Where we left off: When Henry VII became the first Tudor King in England in 1485, Ireland had a long history of divided political control and an overlay of English law and Norman lordship on Irish law and Celtic custom. There had been an Anglo-Norman presence for 300 years, but the Ango-Normans had at least partly been absorbed into Irish culture. Finally, all Irish were united by religion. Those last two things – cultural amalgamation and religious unity - were about to change.
Henry Tudor (1457 – 1509), King Henry VII of England 1485 – 1509, won an insecure throne after a long civil war. By then it was clear that Ireland was not only a continual source of rebellion but also a staging ground for rivals’ invasions of England (one such attempt had been defeated in 1487, only two years into Henry’s kingship). Ireland was an English political and military problem that had to be solved.
Sir Edward Poynings (1459 –1521), Henry VII’s Lord Deputy in Ireland, 1494 - 96, was ordered by Henry to bring Ireland into “whole and perfect obedience.” In 1394 he called the Irish Parliament, had it reassert the Statutes of Kilkenny, and forced it to pass what become known as Poyning’s Law, which made the Irish Parliament subordinate to the English one and allowed it only to pass legislation pre- approved by the king.
Henry VIII (1491 – 1547), King of England, 1509- 1547. Henry was advised that control of Ireland would require complete conquest. Instead, he decided to transform the Irish lords into English ones, by ending the legal separation between English and Irish and having the Irish aristocracy give up their old titles and accept new ones, granted by him, as Earls. At the same time he suppressed a rebellion by the Earl of Kildare, and had himself declared King – not “Lord” - of Ireland in 1541 by the Irish Parliament.
Dungaire Castle, Galway, built 1520. The new castles of the 1500s reflect how dangerous 16 th century Ireland was for everybody.
At the same time, Henry introduced Protestantism into Irish religion. Here is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in Armagh, which, like most of the oldest churches in Ireland became Church of Ireland rather than Catholic. Much of the aristocracy went along, preferring the religion of the King. But Protestantism eventually created a permanent barrier between the Anglo-Irish and Irish. Religious schism would have a tragic effect of Irish history. It also kept Ireland from complete conquest and cultural assimilation.
Henry also confiscated church property, in part so he could redistribute it to his supporters. Here is Quin Abbey, County Clare, constructed 1402-33 on a site where both an earlier monastery and a Norman castle had been. Henry VIII confiscated it in 1541. (In 1590 it became an abbey again, but in 1650 Cromwell killed the monks and destroyed it. It never fully recovered. The last monks were expelled in 1760, but a sole brother stuck around until his death in 1820. You couldn’t come up with a more classic Irish story.)
The Fate of the Old Irish Aristocracy Elizabeth “The Fair Geraldine" Fitzgerald (1528 – 1590), in 1560. Her father, Gearóid Óg, the 9th Earl of Kildare (who as a boy had been held hostage by Henry VII as security for his father’s loyalty), died in the tower of London. Her brother, the 10 th Earl, was executed for rebellion. She herself was raised at Henry VIII’s English court after her father’s death and was married in succession to two Englishmen. Elizabeth Fitzgerald Countess of Lincoln, Steven van der Meulen, 1560.
Thomas Fitzgerald, 10th Earl of Kildare, son of the 9 th Earl, who rebelled and died in the Tower of London. Rebelled against the English in 1534. Executed 1537.
The Plantations and the Eclipse of the Old Aristocracy The most disruptive policy of Henry VIII’s successors, introduced by his daughters Mary and Elizabeth, was the “planting” of English and Scots settlers on land confiscated from the Irish. This, in my opinion, is the real beginning of English colonialism in Ireland. In any case it profoundly transformed Irish history, and its tragic, bloody consequences continue to the present day.
Charter of Queen Elizabeth, Waterford, 1574. That’s the Queen in the upper left. Elizabeth planted settlers in Munster. Her successor, James I concerned himself primarily with Ulster, considered by the English at the time as the most uncivilized, most Irish (for Tudor Englishmen those were nearly synonyms), and most difficult province to control. The plantations were a means to subdue Ireland once and for all by dispossessing landowners in rebellious areas. A “plantation” in Ireland meant land owned by planted settlers, not, as in America, a large farm producing a single crop.
English Plantations in Ireland, 1556 – 1620, the decisive period in the colonization of Ireland. By the time they were done, the Celtic aristocracy had been dispossessed in almost the entire country outside of Connaught and their power broken.
An example of a plantation: The land granted to Sir Walter Raleigh in Youghal, County Cork by Queen Elizabeth I is clearly marked in the center of this map. The plantations were not just a way to reward favorites with land: they were also a means of subduing and occupying Ireland.
Raleigh’s Irish house is still in Youghal. Once a settler had been granted land he had to go possess it, often violently.But the richest,most powerful landlords often did not stay in Ireland, which they found isolated, boring and dangerous. As soon as they could be sure of the income the land would produce, they often left. “Mrytle Grove,” Youghal, Co. Cork.
