Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916

Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wolfe Tone

Flagstone at the Grave of Wolfe Tone

Wolfe Tone

Theobald Wolfe Tone

Theobald Wolfe Tone (20 June 1763 – 19 November 1798), commonly known as Wolfe Tone, was a leading figure in the United Irishmen Irish independence movement and is regarded as the father of Irish republicanism. He died from a wound that he received after being sentenced to death for his part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 — whether self-inflicted or otherwise remains under debate — at any rate, it deprived him of the chance to appeal his death sentence.

Disappointed at finding no support for a plan to found a military colony in Hawaii that he submitted to William Pitt the Younger, Tone turned to Irish politics. A 1790 pamphlet attacking the administration of the Marquess of Buckingham brought him to the notice of the Whig club; in September 1791 he wrote an essay by "A Northern Whig," 10,000 copies of which were said to have been sold.

The principles of the French Revolution were now being eagerly embraced in Ireland, especially among the Presbyterians of Ulster. Two months before Tone's essay, a meeting had been held in Belfast, where republican toasts had been drunk and a resolution in favour of the abolition of religious disqualifications gave the first sign of political sympathy between the Roman Catholics and the Protestant dissenters ("Whigs") of the north. "A Northern Whig" emphasized the growing breach between Whig patriots like Henry Flood and Henry Grattan, who aimed at Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform without severing the tie to England, and those who desired a separate Irish republic. Tone expressed contempt for the constitution Grattan so triumphantly extorted from the British government in 1782; himself an Anglican, Tone urged co-operation between the different religions in Ireland as the only means of obtaining redress of Irish grievances.

In October 1791, Tone converted these ideas into practical policy by founding, in conjunction with Thomas Russell (1767–1803), Napper Tandy and others, the Society of the United Irishmen. The original purpose of this society was no more than the formation of a political union between Roman Catholics and Protestants, with a view to obtaining a liberal measure of parliamentary reform. It was only when it was obvious that this was unattainable by constitutional methods that the majority of the members adopted the more uncompromising opinions which Wolfe Tone held from the first, and conspired to establish an Irish republic by armed rebellion.

Tone himself admitted that with him hatred of England had always been "rather an instinct than a principle", though until his views should become more generally accepted in Ireland he was prepared to work for reform as opposed to revolution. But he wanted to root out the popular respect for the names of Charlemont and Henry Grattan, transferring the leadership to more militant campaigners. Grattan was a reformer and a patriot without democratic ideas; Wolfe Tone was a revolutionary whose principles were drawn from the French Convention. Grattan's political philosophy was allied to that of Edmund Burke; Tone was a disciple of Georges Danton and Thomas Paine. Paine was a roommate of Tone's compatriot, "Citizen Lord" Edward FitzGerald, in Paris; and Paine's famous themes of the "rights of man" and "common sense" can be seen in the opening paragraph of the Declaration of the United Irishmen.

It is important to note the use of the word 'united'. This is what particularly alarmed the British aristocracy in Westminster as they saw the Catholic population as the greatest threat to their power in Ireland. Catholics had additional concerns of their own, these usually being having to pay the tithe bill to the Anglican Church of Ireland and the rent necessary to lease land from the Protestant Ascendancy. Eighteenth century Ireland was a sectarian state, ruled by a small Anglican minority, over both a majority Catholic population (most of whose ancestors had been dispossessed of land and political power in the 17th century Plantations of Ireland), as well to the exclusion of Presbyterian and dissenting Christians from high political office. This was in part also an ethnic division, the Catholics and Presbyterians being descended from native Irish, Normans, 'Old English', and Scottish settlers, and the "Protestants" (Church of Ireland) more often from English settlers like Tone's family. It is important to note, however, that in this era and place, "Protestant" referred specifically to the state sanctioned church, rather than to what today would be broadly referred to as "Protestantism"; many of what would be today called "Protestants" (but not Episcopalian / Anglican / Church of Ireland) would have then referred to themselves as "dissenters".

Existing sectarian animosity did threaten to undermine the United Irishmen movement: two secret societies in Ulster fought against each other, the Peep O'Day Boys, who were made up mostly of Protestants, and the Defenders, who were made up of Catholics. These two groups clashed frequently from 1785 and sectarian violence worsened in the county Armagh area from the mid 1790s. Sectarianism was deliberately fostered to undermine Wolfe Tone's movement, as it suggested that Ireland couldn't be united and that religious prejudices were too strong. In addition, the militant Protestant groups, including the newly founded Orange Order, could be mobilised against the United Irishmen by the British authorities. However these groups were largely based in Ulster, and the underlying reason for their conflicts was the growing demand for rented land, not religion per se.
However, democratic principles were gaining ground among the Catholics as well as among the Presbyterians. A quarrel between the moderate and the more advanced sections of the Catholic Committee led, in December 1791, to the secession of sixty-eight of the former, led by Lord Kenmare; and the direction of the committee then passed to more violent leaders, of whom the most prominent was John Keogh, a Dublin tradesman, known as 'Gog'. The active participation of the Catholics in the movement of the United Irishmen was strengthened by the appointment of Tone as paid secretary of the Roman Catholic Committee in the spring of 1792. Despite his desire to emancipate his fellow countrymen, Tone had very little respect for the Catholic faith (a view shared by many subsequent Irish republicans). When the legality of the Catholic Convention in 1792 was questioned by the government, Tone drew up for the committee a statement of the case on which a favourable opinion of counsel was obtained; and a sum of £1500 with a gold medal was voted to Tone by the Convention when it dissolved itself in April 1793. A petition was made to the king early in 1793 and that year the re-enfranchisement of Catholics was enacted, if they had property as 'forty shilling freeholders'. They could not, however, enter parliament or be made state officials above grand jurors. Burke and Grattan were anxious that provision should be made for the education of Irish Roman Catholic priests in Ireland, to preserve them from the contagion of Jacobinism in France; Wolfe Tone, "with an incomparably juster forecast", as Lecky observes, "advocated the same measure for exactly opposite reasons." He rejoiced that the breaking up of the French schools by the revolution had rendered necessary the foundation of St Patrick's College, Maynooth, which he foresaw would draw the sympathies of the clergy into more democratic channels.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saint Oliver Plunkett

Saint Oliver Plunkett

Saint Oliver Plunkett (1 November 1625 – 1 July 1681) was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. He maintained his duties in Ireland in the face of English persecution and was eventually arrested and tried for treason.

He was brought from a prison cell in Dublin Castle to face trial in Dundalk, during which he made no objection to the all-Protestant jury. The prosecution witnesses were themselves wanted men and afraid to turn up in court, so the trial soon collapsed.

Because of a common belief that no jury in Ireland would ever convict him, irrespective of its makeup, Archbishop Plunkett was then transferred to face trial in Westminster Hall, London. His trial has often been described as a travesty of justice as he was again denied defending counsel, time to assemble his defence witnesses and he was also frustrated in his attempts to obtain the criminal records of those who were to give evidence against him. His servant James McKenna and a relative John Plunkett had travelled back to Ireland and failed within the time available to bring back witnesses and evidence for the defence.

During the trial, Archbishop Plunkett had disputed the right of the court to try him in England and he also drew attention to the criminal past of the witnesses, but all to no avail. Lord Chief Justice Pemberton addressed Oliver: “Look you Mr Plunkett” and told him: “ Do not waste your time by talking about these things as it leaves less time for your defence,” and adding: “the bottom of your treason, which is treason of the highest order, was the setting up of your false religion and there is nothing more displeasing to God than it.” The jury returned within fifteen minutes with a guilty verdict and Archbishop Plunkett replied: “Deo Gratias”. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 1 July 1681, and became the last Roman Catholic martyr to die in England. Oliver Plunkett was beatified in 1920 and canonised in 1975, the first new Irish saint for almost seven hundred years.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Penal Laws

The Penal Laws in Ireland (Irish: Na Péindlíthe) refers to a series of laws imposed under British rule that removed power from the native Roman Catholic majority.

