(1422-1447,) Ormond was five times Lieutenant or Deputy, and Talbot five times Deputy, Lord Justice, or Lord Commissioner. Their factious controversy culminated with "the articles" adopted in 1441, which altogether failed of the intended effect; Ormond was reappointed two years afterwards to his old office; nor was it till 1446, when the Earl of Shrewsbury was a third time sent over, that the Talbots had any substantial advantage over their rivals. The recall of the Earl for service in France, and the death of the Archbishop two years later, though it deprived the party they had formed of a resident leader, did not lead to its dissolution. Bound together by common interests and dangers, their action may be traced in opposition to the Geraldines, through the remaining years of Henry VI., and perhaps so late as the earlier years of Henry VII. (1485-1500).
In the struggle of dynasties from which England suffered so severely during the fifteenth century, the drama of ambition shifted its scenes from London and York to Calais and Dublin. The appointment of Richard, Duke of York, as Lord Lieutenant, in 1449, presented him an opportunity of creating a Yorkist party among the nobles and people of "the Pale." This able and ambitious Prince possessed in his hereditary estate resources equal to great enterprises. He was in the first place the representative of the third son of Edward III.; on the death of his cousin the Earl of March, in 1424, he became heir to that property and title. He was Duke of York, Earl of March, and Earl of Rutland, in England; Earl of Ulster and Earl of Cork, Lord of Connaught, Clare, Meath, and Trim, in Ireland. He had been, twice Regent of France, during the minority of Henry, where he upheld the cause of the Plantagenet King with signal ability. By the peace concluded at Tours, between England, France, and Burgundy, in 1444, he was enabled to return to England, where the King had lately come of age, and begun to exhibit the weak though amiable disposition which led to his ruin. The events of the succeeding two or three years were calculated to expose Henry to the odium of his subjects and the machinations of his enemies. Town after town and province after province were lost in France; the Regent Somerset returned to experience the full force of this unpopularity; the royal favourite, Suffolk, was banished, pursued, and murdered at sea; the King's uncles, Cardinal Beaufort and the Duke of Gloucester, were removed by death--so that every sign and circumstance of the time whispered encouragement to the ambitious Duke. When, therefore, the Irish lieutenancy was offered, in order to separate him from his partizans, he at first refused it; subsequently, however, he accepted, on conditions dictated by himself, calculated to leave him wholly his own master. These conditions, reduced to writing in the form of an Indenture between the King and the Duke, extended his lieutenancy to a period of ten years; allowed him, besides the entire revenue of Ireland, an annual subsidy from England; full power to let the King's land, to levy and maintain soldiers, to place or displace all officers, to appoint a Deputy, and to return to England at his pleasure. On these terms the ex-Regent of France undertook the government of the English settlement in Ireland.
Arrived at Dublin, the Duke (as in his day he was always called,) employed himself rather to strengthen his party than to extend the limits of his government. Soon after his arrival a son was born to him, and baptized with great pomp in the Castle. James, fifth Earl of Ormond, and Thomas, eighth Earl of Desmond, were invited to stand as sponsors. In the line of policy indicated by this choice, he steadily persevered during his whole connection with Ireland--which lasted till his death, in 1460. Alternately he named a Butler and a Geraldine as his deputy, and although he failed ultimately to win the Earl of Ormond from the traditional party of his family, he secured the attachment of several of his kinsmen. Stirring events in England, the year after his appointment, made it necessary for him to return immediately. The unpopularity of the administration which had banished him had rapidly augmented. The French King had recovered the whole of Normandy, for four centuries annexed to the English Crown. Nothing but Calais remained of all the Continental possessions which the Plantagenets had inherited, and which Henry V. had done so much to strengthen and extend. Domestic abuses aggravated the discontent arising from foreign defeats. The Bishop of Chichester, one of the ministers, was set upon and slain by a mob at Portsmouth. Twenty thousand men of Kent, under the command of Jack Cade, an Anglo-Irishman, who had given himself out as a son of the last Earl of March, who died in the Irish government twenty-five years before, marched upon London. They defeated a royal force at Sevenoaks, and the city opened its gate at the summons of Cade. The Kentish men took possession of Southwark, while their Irish leader for three days, entering the city every morning, compelled the mayor and the judges to sit in the Guildhall, tried and sentenced Lord Say to death, who, with his son-in-law, Cromer, Sheriff of Kent, was accordingly executed. Every evening, as he had promised the citizens, he retired with his guards across the river, preserving the strictest order among them. But the royalists were not idle, and when, on the fourth morning Cade attempted as usual to enter London proper, he found the bridge of Southwark barricaded and defended by a strong force under the Lord Scales. After six hours' hard fighting his raw levies were repulsed, and many of them accepted a free pardon tendered to them in the moment of defeat. Cade retired with the remainder on Deptford and Rochester, but gradually abandoned by them, he was surprised, half famished in a garden at Heyfield, and put to death. His captor claimed and received the large reward of a thousand marks offered for his head. This was in the second week of July; on the 1st of September, news was brought to London that the Duke of York had suddenly landed from Ireland. His partizans eagerly gathered round him at his castle of Fotheringay, but for five years longer, by the repeated concessions of the gentle-minded Henry, and the interposition of powerful mediators, the actual war of the roses was postponed.
