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OF THE STATE OF THE IRISH NATION FROM THE REFORMATION OF RELIGION UNDER HENRY VIII.
TO THE REVOLUTION UNDER JAMES II.
THE REIGNS OF HENRY VIII. EDWARD VI. AND QUEEN MARY.
SUCH is the variety, such the importance, and at the same time such the peculiarity of the events, which mark this period of the Irish history, that truth and candour are almost to be dreaded by the historian who seeks the approbation of the existing generation. We have seen how much the interests of Ireland have suffered from the ill-directed monopoly of the English influence and political power in that country, whilst they professed the same religion. A new scene now opens itself. The 20th year of the reign of Henry VIII. (A. D. 1528.) is properly termed the first year of the reformation of religion in England ; and from this epoch are to be reckoned the many active and passive disasters that afterwards fell upon Ireland, whether they really arose out of the change of religion, or were ignorantly or maliciously attributed to such change. It has been too prevalent with most writers since the Reformation, to lay indiscriminately to the account of that great innovation in our national church, the various struggles, revolutions, and convulsions that afterwards happened in the state. An error pregnant with incalculable mischief! And what deviation from truth does not produce evil ?
A variety of circumstances combined to render the English monarch at this time hateful rather than gracious to the Irish nation, which had no reference to or connection with religion. Leland, after Ware, and other annalists, represents the Earl of Kildare as confirmed in the Lieutenancy beyond the power of opposition ; and that he used it without moderation or reserve. Instead of the state and dignity of a vicegerent, he affected the
rude grandeur of an Irish chieftain, and stood at the head of a wild and rapacious multitude of followers, to the annoyance and terror of those whom he was appointed to protect. The lords of the old Irish race, who had ever appeared the most unfriendly to the English government, crowded round him, and were received as his kinsmen and associates. Two of his daughters were given in marriage to O'Connor of O'Fally, and O'Carroll, two powerful chieftains. The laws which prohibited such connections were treated with scorn, nor was the administration of government at all regarded, but as it contributed to establish his own personal influence and authority. The whole power of the pale, except the partisans of Kildare, were not only shut out of favour and countenance, but even protection. The enemies of his house within the pale were inflamed with indignation, and all the officers and dependants of the English government were terrified at a conduct which threatened utter subversion to the interests of the crown.
This powerful lord, who had now possessed the government of Ireland much longer than any of his predecessors in that iinportant deputation, experienced in Cardinal Wolsey a mortal enemy;* and whether owing to the influence of the cardinal upon the mind of his royal master, or to the king's conviction of the guilt and malpractices of Kildare, he was remanded over to England without delay, under a peremptory mandate to commit the government to some person in his absence, for whom he would be responsible: he unfortunately entrusted it to his son Lord Thomas Fitzgerald, a youth of inexperience and impetuosity, who had not yet attained his age of twenty-one years: and who from his affability and personal accomplishments eminently commanded the affection of the multitude. It was known in Ireland, that Kildare had soon after his landing in England been committed to the Tower: and false reports were circulated, that he had been beheaded. They no sooner reached his son, than he instantly flew out into the most desperate rebellion, and was supported by numerous malcontents amongst the Geraldines, who had been previously supplied with arms and ammunition by Kildare before his departure, in contemplation of the probability of such an event. After various misfortunes and disasters produced by the misconduct and temerity of this Lord Thomas, the rebellion was suppressed under the administration of Sir William Skeflington; and O'Neal and O'Connor, who had joined in it, made their submission to the king. Lord Thomas himself had been promised his pardon, on condition of his making personal submission to the king. He went over to England in full confidence: he was however treacherously arrested on his way to Windsor, and committed to the tower, where he was soon after executed as a rebel and a traitor. * But the vengeance of such a prince as Henry was not to be appeased by a single victim. He affected to consider the suppression of the late rebellion as a new conquest of Ireland, and proposed it as a question to be debated in his council, whether he had not now acquired a right to seize at once on all the estates of this kingdom spiritual and temporal. But above all, he breathed the most infuriated revenge against the whole lineage of Kildare. Lord Gray, the new lord deputy, received orders from Henry to seize the five uncles of Lord Thomas Fitzge. rald, and send them prisoners to London. Of these, three were known to have totally disapproved and opposed the insurrection of their nephew, and the whole number had reason to expect impunity from the treaty made with the rebels. But this confidence proved