CHAPTER VIII. THE CHURCH IN IRELAND DURING THE REIGNS OF HENRY VIII. AND EDWARD VI. (1509-1553)

William Skeffington was re-appointed Deputy and sent over to quell the rebellion, together with Sir Piers Butler who, in consideration of the bestowal upon him of the territories of the former Earls of Ormond, agreed to resist the usurped jurisdiction of the Pope especially in regard to appointments to benefices[2] (1534). The campaign opened early in 1535, but as the new deputy was physically unable to command a great military expedition, Lord Leonard Grey, the brother-in-law of the Earl of Kildare, was soon entrusted with the conduct of the war. Though in the beginning Silken Thomas had met with success, the news that the rumoured execution of the Earl was untrue, the murder of the Archbishop of Dublin by some of the Geraldine followers, and the excommunication that such a deed involved, disheartened his army and caused many of those upon whom he relied to desert him. At last in August 1535 he surrendered to Lord Grey who seems to have given him a promise of his life, but Henry VIII. was not the man to allow any obligations of honour to interfere with his policy. After having been kept in close confinement in the Tower for months he and his five uncles were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn (1537). The king's only regret was that the young heir to the Earldom of Kildare was allowed to escape, and the failure to capture his own sister's son was one of the gravest charges brought afterwards against Lord Leonard Grey. As it was, the rebellion was suppressed; O'More of Leix, O'Carroll of Ely, O'Connor of Offaly, and the other Irish adherents of the Geraldines were reduced to submission, and thereby the work of conquest was well begun.

In 1536, as a reward for the services he had rendered and in the hope that he would carry the work of subjugation to a successful conclusion, Leonard Grey was appointed Deputy. Henry VIII. had separated himself definitely from the Catholic Church and had induced a large number of English bishops, ecclesiastics, and nobles to reject the jurisdiction of the Pope in favour of royal supremacy. In England he owed much of his success to the presence of Cranmer in the metropolitan See of Canterbury, and to the skill with which his clever councillors manipulated Parliament so as to ensure its compliance with the royal wishes. Hence, when he determined to detach Ireland from its allegiance to Rome, he resolved to utilise the Archbishop of Dublin and the Irish Parliament. Fortunately for him Dublin was then vacant owing to the murder of Archbishop Alen during the Geraldine rebellion (1534). After careful consideration he determined to confer the archbishopric on George Browne, an Augustinian friar, who had merited the royal favour by preaching so strongly against Henry's marriage with Catharine of Aragon that most of the congregation rose in a body and left the church. According to the imperial ambassador it was Browne who officiated at the secret marriage of the king to Anne Boleyn, and it was on that account he was created provincial of the English Augustinians and joined in a commission with Dr. Hilsey, the provincial of the Dominicans, for a visitation of the religious houses in England.[3] The new archbishop received his commission from the king without reference to the Pope, and his consecration from Cranmer (1536). Browne was in every way a worthy representative of the new spiritual dictator and of the "new learning." His nomination to Dublin was condemned by the people of Lincoln because he had abandoned the Christian faith. Hardly had he arrived in Dublin when he found himself at loggerheads with Lord Grey, who treated him with studied contempt and took very violent measures to cool his religious ardour. He was assailed by his royal spiritual head for his arrogance and inefficiency, and warned to take heed lest he who had made him a bishop might unmake him. By his fellow-labourers and associates in the work of spreading the gospel, Staples of Meath and Bale of Ossory, he was denounced as a heretic, an avaricious dissembler, a drunkard, and a profligate, who preached only two sermons with which the people became so familiar that they knew what to expect once he had announced his text.[4]

Before the arrival of Browne in Ireland careful steps were taken by the deputy and the Earl of Ormond to ensure that only trustworthy men should be elected as "knights of the shire," while the lawyers were hard at work both in England and Ireland drafting the laws that Parliament was expected to ratify. The assembly opened on Monday, 1st May, at Dublin, was adjourned (31 May) to Kilkenny, then to Cashel (28 July), then to Limerick (2 Aug.), from which place it returned once more to Dublin. The next session opened in September (1536), and after several short sessions and long adjournments it was prorogued finally in December 1537. As far as can be seen no representatives attended this parliament except from the Pale and from the territories under the influence of the Earl of Ormond and his adherents. It was in no sense an Irish Parliament, as not a single Irish layman took part in it, nor could it be described accurately even as a Parliament of Leinster. It is generally assumed that together with the Act of Attainder against the party of Kildare all the legislation passed already in England, including the Act of Succession and of Royal Supremacy, the Acts against the authority of the Bishop of Rome, against appeals to Rome, and transferring to the king the First Fruits, etc., were passed always immediately and with very little opposition except a strong protest lodged by Archbishop Cromer of Armagh. But an examination of the correspondence that passed between the authorities in Dublin and in London reveals a very different story.