England and Ireland: Tudor Reconquest (1530s-1603)

Figure 1.--This Lucas de Heere (1534-84) drawing depicts Irish people about 1575. De Heere was a Flemish painter, poet and writer. He was a Protestant and during the Dutch War of Independence, the Spanish overran Flanders and stamped out Protestantism. Just as the English aided the Dutch, the Spanish aided the Irish. De Heere thus spent many years in Britain as a refugee. Notice that the boy has a bagpipe and the man is wearing kilt-like robes. Notice the writing at the top. It is in French, just begiining to evolve into modern French. It says something like "Irish people as they go dressed in the service of their king Henry." THat means that they were in the service of Henry VIII, the English king in the process of conquering Ireland. The Irish resisting King Henry presumably dressed the same. Bare feet were common in Ireland until recently despite chilly, wet weather.

The English reconquest of Ireland began under King Henry VIII and was continued by other Tudor monarchs, especially Elizabeth. At the onset of the reconquest, English control was limited to the Pale--a small area around Dublin. Silken Thomas, the Earl of Kildare, led a rebellion against King Henry (1530s). It failed, but Henry decided to punish the Irish. Henry had himself declared King of Ireland by the Parliament of Ireland. King Henrywas determined to restore English control which had gradually been lost after the Norman conquest. Henry's project was continued by his successors, including Catholic Queen Mary. Henry and his successors used both conciliation and repression. The English conquest was not just a military campaign. The Tudors unlike the Normans began to impose English law, language, and culture. And there was an effort to impose the English Church (Anglicanism) as the state religion. The Irish found themselves caught between their widespread support for the Catholic Church and Papacy the demands of the Tudor monarchy for loyalty. Religion oroved to be the only area in which the Irish succesfully reisted. The Irish received some foreign support. The Spanish Empire intervened during the Anglo-Spanish War which culminated with the Spanish Armada. Queen Mary atempted to make England Catholic again. And her edicts repealing anti-Catholic laws were well received in Ireland. But Mary did not treat her co-religionists any more kindly than her preecesors. She ordered an English army into the Pale and seized counties Laois and Offaly, just west west of Dublin (1556). This was not just and, grab, but an act of ethnic cleanings. She ordered the removal of the Irish population. The land was turned ivr to Catholic English settlers. The dispossed Irish fought back for some 50 years. Queen Elizabeth I came to the English throne (1558). Herreligious settlement finalized the character of the Church if England with many Protestant reforms. It was during Elizabeth's reign that the process of founding Englih colonies in North america begn, but with little success. Ireland seemed a more accessable territory to colonize. It was closer and had manyb similiar characteristics to England. The Irish Catholic aristocracy was unwilling to accept the sovereignty of Queen Elizabeth beyond the Pale. The O'Neills of Tyrone attacked, but were efeated (1561). Revolts by the FitzGeralds of Cork and Kerry were supressed (1575 and 1580). Queen Elizabeth took advantage of the defeat of the FitzGeralds in Cork and began what was called a plantation in Munster. Protestants settled in what had been FitzGerald land. The plantation proved successful, towns developed and the colony prospered (1587). The Irish struck back, destroying the colony (1598). Elizabeth died a few years later. By this time, however, the Tudor conquest was almost complete. All of Ireland came under control of James I (1603). The country was governed by a privy council at Dublin. The Tudors largely destroyed Gaelic Ireland as a political structure. The Spanish ceased to intervene directly. This control was increased after the Flight of the Earls (1607). The Tudor conquest made possible the extensive confiscation of Catholic-owned land by English, Scots, and Welsh colonists. King James I would pursue the plantation policy more vigorously in the north, using Scotts and English Protestants that would become known as the Scotts-Irish. This lead to the Plantation of Ulster and a Protestant north. Ironically, the Scotts-Irish who played a role in the English conquet of the small province of northern Ireland would play a major role in the English loss of much of North America--essentially a continent.


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Created: 4:03 AM 4/11/2015
Last updated: 4:03 AM 4/11/2015