- The culture, history and people of Ireland and the Irish

Prev | Next | Contents | Main Page


The Nuncio, elated by the great victory of O'Neil, to which he felt he had personally contributed by his seasonable supplies, provoked and irritated by Ormond's intrigues and the King's insincerity, rushed with all the ardour of his character into making the war an uncompromising Catholic crusade. In this line of conduct, he was supported by the Archbishops of Dublin and Cashel, by ten of the Bishops, including the eminent Prelates of Limerick, Killalla, Ferns, and Clogher; the Procurator of Armagh; nine Vicars-general, and the Superiors of the Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Augustinians. The peace party, on the other hand, were not without clerical adherents, but they were inconsiderable, as to influence and numbers. They were now become as anxious to publish the Thirty Articles agreed upon at the end of March, as they then were to keep them secret. Accordingly, with Ormond's consent, copies of the treaty were sent early in August to the sheriffs of counties, mayors of cities, and other leading persons, with instructions to proclaim it publicly in due form; upon hearing which, the Nuncio and his supporters of the clergy, secular and regular, assembled in council at Waterford, on the 12th of August, solemnly declared that they gave no consent, and would not, "to any peace," that did not grant "further, surer, and safer considerations for their religion, king, and country," according to the original oath of the Confederacy.

The rupture between the clergy and the laymen of the Council was now complete. The prelates who signed the decree of Waterford, of course, thereby withdrew from the body whose action they condemned. In vain the learned Darcy and the eloquent Plunkett went to and fro between the two bodies: concord and confidence were at an end. The synod decided to address Lord Mountgarrett in future as President of "the late Supreme Council." The heralds who attempted to publish the Thirty Articles in Clonmel and Waterford were hooted or stoned; while in Limerick the mayor, endeavouring to protect them, shared this rough usage. Ormond, who was at Kilkenny at the critical moment of the breach, did his utmost to sustain the resolution of those who were stigmatized by his name; while the Nuncio, suspicious of Preston, wrote urgently to O'Neil to lead his army into Leinster, and remove the remnant of the late council from Kilkenny. All that those who held a middle course between the extremes could do, was to advocate an early meeting of the General Assembly; but various exigencies delayed this much-desired meeting, till the 10th day of January, 1647.

The five intervening months were months of triumph for Rinuccini. Lord Digby appeared at Dublin as a special agent from the King, to declare his consent to Glamorgan's original terms; but Ormond still insisted that he had no authority to go beyond the Thirty Articles. Charles himself wrote privately to Rinuccini, promising to confirm everything which Glamorgan had proposed, as soon as he should come into "the Nuncio's hands." Ormond, after a fruitless attempt to convert O'Neil to his views, had marched southward with a guard of 1,500 foot, and 500 horse, to endeavour to conciliate the towns, and to win over the Earl of Inchiquin. In both these objects he failed. He found O'Neil before him in his county palatinate of Tipperary, and the Mayor of Cashel informed him that he dared not allow him into that city, for fear of displeasing the northern general. Finding himself thus unexpectedly within a few miles of "the Catholic Army," 10,000 strong, the Viceroy retreated precipitately through Kilkenny, Carlow, and Kildare, to Dublin. Lord Digby, who had accompanied him, after an unsuccessful attempt to cajole the Synod of Waterford, made the best of his way back to France; the Marquis of Clanrickarde, who had also been of the expedition, shared the flight of Ormond. Towards the middle of September, O'Neil's army, after capturing Roscrea Castle, marched to Kilkenny, and encamped near that city. His forces had now augmented to 12,000 foot, and 1,500 horse; on the 18th of the month, he escorted the Nuncio in triumph into Kilkenny, where the Ormondist members of the old council were committed to close custody in the castle. A new council, of four bishops and eight laymen, was established on the 26th, with the Nuncio as president; Glamorgan succeeded Castlehaven, who had gone over to Ormond, as commander in Munster; while O'Neil and Preston were ordered to unite their forces for the siege of Dublin. The sanguine Italian dreamt of nothing less, for the moment, than the creation of Viceroys, the deliverance of the King, and the complete restoration of the ancient religion.

