James the Second

Justin McCarthy
Chapter VI | Start of Chapter

When James II. came to the throne there was some mitigation in the treatment of the Irish Catholics. James appointed to the office of Lord Lieutenant a man who afterwards played a conspicuous part in the history of his time, James Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnel. Tyrconnel was the first Catholic who had been entrusted with the Viceroyalty since the establishment of the Protestant Church in these islands. His devotion to the Stuart cause was much quickened by the fact that in his boyhood he had been in Drogheda while it was besieged by Cromwell. The horrors of the slaughter which closed the siege had filled him with an abiding hatred of the Commonwealth and its partisans. Tyrconnel did all he could to mitigate the severity of the penal laws which oppressed the Catholics, and thus incurred the enmity and detestation of all in England or Ireland who regarded the religion of the Roman Church as a pest to be stamped out. To understand the devotion with which so many Irishmen followed the fortunes of James II. it is necessary to put ourselves in the place of the Irish Catholics who associated his name with the first relaxation of the penal laws against Catholicism known in their time.