Henry IV.—A Viceroy's Difficulties—The Houses of York and
Lancaster—The Colony almost Bankrupt—Literary Ladies in Ireland—A
Congress of Literati—The Duke of York is made Viceroy—Affection of the
Irish for him—Popularity of the Yorkists in Ireland—A Book given for a
Ransom—Desolating Effects of the Wars of the Roses—Accession of Henry
VII.—Insurrection of the Yorkists—Simnel is crowned in
Dublin—Warbeck's Insurrection—Poyning's Parliament—Poyning's Law and
its Effects—The Earl of Kildare accused of Treason—His Defence and
Pardon—His Quickwitted Speeches—He is acquitted honorably—His Letter
to the Gherardini—Ariosto.

[A.D. 1402-1509.]

scion of royalty was again sent to administer law—we cannot say
truthfully to administer justice—in Ireland. On the accession of Henry
IV., his second son, Thomas, Duke of Lancaster, was made Viceroy, and
landed at Bullock, near Dalkey, on Sunday, November 13, 1402. As the
youth was but twelve years of age, a Council was appointed to assist
him. Soon after his arrival, the said Council despatched a piteous
document from "Le Naas," in which they represent themselves and their
youthful ruler as on the very verge of starvation, in consequence of not
having received remittances from England. In conclusion, they gently
allude to the possibility—of course carefully deprecated—of "peril and
disaster" befalling their lord, if further delay should be permitted.
The King, however, was not in a position to tax his English subjects;
and we find the prince himself writing to his royal father on the same
matter, at the close of the year 1402. He mentions also that he had
entertained the knights and squires with such cheer as could be procured
under the circumstances, and adds: "I, by the advice of my Council, rode
against the Irish, your enemies, and did my utmost to harass them."[362] Probably, had he shared the cheer with "the Irish his enemies," or even
showed them some little kindness, he would not have been long placed in
so unpleasant a position for want of supplies.

John Duke, the then Mayor of Dublin, obtained the privilege of having
the sword borne before the chief magistrate of that city, as a reward
for his services in routing the O'Byrnes of Wicklow. About the same time
John Dowdall, Sheriff of Louth, was murdered in Dublin, by Sir
Bartholomew Vernon and three other English gentlemen, who were outlawed
for this and other crimes, but soon after received the royal pardon. In
1404 the English were defeated in Leix. In 1405 Art MacMurrough
committed depredations at Wexford and elsewhere, and in 1406 the
settlers suffered a severe reverse in Meath.

Sir Stephen Scroope had been appointed Deputy for the royal Viceroy, and
he led an army against MacMurrough, who was defeated after a gallant
resistance. Teigue O'Carroll was killed in another engagement soon
after. This prince was celebrated for learning, and is styled in the
Annals[363] "general patron of the literati of Ireland." A few years
before his death he made a pilgrimage to Rome, and was honorably
received on his return by Richard II., at Westminster. In 1412 the
O'Neills desolated Ulster with their feuds, and about the same time the
English merchants of Dublin and Drogheda armed to defend themselves
against the Scotch merchants, who had committed several acts of piracy.
Henry V. succeeded his father in 1413, and appointed Sir John Stanley
Lord Deputy. He signalized himself by his exactions and cruelties, and,
according to the Irish account, was "rhymed to death" by the poet Niall
O'Higgin, of Usnagh, whom he had plundered in a foray. Sir John Talbot
was the next Governor. He inaugurated his career by such martial
exploits against the enemy, as to win golden opinions from the
inhabitants of "the Pale." Probably the news of his success induced his
royal master to recall him to England, that he might have his assistance
in his French wars.

