The death of Edward VI. (6 July 1553) and the accession of Queen Mary put an end for the time being to the campaign against the Catholic Church. The party of the Earl of Northumberland made a feeble attempt in Ireland, as they had done in England, to secure the succession for Lady Jane Grey, but their efforts produced no effect. On the 20th July the privy council in England sent a formal order for the proclamation of Queen Mary, together with an announcement that she had been proclaimed already in London as Queen of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and on earth Supreme Head of the Churches of England and Ireland. This command was obeyed promptly in Dublin and in the chief cities in Ireland. In Kilkenny Lord Mountgarret and Sir Richard Howth ordered that a Mass of thanksgiving should be celebrated, and when Bale refused to allow such idolatry they informed the clergy that they were no longer bound to obey the bishop. Mary was proclaimed in Kilkenny (20 Aug.), and on the following day the clergy and people took possession of the Cathedral of St. Canice. Crowds of the citizens proceeded to attack the palace of the bishop, so that it was only with the greatest difficulty that the Mayor of Kilkenny was able to save his life by sending him to Dublin at night under the protection of an armed escort. From Dublin Bale succeeded in making his escape to Holland, from which he proceeded to Basle, where he spent his time in libeling the Catholic religion and the Irish clergy and people.
Shortly after the coronation of Queen Mary Sir Thomas St. Leger was sent over to Ireland as Deputy with instructions that he was to take steps immediately for the complete restoration of the Catholic religion. Primate Dowdall was recalled from exile, and restored to his See of Armagh; the primacy, which had been taken from Armagh in the previous reign owing to the hostile attitude adopted by Dowdall towards the religious innovations, was restored, and various grants were made to him to compensate him for the losses he had sustained. In April 1554 a royal commission was issued to Dowdall and William Walsh, formerly prior of the Cistercian Abbey of Bective, to remove the clergy who had married from their benefices. In virtue of this commission Browne of Dublin, Staples of Meath, Thomas Lancaster of Kildare, and Travers, who had been intruded into the See of Leighlin, were removed. Bale of Ossory had fled already, and Casey of Limerick also succeeded in making his escape. O’Cervallen of Clogher, who had been deposed by the Pope, was driven from his diocese, and an inquiry was set on foot at Lambeth Palace before Cardinal Pole to determine who was the lawful Archbishop of Tuam. Christopher Bodkin, Bishop of Kilmacduagh, had been appointed to Tuam by the king in 1536, while two years later Arthur O’Frigil, a canon of Raphoe, received the same See by papal provision. At the inquiry before Cardinal Pole it was proved that though Bodkin had contracted the guilt of schism he had done so more from fear than from conviction, that he had been always a stern opponent of heresy, and that in the city and diocese of Tuam the new opinions had made no progress. Apparently, as a result of the inquiry, an agreement was arranged whereby Bodkin was allowed to retain possession of Tuam. The other bishops were allowed to retain their Sees without objection, a clear proof that their orthodoxy was unquestionable.
In place of those who had been deposed, Hugh Curwen, an Englishman, was appointed to Dublin, William Walsh, one of the royal commissioners, to Meath, Thomas Leverous, the former tutor of the young Garrett Fitzgerald, to Kildare, Thomas O’Fihil, an Augustinian Hermit, to Leighlin, and John O’Tonory, a Canon Regular of St. Augustine, to Ossory, while John Quinn of Limerick, who had been forced to resign the See of Limerick during the reign of Edward VI., was apparently restored. The selection of Curwen to fill the archiepiscopal See of Dublin was particularly unfortunate. However learned he might have been, or however distinguished his ancestry, he was not remarkable for the fixity of his religious principles. During the reign of Henry VIII. he had acquired notoriety by his public defense of the royal divorce, as well as by his attacks on papal supremacy, though, like Henry, he was a strong upholder of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and of Transubstantiation. Like a true courtier he changed his opinions immediately on the accession of Queen Mary, and he was rewarded by being promoted to Dublin and appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland (1555). The Cathedral Chapter of St. Patrick’s that had been suppressed was restored to “its pristine state;” new dignitaries and canons were appointed, and much of the possessions that had been seized were returned.
The Mass and Catholic ceremonies were restored without any opposition in those churches in Dublin and Leinster into which the English service had been introduced. A provincial synod was held in Dublin by the new archbishop (1556) to wipe out all traces of heresy and schism. Primate Dowdall had convoked previously a synod of the Northern Provinces at Drogheda to undertake a similar work. In this assembly it was laid down that all priests who had attempted to marry during the troubles of the previous reign should be deprived of their benefices and suspended; that the clergy who had adopted the heretical rites in the religious celebrations and in the administration of the Sacraments should be admitted to pardon in case they repented of their crimes and could prove that their fall was due to fear rather than conviction; that all the ancient rites and ceremonies of the Church in regard to crosses, images, candles, thuribles, canonical hours, Mass, the administration of the sacraments, fast days, holidays, holy water, and blessed bread should be restored; that the Book of Common Prayer, etc., should be burned, and that the Primate and the bishops of the province should appoint inquisitors in each diocese, to whom the clergy should denounce those who refused to follow the Catholic worship and ceremonies. Arrangements were also made to put an end to abuses in connection with the bestowal of benefices on laymen and children, with the appointment of clerics to parishes and dignities by the Holy See on the untrustworthy recommendation of local noblemen, with the excessive fees charged by some of the clergy, with the neglect of those whose duty it was to contribute to the repairs of the parish churches, and with the failure of some priests to wear a becoming clerical dress.
In July 1556 Lord Fitzwalter was sent to Ireland as Deputy. “Our said Deputy and Council,” according to the royal instructions, “shall by their own good example and all other good means to them possible, advance the honor of Almighty God, the true Catholic faith and religion, now by God’s great goodness and special grace recovered in our realms of England and Ireland, and namely they shall set forth the honor and dignity of the Pope’s Holiness and Apostolic See of Rome, and from time to time be ready with our aid and secular force, at the request of all spiritual ministers and ordinaries there, to punish and repress all heretics and Lollards, and their damnable sects, opinions, and errors.” They were commanded, too, to assist the commissioners and officials whom Cardinal Pole as papal legate intended to send shortly to make a visitation of the clergy and people of Ireland. On the arrival of the new Deputy in Dublin he went in state to Christ’s Church to assist at Mass, after the celebration of which he received the sword of state from his predecessor before the altar, and took the oath in presence of the archbishop. “That done, the trumpets sounded and drums beat, and then the Lord Deputy kneeled down before the altar until the Te Deum was ended.”
The new Deputy was instructed to take measures for summoning a meeting of Parliament in the following year to give legal sanction to the restoration of the Catholic religion, and to deal with the ecclesiastical property that had been seized. Possibly in the hope of securing some of these again for the Church a commission was issued to the Archbishop of Dublin, the Bishop of Kildare, and a number of clerics and laymen “to inquire concerning the chalices, crosses, ornaments, bells, and other property belonging to the parish churches or chapels in the county of the city and county of Dublin and of sales made thereof to any person or persons, the price, in whose hands they then remained, and also in whose possession were the houses, lands, and tenements, belonging to those churches.” Similar commissions were issued to others for the counties of Drogheda and Louth, Kildare, Carlow, Wexford, Kilkenny, Meath, Westmeath, Waterford, Tipperary, Limerick, Cork, and “for the county of Connaught.”
In June 1557 the Irish Parliament met. A Bull of absolution from the penalties of heresy and schism was read by the Archbishop of Dublin on bended knees, while the Lord Deputy, officials, and members, both Peers and Commoners, knelt around him. When this ceremony was finished all retired to the cathedral, where the Te Deum was sung in thanksgiving, and all pledged themselves as a sign of their sincere repentance to abolish all the laws that had been passed against the Holy See. The acts prejudicial to the rights of the Pope enacted since the year 1529 were abolished. The title of supreme head of the church, it was declared, “never was or could be justly or lawfully attributed or acknowledged to any king or sovereign governor, nor in any wise could or might rightfully, justly, or lawfully, by the king or sovereign governor of the same realms, be claimed, challenged, or used.” “All Bulls, dispensations, and privileges obtained before the year 1529 or at any time since, or which shall hereafter be obtained from the See of Rome, not containing matter contrary or prejudicial to the authority, dignity, or pre-eminence royal or imperial of these said realms or to the laws of this realm” were allowed to be “put in execution, used, and alleged in any civil court in Ireland and elsewhere.” The jurisdiction of the bishops was restored, the laws against heresy passed in the reign of Richard II. and Henry IV. were renewed, and the payment of First Fruits was suppressed. Care was taken, however, to avail of the dispensation granted by the Holy See, whereby those who had obtained possession of the property of churches and monasteries should not be disturbed, although it was enacted that none of the laymen who had obtained such grants could plead the rights of exemption enjoyed by some of their former owners against the jurisdiction of the bishops, and that notwithstanding the Statutes of Mortmain those who then held “manors, tenements, parsonages, tithes, pensions or other hereditaments” might bequeath or devise them to any spiritual body corporate in the kingdom, such clause to have the force of law for twenty years.
From no quarter was the slightest opposition offered to the restoration of Catholic worship, and consequently there was no need to have recourse to persecution. There was no persecution of the Protestants of Ireland by fire or torture during this reign. “In truth, the Reformation, not having been sown in Ireland, there was no occasion to water it by the blood of martyrs; insomuch that several English families, friends to the Reformation, withdrew into Ireland as into a secure asylum; where they enjoyed their opinions and worship in privacy without notice or molestation.” Yet in spite of this tolerant attitude of both the officials and people of Ireland an absurd story, first mentioned in a pamphlet printed in 1681, is still to be found in many books dealing with Mary’s reign. According to this story the queen appointed a body of commissioners to undertake a wholesale persecution in Ireland, and she entrusted this document to one of the commissioners, a certain Dr. Cole. On his way to Ireland the latter tarried at Chester, where he was waited upon by the mayor, to whom he confided the object of his mission. The landlady of the inn, having overheard the conversation, succeeded in stealing the commission and replacing it by a pack of cards. Dr. Cole reached Dublin and hastened to meet the Lord Deputy and council. “After he had made a speech relating upon what account he came over, he presents the box unto the Lord Deputy, who causing it to be opened, that the secretary might read the commission, there was nothing but a pack of cards with the knave of clubs uppermost.” Dr. Cole assured them that “he had a commission, but knew not how it was gone.” Then the Lord Deputy made answer, “Let us have another commission and we will shuffle the cards in the meanwhile.” The messenger returned promptly to England, “and coming to the court, obtained another commission, but staying for a wind at the waterside, news came unto him that the queen was dead. And thus God preserved the Protestants of Ireland.” This ridiculous fabrication was first referred to in a pamphlet written by that well-known forger, Robert Ware, in 1681, and was reprinted in his “Life” of Archbishop Browne (1705). Its acceptance by later writers, in spite of its obvious silliness, and unsupported as it is by the official documents of the period, or by any contemporary authority, can be explained only by their religious prejudices.
But though Mary restored the Mass and re-asserted the jurisdiction of the Pope, her political policy in Ireland differed little from that of her father or her brother. She was as determined as had been Henry VIII. to bring the country under English law, and to increase thereby the resources of the Treasury. It is true that she allowed the young Garrett Fitzgerald, who had found a refuge in Rome, to return to the country, that she restored to him his estates and honored him with a seat at the privy council. Brian O’Connor of Offaly was also released from prison and allowed to revisit his territories. During the time St. Leger held office he followed the old policy of strengthening English influence by conciliation rather than by force. But the Earl of Sussex was of a different mind. He marshaled his forces and made raids into the Irish districts, for the princes and inhabitants of which he entertained the most supreme contempt. It was during the reign of Mary that the plan of the English Plantations was first put into force by the removal of the native Irish from large portions of Leix and Offaly to make room for English settlers. And yet, in spite of the warlike expeditions of Sussex, the country went from bad to worse, so that Primate Dowdall could write to the privy council in England (1557) that “this poor realm was never in my remembrance in worse case than it is now, except the time only that O’Neill and O’Donnell invaded the English Pale and burned a great piece of it. The North is as far out of frame as it was before, for the Scots beareth as great rule as they do wish, not only in such lands as they did lately usurp, but also in Clandeboy. The O’Moores and O’Connors have destroyed and burned Leix and Offaly saving certain forts.”
