it occasioned the gravest. embarrassment. How far a Government is bound at any time to respect the unauthorized engagements of its subordinates, is one of those intricate questions which cannot be absolutely answered;105 and it was still less easy to decide, where the object of such engagements had run a career so infamous as Lord Thomas Fitzgerald. No pirate who ever swung on a well-earned gallows had committed darker crimes, and the King was called upon to grant a pardon in virtue of certain unpermitted hopes which had been held out in his name. He had resolved to forgive no more noble traitors in Ireland, and if the Archbishop’s murder was passed over, he had no right to affect authority in a country where he was so unable to exert it. On the other hand, the capture of so considerable a person was of great importance; his escape abroad, if he had desired to leave the country, could not have been prevented; and while the Government retained the benefit which they derived from his surrender, their honour seemed to be involved in observing the conditions, however made, by which it had been secured.
It is likely, though it is not certain, that Lord Leonard foresaw the dilemma in which Henry would be placed, and hoped by means of it to secure the escape of his kinsman. His own ultimate treason throws a shadow on his earlier loyalty; and his talent was fully equal to so ingenious a fraud. He had placed the King in a position from which no escape was possible that was not open to grave objection. To pardon so heavy an offender was to violate the first duty of Government, and to grant a general license to Irish criminality; to execute him was to throw a shadow indirectly on the King’s good faith, and lay his generals open to a charge of treachery. Henry resolved to err on the side on which error was least injurious. The difficulty was submitted to the Duke of Norfolk, as of most experience in Irish matters. The Duke advised that execution should be delayed; but added significantly, ‘quod defertur non aufertur.’—Pardon was not to be thought of; the example would be fatal.106 Immediate punishment would injure the credit of Lord Grey, and would give occasion for slander against the council.107 The best course would be to keep ‘the traitor’ in safe prison, and execute him, should it seem good, at a future time.108 This advice was followed. Fitzgerald, with his uncles, who had all been implicated in the insurrection, was committed to the Tower; and in the year following they were hanged at Tyburn.
So ended the rebellion in Ireland; significant chiefly because it was the first in which an outbreak against England assumed the features of a war of religion, the first which the Pope was especially invited to bless, and the Catholic powers, as such, to assist. The features of it, on a narrow scale, were identical with those of the later risings. Fostered by the hesitation of the home authorities, it commenced in bravado and murder; it vanished before the first blows of substantial resistance. Yet the suppression of the insurrection was attended by the usual Irish fatality—mistake and incompleteness followed the proceedings from the beginning to the end; and the consciousness remained that a wound so closed would not heal, that the moral temper of the country remained unaffected, and that the same evils would again germinate.
1. Panderus, or the author of a book, De Salute Populi, flourished in the reigns of Edward IV., Edward V., Richard III., and Henry VII.; perhaps also in the reign of Henry VIII.’ Sir James Ware, Writers of Ireland, p, 90.
2. State of Ireland, and plan for its reformation, 1515: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 11.
3. Some men have the opinion that this land is harder to be reformed now than it was to be conquered at the first Conquest; considering that Irishmen have more hardiness and policy and war, and more arms and artillery than they had at the Conquest. At that time there was not in all Ireland, out of cities, five Castles ne Piles, and now there be five hundred Castles and Piles.—Baron Finglas’s Breviate of Ireland, written circa 1535. Harris’s Hibernica, p. 88.
4. In every of the said five portions, Ulster, Connaught, Leinster, South Munster, and “West Munster, that was conquered by King Henry Fitz-Empress, [there were] left under tribute certain Irishmen of the principal blood of the Irish nation, that were before the Conquest inhabitants within every of the said portions; as in Leinster, the Cavanaghs of the blood of McMorough, sometime king of the same; in South Munster, the McCarties, of the blood of the Carties, sometime kings of Cork; in the other portions of Munster, west of the river Shannon (Clare), where O’Brien is, which was never conquered in obedience to the King’s laws, O’Brien and his blood have continued there still, which O’Brien gave tribute to King Henry Fitz-Empress, and to his heirs, by the space of one hundred years. In Connaught was left under tribute certain of the blood of O’Connor, sometime king of the same; certain of the Kellies, and others. In Ulster were left certain of the Neales, of the blood of the O’Neale. In Meath were left certain of the blood of O’Melaghln, sometime king of the same; and divers others of Irish nations.—Baron Finglas’s Breviate. Harris, p. 83.