His departure was a general signal for "the enemy" to enact reprisals.
O'Connor despoiled the Pale, and the invincible Art MacMurrough
performed his last military exploit at Wexford (A.D. 1416), where he
took 340 prisoners in one day. He died the following year, and Ireland
lost one of the bravest and best of her sons. The Annals describe him as
"a man who had defended his own province, against the English and Irish,
from his sixteenth to his sixtieth year; a man full of hospitality,
knowledge, and chivalry." It is said that he was poisoned by a woman at
New Ross, but no motive is mentioned for the crime. His son, Donough,
who has an equal reputation for valour, was made prisoner two years
after by the Lord Deputy, and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
O'Connor of Offaly, another chieftain who had also distinguished himself
against the English, died about this time. He had entered the Franciscan
Monastery of Killeigh a month before his death.

The Irish of English descent were made to feel their position painfully
at the close of this reign, and this might have led the new settlers to
reflect, if capable of reflection, that their descendants would soon
find themselves in a similar condition. The commons presented a petition
complaining of the extortions and injustices practised by the Deputies,
some of whom had left enormous debts unpaid. They also represented the
injustice of excluding Irish law students from the Inns of Court in
London. A few years previous (A.D. 1417), the settlers had presented a
petition to Parliament, praying that no Irishman should be admitted to
any office or benefice in the Church, and that no bishop should be
permitted to bring an Irish servant with him when he came to attend
Parliament or Council. This petition was granted; and soon after an
attempt was made to prosecute the Archbishop of Cashel, who had presumed
to disregard some of its enactments.

Henry VI. succeeded to the English throne while still a mere infant,
and, as usual, the "Irish question" was found to be one of the greatest
difficulties of the new administration. The O'Neills had been carrying
on a domestic feud in Ulster; but they had just united to attack the
English, when Edward Mortimer, Earl of March, assumed the government of
Ireland (A.D. 1425). He died of the plague the following year; but his
successor in office, Lord Furnival, contrived to capture a number of the
northern chieftains, who were negotiating peace with Mortimer at the
very time of his death. Owen O'Neill was ransomed, but the indignation
excited by this act served only to arouse angry feelings; and the
northerns united against their enemies, and soon recovered any territory
they had lost.

Donough MacMurrough was released from the Tower in 1428, after nine
years' captivity. It is said the Leinster men paid a heavy ransom for
him. The young prince's compulsory residence in England did not lessen
his disaffection, for he made war on the settlers as soon as he returned
to his paternal dominions. The great family feud between the houses of
York and Lancaster, had but little effect on the state of Ireland.
Different members of the two great factions had held the office of Lord
Justice in that country, but, with one exception, they did not obtain
any personal influence there. Indeed, the Viceroy of those days, whether
an honest man or a knave, was sure to be unpopular with some party.

The Yorkists and Lancastrians were descended directly from Edward III.
The first Duke of York was Edward's fifth son, Edmund Plantagenet; the
first Duke of Lancaster was John of Gaunt, the fourth son of the same
monarch. Richard II. succeeded his grandfather, Edward III., as the son
of Edward the Black Prince, so famed in English chivalry. His arrogance
and extravagance soon made him unpopular; and, during his absence in
Ireland, the Duke of Lancaster, whom he had banished, and treated most
unjustly, returned to England, and inaugurated the fatal quarrel. The
King was obliged to return immediately, and committed the government of
the country to his cousin, Roger de Mortimer, who was next in succession
to the English crown, in right of his mother, Philippa, the only child
of the Duke of Clarence, third son of Edward III. The death of this
nobleman opened the way for the intrusion of the Lancastrians, the Duke
of Lancaster having obtained the crown during the lifetime of Richard,
to the exclusion of the rightful heir-apparent, Edmund, Earl of March,
son to the late Viceroy.