It is beyond our province to follow the details of that ferocious struggle, which was waged almost incessantly from 1455 till 1471--from the first battle of St. Albans till the final battle at Tewksbury. We are interested in it mainly as it connects the fortunes of the Anglo-Irish Earls with one or other of the dynasties; and their fortunes again, with the benefit or disadvantage of their allies and relatives among our native Princes. Of the transactions in England, it may be sufficient to say that the Duke of York, after his victory at St. Albans in '55, was declared Lord Protector of the realm during Henry's imbecility; that the next year the King recovered and the Protector's office was abolished; that in '57 both parties stood at bay; in '58 an insecure peace was patched up between them; in '59 they appealed to arms, the Yorkists gained a victory at Bloreheath, but being defeated at Ludiford, Duke Richard, with one of his sons, fled for safety into Ireland.
It was the month of November when the fugitive Duke arrived to resume the Lord Lieutenancy which he had formerly exercised. Legally, his commission, for those who recognized the authority of King Henry, had expired four months before--as it bore date from July 5th, 1449; but it is evident the majority of the Anglo-Irish received him as a Prince of their own election rather than as an ordinary Viceroy. He held, soon after his arrival, a Parliament at Dublin, which met by adjournment at Drogheda the following spring. The English Parliament having declared him, his duchess, sons, and principal adherents traitors, and writs to that effect having been sent over, the Irish Parliament passed a declaratory Act (1460) making the service of all such writs treason against their authority--"it having been ever customary in their land to receive and entertain strangers with due respect and hospitality." Under this law, an emissary of the Earl of Ormond, upon whom English writs against the fugitives were found, was executed as a traitor. This independent Parliament confirmed the Duke in his office; made it high treason to imagine his death, and--taking advantage of the favourable conjuncture of affairs--they further declared that the inhabitants of Ireland could only be bound by laws made in Ireland; that no writs were of force unless issued under the great seal of Ireland; that the realm had of ancient right its own Lord Constable and Earl Marshal, by whom alone trials for treason alleged to have been committed in Ireland could be conducted. In the same busy spring, the Earl of Warwick (so celebrated as "the Kingmaker" of English history) sailed from Calais, of which he was Constable, with the Channel-fleet, of which he was also in command, and doubling the Land's End of England, arrived at Dublin to concert measures for another rising in England. He found the Duke at Dublin "surrounded by his Earls and homagers," and measures were soon concerted between them.
An appeal to the English nation was prepared at this Conference, charging upon Henry's advisers that they had written to the French King to besiege Calais, and to the Irish Princes to expel the English settlers. The loyalty of the fugitive lords, and their readiness to prove their innocence before their sovereign, were stoutly asserted. Emissaries were despatched in every direction; troops were raised; Warwick soon after landed in Kent-always strongly pro-Yorkist-defeated the royalists at Northampton in July, and the Duke reaching London in October, a compromise was agreed to, after much discussion, in which Henry was to have the crown for life, while the Duke was acknowledged as his successor, and created president of his council.
We have frequently remarked in our history the recurrence of conflicts between the north and south of the island. The same thing is distinctly traceable through the annals of England down to a quite recent period. Whether difference of race, or of admixture of race may not lie at the foundation of such long-living enmities, we will not here attempt to discuss; such, however, is the fact. Queen Margaret had fled northward after the defeat of Northampton towards the Scottish border, from which she now returned at the head of 20,000 men. The Duke advanced rapidly to meet her, and engaging with a far inferior force at Wakefield, was slain in the field, or beheaded after the battle. All now seemed lost to the Yorkist party, when young Edward, son of Duke Richard, advancing from the marches of Wales at the head of an army equal in numbers to the royalists, won, in the month of February, 1461, the battles of Mortimers-cross and Barnet, and was crowned at Westminster in March, by the title of Edward IV. The sanguinary battle of Towton, soon after his coronation, where 38,000 dead were reckoned by the heralds, confirmed his title and established his throne. Even the subsequent hostility of Warwick--though it compelled him once to surrender himself a prisoner, and once to fly the country--did not finally transfer the sceptre to his rival. Warwick was slain in the battle of Tewkesbury (1471), the Lancasterian Prince Edward was put to death on the field, and his unhappy father was murdered in prison. Two years later, Henry, Earl of Richmond, grandson of Catherine, Queen of Henry V. and Owen Ap Tudor, the only remaining leader capable of rallying the beaten party, was driven into exile in France, from which he returned fourteen years afterwards to contest the crown with Richard III.
