Extension of English Crown and Polity over Irish Crown and Polity: the Manner of its Accomplishment, 1541-1558

14. It had now been intensified by two new considerations. Henry the Eighth, King of England, had renounced the supremacy of the papal See, and had attached the Headship of the English Church to the Crown of England. Ireland, however, was in a different case.

According to the fiction that had been maintained for nearly four hundred years, the King of England was only feudal lord of Ireland. The fiction was the same as that by which the Kings of England called themselves Kings of France, except that France was a larger and more formidable fiction to maintain by sword and cannon. Yet the fiction in Ireland now presented difficulties, since it was not possible to attach a Church Headship to a mere feudal lordship. Therefore, Henry prepared to be crowned as King of Ireland. A Parliament was convened in Dublin, and carefully arranged to be completely subservient to the King of England's will. It was filled by men chosen because they represented nothing but that will; who were willing to constitute an assembly devised to give the forms of legislative sanction to that will. English State Papers betray the care and craft with which the work was done, and the moneys and titles expended in the doing of it. In such an assembly, surrounded by armed English forces, Henry, in 1541, was crowned King of Ireland and Spiritual Head of the Church. The nation, however, held aloof from this imposing ceremony.

Whatever might chance in Dublin, the national polity continued its local life both in the civil and in the religious estate. Therefore, the next step in English statecraft was decreed. For so long as that polity continued the people remained indestructible. Lands might be wasted, and people slain, but so long as the polity continued, so long was it impossible for the foreign State to be extended over and to eradicate the National State. Jurists, historians, poets, rulers and a sovereign ruling people continued its life; fragmentarily, yet in those fragments intact, with a long and ancient history behind them. Moreover, that sovereign people, continuing the National Polity, cancelled the pretensions of those of their elected rulers who had accepted English titles, and to whom, in the patents of those titles, lands had been granted, as real estate by gift from a foreign king, over which they had ruled merely as executive officers of the people. The polity was the people, and the people were the polity. Each was indestructible in terms of the other; and while either continued the nation continued, and the war of polity against polity, and nation against nation, was inoperative and finally driven to failure. Therefore, the decision was taken to eradicate the polity by eradicating the people. The decree went forth to supplant an old, wise and beautiful Order, of whose fruits all Europe had partaken, by uprooting the whole of a people and by planting strangers in their stead. The petty states of the National Polity so supplanted were to be converted into English shires.