Earl of Kildare is Imprisoned

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXIV

It cannot now be ascertained whether Kildare had incited the Irish chieftains to rebellion or not. In 1520, during one of his periods of detention in London, the Earl of Surrey was sent over as Deputy with a large force. It would appear as if a general rising were contemplated at that time, and it was then the Earl wrote the letter [6] already mentioned to O'Carroll. The new Viceroy was entirely ignorant of the state of Ireland, and imagined he had nothing to do but conquer. Several successful engagements confirmed him in this pleasing delusion; but he soon discovered his mistake, and assured the King that it was hopeless to contend with an enemy, who were defeated one day, and rose up with renewed energy the next. As a last resource he suggested the policy of conciliation, which Henry appears to have adopted, as he empowered him to confer the honour of knighthood on any of the Irish chieftains to whom he considered it desirable to offer the compliment, and he sent a collar of gold to O'Neill.

About the same time Surrey wrote to inform Wolsey, that Cormac Oge MacCarthy and MacCarthy Reagh were "two wise men, and more conformable to order than some English were;" but he was still careful to keep up the old policy of fomenting discord among the native princes, for he wrote to the King that " it would be dangerful to have them both agreed and joined together, as the longer they continue in war, the better it should be for your Grace's poor subjects here."

Surrey became weary at last of the hopeless conflict, and at his own request he was permitted to return to England and resign his office, which was conferred on his friend, Pierse Butler,[7] of Carrick, subsequently Earl of Ormonde. The Scotch had begun to immigrate to Ulster in considerable numbers, and acquired large territories there; the Pale was almost unprotected; and the Irish Privy Council applied to Wolsey for six ships-of-war, to defend the northern coasts, A.D. 1522. The dissensions between the O'Neills and O'Donnells had broken out into sanguinary warfare.

The Earl of Kildare left Ireland for the third and last time, in February, 1534. Before his departure he summoned a Council at Drogheda, and appointed his son, Thomas, to act as Deputy in his absence. On the Earl's arrival in London, he was at once seized and imprisoned in the Tower. A false report was carefully circulated in Ireland that he had been beheaded, and that the destruction of the whole family was even then impending. Nor was there anything very improbable in this statement. The English King had already inaugurated his sanguinary career. One of the most eminent English laymen, Sir Thomas More, and one of her best ecclesiastics, Bishop Fisher, had been accused and beheaded, to satisfy the royal caprice. When the King's tutor and his chancellor had been sacrificed, who could hope to escape?


[6] Letter.—The deposition accusing Kildare is printed in the "State Papers," part iii. p. 45. The following is an extract from the translation which it gives of his letter to O'Carroll. The original was written in Irish: "Desiring you to kepe good peas to English men tyll an English Deputie come there; and when any English Deputie shall come thydder, doo your beste to make warre upon English men there, except suche as bee towardes mee, whom you know well your silf."

[7] Pierse Butler.—Called by the Irish, Red Pierse. Leland gives a curious story about him. He was at war with MacGillapatrick, who sent an ambassador to Henry VIII. to complain of the Earl's proceedings. The messenger met the English King as he was about to enter the royal chapel, and addressed him thus: "Stop, Sir King! my master, Gillapatrick, has sent me to thee to say, that if thou wilt not punish the Red Earl he will make war on thee." Pierse resigned his title in favour of Sir Thomas Boleyn, in 1527, and was created Earl of Ossory; but after the death of the former he again took up the old title, and resigned the new.