On the death of Queen Mary in November 1558, her sister Elizabeth succeeded to the English throne. Although she had concealed carefully her Protestant sympathies, and had even professed her sincere attachment to the old religion during the reign of her predecessor, most people believed that important changes were pending. As soon as news of her proclamation reached Ireland early in December, the small knot of officials, who had fallen into disgrace during the reign of the late queen, hastened to offer their congratulations and to put forward their claims for preferment. Sir John Alen, formerly Lord Chancellor and Chief Commissioner for the dissolution of the monasteries, wrote to Cecil to express his joy at the latter’s promotion, enclosed “a token,” and reminded him of what he (Alen) had suffered during the previous five years. Sir John Bagenall, ex-governor of Leix and Offaly, recalled the fact that he had lost heavily, and had been obliged to escape to France for resisting papal supremacy. He petitioned for a free farm worth £50 a year. Bishop Staples, in a letter to Cecil, took pains to point out that he had been deprived of his See on account of his marriage, and had incurred the personal enmity of Cardinal Pole because he presumed to pray “for his old master’s (Henry VIII.) soul.” For some time, however, no change was made, and Catholic worship continued even in Dublin as in the days of Queen Mary. The Lord Deputy Sussex went to England in December 1559, and entrusted the sword of state to the Archbishop of Dublin and Sir Henry Sidney, both of whom took the oath of office before the high altar in Christ’s Church after Mass had been celebrated in their presence.
But the strong anti-Catholic policy of the new government soon made itself felt in England, and though the ministers were more guarded as far as Ireland was concerned, it was felt that something should be done there to lessen the influence of Rome. In the instructions issued to the Lord Deputy (July 1559) he was told that “the Deputy and Council shall set the service of Almighty God before their eyes, and the said Deputy and all others of that council, who be native born subjects of this realm of England, do use the rites and ceremonies which are by law appointed, at least in their own houses.” In the draft instructions as first prepared a further clause was added “that others native of that country be not otherwise moved to use the same than with their own contentment they shall be disposed, neither therein doth her Majesty mean to judge otherwise of them than well, and yet for the better example and edification of prayer in the Church, it shall be well done, if the said councilors being of that country born, shall at times convenient cause either in their own houses or in the churches the litany in the English tongue to be used with the reading of the epistle and gospel in the same tongue and the ten commandments.” Although Cecil struck out this clause with his own hand, it helps to show that the government feared to push things to extremes in Ireland.
On the return of the Earl of Sussex he paid the usual official visit in state to Christ’s Church, where apparently the English Litany (probably that prescribed by Henry VIII.) was sung after the Mass. In connection with this celebration a story was put in circulation by Robert Ware in 1683 that the clergy, dissatisfied with the change in liturgy, determined to have recourse to a disgraceful imposture to prevent further innovations. On the following Sunday when the Archbishop and Deputy assisted at Mass, one of their number having inserted a sponge soaked in blood into the head of the celebrated statue of the Redeemer, blood began to trickle over the face of the image. Suddenly during the service a cry was raised by the trickster and his associates, “Behold Our Savior's image sweats blood.” Several of the common people wondering at it, fell down with their beads in their hands, and prayed to the image, while Leigh who was guilty of the deception kept crying out all the time, “How can He choose but sweat blood whilst heresy is now come into the Church?” Amidst scenes of the greatest excitement the archbishop caused an examination to be made; the trick was discovered; Leigh and his accomplices were punished by being made “to stand upon a table with their legs and hands tied for three Sundays, with the crime written upon paper and pinned to their breasts”; and to complete the story, a recent writer adds, “the Protestants were triumphant, the Roman party confounded, and Curwen’s orders to have the statue broken up were obeyed without demur.” Needless to say there is no foundation for such a tale. It first saw the light in that collection of gross inventions, The Hunting of the Romish Fox, published by Robert Ware in 1683, and is unsupported by any contemporary witnesses. It was not known to Sir Robert Ware, from whose papers the author pretended to borrow it; it was not known to Sir Dudley Loftus who devoted himself to the study of Irish history, and who, as nephew of Elizabeth’s Archbishop of Dublin, would have had exceptional opportunities of learning the facts, nor was it known to Archbishop Parker, to whom, according to Ware, a full account was forwarded immediately. The author of it was employed to stir up feeling in England and Ireland so as to prevent the accession of James II., and as a cover for his forgeries he pretended to be using the manuscripts of his father.
For so far the Catholic religion was the only one recognized by law in Ireland, and consequently when Elizabeth instructed the Deputy to see that her English born subjects in Ireland should use the English service in their private houses, she took care to promise that none of them should be impeached or molested for carrying out her commands. But her Deputy was instructed to summon a Parliament in Ireland “to make such statutes as were lately made in England mutatis mutandis.” The Parliament met in Dublin on the 11th of January 1560. According to the returns seventy-six members representing several counties and boroughs were elected. Dublin, Meath, Westmeath, Louth, Kildare, Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford, Wexford, and Tipperary were the only counties represented, each of them having returned two members. Of the boroughs represented seventeen were situated in Leinster, eight in Munster, two, Athenry and Galway, in Connaught, and one only, namely, Carrickfergus, was situated in Ulster. Twenty-three temporal peers were summoned to take their seats, all of whom belonged to Anglo-Irish families except O’Brien of Thomond and MacGillapatrick of Upper Ossory. According to the record preserved in the Rolls’ Office, three archbishops and seventeen bishops took their seats, the only absentees being Clogher, Derry, Raphoe, Kilmore, Dromore, Clonmacnoise, Achonry, Kilmacduagh, Kilfenora, and Mayo. Armagh was vacant, Primate Dowdall having died in August 1558, and his successor not having been appointed by Rome till February 1560. But for many reasons it is impossible to believe that the twenty bishops mentioned in this list were present at the Dublin Parliament. At best it is only a rather inaccurate account of those who were summoned to take their seats, as is shown by the fact that for seven of the Sees no names of the bishops are returned; and that Down and Connor are represented as having sent two bishops although both Sees were united for more than a century. If it be borne in mind that according to the returns in the State Paper Office four archbishops and nineteen bishops are represented as having attended the Parliament of 1541, although, in his official report to the king, the Deputy stated expressly that only two archbishops and twelve bishops were present; and also that gross errors have been detected in the lists of spiritual peers supposed to have been in attendance at the Parliaments of 1569 and 1585, it will be obvious to any unprejudiced mind that the return for the Parliament of 1560 cannot be accepted as accurate.
No reliable account of the proceedings of the Parliament of 1560 has as yet been discovered. It met on the 11th January, was adjourned on the following day till the 1st of February, when it was dissolved. It is more probable, however, that it lasted till the 12th February. According to the Loftus manuscripts the Parliament was dissolved “by reason of [its] aversion to the Protestant religion, and their ecclesiastical government.” “At the very beginning of this Parliament,” according to another distinguished authority, “Her Majesty’s well wishers found that most of the nobility and Commons were divided in opinion about the ecclesiastical government, which caused the Earl of Sussex to dissolve them, and to go over to England to consult Her Majesty about the affairs of this kingdom.” This latter statement is confirmed by the fact that the Earl of Sussex certainly left Ireland in February 1560. And yet, according to the accounts that have come down to us, it was this assembly that gave Protestantism its first legal sanction in Ireland. It abolished papal supremacy, restored to the queen the full exercise of spiritual jurisdiction as enjoyed by Henry VIII. and Edward VI., enjoined on all persons holding ecclesiastical or secular offices the oath of royal supremacy under pain of deprivation, imposed the penalty of forfeiture of all goods for the first offence on those who spoke in favor of the Pope, the punishment laid down for praemunire in case of a second such offence, and death for the third offence, and enjoined the use of the Book of Common Prayer in all the churches of the kingdom. Any clergyman who refused to follow the prescribed form of worship was liable to forfeit one year’s revenue and to be sent to prison for the first offence, to total deprivation and imprisonment at will for the second, and for the third to perpetual imprisonment. The laity were obliged to attend the service under threat of excommunication and of a fine of twelve pence to be levied off their goods and chattels by the church-wardens. The First Fruits were restored to the crown, and the formality of canonical election of bishops was abolished. For the future in case of a vacancy the right of appointment was vested directly in the sovereign.
In view of the fact that the cities and counties from which the members were returned resisted stubbornly the introduction of the English service, that most of the lay peers clung tenaciously to the Mass, some of them, like the Earl of Kildare, being charged with this crime a few months after the dissolution of Parliament, and that the bishops with one or two exceptions, opposed the change, the wonder is how such measures could have received the sanction of Parliament. According to a well-supported tradition they reached the statute book only by fraud, having been rushed through on a holiday, on which most of the members thought that no session would be held. Later on, when objection was taken to such a method, the Deputy, it is said, silenced the resisters by assuring them that they were mere formalities which must remain a dead letter.
It is sometimes said that the Irish bishops of the period acknowledged Elizabeth’s title of “supreme governor in spirituals,” and abandoned the Mass for the Book of Common Prayer. Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. With the single exception of Curwen, from whom nothing better could have been expected considering his past variations, it cannot be proved for certain that any of the bishops proved disloyal to their trust. There is some ground for suspicion in case of Christopher Bodkin of Tuam and Thomas O’Fihil, both of whom were represented as having taken the oath, but the strong recommendation of the former to the Holy See by the Jesuit, Father David Wolf, and the fact that the latter is consistently passed over by contemporary writers in their enumeration of the Protestant bishops, show clearly that their lapse, if lapse there might have been, was more or less involuntary. The fact that some of the bishops, as for example Roland Fitzgerald of Cashel, Lacy of Limerick, Walsh of Waterford, De Burgo of Clonfert, Devereux of Ferns, O’Fihil of Leighlin, and Bodkin of Tuam, were appointed on government commissions does not prove that they had ceased to be Catholics, just as the appointment of Browne on a similar commission during the reign of Queen Mary does not prove that he had ceased to be a Protestant. That the Irish bishops remained true to the faith is clear from some of the official papers of the period. In 1564 two of the commissioners, who had been appointed to enforce the Acts of Royal Supremacy and Uniformity of Worship, reported that there were only two worthy bishops in Ireland, namely, Adam Loftus, who had been intruded into Armagh but who dare not visit his diocese, and Brady, who had been appointed by the queen to Meath. “The rest of the bishops,” they say, “are all Irish, we need say no more.” In the following year it was announced that Curwen of Dublin, Loftus, and Brady were the only bishops zealous “in setting forth God’s glory and the true Christian religion”; and in 1566 Sir Henry Sidney reported that, with the exception of Loftus and Brady, he found none others “willing to reform their clergy, or to teach any wholesome doctrine, or to serve their country or common-wealth as magistrates.” In a document drawn up by one of Cecil’s spies in 1571 the bishops of the province of Armagh, Cashel, and Tuam are all described as Catholici et Confoederati, while in the province of Dublin, Loftus, Daly, Cavenagh, and Gafney, the three latter of whom had been intruded by the queen into Kildare, Leighlin, and Ossory, are described as Protestants, as is also Devereux of Ferns, about whose orthodoxy there may be some doubt, though unfortunately there can be very little about his evil life.
