The Reign of Henry VIII.—The Three Eras in Irish History: Military
Violence, Legal Iniquity, and Religious Oppression—The Earl of
Kildare—Report on the State of Ireland—The Insurrection of Silken
Thomas—His Execution with his five Uncles—First Attempt to introduce
the Reformation in Ireland—Real Cause of the English Schism—The King
acts as Head of the Church—The New Religion enacted by Law, and
enforced by the Sword—How the Act was opposed by the Clergy, and how
the Clergy were disposed of—Dr. Browne's Letter to Henry—The Era of
Religious Persecution—Massacre of a Prelate, Priest, and
Friars—Wholesale Plunder of Religious Property.

[A.D. 1509-1540.]

e have now approached one of the most important standpoints in Irish
history. An English writer has divided its annals into three eras, which
he characterizes thus: first, the era of military violence; second, the
era of legal iniquity; third, the era of religious persecution.[380] We
may mark out roughly certain lines which divide these periods, but
unhappily the miseries of the two former blended eventually with the yet
more cruel wrongs of the latter. Still, until the reign of Henry VIII.,
the element of religious contention did not exist; and its importance as
an increased source of discord, may be easily estimated by a careful
consideration of its subsequent effects. Nevertheless, I believe that
Irish history has not been fairly represented by a considerable number of writers, who are pleased to attribute all the sufferings and wrongs
endured by the people of that country to religious grounds.

Ireland was in a chronic state of discontent and rebellion, in the eras
of military violence and legal iniquity, which existed some centuries
before the era of religious persecution; but, unquestionably all the
evils of the former period were enhanced and intensified, when the power
which had so long oppressed and plundered, sought to add to bodily
suffering the still keener anguish of mental torture.

In the era of military violence, a man was driven from his ancestral
home by force of arms; in the era of legal iniquity, he was treated as a
rebel if he complained; but in the era of religious persecution, his
free will, the noblest gift of God to man—the gift which God Himself
will not shackle—was demanded from him; and if he dared act according
to the dictates of his conscience, a cruel death or a cruel confiscation
was his portion. And this was done in the name of liberty of conscience!
While England was Catholic, it showed no mercy to Catholic Ireland; I
doubt much, if Ireland had become Protestant to a man, when England had
become Protestant as a nation, that she would have shown more
consideration for the Celtic race. But the additional cruelties with
which the Irish were visited, for refusing to discard their faith at the
bidding of a profligate king, are simply matters of history.

Henry succeeded his father in the year 1509. The Earl of Kildare was
continued in his office as Deputy; but the King's minister, Wolsey,
virtually ruled the nation, until the youthful monarch had attained his
majority; and he appears to have devoted himself with considerable zeal
to Irish affairs. He attempted to attach some of the Irish chieftains to
the English interest, and seems in some degree to have succeeded. Hugh
O'Donnell, Lord of Tir-Connell, was hospitably entertained at Windsor,
as he passed through England on his pilgrimage to Rome. It is said that
O'Donnell subsequently prevented James IV. of Scotland from undertaking
his intended expedition to Ireland; and, in 1521, we find him described
by the then Lord Deputy as the best disposed of all the Irish chieftains
"to fall into English order."

Gerald, the ninth and last Catholic Earl of Kildare, succeeded his
father as Lord Deputy in 1513. But the hereditary foes of his family
were soon actively employed in working his ruin; and even his sister,
who had married into that family, proved not the least formidable of his
enemies. He was summoned to London; but either the charges against him
could not be proved, or it was deemed expedient to defer them, for we
find him attending Henry for four years, and forming one of his retinue
at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Kildare was permitted to return to
Dublin again in 1523, but he was tracked by Wolsey's implacable hatred
to his doom.[381] In 1533 he was confined in the Tower for the third
time. The charges against him were warmly urged by his enemies. Two of
his sisters were married to native chieftains; and he was accused of
playing fast and loose with the English as a baron of the Pale—with the
Irish as a warm ally.[382] Two English nobles had been appointed to
assist him, or rather to act the spy upon his movements, at different
times. One of these, Sir Thomas Skeffington, became his most dangerous