English attempts to govern Ireland had long been marked by the passing of various acts to secure its rule: in 1367, the Statutes of Kilkenny sought to prevent the Old English from any further adoption of Gaelic culture, and Poynings Law of 1494 made the Irish parliament subservient to the English one. These were approved of by the Holy See. But the English Reformation in 1533-38 under Henry VIII brought a new religious division to the relationship between Ireland and England, though he also persecuted Protestants from 1539 to 1547. In 1541 he legislated for the new Kingdom of Ireland. His son Edward VI (reigned 1547-53) was fully Protestant but his policy was only published just before his death. Queen Mary then reimposed orthodox Catholicism in 1553-58, while settling the new 'King's' and Queen's' counties in the midlands. During her reign it was agreed under the Treaty of Augsburg in 1555 that Europeans should follow their rulers' faiths (in Latin, 'Cuius regio, eius religio'). She married the future King Philip II of Spain.

Initially, English monarchs were cautious about applying the Penal Laws to Ireland because they needed the support of the Roman Catholic upper classes to put down the Gaelic Irish rebellion in the Nine Years War (1594-1603). In addition, a significant section of the Roman Catholic aristocracy was Old English who had traditionally been loyal to English rule in Ireland. However, the ascent of James I to the English and Irish thrones in 1603 and eventual victory in the Nine Years War saw a series of laws put into force. In 1605 the 'Gunpowder Plot' was planned by a tiny group of English Catholics, as they considered James I to be a heretic also, and this provided a further justification for laws restricting all Catholics in Ireland, Scotland and England. In 1607 the Flight of the Earls seeking Catholic help in Europe for a revolt led to the wholesale Plantation of Ulster.

From 1607, Catholics were barred from holding public office or serving in the army. This meant that the Irish Privy Council and the Lords Justice - who, along with the Lord Deputy of Ireland constituted the government of the country, would in future be Protestants. In 1613, the constituencies of the Irish House of Commons were altered to give Protestant settlers a majority. In addition, Roman Catholics had to pay 'recusant fines' for non-attendance at Protestant services. Roman Catholic churches were transferred to the Protestant Church of Ireland. Roman Catholic services, however, were generally tacitly tolerated as long as they were conducted in private. Roman Catholic priests were also tolerated, but bishops (who, since Catholic education was not permitter were usually trained in mainland Europe) were forced to operate clandestinely. In 1634 the issue of the "Graces" arose; generous taxation for Charles I (whose Queen Henrietta Maria was Catholic) was voted by Irish Catholic landlords on the understanding the laws would be reformed, but once the tax was voted Charles' viceroy refused two of the 51 Graces, and subsequent bills were blocked by the Catholic majority in the Irish House of Lords.

Catholic resentment was a factor in starting the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and the establishment of Confederate Ireland from 1642 with Papal support, that was eventually put down in the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649-53. After the Act of Settlement in 1652, Catholics were barred from membership in the Irish Parliament, the richer of them had most of their lands confiscated under the Adventurers Act, and were banned from living in towns for a short period. To the Cromwellians, all Catholics were, in turn, heretics. Catholic clergy were expelled from the country and were liable to instant execution when found. Many faithful had to practice their faith in secret at gathering places (such as Mass rocks) in the countryside. Seventeen Catholic martyrs from this period were beatified in 1992.

With the defeat of Catholic attempts to regain power and lands in Ireland, what became known later as the "Protestant Ascendancy" sought to insure dominance with the passing of a number of laws to restrict the religious, political and economic activities of Catholics and Dissenters. Harsher laws were introduced for political reasons during the long War of the Spanish Succession that ended in 1714. The son of James II, the "Old Pretender", was recognised by the Holy See as the legitimate king of Britain and Ireland until his death in 1766, and Catholics were obliged to support him. He also approved the appointments of all the Irish Catholic hierarchy, who were drawn from his most fervent supporters. These aspects provided the political excuses for the new laws passed for several decades after 1695. Among the discriminations now faced by Catholics and Dissenters under the Penal Laws were:
  • Exclusion of Catholics from most public offices (since 1607), Presbyterians were also barred from public office from 1707.
  • Ban on intermarriage with Protestants; repealed 1778
  • Presbyterian marriages were not legally recognised by the state
  • Catholics barred from holding firearms or serving in the armed forces (rescinded by Militia Act of 1793)
  • Bar from membership in either the Parliament of Ireland or the Parliament of Great Britain from 1652; rescinded 1662-1691; renewed 1691-1829.
  • Disenfranchising Act 1728, exclusion from voting until 1793;
  • Exclusion from the legal professions and the judiciary; repealed (respectively) 1793 and 1829.
  • Education Act 1695 - ban on foreign education; repealed 1782.
  • Bar to Catholics entering Trinity College Dublin; repealed 1793.
  • On a death by a Catholic, his legatee could benefit by conversion to the Church of Ireland;
  • Popery Act - Catholic inheritances of land were to be equally subdivided between all an owner's sons with the exception that if the eldest son and heir converted to Protestantism that he would become the one and only tenant of estate and portions for other children not to exceed one third of the estate. This "Gavelkind" system had previously been abolished by 1600.
  • Ban on converting from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism on pain of Praemunire: forfeiting all property estates and legacy to the monarch of the time and remaining in prison at the monarch's pleasure. In addition, forfeiting the monarch's protection. No injury however atrocious could have any action brought against it or any reparation for such.
  • Ban on Catholics buying land under a lease of more than 31 years; repealed 1778.
  • Ban on custody of orphans being granted to Catholics on pain of 500 pounds that was to be donated to the Blue Coat hospital in Dublin.
  • Ban on Catholics inheriting Protestant land
  • Prohibition on Catholics owning a horse valued at over £5 (in order to keep horses suitable for military activity out of the majority's hands)
  • Roman Catholic lay priests had to register to preach under the Registration Act 1704, but seminary priests and Bishops were not able to do so until 1778
  • When allowed, new Catholic churches were to be built from wood, not stone, and away from main roads.
  • 'No person of the popish religion shall publicly or in private houses teach school, or instruct youth in learning within this realm' upon pain of twenty pounds fine and three months in prison for every such offence. Repealed in 1782.
  • Any and all rewards not paid by the crown for alerting authorities of offences to be levied upon the Catholic populace within parish and county.

Historians disagree on how rigorously these laws were enforced. The consensus is that enforcement depended on the attitudes of local magistrates bringing or hearing particular cases; some of whom were rigorous, others more liberal.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Brehon Laws

We are about to look at the Penal Laws that the British monarchy enacted upon the Irish. However, before we do, we need to look at the old laws that governed the Irish prior to the British invasion.

Early Irish law refers to the statutes that governed everyday life and politics in Ireland during the Gaelic period. Thought to be the oldest form of law in Northern Europe, they were partially eclipsed by the Norman invasion of 1169, but underwent a resurgence in the 13th century, and survived in parallel with English law over the majority of the island until the 17th century. "Early Irish Law" was often, although not universally, referred to within the law texts as "Fenechas", the law of the Feni, or the freemen of Irelandian Ireland mixed with Christian influence and juristic innovation. These secular laws existed in parallel, and occasionally in conflict, with Canon law throughout the early Christian period.

The laws were a civil rather than a criminal code, concerned with the payment of compensation for harm done and the regulation of property, inheritance and contracts; the concept of state-administered punishment for crime was foreign to Ireland's early jurists. They show Ireland in the early medieval period to have been a hierarchical society, taking great care to define social status, and the rights and duties that went with it, according to property, and the relationships between lords and their clients and serfs.

