FREE Catholic Classes
Ireland lies in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Great Britain, from which it is separated in the north-east by the North Channel, in the east by the Irish Sea, and in the south-east by St. George's Channel. Situated between the fifty-first and fifty-sixth degrees of latitude, and between the fifth and eleventh parallels of longitude (Greenwich), its greatest length is 302 miles, its greatest breadth 174 miles, its area 32,535 square miles. It is divided into four provinces, these being subdivided into thirty-two counties. In the centre the country is a level plain; towards the coast there are several detached mountain chains. Its rivers and bays are numerous, also its bogs; its climate is mild, though unduly moist. In minerals it is not wealthy like Great Britain, but is soil is generally more fertile, and is specially suitable for agriculture and pasturage.
In ancient times it was known by the various names of Ierna, Juverna, Hibernia, Ogygia, and Inisfail or the Isle of Destiny. It was also called Banba and Erin, and lastly Scotia, or the country of the Scots. From the eleventh century, however, the name Scotia was exclusively applied to Caledonia, the latter country having been peopled in the sixth century by a Scottish colony from Ireland. Henceforth Ireland was often called Scotia Major and sometimes Ireland, until, after the eleventh century, the name Scotia was dropped and Ireland alone remained. Even yet it is sometimes called Erin—chiefly by orators and poets. Situated in the far west, out of the beaten paths of commercial activity, it was little known to the ancients. Festus Avienus wrote that it was two days' sail from Britain. Pliny thought that it was part of Britain and not an island at all; Strabo that it was near Britain, and that its inhabitants were cannibals; and all that Caesar knew was that it was west of Britain, and about half its size. Agricola beheld its coastline from the opposite shores of Caledonia, and had thought of accepting the invitation of an Irish chief to come and conquer it, believing he could do so with a single legion. But he left Ireland unvisited and unconquered, and Tacitus could only record that in soil and climate it resembled Britain, and that its harbours were then well known to foreign merchants.
This Christmas Season, we humbly ask you to join the 1% of readers who give. If everyone reading this right now gave just $5, we'd hit our annual goal in a couple of hours. The price of a cup of coffee is all we ask. Thank you. Help Now >
But if we have not any detailed description from his lively pen, the native chroniclers have furnished us with abundant materials, and, if all they say be true, we can understand the remark of Camden that Ireland was rightly called Ogygia, or the Ancient Island, because in comparison, the antiquity of all other nations is in its infancy. Passing by the absurd story that it was peopled before the Deluge, we are told that, beginning with the time of Abraham, several successive waves of colonization rolled westward to its shores. First came Parthalon with 1000 followers; after which came the Nemedians, the Firbolgs, and the Tuatha-de-Dananns, and lastly the Milesians or Scots. In addition, there were the Fomorians, a people of uncertain origin, whose chief occupation was piracy and war, and whose attacks on the various settlers were incessant. These and the Milesians excepted, the different colonists came from Greece, and all were of the same race. The Milesians came from Scythia; and from that country to Egypt, from Egypt to Spain, from Spain to Ireland their adventures are recorded in detail. The name Scot which they bore was derived from Scota, daughter of Pharaoh of Egypt, the wife of one of their chiefs; from their chief Miledh they got the name Milesians, and from another chief Goidel they were sometimes called Gadelians, or Gaels. The wars and battles of these colonists are largely fabulous, and the Partholanians, Nemedians, and Fomorians belong rather to mythology than to history. So also do the Dananns, though sometimes they are taken as a real people, of superior knowledge and skill, the builders of those prehistoric sepulchral mounds by the Boyne, at Dowth, Knowth, and Newgrange. The Firbolgs however most probably existed, and were kindred perhaps to those warlike Belgae of Gaul whom Caesar encountered in battle. And the Milesians certainly belong to history, though the date of their arrival in Ireland is unknown. They were Celts, and probably came from Gaul to Britain, and from Britain to Ireland, rather than direct from Spain. Under the leadership of Heremon and Heber they soon became masters of the island. Some of the Firbolgs, it is said, crossed the seas to the Isles of Arran, where they built the fort of Dun Engus, which still stands and which tradition still associates with their name. Heber and Heremon soon quarrelled, and, Heber falling in battle, Heremon became sole ruler, the first in a long line of kings. This list of kings, however, is not reliable, and we are warned by Tighearnach, the most trustworthy of Irish chroniclers, that all events before the reign of Cimbaeth (300 B.C.) are uncertain. Even after the dawn of the Christian Era fact and fiction are interwoven and events are often shrouded in shadows and mists. Such, for instance, are the exploits of Cuchullain and Finn Macumhael. Nor have many of these early kinds been remarkable, if we except Conn of the Hundred Battles, who lived in the first century after Christ; Cormac, who lived a century later; Tuathal, who established the Feis of Tara; Niall, who invaded Britain; and Dathi, who in the fifth century lost his life at the foot of the Alps.
