Sir Henry Sidney, in writing to his court, had always reported John O'Neil as "the only strong man in Ireland." Before his rout at Lough Swilly, he could commonly call into the field 4,000 foot and 1,000 horse; and his two years' revolt cost Elizabeth, in money, about 150,000 pounds sterling "over and above the cess laid on the country"--besides "3,500 of her Majesty's soldiers" slain in battle. The removal of such a leader in the very prime of life was therefore a cause of much congratulation to Sidney and his royal mistress, and as no other "strong man" was likely soon to arise, the Deputy now turned with renewed ardour to the task of establishing the Queen's supremacy, in things spiritual as well as temporal. With this view he urged that separate governments, with large though subordinate military as well as civil powers, should be created for Munster and Connaught--with competent Presidents, who should reside in the former Province at Limerick, and in the latter, at Athlone. In accordance with this scheme--which continued to be acted upon for nearly a century--Sir Edward Fitton was appointed first President of Connaught, and Sir John Perrott, the Queen's illegitimate brother, President of Munster. Leinster and Ulster were reserved as the special charge of the Lord Deputy.
About the time of O'Neil's death Sidney made an official progress through the South and West, which he describes as wofully wasted by war, both town and country. The earldom of the loyal Ormond was far from being well ordered; and the other great nobles were even less favourably reported; the Earl of Desmond could neither rule nor be ruled; the Earl of Clancarty "wanted force and credit;" the Earl of Thomond had neither wit to govern "nor grace to learn of others;" the Earl of Clanrickarde was well intentioned, but controlled wholly by his wife. Many districts had but "one-twentieth" of their ancient population; Galway was in a state of perpetual defence. Athenry had but four respectable householders left, and these presented him with the rusty keys of their once famous town, which they confessed themselves unable to defend, impoverished as they were by the extortions of their lords. All this to the eye of the able Englishman had been the result of that "cowardly policy, or lack of policy," whose sole maxims had been to play off the great lords against each other and to retard the growth of population, least "through their quiet might follow" future dangers to the English interest. His own policy was based on very different principles. He proposed to make the highest heads bow to the supremacy of the royal sword--to punish with exemplary rigour every sign of insubordination, especially in the great--and, at the same time, to encourage with ample rewards, adventurers, and enterprises of all kinds. He proposed to himself precisely the part Lord Stafford acted sixty years later, and he entered on it with a will which would have won the admiration of that unbending despot. He prided himself on the number of military executions which marked his progress. "Down they go in every corner," he writes, "and down they shall go, God willing!" He seized the Earl of Desmond in his own town of Kilmallock; he took the sons of Clanrickarde, in Connaught, and carried them prisoners to Dublin. Elizabeth became alarmed at these extreme measures, and Sidney obtained leave to explain his new policy in person to her Majesty. Accordingly in October he sailed for England, taking with him the Earl and his brother John of Desmond, who had been invited to Dublin, and were detained as prisoners of State; Hugh O'Neil, as yet known by no other title than Baron of Dungannon; the O'Conor Sligo, and other chiefs and noblemen. He seems to have carried his policy triumphantly with the Queen, and from henceforth for many a long year "the dulce ways" and "politic drifts" recommended by the great Cardinal Statesman of Henry VIII. were to give way to that remorseless struggle in which the only alternative offered to the Irish was--uniformity or extermination. Of this policy, Sir Henry Sidney may, it seems to me, be fairly considered the author; Stafford, and even Cromwell were but finishers of his work. One cannot repress a sigh that so ferocious a design as the extermination of a whole people should be associated in any degree with the illustrious name of Sidney.
The triumphant Deputy arrived at Carrickfergus in September, 1568, from England. Here he received the "submission," as it is called, of Tirlogh, the new O'Neil, and turned his steps southwards in full assurance that this chief of Tyrone was not another "strong man" like the last. A new Privy Council was sworn in on his arrival at Dublin, with royal instructions "to concur with" the Deputy, and 20,000 pounds a year in addition to the whole of the cess levied in the country were guaranteed to enable him to carry out his great scheme of the "reduction." A Parliament was next summoned for the 17th of January, 1569, the first assembly of that nature which had been convened since Lord Sussex's rupture with his Parliament nine years before.