No single theory as to the origin of early Irish law is universally accepted. Early Irish law consisted of the accumulated decisions of the Brehons, guided entirely by an oral tradition. Some of these laws were recorded in text form by Christian clerics. The early theory to be recorded is contained in the Pseudo-Historical Prologue to the Senchas Már. According to that text, after a difficult case involving St. Patrick, the Saint supervised the mixing of native Irish law and the law of the church. A representative of every group came and recited the law related to that group and they were written down and collected into the Senchas Már, excepting that any law which conflicted with the law of the church was replaced. The story also tells how the law transitioned from the keeping of the poets, whose speech was "dark" and incomprehensible, to the keeping of each group who had an interest in it. The story is extremely dubious as, not only is it written many centuries after the events it depicts, but it also incorrectly dates the collection of the Senchas Már to the time of St. Patrick while scholars have been able to determine that it was collected during the eighth century, at least three centuries after the time of St. Patrick. Some of the ideas in the tale may be correct, and it has been suggested by modern historians the Irish jurists were an offshoot from the poetic class which would have previously preserved the laws.

For some time, especially through the work of D. A. Binchy, the laws were held to be conservative and useful primarily for reconstructing the laws and customs of the Proto-Indo-Europeans just as linguists had reconstructed the Proto-Indo-European language. For instance, historians have seen comparisons between Irish and Indian customs of fasting as a method of shaming a wrongdoer, in order to recover a debt or to demand the righting of a wrong. Other legal institutions prominent in early Irish law but foreign to most contemporary legal systems, such as the use of sureties, have been considered as survivals from earlier periods. More recently historians have come to doubt such attributions. While few historians would argue that all Irish law comes from church influence, they are today much more wary as to what material is a survival and what has changed. A past may still be suggested for a certain legal concept based on Irish legal terms' being cognate with terms in other Celtic languages, although that information does not prove that the practice described by the legal term has not changed.

Today the legal system is agreed to be some mixture of earlier law influenced by the church as well as adaptation through methods of reasoning which the Irish jurists would have sanctioned. It is not, however, agreed as to just how large a role each of these aspects may have played in the creation of the legal texts, but rather it represents an important scope for debate. There is, however, one area where scholars have found material that is clearly old. A number of legal terms have been shown to have originated in the period before the Celtic Languages split up because they are preserved in both Old Irish and in the Welsh legal texts. On the other hand, this is not regarded as unquestionable evidence that the practices described by such terms are unchanged or even have their origins in the same period as do the terms.

Another important aspect when considering the origins is that the early Irish law texts are not always consistent. Early Irish law is, like the Old Irish language, remarkably standard across an Island with no central authority. However, close examination has revealed some variations. Among these one can especially point to variations both in style and content between two of the major legal schools, as they are known; those which produced the Bretha Nemed and Senchas Már respectively.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Flight of the Wild Geese

Not to be confused with the 1607 Flight of the Earls.

Uniform and colonel’s flag of the Hibernia Regiment, mid-eighteenth century
The Flight of the Wild Geese refers to the departure of an Irish Jacobite army under the command of Patrick Sarsfield from Ireland to France, as agreed in the Treaty of Limerick on October 3, 1691, following the end of the Williamite War in Ireland. More broadly, the term "Wild Geese" is used in Irish history to refer to Irish soldiers who left to serve in continental European armies in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, or even, poetically, Irish soldiers in British armies as late as the First World War.

The first Irish troops to serve as a unit for a continental power formed an Irish regiment in the Spanish Army of Flanders in the Eighty Years' War in the 1580s. The regiment had been raised by an English Catholic, William Stanley, in Ireland from native Irish soldiers and mercenaries, whom the English authorities wanted out of the country. (See also Tudor re-conquest of Ireland) Stanley was given a commission by Elizabeth I and was intended to lead his regiment on the English side, in support of the Dutch United Provinces. However, in 1585, motivated by religious factors and bribes offered by the Spaniards, Stanley defected to the Spanish side with the regiment. In 1598 Diego Brochero de Anaya wrote the Spanish King Philip III:

"that every year Your Highness should order to recruit in Ireland some Irish soldiers, who are people tough and strong, and nor the cold weather or bad food could kill them easily as they would with the Spanish, as in their island, which is much colder than this one, they are almost naked, they sleep on the floor and eat oats bread, meat and water, without drinking any wine."

The unit fought in the Netherlands until 1600 when it was disbanded due to heavy wastage through combat and sickness.

Following the defeat of the Gaelic armies of the Nine Years' War, the "Flight of the Earls" took place in 1607. The Earl of Tyrone Hugh O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrconnell Rory O'Donnell and the Lord of Beare and Bantry, Donal O'Sullivan, along with many chiefs and their followers from Ulster, fled Ireland. They hoped to get Spanish help in order to restart their rebellion in Ireland, but King Philip III of Spain did not want a resumption of war with England and refused their request.

Nevertheless, their arrival led to the formation of a new Irish regiment in Flanders, officered by Gaelic Irish nobles and recruited from their followers and dependents in Ireland. This regiment was more overtly political than its predecessor in Spanish service and was militantly hostile to the English Protestant government in Ireland. The regiment was led by Hugh O'Neill's son John. Prominent officers included Owen Roe O'Neill and Hugh Dubh O'Neill.

A fresh source of recruits came in the early seventeenth century, when Roman Catholics were banned from military and political office in Ireland. As a result, the Irish units in the Spanish service began attracting Catholic Old English officers such as Thomas Preston and Garret Barry. These men had more pro-English views than their Gaelic counterparts and considerable animosity was created over plans to use the Irish regiment to invade Ireland in 1627. The regiment was garrisoned in Brussels during the truce in the Eighty Years' War from 1609–1621 and developed close links with Irish Catholic clergy based in the seminary there, creating the famous Irish Colleges — most notably, Florence Conroy.

Many of the Irish troops in Spanish service returned to Ireland after the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and fought in the armies of Confederate Ireland - a movement of Irish Catholics. When the Confederates were defeated and Ireland occupied after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, around 34,000 Irish Confederate troops fled the country to seek service in Spain. Some of them later deserted or defected to French service, where the conditions were deemed better. At the time of the Napoleonic Wars there were still three Irish infantry regiments in the Spanish army: Irlanda (raised 1698); Hibernia (1709); and Ultonia (1709). However in the later years of the existence of these units only the officers were Irish or of Irish descent, the men being predominantly Spanish or other foreigners. All three regiments were finally disbanded in 1815.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Oliver Cromwell

Irish history cannot be told without the likes of Oliver Cromwell, though a tyrannt he may have been.

Oliver Cromwell (25 April 1599 – 3 September 1658) was an English military and political leader best known for his involvement in making England into a republican Commonwealth and for his later role as Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.

He was one of the commanders of the New Model Army which defeated the royalists in the English Civil War. After the execution of King Charles I in 1649, Cromwell dominated the short-lived Commonwealth of England, conquered Ireland and Scotland, and ruled as Lord Protector from 1653 until his death from malaria in 1658.

Cromwell led a Parliamentary invasion of Ireland from 1649–50. Parliament's key opposition was the military threat posed by the alliance of the Irish Confederate Catholics and English royalists (signed in 1649). The Confederate-Royalist alliance was judged to be the biggest single threat facing the Commonwealth. However, the political situation in Ireland in 1649 was extremely fractured: there were also separate forces of Irish Catholics who were opposed to the royalist alliance, and Protestant royalist forces that were gradually moving towards Parliament. Cromwell said in a speech to the army Council on 23 March that "I had rather be overthrown by a Cavalierish interest than a Scotch interest; I had rather be overthrown by a Scotch interest than an Irish interest and I think of all this is the most dangerous".

Cromwell's hostility to the Irish was religious as well as political. He was passionately opposed to the Roman Catholic Church, which he saw as denying the primacy of the Bible in favour of papal and clerical authority, and which he blamed for suspected tyranny and persecution of Protestants in Europe. Cromwell's association of Catholicism with persecution was deepened with the Irish Rebellion of 1641. This rebellion, although intended to be bloodless, was marked by massacres of English and Scottish Protestant settlers by Irish and Old English, and Gallowglass Scot Catholics in Ireland (these settlers had settled on land seized from former, native Catholic owners to make way for the non-native Protestants). These factors contributed to Cromwell's harshness in his military campaign in Ireland.

