On the last day of January, 1547, Edward, son of Henry, by Lady Jane Seymour, was crowned by the title of Edward
The Irish Privy Council, which exercised all the powers of government during this short reign, was composed exclusively of partizans of the Reformation. Besides Archbishop Browne and Staples, Bishop of Meath, its members were the Chancellor, Read, and the Treasurer, Brabazon, both English, with the Judges Aylmer, Luttrel, Bath, Cusack, and Howth--all proselytes, at least in form, to the new opinions. The Earl of Ormond, with sixteen of his household, having been poisoned at a banquet in Ely House, London, in October before Henry's death, the influence of that great house was wielded during the minority of his successor by Sir Francis Bryan, an English adventurer, who married the widowed countess. This lady being, moreover, daughter and heir general to James, Earl of Desmond, brought Bryan powerful connections in the South, which he was not slow to turn to a politic account. His ambition aimed at nothing less than the supreme authority, military and civil; but when at length he attained the summit of his hopes, he only lived to enjoy them a few months.
To enable the Deputy and Council to carry out the work they had begun, an additional military force was felt to be necessary, and Sir Edward Bellingham was sent over, soon after Edward's accession, with a detachment of six hundred horse, four hundred foot, and the title of Captain General. This able officer, in conjunction with Sir Francis Bryan, who appears to have been everywhere, overran Offally, Leix, Ely and West-Meath, sending the chiefs of the two former districts as prisoners to London, and making advantageous terms with those of the latter. He was, however, supplanted in the third year of Edward by Bryan, who held successively the rank of Marshal of Ireland and Lord Deputy. To the latter office he was chosen on an emergency, by the Council, in December, 1549, but died at Clonmel, on an expedition against the O'Carrolls, in the following February. His successes and those of Bellingham hastened the reduction of Leix and Offally into shire ground in the following reign.
The total military force at the disposal of Edward's commanders was probably never less than 10,000 effective men. By the aid of their abundant artillery, they were enabled to take many strong places hitherto deemed impregnable to assault. The mounted men and infantry, were, as yet, but partially armed with musquetons, or firelocks--for the spear and the bow still found advocates among military men. The spearmen or lancers were chiefly recruited on the marches of Northumberland from the hardy race of border warriors; the mounted bowmen or hobilers were generally natives of Chester or North Wales. Between these new comers and the native Anglo-Irish troops many contentions arose from time to time, but in the presence of the common foe these bickerings were completely forgotten. The townsmen of Waterford marched promptly at a call, under their standard of the three galleys, and those of Dublin as cheerfully turned out under the well-known banner, decorated with three flaming towers.
The personnel of the administration, in the six years of Edward, was continually undergoing change. Bellingham, who succeeded St. Leger, was supplanted by Bryan, on whose death, St. Leger was reappointed. After another year Sir James Croft was sent over to replace St. Leger, and continued to fill the office until the accession of Queen Mary. But whoever rose or fell to the first rank in civil affairs, the Privy Council remained exclusively Protestant, and the work of innovation was not suffered to languish. A manuscript account, attributed to Adam Loftus, Browne's successor, assigns the year 1549 as the date when "the Mass was put down," in Dublin, "and divine service was celebrated in English." Bishop Mant, the historian of the Established Church in Ireland, does not find any account of such an alteration, nor does the statement appear to him consistent with subsequent facts of this reign. We observe, also, that in 1550, Arthur Magennis, the Pope's Bishop of Dromore, was allowed by the government to enter on possession of his temporalities after taking an oath of allegiance, while King's Bishops were appointed in that and the next two years to the vacant Sees of Kildare, Leighlin, Ossory, and Limerick. A vacancy having occurred in the See of Cashel, in 1551, it was unaccountably left vacant, as far as the Crown was concerned, during the remainder of this reign, while a similar vacancy in Armagh was filled, at least in name, by the appointment of Dr. Hugh Goodacre, chaplain to the Bishop of Winchester, and a favourite preacher with the Princess Elizabeth. This Prelate was consecrated, according to a new form, in Christ Church, Dublin, on 2nd of February, 1523, together with his countryman, John Bale, Bishop of Ossory. The officiating Prelates were Browne, Staples, and Lancaster of Kildare--all English. The Irish Establishment, however, does not at all times rest its argument for the validity of its episcopal Order upon these consecrations. Most of their writers lay claim to the Apostolic succession, through Adam Loftus, consecrated in England, according to the ancient rite, by Hugh Curwen, an Archbishop in communion with the See of Rome, at the time of his elevation to the episcopacy.
In February, 1551, Sir Anthony St. Leger received the King's commands to cause the Scriptures translated into the English tongue, and the Liturgy and Prayers of the Church, also translated into English, to be read in all the churches of Ireland. To render these instructions effective, the Deputy summoned a convocation of the Archbishops, Bishops, and Clergy, to meet in Dublin on the 1st of March, 1551. In this meeting--the first of two in which the defenders of the old and of the new religion met face to face--the Catholic party was led by the intrepid Dowdal, Archbishop of Armagh, and the Reformers by Archbishop Browne. The Deputy, who, like most laymen of that age, had a strong theological turn, also took an active part in the discussion. Finally delivering the royal order to Browne, the latter accepted it in a set form of words, without reservation; the Anglican Bishops of Meath, Kildare, and Leighlin, and Coyne, Bishop of Limerick, adhering to his act; Primate Dowdal, with the other Bishops, having previously retired from the Conference. On Easter day following, the English service was celebrated for the first tune in Christ Church, Dublin, the Deputy, the Archbishop, and the Mayor of the city assisting. Browne preached from the text: "Open mine eyes that I may see the wonders of the law" --a sermon chiefly remarkable for its fierce invective against the new Order of Jesuits.