Hugh O’Neill, The Great O’Neill - Aodh Mór Ó Néill (ca. 1550 – 1616), the last great Celtic aristocrat. He was Lord of Tyrone, in Ulster. From 1595 to 1603 he fought a war against the Elizabethan occupation.
Robert Devereaux, 2 nd Earl of Essex, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1599. One of Elizabeth’s generals in Ireland, Essex had a difficult time fighting the rebellion led by O’Neill. You may have noted that the various Tudor Lord Deputies and Lord Lieutenants of Ireland didn’t stay long. That’s because they had an arduous and dangerous military job. For the English elite, Ireland was an unpleasant place.
The Earl of Essex’s Plantation, Antrim. Essex spent less than a year in Ireland, none of it in Antrim. Absentee landlordism had been an Irish problem since the Normans. It would turn into a curse after the plantations.
Hugh O’Neill’s submission to Lord Mountjoy after Tyron’s defeat at the Battle of Kinsale in 1603. O’Neill came close to success. How close is still a matter of speculation in Ireland. But he lost a crucial battle at Kinsale in County Cork in September, 1601. In March1603 he was forced to submit to Lord Mountjoy, Queen Elizabeth’s deputy in Ireland.
Sir Charles, Blount, 8 th Baron Mountjoy, Lord Deputy and then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1601 -1604 Elizabeth had ben dead for six days when O’Neill submitted. The new king, James I, allowed him to remain Earl of Tyrone.
In 1607 O’Neill and over 90 of his supporters fled to France, seeking foreign support and fearing he would be murdered if he stayed in Ireland. He would die in Rome in 1616. The “Flight of Earls” turned out to be the fatal blow to Gaelic Ireland. With the Ulster Irish aristocracy fled, the province was open for plantation by James I, and the English did not miss the opportunity.
This map shows in red the names of the Celtic noble families dispossessed by the Flight of Earls and subsequent plantations. This was the decisive transition of power in Irish history, the moment of eclipse of the old Celtic families, and the reason that the history of “modern” Ireland begins in 1607.
Nicholas Bagenal’s Castle, Newry, Co Down, ca. 1568, a slightly more luxurious example of the fortified homes being built by Elizabethean adventurers in Ireland, particularly Ulster.
Nicholas Bagenal is worth discussing, not because he was important (he wasn’t, except locally) but because he was a type. He appears to have come to Ireland after being implicated in a murder. After serving for a period of time as a mercenary soldier for the O'Neills, he received a general pardon in 1543. He entered the service of the English Crown and in 1547 he was appointed Marshall of the Army in Ireland. In 1550, under Elizabeth, he was given a lease "of the college or house of Newry". Bagenal managed to maintain control of his lands in spite of incursions by Shane O'Neill. He was succeeded in 1590 by his son Henry who was later killed when fighting Hugh O'Neill at the Battle of Yellow Ford in 1598. Ironically, Henry's sister, Mabel, had eloped with and married Hugh O'Neill in 1591. Drawing of Bagenal’s Castle, Newry, County Down, 1568
What are we to make of all of this? Two things: 1) Bagenal’s life in Ireland shows how complicated relationships could be – consisting of shifting alliances, intermarriage, and war, almost all at once - between the Gaelic aristocracy and the newly arriving English gentry. 2) Bagenal was just the sort of ambitious, ruthless adventurer who was drawn to settle in plantation Ireland. Being a planter was a brutal business. A few generations later this type of person would be going to the Caribbean and America to build slave plantations. The map of Newry circa 1570, shows the town divided into three parts, two of which were fortified, probably with an earthen bank and ditch. In the area marked as ‘The Towne of The Newrye.’ Bagenal’s Castle is identified as ‘The New Castell.’ Bagenal has been described as living in the Abbot's House of the Cistercian Abbey but he appears to have demolished it and built his own fortified house in the surrounding environs.
Bawns are 17th century farmyards built with defense in mind – the post-plantation equivalents of ring forts. They are physical depictions of the planters’ belief they were occupying a dangerous foreign country – which they were. Bellaghy Bawn, below, is now a museum in County Derry. How the Smaller Planters Lived
Dalway’s Bawn, Ballyhill, Carrickfergus, County Antrim, built about 1609, a fine existing example of a 17 th century bawn. As much fortress as famyard, it was rectangular with four round flanking towers, three of which still exist. Bawns were particularly important in Ulster, because before the flight of O”Neill this was considered by the English as the most Irish and therefore most dangerous province. That is precisely the reason for the plantations in the first place.
The Effect of the Tudor Conquest After the Tudors, and the reinforcement of their conquests by Cromwell, which will be discussed in the next lecture, native Catholics could only own land in the area of Connaught shown in green. The poverty, oppression, and sense of grievance in Catholic Ireland had begun, with disastrous consequences for hundreds of years.