Hardly had the Acts of Royal Supremacy and Uniformity been passed when a commission was addressed to a number of judges and officials to administer the oath of supremacy. Of the bishops within the sphere of English jurisdiction at this period Curwen had already given his adhesion to these measures, William Walsh of Meath promptly refused, as did also Thomas Leverous of Kildare (Feb. 1560). Later on, when the Lord Deputy returned from London, another attempt was made to induce these bishops to change their minds, but without success. In reply to the Deputy the Bishop of Kildare declared that all jurisdiction was derived from Christ, “and since Christ did not deem it right to confer spiritual authority on women, not even on His own Blessed Mother, how, he asked, could it be believed that the Queen of England was the supreme governor of the Church?” Thereupon the Deputy threatened him with deprivation and the consequent loss of his revenues unless he made his submission, but the bishop reminded him of the words of Sacred Scripture, “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world if he suffer the loss of his own soul?” He was driven from the See, and for a time taught a private school in the County Limerick, but he returned to his diocese, where he died near Nass (1577). The Bishop of Meath continued to oppose the religious policy of the government. In 1565 he was summoned once more by the commissioners, but “he openly protested before all the people the same day that he would never communicate or be present where the service should be ministered, for it was against his conscience and against God’s word.” As he was a man “of great credit among his countrymen, upon whom in causes of religion they wholly depend,” he was thrown into prison, where he languished in great suffering till 1572, when he contrived to make his escape to France. Later on funds were supplied by the Holy See to enable him to continue his journey to Spain. He died amongst his brethren, the Cistercians, at Alcalá in 1577. John O’Tonory, too, who had been appointed to Ossory after the precipitate flight of Bale, seems to have given offence to the government. Though the latter preferred to devote himself to historical studies after the accession of Elizabeth rather than to entrust himself to the tender mercies of the people of Kilkenny, his rival does not seem to have been regarded by the government as the lawful Bishop of Ossory. His name does appear on a list of ecclesiastical commissioners appointed in 1564, but this seems to have been a mistake on the part of the officials or possibly a bait thrown out to induce O’Tonory to make his submission. At any rate it is certain that in 1561 the Bishopric of Ossory was returned as vacant, and it was suggested that the appointment should be conferred on the Dean of Kilkenny, and in July 1565, before the death of O’Tonory, in the instructions drawn up for Sir Henry Sidney and corrected by Cecil, her Majesty is made to say that the “Bishopric of Ossory has been long vacant.” As this can refer only to the death of Bale, who died in 1563, it is clear that O’Tonory was bracketed with Walsh and Leverous as far as Elizabeth’s ministers were concerned. Had it been possible for the government to do so, similar measures would have been taken against the bishops in the other parts of Ireland, but, faced as it was with Shane O’Neill in the North and a threatened confederation of the whole Geraldine forces in the South, it was deemed prudent not to precipitate a crisis by a violent anti-Catholic propaganda in those parts of the country not yet subject to English influence.
Commissioners were appointed to administer the oath of supremacy to the bishops, the judges, and higher officials, to the justices of the peace, etc., in Kildare (1560), and to the officials in Westmeath. But unless bishops could be found willing to take the place of those who refused to accept the new laws, no progress could be made. Curwen of Dublin, following his old rule of accepting the sovereign’s religion as the true one, submitted to the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity. In accordance with the queen’s instructions he removed the pictures and statues from Christ’s Church and St. Patrick’s, blotted out the paintings and frescos on the walls, so as to cover up all signs of “idolatry” and to prepare a back-ground for carefully assorted Scriptural texts. He was not, however, happy in his new position. He petitioned to be transferred from Dublin to Hereford, basing his claim on the fact that “he was the man that of his coat hath surlyest stood to the crown either in England or Ireland.” But his petition was not granted. Two years later Adam Loftus, who though nominally Archbishop of Armagh feared to visit his diocese, charged Curwen with serious crimes which he was ashamed to particularize, and probably as a result of this the queen instructed her Deputy to induce him to resign on the promise of an annual pension of £200 (1563). But Curwen, fearing that “the leaving of the archbishopric and not receiving another” might lead people to believe that he was deprived, stood out boldly for better terms. Hugh Brady, the queen’s Bishop of Meath, then proceeded to attack him. According to him everybody in Dublin from the archbishop to the petty canons were “dumb dogs,” “living enemies to the truth,” “neither teaching nor feeding any save themselves,” and “disguised dissemblers.” As this did not produce any effect, he wrote once more, demanding that the authorities should “call home the old unprofitable workman,” a petition in which he was supported by Adam Loftus. Their prayers were heard at last, and Curwen was translated to Oxford. When the news of his recall was announced to him he merely expressed the wish that he could get “the last half-year’s rent of the Bishopric of Oxford,” and that he should be allowed to change quickly so that “he might provide fire for the winter and hay for his horses.”
The See of Armagh which was vacant by the death of Primate Dowdall was conferred by the Pope on Donat O’Teige (Feb. 1560). The latter was consecrated at Rome, and arrived in Ireland probably towards the end of the same year. In the summer of 1561 he was present at Armagh with the army of Shane O’Neill whom he encouraged to go forward boldly against the forces of the Deputy. Needless to say such a primate was not acceptable to Elizabeth who determined to appoint one Adam Loftus, then a chaplain to the Earl of Sussex. Loftus was a young man only twenty-eight years of age, who had made a favorable impression on the queen as well by his beauty as by his learning. Letters were dispatched immediately to the Chapter of Armagh commanding the canons to elect him, but as they refused to obey the order, nothing remained except to appoint him by letters patent (1562). As he dare not visit the greater part of his diocese he applied for and received the Deanship of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, and about the same time he became a suitor for his brother that he might get the rectory of Dunboyne. In 1563 Elizabeth thought of changing him to Kildare, and in 1566 the Deputy recommended him for Meath, believing that “he would thankfully receive the exchange, and willingly embase his estate to increase so much his revenue.” But Loftus had set his heart on securing the Archbishop of Dublin. Time and again he made the most damaging charges against Curwen so as to secure his removal, although when the removal was arranged he learned to his surprise that the authorities intended to promote not himself, but his fellow-laborer, Hugh Brady of Meath. In April 1566, when he thought that Brady had no chance of succeeding to Dublin, he had recommended him for the appointment, but in September, when he learned that there was danger of his recommendation being followed, he wrote to warn Cecil that “if it would please his honor to pause a while he could show such matter as he would, except it were for the Church of God’s sake, be loath to utter by any means, but least of all by writing, upon knowledge whereof the matter, he knows, should go no further.” Brady having learned that Loftus had gone to England wrote to Cecil to put him on his guard against believing any charges against him that might be made by the Primate. He returned in November without having succeeded, only to find that Shane O’Neill had overrun his diocese so that it was not worth more than £20 a year. He petitioned to be allowed to resign, “for,” he said, “neither is it [Armagh] worth anything to me, nor [am] I able to do any good in it, for that altogether it lieth among the Irish.” At last in 1567 his wishes were granted, and he became Archbishop of Dublin. But he was still dissatisfied. As the diocese, according to him, was worth only £400 (Irish) a year (over £30,000) and had only two hundred and forty acres of mensal land, he insisted that he should be allowed to hold with it the Deanship of St. Patrick’s, a request, however, that was refused peremptorily by the queen. In Dublin he continued the same policy of grabbing everything for himself, his relatives and dependents until at last the chapter, weary of his importunities, obliged him to promise not to ask for anything more. Fortunately his guarantee was entered in the records, as he appeared soon again to solicit one last favor.
In place of Dr. Walsh of Meath, who refused to take the oath of supremacy, Hugh Brady was appointed (1563). In his letters to Cecil he complained that the payment of his fees and the expenses of the consecration would beggar him, that he was opposed by both the clergy and laity of his diocese in such a stubborn way that he would “rather be a stipendiary priest in England than Bishop of Meath in Ireland,” and that unless her Majesty pardoned the debts she was claiming he must lose all hope, as he was very poor and obliged to entertain right royally, “for these people,” he wrote, “will have the one or the other, I mean they will either eat my meat and drink or else myself.” The relations existing between Loftus of Armagh and the Bishop of Meath were of the most strained kind. When Brady learned that Loftus had been made Dean of St. Patrick’s he addressed an indignant protest to Cecil, but as both Loftus and himself aspired to become Archbishop of Dublin, both united to attack Curwen so as to secure his removal. Grave charges were made by Loftus against Brady in 1566, but once he had attained the object of his desires, namely his promotion to Dublin, he had no scruple in attaching his name to a very laudatory commendation of Brady’s labors and qualifications (1567).
A certain Dr. Craik was appointed by Elizabeth to Kildare in opposition to Dr. Leverous. The new bishop was far from being content with the honor that had been conferred upon him. Writing to his patron, Lord Robert Dudley, he complained that he was in continual and daily torment owing to the fact that he was bishop in a diocese where he could neither preach to the people nor could the people understand, and where he had no one to assist him. He succeeded in securing for himself the Deanship of St. Patrick’s in Dublin, and was a strong suitor for the Bishopric of Meath. Not content with his revenues, he sold most of the episcopal lands in Kildare so that he reduced the diocese “to a most shameful state of poverty.” Finally, he went over to England to petition the queen for a remission of his fees, but he was thrown into the Marshalsea prison from which he was released only a few months before his death. Donald Cavenagh was appointed by the queen to Leighlin (1567), where he devoted himself principally to enriching himself by disposing of the diocesan property; and John Devereux, who, according to Loftus, was most unfit owing to the fact that he had been deprived of the Deanship of Ferns “for confessed whoredom,” was appointed Bishop of Ferns (1566).
With men such as these in charge of the new religious movement it was almost impossible that it could succeed. In spite of the various royal commissions appointed between the years 1560 and 1564 to secure submission to the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity, the people still clung tenaciously to the old faith. Though Elizabeth and her advisers were anxious to destroy the Catholic religion in Ireland they deemed it imprudent to do so immediately in view of the threatening attitude of O’Neill and of several of the other Irish and Anglo-Irish nobles. In case of the Act of Uniformity it had been laid down expressly that in places where the people did not understand Irish the service might be read in Latin, and as not even the people in Kildare knew English at this time, it followed that outside of Dublin the Book of Common Prayer was not obligatory. Indeed outside Dublin, Meath, Kildare, and portion of Armagh very little attempt seems to have been made to put these laws into execution. From the draft instructions drawn up for Sir Henry Sidney in 1565 it is perfectly clear that outside the Pale territory zealous measures had not been taken to enforce the new doctrines, and that even within the Pale the authorities were not inclined to press matters to extremes. In the various agreements concluded between Shane O’Neill and Elizabeth, O’Neill was not called upon to renounce the Pope. It was thought to be much more prudent to pursue a policy of toleration until the English power could be placed upon a sound footing, and that if this were once accomplished the religious question could be settled without much difficulty.