In 1515 an elaborate report on the state of Ireland was prepared by the
royal command. It gives a tolerably clear idea of the military and
political condition of the country. According to this account, the only
counties really subject to English rule, were Louth, Meath, Dublin,
Kildare, and Wexford. Even the residents near the boundaries of these
districts, were obliged to pay "black mail" to the neighbouring Irish
chieftains. The King's writs were not executed beyond the bounds
described; and within thirty miles of Dublin, the Brehon law was in full
force. This document, which is printed in the first volume of the "State
Papers" relating to Ireland, contains a list of the petty rulers of
sixty different states or "regions," some of which "are as big as a
shire; some more, some less." The writer then gives various opinions as
to the plans which might be adopted for improving the state of Ireland,
which he appears to have taken principally from a curious old book,
called Salus Populi.[383] Both writers were of opinion that war to the
knife was the only remedy for Ireland's grievances. It was at least
clear that if dead men could tell no tales, neither could dead men rebel
against oppression; and the writer of the report concludes, "that if the
King were as wise as Solomon the Sage, he shall never subdue the wild
Irish to his obedience without dread of the sword." Even this he admits
may fail; for he adds, "so long as they may resist and save their lives,
they will never obey the King." He then quotes the Salus Populi, to
show the advantages which England might derive if the Irish united with
her in her wars on foreign countries, and observes, "that if this land
were put once in order as aforesaid, it would be none other but a very
paradise, delicious of all pleasaunce, in respect and regard of any
other land in this world; inasmuch as there never was stranger nor alien
person, great or small, that would leave it willingly, notwithstanding
the said misorder, if he had the means to dwell therein honestly."

It cannot now be ascertained whether Kildare had incited the Irish
chieftains to rebellion or not. In 1520, during one of his periods of
detention in London, the Earl of Surrey was sent over as Deputy with a
large force. It would appear as if a general rising were contemplated at
that time, and it was then the Earl wrote the letter[384] already
mentioned to O'Carroll. The new Viceroy was entirely ignorant of the
state of Ireland, and imagined he had nothing to do but conquer. Several
successful engagements confirmed him in this pleasing delusion; but he
soon discovered his mistake, and assured the King that it was hopeless
to contend with an enemy, who were defeated one day, and rose up with
renewed energy the next. As a last resource he suggested the policy of
conciliation, which Henry appears to have adopted, as he empowered him
to confer the honour of knighthood on any of the Irish chieftains to
whom he considered it desirable to offer the compliment, and he sent a
collar of gold to O'Neill. About the same time Surrey wrote to inform
Wolsey, that Cormac Oge MacCarthy and MacCarthy Reagh were "two wise
men, and more conformable to order than some English were;" but he was
still careful to keep up the old policy of fomenting discord among the
native princes, for he wrote to the King that "it would be dangerful to
have them both agreed and joined together, as the longer they continue
in war, the better it should be for your Grace's poor subjects here."

Surrey became weary at last of the hopeless conflict, and at his own
request he was permitted to return to England and resign his office,
which was conferred on his friend, Pierse Butler,[385] of Carrick,
subsequently Earl of Ormonde. The Scotch had begun to immigrate to
Ulster in considerable numbers, and acquired large territories there;
the Pale was almost unprotected; and the Irish Privy Council applied to
Wolsey for six ships-of-war, to defend the northern coasts, A.D. 1522.
The dissensions between the O'Neills and O'Donnells had broken out into
sanguinary warfare.

The Earl of Kildare left Ireland for the third and last time, in
February, 1534. Before his departure he summoned a Council at Drogheda,
and appointed his son, Thomas, to act as Deputy in his absence. On the
Earl's arrival in London, he was at once seized and imprisoned in the
Tower. A false report was carefully circulated in Ireland that he had
been beheaded, and that the destruction of the whole family was even
then impending. Nor was there anything very improbable in this
statement. The English King had already inaugurated his sanguinary
career. One of the most eminent English laymen, Sir Thomas More, and one
of her best ecclesiastics, Bishop Fisher, had been accused and beheaded,
to satisfy the royal caprice. When the King's tutor and his chancellor
had been sacrificed, who could hope to escape?

