Sir John Perrot

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Perrot, Sir John, President of Munster, and Lord-Deputy of Ireland, probably an illegitimate son of Henry VIII., was born in 1527. He was a favourite of Edward VI., and suffered imprisonment under Queen Mary. In the spring of 1571 he came to Ireland as first President of Munster, and immediately directed his arms against Sir James FitzMaurice, then in rebellion. Froude says: "He could never catch FitzMaurice. The Irish gentlemen would not help him, and the kerne were too swift of foot for the heavy English men-at-arms. Castles, however, could not run away, and castles contained men. After two years of work, he had killed in fighting, or captured and hanged, some 800 miserable creatures of one sort or another. He burnt or blew up every stronghold, large or small, which closed its gates against him." Before the end of a year, his military chest was exhausted, and his troops became mutinous for want of pay.

In May 1572, Sir John Perrot intercepted FitzMaurice on the shores of Lough Derg, and would have annihilated his force but for a mutiny among his own men. In February 1573, however, his adversary was compelled to submit, and at Kilmallock kiss the earth before him. Sir John returned to England the following March, and presented to the Queen twenty-nine "necessary considerations for the quiett mayntaining of the state of Mounster," one of which was the debasement of the Irish coinage to half its previous value. Shortly after his return he was put in command of a fleet of six vessels to cruise off the Irish coast. He went on board at Greenwich, attended with "fiftie men in orange tawny cloakes," musicians, services of plate, and "all things else suitable." At the first Irish port he touched at "allmost all the country thereabouts flocked about hym, and by reason of his former government in that country, they bare such affection towards hym that the people came in greate numbers neere into hym as they might, some of them imbracing his legges and coveting to touche any part of his body." Interesting particulars of his cruises are given in his Life.

In 1583 he was appointed Lord-Deputy, and sailing from Milford Haven he arrived at Dublin in January 1584. In a letter of the previous October he had said: "Give me £50,000 for three years, and I will undertake to settle Ireland. Now is the time." His early policy was a political amnesty, the occupation of Ulster by a strong garrison, and unflinching opposition to Roman Catholicism. He declared "To take the chief lands from them, or banish their captaincies, or alter their ancient customs, [are] matters hardly to be endured by reasonable men." This policy was intended for the north. Cork, Kerry, and Limerick were mapped out and divided into blocks of 12,000 acres each, to be held on quit rents under the Crown. The chief military success during his government was the complete defeat of the Burkes and their allies, the Scots, by Bingham, at Ardnaree in Sligo, on the 22nd September 1586.

Mr. Froude speaks of Perrot as "a straightforward soldier, vain, passionate, not very wise, but anxious to do what was right... The Council had crossed and thwarted him. In return he had sworn at them and insulted them, and quarrelled with them all, good and bad." One of his plans for the subjection of the country was the seizure of hostages for the good behaviour of the Irish chiefs; and, on his departure from Ireland in 1588 he left in Dublin Castle no fewer than thirty young princes or persons of note: amongst others, several O'Neills, FitzMaurices, O'Donnells, FitzGibbons, Maguires, MacMahons, O'Byrnes, and O'Tooles. After his return he fell into disgrace with Queen Elizabeth, and was committed to the Tower. On 27th April 1592 he was brought to trial for that he did imagine in his heart to deprive, depose, and disinherit the Queen's most excellent Majesty from the royal seat, to take her life away, to make slaughter in her realm, to raise rebellion in England and Ireland." He indignantly repudiated these charges; but was condemned and sentenced to be executed. Reprieved by the Queen, he died in the Tower the following September.

His appearance and character are thus sketched: "Sir John Perrot was a man in stature very tall and big,.. almost equal to the mightiest men that lived in his time, his hair was alborne, until it grew grey in his elder yeares,.. his countenance full of majestie, his eye marvellous percing.. insomuch that when he was angrie, he had a very terrible visage or looke... He did surmount the most part men of his time, in the greatness and magnanimitie of mynd... In time of danger he shewed hymselfe always resolute and valiant;.. understanding of the languages, as the French, Spanish, and the Italian... He was by nature very choloricke, and could not brooke any crosses, or dissemble the least injuries.. . He would (being moved to wrath) sweare too much, which, proceeding partly from custome, and partly from choller, he could hardly refrayne it when he was provocked." Interesting references to Sir John Perrot will be found in Notes and Queries, 1st, 3rd, and 4th Series.

Sources

135. Four Masters, Annals of the: Translated by Owen Connellan. Dublin, 1846.

140. Froude, James A.: History of England, from the Fall of Wolsey to the death of Elizabeth. 12 vols. London, 1862-'70.

254. Notes and Queries. London, 1850-'78.
O'Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.

283. Perrott, Sir John, History of that Eminent Statesman. London, 1728.

312. State Trials, Cobbett's, 1163 to 1820. 34 vols. London, 1806-'28.

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