« PreviousContinue »
no more in Ireland for the King of England than for the King of Spain.
We read that King Henry VIII. had one illegitimate son, to whom he was fondly attached, and whom he had ennobled by the title of Duke of Richmond. He had heard that the Irish had long desired to be ruled by royalty; and he now resolved to gratify the desire of his Irish subjects by making his son their governor. Accordingly, selecting a brave old officer, named Sir William Skeffington, for Vice-Deputy, he made the Duke of Richmond Lord Deputy, and gave him, for his confidential adviser, the twice-impeached Earl of Kildare. Skeffington was soon got rid of; and the Earl of Kildare again found himself sole Lord Deputy in the year 1552. This proud and perfidious Earl seems then to have lost alike fear and shame. He practised cruelty, avenged himself on his opponents, and usurped despotic authority at home, while, in concert with Desmond, he communicated with the enemies of England abroad. His avowed purpose was to overthrow the sovereign by whom he had been pardoned, favoured, honoured. His designs were discovered and exposed by Allen, Archbishop of Dublin-a friend of Wolseyand by his kinsman, Allen, Master of the Rolls; and, while rebellion was active in Ireland, the Earl of Kildare the third and last time, summoned to England to answer for his offences; and, strange to say, he had the hardihood to obey the summons. On his arrival in London he was instantly sent to the Tower. He may have muttered to himself—Have they found me out at last, and will they believe my lying tongue no longer? The time for action has arrived ; and, therefore, my eldest son, Lord Thomas Fitzgerald, whom I have left Vice-Deputy of Ireland, must now at once make war upon the king.
Charles V. had at this time undertaken to execute the
papal sentence of excommunication upon King Harry; and his policy was to encourage an Irish rebellion.
" Lord Thomas Fitzgerald had now thrown off his allegiance, and had committed infinite murders, burnings, and robbings in the English Pale, making his account and boast that he was of the Pope's sect and band, and that him he would serve against the king and all his partakers; that the King of England was accursed, and as many as took his part.” But, to do the young Earl justice, before unfolding the banner of insurrection, he flung the sword of state, which, as ViceDeputy, he held, into the hands of the King's Council, and bluntly exclaimed—“ This sword of state is yours, and not mine! Now I have need of mine own sword, which I dare trust. I am none of the King's Deputy-I am his foe! I have more mind to conquer than to govern !"
At first “Silken Thomas” was successful; the country was ravaged, the officials shut themselves up in the Castle, where they awaited the aid which the faithful Ormonde found it difficult to supply. King Harry had sent his men-at-arms, headed by gallant knights, to Chester, on their march to Ireland. Archbishop Allen proposed to steal on board a vessel in the Liffey and sail for Chester, so as to hasten the arrival of the brave knights of England. The Archbishop embarked in safety, had a prosperous voyage down the Liffey, but through the misadventure that fortune or design accorded in giving him a Fitzgerald for a pilot, the following morning found him on the historic sands of Clontarf. A visit from the Earl of Kildare at daybreak decided the Archbishop's fate : the short shrift, that even violence has often granted to the victim, was denied. His skull was cleft open as he knelt in
prayer in his shirt; or, to quote from the act of attainder of the twenty-sixth year of Harry VIII., “And the said Archbishop, kneeling in his shirt barefooted and bareheaded
before him, asking of him mercy, and immediately without any respite, most shamefully and traitorously murdered and killed out of hand, and also caused the said Archbishop's servants, and as many other Englishmen as he could find within the land, to be murdered.”
The rage of King Harry was unbounded. The hand of death rescued the old Earl in the Tower from the fury of his master.
The knights of England were now commanded to strike down the false Geraldines, and to spare not. They besieged the castle at Maynooth; and ere the rebellious clans friendly to “Silken Thomas” could reach the scene of action, the walls were burst through, the castle stormed, and twenty-five of the followers of the perfidious Geraldines were hanged high upon the battlements.