O'Neil and Preston, by different routes, on which they were delayed in taking several garrisoned posts, united at Lucan in the valley of the Liffey, seven miles west of Dublin, on the 9th of November. Their joint forces are represented at 16,000 foot, and 1,600 horse--of which Preston had about one-third, and O'Neil the remainder. Preston's head-quarters were fixed at Leixlip, and O'Neil's at Newcastle--points equi-distant, and each within two hours' march of the capital. Within the walls of that city there reigned the utmost consternation. Many of the inhabitants fled beyond seas, terrified by the fancied cruelty of the Ulstermen. But Ormond retained all his presence of mind, and readiness of resources. He entered, at first covertly, into arrangements with the Parliamentarians, who sent him a supply of powder; he wrote urgently to Monroe to make a diversion in his favour; he demolished the mills and suburbs which might cover the approaches of the enemy; he employed soldiers, civilians, and even women, upon the fortifications,-- Lady Ormond setting an example to her sex, in rendering her feeble assistance. Clanrickarde, in Preston's tent, was doing the work of stimulating the old antipathy of that general towards O'Neil, which led to conflicting advices in Council, and some irritating personal altercations. To add to the Confederate embarrassment, the winter was the most severe known for many years; from twenty to thirty sentinels being frozen at night at their posts. On the 13th of November, while the plan of the Confederate attack was still undecided, commissioners of the Parliament arrived, with ample stores, in Dublin Bay. On the next day they landed at Ringsend, and entered into negotiations with Ormond; on the 16th the siege was raised, and on the 23rd Ormond broke off the treaty, having unconsciously saved Dublin from the Confederates, by the incorrect reports of supplies being received, which were finally carried northward to Monroe.

The month of January brought the meeting of the General Assembly. The attendance in the great gallery of Ormond Castle was as large, and the circumstances upon the whole as auspicious as could be desired, in the seventh year of such a struggle. The members of the old council, liberated from arrest, were in their places. O'Neil and Preston, publicly reconciled, had signed a solemn engagement to assist and sustain each other. The Nuncio, the Primate of Ireland, and eleven bishops took their seats; the peers of oldest title in the kingdom were present; two hundred and twenty-four members represented the Commons of Ireland, and among the spectators sat the ambassadors of France and Spain, and of King Charles. The main subject of discussion was the sufficiency of the Thirty Articles, and the propriety of the ecclesiastical censure promulgated against those who had signed them. The debate embraced all that may be said on the question of clerical interference in political affairs, on conditional and unconditional allegiance, on the power of the Pontiff speaking ex cathedra, and the prerogatives of the temporal sovereign. It was protracted through an entire month, and ended with a compromise, which declared that the Commissioners had acted in good faith in signing the articles, while it justified the Synod of Waterford for having, as judges of the nature and intent of the oath of Confederation, declared them insufficient and unacceptable. A new oath of Confederacy, solemnly binding the associates not to lay down their arms till they had established the free and public exercise of religion as it had existed in the reign of Henry VII., was framed and taken by the entire General Assembly; the Thirty Articles were declared insufficient and unacceptable by all but a minority of twelve votes; a new Supreme Council of twenty-four was chosen, in whom there were not known to be above four or five partisans of Ormond's policy. The church plate throughout the kingdom was ordered to be coined into money, and a formal proposal to co-operate with the Viceroy on the basis of the new oath was made, but instantly rejected; among other grounds, on this, that the Marquis had, at that moment, his son and and other sureties with the Puritans who, in the last resort, he infinitely preferred to the Roman Catholics.

The military events of the year 1647 were much more decisive than its politics. Glamorgan still commanded in Munster, Preston in Leinster, and O'Neil in both Ulster and Connaught. The first was confronted by Inchiquin, at the head of a corps of 5,000 foot and 1,500 horse, equipped and supplied by the English Puritans; the second saw the garrisons of Dundalk, Drogheda, and Dublin, reinforced by fresh regiments of Covenanters, and fed by Parliamentary supplies from the sea; the latter was in the heart of Connaught, organizing and recruiting and attempting all things within his reach, but hampered for money, clothing and ammunition. In Connaught, O'Neil was soon joined by the Nuncio, who, as difficulties thickened, began to lean more and more on the strong arm of the victor of Benburb; in Munster, the army refused to follow the lead of Glamorgan, and clamoured for their old chief, Lord Muskerry; finally, that division of the national troops was committed by the Council to Lord Taafe, a politician of the school of Ormond and Clanrickarde, wholly destitute of military experience. The vigorous Inchiquin had little difficulty in dealing with such an antagonist; Cashel was taken without a blow in its defence, and a slaughter unparalleled till the days of Drogheda and Wexford, deluged its streets and churches. At Knocknos, later in the autumn (Nov. 12th), Taafe was utterly routed; the gallant Colkitto, serving under him, lamentably sacrificed after surrendering his sword; and Inchiquin enabled to dictate a cessation covering Munster--far less favourable to Catholics than the truce of Castlemartin --to the Supreme Council. This truce was signed at Dungarvan, on the 20th of May, 1648, and on the 27th the Nuncio published his solemn decree of excommunication against all its aiders and abettors, and himself made the best of his way from Kilkenny to Maryboro', where O'Neil then lay.