5. Thomond seems to have been an exception.
6. See Finglas’s Breviate. 23 Henry VI. cap. 9: Irish Statute Book. 28 Henry VIII. cap. 3: Ibid. It seems in many cases to have been the result of accident, Irish lands descending to heiresses who married into English families. In other instances, forfeited estates were granted by the Crown to English favourites. The receiving rents, however, even though by unwilling absentees, was treated as a crime by Henry VIII.; and English noblemen, to whom estates in Ireland had fallen, either by marriage or descent, on which they were unable to reside, were expected to grant such estates to other persons who were able to reside upon them, and willing. The wording of the Act of Absentees, passed in 1536, is very remarkable. ‘Forasmuch as it is notorious and manifest that this the King’s land of Ireland, heretofore being inhabited, and in due obedience and subjection unto the King’s most noble progenitors, hath principally grown unto ruin, dissolution, rebellion, and decay, by occasion that great dominions, lands, and possessions within the same, as well by the King’s grants as by course of inheritance and otherwise have descended to noblemen of the realm of England, who having the same, demouring within the said realm of England … taking the profits of their said lands and possessions for a season, without provision making for any defence or keeping thereof in good order … in their absence, and by their negligence have suffered the wild Irishrie, being mortal and natural enemies to the Kings of England, to enter and hold the same without resistance; the conquest and winning whereof in the beginning not only cost the King’s noble progenitors charges inestimable, but also those to whom the land was given, then and many years after abiding within the said land, nobly and valiantly defended the same, and kept such tranquillity and good order, as the Kings of England had due subjection of the inhabitants thereof, and the laws were obeyed … and after the gift or descent of the lands to the persons aforesaid, they and their heirs absented themselves out of the said land of Ireland, not pondering nor regarding the preservation thereof … the King’s Majesty that now is, intending the reformation of the said land, to foresee that the like shall not ensue hereafter, with the consent of his Parliament,’ pronounces forfeited the estates of all absentee proprietors, and their right and title gone.
7. ‘The MacMahons in the north were anciently English, to wit, descended from the Fitz-Ursulas, which was a noble family in England; and the same appeareth by the significance of their Irish names. Likewise the McSweenies, now in Ulster, were recently of the Veres in England; but that they themselves, for hatred of the English, so disguised their names.’—Spenser’s View of the State of Ireland. So the De Burghs became Bourkes or Burkes; the Munster Geraldines merged their family names in that of Desmond; and a younger branch of them called themselves McShehies.
8. Statutes of Kilkenny. Printed by the Irish Antiquarian Society. Finglas’s Breviate.
9. The phenomenon must have been observed, and the inevitable consequence of it foreseen, very close upon the Conquest, when the observation digested itself into a prophecy. No story less than three hundred years old could easily have been reported to Baron Finglas as having originated with St Patrick and St Columb. The Baron says—’The four Saints, St Patrick, St Columb, St Braghan, and St Moling, many hundred years agone, made prophecy that Englishmen should conquer Ireland; and said that the said Englishmen should keep the land in prosperity as long as they should keep their own laws; and as soon as they should leave and fall to Irish order, then they should decay.’—Harris, p. 88.
10. Report on the State of Ireland, 1515: State Papers, vol. ii. pp. 17, 18.
11. Some sayeth that the English noble folk useth to deliver their children to the King’s Irish enemies to foster, and therewith maketh bands.—State Papers, vol. ii. p. 13.
12. ‘Harpers, rhymers, Irish chroniclers, bards, and ishallyn (ballad singers) commonly go with praises to gentlemen in the English pale, praising in rhymes, otherwise called ‘danes,’ their extortions, robberies, and abuses as valiantness; which rejoiceth them in their evil doings, and procures a talent of Irish disposition and conversation in them.’—Cowley to Cromwell: Ibid. vol. ii. p. 450. There is a remarkable passage to the same effect in Spenser’s View of the State of Ireland.
13. State of Ireland, and plan for its reformation: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 28.
14. Report on the State of Ireland: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 22.
15. Baron Finglas, in his suggestions for a reformation, urges that ‘no black rent be given ne paid to any Irishman upon any of the four shires from henceforward.’—Harris, p. 101. ‘Many an Irish captain keepeth and preserveth the King’s subjects in peace without hurt of the enemies; inasmuch as some of those hath tribute yearly of English men … not to the intent that they should escape harmless; but to the intent to devour them, as the greedy hound delivereth the sheep from the wolf.’—State Papers, vol. ii. pp. 16, 17.
16. Eudoxus—What is that which you call the Brehon Law? It is a word unto us altogether unknown.
Irenæus—It is a rule of right, unwritten, but delivered by tradition from one to another, in which oftentimes there appeareth great show of equity in determining the right between parties, but in many things repugning quite both to God’s law and man’s. As, for example, in the case of murder, the Brehon, that is, their judge, will compound between the murderer and the friends of the party murdered, which prosecute the action, that the malefactor shall give unto them or unto the child or wife of him that is slain, a recompense which they call an Eriarch. By which vile law of theirs many murders are made up and smothered. And this judge being, as he is called, the Lord’s Brehon, adjudgeth, for the most part, a better share unto his Lord, that is the Lord of the soil, or the head of that sept, and also unto himself for his judgment, a greater portion than unto the plaintiffs or parties grieved.—Spenser’s View of the State of Ireland. Spenser describes the system as he experienced it in active operation. Ancient written collections of the Brehon laws, however, existed and still exist.
