Page images

and misconduct, and seems to have been appointed in his place in 1532.*

(1533.) The animosity of Kildare's natural enemies, the Butlers, who were favourable to Skeffington, now broke out with greater violence than ever. Kildare was accused of favouring O’Neil—of marrying his two daughters to the Irish rebels, O'Connor and O'Carroll. The Council sided against him, and John Alen, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, hereafter notorious for his intrigues “as the subverter of Deputies,” was sent to England in 1533 by the Irish Council, to employ his abilities in having Kildare recalled. Perhaps they had a better foundation for their dissatisfaction with the unpopular Deputy, that neither the English tongue nor the English laws were observed “above 20 miles in compass” around the capital; and even these narrow limits were in danger of being brought into the same condition as the rest of the island. On the causes of this decay I need not now insist ; how far it arose from the refractory conduct of the Irish Council, or the faults of the English themselves, the employment of Irishmen, the liberties of the temporal lords, always “prejudicial to the King and the weal of the land;” how far it ought to be attributed to the frequent change of Deputies, the ruin of border fortresses, the alienation of royal manors and rents, must be left to the historian of Ireland to determine. They who desire information on these points may consult with advantage the instructions and correspondence of Alen in the Irish State Papers.f

* The date of this appointment is uncertain. Skeffington was certainly Deputy in May 1532. (See Carew, I. 49, and Hamilton's Calendar, I. p. 8.) In 1533, Skeffington seems to have still held some office, as he writes to Cromwell in October that he was lying in wait for Kildare.

f Carew, I. 50 ; and State Papers, II. 162.

Kildare was summoned to England. He endeavoured to evade the summons as long as possible. He anticipated the fate that awaited him; and his letter printed by Coxe in his History of Ireland, if authentic, gives an affecting account of the feelings with which the old and greyheaded chief now viewed the clouds that gathered round the close of his career. If the accusations of Ossory, Skeffington, and others be true,” that he had employed his influence and authority in securing his interests with the Irish chiefs, we may attribute these acts to his sense of insecurity in Henry's favour. More than once he had visited the English court, sometimes freely, sometimes a prisoner; and every time he had found his escape from it more difficult than before.

(1534.) He sailed for England in February 1534, leaving his son Thomas, or, as he was called, Silken Thomas, in his room. On the 31st of May 1534, an indenture was drawn up between the Earl of Ossory and Henry VIII.,4 in which it is stated that the King “upon manifold enor“mities alleged and proved against the Earl of Kildare, “ late his Deputy there, had not only discharged him of “ that room,” but had appointed Sir William Skeffington, then in England, to repair thither and take his place.

Skeffington and the Butlers were evidently on good terms, and therefore Ossory undertook to assist the Deputy with all his powers in the King's causes, against his English and his Irish rebels. In fact, Ossory now

held the same position as Kildare had occupied at the

previous appointment of Skeffington. At this period of our history the support of one or other of these powerful Irish chieftains was indispensable to the security and even the existence of English authority in Ireland. Their dissensions paved the way to their own ruin, and cemented

[ocr errors]

the power of England. Historians may have failed to perceive or to recognize this fact; but it is clear that the combination of the Irish nobles, or even the absence of their aid, would have been perilous in the extreme. In the lands of Kildare, Desmond, and Ossory the Deputy had no power without their consent.” In the countries where the said Earls held dominion, English influence had universally decayed; “for their English “ tongue, their English habit, and English order was “ turned into the Irish tongue, Irish habit, and Irish “ order.” In the counties of Kerry, Cork, Limerick, and Waterford, “which shires had been as obedient unto your laws as the shire of Middlesex is now,” the King's laws were no longer observed, and no revenue could be levied except from Meath, Dublin, and Louth. The Scots poured in their streams of hardy adventurers on the northern coast, and kept that portion of the island in constant alarm. Whilst elsewhere, what from the ignorance of the gentlemen, what from the imperfect education of their children, murder, felony, extortion of all kinds prevailed, and divers other heinous offences grew up unchecked.t To add to the difficulty of ruling Ireland, the King had now resolved to enforce the acknowledgment of his supremacy—to add religious to the civil dissensions of the times. As the Irish had been taught to consider that the King, as Lord of Ireland, was no more than the Pope's vicegerent, it was thought necessary by Cromwell and the English Government to enforce the submission of the Irish in terms as bitter and offensive to Irish prejudices as could well be devised. “Considering that it is manifest and notorious that the provi

sions and usurped jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome hath been, and continually is, the most and principal cause of the desolation,