Although the Lord Deputy was empowered to punish those who refused to attend the English service by imprisonment (1561), he was obliged to report in the following year that the people were “without discipline,” and “utterly devoid of religion,” that they came “to divine service as to a May game,” that the ministers were held in contempt on account of their greediness and want of qualifications, that “the wise fear more the impiety of the licentious professors than the superstition of the erroneous Papists,” and that nothing less than a Parliamentary decree rigorously enforced could remedy the evil. The commissioners who had been appointed to enforce the religious innovations reported in 1564 that the people were so addicted to their old superstitions that they could not be induced to hear the new gospel, that the judges and lawyers, however, had promised to enforce the laws, that they had cautioned them not to interfere with the simple multitude at first but only “with one or two boasting Mass men in every shire,” and that with the exception of Curwen, Loftus, and Brady, all the rest of the bishops were Irish about whom it was not necessary to say anything more.” In a document presented to the privy council in England by the Lord Deputy and council of Ireland (1566) a good account is given of the progress and results of the so-called Reformation. They reported that Curwen, Loftus, and Brady were diligent in their pastoral office, but that “howbeit it [the work] goeth slowly forward within their said three dioceses by reason of the former errors and superstitions inveterated and leavened in the people’s hearts, and in [on account of] want of livings sufficient for fit entertainment of well-chosen and learned curates amongst them, for that these livings of cure, being most part appropriated benefices in the queen’s majesty’s possession, are let by leases to farmers with allowance or reservation of very small stipends or entertainments for the vicars or curates, besides the decay of the chancels, and also of the churches universally in ruins, and some wholly down. And out of their said dioceses, the remote parts of Munster, Connaught, and other Irish countries and borders thereof order cannot yet so well be taken with the residue till the countries be first brought into more civil and dutiful obedience.”
In Dublin, where it might be expected that the government could enforce its decrees, the people refused to conform, and even in 1565, after several commissions had finished their labors, it was admitted that the canons and clergy of St. Patrick’s were still Papists. From Meath the queen’s bishop received such a bad reception that he declared he would much rather have been a stipendiary priest in England than Bishop of Meath. “Oh what a sea of trouble,” he wrote, “have I entered into, storms rising on every side; the ungodly lawyers are not only sworn enemies to the truth, but also for the lack of due execution of law, the overthrowers of the country; the ragged clergy are stubborn and ignorantly blind, so as there is left little hope of their amendment; the simple multitude is through continual ignorance hardly to be won so as I find angustiae undique.” But while Brady was involved in a sea of difficulties, the Catholics of Meath rallied round their lawful bishop, Dr. Walsh. According to the report of Loftus, who ordered his arrest (1565), “he was one of great credit amongst his countrymen, and upon whom as touching causes of religion they wholly depended.” Loftus petitioned to be recalled from Armagh because it was not worth anything to him nor was he able to do any good in it, since it lay among the Irish; and Craik, who was appointed to Kildare, announced that he could not address the people because they were not acquainted with the English language, nor had he any Irish clergymen who would assist him in spreading the new gospel.
In 1564 several bodies of commissioners were appointed to visit certain portions of Leinster, Munster, and Connaught to enforce the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity, and about the same time a royal proclamation was issued enforcing the fine of twelve pence for each offence on those who refused to attend Protestant service on Sundays and holidays. Whether these commissioners acted or not is not clear, but undoubtedly the commissioners appointed for the Pale made a serious attempt to carry out their instructions. They brought together juries chosen out of the parishes situated within the sphere of English influence “and upon the return of their several verdicts they found many and great offences committed against her Majesty’s laws and proceedings. But among all their presentments they brought nothing against the nobility and chief gentlemen, who yet have contemned her Majesty’s most godly laws and proceedings more manifestly than any of the rest, and therefore they determined to call them before them, and to minister to them certain articles, unto which they required the nobility to answer upon their honors and duty without oath. The rest of the gentlemen answered upon their oaths. And when they brought their several answers, they found by their own confession, that the most part of them had continually, since the last Parliament, frequented the Mass and other services and ceremonies inhibited by her Majesty’s laws and injunctions, and that very few of them ever received the Holy Communion, or used such kind of public prayer and service as is presently established by law.” “Whereupon,” Loftus added, “I was once in mind (for that they be so linked together in friendship and alliance one with another, that we shall never be able to correct them by the ordinary course of the statute) to cess upon every one of them, according to the quality of their several offences, a good round sum of money, to be paid to your Majesty’s use, and to bind them in sure bonds and recognisances ever hereafter dutifully to observe your Majesty’s most godly laws and injunctions. But for that they be the nobility and chief gentlemen of the English Pale, and the greatest number too; I thought fit not to deal any further with them until your Majesty’s pleasure were therein specially known.” So long as her Majesty required the noblemen of the Pale to fight against Shane O’Neill and the other Irish chieftains she was too prudent to insist on strict acceptance of her religious innovations.
In 1560 Pius IV. determined to send a special commissary into Ireland in the person of the Irish Jesuit, Father David Wolf, who was a native of Limerick, highly recommended to the Holy See by the general of the Society. The commissary was instructed to visit and encourage the bishops, clergy, and chief noblemen of the country to stand firm; he was to draw up lists of suitable candidates for bishoprics, to reorganize some of the religious houses and hospitals, and to establish grammar schools where the youth of the country might receive a sound education. He left Rome in August 1560, and arrived in Cork in January 1561. According to his report the people flocked to him in thousands to listen to his sermons, to get absolution, and to procure the re-validation of invalid marriages. For so far, he was able to assure the Roman authorities, heresy had made no progress among the masses. From Cork he went to Limerick, and from Limerick he journeyed through Connaught. During the course of this journey he learned a great deal that was favorable about Bodkin the Archbishop of Tuam and Roland De Burgo of Clonfert. He visited the greater part of the country with the exception of the Pale, and, as he found it impossible to go there, he empowered one of the priests to absolve from reserved cases, particularly from the crimes of heresy and schism. In 1568 he was arrested and thrown into prison together with Archbishop Creagh of Armagh. Pius V. instructed his nuncio in Spain to request the good offices of Philip II. to procure their release, but apparently the representations of the Spanish government were without effect. In 1572, however, Father Wolf succeeded in making his escape from prison, and before setting sail for Spain he had the happiness of receiving the humble submission of William Casey, who had been promoted to the See of Limerick by Edward VI. From Tarbet the papal commissary sailed for Spain. Later on he returned once more to Ireland, and was active in assisting James Fitzmaurice. He is supposed to have died in Spain in 1578 or 1579.
Father Wolf had been instructed specially to recommend to the Holy See those priests whom he deemed qualified for appointment to vacant bishoprics. This was a matter of essential importance, and as such he devoted to it his particular care. Thomas O’Herlihy was appointed to Ross (1561); Donald McCongail or Magongail, the companion of his journeys, was appointed to Raphoe (1562); the Dominicans O’Harte and O’Crean were provided to the Sees of Achonry and Elphin in the same year at his request, and during the time he remained in Ireland his advice with regard to episcopal nominations was followed as a rule. He was instructed also to establish grammar schools throughout the country, and he was not long in Ireland till he realised the necessity of doing something for education, and above all for the education of candidates for the priesthood. In 1564 he obtained from Pius IV. the Bull, Dum exquisita, empowering himself and the Archbishop of Armagh to erect colleges and universities in Ireland on the model and with all the privileges of the Universities of Paris and Louvain. For this purpose they were empowered to apply the revenues of monasteries, and of benefices, and to make use of the ecclesiastical property generally. Unfortunately owing to the disturbed condition of the country, and the subsequent arrest of both the archbishop and the papal commissary, it was impossible to carry out this scheme.
In the earlier sessions of the Council of Trent the Archbishop of Armagh had taken a leading part. When the Council opened for its final sessions in January 1562 Ireland was represented by O’Herlihy of Ross, McCongail of Raphoe, and O’Harte of Achonry. Nor were these mere idle spectators of the proceedings. They joined in the warm discussions that took place regarding the Sacrifice of the Mass, Communion under both kinds, the source of episcopal jurisdiction and of the episcopal obligation of residence, the erection of seminaries, and the matrimonial impediments. It is said that it was mainly owing to their exertions that the impediment of spiritual relationship was retained. After their return attempts were made to convoke provincial synods to promulgate the decrees of the Council of Trent. In 1566 apparently some of the prelates of Connaught assembled and proclaimed them in the province of Tuam; in 1587 the Bishops of Clogher, Derry, Raphoe, Down and Connor, Ardagh, Kilmore, and Achonry, together with a large number of clergy met in the diocese of Clogher for a similar purpose, and in 1614 they were proclaimed for the province of Dublin by a synod convoked at Kilkenny.
In 1560, and for several years after, the state of affairs in Ireland was so threatening that Elizabeth and her advisers were more concerned about maintaining a foothold in the country than about the abolition of the Mass. In the North Shane O’Neill had succeeded on the death of his father (1559), and seemed determined to vindicate for himself to the fullest the rights of the O’Neill over the entire province of Ulster. The Earl of Kildare refused to abandon the Mass, and was in close correspondence both with his kinsman the Earl of Desmond, and with several of the Irish chieftains. It was feared that a great Catholic confederation might be formed against Elizabeth, and that Scotland, France, Spain, and the Pope might be induced to lend their aid. Instructions were therefore issued to the Lord Deputy to induce the Earl of Kildare to come to London where he could be detained, and to stir up the minor princes of Ulster to weaken the power of O’Neill. By detaining men like the Earls of Kildare, Desmond, and Ormond in London, by stirring up rivalries and dissensions amongst Irishmen, and above all by getting possession of the children of both the Anglo-Irish and Irish nobles and bringing them to England for their education, it was hoped that Ireland might be both Anglicized and Protestantised.
The most urgent question, however, was the reduction of Shane O’Neill. At first Elizabeth was inclined to come to terms with him, but the Earl of Sussex in the hope of overcoming him by force had him proclaimed a traitor, and advanced against him with a large force (1561). He seized Armagh, took possession of the cathedral, and converted it into a strong fortress. O’Neill soon appeared accompanied by the lawful archbishop, who exhorted the Irish troops to withstand the invader. The English army suffered a bad defeat, and after the failure of several attempts to reduce O’Neill by force, the Deputy determined to try other methods. He hired an individual named Neil Gray to murder O’Neill and acquainted Elizabeth with what he had done, but O’Neill was fortunate enough to elude the assassin. At length O’Neill was induced to go to England (1562), where he was forced to agree to certain terms; but, as he discovered that he had been deceived throughout the entire negotiations, he felt free on his return to assert his claims to Ulster. Elizabeth was not unwilling to yield to nearly all his demands, even to the extent of removing Loftus from the Archbishopric of Armagh and allowing the appointment of O’Neill’s own nominee. The Earl of Sussex, however, was opposed to peace. Having been forced, against his will, to come to terms with O’Neill (1563), he determined to have recourse once more to the method of assassination. A present of poisoned wine was sent to O’Neill by the Deputy as a token of his good will, and it was only by a happy chance that O’Neill and his friends were not done to death. The new Deputy, Sir Henry Sidney, succeeded in stirring up O’Donnell and the other Ulster princes against O’Neill by promising them the protection of England. Having been defeated in battle by O’Donnell in 1567, Shane fled for aid to the Scots of Antrim, on whom he had inflicted more than one severe defeat, and while with them he was set upon and slain. By his disappearance the power of the Irish in Ulster was broken, and the way was at last prepared for subduing the northern portion of Ireland.
In the South of Ireland the young Earl of Desmond was in a particularly strong position, but, unfortunately, he was personally weak and vacillating, and by playing off the Earl of Ormond against him Elizabeth was able to keep him in subjection to England, to use him against Shane O’Neill, and to prevent him from taking part in a national or religious confederation. In 1567 the Earl was arrested and sent to London, where he was detained as a prisoner. Although the Lord Deputy allowed himself to be received at Limerick by Bishop Lacy with full Catholic ceremonial, still the appointment of Protestant commissioners to administer the territories of Desmond, and the intrusion of a queen’s archbishop into the See of Cashel (1567) made it clear that the government was determined to force the new religion on the people. About the same time the Pope took steps to strengthen the Catholics of Munster by appointing Maurice Fitzgibbon, commendatory abbot of a Cistercian monastery in Mayo, to the vacant See of Cashel. The new archbishop was in close correspondence with the Desmond party in Ireland, and with Philip II. of Spain. On his arrival in Ireland (1569) he found that James Fitzmaurice, the cousin of the Earl of Desmond, was organizing a confederation to defend the Catholic religion. MacCarthy Mor, the O’Briens of Thomond, the sons of the Earl of Clanrickard, and Sir Edmund Butler had promised their assistance. The new archbishop came to Cashel, took possession of his cathedral in spite of the presence of the royal intruder, and even went so far as to force the latter to attend a solemn Mass in the cathedral. This is the only foundation for the story that he suffered personal violence to MacCaghwell or that he captured him and brought him a prisoner to Spain.
