CHAPTER XI. HENRY VIII (vii), 1509-47-ASPECTS OF HENRY'S REIGN

[Ireland, 1509-20]

Affairs in the sister island did not, after the final collapse of Perkin Warbeck directly affect the course of events in England: so that they lend themselves more conveniently to summary treatment. Ireland in fact hardly thrust herself forcibly on English notice until Thomas Cromwell was in power, and even then she only received incidental attention.

[Surrey in Ireland, 1520]

It appears to be generally recognised that when Gerald Earl of Kildare finally made up his mind to serve Henry VII. loyally and was for the last time re-instated as Deputy, he proved himself a capable ruler and kept his wilder countrymen in some sort of order. In 1513 he was succeeded in the Deputyship by his son Gerald, who bore a general resemblance to him, but lacked his exceptional audacity and resourcefulness. It was not long before the Earl of Ormonde - head of the Butlers, the traditional rivals of the Fitzgeralds, and chief representative of the loyalist section - was complaining of disorder and misgovernment; and in course of time, Kildare was deposed and Surrey [Footnote: The Surrey who became Duke of Norfolk in 1524, and was under attainder when Henry died in 1547.] - son of the victor of Flodden - was sent over to take matters in hand (1520). Kildare was summoned to England, where after his father's fashion he made himself popular with the King whom he accompanied to the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Surrey was a capable soldier, and took the soldier's view of the situation. There would be no settled government until the whole country was brought into subjection; it must be dealt with as Edward I. had dealt with Wales. The chiefs must be made to feel the strong hand by a series of decisive campaigns, the whole country must be systematically garrisoned, and the Englishry must be strengthened by planting settlements of English colonists. Half-measures would be useless, and he could not carry out his programme with a less force than six thousand men.

[Irish policy, 1520-34]

Henry however had no inclination to set about the conquest of Ireland. His own theory, with which it may be assumed that Wolsey, now in the plenitude of his power, was in accord, was more akin to his father's. Moreover, Wolsey and the Howards were usually in opposition to each other. Surrey was instructed to appeal to the reason of the contumacious chiefs; to point out that obedience to the law is the primary condition of orderly government; to authorise indigenous customs in preference to imposed statutes where it should seem advisable. In fact there were two alternatives; one, to govern by the sword, involving a military occupation of the island; the other to endeavour to enlist the Irish nobles on the side of law and order and to govern through them. The first policy, Surrey's, was rejected; the second was attempted. But the Irish chiefs had no a priori prejudice in favour of law and order, and something besides rhetoric was needed to convince them that their individual interests would be advanced by such a policy. Henry VII. had prospered by reinstating the old Earl of Kildare; Henry VIII. tried reinstating the young one. But precedents suggested the unfortunate conclusion that a little treason more or less would hurt no one, least of all a Geraldine. Things went on very much as before. Kildare was summoned to London again, rated soundly by Wolsey, suffered a brief imprisonment, and was again restored. Desmond, his kinsman, intrigued with the Emperor, who was in a state of hostility to Henry because of the divorce proceedings; Kildare was accused of complicity, and going to London a third time in 1534 was thrown into the Tower from which he did not again emerge. Henry had just burnt his boats in his quarrel with Rome and was by no means in a placable mood.

[Fitzgerald's revolt, 1534]

Kildare had named his eldest son Lord Thomas Fitzgerald, a young man of twenty-one, to act as Deputy in his absence; moreover he had so fortified his castle of Maynooth and otherwise made military preparations, as to give colour to the idea that he had rebellion in contemplation. Excited by a report that his father had been put to death, Lord Thomas - known as Silken Thomas from a badge worn by his men - burst into the Council at Dublin, threw down the sword of office, and renounced his allegiance; then raised an insurrection at the head of his friends and followers. Dublin Castle was soon besieged by a large miscellaneous force; the Archbishop, a leader of the loyalists, attempted to escape but was taken and foully murdered; bands of marauders ravaged the Pale. The only effective counter-move was made by Ormonde who rejected Fitzgerald's overtures, and, in spite of Desmond's menacing attitude on the South-west, raided the Kildare country, and brought Silken Thomas back in hot haste to defend his own territories.

[1535 The revolt quelled]