The military and political situation of O'Neil, during the latter months of 1647 and the whole of 1648, was one of the most extraordinary in which any general had ever been placed. His late sworn colleague, Preston, was now combined with Inchiquin against him; the royalist Clanrickarde, in the western counties, pressed upon his rear, and captured his garrison in Athlone; the Parliamentary general, Michael Jones, to whom Ormond had finally surrendered Dublin, observed rather than impeded his movements in Leinster; the lay majority of the Supreme Council proclaimed him a traitor--a compliment which he fully returned; the Nuncio threw himself wholly into his hands; finally, at the close of '48, Ormond, returning from France to Ireland, concluded, on the 17th of January, a formal alliance with the lay members, under the title of "Commissioners of Trust," for the King and Kingdom; and Rinuccini, despairing, perhaps, of a cause so distracted, sailed in his own frigate, from Galway, on the 23rd of February. Thus did the actors change their parts, alternately triumphing and fleeing for safety. The verdict of history may condemn the Nuncio, of whom we have now seen the last, for his imperious self-will, and his too ready recourse to ecclesiastical censures; but of his zeal, his probity, and his disinterestedness, there can be, we think, no second opinion.

Under the treaty of 1649--which conceded full civil and religious equality to the Roman Catholics--Ormond was once more placed at the head of the government and in command of the royal troops. A few days after the signing of that treaty, news of the execution of Charles I. having reached Ireland, the Viceroy proclaimed the Prince of Wales by the title of Charles II., at Cork and Youghal. Prince Rupert, whose fleet had entered Kinsale, caused the same ceremony to be gone through in that ancient borough. With Ormond were now cordially united Preston, Inchiquin, Clanrickarde, and Muskerry, on whom the lead of the Supreme Council devolved, in consequence of the advanced age of Lord Mountgarrett, and the remainder of the twelve Commissioners of Trust. The cause of the young Prince, an exile, the son of that Catholic queen from whom they had expected so much, was far from unpopular in the southern half of the island. The Anglican interest was strong and widely diffused through both Leinster and Munster; and, except a resolute prelate, like Dr. French, Bishop of Ferns, or a brave band of townsmen like those of Waterford, Limerick, and Galway, or some remnant of mountain tribes, in Wicklow and Tipperary, the national, or "old Irish policy," had decidedly lost ground from the hour of the Nuncio's departure.

Owen O'Neil and the Bishops still adhered to that national policy. The former made a three-months' truce with General Monck, who had succeeded Monroe in the command of all the Parliamentary troops in his province. The singular spectacle was even exhibited of Monck forwarding supplies to O'Neil, to be used against Inchiquin and Ormond, and O'Neil coining to the rescue of Coote, and raising for him the siege of Londonderry. Inchiquin, in rapid succession, took Drogheda, Trim, Dundalk, Newry, and then rapidly countermarched to join Ormond in besieging Dublin. At Rathmines, near the city, both generals were surprised and defeated by the Parliamentarians under Michael Jones. Between desertions, and killed and wounded, they lost, by their own account, nearly 3,000, and by the Puritan accounts, above 5,000 men. This action was the virtual close of Ormond's military career; he never after made head against the Parliamentary forces in open field. The Catholic cities of Limerick and Galway refused to admit his garrisons; a synod of the Bishops, assembled at Jamestown (in Roscommon), strongly recommended his withdrawal from the kingdom; and Cromwell had arrived, resolved to finish the war in a single campaign. Ormond sailed again for France, before the end of 1649, to return no more until the restoration of the monarchy, on the death of the great Protector.

Prev | Next | Contents | Main Page


This is a website about Irish history and culture.