The Earl of Sidney mustered his forces to proceed against the rebels, and the Earl of Ormond was sent over from England to detach his brother Sir Edmund Butler from his alliance with the Desmonds. The Archbishop of Cashel was dispatched into Spain to seek the assistance of Philip II. (1569), and he brought with him a document purporting to be signed by thirteen archbishops and bishops, and by most of the leading Irish and Anglo-Irish nobles in Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, asking the King of Spain to assist them in their defense of the Catholic religion, and offering to accept as their sovereign any Spanish or Burgundian prince whom Philip II. might wish to nominate. The fact that the Pope had published in February 1570 the Bull, Regnans in excelsis announcing the excommunication and deposition of Queen Elizabeth served to encourage the Catholics of Munster, but notwithstanding this sentence the archbishop failed to obtain any effective assistance either from Spain or from the Pope. Undaunted by the ill-success of his agent, Fitzmaurice issued a proclamation addressed to the prelates, princes, and lords of Ireland, announcing that he had taken up arms against a heretical ruler who had been excommunicated and deposed by the Pope, that a large body of English Catholics were in rebellion or were ready to rise, that he had been appointed by the Pope captain-general of the Irish Catholic forces, and that it behooved them to rally to his standard to defend the Catholic faith, to suppress all false teachers and schismatical services, and to deliver their country from heresy and tyranny. Fitzmaurice was, however, disappointed in his hopes. The Earl of Ormond hastened over to Ireland to hold the Butler territories for the queen. Many of his confederates deserted him or were overthrown, and after a long struggle he was overcome and obliged to make his submission (1573-74).
In 1575 James Fitzmaurice fled from Ireland to seek assistance from some of the Catholic rulers of the Continent. His petitions met, however, with scant success in Paris, Lisbon, and Madrid, and it was only from Pope Gregory XIII. that he received any promise of men and arms. Already an English adventurer named Stukely had been intriguing with the Pope to obtain a small army and fleet for a descent upon Ireland, and the celebrated English theologian and controversialist, Nicholas Sander, who was working at the Roman Court on behalf of the English exiles, also favored the attempt. The expedition started in 1578, but when Stukely, who was in supreme command, reached Lisbon, he joined his forces with those of the King of Portugal in an attack on the Moors, in the course of which he was killed, and his army was destroyed. By the exertions of Sander and of the nuncio at Madrid, Fitzmaurice was enabled to fit out a small ship, and in 1579, accompanied by Sander as papal representative, he arrived in Dingle. At once he addressed an appeal to the people to join him in fighting for the faith against a heretical sovereign. So terrified were the vast body of the noblemen by the punishments inflicted on them already and by the fear of losing all their property in case of another defeat that the proclamation met with only a poor response. Ormond joined Sir William Pelham against the rebels, as did also several of the old enemies of the Geraldines. Fitzmaurice himself was killed early in the campaign by the Burkes of Castleconnell, and although the Earl of Desmond at last decided to take up arms, there was no longer any hope of success. For years the way was carried on with relentless cruelty by Pelham and afterwards by Lord Grey de Wilton; the crops and the cattle were destroyed in a hope of starving out the scattered followers of Desmond, and a force composed of Spaniards and Italians were butchered after they agreed to surrender the fortress of Dunanore. Viscount Baltinglass hastened to take up arms against the Deputy, and with the assistance of Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne he inflicted a severe defeat on Lord Grey at Glenmalure (1580). But in the end the rebellion was completely suppressed, and the Earl of Desmond was taken and murdered (1583). Two years before, Nicholas Sander, the papal representative, died in a wood near Limerick after having received the last sacraments at the hands of the Bishop of Killaloe.
After the death of Shane O’Neill Elizabeth’s ministers deemed it advisable to summon a second Parliament (1569). Unfortunately no list of the members returned for the boroughs and counties has been preserved, but from the account that has come down to us of the opening debates it is clear that the most elaborate precautions were taken to pack the assembly. New boroughs, which had not been recognized hitherto as corporations, were created; the sheriffs and deputies appointed by the government returned themselves as fit and proper persons to sit in Parliament, and in a large number of cases English officials and lawyers, who had never seen the constituencies they were supposed to represent, were returned by the sheriffs at the instigation of the Deputy and his agents. From the list of peers it would seem as if twenty-three archbishops and bishops took their seats, but the list is so full of glaring inaccuracies that it cannot be relied upon. At best it represents merely the number who were entitled to sit, and was based entirely on the list drawn up for the Parliaments of 1541 and 1560.
When Parliament met James Stanihurst, Recorder of Dublin, was appointed speaker. From the beginning it was evident that in spite of all his efforts the government party was likely to meet with serious opposition. Sir Christopher Barnewall took strong exception to the methods that had been adopted to pack the assembly, but though the judges when appealed to upheld his objections on two counts they decided against him on the vital question, namely, the selection of English officials who had never seen the constituencies they were supposed to represent. Backed by the decision of the judges, the Lord Deputy and the Speaker bore down all opposition. An act was passed for the attainder of Shane O’Neill, for the suppression of the title The O’Neill, and for securing to her Majesty the County Tyrone and other counties and territories in Ulster. The spiritual peers resisted strongly a proposal for the erection of schools to be supported out of the ecclesiastical property, but in the end the measure was passed. It enacted that a free school should be established in each diocese at the expense of the diocese, that the salary should be paid by the bishops and clergy, that the schoolmasters should be Englishmen or at least of English extraction, and that their appointment should be vested in the Lord Deputy except in the Dioceses of Armagh, Dublin, Meath, and Kildare, in which the nomination of the teachers should rest in the hands of the archbishop or bishop. The exceptions clearly indicate that only the royal bishops could be relied upon to carry out the educational policy of the government, and this was brought out even more explicitly by the act empowering the Deputy to appoint to all ecclesiastical dignities in Munster and Connaught. A bill for the repair of the churches at the public expense was thrown out in the House of Commons.
The gradual extension of English influence in both the North and the South enabled Elizabeth and her advisers to throw off the mask of toleration, and to take more active measures for enforcing the new religion. Already Bishop Walsh of Meath had been thrown into prison (1565), from which he escaped in 1572 and fled to Spain; Bishop Leverous had been driven from his See in Kildare, though on account of the influence of his patron, the Earl of Kildare, he was permitted to end his days in his own diocese; Bishop Lacy of Limerick was reported by the Lord Deputy (1562) as “a stubborn and disobedient man in causes of religion” and as having committed offences whereby he had forfeited his bishopric by the laws of the realm. For some time Limerick was regarded as vacant, but the threatening attitude of the Geraldines made it impossible to interfere with its bishop, and when the Lord Deputy visited the city in 1567 he even allowed himself to be received by the bishop with full Catholic ceremonial. When, however, the power of the Southern confederation was broken Bishop Lacy was deprived of his See as far as royal letters patent could do it, and William Casey, the nominee of Edward VI. was placed in possession. The latter had made his submission to the Pope and had declared his sorrow for his crimes in the presence of David Wolf. Though apparently he had fallen once again, he was distrusted by those who had appointed him as is shown by the fact that a Scotchman named Campbell was set over him in 1585 to attend “to the spiritual functions of the bishopric.”
The Pope appointed Donat O’Teige Archbishop of Armagh in 1560, and on his death Richard Creagh was designated as his successor. The latter was a native of Limerick, who had graduated at Louvain, and at the time he was nominated by David Wolf for an Irish archbishopric he kept a school in his native diocese. Having been consecrated in Rome in 1564 he arrived in Ireland towards the end of that year only to be arrested and thrown into prison, from which he managed to make his escape at Easter (1565). He returned to his diocese, but he soon found himself in conflict with Shane O’Neill. The archbishop was an Anglo-Irishman, who stood for loyalty to the queen, and who regarded O’Neill and his followers as both rebels, and, in a sense, savages. Instead of encouraging O’Neill’s men to maintain their struggle he preached on the duty of obedience, whereat O’Neill was so enraged that he was at first inclined to drive the Primate from Armagh. He burned the cathedral of Armagh not, however, as is sometimes represented, in hatred of the archbishop, but because it had been used as a fortress by the English. The relations between the spiritual and temporal ruler of Ulster improved, and Creagh addressed a petition to the Deputy to be allowed to continue the Catholic services in the churches (1566). He was captured once again early in 1567, and put upon his trial. The jury having refused to find a verdict against him, both they and the accused were committed to prison in Dublin Castle. The archbishop eluded his guards once again, and it was only after the Earl of Kildare had promised that his life should be spared that his whereabouts were discovered. In December 1567 he was lodged in the Tower of London, in which he was kept a close prisoner, though he still contrived to communicate with Rome and with his diocese. Despite the intercession of the Spanish ambassador, and notwithstanding the fact that he suffered from grievous bodily infirmities, he remained a prisoner till his death in October 1585. As a guarantee had been given by the Earl of Kildare that his life would be spared, it was not deemed prudent to execute him, but according to well authenticated evidence his death was brought about by poison.
Thomas O’Herlihy was appointed Bishop of Ross on the recommendation of Father Wolf in 1561, and after having been consecrated he attended the Council of Trent. On his return to Ireland he took an active part in encouraging James Fitzmaurice, and was deputed to accompany the Archbishop of Cashel to seek for aid from Philip II. of Spain. He was captured in 1571 and sent to the Tower of London, where he was kept prisoner for about three years and a half. He came back once again to his diocese, and labored strenuously, not merely in Ross, but in various districts in the South till his death in 1579 or 1580. Maurice Fitzgibbon, Archbishop of Cashel, went to Spain as the representative of the Southern Geraldines and their allies. Having failed to get any help from Philip II., he endeavored at various times to interest the King of France, the Duke of Anjou, and the Duke of Alva in Irish affairs. Though he was certainly in Scotland, where he was arrested in 1572, it is doubtful if he ever returned to his diocese. According to one authority he was captured in Munster and kept a prisoner in Cork till his death in 1578, but it is more probable that he died at Oporto.
After the suppression of the Geraldine uprising and after the decree of excommunication had been issued against Elizabeth still more violent measures were taken against the bishops and clergy. The Franciscan, Bishop O’Hely, was taken, together with another member of his order, at Kilmallock, and both were put to death (1578 or 1579). Edmund Tanner, who had been appointed to Cork in 1574, and entrusted with special faculties for the provinces of Dublin and Cashel, was arrested shortly after his arrival in Ireland and was thrown into prison. He succeeded, however, in escaping, and he continued his labors in various parts of Munster and Leinster till his death in 1578 or 1579. Nicholas Skerrett, a graduate of the Collegium Germanicum in Rome, was appointed to Tuam in October 1580. He was thrown into prison after his arrival in Ireland, and, having succeeded in escaping from his captors, he made his way into Spain. He died at Lisbon in 1583 or 1584. Maurice MacBrien was appointed to Emly in 1567 on the recommendation of Father Wolf. During the earlier stages of the Desmond rebellion he took active steps to promote the Catholic confederation. At this period it is not improbable that he went to Spain to solicit the co-operation of Philip II., but he returned to Ireland, was captured in 1584, and two years later he died in prison in Dublin. Peter Power or de la Poer was provided to Ferns by the Pope in 1582. He was arrested and while in prison was induced to make his submission, but on his release, stricken with sorrow for the weakness he had shown, he boldly confessed his error and was arrested once more. How long he was detained is not certain, but it is clear from a letter of the Bishop of Killaloe that he was treated with the utmost severity. He died in Spain in 1587.
