Henry VIII.

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

Ruins of Selsker Abbey, Wexford

Ruins of Selsker Abbey, Wexford

Chapter XXIV.

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The Reign of Henry VIII.—The Three Eras in Irish History: Military Violence, Legal Iniquity, and Religious Oppression—The Earl of Kildare—Report on the State of Ireland—The Insurrection of Silken Thomas—His Execution with his five Uncles—First Attempt to introduce the Reformation in Ireland—Real Cause of the English Schism—The King acts as Head of the Church—The New Religion enacted by Law, and enforced by the Sword—How the Act was opposed by the Clergy, and how the Clergy were disposed of—Dr. Browne's Letter to Henry—The Era of Religious Persecution—Massacre of a Prelate, Priest, and Friars—Wholesale Plunder of Religious Property.

[A.D. 1509—1540.]

Letter W

E have now approached one of the most important standpoints in Irish history. An English writer has divided its annals into three eras, which he characterizes thus: first, the era of military violence; second, the era of legal iniquity; third, the era of religious persecution.[2] We may mark out roughly certain lines which divide these periods, but unhappily the miseries of the two former blended eventually with the yet more cruel wrongs of the latter. Still, until the reign of Henry VIII., the element of religious contention did not exist; and its importance as an increased source of discord, may be easily estimated by a careful consideration of its subsequent effects. Nevertheless, I believe that Irish history has not been fairly represented by a considerable number of writers, who are pleased to attribute all the sufferings and wrongs endured by the people of that country to religious grounds.

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[2] Persecution.—Smith's Ireland Hist. and Statis. vol. i. p. 327.


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