Back to their fastnesses fled the O'Connors, the MacMahons, the O'Tooles; they saw King Harry was in right earnest, and that the power of England would bear down upon
their guilty heads. Fear, not loyalty, withheld the upraised arm. “ Silken Thomas,” now deserted and forlorn, surrendered himself a prisoner, and was dispatched to the Tower in London, together with his uncles five, brave and noble-looking men, who had been invited to a dinner as guests, while in reality foredoomed and betrayed. King Harry spared them for a time to repent and pray.
What mournful procession is this we behold stretching towards Tyburn-hill ? Alas! we behold, drawn slowly to the horrid spot, the young, brilliant, courageous traitor, who dared to fight for empire against King Harry_Thomas, Earl of Kildare, his eye still fiery, his spirit still erect, his bearing proud, his apparel gay-and there beside him stand his uncles five--all moving forward to their awful doom. That was
a black day for the Geraldines, that 3rd of February, 1537; the scaffold was reddened with their blood. Not one of their race was to be allowed to defile the earth. “ And so,” exclaimed King Harry, “will I deal with every Irish traitor ; for I have been deceived by those whom I most favoured and trusted.”
One youth, Gerald, brother of Silken Thomas, escapes by the zeal of a tutor, the affection of an aunt, and the fidelity of his followers. Romantic adventures befal him. He is received abroad with honours almost royal—he is to be wedded to a Scotch princess, and unite Scotland with Ireland against England's power. But King Harry dies ; young Gerald is pardoned, knighted, restored to his honours and estates, wedded to a beautiful lady; and through him a long line of posterity distinguished has flourished in our land. The Geraldines were taught a lesson which they required, and Ireland during Harry's reign was tranquil.
An interesting record is now published of the Earls of Kildare, by one of their amiable descendants, which truly represents the. lineage and the actions of a noble house. The volumes published by our ingenious and learned countryman, Sir Bernard Burke, also illustrate the antiquities and history of our country.
Thus did the great King Harry prove his power and show his resolution, and thus did he teach his amazed subjects in Ireland that it was
necessary for every reasonable creature to be governed by a law.” The rebellious chiefs trembled, and said, We must obey; for if Kildare be hanged, who can escape ?
We have now, as Lord Deputy of Ireland, Lord Leonard Gray, brother of the Marquis of Dorset, and brother-in-law of the Earl of Kildare. He had the reputation of a soldier, and seemed fitted for his office. He fought with the rebels, stormed their castles, quarrelled with his Council,
and could obtain no money from his Parliament. In his anger he exclaimed, that "it was predestinate to that country to bring forth sedition, invention, and lies.” In his ungovernable rage he questioned even the loyalty of an Ormonde. The King now issued a commission to discover, if it was discoverable, the truth of affairs in Ireland. The Commissioners reported to the King, who hesitated to act upon their report. The Ormondes refused to act with the Lord Deputy, while Desmond, with the Lady Fitzgerald, sister of the late Earl of Kildare, formed a plot with the Pope and the Spaniards for the overthrow of British power in Ireland and the establishment of the Romish ascendancy. The old enemies of King Harry, the Emperor and King Francis, it was expected, would attack England. The King of Scots was to cross into Ulster, the Fitzgeralds were to rise and fall upon the English within the Pale, and O'Neal was to proclaim himself King of Ireland on Tara Hill. Of course, O'Neal and his confederates broke out into rebellion. The Lord Deputy Gray found himself betrayed by the very men to whom he had trusted, and exclaiming, “ that there was more falsehood in the Irish than in all the devils in hell,” drew his sword and defeated the confederates, and disappointed O'Neal of his coronation on Tara Hill. Then, with melancholy inconsistency, he favoured the Geraldines, deceived and trampled on the loyalists, and abandoned his duty. His Excellency was arrested, clapped into the tower, impeached, pleaded guilty, found no pity from his sovereign, and, painful to relate, was executed on the scaffold. The Irish chieftains by this time understood the character of King Harry, and I have little doubt exclaimed to each other, “ If we do not make a prompt submission, we shall all, like his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, be most assuredly hanged.” They accordingly submitted. A Parliament was summoned by the Lord Deputy