In 1581 Dermot O’Hurley was appointed to the Archbishopric of Cashel. He had been a distinguished student of Louvain, and was then a professor of Canon Law at Rheims. Hardly had he reached Ireland when the government spies were on his track. For some time he remained in the vicinity of Drogheda, and then he withdrew to the castle of the Baron of Slane, from which he proceeded through Cavan and Longford to his diocese. Having learned, however, that the Baron of Slane was in danger for having afforded him assistance he surrendered himself to his persecutors. He was brought to Dublin, in the course of which he admitted that he was an archbishop appointed by the Pope, but he denied that he had come to Ireland to stir up strife or to encourage treasonable conspiracies. On one occasion at least he was subjected to horrible torture to extract from him some damaging admissions. At the advice of Walsingham his feet and legs were encased in tin boots and he was held over a fire. As he still refused to submit he was tried by court-martial and condemned. In June 1584 he was hanged in Dublin. Edmund McGauran, who was translated from Ardagh to Armagh in 1587, devoted himself earnestly to the task of inducing the Catholic princes of Ulster to defend their religion and their territories. He was slain during a battle between Maguire of Fermanagh and the English in 1593. Redmond O’Gallagher, Bishop of Derry, was specially active throughout the whole province of Ulster, and so powerful were his protectors that for years the government agents were afraid to arrest him, but in the end he was slain together with three of his priests by soldiers from the Lough Foyle garrison (1601).
In the early years of Elizabeth’s reign the government from motives of prudence abstained from adopting violent measures to promote the change of religion. But after 1570 there was a decided change, and particularly after 1580 the persecution was carried on with great bitterness. Many of the clergy, both secular and regular, were put to death. Amongst the latter the few Jesuits who had come into the country to help to carry on the work begun by Father David Wolf, the Franciscans, and the Dominicans, were pursued with relentless severity. Sometimes they were put to death by the soldiers without any form of trial, sometimes they were executed according to the proclamations of martial law, and sometimes they were allowed a form of trial. But the fact that they were priests was sufficient to secure their conviction. Several laymen were put to death for refusing to change their religion, for harboring priests, or for having studied in some of the Catholic colleges on the Continent. Although Henry VIII. had succeeded in destroying many of the religious houses, still in a great part of the North, West, and South of Ireland the law had not been enforced, and even in the districts where the English held sway several of the monasteries enjoyed a precarious existence, partly owing to the kindness of certain noblemen, partly also to royal exemptions. But with the gradual subjugation of the country during the reign of Elizabeth more determined measures were taken for the suppression of such institutions. According to a return presented to the authorities in London (1578) “thirty-four abbeys and religious houses with very good lands belonging to them, never surveyed before 1569,” were seized, as were also “seventy-two abbeys and priories concealed from her Majesty.” From a revenue return presented in 1593 it can be seen that the suppression of these houses and the seizure of their property helped considerably to strengthen the royal exchequer. From the possessions in Ireland that belonged formerly to religious houses in England the queen received annually in round numbers £538, from the lands belonging to St. John of Jerusalem £776, from those of the monastery of Thomastown £551, from the possessions of St. Mary’s Abbey, Dublin, £329, and from the monasteries and other religious houses in Ireland £4,716. The destruction of the monasteries did not, however, mean the extinction of the Mendicant Orders. They still continued to maintain themselves in the country, so that during the worst days of the seventeenth century the Franciscans and Dominicans were to be reckoned with as the most dangerous opponents of the religious policy of the English government.
Only in case of one bishop, the notorious Miler Magrath, was Elizabeth able to secure submission. He was a Franciscan friar, who, having been sent to Rome to petition that the vacant See of Down and Connor should be conferred on Shane O’Neill’s brother, took steps to secure the appointment for himself (1565). Finding on his return that he could not hope to get any revenue from his diocese on account of the opposition of O’Neill, he made his submission to the queen (1567) and received as his reward the diocese of Clogher, and later on the Archbishopric of Cashel (1570). For the greater part of his term of office as archbishop he held the Sees of Waterford and Lismore, and when he resigned them in 1607 he obtained a grant of Achonry and Killala. While pretending to be scandalised by the toleration shown to Catholics, and especially to Catholic officials, and to be anxious that the laws should be enforced with the utmost rigor he took measures to warn the clergy whenever there was danger of arrest. On one occasion when he was in London, having learned that a raid was contemplated against the priests, he wrote to his wife to warn Bishop MacCragh of Cork to go into hiding at once, and to send away the priests who had taken refuge in his own palace at Cashel lest he should get into trouble. He was denounced by the officials in Dublin as a traitor, a drunkard, and a despoiler of the goods of the Church. He sold or leased the property of his dioceses, kept a large number of benefices in his own hands solely for the sake of the revenue, appointed his own sons, his daughter, and his daughter-in-law to parishes to provide them with an income, built no schools, and allowed the churches to go into ruins. His children made no secret of the fact that they were Catholics, and the archbishop himself seemed to think that though Protestantism had been useful to him in life, the old religion would be preferable at death. In 1608 faculties had been granted to Archbishop Kearney of Cashel for absolving Magrath from the guilt of heresy and schism. Some years later he besought a Franciscan friar to procure his reconciliation with Rome, promising that for his part, if the Pope required it, he would make a public renunciation of Protestantism. This request of his was recommended warmly to the Holy See by Mgr. Bentivoglio, inter-nuncio at Brussels, but the love of the archbishop for the revenues of Cashel and of his other bishoprics and benefices seems to have proved stronger than his desire for pardon, for he continued to enrich himself and his friends at the expense of the State Church till his death in 1622. It was believed by his contemporaries that on his death-bed he abjured his errors, and was reconciled with the Church by one of his former religious brethren.
The destruction of the religious houses and collegiate churches during the reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Elizabeth dealt a heavy blow to Irish education. Here and there through the country, clergy and laymen contrived to teach schools and to give their pupils a sound knowledge of the classics as well as of the language, literature, and history of their country. But the theological colleges were closed;
Oxford and Cambridge were no longer safe training-places for Irish ecclesiastics, and unless something could be done at once there was grave danger that when the bishops and clergy, who were then at work, passed away, they would leave none behind them to take their places. Fortunately the close and direct communication between Ireland and the Catholic nations of the Continent suggested a possible method of preventing such a calamity, by the establishment, namely, of Irish colleges in Rome, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. These institutions owed their existence to the efforts of Irish bishops and priests, and to the generous assistance of the Popes, and the sovereigns of Spain and France. They were supported by the donations of individual benefactors, by grants from the papal treasury or the royal treasuries of Spain and France, and by the fees paid by students, some of whom were wealthy enough to bear their own expenses, while others of them were ordained priests before they left Ireland so that they might be able to maintain themselves from their honoraria for Masses.
In Spain Irish colleges were established at Salamanca, Seville, Alcalá, Santiago de Compostella, and Madrid. The college at Salamanca was founded by Father Thomas White, S.J., a native of Clonmel, with the approval of Philip II., in 1592 under the title of El Real Colegio de Nobles Irlandeses. The King of Spain provided a generous endowment, and the control of the college was entrusted to the Jesuits. Shortly after its foundation complaints were made in the names of O’Neill and O’Donnell that the administrators of the college showed but scanty attention to the claims of students from Ulster and Connaught (1602), a complaint which seems to be justified by the rolls of matriculation, on which the names of very few students from these provinces are to be found. Those who presented themselves at Salamanca took an oath to return to labor in the Irish mission after the completion of their studies, and to enable them to do this a certain sum of money was granted to them from the royal treasury of Spain to cover the expenses of the journey to Ireland. Many of the most distinguished of the Irish bishops and priests during the seventeenth century were men who had graduated at Salamanca. The college at Compostella was founded in 1605, was endowed partly by Philip III., and was placed in charge of the Jesuits. It served as an auxiliary to Salamanca, and its students were sent there for their theological training. The College of the Immaculate Conception at Seville owed its origin (1612) to some of the Irish secular clergy. It was endowed very generously by Philip III. who placed the Jesuits in control of it in 1619. To help to provide for the support of the students the Irish merchants, who carried on a brisk trade with Seville and Cadiz at this period, bound themselves to bestow on the college a certain percentage on every cask of wine they shipped, while Paul V. granted permission to the fishermen of the province of Andalusia to fish on six Sundays or holidays on condition that they devoted the results of their labors to the support of the Irish College. The college at Madrid was founded by Father Theobold Stapleton (1629), and was used principally as a hospice for the reception of Irish priests who had completed their studies, and who came to the Spanish capital to receive the money guaranteed by the king to enable them to return to Ireland. In 1657 George de Paz y Silveira, who was related on his mother’s side to the MacDonnells of Antrim, founded a college at Alcalá principally for students from the North of Ireland. According to the directions of the founder the election of the rector was vested in the hands of the student body, a regulation that led to grave disorders, and finally to the closing of the college. The Irish college at Lisbon owed its existence to the activity of the Jesuits, notably of Father John Holing. It was opened in 1593, but it was only two years later that owing to the kindness of a Spanish nobleman a permanent residence was acquired, over which Father White, S.J., was placed as rector. A community of Irish Dominican Fathers was opened at Lisbon, as was also a convent of Dominican Nuns.
Irish students received a friendly welcome not merely in Spain, but also in the Spanish Netherlands. From the middle of the sixteenth century several ecclesiastical students from Ireland fled to Louvain for their education, but it was only in 1623 that Archbishop MacMahon of Dublin succeeded in founding a separate institution, the celebrated Collegium Pastorale for the training of secular priests for the Irish mission. Out of his own private resources he founded six burses in the college, and at his earnest request six others were endowed by the Propaganda. The college was formally approved by Urban VIII. in 1624, and Nicholas Aylmer was placed over it as its first rector. Though many of the ablest of the Irish bishops and priests of the penal times were educated in the Pastoral College, still Ireland is even more indebted to another Irish establishment at Louvain, the Irish Franciscan College of St. Anthony of Padua. At the petition of Florence Conry, Archbishop of Tuam, himself a Franciscan and a devoted supporter of the Northern Chiefs, Philip III. recommended the project of an Irish Franciscan College to his representative in the Netherlands, and conferred on the institution a generous endowment. With the blessing and approval of Paul V. the college was opened formally in 1609, and so great was its success that it soon became the leading centre of Irish missionary activity. Here Irish scholars like John Colgan, Hugh Ward, Father Mooney, Bonaventure O’Hussey, Hugh MacCaghwell, etc., found a home, and from the Louvain Irish printing-press were issued a large number of catechisms, religious treatises, and historical works, that did incalculable service for religion and for Ireland. Another very important institution at Louvain was the Irish Dominican Priory known as the Holy Cross founded in 1608. A seminary for the education of secular priests was opened at Antwerp in 1629 as a result of the exertions and generosity of Father Laurence Sedgrave and his nephew Father James Talbot. It was supported from the revenues bestowed upon it by its founders, from the grants of the papal nuncio at Brussels, and from the donations of Irishmen, laymen as well as clerics. At Tournai a seminary for Irish priests was founded by Father Christopher Cusack, and its students attended lectures in the college belonging to the Jesuits. Nearly all the Irish establishments in the Netherlands continued their work until they were destroyed during the troubled period that followed on the outbreak of the French Revolution.
