CHAPTER XX. ELIZABETH (v), 1558-78-IRISH AND ENGLISH
The first schemes would probably have been beneficial had they been practicable, as they involved nothing in the shape of forfeiture. But they would have been costly, while offering no temptations to Adventurers. In 1568 a scheme was devised which tempted the Adventurers, made little demand on the exchequer - Elizabeth always argued that Ireland ought to pay for itself - but involved forfeitures on a large scale.
Desmond, who had declined alliance with O'Neill, was summoned to answer charges of treason. He surrendered at once, and was sent to London. Then he tried to escape, and was only allowed to purchase freedom from close imprisonment or worse by surrendering all his lands to the Queen to receive back so much as she chose to grant. A group of Devonshire gentlemen proposed that the titles of other landowners in Munster should be investigated, and that all the lands held under unsatisfactory titles should be handed over to themselves. They would occupy and rule at their own charges, and compel complete submission by the strong hand; a process by which it is quite evident that they intended practical extermination of the Irish. The business was started on Desmond lands; but it was carried to a dangerous point when Sir Peter Carew took possession of Butler property - seeing that the loyalty of the Ormonde connexion was the one source of Irish support which had never been even suspected of failing. There were massacres and reprisals; but fortunately when the other Munster chiefs took the opportunity to petition Philip of Spain to come and take possession, the Butlers still stood firmly to their allegiance.
[1569 Insurrection in Munster]
An insurrection was headed in 1569 by Fitzmaurice (Desmond's brother); some of the English households were wiped out. The O'Neills in Ulster and the Burkes in Connaught rose. Ormonde declared plainly that if the colonising policy were carried on it would be impossible for him to support the government. Sidney ravaged Munster, and left Sir Humphrey Gilbert in command behind him for a time: but the actual scheme was dropped. There is no evading the fact that the English, who could wax hot enough over the cruelties of Spaniards in America or in Holland, did without compunction or any sense of inconsistency regard the Irish not even as mere human savages but as wild beasts. And many of these were men who in any other circumstances were capable of displaying an admirable chivalry and a heroic valour. Gilbert was a man full of noble ideals, learned, pious, cultivated, valiant, kindly; but if there was a chance of killing an Irish man, woman, or child, he took it.
[Ireland and Philip II.]
In England, 1569 was the year of the Northern rebellion. France was viewing the Scots Queen's pretensions with increasing lukewarmness, and Philip was regarding her with corresponding favour. The Ridolfi plot was developing in 1570 and 1571. In brief, at this period Philip's disposition towards Elizabeth was becoming definitely, though not avowedly, hostile instead of - as hitherto on the whole - friendly. Yet he would not accept the Irish invitation to intervene. But he received at Madrid, and treated with great favour, the very remarkable adventurer Thomas Stukely, already mentioned as a piratical ally of Shan O'Neill's. Stukely had been sent over to England to answer for his miscellaneous misdeeds; but was - perhaps intentionally - allowed to escape to Spain; where he represented himself as an enthusiastic Catholic, and the most influential man in Ireland, and bragged hugely of the coming conquest of that country, of which he was to become in some sort the Prince, with the assistance of Spain. The entertainment of Stukely however summed up all that Philip was prepared to do for Ireland. By September 1572 he was again seeking Elizabeth's amity.
In the meantime, the experiment of constituting Connaught a Presidency had been tried and failed ignominiously. The curse of the English Government - a soldiery whose pay was permanently and hugely in arrear, who were constantly on the verge of mutiny, and lived virtually by pillage - remained unabated; and Sidney, having tried vigorous government first and then, lacking the means to maintain it properly, extirpation as an alternative, but still without success, clamoured to be recalled, and at last got his wish.
Desmond was still detained in England, but the Geraldines in Munster had not been crushed either by Sidney or by Gilbert. Despite the failure in Connaught, the Presidency plan was tried in the southern province, Sir John Perrot being appointed thereto. Perrot blew up strongholds, captured and hanged some hundreds of the population, but could not lay hold of the chiefs or bring the country into subjection. In 1572, Fitzmaurice made his way to Ulster, gathered a force of Scots, and came down the Shannon. The President got his chance of a fight, and shattered the force: but Elizabeth was dissatisfied with the results of an unwonted if still inadequate expenditure, and declared that the whole experiment was too costly. A general amnesty and the withdrawal of Perrot ended it.
[1573 Essex (the elder) in Ulster]