* State Papers, II. 183. f Ibid, p. 191.

division, ruin, and decay of the said land of Ireland, by the abominable abuse whereof the cathedral churches, monasteries, parish churches, and all other, regular and secular, for the more part, in effect, thorough the land ben in utter ruin and destroyed;—for the said Bishop of Rome commonly hath preferred, by his provisions, to the administration and governance of them, not only vile and vicious persons, unlearned, being murderers, thieves, and of other detestable disposition; as light men of war, who, for their unjust maintenance therein, some time to expel the rightful incumbent, and other seasons by force of secular power to put the true patrons from their patronage, and other their misorders, have not only spent, wasted, and alienate such lands, as the King, his noble progenitors, and his nobles, gave to the augmentation of God's divine service, in the churches of that land, the exhibition and maintenance of the ministers of the same, and the utensils and ornaments there; but also, by occasion of the same, great wars hath been stirred amongst the King's people, and countries brent, bishops and divers other persons spiritual and temporal murdered, and many other detestable things have ensued thereby, which would abhor any good Christian man to hear, to the high displeasure of God, the violation of his laws, the derogation of the King's jurisdiction and regality, and the great detriment of his nobles and people:”—Therefore the King “hath willed his said Deputy to resist with all his power the abuse and usurped jurisdiction of the said Bishop of Rome in the premises.” "

Could the most tortuous ingenuity have devised a method of making an unpalatable act more odious and unpalatable to Catholic Ireland:

This was the task imposed on Skeffington and Ossory; a task undertaken by them without any apparent consciousness of their own inability to perform it. In the meantime (1534) Kildare's son, an inexperienced youth, whose warm blood had been fanned to fever heat by the treatment of his father, goaded to disloyalty, if report may be trusted, by the intrigues of Alen, united with his relative O'Connor, and overran the English Pale. At the

* Carew, I. 55; and State Papers, II. 196; cf. p. 213.

same time Desmond was negotiating with the Emperor Charles V., to send an army of Spaniards into Ireland, and support the faction of the Geraldines.* To conciliate the favour of his countrymen and render the King's supremacy odious, the Earl's son, Thomas FitzGerald, his “brethren, kinsmen, and adherents did make their avaunt “ and boast that they be of the Pope's sect and band, “ and him will they serve against the King and all his “ part-takers; saying further, that the King is accursed, “ and as many as take his part shall be openly ac“ cursed.”f Some months had passed away and Skeffington came not.: The English court, alarmed at the coming danger, was unwilling to irritate the Irish by precipitate measures. Meantime, Thomas FitzGerald and his associates had laid siege to the city of Dublin. The notorious Archbishop Alen, conscious of his unpopularity, made his escape; got on board a small fishing vessel, was driven back by stress of weather on the coast near Clontarf, fell into the hands of FitzGerald and his adherents, and was murdered under circumstances of great brutality. § The act could not fail of bringing ruin on the cause of FitzGerald. His adherents were put under an interdict. The people of Dublin made an able and apparently unexpected resistance, and were suddenly reinforced by Skeffington,

* State Papers, II. 198. This was a report only ; but it is by no means improbable, considering the relation between the two countries. It is certain that Desmond had been in correspondence with Charles in February 1530. See the Emperor's letter to him in Carew Papers, I. 42.

f State Papers, II. 198.

I Carew, I. 57.

§ Alen, formerly Wolsey's chaplain, was hated by the Geraldines, who suspected him of secretly fomenting discontents against Kildare's administration.

« PreviousContinue »