The acts of this Parliament, of the 11th of Elizabeth, are much more voluminous than those of the 2nd of the same reign. The constitution of the houses is also of interest, as the earlier records of every form of government must always be. Three sessions were held in the first year, one in 1570, and one in 1571. After its dissolution, no Parliament sat in Ireland for fourteen years--so unstable was the system at that time, and so dependent upon accidental causes for its exercise. The first sittings of Sidney's Parliament were as stormy as those of Sussex. It was found that many members presented themselves pretending to represent towns not incorporated, and others, officers of election, had returned themselves. Others, again, were non-resident Englishmen, dependent on the Deputy who had never seen the places for which they claimed to sit. The disputed elections of all classes being referred to the judges, they decided that non-residence did not disqualify the latter class; but that those who had returned themselves, and those chosen for non-corporate towns, were inadmissible. This double decision did not give the new House of Commons quite the desired complexion, though Stanihurst, Recorder of Dublin, the Court candidate, was chosen Speaker. The opposition was led by Sir Christopher Barnewall, an able and intrepid man, to whose firmness it was mainly due that a more sweeping proscription was not enacted, under form of law, at this period. The native Englishmen in the House were extremely unpopular out of doors, and Hooker, one of their number, who sat for the deserted borough of Athenry, had to be escorted to his lodgings by a strong guard, for fear of the Dublin mob. The chief acts of the first session were a subsidy, for ten years, of 13 shillings 4 pence for every ploughland granted to the Queen; an act suspending Poyning's act for the continuance of that Parliament; an act for the attainder of John O'Neil; an act appropriating to her Majesty the lands of the Knight of the Valley; an act authorizing the Lord Deputy to present to vacant benefices in Munster and Connaught for ten years; an act abolishing the title of "Captain," or ruler of counties or districts, unless by special warrant under the great seal; an act for reversing the attainder of the Earl of Kildare. In the sittings of 1570 and '71, the chief acts were for the erection of free schools, for the preservation of the public records, for establishing an uniform measure in the sale of corn, and for the attainder of the White Knight, deceased. Though undoubtedly most of these statutes strengthened Sidney's hands and favoured his policy, they did not go the lengths which in his official correspondence he advocated. For the last seven years of his connection with Irish affairs, he was accordingly disposed to dispense with the unmanageable machinery of a Parliament. Orders in council were much more easily procured than acts of legislation, even when every care had been taken to pack the House of Commons with the dependents of the executive.