The Irish were then pagans, but not barbarians. Their roads were indeed ill-constructed, their wooden dwellings rude, the dress of their lower orders scanty, their implements of agriculture and war primitive, and so were their land vehicles, and the boats in which they traversed the sea. On the other hand, some of their swords and shields showed some skill in metal-working, and their war-like and commercial voyages to Britain and Gaul argue some proficiency in shipbuilding and navigation. They certainly loved music; and, besides their inscribed Ogham writing, they had a knowledge of letters. There was a high-king of Ireland ( ardri ), and subject to him were the provincial kings and chiefs of tribes. Each of these received tribute from his immediate inferior, and even in a sept the political and legal administration was complete. There was the druid who explained religion, the brehon who dispensed justice, the brughaid or public hospitaller, the bard who sang the praises of his chief or urged his kinsman to battle; and each was an official and had his appointed allotment of land. Kings, though taken from one family, were elective, the tanist or heir-apparent being frequently not the nearest relation of him who reigned. This peculiarity, together with gavelkind by which the lands were periodically redistributed, impeded industry and settled government. Nor was there any legislative assembly, and the Brehon law under which Ireland lived was judge-made law. Sometimes the ardri's tribute remained unpaid and his authority nominal; but if he was a strong man he exacted obedience and tribute. The Boru tribute levied on the King of Leinster was excessive and unjust, and led to many evils. The pagan Irish believed in Druidism, resembling somewhat the Druidism Caesar saw in Gaul; but the pagan creed of the Irish was indefinite and their gods do not stand out clear. They held the immortality and the transmigration of souls, worshiped the sun and moon, and, with an inferior worship, mountains, rivers, and wells. And they sacrificed to idols, one of which, Crom Cruach, they are said to have propitiated with human sacrifices. They also believed in fairies, holding that the Tuatha-de-Dananns, when defeated by the Milesians, retired into the bosom of the mountains, where they held their fairy revels. One of the women fairies (the banshee ) watched the fortunes of great families, and when some great misfortune was impending, the doomed family was warned at night by her mournful wail.
Help Now >
EARLY CHRISTIAN PERIOD
Intercourse with Britain and the Continent through commerce and war sufficiently accounts for the introduction of Christianity before the fifth century. There must have been then a considerable number of Christians in Ireland; for in 430 Palladius, a bishop and native of Britain, was sent by Pope Celestine "to the Scots believing in Christ". Palladius, however, did little, and almost immediately returned to Britain, and in 432 the same pope sent St. Patrick. He is the Apostle of Ireland, but this does not imply that he found Ireland altogether pagan and left it altogether Christian. It is however quite true that when St. Patrick did come paganism was the predominant belief, and that at his death it had been supplanted as such by Christianity. The extraordinary work which St. Patrick did, as well as his own attractive personal character, has furnished him with many biographers; and even in recent years his life and works have engaged erudite and able pens. But in spite of all that has been written many things in his life are still doubtful and obscure. It is doubtful when and where he was born, how he spent his life between his first leaving Ireland and his return, and in what year he died. It has been maintained that he never existed; that he and Palladius were the same man ; that there were two St. Patricks; again, some, like Jocelin, have multiplied his miracles beyond belief. These contradictions and exaggerations have encouraged the scoffer to sneer; and Gibbon was sure that in the sixty-six lives of St. Patrick there must have been sixty-six thousand lies. In reality there seems no solid reason for rejecting the traditional account, viz., that St. Patrick was born at Dumbarton in Scotland about 372; that he was captured and brought to Ireland by the Irish king, Nial; that he was sold as a slave to an Ulster chief Milcho, whom he served for six years; that he then escaped and went back to his own people; that in repeated visions he, a pious Christian, heard the plaintive cry of the pagan Irish inviting him to come amongst them; that, believing he was called by God to do so, he went first to the monastery of St. Martin of Tours, then to that of St. Germanus of Auxerre, after which he went to Lérins and to Rome ; and then, being consecrated bishop, he was sent by Pope Celestine to Ireland, where he arrived in 432.
