The Popish Plot and Ireland

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXI

So many complaints were made of Ormonde's administration, that he was now removed for a time. He was succeeded by Lord Berkeley, in May, 1670, a nobleman whose honest and impartial government earned him the respect of all who were not interested in upholding a contrary line of conduct. The Catholics offered him an address, which was signed by two prelates, who held a prominent position, not only in their Church, but also in the history of the period; these were Dr. Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, and Dr. Talbot, Archbishop of Dublin. Colonel Richard Talbot, who was afterwards created Earl of Tyrconnel by James II., had been, for some time, the accredited agent of the Irish Catholics at the English court; he now (A.D. 1671) attempted to obtain some examination into the claims of those who had been ejected from their estates during the Commonwealth.

After some delay and much opposition, a commission was appointed; but although the "Popish Plot" had not yet made its appearance, a wild "no Popery" cry was raised, and the King was obliged to recall Lord Berkeley, and substitute the Earl of Essex. Even this did not quiet the storm. On the 9th of March, 1673, an address was presented to the King by the Commons in England, demanding the persecution of Papists in Ireland; and the weak monarch, all the more afraid of appearing to show partiality, because of his apprehension that Popery might be the true religion, and his still more serious apprehensions that his people might find out his opinion, at once complied, and even recalled the Commission of Enquiry.

In 1677 Ormonde was again appointed Viceroy, and he held the office during the ensuing seven years, at an advanced age, and at a period of extraordinary political excitement. The "Popish treason "was the first and the most fearful of these panics. Ormonde was at Kilkenny when he received the first intimation of the conspiracy, October 3, 1678; but he had too much knowledge of the world to credit it for a moment. Like other politicians of that, and indeed of other ages, he was obliged to keep up his reputation by appearing to believe it in public, while in private [4] he treated the whole affair with the contempt it merited. It was soon reported that the plot had extended to Ireland, and Archbishop Talbot was selected as the first victim. The prelate then resided with his brother, Colonel Talbot, at Carton, near Maynooth. He was in a dying state; but although his enemies might well have waited for his end, he was taken out of his bed, carried to Dublin, and confined a prisoner in the Castle. He died two years later. "He was the last distinguished captive destined to end his days in that celebrated state prison, which has since been generally dedicated to the peaceful purposes of a reflected royalty."[5] His brother was arrested, but allowed to go beyond the seas; and a Colonel Peppard was denounced in England as one of the leading Irish traitors. But the Colonel was quite as imaginary as the plot. No such person existed, and a non est inventis was all the return that could be made to the most active inquiries. There was one illustrious victim, however, who was found, who was executed, and who was not guilty, even in thought, of the crime of which he was accused.


[4] Private.—For full information on this (subject, see Carte's Ormonde, vol. ii. pp. 476-482. I will give one extract to verify the statement above. "The Duke of Ormonde had, in truth, difficulties enough to struggle with in the government of Ireland, to preserve that kingdom in peace, and yet to give those who wished to imbroil it no handle of exception to the measures he took for that end."—vol. ii. p. 477.

[5] Royalty.—D'Arcy M'Gee's History of Ireland, vol. ii. p. 560.