In France, too, Irish students found a welcome and a home. Colleges set apart entirely for their use were opened in Paris, Douay, Lille, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Nantes. The Irish College in Paris may be said to date from the year 1578, when Father John Lee and a few companions from Ireland took up their residence in the Collège Montaigu. Later on a friendly nobleman, John de l’Escalopier, placed a special house at their disposal, and Father Lee became the first rector of the new seminary, which was recognized officially by the University of Paris in 1624. Later on the Collège des Lombards was acquired, as was also the present house in the Rue des Irlandais. The college in Paris was favored specially by the Irish bishops, as is evident from the fact that in the year 1795 more than one-third of the Irish clerical students on the Continent were receiving their training in the French capital. The seminary in Douay was founded by Father Ralph Cusack in 1577. At that time Douay belonged to the Spanish Netherlands, and the Irish seminary participated in the boundless generosity of the Kings of Spain. The Irish seminary at Lille was founded also by Father Cusack, and was placed under the control of the Capuchins. Though it was intended principally for the use of students from the province of Leinster, special attention was devoted to the Irish language, without a knowledge of which no person could be appointed rector. The seminary at Bordeaux was founded (1603) by Father Diarmuid MacCarthy, a priest of the diocese of Cork, and later on it received special grants and privileges from the queen-regent, Anne of Austria. The same kind benefactress provided a home for the Irish students at Toulouse (1659), while a few years later a seminary for Irish students was established at Nantes.
Very early in Elizabeth’s reign the question of providing priests for the Irish mission engaged the earnest attention of the Roman authorities. Gregory XIII. had arranged for the establishment of an Irish college in Rome, and had provided the means for its support, but as an expedition was then being prepared to aid James Fitzmaurice in his struggle in Ireland, the project was postponed, and the money was devoted to the purposes of the war. In 1625 the Irish bishops addressed a petition to the Holy See praying for the establishment of an Irish college in Rome. Cardinal Ludovisi, then Cardinal Protector of Ireland, supported strongly this petition. He secured a house for the accommodation of a few students, and in 1628 the college was opened. In his will the Cardinal provided generously for the endowment of the college, and he also expressed a wish that it should be entrusted to the care of the Jesuits. They entered into control in 1635, and directed the affairs of the college till a short time before the suppression of the Society.
Elizabeth and her advisers were not slow to see the danger of allowing Irish youths to be educated in Rome, France, or in the territories of the King of Spain. For years the English government had been advised to take measures for the establishment of a good system of English schools as the best means of conquering the country. It was suggested that with the suppression of the monasteries and the wholesale confiscation of their possessions something might be done by Henry VIII. or Edward VI. for the cause of education. But these hopes were doomed to speedy disappointment. The revenues of the religious houses, which had provided centers of learning for the boys and girls of the country, found their way into the royal treasury or into the pockets of the dishonest commissioners, and no educational establishments were erected in their place. The Deputy did, indeed, inform the canons of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, that their church should be converted to a better use, namely, a university, but the promise was made only to induce them to surrender without a struggle. The valuable church plate, crosses, etc., were melted down and handed over to the mint.
At the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth a proposal was made to carry out the promise of Henry VIII. by converting St. Patrick’s into a university. Archbishop Curwen objected strongly to such a suggestion, nominally on the ground that a university would only serve as an excuse for the Irish rebels to send their sons to the capital to learn the secrets of the Pale, but in reality because he feared that the project would interfere with his own income. At various times and in various forms the plan was brought forward once more. Sir John Perrott was anxious to signalize his term of office as Lord Deputy by the establishment of a university in Dublin, but Archbishop Loftus, who as Archbishop of Armagh had supported the conversion of St. Patrick’s into a university, having changed his mind once he had secured his own transference to Dublin, opposed warmly the project of the Deputy. When, however, he had succeeded in saving St. Patrick’s for his relatives and dependents he brought forward another proposal, namely, that the Corporation of Dublin should hand over the site of the old monastery of All Hallows for the establishment of a university. The corporation agreed to this proposal, and in 1592 a charter was granted by Elizabeth. An appeal was then issued for subscriptions, and in a short time about £2,000 was collected, many of the Anglo-Irish Catholics being amongst the subscribers. In 1593 Trinity College was opened for the reception of students. Though care had been taken by the archbishop when discussing the subject with the Corporation of Dublin, most of the members of which were still Catholic, and by the Deputy when appealing for funds for the erection of the buildings, not to raise the question of religion, yet Trinity College was intended from the beginning to be a bulwark of Protestantism as well as of English power in Ireland. Elizabeth had already done much to forward the cause of the new religion by getting possession of the children of the Anglo-Irish or Irish nobles and bringing them to England to be reared up as Protestants and as Englishmen, and it was hoped that Trinity College, supported by the diocesan schools, would do for the better class of the nation what Oxford and Cambridge were doing for the unfortunate children of the chiefs who were kidnapped in the name of religion and statesmanship. The new college set itself to carry out exactly the wishes of its founders, and in return from its compliancy it received large endowments from the English crown mainly by grants of confiscated territories in different parts of Ireland.
Yet in spite of all the measures that were taken, commissions, fines, executions, bestowal of honors and appointments, diocesan schools, and kidnapping of children, the Reformation made but little progress. The truth is that Elizabeth’s representatives in Ireland had not the power to enforce her wishes in regard to religion, nor did Elizabeth herself desire to stir up a general insurrection by attempting to punish the lay nobles for their flagrant disregard of her ordinances. Thus in 1585 Walsingham sent over express instructions to the Protestant Archbishop of Armagh (Long) that the gentlemen of the Pale were to be excused from taking the oath of allegiance, and in 1591 Sir George Carew informed Lord Deputy Fitzwilliam that the queen was displeased with him because “she feared that he was too forward in dealing with matters of religion,” and that he (Carew) had attempted to excuse the Deputy by pointing out that on account of the forbearance of the government, “they of the Pale were grown insolent.” At one time Elizabeth wrote to the Deputy and council blaming them for neglecting to push forward the interests of the new religion (1599), while the very next year she instructed Lord Mountjoy not to interfere by any severity or violence in matters of religion, until the power of England was established so firmly that such interference could be effective. The reason for this wavering attitude is not difficult to understand. Elizabeth feared that a general attack upon religion as such would be the best means of inducing all the Catholic noblemen to forget their personal rivalries and unite in one great national confederation. Such a turn of events might have proved disastrous to English interests in Ireland, and hence care was taken to allow a certain measure of toleration to the noblemen, and to explain away the punishments inflicted on the clergy as having been imposed not on account of religion, but on account of their traitorous designs. This is brought out very clearly in a letter of Sir George Carew to the privy council in 1600. The citizens of Waterford had been reported for their complete and open disregard of the new religion, and Carew was charged with the work of punishing such disobedience. He wrote that he would “handle the matter of religion as nicely as he could,” and that he would endeavor to convict the leaders of the movement of treason because, he added, “if it do appear in the least that any part of their punishment proceeds for matter of religion, it will kindle a great fire in this kingdom.”
In 1576 Hugh Brady, the Protestant Bishop of Meath, reported to the Lord Deputy that the condition of the Established Church was lamentable, that the priests, though deprived of their livings, continued to maintain themselves on the voluntary offerings of the people, that the churches had fallen into a state of decay, that no ministers were at hand who could address the people in their own language, and that to remedy this state of affairs Englishmen should be sent over as bishops to organize the new religious body, and Scotchmen should be requested to act as preachers. When such a state of affairs existed in the Pale districts it is easy to see that Protestantism had as yet made little progress among the Irish people. Two years later Lord Justice Drury and Sir Edward Fyton, Treasurer, announced to the privy council that on their arrival in Kilkenny the Protestant Bishop of Ossory reported to them “that not only the chiefest men of that town (as for the most part they are bent to Popery) refused obstinately to come to the church, and that they could by no means be brought to hear the divine service there with their wives and families (as by her Majesty’s injunctions they are bound to do), but that almost all the churches and chapels or chancels within his diocese were utterly ruined and decayed, and that neither the parishioners nor others that are bound to repair them and set them up could by any means be won or induced to do so.” The Lord Justice and his companion called the chief men of Kilkenny before them, and bound them in recognisances of £40 each “that they and their wives should duly every Sunday and holiday frequent the church, and hear the divine service.”
Waterford was equally bad. In 1579 Sir William Pelham reported that Marmaduke Middleton, who had been appointed bishop by Elizabeth, had met with a bad reception in Waterford, “partly through the contemptuous and obstinate behavior of the mayor and his brethren of that city, and partly by the clergy of that church.” The Dean of Waterford had made himself particularly disagreeable, and on account of his behavior Pelham recommended that he ought to be deprived of his dignity as an example to the citizens who were “the most arrogant Papists that live within this state.” Bishop Middleton was most anxious to get himself removed from Waterford, where he feared that his life was in danger. He reported that Waterford was given over to “Rome-runners and friars,” that clergy and people were united to prevent her Majesty’s most godly proceedings, that “Rome itself held no more superstition” than the city over which he ruled, and that most of the Protestant incumbents were little better than “wood-kerne.” Even towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign Waterford was still, as it had been when she ascended the throne, strongly Catholic. The privy council in England warned Sir George Carew that though “the evil disposition of the Irish people in most places of that kingdom, and especially of the inhabitants of Waterford, in matters of religion” was perfectly well known, and though great toleration had been shown them lest they should have an excuse to rise in rebellion, “yet something must be done to repress the presumption and insolency of the people.” For it had been announced by the Archbishop of Cashel (Magrath) “that in Waterford there are certain buildings, erected under color and pretence of almshouses or hospitals, but that the same are in very deed intended and publicly professed to be used for monasteries and such like houses of religion, and that friars and popish priests are openly received and maintained in them . . . and exercise their service of the Mass openly and usually in many places, as if they were in no awe or fear of any exception to be taken thereunto.” It is noteworthy, however, as indicating the extent of English influence at that time in Ireland, that the members of the privy council warned the President of Munster that they “do not think it convenient that any extraordinary course should be taken or any disturbance made to inquire after or to punish them for their Masses or any other popish superstitions, unless they show thereby openly to the world an insolent contempt for her Majesty’s authority.”
In 1597, when Lord Borough was sent over as Lord Deputy, Elizabeth instructed him to discreetly inquire of the state of religion, whereof we are informed,” she wrote, “there hath been notorious negligence, in that the orders of religion are in few parts of our realm there observed; and that which is to be lamented, even in our very English Pale multitudes of parishes are destitute of incumbents and teachers, and in the very great towns of assembly, numbers not only forbear to come to the church or divine service, but [are] even willingly winked at to use all manner of popish ceremonies.” She ordered him to examine into the causes of “this general defection,” to see what have the Ecclesiastical Commissioners been doing all these years, and to forward his views as to how “this general defection might be reformed, in some convenient sort, and not thus carelessly suffered as though she had granted toleration of Popery.” Three years later (1600) Sir George Carew furnished a very gloomy report on the progress of the new religion. “If the Spaniards do come hither,” he wrote, “I know no part of the kingdom that will hold for the queen, and the cities themselves will revolt with the first. For it is incredible to see how our nation and religion is maligned, and the awful obedience that all the kingdom stands in unto the Romish priests, whose excommunications are of greater terror unto them than any earthly horror whatsoever. Until of late, although the townsmen have ever been obstinate Papists, yet pro forma the mayors and aldermen would go to the church. But now not so much as the mayors will show any such external obedience, and by that means the queen’s sword is a recusant, which in my judgment is intolerable. Nevertheless I do not think it good to insist much upon it in this troublesome time. As for Masses and such slight errants here, they are of no great estimation. I am not over-curious to understand them, so as they be not used contemptuously and publicly in derogation of the queen’s laws. But the mayors of the cities and corporate towns to be let run in so manifest contempts I do not wish.”