The feuds of the Earl of Ormonde and the Talbots in Ireland, proved
nearly as great a calamity to that nation as the disputes about the
English succession. A Parliament was held in Dublin in 1441, in which
Richard Talbot, the English Archbishop of Dublin. proceeded to lay
various requests before the King, the great object of which was the
overthrow of the Earl, who, by the intermarrying of his kinsmen with the
Irish, possessed great influence among the native septs contiguous to
his own territory. The petitioners pray that the government may be
committed to some "mighty English lord," and they moderately request
that the said "mighty lord" may be permitted to create temporal peers.
They hint at the Earl's age as an objection to his administration of
justice, and assert that "the Lieutenant should be a mighty, courageous,
and laborious man, to keep the field and make resistance against the
enemy." But the great crime alleged against him, is that "he hath
ordained and made Irishmen, and grooms and pages of his household,
knights of the shire." These representations, however, had but little
weight in the quarter to which they were addressed, for Ormonde was a
stout Lancastrian; and if he had sinned more than his predecessors, his
guilt was covered by the ample cloak of royal partiality. However, some
appearance of justice was observed. Sir Giles Thornton was sent over to
Ireland to make a report, which was so very general that it charged no
one in particular, but simply intimated that there was no justice to be
had for any party, and that discord and division prevailed amongst all
the King's officers. The system of appointing deputies for different
offices was very properly condemned; and the rather startling
announcement made, that the annual expenses of the Viceroy and his
officers exceeded all the revenues of Ireland for that year by £4,456.
In fact, it could not be otherwise; for every official, lay and
ecclesiastical, English and Anglo-Irish, appear to have combined in one
vast system of peculation, and, when it was possible, of wholesale
robbery. Even the loyal burghers of Limerick, Cork, and Galway had
refused to pay their debts to the crown, and the representatives of
royalty were not in a position to enforce payment. The Talbot party
seems to have shared the blame quite equally with the Ormondes, and the
churchmen in power were just as rapacious as the seculars. After having
ruined the "mere Irish," the plunderers themselves were on the verge of
ruin; and the Privy Council declared that unless an immediate remedy was
applied, the law courts should be closed, and the royal castles
abandoned. Further complaints were made in 1444; and Robert Maxwell, a
groom of the royal chamber, was despatched to Ireland with a summons to
Ormonde, commanding him to appear before the King and Council.

The Earl at once collected his followers and adherents in Drogheda,
where they declared, in the presence of the King's messenger, as in duty
bound, that their lord had never been guilty of the treasons and
extortions with which he was charged, and that they were all thankful
for "his good and gracious government:" furthermore, they hint that he
had expended his means in defending the King's possessions. However, the
Earl was obliged to clear himself personally of these charges in London,
where he was acquitted with honour by his royal master.[364]

His enemy, Sir John Talbot, known better in English history as the Earl
of Shrewsbury, succeeded him, in 1446. This nobleman had been justly
famous for his valour in the wars with France, and it is said that even
mothers frightened their children with his name. His success in Ireland
was not at all commensurate with his fame in foreign warfare, for he
only succeeded so far with the native princes as to compel O'Connor Faly
to make peace with the English Government, to ransom his sons, and to
supply some beeves for the King's kitchen. Talbot held a Parliament at
Trim, in which, for the first time, an enactment was made about personal
appearance, which widened the fatal breach still more between England
and Ireland. This law declared that every man who did not shave[365] his
upper lip, should be treated as an "Irish enemy;" and the said shaving
was to be performed once, at least, in every two weeks.

In the year 1447 Ireland was desolated by a fearful plague, in which
seven hundred priests are said to have fallen victims, probably from
their devoted attendance on the sufferers. In the same year Felim
O'Reilly was taken prisoner treacherously by the Lord Deputy; and
Finola, the daughter of Calvagh O'Connor Faly, and wife of Hugh Boy
O'Neill, "the most beautiful and stately, the most renowned and
illustrious woman of all her time in Ireland, her own mother only
excepted, retired from this transitory world, to prepare for eternal
life, and assumed the yoke of piety and devotion in the Monastery of

