Sir William FitzWilliam

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXVII

In 1588 Sir John Perrot was succeeded by Sir William FitzWilliam, a nobleman of the most opposite character and disposition. Perrot was generally regretted by the native Irish, as he was considered one of the most humane of the Lord Deputies. The wreck of the Spanish Armada occurred during this year, and was made at once an excuse for increased severity towards the Catholics, and for acts of grievous injustice. Even loyal persons were accused of harbouring the shipwrecked men, as it was supposed they might have obtained some treasure in return for their hospitality.

FitzWilliam, according to Ware, wished to "finger some of it himself," and invaded the territories of several Irish chieftains. A complete history of FitzWilliam's acts of injustice, and the consummate cruelty with which they were perpetrated, would be so painful to relate, that they can scarcely be recorded in detail. He farmed out the country to the highest bidders, who practised every possible extortion on the unfortunate natives. The favourite method of compelling them to yield up their lands without resistance, was to fry the soles of their feet in boiling brimstone and grease. When torture did not succeed, some unjust accusation was brought forward, and they were hanged.

A tract preserved in Trinity College, Dublin, gives details of these atrocities, from which I shall only select one instance. A landlord was anxious to obtain the property of one of his tenants, an Irishman, who had lived "peaceably and quietly, as a good subject," for many years. He agreed with the sheriff to divide the spoil with him, if he would assist in the plot. The man and his servant were seized; the latter was hanged, and the former was sent to Dublin Castle, to be imprisoned on some pretence. The gentleman and the sheriff at once seized the tenant's property, and turned his wife and children out to beg. After a short time, " they, by their credit and countenance, being both English gentlemen, informed the Lord Deputy so hardly of him, as that, without indictment or trial, they executed him."[8]


[8] Him.—This document was written by Captain Lee, and presented to the Queen in 1594. It is printed in Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica, vol. ii. p. 91.