The unfortunate Earl had advised his son to pursue a cautious and gentle
policy; but Lord Thomas' fiery temper could ill brook such precaution,
and he was but too easily roused by the artful enemies who incited him
to rebellion. The reports of his father's execution were confirmed. His
proud blood was up, and he rushed madly on the career of
self-destruction. On the 11th of June, 1534, he flung down the sword of
state on the table of the council-hall at St. Mary's Abbey, and openly
renounced his allegiance to the English monarch. Archbishop Cromer
implored him with tears to reconsider his purpose, but all entreaties
were vain. Even had he been touched by this disinterested counsel, it
would probably have failed of its effect; for an Irish bard commenced
chanting his praises and his father's wrongs, and thus his doom was
sealed. An attempt was made to arrest him, but it failed. Archbishop
Allen, his father's bitterest enemy, fled to the Castle, with several
other nobles, and here they were besieged by FitzGerald and his
followers. The Archbishop soon contrived to effect his escape. He
embarked at night in a vessel which was then lying at Dame's Gate; but
the ship was stranded near Clontarf, either through accident or design,
and the unfortunate prelate was seized by Lord Thomas' people, who
instantly put him to death. The young nobleman is said by some
authorities to have been present at the murder, as well as his two
uncles: there is at least no doubt of his complicity in the crime. The
sentence of excommunication was pronounced against him, and those who
assisted him, in its most terrible form.

Ecclesiastical intervention was not necessary to complete his ruin. He
had commenced his wild career of lawless violence with but few
followers, and without any influential companions. The Castle of
Maynooth, the great stronghold of the Geraldines, was besieged and
captured by his father's old enemy, Sir William Skeffington. In the
meanwhile the intelligence of his son's insurrection had been
communicated to the Earl, and the news of his excommunication followed
quickly. The unfortunate nobleman succumbed beneath the twofold blow,
and died in a few weeks. Lord Thomas surrendered himself in August,
1535, on the guarantee of Lord Leonard and Lord Butler, under a solemn
promise that his life should be spared.[386] But his fate was in the
hands of one who had no pity, even where the tenderest ties were
concerned. Soon after the surrender of "Silken Thomas," his five uncles
were seized treacherously at a banquet; and although three of them had
no part in the rebellion, the nephew and the uncles were all executed together at Tyburn, on the 3rd of February, 1537. If the King had hoped
by this cruel injustice to rid himself of the powerful family, he was
mistaken. Two children of the late Earl's still existed. They were sons
by his second wife, Lady Elizabeth Grey. The younger, still an infant,
was conveyed to his mother in England; the elder, a youth of twelve
years of age, was concealed by his aunts, who were married to the
chieftains of Offaly and Donegal, and was soon conveyed to France, out
of the reach of the enemies who eagerly sought his destruction. It is
not a little curious to find the native princes, who had been so cruelly
oppressed by his forefathers, protecting and helping the hapless youth,
even at the risk of their lives. It is one of many evidences that the
antipathy of Celt to Saxon is not so much an antipathy of race or
person, as the natural enmity which the oppressed entertains towards the

Henry made his first appearance at establishing his spiritual supremacy
in the year 1534, by appointing an Augustinian friar, who had
already[387] become a Protestant, to the see of Dublin. He was
consecrated by Cranmer, always the servile instrument of the royal
pleasure. The previous events in England, which resulted in the national
schism, are too well known to require much observation. It must be
admitted as one of the most patent facts of history, that the English
King never so much as thought of asserting his supremacy in spiritual
matters, until he found that submission to Papal supremacy interfered
with his sinful inclinations. If Pope Clement VII. had dissolved the
marriage between Queen Catherine and Henry VIII. in 1528, Parliament
would not have been asked to legalize the national schism in 1534. Yet
it would appear as if Henry had hesitated for a moment before he
committed the final act of apostacy. It was Cromwell who suggested the
plan which he eventually followed. With many expressions of humility he
pointed out the course which might be pursued. The approbation of the
Holy See, he said, was the one thing still wanting. It was plain now
that neither bribes nor threats could procure that favour. But was it so
necessary as the King had hitherto supposed? It might be useful to avert
the resentment of the German Emperor; but if it could not be obtained,
why should the King's pleasure depend on the will of another? Several of
the German princes had thrown off their allegiance to the Holy See: why,
then, should not the English King? The law could legalize the King's
inclination, and who dare gainsay its enactments? Let the law declare
Henry the head of the Church, and he could, as such, give himself the
dispensations for which he sought. The law which could frame articles of
faith and sanction canons, could regulate morals as easily as it could
enact a creed.

Such counsel was but too acceptable to a monarch resolved to gratify his
passions at all hazards, temporal or spiritual. Cromwell was at once
appointed a member of the Privy Council. He received a patent for life
of the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, and he was authorized to frame
the necessary bills, and conduct them through the two houses.[388] Parliament complied without hesitation; the clergy in convocation made a
show of opposition, which just sufficed to enhance their moral
turpitude, since their brief resistance intimated that they acted
contrary to their consciences in giving their final assent. The royal
supremacy in matters ecclesiastical, was declared to be the will of God
and the law of the land.