This lady's mother, Margaret O'Connor, was the daughter of O'Carroll,
King of Ely, and well deserved the commendation bestowed on her. She was
the great patroness of the literati of Ireland, whom she entertained
at two memorable feasts. The first festival was held at Killeigh, in the
King's county, on the Feast-day of Da Sinchell (St. Seanchan, March
26). All the chiefs, brehons, and bards of Ireland and Scotland were
invited, and 2,700 guests are said to have answered the summons. The
Lady Margaret received them clothed in cloth of gold, and seated in
queenly state. She opened the "congress" by presenting two massive
chalices of gold on the high altar of the church—an act of duty towards
God; and then took two orphan children to rear and nurse—an act of
charity to her neighbour. Her noble husband, who had already
distinguished himself in the field on many occasions, remained on his
charger outside the church, to welcome his visitors as they arrived. The
second entertainment was given on the Feast of the Assumption, in the
same year, and was intended to include all who had not been able to
accept the first invitation. The chronicler concludes his account with a
blessing on Lady Margaret, and a curse on the disease which deprived the
world of so noble an example: "God's blessing, the blessing of all the
saints, and every blessing, be upon her going to heaven; and blessed be
he that will hear and read this, for blessing her soul."[366] It is
recorded of her also, that she was indefatigable in building churches,
erecting bridges, preparing highways, and providing mass-books. It is a
bright picture on a dark page; and though there may not have been many
ladies so liberal or so devoted to learning at that period in Ireland,
still the general state of female education could not have been
neglected, or such an example could not have been found or appreciated.
Felim O'Connor, her son, died in the same year as his mother; he is
described as "a man of great fame and renown." He had been ill of
decline for a long time, and only one night intervened between the death
of the mother and the son, A.D. 1451. Calvagh died in 1458, and was
succeeded by his son, Con, who was not unworthy of his noble ancestry.

In 1449 the Duke of York was sent to undertake the Viceregal dignity and
cares. His appointment is attributed to the all-powerful influence of
Queen Margaret. The immortal Shakspeare, whose consummate art makes us
read history in drama, and drama in history,[367] has commemorated this
event, though not with his usual ability. The object of sending him to
Ireland was to deprive the Yorkists of his powerful support and
influence, and place the affairs of France, which he had managed with
considerable ability, in other hands. In fact, the appointment was
intended as an honorable exile. The Irish, with that natural veneration
for lawful authority which is so eminently characteristic of the Celtic
race, were ever ready to welcome a prince of the blood, each time hoping
against hope that something like ordinary justice should be meted out
from the fountain-head. For once, at least, they were not disappointed;
and "noble York" is represented, by an English writer of the sixteenth
century, as consoling himself "for every kinde of smart," with the
recollection of the faithful love and devotion of the Irish people.[368]

The royal Duke arrived in Ireland on the 6th of July, 1447. He was
accompanied by his wife, famous for her beauty, which had obtained her
the appellation of the "Rose of Raby," and famous also as the mother of
two English kings, Edward IV. and Richard III. This lady was the
daughter of Neville, Earl of Westmoreland, whose rather numerous family,
consisting of twenty-two children, had all married amongst the highest
families. The Duke was Earl of Ulster in right of Duke Lionel, from whom
he was descended; but instead of marching at once to claim his
possessions, he adopted such conciliatory measures as secured him the
services and affections of a large body of Irish chieftains, with whose
assistance he soon subdued any who still remained refractory. His
popularity increased daily. Presents were sent to him by the most
powerful and independent of the native chieftains. Nor was his "fair
ladye" forgotten, for Brian O'Byrne, in addition to an offering of four
hundred beeves to the Duke, sent "two hobbies"[369] for the special use
of the "Rose of Raby." Indeed, it was reported in England that "the
wildest Irishman in Ireland would before twelve months be sworn
English." Such were the fruits of a conciliatory policy, or rather of a
fair administration of justice.