Help Now >
From Wicklow, where he landed, his course is traced to Antrim; back by Downpatrick, near which he converted Dichu and got from him a grant of land for his first church at Saul ; then by Dundalk, where Benignus was converted ; and to Slane, where in sight of Tara itself he lighted the paschal fire. The enraged druids pointed out to the ardri the heinousness of the offence, for during the great pagan festival then being celebrated it was death to light any fire except at Tara. But St. Patrick came to Tara itself, baptized the chief poet, and even the ardri; then marched north and destroyed at Leitrim the idol, Crom Cruach, after which he entered Connaught, and remained there for seven years. Passing through Connaught to Ulster, he went through Donegal, Tyrone, and Antrim, consecrated Macarten Bishop of Monaghan, and Fiace Bishop of Sletty; after which he entered Munster. Finally he returned to Ulster, and died at Saul in 493. His early captivity in Ireland interfered seriously with his education, and in his Confession and in his Epistle to Caroticus, both of which have survived the wreck of ages, we can discover no graces of style. But we see his great familiarity with the Scripture. And the man himself stands revealed; his piety, his spirit of prayer, his confidence in God, his zeal, his invincible courage. But while putting his entire trust in God, and giving Him all the glory, he rejected no human aid. Entering into a pagan territory he first preached to the chief men, knowing that when they were converted the people would follow. Wonderful indeed was his labour, and wonderful its results. He preached in almost every district in Ireland, confounded in argument the druids and won the people from their side; he built, it is said, 365 churches and consecrated an equal number of bishops, established schools and convents, and held synods ; and when he died the whole machinery of a powerful Church was in operation, fully equal to the task of confirming in the faith those already converted and of bringing those yet in darkness into the Christian fold.
One of the apostle's first anxieties was to provide a native ministry. For this purpose he selected the leading men—chiefs, brehons, bards—men likely to attract the respect of the people, and these, after little training, and often with little education, he had ordained. Thus equipped the priest went among the people, with his catechism, missal, and ritual, the bishop in addition his crosier and bell. In a short time, however, these primitive conditions ceased. Abut 450 a college was established at Armagh under Benignus; other schools arose at Kildare, Noendrum, and Louth; and by the end of the fifth century these colleges sent forth a sufficient supply of trained priests. Supported by a grant of land from the chief of the clan or sept and by voluntary offerings, bishop and priests lived together, preached to the people, administered the sacraments, settled their disputes, sat in their banquet halls. To many ardent natures this state of things was abhorrent. Fleeing from men, they sought for solitude and silence, by the banks of a river, in the recesses of a wood, and, with the scantiest allowance of food, the water for their drink, a few wattles covered with sods for their houses, they spent their time in mortification and prayer. Literally they were monks, for they were alone with God. But their retreats were soon invaded by others anxious to share their penances and their vigils, and to learn wisdom at their feet. Each newcomer built his little hut, a church was erected, a grant of land obtained, their master became abbot, and perhaps bishop ; and thus arose monastic establishments the fame of which soon spread throughout Europe. Noted examples in the sixth century were Clonard, founded by St. Finian, Clonfert by St. Brendan, Bangor by St. Comgall, Clonmacnoise by St. Kieran, Arran by St. Enda; and, in the seventh century, Lismore by St. Carthage and Glendalough by St. Kevin.
There were still bardic schools, as there was still paganism, but in the seventh century paganism had all but disappeared, and the bardic were overshadowed by the monastic schools. Frequented by the best of the Irish, and by students from abroad, these latter diffused knowledge over western Europe, and Ireland received and merited the title of Island of Saints and Scholars. The holy men who laboured with St. Patrick and immediately succeeded him were mostly bishops and founders of churches; those of the sixth century were of the monastic order; those of the seventh century were mostly anchorites who loved solitude, silence, continued prayer, and the most rigid austerities. Nor were the women behindhand in this contest for holiness. St. Brigid is a name still dear to Ireland, and she, as well as St. Ita, St. Fanchea and others, founded many convents tenanted by pious women, whose sanctity and sacrifices it would be indeed difficult to surpass. Nor was the Irish Church, as has been sometimes asserted, out of communion with the See of Rome. The Roman and Irish tonsures differed, it is true, and the methods of computing Easter, and it may be that Pelagianism found some few adherents, though Arianism did not, nor the errors as to the natures and wills of Christ. In the number of its sacraments, in its veneration for the Blessed Virgin, in its belief in the Mass and in Purgatory, in its obedience to the See of Rome, the creed of the early Irish Church was the Catholic creed of today (see CELTIC RITE). Abroad as well as at home Irish Christian zeal was displayed. In 563 St. Columba, a native of Donegal, accompanied by a few companions, crossed the sea to Caledonia and founded a monastery on the desolate island of Iona.