17. By relation of ancient men in times past within remembrance, all the English lords and gentills within the pale heretofore kept retinues of English yeomen in their houses, after the English fashion, according to the extent of their lands, to the great strength and succour of their neighbours the King’s subjects. And now for the most part they keep horsemen and knaves, which live upon the King’s subjects; and keep in manner no hospitality, but live upon the poor.—The Council of Ireland to the Master of the Rolls, 1533: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 163.
18. State Papers, vol. ii. pp. 1, 5, 6.
19. State Papers, vol. ii. p. 14.
20. The deputy useth to make great rodes, journeys, and costings, now in the north parts of Ulster, now in the south parts of Munster, now in the west parts of Connaught, and taketh the King’s subjects with him hy compulsion oft times, with victual for three or four weeks, and chargeth the common people with carriage of the same, and giveth licence to all the noble folk to cesse and rear their costs on the common people and on the King’s poor subjects; and the end of that journey is commonly no other in effect, but that the deputy useth to receive a reward of one or two hundred kyne to himself, and so depart, without any more hurt to the King’s enemies, after that he hath turned the King’s subjects and the poor common folk to their charge and costs of two or three thousand pounds. And over that, the deputy, on his progress and regress, oppresseth the King’s poor common folk with horse meat and man’s meat to all his host. And over that, in summer, when grass is most plenty, they must have oats or malt to their horse at will, or else money therefore. The premises, considered, some saith the King’s deputy, by extortion, chargeth the King’s poor subjects and common folk, in horse meat and man’s meat, by estimation, to the value of a hundred pound every day in the year, one day counted with another, which cometh to the sum of 36,000 pounds yearly.—State Papers, vol. ii. p. 13. Finglas says that coyne and livery would destroy hell itself, if it was used there.—Finglas’s Breviate.
21. The wretchedness of the country drove the Irish to emigrate in multitudes. In 1524, twenty thousand of them had settled themselves in Pembrokeshire; and the majority of these had crossed in a single twelvemonth. They brought with them Irish manners, and caused no little trouble. ‘The King’s town of Tenby,’ wrote a Welsh gentleman to Wolsey, ‘is almost clean Irish, as well the head men and rulers as the commons of the said town; and of their high and presumptuous minds [they] do disobey all manner the King’s process that cometh to them out of the King’s exchequer of Pembroke.’—R. Gryffith to Cardinal Wolsey: Ellis, first series, vol. i. p. 191, &c.
22. Leland, vol. ii, p. 110.
23. Campion’s History of Ireland. Leland, vol. ii. p. 111.
24. Campion. Leland.
25. The Earl married Elizabeth, daughter of Oliver St John, while in London.
26. Report to Cromwell, apparently by Allen, Master of the Rolls: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 175.
27. Henry VIII to the Earl of Surrey: State Papers, vol. ii. pp. 52, 53.
28. This is one of them, and another of similar import was found to have been sent to O’Neile. ‘Life and health to O’Carroll, from the Earl of Kildare. There is none Irishman in Ireland that I am better content with than with you; and whenever I come into Ireland, I shall do you good for anything that ye shall do for me; and any displeasure that I have done to you, I shall make you amends therefore, desiring you to keep good peace to Englishmen till an English deputy shall come there; and when an English deputy shall come thither, do your best to make war upon Englishmen then, except such as be toward me, whom you know well yourself.’—State Papers, vol. ii. p. 45.
29. Ibid. p. 62.
30. Surrey to Henry VIII.: State Papers, vol. ii. pp. 72, -3, -4.
31. Council of Ireland to Wolsey: State Papers, vol. ii. pp. 92,-3.
32. Campion says Kildare had a friend in the Duke of Suffolk. History of Ireland, by Edward Campion, p. 161.
33. Act of Attainder of the Earl of Kildare: Irish Statute Book, 28 Hen. VIII. cap. 1. An account of this negotiation is to be seen in a paper in the British Museum, Titus, B. xi. fol. 352.
34. Act of Attainder of the Earl of Kildare: Ibid.
35. The elder sisters of the ‘fair Geraldine’ of Lord Surrey.
36. The Emperor’s chaplain, Gonzalvo Fernandez, was the agent through whom the correspondence with Desmond was conducted.—State Papers, vol. vii. p. 186. And see Cotton. MS. Vespasian, c. iv. fol. 264, 276, 285, 288, 297.—’He sent unto the Emperour, provoking and enticing him to send an army unto this said land.’—Act of Attainder of the Earl of Kildare. See also Leland, vol. ii. p. 136. The account given by Gonzalvo Fernandez of his visit to Desmond is among the Archives at Brussels, and supplies a curious picture of the state of the country.
Report of Gonzalvo Fernandez.
‘April 28, 1529.