Nor is it strange that the new religion had made such little progress in Ireland. Apart from the fact that the Irish people were thoroughly Catholic at heart, the means adopted to bring about their apostasy was not of such a kind as to ensure success. The English sovereigns, their officials in Dublin, and a section of the Anglo-Irish nobles aimed at getting possession of the ecclesiastical property and patronage, and once they had attained their object they had but scant regard for the claims of religion. Englishmen were sent over as archbishops or bishops, who could not preach in a language that the people could understand, and who had no other desire than to enrich themselves, their children, and their relatives. Archbishop Browne had set an example in this direction, which example was not lost on his successor, Adam Loftus, who was so greedy in petitioning for appointments that his chapter was forced to demand from him a pledge that he would look for nothing more. Archbishop Long of Armagh (1584-89) wasted the property of the diocese to such an extent that his successor had barely an income of £120 a year and not a house to give him shelter. Miler Magrath enriched himself out of Cashel, Emly, Waterford and Lismore, Killala, and Achonry. Twenty of the parishes of Emly were held by himself; twenty-six by his sons, daughters, and near relations; nineteen were left vacant; men “fitter to keep hogs than to serve in church” were appointed to some livings, and “in the two dioceses (Cashel and Emly) there was not one preacher or good minister to teach the subjects their duties to God and His Majesty.” Craik of Kildare, Cavenagh of Ossory, and Allen of Ferns were accused of alienating the diocesan property of their respective Sees. With the single exception of Brady, the Protestant Bishop of Meath, against whom Loftus declared he could bring such charges as he would be loath to utter, hardly one of the men appointed by Elizabeth to Irish bishoprics was worthy of his position. Loftus was an impecunious courtier; Magrath had no religion except to make money and indulge his passion for strong drink; Knight the Scotchman, who was sent to Cashel to watch him, was removed on account of public drunkenness; Devereux was appointed to Ferns, although, according to Loftus, he had been deprived of his deanship on account of confessed immorality; Richard Dixon was deprived of his See within one year after his appointment by the queen for manifest adultery, and Marmaduke Middleton of Waterford having been translated to St. David’s was accused of “grave misdemeanors,” the most serious of which was the publication of a forged will, and was degraded by the High Commission Court. With such men in charge of the work of “reforming” the clergy and people of Ireland, it is no wonder that the Reformation made so little progress.
The men into whose hands the property and patronage of the Church had passed took no steps to look after the repair of the church buildings or to provide clergy to preach the new religion. In some cases their neglect was due to the fact that they themselves were Catholic in their sympathies, and in other cases because they did not want to incur any expenses. As a consequence, the churches were in ruins and roofless, and no religious service of any kind was provided. Few English ministers of good standing in their own country cared to come to Ireland except possibly in the hope of securing a bishopric in the Pale districts, and as a consequence, the men who came were “of some bad note,” on account of which they were obliged to leave their own country. Hence, in order to provide ministers to spread the new gospel it was necessary to ordain those who were willing to receive orders as a means of making their living. It is no wonder, therefore, that Edmund Spenser described the Irish Protestant clergy of the period as “bad, licentious, and most disordered.” “Whatever disorders,” he writes, “you see in the Church of England, you may find in Ireland, and many more, namely, gross simony, greedy covetousness, incontinence, careless sloth, and generally all disordered life in the common clergyman. And, besides all these, they have their particular enormities; for all Irish ministers that now enjoy church livings are in a manner mere laymen, saving that they have taken holy orders, but otherwise they go and live like laymen, follow all kinds of husbandry, and other worldly affairs as other Irishmen do. They neither read the Scriptures, nor preach to the people, nor administer the communion.” A good account of the motley crowd who had been enlisted to carry out the work of reform is given by Andrew Trollope, himself an English lawyer and a Protestant. Although he referred particularly to Munster his account may be taken as substantially correct for the rest of Ireland. “In truth,” he wrote, “such they [the clergy] are as deserve not living or to live. For they will not be accounted ministers but priests. They will have no wives. If they would stay there it were well; but they will have harlots . . . And with long experience and some extraordinary trail of those fellows, I cannot find whether the most of them love lewd women, cards, dice, or drink best. And when they must of necessity go to church, they carry with them a book of Latin of the Common Prayer set forth and allowed by her Majesty. But they read little or nothing of it, or can well read it, but they tell the people a tale of Our Lady or St. Patrick, or some other saint, horrible to be spoken or heard, and intolerable to be suffered, and do all they may to allure the people from God and their prince, and their due obedience to them both, and persuade them to the devil and the Pope.” The Lord Deputy sent a report to England in 1576 “on the lamentable state of the Church” in Ireland. “There are,” he wrote, “within this diocese [Meath] two hundred and twenty-four parish churches, of which number one hundred and five are impropriated to sundry possessions; no parson or vicar resident upon any of them, and a very simple or sorry curate for the most part appointed to serve them; among which number of curates only eighteen were found able to speak English, the rest being Irish ministers, or rather Irish rogues, having very little Latin, and less learning and civility. . . . In many places the very walls of the churches are thrown down; very few chancels covered; windows or doors ruined or spoiled. . . . If this be the state of the church in the best-peopled diocese, and best governed country of this your realm, as in truth it is, easy is it for your Majesty to conjecture in what case the rest is, where little or no reformation either of religion or manners hath yet been planted and continued among them. . . . If I should write unto your Majesty what spoil hath been, and is of the archbishoprics, of which there are four, and of the bishoprics, whereof there are above thirty, partly by the prelates themselves, partly by the potentates, their noisome neighbors, I should make too long a libel of this my letter. But your Majesty may believe it, upon the face of the earth where Christ is professed, there is not a Church in so miserable a case.”
Spenser drew a sharp contrast between the Catholic clergy and the ministers of the new gospel. “It is great wonder,” he wrote, “to see the odds which are between the zeal of the Popish priests and the ministers of the gospel. For they spare not to come out of Spain, from Rome, and from Rheims, by long toil and dangerous traveling hither, where they know peril of death awaiteth them, and no reward or riches are to be found, only to draw the people unto the Church of Rome; whereas some of our idle ministers, having a way for credit and estimation thereby opened unto them, and having the livings of the country offered unto them without pains and without peril, will neither for the same, nor any love of God, nor zeal of religion, nor for all the good they may do by winning souls to God, be drawn forth from their warm nests to look out into God’s harvest.”
But though the attempts to seduce Ireland from the Catholic faith had failed to produce any substantial results, yet there could be no denying the fact that Elizabeth had gone further to reduce the country to subjection than had any of her predecessors. The overthrow of the Geraldines and their allies in the South, the plantation of English Undertakers in the lands of the Earl of Desmond, the seizure of MacMahon’s country, and the attempted plantation of Clandeboy, the appointments of presidents of Munster and Connaught, the reduction of several counties to shire-lands, the nomination of sheriffs to enforce English law, and the establishment of garrisons in several parts of the country, made it clear to any thoughtful Irishman that unless some steps were taken at once, the complete reduction of their country was only a matter of a few years. In the North Hugh O’Neill, son of Matthew O’Neill, was looked upon as the most powerful nobleman of the province. Like his father he had been in his youth an English O’Neill, and for that reason he was created Earl of Tyrone (1585), and was granted most of the territories of Shane the Proud. But he distrusted the English, as he was distrusted by them. The treacherous seizure of Hugh O’Donnell, the planting of an English garrison at Portmore along the Blackwater, and the warlike preparations begun by Sir Henry Bagenal made it evident to him that the government aimed at the complete overthrow of the Irish chieftains.
Having strengthened himself by alliances with Hugh O’Donnell, Maguire, and the principal nobles of the North, he rose in arms, seized the fortress of Portmore, laid siege to Monaghan, and inflicted a very severe defeat on the English forces at Clontibret (1595). Whatever might have been his ulterior object, O’Neill put the question of religion in the forefront. Already it had been noted by the English officials that O’Neill, though brought up in England, was attached to the “Romish Church.” In their negotiations with the government after the defeat of the English forces at Clontibret, both O’Neill and O’Donnell demanded that “all persons have free liberty of conscience.” Similar demands were made by the other chieftains of Ulster, and later on by all the Irish nobles in Connaught, Leinster, and Munster. In reply to these demands the commissioners announced that in the past the queen had tolerated the practice of the Catholic religion, and “so in likelihood she will continue the same.” When the report of these negotiations reached England Elizabeth was displeased. The request for liberty of conscience was characterized as “disloyal.” O’Neill was to be informed that “this had been a later disloyal compact made betwixt him and the other rebels without any reasonable ground or cause to move them thereunto, especially considering there hath been no proceeding against any of them to move so unreasonable and disloyal a request as to have liberty to break laws, which her Majesty will never grant to any subject.”
Though the negotiations were continued for some time neither side was anxious for peace. Elizabeth and her officials strove to secure the support of the Anglo-Irish of the Pale and of a certain section of the Irish nobles. Unfortunately she was only too successful. Most of the Anglo-Irish nobles, though still devoted to the Catholic faith, preferred to accept toleration at the hands of Elizabeth rather than to fight side by side with O’Neill for the complete restoration of their religion. O’Neill and O’Donnell turned to Spain and Rome for support. From Spain they asked for arms, soldiers, and money to enable them to continue the struggle. From the Pope they asked also for material assistance, but in addition they demanded that he should re-publish the Bull of excommunication and deposition issued against Elizabeth by Gregory XIII., that he should declare their war to be a religious war in which all Catholics should take the side of the Irish chiefs, that he should excommunicate the Catholic noblemen who had taken up arms in defense of the queen, that he should grant them the full rights of patronage enjoyed in Ulster by their predecessors, and that he should appoint no ecclesiastics to vacant Sees without their approval.These requests were supported strongly at Rome by Peter Lombard (1601), who was appointed later on Archbishop of Armagh, and as a result Clement VIII. determined to send a nuncio to Ireland in the person of Ludovico Mansoni (1601). Philip III. of Spain at last consented to dispatch a force into Ireland, but instead of landing in the North where O’Neill and O’Donnell were all-powerful, the Spanish exhibition under command of Don Juan del Aquila arrived off Kinsale, and took possession of the town (Sept. 1601). For the three years preceding the arrival of the Spaniards the Northern chiefs had been wonderfully successful. They had defeated Marshal Bagenal at the Yellow Ford (1598), had overthrown the forces of Sir Conyers Clifford at the Curlieu Mountains (1599), and had upset all the plans of the Earl of Essex, who was sent over specially by Elizabeth to reduce them to subjection. Hardly, however, had the Spaniards occupied Kinsale when they were besieged by the new Deputy, Lord Mountjoy, and by Carew, the President of Munster. An urgent message was dispatched by them requesting O’Neill and O’Donnell to march to their assistance, and against their own better judgment they determined to march South to the relief of their allies. Even still, had they been satisfied with hemming in the English forces, as O’Neill advised, they might have succeeded, but instead of adopting a waiting policy, they determined to make an attack in conjunction with the Spanish force. As a result they suffered a complete defeat (1602). O’Neill conducted the remnant of his army towards Ulster; O’Donnell was dispatched to seek for further help to Spain from which he never returned, and Aquila surrendered Kinsale and other fortresses garrisoned by Spaniards. Carew laid waste the entire province of Connaught, while Mountjoy marched to Ulster to subdue the Northern rebels. The news of the death of O’Donnell in Spain, the desertion of many of his companions in arms, and the total destruction of the cattle and crops by Mountjoy forced O’Neill to make overtures for peace. An offer of terms was made to him, and good care was taken to conceal from him the death of Queen Elizabeth. He decided to meet Mountjoy and to make his submission (1603).
Original text by James MacCaffrey, edited and revised by William Mackis - this text © 2005. Please note: all applicable material on this website is protected by law and may not be copied without express written permission.