Fresh arrivals came from Ireland; the monastery with Columba as its abbot was soon a flourishing institution, from which the Dalriadian Scots in the south and the Piets beyond the Grampians were evangelized; and when Columba died in 597, Christianity had been preached and received in every district in Caledonia, and in every island along its west coast. In the next century Iona had so prospered that its abbot, St. Adamnan , wrote in excellent Latin the "Life of St. Columba", the best biography of which the Middle Ages can boast. From Iona had gone south the Irish Aidan and his Irish companions to compete with and even exceed in zeal the Roman missionaries under St. Augustine, and to evangelize Northumbria, Mercia, and Essex; and if Irish zeal had already been displayed in Iona, equal zeal was now displayed on the desolate isle of Lindisfarne. Nor was this all. In 590 St. Columbanus, a student of Bangor, accompanied by twelve companions, arrived in France and established the monastery of Luxeuil, the parent of many monasteries, then laboured at Bregenz, and finally founded the monastery of Bobbio, which as a centre of knowledge and piety was long the light of northern Italy. And meantime his friend and fellow-student St. Gall laboured with conspicuous success in Switzerland, St. Fridolin along the Rhine, St. Fiacre near Meaux, St. Kilian at Wurzburg, St. Livinus in Brabant, St. Fursey on the Marne, St. Cataldus in southern Italy. And when Charlemagne reigned (771-814), Irishmen were at his court, "men incomparably skilled in human learning".
In the civil history of the period only a few facts stand out prominently. About 560, in consequence of a quarrel with the ardri Diarmuid about the right of sanctuary, St. Columba and Rhodanus (Reudan) of Lorrha publicly cursed Tara, an unpatriotic act which dealt a fatal blow at the prospect of a strong central government by blighting with maledictions its acknowledged seat. Nearly thirty years later the National Convention of Drumceat restrained the insolence and curtailed the privileges of the bards. In 684 Ireland was invaded by the King of Northumbria, though no permanent conquest followed. And in 697 the last Feis of Tara was held, at which, through the influence of Adamnan, women were interdicted from taking part in actual battle. At the same time the ardri Finactha, at the instance of St. Moling, renounced for himself and his successors the Boru tribute. As the eighth century neared its close, religion and learning still flourished; but unexpected dangers approached and a new enemy came, before whose assaults monk and monastery and saint and scholar disappeared.
These invaders were the Danes from the coasts of Scandinavia. Pagans and pirates, they loved plunder and war, and both on land and sea were formidable foes. Like the fabled Fomorians of earlier times they had a genius for devastation. Descending from their ships along the coast of western Europe, they murdered the inhabitants or made them captives and slaves.
In Ireland as elsewhere they attacked the monasteries and churches, desecrated the altars, carried away the gold and silver vessels, and smoking ruins and murdered monks attested the fury of their assaults. Armagh and Bangor, Kildare and Clonmacnoise, Iona and Lindisfarne thus fell before their fury. Favoured by disunion among the Irish chiefs, they crept inland, effected permanent settlements at Waterford and Limerick and established a powerful kingdom at Dublin ; and, had their able chief Turgesius lived much longer, they might perhaps have subdued the whole island. For a century after his death in 845 victory and defeat alternated in their wars ; but they clung tenaciously to their seaport possessions, and kept the neighbouring Irish in cruel bondage. They were, however, signally defeated by the Ardri Malachy in 980, and Dublin was compelled to pay him tribute. But, able as Malachy was, an abler man soon supplanted him in the supreme position. Step by step Brian Boru had risen from being chief of Thomond to be undisputed ruler of Munster. Its chiefs were his tributaries and his allies; the Danes he had repeatedly chastised, and in 1002 he compelled Malachy to abdicate in his favour.
It was a bitter humiliation for Malachy thus to lay down the sceptre which for 600 years had been in the hands of his family. It gave Ireland, however, the greatest of her high-kings and unbroken peace for some years. War came when the elements of discontent coalesced. Brian had irritated Leinster by reviving the Boru tribute; he had crushed the Danes ; and these, with the Danes of the Isle of Man and those of Sweden and the Scottish Isles, joined together, and on Good Friday , 1014, the united strength of Danes and Leinstermen faced Brian's army at Clontarf. The victory gained by the latter was great; but it was dearly bought by the loss of Brian as well as his son and grandson. The century and a half which followed was a weary waste of turbulence and war. Brian's usurpation encouraged others to ignore the claims of descent. O'Loughlin and O'Neill in the North, O'Brien in the South, and O'Connor beyond the Shannon fought for the national throne with equal energy and persistence; and as one set of disputants disappeared, others replaced them, equally determined to prevail. The lesser chiefs were similarly engaged. This ceaseless strife completed the work begun by the Danes. Under native and Christian chiefs churches were destroyed, church lands appropriated by laymen, monastic schools deserted, lay abbots ruled at Armagh and elsewhere. Bishops were consecrated without sees and conferred orders for money, there was chaos in church government and corruption everywhere. In a series of synods beginning with Rathbreasail (1118) and including Kells, at which the pope's legate presided, many salutary enactments were passed, and for the first time diocesan episcopacy was established. Meanwhile, St. Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh, had done very remarkable work in his own diocese and elsewhere. His early death in 1148 was a heavy blow to the cause of church reform. Nor could so many evils be cured in a single life, or by the labours of a single man ; and in spite of his efforts and the efforts of others the decrees of synods were often flouted, and the new diocesan boundaries ignored.
