CHAPTER III. SIR ANTHONY ST. LEGER, LORD DEPUTY - NEGOTIATIONS OF THE IRISH CHIEFS WITH JAMES THE FIFTH OF SCOTLAND - FIRST ATTEMPTS TO INTRODUCE THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION - OPPOSITION OF THE CLERGY - PARLIAMENT OF 1541 - THE PROCTORS OF THE CLERGY EXCLU
Upon the disgrace of Lord Leonard Gray in 1540, Sir Anthony St. Leger was appointed Deputy. He had previously been employed as chief of the commission issued in 1537, to survey land subject to the King, to inquire into, confirm, or cancel titles, and abolish abuses which might have crept in among the Englishry, whether upon the marches or within the Pale. In this employment he had at his disposal a guard of 340 men, while the Deputy and Council were ordered to obey his mandates as if given by the King in person. The commissioners were further empowered to reform the Courts of Law; to enter as King's Counsel into both Houses of Parliament, there to urge the adoption of measures upholding English laws and customs, establishing the King's supremacy, in spirituals as in temporals, to provide for the defence of the marches, and the better collection of the revenues. In the three years which he spent at the head of this commission, St. Leger, an eminently able and politic person, made himself intimately acquainted with Irish affairs; as a natural consequence of which knowledge he was entrusted, upon the first vacancy, with their supreme directions. In this situation he had to contend, not only with the complications long existing in the system itself, but with the formidable disturbing influence exercised by the Court of Scotland, chiefly upon and by means of the Ulster Princes.
Up to this period, the old political intimacy of Scotland and Ireland had known no diminution. The Scots in Antrim could reckon, soon after Henry's accession to the throne, 2,000 fighting men. In 1513, in order to co-operate with the warlike movement of O'Donnell, the Scottish fleet, under the Earl of Arran, in his famous flagship, "the great Michael," captured Carrickfergus, putting its Anglo-Irish garrison to the sword. In the same Scottish reign (that of James IV.), one of the O'Donnells had a munificent grant of lands in Kirkcudbright, as other adventurers from Ulster had from the same monarch, in Galloway and Kincardine. In 1523, while hostilities raged between Scotland and England, the Irish Chiefs entered into treaty with Francis the First of France, who bound himself to land in Ireland 15,000 men, to expel the English from "the Pale," and to carry his arms across the channel in the quarrel of Richard de la Pole, father of the famous Cardinal, and at this time a formidable pretender to the English throne. The imbecile conduct of the Scottish Regent, the Duke of Albany, destroyed this enterprise, which, however, was but the forerunner, if it was not the model, of several similar combinations. When the Earl of Bothwell took refuge at the English Court, in 1531, he suggested to Henry VIII., among other motives for renewing the war with James V., that the latter was in league "with the Emperor, the Danish King, and O'Donnell." The following year, a Scottish force of 4,000 men, under John, son of Alexander McDonald, Lord of the Isles, served, by permission of their King, under the banner of the Chieftain of Tyrconnell. An uninterrupted correspondence between the Ulster Chiefs and the Scottish Court may be traced through this reign, forming a curious chapter of Irish diplomacy. In 1535, we have a letter from O'Neil to James V., from which it appears that O'Neil's Secretary was then residing at the Scottish Court; and as the crisis of the contest for the Crown drew near, we find the messages and overtures from Ulster multiplying in number and earnestness. In that critical period, James V. was between twenty and thirty years old, and his powerful minister, Cardinal Beaton, was acting by him the part that Wolsey had played by Henry at a like age. The Cardinal, favouring the French and Irish alliances, had drawn a line of Scottish policy, in relation to both those countries, precisely parallel to Wolsey's. During the Geraldine insurrection, Henry was obliged to remonstrate with James on favours shown to his rebels of Ireland. This charge James' ministers, in their correspondence of the year 1535, strenuously denied, while admitting that some insignificant Islesmen, over whom he could exercise no control, might have gone privily thither. In the spring of 1540, Bryan Layton, one of the English agents at the Scottish Court, communicated to Secretary Cromwell that James had fitted out a fleet of 15 ships, manned by 2,000 men, and armed with all the ordinance that he could muster; that his destination was Ireland, the Crown of which had been offered to him, the previous Lent, by "eight gentlemen," who brought him written tenders of submission "from all the great men of Ireland," with their seals attached; and, furthermore, that the King had declared to Lord Maxwell his determination to win such a prize as "never King of Scotland had before," or to lose his life in the attempt. It is remarkable that in this same spring of 1540-while such was understood to be the destination of the Scottish fleet-a congress of the Chiefs of all Ireland was appointed to be held at the Abbey of Fore, in West-Meath. To prevent this meeting taking place, the whole force of the Pale, with the judges, clergy, townsmen and husbandmen, marched out under the direction of the Lords of the Council (St. Leger not having yet arrived to replace Lord Gray), but finding no such assembly as they had been led to expect, they made a predatory incursion into Roscommon, and dispersed some armed bands belonging to O'Conor. The commander in this expedition was the Marshal Sir William Brereton, for the moment one of the Lords Justices. He was followed to the field by the last Prior of Kilmainham, Sir John Rawson, the Master of the Rolls, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Bishop of Meath, Mr. Justice Luttrell, and the Barons of the Exchequer-a strange medley of civil and military dignitaries.