The King's mistress was now made his wife, by the same authority which
had made the King head of the Church; and it was evident that the
immediate cause of the separation of the English nation from the
Catholic Church was the desire of the monarch, that his profligacy
should obtain some kind of sanction. But this commencement of the
Anglican Establishment, however true, is so utterly disreputable, that
English historians have been fain to conceal, as far as might be, the
real cause, and to justify the schism by bringing grave charges[389] against the Church. This, after all, is a mere petitio principii. It
has been already remarked that England was demoralized socially to an
extraordinary degree, as a nation always has been by a continuance of
civil war. The clergy suffered from the same causes which affected the
laity, and the moral condition of the ecclesiastical body was not all
that could be desired. These were remote causes, which acted powerfully
as they rolled along the stream of time, and which broke the barriers of
faith like an overwhelming torrent, when an additional impetus was
given. But it should be distinctly remembered (1) that the direct act of
schism was committed when Henry required Parliament and Convocation to
exalt him to the spiritual supremacy; and (2) that the sins of churchmen
and the faith of the Church are two distinct questions. There may have
been more corruption of life and morals, both in the laity and the
priesthood of the Catholic Church at the Reformation, than at any other
period of the Church's history; but the Jews had been commanded to obey
the Scribes and Pharisees, because they sat in Moses' seat, at the very
time when the Lamb of God could find no milder term to describe their
hypocrisy and iniquity than that of a generation of vipers.

If schism is admitted to be a sin, it is difficult to see how any amount
of crime with which other individuals can be charged, even justly,
lessens the guilt of the schismatic. There can be little doubt that the
members of the Church are most fervent and edifying in their lives, when
suffering from persecution. Ambition has less food when there are no
glittering prizes within its reach. Faith is more sincere when there are
no motives for a false profession, and every natural motive to conceal
religious belief. The Irish clergy were never charged with the gross
crimes which have been mentioned in connexion with some few of their
brethren in England. Those who ministered outside the Pale, lived in
poverty and simplicity. The monasteries were not so richly endowed as
the English conventual houses; and, perhaps, this freedom from the
world's goods, served to nerve them for the coming trial; and that their
purer and more fervent lives saved the Irish Church and people from
national apostacy.

Soon after Dr. Browne's arrival in Ireland, he received an official
letter from Cromwell, containing directions for his conduct there. He is
informed it is "the royal will and pleasure of his Majesty, that his
subjects in Ireland, even as those in England, should obey his commands
in spiritual matters as in temporal, and renounce their allegiance to
the See of Rome." This language was sufficiently plain. They are
required to renounce their allegiance to the See of Rome, simply because
"the King wills it." The affair is spoken of as if it were some
political matter, which could easily be arranged. But the source of this
prelate's authority was simply political; for Henry writes to him thus:
"Let it sink into your remembrance, that we be as able, for the not
doing thereof, to remove you again, and put another man of more virtue
and honesty into your place, as we were at the beginning to prefer you."
Browne could certainly be in no doubt from whom he had received his
commission to teach and preach to the people of Ireland; but that nation
had received the faith many centuries before, from one who came to them
with very different credentials; and years of oppression and most cruel
persecution have failed in inducing them to obey human authority rather
than divine.

Dr. Browne soon found that it was incomparably easier for Henry to issue
commands in England, than for him to enforce them in Ireland. He
therefore wrote to Cromwell, from Dublin, on "the 4th of the kal. of
December, 1535," and informed him that he "had endeavoured, almost to
the danger and hazard of my temporal life, to procure the nobility and
gentry of this nation to due obedience in owning of his Highness their
supreme head, as well spiritual as temporal; and do find much oppugning
therein, especially by my brother Armagh, who hath been the main
oppugner, and so hath withdrawn most of his suffragans and clergy within
his see and diocese. He made a speech to them, laying a curse on the
people whosoever should own his Highness' supremacy, saying, that
isle—as it is in their Irish chronicles, insula sacra—belongs to
none but the Bishop of Rome, and that it was the Bishop of Rome that
gave it to the King's ancestors."[390] Dr. Browne then proceeds to
inform his correspondent that the Irish clergy had sent two messengers
to Rome.[391] He states "that the common people of this isle are more
zealous in their blindness, than the saints and martyrs were in truth;"

and he advises that a Parliament should at once be summoned, "to pass
the supremacy by Act; for they do not much matter his Highness'
commission, which your lordship sent us over." Truly, the nation which
had been so recently enlightened in so marvellous a manner, might have
had a little patience with the people who could not so easily discern
the new light; and, assuredly, if the term "Church by law established"
be applicable to the Protestant religion in England, it is, if possible,
still more applicable to the Protestant Establishment in Ireland, since
the person delegated to found the new religion in that country, has
himself stated it could only be established there by Act of Parliament.