Primate Dowdal retired from the Castle Conference to Saint Mary's Abbey, on the north side of the Liffey, where he continued while these things were taking place in the city proper. The new Lord Deputy, Sir James Crofts, on his arrival in May, addressed himself to the Primate, to bring about, if possible, an accommodation between the Prelates. Fearing, as he said, an "order ere long to alter church matters, as well in offices as in ceremonies," the new Deputy urged another Conference, which was accordingly held at the Primate's lodgings, on the 16th of June. At this meeting Browne does not seem to have been present, the argument on the side of the Reformers being maintained by Staples. The points discussed were chiefly the essential character of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the invocation of Saints. The tone observed on both sides was full of high-bred courtesy. The letter of the Sacred Scriptures and the authority of Erasmus in Church History were chiefly relied upon by Staples; the common consent and usage of all Christendom, the primacy of Saint Peter, and the binding nature of the oath taken by Bishops at their consecration, were pointed out by the Primate. The disputants parted, with expressions of deep regret that they could come to no agreement; but the Primacy was soon afterwards transferred to Dublin, by order of the Privy Council, and Dowdal fled for refuge into Brabant. The Roman Catholic and the Anglican Episcopacy have never since met in oral controversy on Irish ground, though many of the second order of the clergy in both communions have, from time to time, been permitted by their superiors to engage in such discussions.
Whatever obstacles they encountered within the Church itself, the propagation of the new religion was not confined to moral means, nor was the spirit of opposition at all tunes restricted to mere argument. Bishop Bale having begun at Kilkenny to pull down the revered images of the Saints, and to overturn the Market Cross, was set upon by the mob, five of his servants, or guard, were slain, and himself narrowly escaped with his life by barricading himself in his palace. The garrisons in the neighbourhood of the ancient seats of ecclesiastical power and munificence were authorized to plunder their sanctuaries and storehouses. The garrison of Down sacked the celebrated shrines and tomb of Patrick, Bridget, and Columbkill; the garrison of Carrickfergus ravaged Rathlin Island and attacked Derry, from which, however, they were repulsed with severe loss by John the Proud. But the most lamentable scene of spoliation, and that which excited the profoundest emotions of pity and anger in the public mind, was the violation of the churches of St. Kieran--the renowned Clonmacnoise. This city of schools had cast its cross-crowned shade upon the gentle current of the Upper Shannon for a thousand years. Danish fury, civil storm, and Norman hostility had passed over it, leaving traces of their power in the midst of the evidences of its recuperation. The great Church to which pilgrims flocked from every tribe of Erin, on the 9th of September--St. Kieran's Day; the numerous chapels erected by the chiefs of all the neighbouring clans; the halls, hospitals, book-houses, nunneries, cemeteries, granaries-all still stood, awaiting from Christian hands the last fatal blow. In the neighbouring town of Athlone--seven or eight miles distant--the Treasurer, Brabazon, had lately erected a strong "Court" or Castle, from which, in the year 1552, the garrison sallied forth to attack "the place of the sons of the nobles,"--which is the meaning of the name. In executing this task they exhibited a fury surpassing that of Turgesius and his Danes. The pictured glass was torn from the window frames, and the revered images from their niches; altars were overthrown; sacred vessels polluted. "They left not," say the Four Masters, "a book or a gem," nor anything to show what Clonmacnoise had been, save the bare walls of the temples, the mighty shaft of the round tower, and the monuments in the cemeteries, with their inscriptions in Irish, in Hebrew, and in Latin. The Shannon re-echoed with their profane songs and laughter, as laden with chalices and crucifixes, brandishing croziers, and flaunting vestments in the air, their barges returned to the walls of Athlone.
In all the Gaelic speaking regions of Ireland, the new religion now began to be known by those fruits which it had so abundantly produced. Though the southern and midland districts had not yet recovered from the exhaustion consequent upon the suppression of the Geraldine league and the abortive insurrection of Silken Thomas, the northern tribes were still unbroken and undismayed. They had deputed George Paris, a kinsman of the Kildare Fitzgeralds, as their agent to the French King, in the latter days of Henry VIII., and had received two ambassadors on his behalf at Donegal and Dungannon. These ambassadors, the Baron de Forquevaux, and the Sieur de Montluc, who subsequently became Bishop of Valence, crossing over from the west of Scotland, entered into a league, offensive and defensive, with "the princes" of Tyrconnell and Tyrowen, by which the latter bound themselves to recognize, on certain conditions, "whoever was King of France as King of Ireland likewise." This alliance, though prolonged into the reign of Edward, led to nothing definitive, and we shall see in the next reign how the hopes then turned towards France were naturally transferred to Spain.
The only native name which rises into historic importance at this period is that of Shane, or John O'Neil, "the Proud." He was the legitimate son of that Con O'Neil who had been girt with the Earl's baldric by the hands of Henry VIII. His father had procured at the same time for an illegitimate son, Ferodach, or Mathew, of Dundalk, the title of Baron of Dungannon, with the reversion of the Earldom. When, however, John the Proud came of age, he centred upon himself the hopes of his clansmen, deposed his father, subdued the Baron, and assumed the title of O'Neil. In 1552 he defeated the efforts of Sir William Brabazon to fortify Belfast, and delivered Derry from its plunderers. From that time till his tragical death, in the ninth year of Queen Elizabeth, he stood unquestionably the first man of his race, both in lineage and action.