The extent of Cromwell's brutality in Ireland has been strongly debated. Some historians argue that Cromwell never accepted that he was responsible for the killing of civilians in Ireland, claiming that he had acted harshly, but only against those "in arms". Other historians, however, cite Cromwell's contemporary reports to London including that of 27 September 1649 in which he lists the slaying of 3,000 military personnel, followed by the phrase "and many inhabitants".

In September 1649, he justified his sack of Drogheda as revenge for the massacres of Protestant settlers in Ulster in 1641, calling the massacre "the righteous judgement of God on these barbarous wretches, who have imbued their hands with so much innocent blood." However, Drogheda had never been held by the rebels in 1641—many of its garrison were in fact English royalists. On the other hand, the worst atrocities committed in Ireland, such as mass evictions, killings and deportation of over 50,000 men, women and children for indentured labour to Bermuda and Barbados, were carried out under the command of other generals after Cromwell had left for England.

On entering Ireland, Cromwell demanded that no supplies were to be seized from the civilian inhabitants, and that everything should be fairly purchased; "I do hereby warn....all Officers, Soldiers and others under my command not to do any wrong or violence toward Country People or any persons whatsoever, unless they be actually in arms or office with the they shall answer to the contrary at their utmost peril." Several English soldiers were hanged for disobeying these orders.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Patrick Sarsfield

Patrick Sarsfield, the First Earl of Lucan

Patrick Sarsfield (ca. 1660 – 21 August 1693), created the first Earl of Lucan, Irish Jacobite and soldier, belonged to an Anglo-Norman family long settled in Ireland.

Sarsfield was born in Lucan. His father Patrick Sarsfield married Anne, daughter of Rory (Roger) O'Moore, who organized the Irish Rebellion of 1641. The family was of Norman origin (by this time, known as "Old English") and possessed an estate with an income of £2,000 a year. Patrick, who was a younger son, entered Dongan's Regiment of Foot on 6 February 1678.

In his early years, he is known to have challenged Lord Grey for a supposed reflection on the veracity of the Irish people (September 1681), and in the December of that year he was run through the body in a duel in which he engaged as second.

In 1682-83 while in London, Sarsfield took part in two abductions of heiresses. In May 1682, he helped his friend Captain Robert Clifford to abduct Ann Siderlin, a wealthy widow, and was considered lucky not to be prosecuted. Then he abducted Elizabeth Herbert, the widowed daughter of Lord Chandos, on his own account. Elizabeth refused to marry him, but agreed not to prosecute him in exchange for her freedom.

During the last years of the reign of King Charles II, he saw service in the English regiments that were attached to the army of Louis XIV of France. The accession of King James II led to his return home.

He took part in the suppression of the Western rebellion at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685. In the following year he was promoted to a colonelcy. King James had adopted the policy of remodelling the Irish army so as to turn it from a Protestant-led force to a Catholic-led one, and Sarsfield, whose family was Roman Catholic, was selected to assist in this reorganization. He went to Ireland with Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, who was appointed commander-in-chief by the king.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Owen Roe O'Neill

Owen Roe O'Neill

Eoghan Rua Ó Néill, anglicised as Owen Roe O'Neill (c. 1590–1649) ("Red Owen"), was a seventeenth century soldier and one of the most famous of the O'Neill dynasty of Ulster.

O'Neill was the son of Art O'Neill, a younger brother of Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone (the Great O'Neill), who held lands in County Armagh. As a young man he left Ireland, one of the ninety-nine involved in the Flight of the Earls escaping the English conquest of his native Ulster. He grew up in the Spanish Netherlands and spent 40 years serving in the Irish regiment of the Spanish army. He saw most of his combat in the Eighty Years' War against the Dutch Republic in Flanders, notably at the siege of Arras, where he commanded the Spanish garrison. O'Neill was, like many Gaelic Irish officers in the Spanish service, very hostile to the English Protestant presence in Ireland.

In 1627, he was involved in petitioning the Spanish monarchy to invade Ireland using the Irish Spanish regiments. O'Neill proposed that Ireland be made a republic under Spanish protection to avoid in-fighting between Irish Catholic landed families over which of them would provide a prince or king of Ireland. This plot came to nothing. However in 1642, O'Neill returned to Ireland with 300 veterans to aid the Irish Rebellion of 1641.

The subsequent war, known as the Irish Confederate Wars, was part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms -civil wars throughout Britain and Ireland. Because of his military experience, O'Neill was recognised on his return to Ireland, at Doe Castle in Donegal (end of July 1642), as the leading representative of the O'Neills and head of the Ulster Irish. Sir Phelim O'Neill resigned the northern command of the Irish rebellion in Owen Roe's favour, and escorted him from Lough Swilly to Charlemont.

But jealousy between the kinsmen was complicated by differences between Owen Roe and the Catholic Confederation which met at Kilkenny in October 1642. Owen Roe professed to be acting in the interest of Charles I; but his real aim was the complete Independence of Ireland as a Roman Catholic country, while the Old English Catholics represented by the council desired to secure religious liberty and an Irish constitution under the crown of England. More concretely, O'Neill wanted the Plantation of Ulster overturned and the recovery of the O'Neill clan's ancestral lands. Moreover, he was unhappy that the majority of Confederate military resources were directed to Thomas Preston's Leinster Army. Preston was also a Spanish veteran but he and O'Neill had an intense personal dislike of each other.

Although Owen Roe O'Neill was a competent general, he was outnumbered by the Scottish Covenanter army that had landed in Ulster in 1642. Following a reverse at Clones, O'Neill had to abandon central Ulster and was followed by thousands of refugees, fleeing the retribution of the Scottish soldiers for some atrocities against Protestants in the rebellion of 1641. O'Neill complained that the devastation of Ulster made it look, "not only like a desert, but like hell, if hell could exist on earth". O'Neill did his best to stop the killings of Protestant civilians, for which he received the gratitude of many Protestant settlers. From 1642-46 a stalemate existed in Ulster, which O'Neill used to train and discipline his Ulster Army. This poorly supplied force nevertheless gained a very bad reputation for plundering and robbing friendly civilians around its quarters in northern Leinster and southern Ulster.

In 1646 O'Neill, furnished with supplies by the Papal Nuncio, Giovanni Battista Rinuccini, attacked the Scottish Covenanter army under Major-General Robert Monro, who had landed in Ireland in April 1642. On 5 June 1646 O'Neill utterly routed Monro at the Battle of Benburb, on the Blackwater killing or capturing up to 3000 Scots. However after being summoned to the south by Rinuccini, he failed to take advantage of the victory, and allowed Monro to remain unmolested at Carrickfergus.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rory O'More

The Rory O' More Bridge - Dublin

Colonel Rory O'Moore (Irish: Ruairí Óg Ó Mórdha) (b. circa 1620 – 16 February 1655), titular King of Laois, Irish petty noble and the principal organizer of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, belonged to an ancient Irish noble family descended from the mythical Conall Cernach. He was born in Laois around 1620, but the exact date is unknown.

His uncle Rory Oge O'Moore, King of Laois, was a famous rebel in his own right. After having over 180 members of his large family killed by English forces at a feast at Mullaghmast, Co. Kildare in 1577, in an effort to pacify the native Septs of Laois, Rory Oge became a lifelong enemy of Queen Elizabeth I of England and in the course of his lifetime he would cost the English crown over £200,000, but this led to the downfall of the O'Moore family and left them destitute.