The cities of Cork, Kinsale, and Youghal, now sent in petitions to the
Viceroy, complaining bitterly of the way in which the English noblemen
"fall at variance among themselves," so that the whole country was
desolated. The settlers of Waterford and Wexford made similar complaints
against an Irish chieftain, O'Driscoll, whom they describe as "an Irish
enemy to the King and to all his liege people of Ireland." The Duke
pacified all parties, and succeeded in attaching the majority of the
nation more and more to his person and his interests. His English
friends, who looked on his residence in Ireland as equivalent to
banishment and imprisonment, were actively employed in promoting his
return. The disgraceful loss of the English possessions in France, and
probably still more the haughty and unconciliatory policy adopted by the
Queen, had strengthened the Yorkist party, and emboldened them to
action. The Duke was requested to return to England, where the
insurgents in Kent had already risen under the leadership of the famous
Jack Cade, whose origin is involved in hopeless obscurity, and whose
character has been so blackened by writers on the Lancastrian side that
it is equally incomprehensible. He called himself John Mortimer, and
asserted that he was cousin to the Viceroy. A proclamation, offering one
thousand marks for his person, "quick or dead," described him as born in
Ireland. In consequence of the nonpayment of the annuity which had been
promised to the Duke during his Viceroyalty, he had been obliged to
demand assistance from the Irish, who naturally resisted so unjust a
tax. After useless appeals to the King and Parliament, he returned to
England suddenly, in September, 1450, leaving Sir James Butler, the
eldest son of the Earl of Ormonde, as his Deputy.

The history of the Wars of the Roses does not belong to our province; it
must, therefore, suffice to say, that when his party was defeated in
England for a time, he fled to Ireland, where he was enthusiastically
received, and exercised the office of Viceroy at the very time that an
act of attainder was passed against him and his family. He soon returned
again to his own country; and there, after more than one brilliant
victory, he was slain at the battle of Wakefield, on the 31st December,
1460. Three thousand of his followers are said to have perished with
him, and among the number were several Irish chieftains from Meath and
Ulster. The Geraldines sided with the House of York, and the Butlers
with the Lancastrians: hence members of both families fell on this fatal
field on opposite sides.

The Earl of Kildare was Lord Justice on the accession of Edward IV., who
at once appointed his unfortunate brother, the Duke of Clarence, to that
dignity. The Earls of Ormonde and Desmond were at war (A.D. 1462), and a
pitched battle was fought between them at Pilltown, in the county
Kilkenny, where the former was defeated with considerable loss. His
kinsman, MacRichard Butler, was taken prisoner; and we may judge of the
value of a book,[370] and the respect for literature in Ireland at that
period, from the curious fact that a manuscript was offered and accepted
for his ransom.

The eighth Earl of Desmond, Thomas, was made Viceroy in 1462. He was a
special favourite with the King. In 1466 he led an army of the English
of Meath and Leinster against O'Connor Faly, but he was defeated and
taken prisoner in the engagement. Teigue O'Connor, the Earl's
brother-in-law, conducted the captives to Carbury Castle, in Kildare,
where they were soon liberated by the people of Dublin. The Irish were
very successful in their forays at this period. The men of Offaly
devastated the country from Tara to Naas; the men of Breffni and Oriel
performed similar exploits in Meath. Teigue O'Brien plundered Desmond,
and obliged the Burkes of Clanwilliam to acknowledge his authority, and
only spared the city of Limerick for a consideration of sixty marks.

The Earl of Desmond appears to have exerted himself in every way for the
national benefit. He founded a college in Youghal, with a warden, eight
fellows, and eight choristers. He obtained an Act for the establishment
of a university at Drogheda, which was to have similar privileges to
that of Oxford. He is described by native annalists—almost as loud in
their praises of learning as of valour—as well versed in literature,
and a warm patron of antiquaries and poets. But his liberality proved
his ruin. He was accused of making alliances and fosterage of the King's
Irish enemies; and perhaps he had also incurred the enmity of the Queen
(Elizabeth Woodville), for it was hinted that she had some share in his
condemnation. It is at least certain that he was beheaded at Drogheda,
on the 15th of February, 1467, by the command of Typtoft, Earl of
Worcester, who was sent to Ireland to take his place as Viceroy, and to
execute the unjust sentence. The Earl of Kildare was condemned at the
same time; but he escaped to England, and pleaded his cause so well with
the King and Parliament, that he obtained his own pardon, and a reversal
of the attainder against the unfortunate Earl of Desmond.