In Henry II of England an unexpected reformer appeared. The murderer of Thomas a' Becket seemed ill-fitted for the role, but he undertook it, and in the first year of his reign (1154) he procured a Bull from the English-born Pope Adrian IV authorizing him to proceed to Ireland "to check the torrent of wickedness to reform evil manners, to sow the seeds of virtue." The many troubles of his extensive kingdom thwarted his plans for years. But in 1168 Macmurrogh, King of Leinster, driven from his kingdom sought Henry's aid, and then Adrian's Bull was remembered. a first contingent of Anglo-Normans came to Ireland in 1169 under Fitzgerald, a stronger force under Strongbow (de Clare, Earl of Pembroke ) in 1170, and in 1171 Henry himself landed at Waterford and proceeded to Dublin, where he spent the winter, and received the submission of all the Irish chiefs, except those of Tyrconnell and Tyrowen. These submissions, however, aggravated rather than lessened existing ills. The Irish chiefs submitted to Henry as to a powerful ardri, still preserving their privileges and rights under Brehon law. Henry, on his side, regarded them as vassals holding the lands of their tribes by military service and in accordance with feudal law. Thus a conflict between the clan system and feudalism arose. Exercising his supposed rights, Henry divided the country into so many great fiefs, giving Meath to be Lacy, Leinster to Strongbow, while de Courcy was encouraged to conquer Ulster, and deCogan Connaught. At a later date the deBurgos settled in Galway, the Fitzgeralds in Kildare and Desmond, the Butlers in Ossory. Discord enfeebled the capacity of the Irish chiefs for resistance; nor were kernes and gallowglasses equal to mail-clad knights, nor the battle-axe to the Norman lance, and in a short time large tracts had passed from native to foreign hands.
A Catholic Approach to Gift-Giving on Christmas
Speakin' with the Deacons
Live Wednesday 12/6 @ 10am PDT
Join US LIVE on YouTube
The new Anglo-Irish lords soon outgrew the position of English subjects, and to the natives became tyrannical and overbearing. Ignoring the many evidences of culture in Ireland, her Romanesque architecture, her high crosses, her illuminated manuscripts, her shrines and crosiers, the scholars that had shed lustre on her schools, the saints that had hallowed her fame throughout Europe — ignoring all these, they despised the Irish as rude and barbarous, despised their language, their laws their dress, their arms; and, while not recognizing the Brehon law, they refused Irishmen the status of English subjects or the protection of English law. At last, despairing of union among their own chiefs, or of justice from Irish viceroy or English king, the oppressed Irish invited Edward Bruce from Scotland. In 1315 he landed in Ireland and was crowned king. Successful at first, his allies beyond the Shannon were almost annihilated in the battle of Athenry (1316); and two years later he was himself defeated and slain at Faughart. His ruin had been effected by a combination of the Anglo-Irish lords, and this still further inflated their pride. Titles rewarded them. Birmingham became Lord of Athenry and Earl of Louth, Fitzgerald Earl of Kildare, his kinsman Earl of Desmond, de Burgo Earl of Ulster, Butler Earl of Ormond. But these titles only increased their insolence and disloyalty. Favoured by the weakness of the viceroy's government the native chiefs recovered most of the ground they had lost.
Meanwhile the De Burgos in Connaught changed their name to Burke, and became Irish chiefs; many others followed their example; even the ennobled Butlers and Fitzgeralds used the Irish language, dress, and customs, and were as turbulent as the worst of the native chiefs. To recall these colonists to their allegiance the Statute of Kilkenny made it penal to use Irish customs, language, or law, forbade intermarriage with the mere Irish, or the conferring of benefices on the native-born. But the barriers of race could not be maintained, and the intermarrying of Irish with Anglo-Irish went on. The long war with France, followed by the Wars of the Roses, diverted the attention of England from Irish affairs; and the viceroy, feebly supported from England, was too weak to chastise these powerful lords or put penal laws in force. The hostility of native chiefs was bought off by the payment of "black rents". The loyal colonists confined to a small district near Dublin, called "the Pale", shivered behind its encircling rampart; and when the sixteenth century dawned, English power in Ireland had almost disappeared. Those within the Pale were impoverished by grasping officials and by the payment of "black rents". Outside the Pale the country was held by sixty chiefs of Irish descent and thirty of English descent, each making peace or war as he pleased. Lawlessness and irreligion were everywhere. The clergy of Irish quarrelled with those of English descent; the religious houses were corrupt, their priors and abbots great landholders with seats in Parliament, and more attached to secular than to religious concerns; the great monastic schools had disappeared, the greatest of them all, Clonmacnoise, being in ruins; preaching was neglected except by the mendicant orders, and these were utterly unable to cope with the disorders which prevailed.
