EVENTS OF THE REIGN OF PHILIP AND MARY.
The death of Edward VI. and the accession of the lady Mary were known in Dublin by the middle of July, 1553, and soon spread all over the kingdom. On the 20th of that month, the form of proclamation was received from London, in which the new Queen was forbidden to be styled "head of the church," and this was quickly followed by another ordinance, authorizing all who would to publicly attend Mass, but not compelling thereto any who were unwilling. A curious legal difficulty existed in relation to Mary's title to the Crown of Ireland. By the Irish Statute, 38. Hen. VIII., the Irish crown was entailed by name on the Lady Elizabeth, and that act had not been repealed. It was, however, held to have been superseded by the English Statute, 35. Hen. VIII., which followed the election of 1541, and declared the Crown of Ireland "united and knit to the Imperial Crown of the Realm of England." Read in the light of the latter statute, the Irish sovereignty might be regarded a mere appurtenance of that of England, but Mary did not so consider it. At her coronation, a separate crown was used for Ireland, nor did she feel assured of the validity of her claim to wear it till she had obtained a formal dispensation to that effect from the Pope.
The intelligence of the new Queen's accession, and the public restoration of the old religion, diffused a general joy throughout Ireland. Festivals and pageants were held in the streets, and eloquent sermons poured from all the pulpits. Archbishop Dowdal was called from exile, and the Primacy was restored to Armagh. Sir Anthony St. Leger, his ancient antagonist, had now conformed to the Court fashion, and was sent over to direct the establishment of that religion which he had been so many years engaged in pulling down. In 1554, Browne, Staples, Lancaster, and Travers, were formally deprived of their sees; Bale and Casey of Limerick fled beyond seas, without awaiting judgment. Married clergymen were invariably silenced, and the children of Browne were declared by statute illegitimate.
What, however, gratified the public even more than these retributions was the liberation of the aged Chief of Offally from the Tower of London, at the earnest supplication of his heroic daughter, Margaret, who found her way to the Queen's presence to beg that boon; and the simultaneous restoration of the Earldom of Kildare, in the person of that Gerald, who had been so young a fugitive among the glens of Muskerry and Donegal, and had since undergone so many continental adventures. With O'Conor and young Gerald, the heirs of the houses of Ormond and of Upper Ossory were also allowed to return to their homes, to the great delight of the southern half of the kingdom. The subsequent marriage of Mary with Philip II. of Spain gave an additional security to the Irish Catholics for the future freedom of their religion.
Great as was the change in this respect, it is not to be inferred that the national relations of Ireland and England were materially affected by such a change of sovereign. The maxims of conquest were not to be abandoned at the dictates of religion. The supreme power continued to be entrusted only to Englishmen; while the same Parliament (3rd and 4th Philip and Mary) which abolished the title of head of the Church, and restored the Roman jurisdiction in matters spiritual, divided Leix and Offally, Glenmalier and Slewmargy, into shire ground, subject to English law, under the name of King's and Queen's County. The new forts of Maryborough and Philipstown, as well as the county names, served to teach the people of Leinster that the work of conquest could be as industriously prosecuted by Catholic as by Protestant rulers. Nor were these forts established and maintained without many a struggle. St. Leger, and his still abler successor, the Earl of Sussex, and the new Lord Treasurer, Sir Henry Sidney, were forced to lead many an expedition to the relief of those garrisons, and the dispersion of their assailants. It was not in Irish human nature to submit to the constant pressure of a foreign power without seizing every possible opportunity for its expulsion.
The new principle of primogeniture introduced at the commutation of chieftainries into earldoms was productive in this reign of much commotion and bloodshed. The seniors of the O'Briens resisted its establishment in Thomond, on the death of the first Earl; Calvagh O'Donnell took arms against his father, to defeat its introduction into Tyrconnell; John the Proud, as we have seen in the reign of Edward, had been one of its earliest opponents in Ulster. Being accused in the last year of Queen Mary of procuring the death of his illegitimate brother, the Baron of Dungannon, in order to remove him from his path, he was summoned to account for those circumstances before Sir Henry Sidney, then acting as Lord Justice. His plea has been preserved to us, and no doubt represents the prevailing opinion of the Gaelic-speaking population towards the new system. He answered, "that the surrender which his father had made to Henry VIII., and the restoration which Henry made to his father again were of no force; inasmuch as his father had no right to the lands which he surrendered to the King, except during his own life; that he (John) himself was the O'Neil by the law of Tanistry, and by popular election; and that he assumed no superiority over the chieftains of the North except what belonged to his ancestors." To these views he adhered to the last, accepting no English honours, though quite willing to live at peace with English sovereigns. When the title of Earl of Tyrone was revived, it was in favour of the son of the Baron, the celebrated Hugh O'Neil, the ally of Spain, and the most formidable antagonist of Queen Elizabeth.
In the Irish Parliament already referred to (3rd and 4th Philip and Mary) an Act was passed declaring it a felony to introduce armed Scotchmen into Ireland, or to intermarry with them without a license under the great seal. This statute was directed against those multitudes of Islesmen and Highlanders who annually crossed the narrow strait which separates Antrim from Argyle to harass the English garrisons alongshore, or to enlist as auxiliaries in Irish quarrels. In 1556, under one of their principal leaders, James, son of Conal, they laid siege to Carrickfergus and occupied Lord Sussex some six weeks in the glens of Antrim. Their leader finally entered into conditions, the nature of which may be inferred from the fact that he received the honour of knighthood on their acceptance. John O'Neil had usually in his service a number of these mercenary troops, from among whom he selected sixty body-guards, the same number supplied by his own clan. In his first attempt to subject Tyrconnell to his supremacy in 1557, his camp near Raphoe was surprised at night by Calvagh O'Donnell, and his native and foreign guards were put to the sword, while he himself barely escaped by swimming the Mourne and the Finn. O'Donnell had frequently employed a similar force, in his own defence; and we read of the Lord of Clanrickarde driving back a host of them engaged in the service of his rivals, from the banks of the Moy, in 1558.
Although the memory of Queen Mary has been held up to execration during three centuries as a bloody-minded and malignant persecutor of all who differed from her in religion, it is certain that in Ireland, where, if anywhere, the Protestant. minority might have been extinguished by such severities as are imputed to her, no persecution for conscience' sake took place. Married Bishops were deprived, and married priests were silenced, but beyond this no coercion was employed. It has been said there was not time to bring the machinery to bear; but surely if there was time to do so in England, within the space of five years, there was tune in Ireland also. The consoling truth--honourable to human nature and to Christian charity, is--that many families out of England, apprehending danger in their own country, sought and found a refuge from their fears in the western island. The families of Agar, Ellis, and Harvey, are descended from emigrants, who were accompanied from Cheshire by a clergyman of their own choice, whose ministrations they freely enjoyed during the remainder of this reign at Dublin. The story about Dr. Cole having been despatched to Ireland with a commission to punish heretics, and, losing it on the way, is unworthy of serious notice. If there had been any such determination formed there was ample time to put it into execution between 1553 and 1558.