Religious Troubles

Justin McCarthy
Chapter IV | Start of Chapter

The great calamity for Ireland was that to political troubles were added, from the days of Henry VIII., religious troubles of the most wasting and disastrous order. The severest edicts were enacted against any of the Irish or Anglo-Irish families who did not at once give in their allegiance to the English Sovereigns and publicly renounce the spiritual authority of the Pope. During the reign of Edward VI. a policy of something like extermination was undertaken against the Roman Catholics and against those whom we may call the Nationalists in Ireland. There was a short period of political and religious reaction under the rule of Queen Mary, but when Elizabeth came to the throne the policy for the suppression of the Roman Catholic religion and the spirit of Irish Nationalism went on with greater severity than ever. The Roman Catholic Church was suppressed in Ireland, so far as Acts of Parliament and the power of the Sovereign could suppress it; but the Irish Catholic priests and monks, and the preachers and teachers who came from the Continent to help them, still preached the doctrines of their Church all over the hillsides and throughout the valleys and forests and villages of the country, in defiance of all pains and penalties. Elizabeth must, of course, bear the historical responsibility for the oppressive policy which strove to crush out the Irish national faith; but it is only reasonable to believe that in many instances her representatives acted with an uncompromising rigour not always in accordance with the disposition of the Queen herself.