The Parliament was summoned in 1536; but, as a remote preparation, the
Lord Deputy made a "martial circuit" of Ireland, hoping thereby to
overawe the native septs, and compel their submission to the royal will
and pleasure. "This preparation being made," i.e., the "martial
circuit"—I am quoting from Sir John Davies;[392] I request the reader's
special attention to the statement—"he first propounded and passed in
Parliament these Lawes, which made the great alteration in the State
Ecclesiastical, namely, the Act which declared King Henry VIII. to be
Supreme Head of the Church of Ireland; the Act prohibiting Apeales to
the Church of Rome; the Act for first fruites and twentieth part to be
paid to the King; and lastly, the Act that did utterly abolish the
usurped Authoritie of the Pope. Next, for the increase of the King's
Revenew. By one Act he suppressed sundry Abbayes and Religious Houses,
and by another Act resumed the Lands of the Absentees."

The royal process of conversion to the royal opinions, had at least the
merits of simplicity. There is an old rhyme—one of those old rhymes
which are often more effectual in moving the hearts of the multitude
than the most eloquent sermons, and truer exponents of popular feeling
than Acts of Parliament—which describes the fate of Forrest, the
Franciscan friar, confessor of the King's only lawful wife and the
consequences of his temerity in denying the King's supremacy:—

"Forrest, the fryar,
That obstinate lyar,

That wilfully will be dead;
The Gospel doth deny,
The King to be supreme head."

There is a grand and simple irony in this not easily surpassed. Some
very evident proofs had been given in England, that to deny the King's
spiritual supremacy was "wilfully to be dead," although neither the King
nor the Parliament had vouchsafed to inform the victims in what part of
the Gospel the keys of the kingdom of heaven had been given to a
temporal prince. Still, as I have observed, the royal process was
extremely simple—if you believed, you were saved; if you doubted, you

With the example of Sir Thomas More[393] before their eyes, the
Anglo-Norman nobles and gentlemen, assembled in Parliament by the royal
command, were easily persuaded to do the royal bidding. But the
ecclesiastics were by no means so pliable. Every diocese had the
privilege of sending two proctors to Parliament; and these proctors
proved so serious an obstacle, that Lords Grey and Brabazon wrote to
Cromwell, that they had prorogued the Parliament in consequence of the
"forwardness and obstinacy of the proctors, of the clergy, and of the
bishops and abbots;" and they suggest that "some means should be
devised, whereby they should be brought to remember their duty better,"

or that "means may be found which shall put these proctors from a voice
in Parliament."[394] The means were easily found—the proctors were
forbidden to vote.[395] The Act was passed. Every one who objected to it
having been forbidden to vote, Henry's agents on the Continent
proclaimed triumphantly that the Irish nation had renounced the
supremacy of Rome. A triumph obtained at the expense of truth, is but
poor compensation for the heavy retribution which shall assuredly be
demanded of those who have thus borne false witness against their
neighbour. Men forget too often, in the headlong eagerness of
controversy, that truth is eternal and immutable, and that no amount of
self-deceit or successful deception of others can alter its purity and
integrity in the eyes of the Eternal Verity.

The Irish Parliament, or, we should say more correctly, the men
permitted to vote in Ireland according to royal directions, had already
imitated their English brethren by declaring the marriage of Henry and
Catherine of Arragon null and void, and limiting the succession to the
crown to the children of Anna Boleyn. When this lady had fallen a victim
to her husband's caprice, they attainted her and her posterity with
equal facility. A modern historian has attempted to excuse Henry's
repudiation of his lawful wife, on the ground of his sincere anxiety to
prevent disputes about the succession.[396] But the King's subsequent
conduct ought surely to have deterred any one from attempting so rash an
apology. To doubt the royal supremacy, or the right of the lady, who for
the time being held a place in Henry's affections, to royal honours, was
an evidence of insincerity in devotion to himself which he could not
easily pardon.