In these English wars, the only Irish nobleman who sustained the Lancasterian cause was James, fifth Earl of Ormond. He had been created by Henry, Earl of Wiltshire, during his father's lifetime, in the same year in which his father stood sponsor in Dublin for the son of the Duke. He succeeded to the Irish title and estates in 1451: held a foremost rank in almost all the engagements from the battle of Saint Albans to that of Towton, in which he was taken prisoner and executed by order of Edward IV. His blood was declared attainted, and his estates forfeited; but a few years later both the title and property were restored to Sir John Butler, the sixth Earl. On the eve of the open rupture between the Roses, another name intimately associated with Ireland disappeared from the roll of the English nobility. The veteran Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, in the eightieth year of his age, accepted the command of the English forces in France, retook the city of Bordeaux, but fell in attack on the French camp at Chatillon, in the subsequent campaign-1453. His son, Lord Lisle, was slain at the same time, defending his father's body. Among other consequences which ensued, the Talbot interest in Ireland suffered from the loss of so powerful a patron at the English court. We have only to add that at Wakefield, and in most of the other engagements, there was a strong Anglo-Irish contingent in the Yorkist ranks, and a smaller one--chiefly tenants of Ormond--on the opposite side. Many writers complain that the House of York drained "the Pale" of its defenders, and thus still further diminished the resources of the English interest in Ireland.
In the last forty years of the fifteenth century, the history of "the Pale" is the biography of the family of the Geraldines. We must make some brief mention of the remarkable men to whom we refer.
Thomas, eighth Earl of Desmond, for his services to the House of York, was appointed Lord Deputy in the first years of Edward IV. He had naturally made himself obnoxious to the Ormond interest, but still more so to the Talbots, whose leader in civil contests was Sherwood, Bishop of Meath--for some years, in despite of the Geraldines, Lord Chancellor. Between him and Desmond there existed the bitterest animosity. In 1464, nine of the Deputy's men were slain in a broil in Fingall, by tenants or servants of the Bishop. The next year each party repaired to London to vindicate himself and criminate his antagonist. The Bishop seems to have triumphed, for in 1466, John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, called in England, for his barbarity to Lancasterian prisoners, "the Butcher," superseded Desmond. The movement of Thaddeus O'Brien, already related, the same year, gave Tiptoft grounds for accusing Desmond, Kildare, Sir Edward Plunkett, and others, of treason. On this charge he summoned them before him at Drogheda in the following February. Kildare wisely fled to England, where he pleaded his innocence successfully with the King. But Desmond and Plunkett, over-confident of their own influence, repaired to Drogheda, were tried, condemned, and beheaded. Their execution took place on the 15th day of February, 1467. It is instructive to add that Tiptoft, a few years later, underwent the fate in England, without exciting a particle of the sympathy felt for Desmond.
Thomas, seventh Earl of Kildare, succeeded on his safe return from England to more than the power of his late relative. The office of Chancellor, after a sharp struggle, was taken from Bishop Sherwood, and confirmed to him for life by an act of the twelfth, Edward III. He had been named Lord Justice after Tiptoft's recall, in 1467, and four years later exchanged the title for that of Lord Deputy to the young Duke of Clarence--the nominal Lieutenant. In 1475, on some change of Court favour, the supreme power was taken from him, and conferred on the old enemy of his House, the Bishop of Meath. Kildare died two years later, having signalized his latter days by founding an Anglo-Irish order of chivalry, called "the Brothers of St. George." This order was to consist of 13 persons of the highest rank within the Pale, 120 mounted archers, and 40 horsemen, attended by 40 pages. The officers were to assemble annually in Dublin, on St. George's Day, to elect their Captain from their own number. After having existed twenty years the Brotherhood was suppressed by the jealousy of Henry VII., in 1494.
Gerald, eighth Earl of Kildare (called in the Irish Annals Geroit More, or "the Great"), succeeded his father in 1477. He had the gratification of ousting Sherwood from the government the following year, and having it transferred to himself. For nearly forty years he continued the central figure among the Anglo-Irish, and as his family were closely connected by marriage with the McCarthys, O'Carrolls of Ely, the O'Conors of Offally, O'Neils and O'Donnells, he exercised immense influence over the affairs of all the Provinces. In his tune, moreover, the English interest, under the auspices of an undisturbed dynasty, and a cautious, politic Prince (Henry VII.), began by slow and almost imperceptible degrees to recover the unity and compactness it had lost ever since the Red Earl's death.