The meeting of Parliament in 1569 was nearly coincident with the formal excommunication of Elizabeth by Pope Pius V. Though pretending to despise the bull, the Queen was weak enough to seek its revocation, through the interposition of the Emperor Maximilian. The high tone of the enthusiastic Pontiff irritated her deeply, and perhaps the additional severities which she now directed against her Catholic subjects, may be, in part, traced to the effects of the excommunication. In Ireland, the work of reformation, by means of civil disabilities and executive patronage, was continued with earnestness. In 1564, all Popish priests and friars were prohibited from meeting in Dublin, or even coming within the city gates. Two years later, The Book of Articles, copied from the English Articles, was published, by order of "the Commissioners for Causes Ecclesiastical." The articles are twelve in number:--1. The Trinity in Unity; 2. The Sufficiency of the Scriptures to Salvation; 3. The Orthodoxy of Particular Churches; 4. The Necessity of Holy Orders; 5. The Queen's Supremacy; 6. Denial of the Pope's authority "to be more than other Bishops have;"
The honour and danger of organizing resistance to the progress of the new religion now devolved upon the noble family of the Geraldines of Munster, of whose principal members we must, therefore, give some account. The fifteenth Earl, who had concurred in the act of Henry's election, died in the year of Elizabeth's accession (1558), leaving three sons, Gerald the sixteenth Earl, John, and James. He had also an elder son by a first wife, from whom he had been divorced on the ground of consanguinity. This son disputed the succession unsuccessfully, retired to Spain, and there died. Earl Gerald, though one of the Peers who sat in the Parliament of the second year of Elizabeth, was one of those who strenuously opposed the policy of Sussex, and still more strenuously, as may be supposed, the more extreme policy of Sidney. His reputation, however, as a leader, suffered severely by the combat of Affane, in which he was taken prisoner by Thomas, the tenth Earl of Ormond, with whom he was at feud on a question of boundaries. By order of the Queen, the Lord Deputy was appointed arbitrator in this case, and though the decision was in favour of Ormond, Desmond submitted, came to Dublin, and was reconciled with his enemy in the chapter house of St. Patrick's. A year or two later, Gerald turned his arms against the ancient rivals of his house--the McCarthys of Muskerry and Duhallow--but was again taken prisoner, and after six months' detention, held to ransom by the Lord of Muskerry. After his release, the old feud with Ormond broke out anew--a most impolitic quarrel, as that Earl was not only personally a favourite with the Queen, but was also nearly connected with her in blood through the Boleyns. In 1567, as before related, Desmond was seized by surprise in his town of Kilmallock by Sidney's order, and the following autumn conveyed to London on a charge of treason and lodged in the Tower. This was the third prison he had lodged in within three years, and by far the most hopeless of the three. His brother, Sir John of Desmond, through the representations of Ormond, was the same year arrested and consigned to the same ominous dungeon, from which suspected noblemen seldom emerged, except when the hurdle waited for them at the gate.
This double capture aroused the indignation of all the tribes of Desmond, and led to the formidable combination which, in reference to the previous confederacy in the reign of Henry, may be called "the second Geraldine League." The Earl of Clancarty, and such of the O'Briens, McCarthys, and Butlers, as had resolved to resist the complete revolution in property, religion, and law, which Sidney meditated, united together to avenge the wrongs of those noblemen, their neighbours, so treacherously arrested and so cruelly confined. Sir James, son of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald of Kerry, commonly called James Fitz-Maurice, cousin-germain to the imprisoned noblemen, was chosen leader of the insurrection. He was, according to the testimony of an enemy, Hooker, member for Athenry, "a deep dissembler, passing subtile, and able to compass any matter he took in hand; courteous, valiant, expert in martial affairs." To this we may add that he had already reached a mature age; was deeply and sincerely devoted to his religion; and, according to the eulogist of the rival house of Ormond, one whom nothing could deject or bow down, a scorner of luxury and ease, insensible to danger, impervious to the elements, preferring, after a hard day's fighting, the bare earth to a luxurious couch.