As it was now ascertained that the Irish people would not apostatize as
a nation, an expedient was prepared for their utter extirpation. It
would be impossible to believe that the human heart could be guilty of
such cruelty, if we had not evidence of the fact in the State Papers. By
this diabolical scheme it was arranged to till or carry away their
cattle, and to destroy their corn while it was green. "The very living
of the Irishry," observes the writer, "doth clearly consist in two
things; and take away the same from them, and they are past power to
recover, or yet to annoy any subject in Ireland. Take first from them
their corn—burn and destroy the same; and then have their cattle and
beasts, which shall be most hardest to come by, and yet, with guides and
policy, they be often had and taken." Such was the arrangement; and it
was from no want of inclination that it was not entirely carried out,
and the "Irishry" starved to death in their own land.

The title of King of Ireland had not as yet been given to English
monarchs, but the ever-subservient Parliament of this reign granted
Henry this addition to his privileges, such as it was. We have already
seen the style in which the "supreme head of the Church" addressed the
bishops whom he had appointed; we shall now give a specimen of their
subserviency to their master, and the fashion in which they executed his
commands, before returning to secular history.

Henry's letter to Dr. Browne is dated July 7th, 1537; the Bishop's reply
is given on the 27th September, 1537. He commences by informing his most
excellent Highness that he had received his most gracious letter on the
7th September, and that "it made him tremble in body for fear of
incurring his Majesty's displeasure," which was doubtless the most
truthful statement in his epistle. He mentions all his zeal and efforts
against Popery, which, he adds, "is a thing not little rooted among the
inhabitants here." He assures the King of his activity in securing the
twentieth part and first-fruits for the royal use (what had been given
to God was now given to Cæsar), and states what, indeed, could not be
denied, that he was the "first spiritual man who moved" for this to be
done. He concludes with the fearful profanity of "desiring of God, that
the ground, should open and swallow him up the hour or minute that he
should declare the Gospel of Christ after any sort than he had done
heretofore, in rebuking the Papistical power, or in any other point
concerning the advancement of his Grace's affairs

Such a tissue of profanity and absurdity was seldom penned; but men who
could write and act thus were fitting instruments for a man, who made it
a point of conscience to commit immoral crimes that he might preserve
the succession; who kept his mistress in the same palace with his queen;
and only went through the form of marriage when he found his real or
pretended wishes about the same succession on the point of being
realized in a manner that even he could not fail to see would scarcely
be admitted as legal or legitimate by public opinion, whatever an
obsequious Parliament might do. It is at least certain that such letters
never were addressed by Catholic prelates to the Holy See, and that
those who speak of its tyranny and priestcraft, and the absolute
submission it requires from its subjects, would do well to remember the
trite motto, Audi alteram partem, and to inquire whether a similar
charge might not be made more justly against the founders of the
Protestant Establishment.

Dr. Browne and the Lord Deputy now rivalled each other in their efforts
to obtain the royal approbation, by destroying all that the Irish people
held most sacred, determined to have as little cause as possible for
"the trembling in body" which the King's displeasure would effect. They
traversed the land from end to end, destroying cathedrals, plundering
abbeys, and burning relics—all in the name of a religion which
proclaimed liberty of conscience to worship God according to individual
conviction, as the great boon which it was to confer on the nation.
However full of painful interest these details may be, as details they
belong to the province of the ecclesiastical historian. The Four Masters
record the work of desecration in touching and mournful strains. They
tell of the heresy which broke out in England, and graphically
characterize it as "the effect of pride, vain-glory, avarice, and
sensual desire." They mention how "the King and Council enacted new laws
and statutes after their own will." They observe that all the property
of the religious orders was seized for the King; and they conclude thus:
"They also made archbishops and bishops for themselves; and although
great was the persecution of the Roman emperors against the Church, it
is not probable that so great a persecution as this ever came upon the
world; so that it is impossible to tell or narrate its description,
unless it should be told by him saw it."[397]

