CHAPTER VIII. THE AGE AND RULE OF GERALD, EIGHTH EARL OF KILDARE - THE TIDE BEGINS TO TURN FOR THE ENGLISH INTEREST - THE YORKIST PRETENDERS, SIMNEL AND WARBECK - POYNING'S PARLIAMENT - BATTLES OF KNOCKDOE AND MONABRAHER.
Perhaps no preface could better introduce to the reader the singular events which marked the times of Gerald, eighth Earl of Kildare, than a brief account of one of his principal partizans - Sir James Keating, Prior of the Knights of St. John. The family of Keating, of Norman-Irish origin, were most numerous in the fifteenth century in Kildare, from which they afterwards spread into Tipperary and Limerick. Sir James Keating, "a mere Irishman," became Prior of Kilmainham about the year 1461, at which time Sir Robert Dowdal, deputy to the Lord Treasurer, complained in Parliament, that being on a pilgrimage to one of the shrines of the Pale, he was assaulted near Cloniff, by the Prior, with a drawn sword, and thereby put in danger of his life. It was accordingly decreed that Keating should pay to the King a hundred pounds fine, and to Sir Robert a hundred marks; but, from certain technical errors in the proceedings, he successfully evaded both these penalties. When in the year 1478 the Lord Grey of Codner was sent over to supersede Kildare, he took the decided step of refusing to surrender to that nobleman the Castle of Dublin, of which he was Constable. Being threatened with an assault, he broke down the bridge and prepared his defence, while his Mend, the Earl of Kildare, called a Parliament at Naas, in opposition to Lord Grey's Assembly at Dublin. In 1480, after two years of rival parties and viceroys, Lord Grey was feign to resign his office, and Kildare was regularly appointed Deputy to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III. Two years later, Keating was deprived of his rank by Peter d'Aubusson, Grand Master of Rhodes, who appointed Sir Marmaduke Lumley, an English knight, in his stead. Sir Marmaduke landed soon after at Clontarf, where he was taken prisoner by Keating, and kept in close confinement until he had surrendered all the instruments of his election and confirmation. He was then enlarged, and appointed to the commandery of Kilseran, near Castlebellingham, in Louth. In the year 1488, Keating was one of those who took an active part in favour of the pretender Lambert Simnel, and although his pardon had been sternly refused by Henry VII., he retained possession of the Hospital until 1491, when he was ejected by force, "and ended his turbulent life," as we are told, "in the most abject poverty and disgrace." All whom he had appointed to office were removed; an Act of Parliament was passed, prohibiting the reception of any "mere Irishman" into the Order for the future, and enacting that whoever was recognized as Prior by the Grand Master should be of English birth, and one having such a connection with the Order there as might strengthen the force and interest of the Kings of England in Ireland.
The fact most indicative of the spirit of the times is, that a man of Prior Keating's disposition could, for thirty years, have played such a daring part as we have described in the city of Dublin. During the greater part of that period, he held the office of Constable of the Castle and Prior of Kilmainham, in defiance of English Deputies and English Kings; than which no farther evidence may be adduced to show how completely the English, interest was extinguished, even within the walls of Dublin, during the reign of the last of the Plantagenet Princes, and the first years of Henry VII.
In 1485, Henry, Earl of Richmond, grandson of Queen Catherine and Owen ap Tudor, returned from his fourteen years' exile in France, and, by the victory of Bosworth, took possession of the throne. The Earl of Kildare, undisputed Deputy during the last years of Edward IV., had been continued by Richard, and was not removed by Henry VII. Though a staunch Yorkist, he showed no outward opposition to the change of dynasty, for which he found a graceful apology soon afterwards. Being at Mass, in Christ's Church Cathedral, on the 2nd of February, 1486, he received intelligence of Henry's marriage with Elizabeth of York, which he at once communicated to the Archbishop of Dublin, and ordered an additional Mass for the King and Queen. Yet, from the hour of that union of the houses of York and Lancaster, it needed no extraordinary wisdom to foresee that the exemption of the Anglo-Irish nobles from the supremacy of their nominal King must come to an end, and the freedom of the old Irish from any formidable external danger must also close. The union of the Roses, so full of the promise of peace for England, was to form the date of a new era in her relations with Ireland. The tide of English power was at that hour at its lowest ebb; it had left far in the interior the landmarks of its first irresistible rush; it might be said, without exaggeration, that Gaelic children now gathered shells and pebbles where that tide once rolled, charged with all its thunders; it was now about to turn; the first murmuring menace of new encroachments began to be heard under Henry VII.; as we listen they grow louder on the ear; the waves advance with a steady, deliberate march, unlike the first impetuous onslaught of the Normans; they advance and do not recede, till they recover all the ground they had abandoned. The era which we dated from the Red Earl's death, in 1333, has exhausted its resources of aggression and assimilation; a new era opens with the reign of Henry VII. - or more distinctly still, with that of his successor, Henry VIII. We must close our account with the old era, before entering upon the new.