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   Chapter 22 THE NEW DEPARTURE.

The Story of Ireland By Emily Lawless Characters: 6816

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


So far so good. Despite a few trifling clouds which overhung the horizon, the latter years of Henry VIII.'s life and the short reign of his successor may claim to count among the comparatively halcyon periods of Irish history. The agreement with the landowners worked well, and no serious fears of any purpose to expel them from their lands had as yet been awakened. Henry's policy was upon the whole steadily conciliatory. Tyrant as he was, he could be just when his temper was not roused, and he kept his word loyally in this case. To be just and firm, and to give time for those hitherto untried varieties of government to work, was at once the most merciful and most politic course that could be pursued. Unfortunately for the destinies of Ireland, unfortunately for the future comfort of her rulers, there was too little patience to persevere in that direction. The Government desired to eat their loaf before there was fairly time for the corn to sprout. The seed of conciliation had hardly begun to grow before it was plucked hastily up by the roots again. The plantations of Mary's reign, and the still larger operations carried on in that of her sister, awakened a deep-seated feeling of distrust, a rooted belief in the law as a mysterious and incomprehensible instrument invented solely for the perpetration of injustice, a belief which is certainly not wholly extinguished even in our own day.

For the present, however, "sober ways, politic shifts, and amicable persuasions" were the rule. Chief after chief accepted the indenture which made him owner in fee simple under the king of his tribal lands. These indentures, it is true, were in themselves unjust, but then it was not as it happened a form of injustice that affected them unpleasantly. Con O'Neill, Murrough O'Brien, McWilliam of Clanricarde, all visited Greenwich in the summer of 1543, and all received their peerages direct from the king's own hands. The first named, as became his importance, was received with special honour, and received the title of Earl of Tyrone, with the second title of Baron of Dungannon for any son whom he liked to name. The son whom he did name--apparently in a fit of inadvertence--was one Matthew, who is confidently asserted to have not been his son at all, but the son of a blacksmith, and who in any case was not legitimate. An odd choice, destined, as will be seen, to lead to a good deal of bloodshed later on.

One or two of the new peers were even persuaded to send over their heirs to be brought up at the English Court, according to a gracious hint from the king. Young Barnabie FitzPatrick, heir to the new barony of Upper Ossory, was one of these, and the descendent of a long line of turbulent McGillapatricks, grew up there into a douce-mannered English-seeming youth, the especial friend and chosen companion of the mild young prince.

While civil strife was thus settling down, religious strife unfortunately was only beginning to awaken. The question of supremacy had passed over as we have seen in perfect tranquillity; it was a very different matter when it came to a question of doctrine. Unlike England, Ireland had never been touched by religious controversy. The native Church and the Church of the Pale were sharply separated from one another it is true, but it was by blood, language, and mutual jealousies, not by creed, doctrine, or discipline. As regards these points

they were all but absolutely identical. The attempt to change their common faith was instantly and vehemently resisted by both alike. Could a Luther or a John Knox have arrived, with all the fervour of their popular eloquence, the case might possibly have been different. No Knox or Luther however, showed the slightest symptom of appearing, indeed hardly an attempt was made to supply doctrines to the new converts. The few English divines that did come knew no Irish, those who listened to them knew no English. The native priests were silent and suspicious. A general pause of astonishment and consternation prevailed.

The order for the destruction of relics broke this silence, and sent a passionate thrill of opposition through all breasts, lay as well as clerical. When the venerated remains of the golden days of the Irish Church were collected together and publicly destroyed, especially when the staff of St. Patrick, the famous Baculum Cristatum, part of which was believed to have actually touched the hands of the Saviour, was burnt in Dublin in the market-place, a spasm of shocked dismay ran through the whole island. Men who would have been scandalized by no other form of violence were horror-stricken at this. Differences of creed were so little understood that a widespread belief that a new era of paganism was about to be inaugurated sprang up all over Ireland. To this belief the friars, who, though driven from their cloisters, were still numerous, lent their support, as did the Jesuits, who now for the first time began to arrive in some numbers. Even the acceptance of the supremacy began to be rebelled against now that it was clearly seen what it was leading to. An order to read the new English liturgy was met with sullen resistance--"Now shall every illiterate fellow read mass!" cried Archbishop Dowdal of Armagh, in hot wrath and indignation. Brown, the Archbishop of Dublin, was an ardent reformer, so also was the Bishop of Meath, but to the mass of their brethren they simply appeared to be heretics. A proposal was made to translate the Prayer-book into Irish, but it was never carried into effect, indeed, even in the next century when Bishop Bedell proposed to undertake the task he received little encouragement.

The attempt to force Protestantism upon the country produced one, and only one, important result. It broke down those long-standing barriers which had hitherto separated Irishmen of different blood and lineage, and united them like one man against the Crown. When the common faith was touched the common sense of brotherhood was kindled. "The English and Irish," Archbishop Brown wrote in despair to Cromwell, "both oppose your lordship's orders, and begin to lay aside their own quarrels." Such a result might be desirable in itself, but it certainly came in the form least likely to prove propitious for the future tranquillity of the country. Even those towns where loyalty had hitherto stood above suspicion received the order to dismantle their churches and destroy all "pictures and Popish fancies" with sullen dislike and hostility. Galway, Kilkenny, Waterford, each and all protested openly. The Irish problem--not so very easy of solution before--had suddenly received a new element of confusion. One that was destined to prove a greater difficulty than all the rest put together.

INITIAL LETTER FROM THE BOOK OF KELLS.

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