The era of religious persecution was thus inaugurated; and if Ireland
had made no martyrs of the men who came to teach her the faith, she was
not slow to give her best and noblest sons as victims to the fury of
those who attempted to deprive her of that priceless deposit. Under the
year 1540, the Four Masters record the massacre of the Guardian and
friars of the Convent at Monaghan, for refusing to acknowledge the
spiritual supremacy of the King. Cornelius, Bishop of Down, a Franciscan
friar, and Father Thomas FitzGerald, a member of the noble family of the
Geraldines, and a famous preacher, were both killed in the convent of
that Order in Dublin. Father Dominic Lopez has given a detailed account
of the sufferings of the religious orders in Ireland during the reign of
Henry VIII., in a rare and valuable work, entitled, Noticias Historicas
de las tres florentissimas Provincias del celeste Ordem de la Ssma.
.[398] I shall give two instances from this history, as a
sample of the fashion in which the new doctrine of the royal supremacy
was propagated. In 1539 the Prior and religious of the Convent of
Atharee were commanded to take the oath of supremacy, and to surrender
their property to the crown. The Superior, Father Robert, at once
assembled his spiritual children, and informed them of the royal
mandate. Their resolution was unanimous; after the example of the early
Christians, when threatened with martyrdom and spoliation by heathen
emperors, they at once distributed their provisions, clothing, and any
money they had in hand amongst the poor, and concealed the sacred
vessels and ornaments, so that not so much as a single emblem of our
redemption was left to be desecrated by men professing to believe that
they had been redeemed by the cross of Christ. Father Robert was
summoned thrice to recognize the new authority. Thrice he declined;
declaring that "none had ever sought to propagate their religious tenets
by the sword, except the pagan emperors in early ages, and Mahomet in
later times. As for himself and his community, they were resolved that
no violence should move them from the principles of truth: they
recognized no head of the Catholic Church save the Vicar of Jesus
Christ; and as for the King of England, they regarded him not even as a
member of that holy Church, but as head of the synagogue of Satan." The
conclusion of his reply was a signal for massacre. An officer instantly
struck off his head with one blow. As the prisons were already full of
"recusants," the friars were placed in confinement in private houses,
some were secretly murdered, and others were publicly hanged in the
market-place. These events occurred on the 12th and 13th of February,

An almost similar tragedy was enacted in the Trinitarian Convent of
Limerick, where the Prior was coadjutor to the Bishop of that city. He
also assembled the brethren, exhorted them to perseverance, distributed
their few poor possessions, and concealed the sacred vessels. On the
feast of St. John Baptist, 24th June, in the year of grace 1539, he
preached in his cathedral against the new heresy, and exhorted his flock
to persevere in the faith. The emissaries of Government were afraid to
attack him openly; but that evening they visited him at his private
residence, and offered him his choice between death and apostacy. For
all reply the venerable prelate knelt down, and exclaimed: "O Lord, on
this morning I offered to Thee on the altar the unbloody sacrifice of
the body of my Saviour; grant that I may now offer, to Thy greater
honour and glory, the sacrifice of my own life." Then he turned towards
a picture of the most holy Trinity, which was suspended in his room, and
scarce had time to pronounce the aspiration of his Order, "Sancta
Trinitas, unus Deus, miserere nobis
," ere his head was severed from his
body, and he entered upon the beatific vision of the Three in One, for
Whom he had so gladly sacrificed his life.

The Protestant Archbishop, Dr. Browne, the Lord Chancellor, and some
other members of the Council, set out on a "visitation" of the four
counties of Carlow, Wexford, Waterford, and Tipperary, in which the
church militant was for the nonce represented by the church military.
They transmitted an account of their expedition, and the novel fashion
in which they attempted to propagate the Gospel, to England, on the 18th
January, 1539. One brief extract must suffice as a specimen of their
proceedings. "The day following we kept the sessions there [at Wexford].
There was put to execution four felons, accompanied with another, a
friar, whom we commanded to be hanged in his habit, and so to remain
upon the gallows for a mirror to all his brethren to live truly."[399]

There was One, whom from reverence I name not here, who said, when about
to die, that, when "lifted up, He should draw all men unto Him."
Centuries have rolled by since those most blessed words were uttered,
but they have been verified in the disciples as well as in the Master.
The "lifting up" of a friar upon the gallows, or of a bishop upon the
block, has but served to draw men after them; and the reformations they
failed to effect during their lives, by their preaching and example,
have been accomplished after and because of their martyrdoms.

The reformers now began to upbraid each other with the very crimes of
which they had accused the clergy in England. When mention is made of
the immense sums of money which were obtained by the confiscation of
religious houses at this period, it has been commonly and naturally
supposed, that the religious were possessors of immense wealth, which
they hoarded up for their own benefit; and although each person made a
vow of poverty, it is thought that what was possessed collectively, was
enjoyed individually. But this false impression arises (1) from a
mistaken idea of monastic life, and (2) from a misapprehension as to the
kind of property possessed by the religious.