Likewise, his namesake the younger Col. Rory O'Moore would live to wreak havoc on the English forces who sought to pacify Ireland for its king, Charles I of England. Little is known of his personal exploits. Neverteheless, Charles Gavan Duffy thought highly of Rory's individual significance for the rebels' achievements: "Then a private gentleman, with no resources beyond his intellect and his courage, this Rory, when Ireland was weakened by defeat and confiscation, and guarded with a jealous care constantly increasing in strictness and severity, conceived the vast design of rescuing the country frm England, and even accomplished it; for, in three years, England did not retain a city in Ireland but Dublin and Drogheda, and for eight years the land was possessed and the supreme authority exercised by the Confederation created by O'Moore. History contains no stricter instance of the influence of an individual mind."

Many historians believe he was the father of James Moore, Governor of the Province of Carolina and therefore an ancestor of American General Robert Howe of Revolutionary War fame. What is certain was that his grandson, Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan was able to continue his legacy, leading the Jacobite forces in Ireland. The Rory O'More Bridge in Dublin was named after him.

An Irish air, The March of the King of Laois, commemorates O'Moore's exploits in the 1641 rebellion.

The following are a few stanzas of an Ulster ballad of that period, preserved in Duffy's "Ballad Poetry of Ireland":

On the green hills of Ulster the white cross waves high,And the beacon of war throws its flames to the sky;Now the taunt and the threat let the coward endure,Our hope is in God and in Rory O'Moore!

Do you ask why the beacon and banner of warOn the mountains of Ulster are seen from afar?'Tis the signal our rights to regain and secure,Through God and our Lady and Rory O'Moore!

Oh! lives there a traitor who'd shrink from the strife--Who to add to the length of a forfeited life,His country, his kindred, his faith would abjure;No! we'll strike for our God and for Rory O'Moore.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Grace O'Malley - Granuaile

The Meeting of the Pirate Queen with the British Queen - Grace O'Malley & Queen Elizabeth I

Grace O'Malley is one of the more colorful Irish heroes (or in her case heroines).

Gráinne Ní Mháille (c. 1530 – c. 1603), also known as Granuaile or Gráinne Mhaol, usually known in English as Grace O'Malley (sometimes "O'Mealey", another Anglicism), is an important figure in Irish folklore, and a historical figure in 16th century Irish history. O'Malley is sometimes known as "The Sea Queen Of Connaught". Her name appears in contemporary documents as Gráinne Ui Mháille, Gráinne Umhaill. Anglicized versions of her name in contemporary English state papers included Grany O'Maly, Grany Imallye, Granny Nye Male, Grany O'Mayle, Granie ny Maille, Granny ni Maille, Grany O'Mally, Grayn Ny Mayle, Grane ne Male, Grainy O'Maly, and Granee O'Maillie.

Even as a young woman Gráinne Ní Mháille was involved in the business of sailing ships and international trade. She probably learned the business from her father, Eoghan "Dubhdara" Ó Máille, who plied a busy international shipping trade. It is known that she always wanted to join his fleets, but he always refused. Bunowen Castle, where she lived with her first husband, Dónal an-Chogaidh O'Flaherty, was situated on the most western point in Connacht, and was apparently the first base for her shipping and trade activities. By the time of Donal's death in the early 1560s, she commanded the loyalty of so many O'Flaherty men that many of them left the area when she did, and followed her to Clare Island in Clew Bay, where she moved her headquarters.

Dónal an-Chogaidh O'Flaherty had taken a fortress in the Lough Corrib from the Joyce clan. Because of Donal's attitude, the Joyces bagan calling that particular fortress "Cock's Castle." When they heard of his death, they decided to take back the castle. Grainne defended it against them successfully, and apparently the Joyces were so impressed with her abilities in battle that they renamed it Caislean an-Circa, the "Hen's Castle," the name by which it is still known. The English later attacked her at the Hen's Castle, but despite being outnumbered O'Malley withstood the siege. According to legend, she took lead from the roof of the fortress and melted it, then poured it onto the heads of the attacking soldiers. She summoned help by sending a man to light a beacon on the nearby Hill of Doon. Some time before she had ordered the signal beacons set up for just such a purpose. Help arrived and the English were beaten back, never to attack the fortress again.

Around the time of her first husband's death came the initial complaints to the English Council in Dublin from Galway's city leaders that O'Flaherty and Ní Mháille ships were behaving like pirates. Because Galway imposed taxes on the ships that traded their goods there, the O'Flahertys, led by Ní Mháille, decided to extract a similar tax from ships traveling in waters off their lands. Ní Mháille's ships would stop and board the traders and demand either cash or a portion of the cargo in exchange for safe passage the rest of the way to Galway. Resistance was met with violence and even murder. Once they obtained their toll, the O'Flaherty ships would disappear into one of the many bays in the area.

By the early 1560s, Ní Mháille had left O'Flaherty territory and returned to her father's holdings on Clare Island. She recruited fighting men from both Ireland and Scotland, transporting the gallowglass mercenaries between their Scottish homes and Irish employers and plundering Scotland's outlying islands on her return trips. In an apparent effort to curry favor with the English, which were engaged in a re-conquest of Ireland at the time, Ní Mháille went to the Lord Deputy of Ireland and offered two hundred fighting men to serve English interests in Ireland and Scotland.

Ní Mháille's attacked other ships at least as far away as Waterford on the south central coast of Ireland, as well as closer to her home port in northwestern Ireland. She did not limit her attacks to other ships. She attacked fortresses on the shoreline, including Curradh Castle at Renvyle and the O'Loughlin castle in the Burren. She also attacked the O'Boyle and MacSweeney clans in their holdings in Burtonport, Killybegs and Lough Swilly.

In 1577, she met with Sir Henry Sidney, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, who already knew of her since she had met his son, Sir Philip Sidney, in 1576. Although Philip Sidney would have been a very young man at the time, Ní Mháille evidently made an impression on him since he mentioned her in favorable terms to his father.

Ní Mháille was wealthy on land as well as by sea. She inherited her father's fleet of ships and land holdings, as well as the land her mother had owned. Around the time of her meeting with Queen Elizabeth I of England, she owned herds of cattle and horses that numbered at least one thousand, which would have meant she was wealthy.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Flight of the Earls

Rathmullen on the Shore of Lough Swilly

After their defeat at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, and the suppression of the Nine Years' War in Ulster in 1603, Tyrone and the Prince of Tyrconnell, Lord Tyrconnell's elder brother and predecessor, had been forced into exile in January 1602 by the victorious English government of Ireland under the leadership of the Lord Mountjoy. They retained their lands and titles, although with much diminished extent and authority. However, the countryside was laid bare in a campaign of destruction in 1602, and induced famine in 1603, in the same way that O'Neill had devastated Munster in 1600. O'Neill surrendered on favourable terms at Mellifont just as Queen Elizabeth was dying, and submitted to the crown.

When King James I took the throne in 1603 he quickly proceeded to issue pardons for the Irish lords and their rebel forces. As king of Scotland he had a better understanding of the advantages of working with local chiefs in the Scottish Highlands. However, as in other Irish lordships, the 1603 peace involved O'Neill losing substantial areas of land to his cousins and neighbours, who would be granted freeholds under the English system, instead of the looser arrangements under the former Brehon law system. This was not a new policy but was a well-understood and longstanding practice in the Tudor Reconquest of Ireland.

On 10 September 1602, the Prince of Tyrconnell had already died, allegedly assassinated, in Spain, and his brother succeeded him as 25th Chieftain of the O'Donnell clan. He was later granted the Earldom of Tyrconnell by King James I on 4 September 1603, and restored to a somewhat diminished scale of territories in Tyrconnell on 10 February 1604.

In 1605 the new Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, began to encroach on the former freedoms of the two Earls and The Maguire, enforcing the new freeholds, especially that granted in North Ulster to the O Catháin chief. The O Catháins had formerly been subject to the O'Neills and required protection; in turn, Chichester wanted to reduce O'Neill's authority. An option was to charge O'Neill with treason if he did not comply with the new arrangements. The discovery of the Gunpowder Plot in the same year made it harder for Catholics to appear loyal to both the crown and the papacy. As the Dublin administration sided with O Cathain, O'Neill was invited by King James to make his case in 1607 to the Privy Council in London, which he never did.

