Late Medieval and Tudor Ireland

'It is is vaine to speake of plantinge of lawes and plottinge of pollycies, till they be altogeather subdued. Noe remorse or drawing backe for the sight of any such rufull objectes as must thereupon followe, nor for compassion of theyr calamityes, seeing that by no other meanes is it possible to secure them, and that these are are not of will but of very urgent necessity.' (Edmund Spenser, 1552-99)

By the mid-fifteenth century Ireland was divided between its English and Gaelic worlds. Gaelic customs and language in the "Irishry" - that is the north, west and midlands of Ireland - retained links with parts of Scotland. However, these areas were politically weak, fragmented as they were into over 60 independent lordships. The more fertile lands of the south and east of Ireland were under effective English lordship, the "Englishry" where Anglo-Irish lords such as the Butlers of Ormond held land in fief from the crown. Ireland had some strategic value to the medieval 'empire' of the English kings and by this time the population had begun to become Anglicanised. On the surface the English position in Ireland was little more secure than the Crown possessions in France, with a weak administration that was unable to prevent or counter Gaelic raiding parties pillaging from the Pale, stop emigration to England, or stop the diffusion of Gaelic customs among the colonists. The weakness of the lordship developed principally out of Henry VI's weak government on the borderlands - the "Gaelic Revival" (c. 1300 - c. 1450). This was largely opportunist, lacking any firm basis in either military or political success against the English. Further with the resumption of stability on the English throne in the aftermath of the Wars of the Roses, English interest in Ireland grew once more.

During the Wars of the Roses the inadequacy of English lordship over Ireland became apparent to successive kings. The usual practice of appointing a noble to govern the territory and given a large retinue of men to garrison the colony was not followed because this form of governance was costly and was therefore rarely chosen except during crises. The Yorkist kings and Henry VII chose to rule through local magnates, governing Ireland as they would any other borderland. The usual choice was Kildare, given his large following in the Pale and the surrounding Gaelic lordships. With little royal policy he ruled effectively.

Towards the end of the fifteenth century an English revival, part of a pan-European economic upturn, saw benefits to towns and manorial holdings in Ireland. The Gaelic lands continued to struggle while royal revenues from Ireland grew. The English gradually extended their influence to surrounding territories, ending quarrels and feuds between Gaelic magnates and undertaking piecemeal administrative and defensive reforms in the Pale. During 1494-96 Poynings' Expedition was important for confirming the position of the English in Ireland. After arriving as Lord Deputy in 1494 to replace Kildare who was removed from office for supporting an enemy of the crown, Poynings sent Kildare to London on the charge of treason. Further, in 1494-95 the Drogheda Parliament acknowledged its dependence on Henry VII and his Council, and furthermore upheld the validity of English laws in Ireland.

Henry VIII encountered new problems in Ireland. Henry was an expansionistic King and planned for the conquest of Ireland by the piecemeal absorption of Gaelic lordships into the greater Tudor State. However the crown would not commit significant revenues. An unrealistic policy, Kildare was made into the scapegoat for its failure, in response to which the earl's son rebelled in 1534. There was even a desperate plea for the pope or the emperor to take the overlordship of Ireland from the schismatic Henry VIII (a treasonable offence). At the cost of over £40,000 and a year of campaigning the rebellion was put down and the Kildare ascendancy was destroyed. The English imposed their own governor in Ireland and a Reformation Parliament (1536-37), which extended the recent changes made to the Church of England and government to Ireland. The Tudor claim over Ireland and the Irish grew louder, but in reality government remained weak while the costs grew rapidly.

In 1541, Henry VIII became King of Ireland. This was accepted by the Irish Parliament, which marked an end to limited Tudor intervention and division of the country, and the establishment of a realm governed from Dublin. St Leger attempted to link the Gaelic lands with the crown during the early 1540s - an agreement recognising Irish property in return for the acceptance of English laws, an economic means of bringing Ireland into line. This experiment died with Henry VIII, however, and the policy of installing plantations and garrisons on the fringes of the "Englishry" took its place. The plantation of Protestant

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