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CHAPTER IX.

THE DESMOND REBELLION.

A.D. 1573-1583.

The first Desmond rebellion had been strangled in its birth ; but the English Government had so exhausted itself in the effort, that the plantation scheme was allowed to slumber for a more convenient season. The Geraldines, however, felt that they were marked for destruction, and that their ruin was only a question of time; and the more determined of them began to turn their eyes towards the foreign enemies of England, in the hopes of succour.

Ireland was now growing to be a factor in England's foreign policy which had to be taken into consideration. It had long become apparent that it was England's exposed quarter, and that the perennial disaffection existing in the island might at any moment be turned to account for her serious injury. Scotland, her hereditary enemy, and the close ally of France, was a standing menace from the north ; and the intimate relation existing between Scotland and Ulster, together with the close geographical proximity of the Western Isles to the coasts of Antrim, disclosed a road by which invasion on the northern border could be made terribly effectual were Ireland in the hands of a foreign enemy.

In the reign of Henry VIII., James, the fifteenth Earl of Desmond, had held a treasonable correspondence both with Francis I. and Charles V.; Lord Thomas Fitzgerald and Shane O'Neil had both tried hard to obtain help from over the sea; and now an active course of intrigue was being pursued by Sir James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald with Philip of Spain and the Pope.

The rebellious gentlemen who had embarked in these crooked ways had always endeavoured to give a religious colouring to their actions; they had professed to be champions of the old faith against an heretical tyrant. But though this may have persuaded the Pope and others that the Irish nation was writhing under persecution on account of their belief, it had no great bearing on any of these risings as far as the people were concerned, who had not as yet had any practical experience of Protestant intolerance, the Act of Uniformity having hitherto of necessity remained to a great extent a dead letter.

The English Government, however, were gradually growing to associate popery with rebellion. They saw Spanish gold and Spanish soldiers asked for in the name of popery; they saw the men who rejected their authority allying themselves with Roman Catholic princes who were at enmity with England; they found that those ecclesiastics who refused to conform took refuge at Rome; while Roman nuncios slid into the country, and Roman bishops were appointed by the pope. More than all, the papal bull of excommunication launched against the queen, which professed to absolve her subjects from their allegiance, drove the Government into taking active repressive measures against the Roman Catholics, and forced the Roman Catholics themselves into the false position of being traitors either to their sovereign or to their spiritual head. In this way the Oath of Supremacy became a test of loyalty; and the nationalist and anti-English feeling was identified with an adherence to the Roman Communion. This growing tendency was seized on by

on by the Geraldines, who eagerly sought to connect Protestantism with the policy of confiscation; to teach the doctrine that national safety was only to be secured by the upholding of the ancient faith; and that the English invaders could be best confounded by an alliance with such good friends as the Spaniards.

The Government had released Sir John of Desmond ; and his brother the earl, who was detained in Dublin Castle, had effected his escape and reached his own territory, where he was received with the utmost enthusiasm by all the southern Irish. Fitzwilliam, the lord-deputy, had thought it most prudent to leave him in peace; but had sent Sir William Drury, Perrot's successor, to hold his courts in Desmond and supersede the earl's palatinate jurisdiction.

In the mean time, Sir James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, after a fruitless application to the court of France, repaired to Spain to form designs for the invasion of Ireland. Philip, though smarting at the countenance

given by Elizabeth to the revolted Dutch provinces, was not at that moment prepared absolutely to break with England, and politely referred him to the Pope. Gregory XIII. entered warmly into the scheme; and scraped together a few ships and some eight hundred ragamuffins. These he placed under the command of a rascally English adventurer named Stukely, who had for several years lived upon his wits and the credulity of the King of Spain. Stukely was to land on the Munster coast; and Fitzmaurice was to join him with Dr. Nicholas Sanders, an exiled English priest, whom the Pope had constituted his legate ; and an Irish priest named Allen, who was to bring a consecrated banner, and a sheaf of indulgences, granting the same privileges to all who fought against the English as to those who fought against the Turks. Stukely, however, carried the whole expedition off on a buccaneering expedition against the King of Morocco, and was never heard of again ; while Fitzmaurice and his two clerical conspirators, with a few friars and a handful of Spaniards, landed at St. Mary Wick, or Smerwick, and threw up a small fortification.

The moment was well chosen. The whole country was ripe for rebellion. The north was ready to rise at the first success gained by the men of Munster; Connaught, which had been dragooned by Fitton's successor, Sir Nicholas Malby, and where a rising of the Bourkes had only just been crushed with the most sickening brutality, was barely held down by the garrison at Athlone. The native Irish had learnt neither to trust the English word, nor to look for mercy, by the example set by Francis Cosbie and the planters in King's and Queen's Counties, who had recently exterminated the remnants of the O'Moores and O'Kellys by a ruthless massacre in the rath at Mullaghmast. Rory O'Moore, the famous outlaw, was the terror of the county of Kildare. The towns of Munster were smarting under the infliction of Sir William Drury's bloody assize. Even the English Pale was disaffected, by reason of Sidney's recent endeavour to levy an illegal cess, and the queen's arbitrary imprisonment of those who had ventured to petition against it.

On the arrival of Fitzmaurice, Sir John of Desmond and his brother Sir James promptly joined the insurgents at Smerwick, the former committing himself beyond recall to the rebel side by the murder of two English officers and their servants at Tralee. The earl himself vacillated. He was not the man to lead a successful rising, and though his sympathies were all with the insurgents, he could not make up his mind to throw in his lot with them openly. But the Desmond tribesmen flew to arms all over Limerick and Kerry ; and three thousand tenants of the Geraldines rose in open rebellion.

At that time the whole of the southern portion of the county of Limerick was one vast forest, called the Great Wood of Kilmore, which afforded splendid cover for the insurgents. Here the raw native levies were quickly knocked into shape by the drilling of the Spanish soldiers from Smerwick, the cattle were driven for shelter, and supplies of all kinds collected. Fitzmaurice,

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