CHAPTER I. EVENTS OF THE REIGN OF EDWARD SIXTH.
On the last day of January, 1547, Edward, son of Henry, by Lady Jane Seymour, was crowned by the title of Edward VI. He was then only nine years old, and was destined to wear the crown but for six years and a few months. No Irish Parliament was convened during his reign, but the Reformation was pushed on with great vigour, at first under the patronage of the Protector, his uncle, and subsequently of that uncle's rival, the Duke of Northumberland. Archbishop Cranmer suffered the zeal of neither of these statesmen to flag for want of stimulus, and the Lord Deputy Saint Leger, judging from the cause of his disgrace in the next reign, approved himself a willing assistant in the work.
The Irish Privy Council, which exercised all the powers of government during this short reign, was composed exclusively of partizans of the Reformation. Besides Archbishop Browne and Staples, Bishop of Meath, its members were the Chancellor, Read, and the Treasurer, Brabazon, both English, with the Judges Aylmer, Luttrel, Bath, Cusack, and Howth - all proselytes, at least in form, to the new opinions. The Earl of Ormond, with sixteen of his household, having been poisoned at a banquet in Ely House, London, in October before Henry's death, the influence of that great house was wielded during the minority of his successor by Sir Francis Bryan, an English adventurer, who married the widowed countess. This lady being, moreover, daughter and heir general to James, Earl of Desmond, brought Bryan powerful connections in the South, which he was not slow to turn to a politic account. His ambition aimed at nothing less than the supreme authority, military and civil; but when at length he attained the summit of his hopes, he only lived to enjoy them a few months.
To enable the Deputy and Council to carry out the work they had begun, an additional military force was felt to be necessary, and Sir Edward Bellingham was sent over, soon after Edward's accession, with a detachment of six hundred horse, four hundred foot, and the title of Captain General. This able officer, in conjunction with Sir Francis Bryan, who appears to have been everywhere, overran Offally, Leix, Ely and West-Meath, sending the chiefs of the two former districts as prisoners to London, and making advantageous terms with those of the latter. He was, however, supplanted in the third year of Edward by Bryan, who held successively the rank of Marshal of Ireland and Lord Deputy. To the latter office he was chosen on an emergency, by the Council, in December, 1549, but died at Clonmel, on an expedition against the O'Carrolls, in the following February. His successes and those of Bellingham hastened the reduction of Leix and Offally into shire ground in the following reign.
The total military force at the disposal of Edward's commanders was probably never less than 10,000 effective men. By the aid of their abundant artillery, they were enabled to take many strong places hitherto deemed impregnable to assault. The mounted men and infantry, were, as yet, but partially armed with musquetons, or firelocks - for the spear and the bow still found advocates among military men. The spearmen or lancers were chiefly recruited on the marches of Northumberland from the hardy race of border warriors; the mounted bowmen or hobilers were generally natives of Chester or North Wales. Between these new comers and the native Anglo-Irish troops many contentions arose from time to time, but in the presence of the common foe these bickerings were completely forgotten. The townsmen of Waterford marched promptly at a call, under their standard of the three galleys, and those of Dublin as cheerfully turned out under the well-known banner, decorated with three flaming towers.