THE TUDOR PERIOD
Occupied with English and Continental affairs, Henry VIII, in the beginning of his reign, bestowed but little attention on Ireland, and not until he was a quarter of a century on the throne were Irish affairs taken seriously in hand. The king was then in middle age, no longer the defender of the Faith against Luther, but, like Luther, a rebel against Rome ; no longer generous or attractive in character, but rather a cruel capricious tyrant whom it was dangerous to provoke and fatal to disobey. In England his hands were reddened with the best blood of the land; and in Ireland the fate of the Fitzgeralds, following the rebellion of Silken Thomas, struck Irish and Anglo-Irish alike with such terror that all hastened to make peace. O'Neill, renouncing the inheritance of his ancestors, became Earl of Tyrone; Burke became Earl of Clanrickard, O'Brien Earl of Thomond, Fitzpatrick Lord of Ossory ; the Earl of Desmond and the other Anglo-Irish nobles were pardoned all their offences, and at a Parliament in Dublin (1541) Anglo-Irish and Irish attended. And Henry, who like his predecessors had been hitherto but Lord of Ireland ( Dominus Hiberniae ), was now unanimously given the higher title of king. This Parliament also passed the Act of Supremacy by which Henry was invested with spiritual jurisdiction , and, in substitution for the pope, proclaimed head of the Church. As the proctors of the clergy refused to agree to this measure, the irate monarch deprived them of the right of voting, and in revenge confiscated church lands and suppressed monasteries, in some cases shed the blood of their inmates, in the remaining cases sent them forth homeless and poor. These severities, however, did not win the people from their faith. The apostate friar Browne, whom Henry made Archbishop of Dublin, the apostate Staples, Bishop of Meath, and Henry himself, stained with so many adulteries and murders, had but poor credentials as preachers of reform; whatever time-serving chiefs might do, the clergy and people were unwilling to make Henry pope, or to subscribe to the varying tenets of his creed. His successor, an ardent Protestant, tried hard to make Ireland Protestant, but the sickly plant which he sowed was uprooted by the Catholic Mary, and at Elizabeth's accession all Ireland was Catholic.
Like her father Henry, the young queen was a cruel and capricious tyrant, and in her war with Shane O'Neill, the ablest of the Irish chiefs, she did not scruple to employ assassins. She was neither a sincere Protestant nor a willing persecutor of the Catholics ; and though she re-enacted the Act of Supremacy and passed the Act of Uniformity, making Protestantism the state creed, she refused to have these acts rigorously enforced. But when the pope and the Spanish king declared against her, and the Irish Catholics were found in alliance with both, she yielded to her ministers and concluded, with them, that a Catholic was necessarily a disloyal subject. Henceforth toleration gave way to persecution. The tortures inflicted on O'Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel, and O'Hely, Bishop of Mayo, the Spaniards murdered in cold blood at Smerwick, the desolation of Munster during Desmond's rebellion, showed how cruel her rule could be. Far more formidable than the rebellion of Desmond, or even than that of Shane O'Neill, was the rebellion of Hugh O'Neill, Early of Tyrone. No such able Irish chief had appeared since Brian Boru. Cool, cautious, vigilant, he laid his plans with care and knew how to wait patiently for results. Never impulsive, never boastful, wise in council and wary in speech, from his long residence in London in his youth he learned dissimulation, and was as crafty as the craftiest English minister. Repeatedly he foiled the queen's diplomatists in council as he did her generals in the field, and at the Yellow Ford (1598) gained the greatest victory ever won in Ireland over English arms. What he might have done had he been loyally supported it is hard to say. For nearly ten years he continued the war ; he continued it after his Spanish allies had brought upon him the disaster of Kinsale; after his chief assistant, O'Donnell, had been struck down by an assassin's hand; after Carew had subdued Munster, and Mountjoy had turned Ulster into a desert ; after the Irish chiefs had gone over to the enemy. And when he submitted it was only on condition of being guaranteed his titles and lands; and by that time Elizabeth, who hated him so much and so longed for his destruction, had breathed her last.
