Charles II. and Ireland

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXI

Charles II. commenced his reign de facto in 1660, under the most favourable auspices. People were weary of a Commonwealth which had promised so much and performed so little; of the name of liberty without the reality; of the exercise of kingly power without the appurtenances or right of majesty. But the new monarch had been educated in a bad school. Surrounded with all the prestige of royalty without its responsibilities, and courted most ardently by followers whose only object was their own future advancement, which they hoped to secure by present flattery, it is scarcely a matter of surprise that Charles should have disappointed the hopes of the nation. In England public affairs were easily settled. Those who had been expelled from their estates by the Cromwellian faction, drove out [9] by the new proprietors; but in Ireland the case was very different.

Even the faithful loyalists, who had sacrificed everything for the King, and had so freely assisted his necessities out of their poverty, were now treated with contempt, and their claims silenced by proclamation; while the men who had been most opposed to the royal interest, and most cruel in their oppression of the natives, were rewarded and admitted into favour. Coote and Broghill were of this class. Each tried to lessen the other in the opinion of their royal master as they ran the race for favour, and each boasted of services never accomplished, and of loyalty which never existed. The two enemies of each other and of the nation were now appointed Lord Justices of Ireland; and a Parliament was assembled on the 8th of May, 1661, the first meeting of the kind which had been held for twenty years.

The Catholic, or national interest, was certainly not represented; for there were present seventy-two Protestant peers, and only twenty-one Catholics; while the House of Commons comprised two hundred and sixty members, all of whom were burgesses except sixty-four, and the towns had been so entirely peopled by Cromwell's Puritan followers, that there could be no doubt what course they would pursue. An attempt was now made to expel the few Catholics who were present, by requiring them to take the oath of supremacy. The obsequious Parliament voted £30,000 to the Duke of Ormonde, whose career of duplicity was crowned with success. It is almost amusing to read his biographer's account [1] of the favours bestowed on him, and the laudations he bestows on his master for his condescension in accepting them. Carte would have us believe that Ormonde was a victim to his king and his country, and that the immense sums of money he received did not nearly compensate him for his outlays. Posterity will scarcely confirm the partiality of the biographer.


[9] Drove out.—Carte's Ormonde, vol. ii. p. 398.

[1] Accounts.—Carte's Ormonde, vol. ii. pp. 398, 399. He considers all "bounties" granted to him as mere acts of justice.