During the reigns of Edward IV., Edward V., and the usurper Richard,
there was probably more dissension in England than there ever had been
at any time amongst the native Irish chieftains. Princes and nobles were
sacrificed by each party as they obtained power, and regicide might
almost be called common. The number of English slain in the Wars of the
Roses was estimated at 100,000. Parliament made acts of attainder one
day, and reversed them almost on the next. Neither life nor property was
safe. Men armed themselves first in self-defence, and then in
lawlessness; and a thoughtful mind might trace to the evil state of
morals, caused by a long period of desolating domestic warfare, that
fatal indifference to religion which must have permeated the people,
before they could have departed as a nation from the faith of their
fathers, at the mere suggestion of a profligate monarch. The English
power in Ireland was reduced at this time to the lowest degree of
weakness. This power had never been other than nominal beyond the Pale;
within its precincts it was on the whole all-powerful. But now a few
archers and spearmen were its only defence; and had the Irish combined
under a competent leader, there can be little doubt that the result
would have been fatal to the colony. It would appear as if Henry VII.
hoped to propitiate the Yorkists in Ireland, as he allowed the Earl of
Kildare to hold the office of Lord Deputy; his brother, Thomas
FitzGerald, that of Chancellor; and his father-in-law, FitzEustace, that
of Lord Treasurer. After a short time, however, he restored the Earl of
Ormonde to the family honours and estates, and thus a Lancastrian
influence was secured. The most important events of this reign, as far
as Ireland is concerned, are the plots of Simnel and Perkin Warbeck, and
the enactments of Poyning's Parliament. A contemporary Irish chronicler
says: "The son of a Welshman, by whom the battle of Bosworth field was
fought, was made King; and there lived not of the royal blood, at that
time, but one youth, who came the next year (1486) in exile to

The native Irish appear not to have had the least doubt that Simnel was
what he represented himself to be. The Anglo-Irish nobles were nearly
all devoted to the House of York; but it is impossible now to determine
whether they were really deceived, or if they only made the youth a
pretext for rebellion. His appearance is admitted by all parties to have
been in his favour; but the King asserted that the real Earl of Warwick
was then confined in the Tower, and paraded him through London[372] as
soon as the pseudo-noble was crowned in Ireland. Margaret, Dowager
Duchess of Burgundy, was the great promoter of the scheme. She
despatched Martin Swart, a famous soldier, of noble birth, to Ireland,
with 2,000 men. The expedition was fitted out at her own expense. The
English Yorkists joined his party, and the little army landed at Dublin,
in May, 1487. On Whit-Sunday, the 24th of that month, Lambert Simnel was
crowned in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. After the ceremony he was
borne in state, on the shoulders of tall men to the Castle. One of his
bearers, a gigantic Anglo-Irishman, was called Great Darcy. Coins were
now struck, proclamations issued, and all the writs and public acts of
the colony executed in the name of Edward VI.

Soon after, Simnel's party conducted him to England, where they were
joined by a few desperate men of the Yorkist party. The battle of Stoke,
in Nottinghamshire, terminated the affair. The youth and his tutor were
captured, and the principal officers were slain. According to one
account, Simnel was made a turnspit in the royal kitchen; according to
another authority[373] he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. It
would appear as if Henry was afraid to visit the Earl of Kildare too
heavily for his transgressions, as he retained him in the office of Lord

The use of fire-arms appears to have become general in Ireland about
this period (1487), as the Annals mention that an O'Rourke was slain by
an O'Donnell, "with a ball from a gun;" and the following year the Earl
of Kildare destroyed the Castle of Balrath, in Westmeath, with ordnance.
The early guns were termed hand-cannons and hand-guns, to distinguish
them from the original fire-arms, which were not portable, though there
were exceptions to this rule; for some of the early cannons were so
small, that the cannonier held his gun in his hand, or supported it on
his shoulder, when firing it.[374]