‘On arriving at the coast of Ireland we touched at a port belonging to the King of England named Cork. Many of the Irish people came on board the ship, and told me that the gentleman of the Earl of Desmond had just returned from Spain with presents from the Emperor to the Earl. ‘Leaving Cork, we were driven by bad weather into another harbour called Beran, from whence I sent one of my servants to inform the Earl of my arrival. In four days the Earl’s answer came, telling me that I was welcome, and that he was at a place called Dingle, where he hoped to see me. He addressed his letter to me as ‘Chaplain of our Sovereign Lord the Emperor;’ and this, I understand, is his usual mode of expression when speaking of his Majesty. He had also sent to some of the other noblemen of the country, with whom he proposed to form a league, to tell them of my arrival. ‘I set out again, and on the way five of the Earl’s people came to me to say that their master had gone to a harbour a few miles off to capture Beerhaven, perhaps some French and English vessels there, and would be glad of my assistance. This I declined, and the Earl, I understand, was satisfied with my excuses.
‘The day after, the 2ist of April, we reached the said harbour of Dingle, and were honourably received by the townspeople, and by a party of the Earl’s attendants. About four o’clock the Earl returned himself, attended by fifty horse and as many halberdiers. He came at once to my quarters, and asked after the welfare of ‘our Lord the Emperor.’ I replied that, by the grace of God, his Majesty was well, and I had sent his commendations to his lordship.
‘We then dined; and afterwards the Earl and his council repaired to my chamber, where we presented him with bis Majesty’s letter. He read it and his council read it. His Majesty, he said, referred him to me. I was commissioned to make known his Majesty’s pleasure to him. I at once declared my instructions, first in English to the Earl, and afterward in Latin to bis council; which I said were to this effect.
”One Godfrey, a friend of their lord, had lately presented himself to the Emperor with their lord’s letter, in which their lord, after speaking of the good will and affection which he entertained towards the Emperors Majesty, had expressed a desire to enter into close alliance with his Majesty, as friend to friend and enemy to enemy, declaring himself ready, in all things and at all times, to obey his Majesty’s commands.
”Further, the said Godfrey had requested the Emperor to send a confidential person to Ireland, to learn more particularly their lord’s intentions, and his resources and power; and further, to negotiate a treaty and establish a firm and complete alliance. For these purposes the Emperor commissioned myself. I was the bearer to them of his Majesty’s thanks for their proposals, and I said I was so far in my master’s confidence that I was assured their lord might expect all possible assistance at the Emperor’s hands.’
‘When I had done, the Earl spoke a few words to his council. He then took off his cap, and said he thanked his Majesty for his gracious condescension. He had addressed himself to his Majesty as to his sovereign lord, to entreat his protection. His Majesty was placed in this world in his high position, in order that no one prince might oppress or injure another. He related his descent to me. He said that, between his family and the English, there had ever existed a mortal enmity, and he explained the cause to me. ‘I replied that his Majesty never failed to support his allies and his subjects, and should he claim assistance in that capacity, his Majesty would help him as he helped all his other good friends. I advised the Earl to put in writing the words which he had used to me. He thought it would be enough if I repeated them; but when I said the story was too long, and my memory might not retain it with accuracy, he said he would do as I desired. ‘We then spoke of the support for which he was looking, of his projects and resources, and of the places in which he proposed to serve. He said he wanted from his Majesty four large vessels, two hundred tons each, six pinnaces well provided with artillery, and five hundred Flemings to work them. I said at once and earnestly, that such a demand was out of all reason, before he, on his part, had achieved something in his Majesty’s service. I remonstrated fully and largely, although, to avoid being tedious, I omit the details. In the end his council were satisfied that he must reduce his demands till his Majesty had more reason to know what was to be expected from him, and he consented, as will be seen by his own memoir. ‘Of all men in the world the Earl hates most deeply the Cardinal of York. He told me he had been in alliance with France, and had a relation called De Quindel, now with the French army in Italy. In future, he said, he would have no dealings with the French. As your Majesty’s enemies, they were his enemies. ‘Your Majesty will be pleased to understand that there are in Ireland four principal cities. The city of Dublin is the largest and richest in the island, and neither in the town nor in the neighbourhood has the Earl of Desmond land or subjects. The Earl of Kildare is sovereign in that district, but that Earl is a kinsman of the Earl of Desmond, and has married his cousin. ‘The Earl of Kildare, however, is at present a prisoner in the Tower of London. ‘Of the other three cities, one is called Waterford, the second Cork, the third Limerick; and in all of these the Earl of Desmond has lordships and vassals. He has dominions, also, among the wild tribes; he has lords and knights on his estates who pay him tribute. He has some allies, but not so many, by a great deal, as he has enemies. ‘He has ten castles of his own, some of which are strong and well-built, especially one named Dungarvan, which the King has often attempted to take without success. ‘The Earl himself is from thhty to forty years old, and is rather above the middle height. He keeps better justice throughout his dominions than any other chief in Ireland. Robbers and homicides find no mercy, and are executed out of hand. His people are in high order and discipline. They are armed with short bows and swords. The Earl’s guard are in a mail from neck to heel, and carry halberds. He has also a number of horse, some of whom know how to break a lance. They all ride admirably without saddle or stirrup.’ After the report of Gonzalvo Fernandez, Desmond himself continues in Latin. ‘Hereunto be added informations addressed to the invincible and most sacred Cæsar, ever august, by the Earl of Desmond, Lord of Ogonyll and the liberties of Kilcrygge. ‘I, James Earl of Desmond, am of royal blood, and of the race of the Conqueror who did lawfully subdue Britain, great and small, and did reduce Scotland and Ireland under his yoke. ‘The first cause of the enmity between myself and the King of England is an ancient prophecy or prediction, believed by the English nation, and written in their books and chronicles, that all England will be conquered by an Earl of Desmond, which enterprise I have not yet undertaken. ‘The second cause is that, through fear of this prophecy, the King of England has committed his powers to my predecessors who have borne rule in Ireland; and when Thomas Earl of Desmond, my grandfather, in peaceable manner attended Parliament in Ireland, no cause being alleged against him, but merely in dread of the prophecy, they struck off his head. ‘The third cause is that, when Richard, son of the King of England [sic], heard that there were ancient feuds between the English and my predecessors, he came to Ireland with an army and a great fleet in the time of my father; and then did my father make all Ireland to be subdued unto himself, some few towns only excepted. ‘The fourth cause is that, by reason of the aforesaid feuds, the King of England did cause Gerald Earl of Kildare, my father’s kinsman, to be destroyed in prison [destrui in carceribus] until that my father, by might and power, did liberate the said Earl of Kildare, and did obtain his own purposes, and did make his kinsman viceroy of Ireland. ‘The fifth cause is that, when peace was hardly begun between my aforesaid father and the King of England, a certain sickness fell upon my father, I myself being then eight years old. ‘The King, when he heard this, made a league of Irish and English to kill my father; he being then, as they thought, unable to take the field. They, being banded together, made war against my father for twenty-four years, wherein, by God’s grace, they had small success. ‘The sixth cause is that, when peace was made at last between the King that now is and myself, I, in faith of the said peace, sent certain of my servants to the parts beyond the seas to Flanders and France, and the attorneys of the King of England did despoil my servants of the sum of 9000l., and threw them into prison, where they now remain. ‘Hereon follows my supplication:— These things premised, I, the aforesaid Earl, do implore and entreat the invincible and most sacred Majesty of Cæsar Augustus that he will deign to provide me with remedy, and I, with all my horses and people, do devote myself to your Majesty’s service, seeing that your Majesty is appointed for the welfare of the oppressed, and to be lord paramount of all the earth. ‘To revenge the injuries done to myself and my family by the King of England, I have the following powers; that is to say, 16,500 foot and, 1500 horse. Also I have friends confederate with me, whose names be these—
|1.||The Prince O’Brien, who||can make||600||horse and||1000||foot.|
|2.||Trobal de Burgh||“||100||“||600||”|
|3.||Sir Richard Poer||“||40||“||200||”|
|4.||Lord Thomas Butler||“||60||“||240||”|
|5.||Sir John Galty||“||80||“||400||”|
|6.||Sir Gerald Fitzgerald||“||40||“||200||”|
|7.||The White Knight||“||400||“||800||”|
|8.||O’Donnell, Prince of Ulster||“||800||“||4000||”|
|9.||The Knight of the Valley||“||40||“||240||”|
‘With divers others whose names be here omitted.
‘Moreover, I, the aforesaid James Earl of Desmond, do make known to the Majesty of Cæsar august, that there is an alliance between me and the King of Scotland, and, by frequent embassies, we understand each other’s purposes and intentions.
‘Finally, divine grace permitting, I intend to gather together my own and my friends’ powers, and lead them in person against Piers Butler, deputy of the King of England, and against Limerick, Wexford, and Dublin, the cities which the King holds in Ireland.
‘For the aid for which I look from your Majesty, I desire especially cannon available for land service and fit for breaching castles. May it please your Majesty, therefore, to send me cannon, that I may be the better able to do your Majesty service.
‘And for myself, I promise on my faith to obey your Majesty in all things. I will be friend of your friends; enemy of your enemies; and your Majesty’s especial and particular subject. If ever I chance to displease you, I will submit myself to your correction and chastisement.
‘Written in my town, this 28th day of April, 1529, in the presence of Gonzalvo Fernandez, Denys Mac D——c, Doctor of Arms and Medicine, Denys Fathe, Maurice Herly. ‘James of Desmond.’—The Pilgrim, pp. 171–5.
