Disputing Earls

Justin McCarthy
Chapter IV | Start of Chapter

After his return to Ireland Kildare made many enemies among the loyalists, and became engaged in rivalry with other resident English nobles. A new Deputy was appointed, the Earl of Ormond, and then set in a bitter feud between the two Earls and their followers. In those days, if one great nobleman got into a quarrel with another, it might be taken for granted that each would accuse his opponent of treason against the Sovereign. The reciprocal complaints of Kildare and Ormond appear to have been submitted to a sort of court of arbitration under the royal authority. Some of the conditions suggested by the arbitrators were that both the Earls should be pledged to abstain from making war without the consent of the King, should cease from levying taxes of their own on the loyal regions of the Pale, should prevail upon their followers to acknowledge the laws made by the King's Government, and that each should give security by a bond of 1,000 marks to keep the peace for a year. This curious page of history illustrates clearly the condition of things then prevailing throughout that part of Ireland. These disputing Earls were not Irish Chieftains. They were English nobles, who had each held the highest office in Ireland under Henry's Sovereign authority. Each was supposed to be "fighting for his own hand," endeavouring to make himself complete master for his own purposes of as much of Ireland as he could, while professing an unvarying allegiance to the Sovereign of England. The dispute was settled, but broke out again and again, and the King had more than once to appoint new commissions or courts of arbitration to bring the troubles to some kind of settlement. Kildare was afterwards again appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland, and the old story began anew.