In 1488 Sir Richard Edgecumbe was sent to Ireland to exact new oaths of
allegiance from the Anglo-Norman lords, whose fidelity Henry appears to
have doubted, and not without reason. The commissioner took up his
lodgings with the Dominican friars, who appear to have been more devoted
to the English interests than their Franciscan brethren; but they did
not entertain the knight at their own expense, for he complains
grievously of his "great costs and charges." A Papal Bull had been
procured, condemning all who had rebelled against the King. This was
published by the Bishop of Meath, with a promise of absolution and royal
pardon for all who should repent. Edgecumbe appears to have been at his
wit's end to conciliate the "rebels," and informs us that he spent the
night in "devising as sure an oath as he could." The nobles at last came
to terms, and took the proffered pledge in the most solemn manner, in
presence of the Blessed Sacrament. This accomplished, the knight
returned to England; and on his safe arrival, after a stormy passage,
made a pilgrimage to Saint Saviour's, in Cornwall.

It is quite impossible now to judge whether these solemn oaths were made
to be broken, or whether the temptation to break them proved stronger
than the resolution to keep them. It is at least certain that they were
broken, and that in a year or two after the Earl of Kildare had received
his pardon under the Great Seal. In May, 1492, the Warbeck plot was
promulgated in Ireland, and an adventurer landed on the Irish shores,
who declared himself to be Richard, Duke of York, the second son of
Edward IV., who was supposed to have perished in the Tower. His stay in
Ireland, however, was brief, although he was favourably received. The
French monarch entertained him with the honours due to a crowned head;
but this, probably, was merely for political purposes, as he was
discarded as soon as peace had been made with England. He next visited
Margaret, the Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, who treated him as if he were
really her nephew.

Henry now became seriously alarmed at the state of affairs in Ireland,
and sent over Sir Edward Poyning, a privy counsellor and a Knight of the
Garter, to the troublesome colony. He was attended by some eminent
English lawyers, and what was of considerably greater importance, by a
force of 1,000 men. But neither the lawyers nor the men succeeded in
their attempt, for nothing was done to conciliate, and the old policy of
force was the rule of action, and failed as usual. The first step was to
hunt out the abettors of Warbeck's insurrection, who had taken refuge in
the north: but the moment the Deputy marched against them, the Earl of
Kildare's brother rose in open rebellion, and seized Carlow Castle. The
Viceroy was, therefore, obliged to make peace with O'Hanlon and
Magennis, and to return south. After recovering the fortress, he held a
Parliament at Drogheda, in the month of November, 1494. In this
Parliament the celebrated statute was enacted, which provided that
henceforth no Parliament should be held in Ireland until the Chief
Governor and Council had first certified to the King, under the Great
Seal, as well the causes and considerations as the Acts they designed to
pass, and till the same should be approved by the King and Council. This
Act obtained the name of "Poyning's Law." It became a serious grievance
when the whole of Ireland was brought under English government; but at
the time of its enactment it could only affect the inhabitants of the
Pale, who formed a very small portion of the population of that country;
and the colonists regarded it rather favourably, as a means of
protecting them against the legislative oppressions of the Viceroys.

The general object of the Act was nominally to reduce the people to
"whole and perfect obedience." The attempt to accomplish this desirable
end had been continued for rather more than two hundred years, and had
not yet been attained. The Parliament of Drogheda did not succeed,
although the Viceroy returned to England afterwards under the happy
conviction that he had perfectly accomplished his mission. Acts were
also passed that ordnance[375] should not be kept in fortresses without
the Viceregal licence; that the lords spiritual and temporal were to
appear in their robes in Parliament, for the English lords of Ireland
had, "through penuriousness, done away the said robes to their own great
dishonour, and the rebuke of all the whole land;" that the "many
damnable customs and uses," practised by the Anglo-Norman lords and
gentlemen, under the names of "coigne, livery, and pay," should be
reformed; that the inhabitants on the frontiers of the four shires
should forthwith build and maintain a double-ditch, raised six feet
above the ground on the side which "meared next unto the Irishmen," so
that the said Irishmen should be kept out; that all subjects were to
provide themselves with cuirasses and helmets, with English bows and
sheaves of arrows; that every parish should be provided with a pair of
butts,[376] and the constables were ordered to call the parishioners
before them on holidays, to shoot at least two or three games.