37. ‘You remember how the lewd Earl your kinsman,’ he said to him, ‘who passeth not whom he serve, might he change his master, sent his confederates with letters of credence to Francis the French King, and to Charles the Emperor, proffering the help of Munster and Connaught towards the conquest of Ireland, if either of them would help to win it from our King. What precepts, what messages have been sent you to apprehend him? and yet not done. Why so? Forsooth I could not catch him. Yea, sir, it will be sworn and deposed to your face, that for fear of meeting him, you have winked, wilfully shunned his sight, altered your course, warned his friends, stopped both eyes and ears against his detection. Surely this juggling and false play little became an honest man called to such honour, or a nobleman put in such trust.’—Campion, p. 165.
38. State Papers, vol. ii. pp. 146–7.
39. Norfolk to Wolsey: Ibid. p. 135.
40. Norfolk to Wolsey: Ibid. p. 146.
41. It had been partially subdued by Lord James Butler. Irish statute, 28 Henry VIII. cap. 1.
42. O’Brien of Thomond to Henry VIII.: State Papers, vol. ii.
43. Report of 1533: State Papers, vol. ii. pp. 163–179.
44. State Papers, vol. ii. p. 180.
45. Ibid. vol. ii. p. 177.
46. State Papers, vol. ii. p. 192.
47. State Papers, vol. iii. p. 10.
48. It is remarkable that, as I believe, there is no instance of the Act of heresy having been put in force in Ireland. The Irish Protestant Church counts many martyrs; but they were martyrs who fell by murder in the later massacres. So far as I can learn, no Protestant was ever tried and executed there as such by form of law.
49. 28 Hen. VIII. cap. 1, Irish statutes.
50. Cowley to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 198.
51. Act of Attainder of the Earl of Kildare: 28 Hen. VIII. cap. 1. The Act is explicit that the rebellion was in consequence of Kildare discovering that the King would not again trust him; and that he had carefully prepared for it before he left Ireland.
52. The best of reasons. Fitzgerald was in direct communication with the Spanish ambassador in London.—Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, p. 305.
53. Cork and Waterford continued loyal. The mayor of the latter place wrote, on the 12th of July, to Cromwell as follows: ‘This instant day, report is made by the Vicar of Dungarvan, that the Emperour hath sent certain letters unto the Earl of Desmond, by the same chaplain or ambassador that was sent to James the late Earl. And the common bruit is, that his practice is to win the Geraltynes and the Breenes; and that the Emperour intendeth shortly to send an army to invade the cities and towns by the sea-coasts of this land. This thing was spoken by a Spaniard more than a month agone to one of the inhabitants of this city; and because I thought it then somewhat incredible, I forbare at that time to write unto your wisdom thereof. The chaplain arrived more than fifteen days past at the Dingle, in the dominion of the said Earl, which Earl hath, for the victualling of his castle of Dungarvan, taken a ship charged with Spanish wines, that was bound to the town of Galway; and albeit that his years requireth quietness and rest, yet intendeth he as much trouble as ever did any of his nation.’—William Wise, Mayor of Waterford, to Cromwell, July 12, 1534: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 198.
54. On the 21st of July, O’Brien of Thomond wrote the following characteristic letter to Charles:— Corny O’Brien, Prince of Ireland, to the Emperor Charles V.
‘July 21, 1534.
‘To the most sacred and most invincible Cæsar, Charles Emperor of the Romans, Most Catholic King of Spain, health with all submission.—Most sacred Cæsar, lord most clement, we give your Majesty to know that our predecessors for a long time quietly and peacefully occupied Ireland, with constancy, force, and courage, and without rebellion. They possessed and governed this country in manner royal, as by our ancient chronicles doth plainly appear. Our said predecessors and ancestry did come from your Majesty’s realm of Spain, where they were of the blood of a Spanish prince, and many kings of that lineage, in long succession, governed all Ireland happily, until it was conquered by the English. The last king of this land was of my blood and name; and ever since that time our ancestors, and we ourselves, have ceased not to oppose the English intruders; we have never been subject to English rule, or yielded up our ancient rights and liberties; and there is, at this present, and for ever will be, perpetual discord between us, and we will harass them with continual war. ‘For this cause, we, who till this present have sworn fealty to no man, submit ourselves, our lands, our families, our followers, to the protection and defence of your Majesty, and of free will and deliberate purpose we promise to obey your Majesty’s orders and commands in all honest behests. We will serve your Majesty with all our force; that is to say, with 1660 horse and 2440 foot, equipped and armed. Further, we will levy and direct for your Majesty’s use 13,000 men, well armed with harquebuss, bows, arrows, and swords. We will submit to your Majesty’s will and jurisdiction more than a hundred castles, and they and all else shall be at your Majesty’s disposition to be employed as you shall direct. ‘We can undertake also for the assistance and support of our good brother the Earl of Desmond, whose cousin, the daughter of the late Earl James, your Majesty’s friend, is our wife. ‘Our further pleasure will be declared to you by our servants and friends, Robert and Dominic de Paul, to whom your Majesty will deign to give credence. May your Majesty be ever prosperous.