UNDER THE STUARTS
James I (1603-25) was the first of the Stuart line, and from the son of Mary Stuart the Irish Catholics expected much. They were doomed, however, to an early disappointment. The cities which rejoiced that " Jezabel was dead", and that now they could practise their religion openly, were warned by Mountjoy that James was a good Protestant and as such would have no toleration of popery. Salisbury, who had poisoned the mind of the queen against the Catholics, was equally successful with her successor, with the result that persecution continued. Proclamations were issued ordering the clergy to quit the kingdom; those who remained were hunted down; O'Devany, Bishop of Down, and others were done to death. The Acts of Supremacy and uniformity were rigorously enforced. The Act of Oblivion, under which participants in the late rebellion were pardoned, was often forgotten or ignored. English law, which for the first time was extended to all Ireland, was used by corrupt officials to oppress rather than to protect the people. The Earl of Tyrone and the Early of Tyroconnell (Rory O'Donnell) was so spied upon and worried by false charges of disloyalty that they fled the country, believing that their lives were in danger; and to all their pleas for justice the king's response was to slander their characters and confiscate their lands. It is indeed true that Irish juries found the earls guilty of high treason, and an Irish Parliament, representing all Ireland, attained them. But these results were obtained by carefully packing the juries, and by the creation of small boroughs which sent creatures of the king to represent them in Parliament. And the Catholic members acquiesced under threat of having enacted a fresh batch of penal laws. Thus, aided by corrupt juries and a complaisant Parliament, James I was enabled to plant the confiscated lands of Ulster with English Protestants and Scotch Presbyterians. Other plantations had fared badly. That of King's and Queen's County in Mary's reign had decayed; and the plantation of Munster after the Desmond war had been swept away in the tide of O'Neill's victories. The plantation of Ulster was more thorough and effective than either of these. Whole districts were given to the settlers, and these, supported by a Protestant Government, soon grew into a powerful and prosperous colony, while the despoiled Catholics, driven from the richer to the poorer lands, looked helplessly on, hating those colonists for whose sake they had been despoiled.
Under the new king, Charles I (1625-49), the policy of persecution and plantation was continued. Under pretence of advancing the public interest and increasing the king's revenue, a crowd of hungry adventurers spread themselves over the land, inquiring into the title by which lands were held. With venal judges, venal juries, and sympathetic officials to aid them, good titles were declared bad, and lands seized, and the adventurers were made sharers in the spoil. The O'Byrnes were thus deprived of their lands in Wicklow, and similar confiscations and plantations took place in Wexford, King's County, Leitrim, Westmeath, and Longford. Hoping to protect themselves against such robbery, the Catholics offered the king a subsidy of £120,000 in exchange for certain privileges called "graces", which among other things would give them indefeasible titles to their estates. These "graces" granted by the king, were to have the sanction of Parliament to make them good. The money was paid, but the "graces" were withheld, and the viceroy, Strafford, proceeded to Connaught to confiscate and plant the whole province. The projected plantation was ultimately abandoned; but the sense of injustice remained. All over the country were insecurity, anxiety, unrest, and disaffection; Irish and Anglo-Irish were equally menaced. Seeing the futility of appealing to a helpless Parliament, a despotic viceroy, or a perfidious king, the nation took up arms.
To describe the rebellion as the "massacre of 1641" is unjust. The details of cruel murders committed and horrible tortures inflicted by the rebels are mischievously untrue. On the other hand, it is true that the Protestants suffered grievous wrong, and that many of them lost their lives, exclusive of those who fell in war. The Catholics wanted the planters' lands; when driven away in wintry weather, without money, or food, or sufficient clothes, many planters perished of hunger and cold. Others fell by the avenging hand of some infuriated Catholic whom they might have wronged in the days of their power. Many fell defending their property or the property and lives of their friends. The plan of the rebel leaders, of whom Roger Moore was chief, was to capture the garrison towns by a simultaneous attack. But they failed to capture Dublin Castle, containing large stores of arms, owing to the imprudence of Colonel MacMahon. He imparted the secret to a disreputable Irishman named O'Connolly, who at once informed the Castle authorities, with the result that the Castle defences were strengthened, and MacMahon and others arrested and subsequently executed. In Ulster, however, the whole open country and many towns fell into the rebels' hands, and Munster and Connaught soon joined the rebellion, as did the Catholics of the Pale, unable to obtain any toleration of their religion, or security of their property, or even of their lives. Before the new year was far advanced the Catholic Bishops declared the rebellion just, and the Catholics formed a confederation which, from its meeting place, was called the "Confederation of Kilkenny". Composed of clergy and laity its members swore to be loyal to the king, to strive for the free exercise of their religion, and to defend the lives, liberties, and possessions of all who took the Confederate oath. Supreme executive authority was vested in a supreme council; there were provincial councils also, all these bodies deriving their powers from an elective body called the "General Assembly".
