The Restoration

Eleanor Hull
The Restoration

The return of Charles II restored to both nations the ideal of kingship for which both alike yearned, but it restored little else. The selfish, heartless libertine, shrewd, clever, and witty, but utterly unprincipled, had already disillusioned even so devoted a Royalist as Ormonde, whose belief that the King “would do great things” received a shock when he met him at the Hague so great that in his uncertainty “he could hardly carry on.” But his followers had yet to learn that a King might sell his friends to reward his enemies if the purchase of his adversaries’ support became of consequence to him.

His accession was hailed with universal joy; and the Irish believed that they had the best cause for rejoicing, for they hoped to reap the long-deferred rewards of a steadfast loyalty.

Two classes especially acclaimed his return—the transplanted Irish in Connacht, many of whom came flocking back to their estates, ousting the new proprietors, and settling down in their old homes; and the ‘ensign-men’ or soldiers who had followed the King into exile and who had faithfully served him abroad wherever their services were required. Many of these had passed a deplorable time after they left the country.

Those who went to Spain had been miserably ill-treated, and the twenty thousand men who served in France under Muskerry, Dillon, Colonel O’Farrell, and others, had at the new King’s desire given up the French service, at great loss and inconvenience to themselves, and repaired to their sovereign in Holland, where some of them formed bodies of lifeguards to the King and his brothers, the Duke of York (afterward James II) and the Duke of Gloucester.

James Butler, First Duke of Ormonde

The First Duke of Ormonde
From the painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller in the National Gallery of Ireland.

If any persons deserved restitution to their estates it was these devoted men. They were specially mentioned in the King’s Proclamation and in his speech of November 30, 1660, as deserving of the highest gratitude. These proclamations seemed decisive, and the soldiers crowded round Whitehall while the Acts of Settlement and Explanation were being drawn up, submitting their claims to the restoration of their old lands.

But the men in possession were not to be so easily ousted, and the Act of Explanation was “to turn many hopes into despair.” To their astonishment they found that it was the men who had been foremost in the Puritan cause who were to be ennobled and enriched. Charles was short of money, and “that crew,” as they were justly called, were ready to purchase Court favour by the expenditure of heavy sums and a suspicious readiness to welcome the King back.

The old loyalists saw with stupefaction Lord Boyle of Broghill, recently become the owner of Blarney Castle, the home of Lord Muskerry, created Earl of Orrery; Sir Charles Coote, “proud, dull, and avaricious,” as Clarendon calls him, enriched with portions of Lord Gormanston’s and Lord Clanricarde’s estates and made Earl of Mountrath; and Sir John Clotworthy created Viscount Massereene. Two out of these three speculators had purchased the King’s pardon for a sum of between £20,000 and £30,000, and they spared no pains to prejudice Charles against the original owners of their estates.[1]

The King may well have been bewildered. He was surrounded by representatives of the Cromwellian planters and soldiers, by ‘’49’ men (or those who had served him at home up to the coming of Cromwell), by ‘ensignmen’ (or those who had served him abroad), and by the transplanted Catholics, who now hoped to get home to their old estates. Stuart-like, Charles promised to every one what each desired; the planters were not to be disturbed, the loyalists were to be rewarded. Broghill gave him the assurance that after all the claims of the Adventurers were satisfied he would still own £80,000 by forfeitures and lands not disposed of. How the arrangements were to be made the King left to his advisers, several of whom washed their hands of the business at an early stage.

Clarendon, the Lord Chancellor, begged that no part of the imbroglio might ever be referred to him, and Ormonde “failed to see any light in so much darkness.” But Coote and Broghill and Clotworthy and their assistants had no fears or hesitations. The Cromwellian settlement by which they had profited was to be upheld at all costs, and the planters left undisturbed in their possessions, regicides only excepted, and Church lands, which were to be restored.

Protestant Royalists were to receive back their lawful estates, as also “innocent Papists” whose claims were to be tried before a court set up for the purpose, while the present tenants were to be “reprised” elsewhere. The King reserved to himself the right to make large grants to special persons, and in this way several of the loyalist nobles, both Catholic and Protestant, received back their estates. Among these were Taaffe, Lord Carlingford, and Viscount Dillon, the Irish transportees who had recently settled on their lands being promised “reprisal” lands elsewhere; but the royal commands to restore Sir Henry O’Neill and Terence Dempsey, Lord Clanmailer, were evaded.

The great estates of Clanricarde in Galway and Ormonde in Tipperary had been appropriated by the family of Cromwell to their own use; a goodly heritage out of the spoils. These were now restored to their owners. Ormonde came back laden with lands and honours and with the title of Duke.

It is impossible not to sympathize with the feelings of the bereaved gentry, forcibly expressed in a tract written by Nicholas French, Bishop of Ferns, accusing Ormonde of having sold their interests for the sake of great rewards, and of having deserted them in their distress.[2] He undoubtedly did not exert his powerful influence as he might have done in favour of the Irish landowners, though he intervened in special cases; nor can he be acquitted of having played into the hands of the Parliament before he had left Ireland.

Ormonde left Ireland a poor man, and one who had endeavoured in difficult times to steer a steady and honest course, just alike to Catholic and Protestant, but his return as the recipient of enormous wealth, part of it taken from his less fortunate countrymen, raised natural jealousies and suspicions that the Duke had been bought over to support the schemes of the Commissioners. Among the largest recipients of the King’s bounty in Ireland was his brother the Duke of York, afterward James II, who received 120,000 acres of regicides’ property.