‘Written at our Castle at Clare, witness, our daughter, July 21, 1534, by your humble servant and unfailing friend, ‘Corny O’brien, Prince of Ireland.’—MS. Archives at Brussels: The Pilgrim, pp. 175–6.
55. Cowley to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 198.
56. Campion’s History of Ireland, p. 175. Leland, vol. ii. p. 143.
57. State Papers, vol ii. p. 168.
58. Thomas Finglas to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 200.
59. Agard to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 245.
60. Leland, vol. ii. p. 145.
62. Act of Attainder of the Earl of Kildare: 28 Henry VIII. cap. 1. The Prior of Kilmainham to Henry VIII.: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 501. Campion, p. 178.
63. Divorce of Catherine of Aragon, p. 323.
64. Call McGravyll, or Charles Reynolds: Act of Attainder, 28 Henry VIII. c.1. Campion, p. 176.
65. Such, at least, one of Fitzgerald’s attendants, who was present at the murder, understood to be one of the objects of the Archdeacon’s mission. (State Papers, vol. ii. p. 201, note.) The Act of Attainder says merely that he was sent to beg for assistance.
66. Rawson, one of the Irish Council.
67. State Papers, vol. ii. p. 201.
68. Leland, vol. ii. p. 146.
69. Instructions to Walter Cowley to be declared to the King’s Highness in behalf of the Earl of Ossory: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 250.
70. State Papers, vol. ii. p. 250. Campion, pp. 177–8.
71. McMorrough, O’More, O’Connor, O’Brien, in September, with the greatest part of the gentlemen of the county of Kildare, were retained and sat at Carlow, Castledermot, Athye, Kilkea, and thereabout, with victualls during three weeks, to resist the Earl of Ossory from invading of the county of Kildare.—State Papers, vol. ii. p. 251.
72. The rebel chiefly trusteth in his ordnance, which he hath of the King’s.—Allen to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 202.
73. Allen, Master of the Rolls, had gone over to quicken his sluggish movements, and wrote from Chester to Cromwell, in despair: ‘Please your goodness to be advertised, that as yet the deputy is at Beaumaris, and the Northern men’s horses have been on shipboard these twelve days, which is the danger of their destruction. They have lost such a wind and fair weather, as I doubt they shall not have again for this winter season. Mr Brereton (Sir William Brereton, Skeffington’ s second in command) lieth here at the sea-side in a readiness. If their first appointment to Dublin had been kept, they might have been there; but now they tarry to pass with the deputy. Sir, for the love of God, let some aid be sent to Dublin; for the loss of that city and the castle were the plain subversion of the land.’—Allen to Cromwell, Oct. 4: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 202.
74. Instructions to Walter Cowley on behalf of the Earl of Ossory: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 251.
75. Sir William Brereton to Henry VIII.: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 204.
76. Two thousand five hundred was the smallest number which Lord Surrey previously mentioned as sufficient to do good.—Ibid. p. 73.
77. Fifteen miles north of Dublin; immediately off Malahide.
78. Sir William Brereton and Sir John Salisbury to Henry VIII.: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 203.
79. A small harbour near Drogheda.
80. Skeffington was prudently reserved in his report of these things to Henry. He mentions having set a party on shore, but says nothing of their having heen destroyed; and he could not have been ignorant of their fate, for he was writing three weeks after it, from Dublin. He was silent, too, of the injury which he had received from the pirates, though eloquent on the boats which he burnt at the Skerries.—State Papers, vol. ii. p. 205. On first reading Skeffington’ s despatch, I had supposed that the ‘brilliant victory’ claimed by the Irish historians (see Leland, vol. ii. p. 148) must have been imaginary. The Irish Statute Book, however, is too explicit to allow of such a hope. ‘He [Fitzgerald] not only fortified and manned divers ships at sea, for keeping and letting, destroying and taking the King’s deputy, army, and subjects, that they should not land within the said land; but also at the arrival of the said army, the same Thomas, accompanied with his uncles, servants, adherents, &c., falsely and traitorously assembled themselves together upon the sea coast, for keeping and resisting the King’s deputy and army; and the same time they shamefully murdered divers of the said army coming to land. And Edward Rowkes, pirate at the sea, captain to the said Thomas, destroyed and took many of them.—Act of Attainder of the Earl of Kildare: 28 Hen. VIII. cap. 1.
81. Skeffington to Henry VIII.: State Papers, vol. ii. pp. 206–7.
82. Accompanied with the number of sixty or eighty horsemen, and about three hundred kerne and gallowglass, the traitor came to the town of Trim, and there not only robbed the same, but also burnt a great part thereof, and took all the cattle of the country thereabouts; and after that assaulted Dunboyne, within six miles to Dublin; and the inhabitants of the town defending themselves by the space of two days, and sending for succour to Dublin … in default of relief, he utterly destroyed and burnt the whole town.—Allen to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 220.
