Henry VII. and Ireland

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXIII

During the reigns of Edward IV, Edward V, and the usurper Richard, there was probably more dissension in England than there ever had been at any time amongst the native Irish chieftains. Princes and nobles were sacrificed by each party as they obtained power, and regicide might almost be called common. The number of English slain in the Wars of the Roses was estimated at 100,000. Parliament made acts of attainder one day, and reversed them almost on the next. Neither life nor property was safe. Men armed themselves first in self-defence, and then in lawlessness; and a thoughtful mind might trace to the evil state of morals, caused by a long period of desolating domestic warfare, that fatal indifference to religion which must have permeated the people, before they could have departed as a nation from the faith of their fathers, at the mere suggestion of a profligate monarch.

The English power in Ireland was reduced at this time to the lowest degree of weakness. This power had never been other than nominal beyond the Pale; within its precincts it was on the whole all-powerful. But now a few archers and spearmen were its only defence; and had the Irish combined under a competent leader, there can be little doubt that the result would have been fatal to the colony. It would appear as if Henry VII. hoped to propitiate the Yorkists in Ireland, as he allowed the Earl of Kildare to hold the office of Lord Deputy; his brother, Thomas FitzGerald, that of Chancellor; and his father-in-law, FitzEustace, that of Lord Treasurer. After a short time, however, he restored the Earl of Ormonde to the family honours and estates, and thus a Lancastrian influence was secured. The most important events of this reign, as far as Ireland is concerned, are the plots of Simnel and Perkin Warbeck, and the enactments of Poyning's Parliament. A contemporary Irish chronicler says: "The son of a Welshman, by whom the battle of Bosworth field was fought, was made King; and there lived not of the royal blood, at that time, but one youth, who came the next year (1486) in exile to Ireland."[2]


[2] Ireland.—The Annals of Ulster, compiled by Maguire, Canon of Armagh, who died A.D. 1498.