General Submission (1535-1547)

Patrick Weston Joyce

348. A few years before the time we have now arrived at, king Henry VIII. had begun his quarrel with Rome, the upshot of which was that he threw off all allegiance to the Pope, and made himself supreme head of the church in his own kingdom of England. He made little or no change in religion; on the contrary he did his best to maintain the chief doctrines of the Catholic church, and to resist the progress of the Reformation. All he wanted was that he, and not the Pope, should be head.

349. Henry was now determined to be head of the church in Ireland also; and to carry out his measures he employed the deputy Skeffington, the earl of Ormond, and George Brown, formerly a London friar, whom the king appointed archbishop of Dublin in place of archbishop Allen.

Brown now—1535—went to work with great energy; but he was vehemently opposed by Cromer archbishop of Armagh; and he made no impression on the Anglo-Irish of the Pale, who showed not the least disposition to go with him.

350. A parliament was convened in Dublin in 1536, which passed an act making the king supreme spiritual head of the church. The members representing the church, called proctors, two from each diocese, opposed it; but they were deprived of the right of voting; and the act was passed by laymen. An oath of supremacy was to be taken by all government officers, i. e. an oath that the king was spiritual head of the church; and any one who was bound to take it and refused was adjudged guilty of treason. All monasteries, except a few in some remote districts, were suppressed: and their property was either kept for the king or given to laymen.

351. About this time the Irish chiefs showed a general disposition for peace, and the king was equally anxious to receive them. At this important juncture, in 1540, a sensible man—Sir Anthony Sentleger—was by good chance appointed lord deputy. He was all for a conciliatory policy, and he told the king in a letter "I perceive them [the chiefs] to be men of such nature that they will much sooner be brought to honest conformity by small gifts, honest persuasions, and nothing taking of them, than by great rigour." Accordingly he took full advantage of their present pacific mood; and by skilful management he induced them to submit. They all acknowledged the king's temporal and spiritual authority. As to the spiritual supremacy, it had not been much brought into notice before that time, and they hardly knew what they were doing. Besides it was only the chiefs; the body of the people knew nothing of it, and the doctrine of the king's spiritual supremacy made no headway in the country.

352. Hitherto the English kings from the time of John, had borne the title of lord of Ireland; it was now resolved to confer on Henry the title of king of Ireland. With this object a parliament was assembled in Dublin on the 12th June, 1541; and in order to lend greater importance to its decisions, a number of the leading Irish chiefs were induced to attend it.

The act conferring the title of King of Ireland on Henry and his successors was passed through both houses rapidly, and with perfect unanimity.

353. Titles were conferred on many of the chiefs. Conn Bacach O'Neill was made earl of Tyrone, and his (reputed) son Ferdoragh or Matthew was made baron of Dungannon with the right to succeed as earl of Tyrone. O'Brien was made earl of Thomond; and Mac William Burke, who is commonly known as Ulick-na-gann, was made earl of Clanrickard. O'Donnell was promised to be made earl of Tirconnell; but the title was not actually conferred till a considerable time after.

354. With the career of Henry VIII. in England we have no concern here: I am writing Irish, not English history. Putting out of sight the question of supremacy and the suppression of the Irish monasteries, Henry's treatment of Ireland was on the whole considerate and conciliatory, though with an occasional outburst of cruelty. He persistently refused to expel or exterminate the Irish to make room for new colonies, though often urged to do so by his mischievous Irish officials. The result was that the end of his reign found the chiefs submissive and contented, the country at peace and the English power in Ireland stronger than ever it had been before. Well would it have been, both for England and Ireland, if a similar policy had been followed in the succeeding reigns.