By 1607 O'Neill's allies The Maguire and the Earl of Tyrconnell were finding it hard to maintain their prestige on lower incomes. They planned to seek Spanish support before news of the Battle of Gibraltar arrived. When their ship dropped anchor, O'Neill seems to have joined them on impulse. He had three choices:

Flee with his friends and hope for a reinvasion by Spain
Go to London and stay at court until his grievances were redressed
Do nothing and live on a reduced income as a large landowner in Ulster.
Fearing arrest, they chose to flee to the Continent, where they hoped to recruit an army for the invasion of Ireland with Spanish help. However, earlier in 1607 the Spanish fleet had been destroyed by the Dutch in the Battle of Gibraltar. Also as the Anglo–Spanish War (1585) had ended in 1604, King Philip III of Spain wanted to preserve the recent peace with England under its new Stuart dynasty. As a part of the peace proposals, a Spanish princess was to marry James' son Henry, though this never transpired. Tyrone ignored all these realities, remained in Italy, and persisted with his invasion plan until his death in exile in 1616.

The Earls set sail from Rathmullan, a village on the shore of Lough Swilly in County Donegal, accompanied by ninety followers, many of them Ulster noblemen, and some members of their families. Several left their wives behind, hoping either to return or retrieve them later. The late Tomas Cardinal O’Fiaich, Archbishop of Armagh, gave a lecture at Rathmullan in September 1988 and recounted that the Earl of Tyrone allegedly “had a gold cross which contained a relic of the True Cross, and this he trailed in the water behind the ship, and according to O’Ciainain, it gave some relief from the storm” during the crossing to Quillebeuf-sur-Seine in Haute-Normandie in northern France; they finally reached the Continent on 4 October 1607. The significance of this act is also underlined by the fact that the date of the exile from Rathmullan was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This supposed relic of the True Cross was probably a minor relic taken from that kept at Holy Cross Abbey which they had previously visited en route to Kinsale in 1601.

Their destination was Spain, but they disembarked in France and proceeded overland to Spanish Flanders, some remaining in Leuven, whilst the main party continued to Italy. They planned to return to Ireland and campaign for the recovery of their lands, with the support of Spain, but both died in exile.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Battle of Kinsale

The Battle of Kinsale
Lord Mountjoy's forces were incapable of surrounding the town of Kinsale and its surrounding area's (Now called Belgooley)but they did seize some higher ground and subjected the Spanish forces to constant artillery fire. The English cavalry rode through the surrounding countryside destroying livestock and crops, while both sides called for allegiance from the population. O'Neill and O'Donnell were hesitant about leaving Ulster open to attack by marching south, especially given the lack of supplies for their troops. When they did set out they successfully cut English supply lines across the island and, by December, the shortage of supplies and the severe weather had begun to take a toll on the besieging army, with many dying of dysentery and the ague.

Reinforcements arrived from Spain, and on December 24, 1601 British date: (January 3, 1602 for the Catholic Irish and Spanish armies) moved in to position. In three columns - led by Richard Tyrell, Hugh O'Neill, and O'Donnell - they marched toward a night attack, but owing to a lack of coordination and possible arguments between the commanders, they had failed to reach their destination by dawn. The English scouts were aware of the troop movements and, after leaving a number of regiments behind to guard the camp and cover Kinsale, Mountjoy led his forces to meet the enemy at a ridge northwest of the town.

O'Neill controlled the ridge, and intended to fight for it, with support from Aguila, O'Donnell, and Tyrell on multiple sides. De Aguilla, the Spanish commander, was an experienced soldier and put up a fierce defense. His instructions were, however, to hold the town until the Irish army came down from Ulster to combine with them. When neither of his allies showed signs of movement, O'Neill ordered a retreat into the marshes, hoping to mire the English cavalry in the soft land. In the end, the Irish were overpowered by the English cavalry, who charged through O'Neill's men, and prevented a flanking maneuver by O'Donnell.

The tactics showed that the Irish Foot were poorly trained for open field fighting and the formation of the hollow square. It also showed up the English cavalry techniques using the lance, as compared with the Irish method of no stirrup and overhead spear throwing.

The Irish army left the field in some disorder while the supporting Spanish army led by Ocampo tried to hold the charge and the ensuing massacre. Most fled back to Ulster, though a few remained to continue the war with O’Sullivan Beare. The Spanish, who lost many men in the siege, gave up the town to Mountjoy, "on Terms" and were allowed to sail back to Spain, not knowing that only a few days ahead another Spanish force was sent. Outnumbered, deprived from any enforcements and provisions and under constant English bombardment the Spaniards had bravely and successfully defended the town of Kinsale against all comers for more than 3 months.

Hugh O'Neill - Irish Rebel, 2nd Earl of Tyrone

Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone

Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone, sometimes called The Great Earl, was the second son of Matthew, reputed illegitimate son of Conn, 1st Earl of Tyrone. He succeeded his brother, Brian, when the latter was murdered by Turlough in 1562, as Baron of Dungannon. He was brought up in London, but returned to Ireland in 1567 after the death of Shane, under the protection of Sir Henry Sidney. He served with the English against Desmond in Munster in 1580, and assisted Sir John Perrot against the Scots of Ulster in 1584.

In the following year he was allowed to attend parliament as Earl of Tyrone, though Conn's title had been for life only, and had not been assumed by Brian. Hugh's constant disputes with Turlough were fomented by the English with a view to weakening the power of the O'Neills, but after Hugh's inauguration as the O'Neill on Turlough's resignation in 1593, he was left without a rival in the north. His career was marked by unceasing duplicity, at one time giving evidence of submission to the English authorities, at another intriguing against them in conjunction with lesser Irish chieftains.

Having roused the ire of Sir Henry Bagnal (or Bagenal) by eloping with his sister in 1591, he afterwards assisted him in defeating Hugh Maguire at Belleek in 1593; and then again went into opposition and sought aid from Spain and Scotland. Sir John Norris was accordingly ordered to Ireland with a considerable force to subdue him in 1595, but Tyrone succeeded in taking the Blackwater Fort and Sligo Castle before Norris was prepared; and he was thereupon proclaimed a traitor of Dundalk.

In spite of the traditional enmity between the O'Neills and the O'Donnells, Tyrone allied himself with Hugh Roe O'Donnell, nephew of Shane's former enemy Calvagh O'Donnell, and the two chieftains opened communications with Philip II of Spain, their letters to whom were intercepted by the viceroy, Sir William Russell. They put themselves forward as the champions of the Catholic religion, claiming liberty of conscience as well as political liberty for the native inhabitants of Ireland.

In April 1596, Tyrone received promises of help from Spain. This increased his anxiety to temporize, which he did with signal success for more than two years, making from time to time as circumstances required, professions of loyalty which deceived Sir John Norris and the Earl of Ormonde. In 1598, a cessation of hostilities was arranged, and a formal pardon granted to Tyrone by Elizabeth I. Within two months he was again in the field, and on the 14th of August he destroyed an English force under Bagnal at the Yellow Ford on the Blackwater.

If the earl had known how to profit by this victory, he might now have successfully withstood the English power in Ireland; for in every part of Ireland -- and especially in the south, where James Fitzthomas Fitzgerald with O'Neill's support was asserting his claim to the earldom of Desmond at the head of a formidable army of Geraldine clansmen -- discontent broke into flame. But Tyrone, who possessed but little generalship, procrastinated until the golden opportunity was lost.