A brief account of some of the property forfeited in Ireland, will
explain this important matter. We do not find in any instance that
religious communities had large funds of money. If they had extensive
tracts of land, they were rather the property of the poor, who farmed
them, than of the friars, who held them in trust. Any profit they
produced made no addition to the fare or the clothing of the religious,
for both fare and clothing were regulated by certain rules framed by the
original founders, and which could not be altered. These rules
invariably required the use of the plainest diet and of the coarsest
habits. A considerable portion—indeed, by far the most considerable
portion—of conventual wealth, consisted in the sacred vessels and
ornaments. These had been bestowed on the monastic churches by
benefactors, who considered that what was used in the service of God
should be the best which man could offer. The monk was none the richer
if he offered the sacrifice to the Eternal Majesty each morning in a
chalice of gold, encrusted with the most precious jewels; but if it were
right and fitting to present that chalice to God for the service of His
Divine Majesty, who shall estimate the guilt of those who presumed to
take the gift from Him to whom it had been given? We know how terrible
was the judgment which came upon a heathen monarch who dared to use the
vessels which had belonged to the Jewish Temple, and we may believe that
a still more terrible judgment is prepared for those who desecrate
Christian churches, and that it will be none the less sure, because,
under the new dispensation of mercy, it comes less swiftly.

All the gold and silver plate, jewels, ornaments, lead, bells, &c., were
reserved by special command for the King's use.[400] The church-lands
were sold to the highest bidder, or bestowed as a reward on those who
had helped to enrich the royal coffers by sacrilege. Amongst the records
of the sums thus obtained, we find £326 2s. 11d., the price of divers
pieces of gold and silver, of precious stones, silver ornaments, &c.;
also £20, the price of 1,000 lbs. of wax. The sum of £1,710 2s. was
realized from the sale of sacred vessels belonging to thirty-nine
monasteries. The profits on the spoliation of St. Mary's, Dublin,
realized £385. The destruction of the Collegiate Church of St. Patrick
must have procured an enormous profit, as we find that Cromwell received
£60 for his pains in effecting the same. It should also be remembered
that the value of a penny then was equal to the value of a shilling now,
so that we should multiply these sums at least by ten to obtain an
approximate idea of the extent of this wholesale robbery.

The spoilers now began to quarrel over the spoils. The most active or
the most favoured received the largest share; and Dr. Browne grumbled
loudly at not obtaining all he asked for. But we have not space to
pursue the disedifying history of their quarrels. The next step was to
accuse each other. In the report of the Commissioners appointed in 1538
to examine into the state of the country, we find complaints made of the
exaction of undue fees, extortions for baptisms and marriages, &c. They
also (though this was not made an accusation by the Commissioners)
received the fruits of benefices in which they did not officiate, and
they were accused of taking wives and dispensing with the sacrament of
matrimony. The King, whatever personal views he might have on this
subject, expected his clergy to live virtuously; and in 1542 he wrote to
the Lord Deputy, requiring an Act to be passed "for the continency of
the clergy," and some "reasonable plan to be devised for the avoiding of
sin." However, neither the Act nor the reasonable plan appear to have
succeeded. In 1545, Dr. Browne writes: "Here reigneth insatiable
ambition; here reigneth continually coigne and livery, and callid
extortion." Five years later, Sir Anthony St. Leger, after piteous
complaints of the decay of piety and the increase of immorality,
epitomizes the state of the country thus: "I never saw the land so far
out of good order."[401] Pages might be filled with such details; but
the subject shall be dismissed with a brief notice of the three props of
the Reformation and the King's supremacy in Ireland. These were Dr.
Browne of Dublin, Dr. Staples of Meath, and Dr. Bale of Ossory. The
latter writing of the former in 1553, excuses the corruption of his own
reformed clergy, by stating that "they would at no hand obey; alleging
for their vain and idle excuse, the lewd example of the Archbishop of
Dublin, who was always slack in things pertaining to God's glory." He
calls him "an epicurious archbishop, a brockish swine, and a dissembling
proselyte," and accuses him in plain terms of "drunkenness and
gluttony." Dr. Browne accuses Dr. Staples of having preached in such a
manner, "as I think the three-mouthed Cerberus of hell could not have
uttered it more viperously." And Dr. Mant, the Protestant panegyrist of
the Reformation and the Reformers, admits that Dr. Bale was guilty of
"uncommon warmth of temperament"—a polite appellation for a most
violent temper; and of "unbecoming coarseness"—a delicate definement of
a profligate life. His antecedents were not very creditable. After
flying from his convent in England, he was imprisoned for preaching
sedition in York and London. He obtained his release by professing
conformity to the new creed. He eventually retired to Canterbury, after
his expulsion from Kilkenny by the Catholics, and there he died, in