One of the first steps of the League was to despatch an embassy for assistance to the King of Spain and the Pope. The Archbishop of Cashel, the Bishop of Emly, and James, the youngest brother of Desmond, were appointed on this mission, of which Sidney was no sooner apprised than he proclaimed the confederates traitors, and at once prepared for A campaign in Munster. The first blow was struck by the taking of Clogrennan Castle, which belonged to Sir Edmond Butler, one of the adherents of the League. The attack was led by Sir Peter Carew, an English adventurer, who had lately appeared at Dublin to claim the original grant made to Robert Fitzstephen of the moiety of the kingdom of Cork, and who at present commanded the garrison of Kilkenny. The accomplished soldier of fortune anticipated the Deputy's movements by this blow at the confederated Butlers, who retaliated by an abortive attack on Kilkenny, and a successful foray into Wexford, in which they took the Castle of Enniscorthy. Sidney, taking the field in person, marched through Waterford and Dungarvan against Desmond's strongholds in the vicinity of Youghal. After a week's siege he took Castlemartyr, and continued his route through Barrymore to Cork, where he established his head-quarters. From Cork, upon receiving the submission of some timid members of the League, he continued his route to Limerick, where Sir Edmond Butler and his brothers were induced to come in by their chief the Earl of Ormond. From Limerick he penetrated Clare, took the Castles of Clonoon and Ballyvaughan; he next halted some time at Galway, and returned to Dublin by Athlone. Overawed by the activity of the Deputy, many others of the confederates followed the example of the Butlers. The Earl of Clancarty sued for pardon and delivered up his eldest son as a hostage for his good faith; the Earl of Thomond--more suspected than compromised--yielded all his castles, with the sole exception of Ibrackan. But the next year, mortified at the insignificance to which he had reduced himself, he sought refuge in France, from which he only returned when the intercession of the English ambassador, Norris, had obtained him full indemnity for the past. Sir James Fitzmaurice, thus deserted by his confederates, had need of all that unyielding firmness of character for which he had obtained credit. Castle after castle belonging to his cousins and himself was taken by the powerful siege trains of President Perrott; Castlemaine, the last stronghold which commanded an outlet by sea, surrendered after a three months' siege, gallantly maintained. The unyielding leader had now, therefore, no alternative but to retire into the impregnable passes of the Galtees, where he established his head-quarters. This mountain range, towering from two to three thousand feet over the plain of Ormond, stretches from north-west to south-east, some twenty miles, descending with many a gentle undulation towards the Funcheon and the Blackwater in the earldom of Desmond. Of all its valleys Aharlow was the fairest and most secluded. Well wooded, and well watered, with outlets and intricacies known only to the native population, it seemed as if designed for a nursery of insurrection. It now became to the patriots of the South what the valley of Glenmalure had long been for those of Leinster--a fortress dedicated by Nature to the defence of freedom. In this fastness Fitzmaurice continued to maintain himself, until a prospect of new combinations opened to him in the West.
The sons of the Earl of Clanrickarde, though released from the custody of Sidney, receiving intimation that they were to be arrested at a court which Fitton, President of Connaught, had summoned at Galway, flew to arms and opened negotiations with Fitzmaurice. The latter, withdrawing from Aharlow, promptly joined them in Galway, and during the campaign which followed, aided them with his iron energy and sagacious counsel. They took and demolished the works of Athenry, and, in part, those of the Court of Athlone. Their successes induced the Deputy to liberate Clanrickarde himself, who had been detained a prisoner in Dublin, from the outbreak of his sons. On his return--their main object being attained--they submitted as promptly as they had revolted, and this hope also being quenched, Fitzmaurice found his way back again, with a handful of Scottish retainers, to the shelter of Aharlow. Sir John Perrott, having by this time no further sieges to prosecute, drew his toils closer and closer round the Geraldine's retreat. For a whole year, the fidelity of his adherents and the natural strength of the place enabled him to baffle all the President's efforts. But his faithful Scottish guards being at length surprised and cut off almost to a man, Fitzmaurice, with his son, his kinsman, the Seneschal of Imokilly, and the son of Richard Burke, surrendered to the President at Kilmallock, suing on his knees for the Queen's pardon, which was, from motives of policy, granted.
On this conclusion of the contest in Munster, the Earl of Desmond and his brother, Sir John, were released from the Tower, and transferred to Dublin, where they were treated as prisoners on parole. The Mayor of the city, who was answerable for their custody, having taken them upon a hunting party in the open country, the brothers put spurs to their horses and escaped into Munster (1574). They were stigmatized as having broken their parole, but they asserted that it was intended on that party to waylay and murder them, and that their only safety was in flight. Large rewards were offered for their capture, alive or dead, but the necessities of both parties compelled a truce during the remainder of Sidney's official career-- which terminated in his resignation--about four years after the escape of the Desmonds from Dublin. Thus were new elements of combination, at the moment least expected, thrown, into the hands of the Munster Catholics.