Eight months after the battle of the Yellow Ford, the Earl of Essex landed in Ireland to find that Tyrone had done nothing in the interval to improve his position. Acting on the queen's explicit instructions, Essex, after some ill-managed operations, had a meeting with Tyrone at a ford on the Lagan on the 7th of September 1599, when a truce was arranged; but Elizabeth was displeased by the favorable conditions allowed to the O'Neill and by Essex's treatment of him as an equal. Tyrone continued to concert measures with the Irish leaders in Munster, and issued a manifesto to the Catholics of Ireland summoning them to join his standard; protesting that the interests of religion were his first care. After an inconclusive campaign in Munster in January 1600, he returned in haste to Donegal, where he received supplies from Spain and a token of encouragement from Pope Clement VIII. In May of the same year Sir Henry Docwra, at the head of a considerable army, took up a position at Derry, while Mountjoy marched from Westmeath to Newry to support him, compelling O'Neill to retire to Armagh, a large reward having been offered for his capture alive or dead.

The appearance of a Spanish force at Kinsale drew Mountjoy to Munster in 1601; Tyrone followed him, and at Bandon joined forces with O'Donnell and with the Spaniards under Don John D'Aquila. The attack of these allies on the English completely failed. O'Donnell went to Spain, where he died soon afterwards, and Tyrone with a shattered force made his way once more to the north, where he renewed his policy of ostensibly seeking pardon while warily evading his enemies.

Early in 1603 Elizabeth instructed Mountjoy to open negotiations with the rebellious chieftains; and in April, Tyrone, in ignorance of Elizabeth's death, made his submission to Mountjoy. In Dublin, to where he proceeded with Mountjoy, he heard of the accession of King James I, at whose court he presented himself in June accompanied by Rory O'Donnell, who had become chief of the O'Donnells after the departure of his brother Hugh Roe. The English courtiers were greatly incensed at the gracious reception accorded to these notable rebels by King James; but although Tyrone was confirmed in his title and estates, he had no sooner returned to Ireland than he again engaged in dispute with the government concerning his rights over certain of his feudatories, of whom Donnal O'Cahan was the most important. This dispute dragged on until 1607, when Tyrone arranged to go to London to submit the matter to the king. Warned, however, that his arrest was imminent, and possibly persuaded by Rory O'Donnell (created earl of Tyrconnel in 1603), whose relations with Spain had endangered his own safety, Tyrone resolved to fly from the country.

Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare

Silken Thomas' Attack on Dublin Castle - Wood Cut

Silken Thomas - Leader of the Kildare Rebellion

Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare (1513–1537), also known as Silken Thomas (Irish: Tomás an tSíoda), was a figure in Irish history.

He spent a considerable part of his early life in England. In February 1534, when his father, Gerald FitzGerald, the 9th Earl of Kildare, was summoned to London, he appointed Thomas deputy governor of Ireland in his absence. In June 1534, Thomas heard rumours that his father had been executed in the Tower of London and that the English government intended the same fate for himself and his uncles. He summoned the Council to St. Mary's Abbey, Dublin, and on 11 June, accompanied by 140 horsemen with silk fringes on their helmets (from which he got his nickname), rode to the abbey and publicly renounced his allegiance to King Henry VIII, Lord of Ireland.

In July, he attacked Dublin Castle, but his army was routed. He ordered the execution of Archbishop Alen at Clontarf who had tried to mediate; this lost him any support from the clergy. By this time his father had taken ill and died in London, and he had technically succeeded as tenth earl, but the Crown never confirmed his title. He retreated to his stronghold at Maynooth, County Kildare, but in March 1535 this was taken by an English force under Sir William Skeffington by bribing a guard, while Thomas was absent gathering reinforcements to relieve it. The surrendered garrison was put to death, which was known as the "Maynooth Pardon". Thomas had wrongly assumed that his cause would attract overwhelming support, in particular from Catholics opposed to Henry VIII's English Reformation. But Henry's new anti-Papal policy also outlawed Lutheranism, and so he was not finally excommunicated until 1538.

In July, Lord Leonard Grey arrived from England as Lord Deputy of Ireland; Fitzgerald, seeing his army melting away and his allies submitting one by one, asked pardon for his offences. He was still a formidable opponent, and Grey, wishing to avoid a prolonged conflict, guaranteed his personal safety and persuaded him to submit unconditionally to the king's mercy. In October 1535 he was sent as a prisoner to the Tower. Despite Grey's guarantee he was executed, with his five uncles, at Tyburn, 3 February 1537. According to G.G. Nichols, (ed.) in The Chronicle of the Gray Friars of London (London, 1852) page 39, the five uncles were "...draune from the Tower in to Tyborne, and there alle hongyd and hedded and quartered, save the Lord Thomas for he was but hongyd and hedded and his body buried at the Crost Freeres in the qwere...

Silken Thomas's revolt caused Henry to pay more attention to Irish matters, and was a factor leading on to the creation of the Kingdom of Ireland in 1542. In particular the powers of the lords deputy were to be curbed, and policies such as surrender and regrant were introduced.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Gearóid Óg (Young Gerald) - The 9th Earl of Kildare

Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare

In 1513, he inherited the title of Earl of Kildare and he also served as Lord Deputy of Ireland. He died on the 2 September 1534.

In 1496, he was detained by Henry VII at his court as a hostage for his father's fidelity. In April 1502, at the age of 15, he played the principal role in the funeral ceremony for Henry VII's eldest son Arthur, Prince of Wales in Worcester Cathedral.

In 1503, he was soon after permitted to return to Ireland. Next year lie was appointed Lord High Treasurer. In August 1504, he commanded the reserve at the battle of Knocktuagh, where his rashness and impetuosity were the cause of some loss. On the death of his father in 1513 he succeeded to the title, and was by the council chosen Lord-Justice. Henry VIII soon afterwards appointed him Lord-Deputy.

Some of the Irish chiefs at the end of 1513 having ravaged parts of the Pale, the Earl, early in the following year, defeated O'More and his followers in Leix, and then, marching north, took the Castle of Cavan, killed O'Reilly, chased his followers into the bogs, and returned to Dublin laden with booty. This energetic action was so highly approved by the King that he granted the Earl the customs of the ports in the County of Down - rights repurchased by the Crown from the 17th Earl in 1662. In 1516 the Earl invaded Imayle, and sent the head of Shane O'Toole as a present to the Lord Mayor of Dublin. He then marched into Ely O'Carroll, in conjunction with his brother-in-law the Earl of Ormond, and James, son of the Earl of Desmond. They captured and razed the Castle of Lemyvannan, took Clonmel, and in December he returned to Dublin " aden with booty, hostages, and honour."

In March 1517, he called a parliament in Dublin, and then invaded Ulster, stormed the Dundrum Castle, marched into Tyrone, and took, "and so reduced Ireland to a quiet condition." On the 6 October of the same year his Countess died at Lucan, County Dublin, and was buried at Kilcullen. Next year, 1518, his enemies having accused him of maladministration, he appointed a deputy and sailed for England. He was removed from the government, and the Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk appointed in his stead. He appears to have accompanied the King to France in June 1520, and was present at "the Field of the Cloth of Gold", where he was distinguished by his bearing and retinue. On this occasion he met the King's first cousin, Lady Elizabeth Grey, whom he married a few months afterwards, and thereby gained considerable influence at court.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Earl Gearóid Mór Kildare

Gerald FitzGerald 8th earl of Kildare Coat of Arms

Kildare, Gerald FitzGerald 8th earl of ( Gearóid Mór Kildare), (1456–1513), the dominant figure in English Ireland from 1478 until his death. Kildare was governor of Ireland for over 30 years (1478, 1479–92, 1496–1513), serving under five kings and crowning a sixth, ‘ Edward VI’ ( Lambert Simnel) in 1487. The key to an understanding of the earl's turbulent and colourful career was his tripartite relationship with successive English kings and both Englishry and Irishry in Ireland: his ultimate success reflected his ability to reconcile the divergent interests of these three parties.