The Irish war-cries[377] which had been adopted by the English lords
were forbidden, and they were commanded to call upon St. George or the
King of England. The Statutes of Kilkenny were confirmed, with the
exception of the one which forbid the use of the Irish language. As
nearly all the English settlers had adopted it, such an enactment could
not possibly have been carried out. Three of the principal nobles of the
country were absent from this assembly: Maurice, Earl of Desmond, was in
arms on behalf of Warbeck; Gerald, Earl of Kildare, was charged with
treason; and Thomas, Earl of Ormonde, was residing in England. The Earl
of Kildare was sent to England to answer the charges of treason which
were brought against him. Henry had discovered that Poyning's mission
had not been as successful as he expected, and what, probably,
influenced him still more, that it had proved very expensive.[378] He
has the credit of being a wise king in many respects, notwithstanding
his avariciousness; and he at once saw that Kildare would be more useful
as a friend, and less expensive, if he ceased to be an enemy. The result
was the pardon of the "rebel," his marriage with the King's first
cousin, Elizabeth St. John, and his restoration to the office of Deputy.
His quick-witted speeches, when examined before the King, took the royal
fancy. He was accused of having burned the Cathedral of Cashel, to
revenge himself on the Archbishop, who had sided with his enemy, Sir
James Ormonde. There was a great array of witnesses prepared to prove
the fact; but the Earl excited shouts of laughter by exclaiming: "I
would never have done it, had it not been told me the Archbishop was

The Archbishop was present, and one of his most active accusers. The
King then gave him leave to choose his counsel, and time to prepare his
defence. Kildare exclaimed that he doubted if he should be allowed to
choose the good fellow whom he would select. Henry gave him his hand as
an assurance of his good faith. "Marry," said the Earl, "I can see no
better man in England than your Highness, and will choose no other." The
affair ended by his accusers declaring that "all Ireland could not rule
this Earl," to which Henry replied: "Then, in good faith, shall this
Earl rule all Ireland."[379]

In August, 1489, Kildare was appointed Deputy to Prince Henry, who was
made Viceroy. In 1498 he was authorized to convene a Parliament, which
should not sit longer than half a year. This was the first Parliament
held under Poyning's Act. Sundry regulations were made "for the
increasing of English manners and conditions within the land, and for
diminishing of Irish usage." In 1503 the Earl's son, Gerald, was
appointed Treasurer for Ireland by the King, who expressed the highest
approval of his father's administration. He married the daughter of Lord
Zouch of Codnor during his visit to England, and then returned with his
father to Ireland. Both father and son were treated with the utmost
consideration at court, and the latter took an important part in the
funeral ceremonies for the King's eldest son, Arthur. The Earl continued
in office during the reign of Henry VII. An interesting letter, which he
wrote in reply to an epistle from the Gherardini of Tuscany, is still
extant. In this document he requests them to communicate anything they can of the origin of their house, their numbers, and their ancestors. He
informs them that it will give him the greatest pleasure to send them
hawks, falcons, horses, or hounds, or anything that he can procure which
they may desire. He concludes:

"God be with you; love us in return.

"GERALD, Chief in Ireland of the family of Gherardini, Earl of Kildare,
Viceroy of the most serene Kings of England in Ireland."

Eight years after this letter was written, Ariosto writes thus of a
brave old man, whose fame had passed long before to distant lands:

"Or guarda gl' Ibernisi: appresso il piano
Sono due squadre; e il Conte di Childera
Mena la pinna; e il Conte di Desmonda,
Da fieri monti ha tratta la seconda."