Poyning's Law

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter XXIII. ...continued

« Perkin Warbeck | Contents | Index | Irish War Cries forbidden »

Henry now became seriously alarmed at the state of affairs in Ireland, and sent over Sir Edward Poyning, a privy counsellor and a Knight of the Garter, to the troublesome colony. He was attended by some eminent English lawyers, and what was of considerably greater importance, by a force of 1,000 men. But neither the lawyers nor the men succeeded in their attempt, for nothing was done to conciliate, and the old policy of force was the rule of action, and failed as usual. The first step was to hunt out the abettors of Warbeck's insurrection, who had taken refuge in the north; but the moment the Deputy marched against them, the Earl of Kildare's brother rose in open rebellion, and seized Carlow Castle. The Viceroy was, therefore, obliged to make peace with O'Hanlon and Magennis, and to return south. After recovering the fortress, he held a Parliament at Drogheda, in the month of November, 1494. In this Parliament the celebrated statute was enacted, which provided that henceforth no Parliament should be held in Ireland until the Chief Governor and Council had first certified to the King, under the Great Seal, as well the causes and considerations as the Acts they designed to pass, and till the same should be approved by the King and Council. This Act obtained the name of "Poyning's Law." It became a serious grievance when the whole of Ireland was brought under English government; but at the time of its enactment it could only affect the inhabitants of the Pale, who formed a very small portion of the population of that country; and the colonists regarded it rather favourably, as a means of protecting them against the legislative oppressions of the Viceroys.

The general object of the Act was nominally to reduce the people to "whole and perfect obedience." The attempt to accomplish this desirable end had been continued for rather more than two hundred years, and had not yet been attained. The Parliament of Drogheda did not succeed, although the Viceroy returned to England afterwards under the happy conviction that he had perfectly accomplished his mission. Acts were also passed that ordnance [6] should not be kept in fortresses without the Viceregal licence; that the lords spiritual and temporal were to appear in their robes in Parliament, for the English lords of Ireland had, "through penuriousness, done away the said robes to their own great dishonour, and the rebuke of all the whole land;" that the "many damnable customs and uses," practised by the Anglo-Norman lords and gentlemen, under the names of "coigne, livery, and pay," should be reformed; that the inhabitants on the frontiers of the four shires should forthwith build and maintain a double-ditch, raised six feet above the ground on the side which "meared next unto the Irishmen," so that the said Irishmen should be kept out; that all subjects were to provide themselves with cuirasses and helmets, with English bows and sheaves of arrows; that every parish should be provided with a pair of butts,[7] and the constables were ordered to call the parishioners before them on holidays, to shoot at least two or three games.

« Perkin Warbeck | Contents | Index | Irish War Cries forbidden »


[6] Ordnance.—In 1489 six hand-guns or musquets were sent from Germany to the Earl of Kildare, which his guard bore while on sentry at Thomas Court, his Dublin residence. The word "Pale" came to be applied to that part of Ireland occupied by the English, in consequence of one of the enactments of Poyning's Parliament, which required all the colonists to "pale" in or enclose that portion of the country possessed by the English.

[7] Butts.—We give an illustration, at the head of this chapter, of the Butts' Cross, Kilkenny.


Library Ireland Facebook