English kings valued Kildare's ability to deploy his extensive manrœd (his connection and tenantry available for military service) for the good rule and defence of the English Pale and saw in the earl a potentially cheap and effective instrument of provincial government—provided his reliability could be assured. Edward IV's reforms of the Dublin administration in 1479 had this in mind, but Henry Tudor's later efforts to wean Kildare away from his Yorkist sympathies (see wars of the roses) were much more protracted. By 1496, however, Sir Edward Poynings had eliminated Ireland's potential as a Yorkist bridgehead. Kildare was married to the king's cousin, Elizabeth St John, and reappointed governor, leaving his son at court as pledge for his good conduct.

Such evident marks of royal favour also raised the earl's standing among the English of Ireland, damping down factional rivalries and promoting stronger government which tipped the military balance in the lordship's favour. Yet Kildare's success also rested on forging cross-border alliances with Gaelic chiefs, often cemented by marriages, to stabilize the lordship's defence. Indeed, from a Gaelic perspective, Kildare's dealings with border chieftaincies differed little from relations between a Gaelic overlord and his uirríghthe (sub-chieftains). The earl's court included a Gaelic entourage, but concurrently he was extracting black rents from chiefs and ejecting clansmen from disputed marchlands.

Earl Gerald's extended connection was most visibly and effectively deployed in the battle of Knockdoe (1504), for which Henry made kildare in reward Knight of the Garter. He eventually died of a gunshot wound and his son Lord Gerald succeeded him as earl and governor.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Richard de Clare "Strongbow"

The Marriage of Aoife & Strongbow

Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (of the first creation), Lord of Leinster, Justiciar of Ireland (1130 – 20 April 1176). Like his father, he was also commonly known as Strongbow. He was a Cambro-Norman lord notable for his leading role in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

He was the son of Gilbert de Clare, 1st Earl of Pembroke and Isabel de Beaumont. His father died when Richard was about eighteen years old and Richard inherited the title Earl of Pembroke. It is probable that this title was not recognized at Henry II's coronation.

In 1167, the King of Leinster was deprived of his kingdom by the High King of Ireland - Rory O'Connor (Irish: Tairrdelbach mac Ruaidri Ua Conchobair). The grounds for the dispossession were that MacMurrough had, in 1152, abducted Derbforgaill, the wife of the King of Breifne, Tiernan O'Rourke (Irish: Tighearnán Ua Ruairc). To recover his kingdom, MacMurrough solicited help from Henry II of England.

Dermot MacMurrough left Ireland for Bristol from near Bannow on 1st August, 1166. He met King Henry II in Aquitaine, France, in the Autumn. Henry could not help himself at this time, but provided a letter of comfort for willing supporters of Dermot’s cause in his kingdom. However, after his return to Wales he fails to rally any forces to his standard. Eventually he met the Earl of Striguil (‘Strongbow’) and other barons of the Welsh Marches. MacMurrough came to an agreement with de Clare: for the earl’s assistance with an army the following spring, he could have Aoife, Dermot's eldest daughter in marriage and the succession to Leinster. As Henry’s approval or licence to Dermot was a general one, the earl of Striguil thought it prudent to obtain a specific consent of Henry II to travel to Ireland: he waited two years to do this. The licence he got was to aid Dermot in the recovery of his kingdom of Leinster.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dermot MacMurrough

Dermot MacMurrough
Diarmait or Diarmaid Mac Murchadha (later known as Diarmaid na nGall or "Diarmaid of the Foreigners"), anglicized as Dermot MacMurrough (1110–1 May 1171), was a King of Leinster in Ireland. Ousted as King of Leinster in 1166, he sought military assistance from King Henry II of England to retake his kingdom. In return, MacMurrough pledged an Oath of Allegiance to Henry, who sent troops in support. As a further thanks for his reinstatement, MacMurrough's daughter Aoife was married to Richard de Clare, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke and a Cambro-Norman lord, known as "Strongbow". Henry II then mounted a larger second invasion in 1171 to ensure his control over Strongbow, and since then parts of, or all of, Ireland has been ruled or reigned over by the monarchs of England.

In Irish history books written after 1800 in the age of nationalism, Diarmaid Mac Murchadha was often seen as a traitor, but his intention was not to aid an English invasion of Ireland, but rather to use Henry's assistance to become the High King of Ireland himself. He had no way of knowing Henry II's ambitions in Ireland. In his time, politics was based on dynasties and Ireland was not ruled as a unitary state. In turn, Henry II did not consider himself to be English or Norman, but a French Angevin, and was merely responding to the realities on the ground.

Gerald of Wales, a Cambro-Norman historian who visited Ireland in 1185 and whose uncles and cousins were prominent soldiers in the army of Strongbow, repeated their opinions of Mac Murchadha:

"Now Dermot was a man tall of stature and stout of frame; a soldier whose heart was in the fray, and held valiant among his own nation. From often shouting his battle-cry his voice had become hoarse. A man who liked better to be feared by all than loved by any. One who would oppress his greater vassals, while he raised to high station men of lowly birth. A tyrant to his own subjects, he was hated by strangers; his hand was against every man, and every man's hand against him."

Rory O'Connor - Son of Turlough

A Stone Carving of Rory O'Connor

Ruaidrí was one of over twenty sons of King Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair (1088–1156) and his third wife, Cailech Dé Ní hEidin of Aidhne. He and his sister, Mór, were the only children of the union.

On Turlough Mor's death he was succeeded by his son Rory, as King of Connacht. It was not until the year 1166 that Rory, as the most powerful provincial King was recognised as High King of Ireland. However events were moving against Rory. Almost 100 years after the Normans had successfully invaded Britain in 1066, they were now turning their attention to Ireland. The treacherous King of Leinster, who had been expelled from his kingdom by Rory's father, Turlough Mor, persuaded the Normans to help restore him to the throne of Leinster.

On May 1st, 1169 a small force of 30 knights, 60 men in half armour and 300 archers and foot soldiers landed at Bannow Bay in Wexford, in the heart of the kingdom of Leinster. This was the first day of a new chapter in Ireland's history that was to last 800 years. In the months ahead the Normans reinforced their bridgehead but while Rory O'Conor had a number of chances of easily defeating the Normans he prevaricated and eventually was unable to resist the invaders.

Rory, dejected by his failure to expell the Normans, abdicated in favour of his son Conor Moinmoy and retired to the Abbey at Cong, which he had previously founded. There Rory lived out the rest of his life as a monk. So it was that the last High King of Ireland died as a monk in the year 1198 and was buried at the Abbey.

With Rory's death the Irish monarchical system ended. The monarchical system had governed Ireland for almost a millennium. Thirty years after his death, Rory's body was reburied beside his father's at Clomacnoise.

Turlough O'Connor - The Second High King Of Ireland

The Cross of Cong

The Coronation Stone is resonant of a time when the O'Conors were Kings, not only of their province Connacht, but for a time, of Ireland. Without doubt the greatest O'Conor King was Turlough Mor O'Conor, High King of Ireland in the 12th century AD and who left us many reminders of his reign.

The most significant of these is the Cross of Cong, commissioned in 1123 to carry a piece of the 'True Cross' around Ireland, as the King processed through the nation to accept the submission and tribute of the provincial rulers. This magnificent work of art is made of oak sheathed in metal. The front and back are decorated in bronze panels of animals interlacing and the central crystal on the front of the Cross is surmounted by a panel of spiral filigree in gold. Around the margins are settings of glass and enamel enclosed in circular frames.

The sides of the cross are covered with silver and bear inscriptions in Latin and Irish, one of which reads "a prayer for Turlough Mor, King of Erin for whom this cross was made".

Turlough Mor should also be remembered for the great Chancel Arch in St Mary's Cathedral, Tuam and the High Cross in Tuam, Co Galway, both of which he commissioned. On his death in 1156, Turlough Mor O'Conor was buried beside the High Alter in St Kieran's Church at Clonmacnoise, the famous medieval Monastic City on the banks of the River Shannon.