Ireland 1641-1648

A.) Pre-History of the Revolt

The first Stuart King, James I. (1603-1625), supported the settlement of British (mostly Scottish) Protestants in Ulster (Ireland), the so-called Ulster Plantation, on lands confiscated from Irish nobles who had rebelled against British rule. The confiscation of Irish land, however, affected also the Irish peasant population which, naturally, resented being driven off their lands.
In Ireland, the mass of the population remained loyal to the Roman Catholic church; the Catholic church was the most important organization preserving Irish tradition and identity. The Protestant Community of Ireland consisted mainly of the recently arrived settlers, of landowners of English ancestry (the Hiberno-English) and of Irish who lived in communities which had accepted the Anglican Reformation.
Relations between Irish-Catholics and Protestants were the worst in Ulster, less tense in other regions or Ireland. The policy of Viceroy Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford (1632-1640) to strengthen royal authority and revenue by at times favouring Catholics, at times favouring Protestant planters, exacerbated the friction.

B.) The Course of Events

In October 1641, a conspiracy was organized by the Irish Catholic clergy of Ulster, with the aim of ousting the entire protestant population; they were to be chased of their land, bereaved of their belongings, even stripped of their clothes. They also were to be refused food and shelter. Many were killed, others starved and froze to death in the winter that followed. Only a few fortified places, such as Londonderry, held out; most of Ulster was under the control of Catholic Irish rebels, lead by Phelim O'Neill. The numbers of those who fell victim to this attempt of ethnic cleansing is given as 37,000.
King Charles I. sent an army under the Earl of Strafford to restore law and order, and there were acts of retaliation.

Then, the Scots rebelled against the enforced introduction of the Book of Common Prayer in their country; King Charles I. recalled the English parliament, asking for taxes to fight the Scots; Parliament demanded redresses, the situation escalated into the English Civil War (which also was an Anglo-Scottish War). Neither (English) King nor (English) Parliament had attention or funds to invest in Ireland.
Lord Strafford had been recalled to England to fight the Scots, and, before he could do so, sentenced of treason and executed. Worse, the English Army in Ireland remained unpaid.
In 1642 a Synod was held at Kilkenny, which decided the establishment of an Irish Parliament, the Confederation of Kilkenny, which was dominated by landowning nobility, both Catholic and Protestant, who wanted to restore tranquility rather than escalate the war. Most of Ulster, however remained under the control of the rebels, now lead by Owen Roe O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone.
The arrival of papal envoy Giovanni Battista Rinuccini in 1645 added a diplomatic dimension to the affair; he negotiated with King Charles I. the conditions for the entry of an Irish army into the English Civil War (which did not materialize). In 1646, Owen Roe O'Neill's rebel forces defeated Monro's Scottish Army in the Battle of Blenburb in 1646.
The Confederation of Kilkenny, Owen Roe O'Neill and Nuncio Rinuccini lacked a common policy. O'Neill, in essence, tried to restore the fiefs his ancestors had forfeited in a rebellion against England; the Confederation pursued a policy less confrontational (and often had a hard time agreeing over any policy), the nuncio used Ireland as a pawn in papal diplomacy. Nuncio Rinuccini left in February 1649, having failed to gain concessions for the Irish Catholic Church. Owen Roe O'Neill died in the same year.

C.) Legacy

In England, the Civil Wars had ended with a Parliamentarian victory. The new Strongman, Oliver Cromwell, was a Puritan; he regarded Catholicism an evil force which had to be destroyed - and he began his war on Catholicism in Ireland.

Note : users are advised that some of the sites linked here not only provide information, but often take sides in a matter which is still a political issue :
Biography of Giovanni Batista Rinuccini, from eirdata, from EB 1911
The Rising of 1641, from Old Ireland
The Irish Massacre of Protestants, 1641, from Scotch Irish
The Rising of 1641, from kvfb
St. Catherine's, Owen Roe O'Neill and Cardinal Rinuccini, from "Lucania: Topographical, Biographical, Historical," by Rev. William S. Donegan, C.C., 1902.
Battle of Blenburb 1646, from Scot Wars
Confederation of Kilkenny, from Fratres Presentationis de Mariae
Munro in Ulster 1642, from BBC History, Northern Ireland Timeline
Biography Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, from Wikipedia
DOCUMENTS Rise and Progress of the Protestant Religion in Ireland; with an Account of the Barbarous Massacre of 1641, from Fox's Book on Martyrs, Ch.17 (John Fox 1517-1587; book was continued)
Annals, Anecdotes, Traits and Traditions of the Irish Parliaments, 1171 to 1800, by J. Roderick O'Flanagan, B.L., 1895, Chapter 7 : The Confederation of Kilkenny
Statutes of the Confederation of Kilkenny, 1642 (excerpt), from Irish Documents
Act for the Reduction of the Rebels (1642), from Irish Documents, scroll down

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First posted on June 10th 2003, last revised on November 18th 2004

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