The Supreme Council exercised all the powers of government, administered justice, raised taxes, formed armies, appointed generals. One of the best-known of these officers was General Preston, who commanded in Leinster, having come from abroad with a good supply of arms and ammunition, and with 500 trained officers. A more remarkable man still was General Owen Roe O'Neill, nephew of the great Earl of Tyrone, who took command in Ulster, and whose defence of Arras against the French caused him to be recognized as one of the first soldiers in Europe. He also, like Preston, brought officers, arms, and ammunition to Ireland. At a later state came Rinuccini, the pope's nuncio, bringing with him a supply of money. Meanwhile, civil war raged in England between king and Parliament; the Government at Dublin, ill supplied from across the Channel, was ill fitted to crush a powerful rebellion, and, in 1646, O'Neill won the great victory of Benburb. But the strength of which this victory was the outcome was counterbalanced by elements of weakness. The Catholics of Ulster and those of the Pale did not agree; neither did Generals O'Neill and Preston. The Supreme Council, with a feeble old man, Lord Mountgarret, at its head, and four provincial generals instead of a commander-in-chief, was ill-suited for the vigorous prosecution of a war. Moreover, the influence of the Marquis of Ormond was a fatal cause of discord. A personal friend of the king, and charged by him with the command of his army and with the conduct of negotiations, a Protestant with Catholic friends on the Supreme Council, his desire ought to have been to bring Catholic and Royalist together. But his hatred of the Catholics was such that he would grant them no terms, even when ordered to do so by His Majesty. The Catholics ' professions of loyalty he despised, and his great diplomatic abilities were used to sow dissensions in their councils and to thwart their plans. Yet the Supreme Council, dominated by an Ormondist faction, continued fruitless negotiations with him, agreed to a cessation when they themselves were strong and their opponents weak, and agreed to a peace with him in spite of the victory of Benburb, and in spite of the remonstrances of the nuncio and of General O'Neill. Nor did they cease these relations with him even after he had treacherously surrendered Dublin to the Parliament (1647), and left the country. On the contrary, they still put faith in him, entered into a fresh peace with him in 1648, and when he returned to Ireland as the Royalist viceroy they received him in state at Kilkenny. In disgust, General O'Neill came to a temporary agreement with the Parliamentary general, and Rinuccini, despairing of Ireland, returned to Rome.
The Civil War in England was then over. The Royalists had been vanquished, the king executed, the monarchy replaced by a commonwealth; and in August, 1649, Oliver Cromwell came to Ireland with 10,000 men. Ormond meanwhile had rallied his supporters, and, with the greater part of the Catholics of Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, the Protestants of the Pale and of Munster, and great part of the Ulster Presbyterians, his strength was considerable. His obstinate bigotry would not allow him to make terms with the Ulster army, and he thus lost the support of General O'Neill at a critical time. Early in August he had been disastrously beaten by the Puritan general Jones, at Rathmines; in consequence he offered no opposition to Cromwell's landing and made no attempt to relieve Drogheda. It was soon captured by Cromwell and its garrison put to the sword. A month later the same fate befell Wexford. Waterford repelled Cromwell's attack, and Clonmel and Kilkenny offered him a stout resistance; but other towns were easily captured, or voluntarily surrendered; and when he left Ireland, in May, 1650, Munster and Leinster were in his hands. His successors, Ireton and Ludlow, within two years reduced the remaining provinces. Meanwhile Owen Roe O'Neill had died after making terms with Ormond, but before meeting with Cromwell. The Catholic Bishops, however, repudiated Ormond, who then left Ireland. Some negotiations subsequently between Lord Clanricarde and the Duke of Lorraine came to nothing, and the long war was ended in which more than half the inhabitants of the country had lost their lives.
In the beginning of the rebellion many Englishmen subscribed money to put it down, stipulating in return for a share of the lands to be forfeited, and thus hatred of the Catholics was mingled with hope
Join the Movement
When you sign up below, you don't just join an email list - you're joining an entire movement for Free world class Catholic education.
Mysteries of the Rosary
St. Faustina Kowalska
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Saint of the Day for Wednesday, Oct 4th, 2023
St. Francis of Assisi
Female / Women Saints
7 Morning Prayers you need to get your day started with God
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Daily Readings for Sunday, December 10, 2023
- Pope Saint Gregory III: Saint of the Day for Sunday, December 10, 2023
- Act of Love: Prayer of the Day for Sunday, December 10, 2023
- Daily Readings for Saturday, December 09, 2023
- St. Juan Diego: Saint of the Day for Saturday, December 09, 2023
- Prayer of Solace: Prayer of the Day for Saturday, December 09, 2023
Copyright 2023 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2023 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.