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STATE OF IRELAND.
Protestantism and the English rule were regarded with equal hatred by the turbulent Irish chiefs.
In Mary's days, of course, the attempt to force Protestantism
upon the Irish was laid aside; but it was taken up again under Elizabeth, and the religious question increased the difficulties of the Irish problem. There was no religious persecution; but it suited Philip II. and the Catholic party in Europe generally to suppose that there was, and so to uše Ireland as ground from which Elizabeth's power might easily be attacked.
No means seemed more likely to bring order and civilization into Ireland than to encourage its colonization by English settlers. With this view confiscated estates in Ireland had been continually granted to Englishmen; but it was very difficult to get them to live on their estates, and it could hardly be expected that they would do so, unless some means existed to defend them from the turbulence of the native Irish. To maintain order in the country the presence of a large body of well-trained troops was necessary. This, of course, involved expense, and expense was the one thing which Elizabeth most dreaded. Economy was her passion ; and though the result proved that her economy was most useful for the final good of England, yet at the time it often seemed to throw hindrances in the way of the wisest schemes of her servants. In Ireland especially, want of the necessary money prevented again and again the deputies from carrying out the steps necessary to subdue the rebels and introduce order.
Of Elizabeth's deputies in Ireland none was so successful as Sir Henry Sidney, the father of Sir Philip Sidney. He took the office unwillingly; and in his efforts to do his duty as deputy he met with little encouragement from Elizabeth, who, on the contrary, seemed always to throw hindrances
in his way.
He was at last successful in destroying the power of Shane O'Neill, a great chieftain who had done more than any other to endanger the English rule in Ireland, and who had ruled as an independent prince in the north-western portion of the island. Elizabeth had clung to the hope that he might be won over to be a faithful subject, and that she would be spared the expense necessary to subdue him. At last she was persuaded to allow vigorous measures to be adopted. O'Neill's entire overthrow and subsequent death gave Ireland some years of comparative peace; but soon new causes of disturbance began to appear in the south, in Munster, where a ceaseless feud raged between the two powerful houses of Desmond and Ormond.
Elizabeth favoured the Earl of Ormond, because he was a Protestant, and she hoped to find him a useful servant in Ireland. The Earl of Desmond had been dragged into a rebellion against the English rule by the promise of aid from Philip II. A force of about 700 Spanish and Italian troops had landed at Smerwick, in Kerry, and
RALEGH IN IRELAND.
there on the shore built a fort, to which they gave the name Del Oro. Jesuits were busy stirring up the people to revolt, and the whole country was in a ferment.
This was the state of things which Ralegh found in 1580, when he landed at Cork with his force of a hundred men. He too had to suffer from Elizabeth's parsimony. We find him writing to the Lord Treasurer Burleigh, soon after his arrival, to complain that he had received no money to pay his troops, and had been obliged to pay them out of his own private means.
From the first Ralegh seems to have believed that nothing but the most vigorous measures, and the most ruthless severity to the rebels, would avail to bring order into Ireland. As it was, the Irish chieftains carried on a ceaseless war of pillage and spoliation against the English settlers. The English soldiers revenged their outrages whenever they could by worse crimes. There was no agriculture, no industry. All the resources of that fertile country were left undeveloped; and the English rule was once more seriously threatened by the great rebellion in the south, under Desmond.
Some months after his arrival in Ireland, we find Ralegh at Cork, acting as one of the commissioners who tried and condemned to execution as a traitor, James, brother of the Earl of Desmond, who had been captured in a chance skirmish. In August, 1580, a new deputy, Lord. Grey de Wilton, arrived in Dublin. He was a stern and determined
man, and was by no means likely to shrink from severe measures. His first desire was to take the fort of Del Oro, where a new force of Spanish and Italian soldiers had just landed. Their commanders did all they could to stir up the Irish to make still more extensive plans of rebellion. The English were in continual fear of the arrival of a more formidable Spanish force, which they would be powerless to oppose on account of the small number of their own troops. To destroy the fort of Del Oro whilst it was still possible seemed the first thing needful.
Ralegh was one of the captains who accompanied Lord Grey on his march to Smerwick. It was a wild, stormy autumn; but the severe weather and the hardships of the march did not destroy the courage of the soldiers, nor the determination of their leaders. Whilst Grey attacked the fort from the land, Sir William Winter attacked it from the sea. The fort did not hold out for many days. Grey twice called upon the garrison to yield to mercy, but in vain. Ralegh was in the thick of the assault. On the three first days he led the attack, and also on the last day, when his troops managed to enter the castle and made a great slaughter. Then the garrison despaired, and hung out a white flag, crying “Misericordia !” “Misericordia !” But Grey would hear of no treaty, of no mercy, and the garrison were forced to make an absolute surrender. Grey's own words, in the despatch which he sent to the English Govern
MASSACRE OF DEL ORO.
ment, best describe what followed. “I sent straightway certain gentlemen,” he writes, “to see their weapons and armour laid down, and to guard the munition and victuals that were left, from spoil. Then put I in certain bands who straightway fell to execution. There were six hundred slain ; munition and victual great store, though much wasted through the disorder of the soldiers, which in their fury could not be helped.” It seems that no lives were saved except those of the officers of rank, who were distributed amongst Grey's favourite officers, that they might profit by their ransoms. The horrors of the massacre are a clear sign of the bitter hatred with which the English regarded the Spaniards in those days. It may seem hardly possible to find excuses for such cruelty. But we must remember how religious questions had irritated men's minds; how Jesuits in disguise plotted and schemed in England and Ireland, stirring up men's minds to disobedience and revolt against the government, even encouraging them to plot the assassination of their Queen. In the excitement of their feelings, men believed the danger from Spain to be greater than it really was; they knew that the Spanish soldiers in Ireland and the Irish rebels themselves shrank from no outrage, however horrible, against the English; it was hardly to be expected that they themselves would treat the Spaniards leniently. It certainly seems strange to see a man like Ralegh, afterwards the