their snare. They accepted an invitation from Lord Gray to a banquet, an insidious and dishonourable artifice of that lord to get them into his power; they were first feasted with all the appearance of amity, then made prisoners and conveyed to London, where they all suffered the punishment of high treason. There was a younger branch of the family of Kildare, Lord Gerald, a youth under twelve years of age, the brother of Lord Thomas : and the vengeance of the king pursued even this helpless and guiltless infant; but happily by the vigilance of his guardian he was secretly conveyed out of the kingdom, and at last safely committed to the protection of Cardinal Pole, then in Italy, who, in defiance of his declared enemy King Henry, received the young lord as his kinsman, educated him suitably to his birth, and by his favour and support preserved him to regain the honours of the family of Kil. dare.† This tyrannical and treacherous conduct of King Henry
* It is reported, that when Kildare had been most severely and insolently examined and arraigned at the council board, on his first confinement some years before, upon suspicion, by his implacable enemy Cardinal Wolsey, that prelate was extremely mortified and humbled at the manly and spirited reply of the earl, and that he so far gave way to his revenge, as to endeavour to have him taken off without any public trial, that he might no more offend the pride of the cardinal. He accordingly sent a mandate to the lieutenant of the tower for his execution on the next clay, which was delivered to him whilst at play with Kildare. The lieutenant changed countenance, was chal, lenged and worked upon by Kildare to reveal the contents of the letter, and persuaded to apply personally to the king, who disclaimed any knowledge of the order, and to check the saliciness of the priest as he termed it, gave a ‘signet for a countermand, and released Kildare. Speed. 775. Cox. 220. Hence may be easily traced an aggravation of disaffection, and perhaps some disposition to revolt in Kadare.
* 2 Lel. 153.
+ The Earl of Kildare is said to have died in prison through grief at hearing of his son's defeat, &c. “ Thomas late Earl of Kildare was with some others “ attainted for the insolences he had done during his depntyslip: which act " was repealed in the 11th of Queen Elizabeth, the Earl of Kildare's brothers " and sisters being thereby restored to their blood, as in king Edward VI. his
reign : Gerald (Earl Thomas his brother) was restored to his ancient inheri.
towards one of the first families in Ireland is conclusive evidence, that he was little suited to gain favour with the Irish, either within or without the pale, in the work of reformation, which he had now taken in hand.
A party was formed of the most powerful servants of the crown, who were enemies to Kildare. At the head of these was Allan, archbishop of Dublin, the deprived chancellor. He had been trained in the scene of political intrigue under his patron Wolsey: he had served him as judge in his legatine court with an attention and assiduity neither upright nor honour. able: and though accused of misdemeanor and dismissed from his office, he was still protected by the cardinal, and proved an useful and active agent in his favourite scheme of the suppres. sion of monasteries. Wolsey's death had given great assurance to Kildare, but his creature Allan retained all his master's ran. cour against the Geraldines. It was at last resolved to commis. sion the Master of the Rolls in the name of the lords of the council (for the major part concurred in the measure) to repair to England, and lay the state of the country before the king, and implore the royal interposition. The representation made to the king by the agents of these lords, will further prepare our. minds to judge fairly and impartially of the disposition of the Irish nation to submit to the power and adopt the system of reformation proposed by Henry.
The Master of the Rolls opened his commission by repre. senting to his Majesty the confined extent of the English laws, manners, language, and habit, at length reduced to the narrow compass of twenty miles: the melancholy consequence of those illegal exactions and oppressions, by which the English tenantry had been driven from their settlements: the grievous tribute, which the remains of these loyal subjects were obliged to pay the Irish lords for a precarious protection: the enormous jurisdictions granted to the lords of the English race, that favoured their oppressions, and stopped the course of justice: the rabble of disaffected Irish settled purposely on their lands, whom they oppressed with impunity, and whom they found their readiest instruments for oppressing others: the negligence of the king's officers in keeping the records; their unskilful conduct in the exchequer: but above all the alienation of the crown lands, • tance, and by Queen Mary, May 14, 1554, to his honour and the Barony " of Ofaly, who returning the same year into Ireland was received with great “ applause by the people, though his brother had been beheaded and five “ uncles hanged at Tyburn, February 3, 1537." Borl, Red. of Ireland to tbe crown of England 104. The same author 105 informs us “ that this lord Grey “ was in the year 1541 beheaded on Tower hill, about June 25, for having, as “ it was conjectured, joined with Cardinal Pole and others of the king's ene. "mies, notwithstanding bis good service, &c." He did not long survive his teachery,