83. He hath sent divers muniments and precedents which should prove that the King held this land of the See of Rome; alledging the King and his realm to be heretics digressed from the obedience of the same, and of the faith Catholic. Wherefore his desire is to the Emperour and the Bishop of Eome, that they will aid him in defence of the faith Catholic against the King, promising that he will hold the said land of them, and pay tribute for the same, yearly.—Ibid. p. 222.
84. My lord deputy desireth so much his own glory, that he would no man should make an enterprise except he were at it.—Ibid. p. 227.
85. Skeffington to Sir Edmund Walsingham: Ibid. p. 233.
86. Allen to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 220.
87. In Kildare county, on the frontiers of the pale.
88. The captains and I, the Earl (of Ossory), directed letters to the deputy to meet us in the county of Kildare, at Kilcaa, bringing with him ordnance accordingly, when the deputy appointed without fail to meet. At which day and place the said Earl, with the army (of) “Waterford failed not to be, and there did abide three days continually for the deputy; where he, neither any of the army, came not, ne any letter or word was had from him; but only that Sir James Fitzgerald told that he heard say he was sick.—Ossory to W. Cowley: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 251.
89. Allen certainly thought so, or at least was unable to assure himself that it was not so. ‘My simple advice shall be,’ he wrote, ‘that if ever the King intend to show his grace (which himself demandeth not in due manner) and to pardon him, to withdraw his charges and to pardon him out of hand; or else to send hither a proclamation under the Great Seal of England, that the King never intends to pardon him ne any that shall take part with him, but utterly to prosecute both him and them to their utter confusion. For the gentlemen of the country hath said plainly to divers of the council, that until this be done, they dare not be earnest in resisting him, in doubt he should have his pardon hereafter, as his grandfather, his father, and divers his ancestors have had; and then would prosecute them for the same.’—State Papers, vol. ii. p. 222.
90. Allen to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 226.
91. ‘Restraint must be had that this army shall not spoil ne rob any person, but as the deputy and council shall appoint; and that the captains be obedient to their orders, or it shall not be well. Ne it is not meet that every soldier shall make a man a traitor for to have his goods. They be so nusselled in this robbery, that now they almost will not go forth to defend the country, except they may have gain.’—Allen to Cromwell, Feb. 16.
92. ‘The bows which came out of the stores at Ludlow Castle were naught; many of them would not hold the bending.—State Papers, vol. ii. p. 228.
93. The King, a few months later, wrote to him a letter of warm thanks for his services, and admitted his plea of ill-health with peculiar kindness.—Henry VIII. to Skeffington: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 280.
94. Brabazon to Cromwell: Ibid. p. 224.
95. Allen to Cromwell: Ibid. p. 230.
96. Campion, p. 179.
97. Leland, Coxe, Wake.
98. Henry VIII. was one of the first men to foresee and value the power of artillery. Sebastiani mentions experiments on the range of guns which were made by him, in Southampton water; and it is likely that the cannon used in the siege of Maynooth were the large-sized brass guns which were first cast in England in the year of its capture.—Stow, p. 572. When the history of artillery is written, Henry VIII.’s labours in this department must not be forgotten. Two foreign engineers whom he tempted into his service, first invented ‘shells.’ ‘One Peter Baud, a Frenchman born,’ says Stow, ‘and another alien, called Peter Van Collen, a gunsmith, both the King’s feed men, conferring together, devised and caused to be made certain mortar pieces, being at the mouth from eleven inches unto nineteen inches wide, for the use whereof they [also] caused to be made certain hollow shot of cast iron, to be stuffed with firework or wildfire; whereof the bigger sort for the same had screws of iron to receive a match to carry fire kindled, that the firework might be set on fire for to break in pieces the same hollow shot, whereof the smallest piece hitting any man would kill or spoil him.’—Stow, Chronicle, p. 584.
99. State Papers, vol. ii. p. 237.
100. State Papers, vol. i. p. 446.
101. Ibid. vol. ii. p. 253.
102. Lord Thomas Fitzgerald to Lord Leonard Grey: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 273.
103. The Lord Leonard repayreth at this season to your Majesty, bringing with him the said Thomas, beseeching your Highness most humbly, that according to the comfort of our words spoken to the same Thomas to allure him to yield him, ye would be merciful to the said Thomas, especially concerning his life.—The Council of Ireland to Henry VIII.: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 275.
104. State Papers, vol. ii. p. 274.
105. The conditions promised to Napoleon by the captain of the Bellerophon created a similar difficulty. If Nana Sahib had by any chance been connected by marriage with an English officer, and had that officer induced him to surrender by a promise of pardon, would the English Government have respected that promise?
106. It were the worst example that ever was; and especially for these ungracious people of Ireland.—Norfolk to Cromwell: State Papers, vol. ii. p. 276.
107. State Papers, vol. ii. p. 276.
108. Ibid. The Duke, throughout his letter, takes a remarkably business-like view of the situation. He does not allow the question of ‘right’ to be raised, or suppose at all that the Government could lie under any kind of obligation to a person in the position of Fitzgerald.