The court which tried the claims of “innocent papists” sat only for six months. Clotworthy and his companions, who drew up the eleven qualifications which any applicant who desired to prove “innocency” must fulfil, “did verily believe there could not be found a man in all Ireland that should pass untouched through so many pikes”;[3] but the point on which they specially relied for wholesale condemnations, namely, that an applicant, however innocent he might be of any participation in the rebellion, was yet to be found “nocent” or guilty if his home had been “within rebel’s quarters,” was suddenly cut from beneath their feet by the Parliament of England, which absolutely refused to sanction so scandalous a perversion of justice.[4]

In spite of the rigour of the carefully drawn up “points,” out of the first six hundred claimants seven-eighths were restored as “innocents,” and the colonists began to complain that the fund for reprisals would be insufficient. Indeed, it became speedily apparent that to carry out all the promises made there must, as Ormonde wrote, “be new discoveries made of a new Ireland, for the old will not serve to satisfy these engagements.”

The Irish Court of Claims, which still had to hear over five thousand cases of “innocency,” having been prorogued for a time was, by a shameful perversion of right and honour, never reopened, the difficulty of reinstating these old proprietors having been found to be great, and the probability that the larger number would be found innocent having become apparent from the first trials. They were either left to their Connacht holdings or thrown on the world to fare as they could. Thus was fulfilled their sovereign’s appeal to the House of Lords in the year of his Restoration:

“I hope I need say nothing of Ireland and that they alone shall not want the benefit of my mercy; they have shown much affection to me abroad, and you will have a care of my honour and what I have promised them.”[5]

Equally unfortunate were the officers who had followed Charles to Flanders. For three years they waited hoping for a recognition of their claims to their long-deferred payments, some of them, even men in good position, like Lord Castleconnell or the Earl of Clancarthy, being in a deplorable condition of poverty and forced to hide for lack of clothes. They sent up a touching appeal to the King, showing “that most of the officers who served under the Royal Ensigns beyond sea have perished with famine since your Majesty’s happy restoration,” and “the estates and numbers of them that remain being but small,” they pray restoration. But their prayer was never heeded, and the fate they expected—“to perish by the plague”—must have overtaken many of them.

Even Orrery had to confess to Ormonde that he found “many particulars in the Bill of Settlement which are diametrically opposite to the Declaration of November 30, 1660,”[6] and Sir Maurice Eustace declared that the King had “given the estates of those who had fought for him to those that had fought against him.”

Petty’s tract, written in 1672, sums up the final disposal of the lands and condition of the country. He had been commissioned to carry out a general survey for the purposes of the Settlement and his details are still of great interest, for the settlement of 1660–63 remained for centuries the foundation of land ownership over large parts of the country.

According to his estimates, the amount of land in acres restored to the Catholics was, in spite of every difficulty, considerable. He says they recovered about 2,340,000 acres, while the newcomers and churches had 2,400,000 acres; but of the good lands, amounting to 7,500,000 acres in all, the English, Scottish, and Church lands occupied 5,140,000 acres, whereas the Irish had only about half as much. Yet he believes that the restored persons had actually gained land by more than one-fifth over what they possessed at the outbreak of the rebellion, and by forged feoffments at least one-third more; for he adds, with the ready scepticism of the planter, “of those adjudged innocents, not one in twenty was really so.”

This estimate, which is probably near the mark, would give to the restored Irish nearly an equal portion of the total effective soil of Ireland, not including the waste lands, but a much smaller proportion was of the best quality, owing to the large tracts in Connacht now occupied by them.

The Adventurers, officers, and soldiers obtained in all slightly over 2,000,000 acres. The chief change was, for the moment, in the sea-port towns, which were reserved wholly for Protestants.[7] When Inchiquin went over to the side of the Parliament he had driven all the Irish out of the southern cities, and in June 1647, Waterford, a very Catholic city, was said to have no natural Irish in it.

In 1663 Orrery was busy “purging” the city of Cork “of fanatics and needless Papists”; it then still contained three Papists to one Protestant. The towns of Galway and Limerick had been sold by Cromwell to Gloucester and Liverpool in return for funds to carry on his wars. Gloucester also received Abbeyleix in Queen’s Co. in part payment.

The attempt wholly to Anglicize the towns, partly as a measure of favouritism and partly, no doubt, as a precaution against foreign invasion, had the effect of depriving the Catholics of all civil and political power in their own country. The corporations became entirely English and Protestant, and the passing of local authority into other hands was visible in the Parliament of Charles II, to which only one Catholic was elected. We should add that only one Independent sat in the same Parliament, which shows the weakening of Cromwellian and Puritan influences.


[1] Most of these properties were later restored to the original owners.

[2] French’s tract is called “The Unkind Deserter,” in Works (1846), vol. ii.

[3] French, “The Settlement and the Sale of Ireland,” in Works (1846), i, 85; and Cal. S. P. I. (1666–69), pp. 543-559. The Editor speaks of this paper as one of the most important State Papers of the period, but he seems unaware who was its author.

[4] Coote declared that if this Article were omitted “the number of innocents would be so great that it would endanger the interests of the Adventurers and soldiers, and would give the Irish a majority in Parliament”—a strong testimony to the innocence of those who claimed.

[5] Declaration touching the Act of Indemnity, July 27, 1660.

[6] State Letters of Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery (1742), p. 56.

[7] Petty, “The Political Anatomy of Ireland,” in Tracts relating to Ireland (1801), pp. 16-11. Petty calculates in the whole country, in 1672, 800,000 Irish to 400,000 English and Scots combined (ibid., p. 19).