Sir John Clotworthy, John Davies and the politics of supply, 1644–45

Sir John Clotworthy’s attempt to increase the supplies sent from England to the armies in Ulster in the mid-1640s provides a fascinating insight into relations between Ireland and England at this time. Clotworthy’s success in wresting the initiative away from the adventurers, aided by ‘the gentlemen of Ireland’ – a kaleidoscopic array of Irish Protestants from all four provinces engaged in lobbying the parliamentarian authorities – reminds us of the importance of personal connections during this period. In particular, the way in which the Carrickfergus merchant, John Davies, stole a march on his London rivals to monopolise the supply lines shows how war presented opportunities to those who were both enterprising and unscrupulous.

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Eamon Darcy’s chapter makes a foray into the notoriously difficult topic of early modern popular politics within a confederate context. He considers the importance of communication in the period, especially the role of bilingual ‘brokers’ in spreading propaganda and of the role of oath-taking as a means of securing allegiance. He also looks at print culture and popular politics. The conclusion for the Confederate Association is not at all positive, as its leaders remained wary of the ordinary people, blaming them for lawlessness and violence during the rebellion, and dismissing their beliefs.

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The earl of Cork’s Blackwater army and the defence of Protestant Munster, 1641–43

In this chapter, focusing on the southern province of Munster, David Edwards investigates the private army of Richard Boyle, first earl of Cork, in the early years of the war. He highlights the difficulty faced by the earl in defending his estates in the Blackwater Valley during this period of upheaval and uncertainty, and explores the rivalries within the Protestant community, not least the activities of the lord president of Munster, Sir William St Leger, whose priorities for the defence of Munster did not include safeguarding the Boyle estates.

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The confederate wars revisited

This chapter introduces the volume, outlining the historical debate on the wars of the 1640s, explaining why there has been less interest in it recently, as historians have focused on the outbreak of the rebellion and the Cromwellian invasion instead. It also introduces each chapter with a brief summary, and points out the new themes that emerge across the volume, including the importance of the regions to understanding the war. One of these themes, the crisis in authority – which affected not only the royalist government and institutions but also the Catholic Confederate alternatives – is explored in more detail, and proposed as an important new way to understand this difficult period.

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War, politics and religion, 1641–50
Editor: Patrick Little

This volume presents cutting-edge research on one of the most controversial periods in Irish history. The essays re-examine key aspects of the decade, including the problem of allegiance and loyalty and the role of central institutions, notably the Irish Parliament and the Church of Ireland. It also provides new perspectives on the nature of alternatives sources of authority, such as the Confederation of Kilkenny, the Roman Catholic Church and the English Parliament. The focus on government is balanced by important new research on popular politics and on regional history, with essays highlighting the reaction to rebellion and warfare in Munster, Connacht and Ulster. The volume also sheds light on the careers of important individuals, including the marquess of Ormond, the earl of Clanricarde, Sir John Clotworthy, Lord Montgomery of the Ards and Oliver Cromwell. The essays are complemented by an introduction which emphasises the general crisis of authority that prevented attempts at reaching a peace deal and brought Ireland into a new war of religion by the end of the decade, with Oliver Cromwell emerging as the brutal victor.

Many historians assume that, having played a pivotal role in the fall of the earl of Strafford, the Irish Parliament came to an end in 1641, before the outbreak of rebellion. In this chapter Coleman Dennehy reminds us that Parliament continued to meet, however infrequently, until 1648 and technically it was only dissolved on the execution of Charles I in January 1649. The chapter investigates attendance in the houses and the business conducted there, including passing legislation and hearing petitions. It also considers why an apparently defunct institution was kept on life support by Ormond and the Dublin administration, concluding that part of the reason was to ratify a peace treaty with the confederates that never took effect.

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In this chapter, Kevin Forkan charts the leaching away of support for Ormond in Ulster in 1649. Viscount Montgomery of the Ards seemed a good choice to lead the royalist ‘non-sectarian coalition’ in the north, but he could not convince the Presbyterian ministers, who turned against him, and his position was further weakened by the activities of Sir George Monro as a rival commander in the west of the province. The chapter underlines Ormond’s weakness and the divided nature of the Protestants in Ireland in the period immediately before the Cromwellian invasion.

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John Morrill’s concluding chapter looks at Cromwell’s polemical dispute with the Catholic hierarchy in the winter of 1649–50. Morrill argues that Cromwell’s rhetoric was not primarily anti-Catholic; rather his targets were those guilty of the massacres of 1641, the clergy he saw as behind the violence throughout the decade and the recalcitrant royalists. Controversially, he concludes that the bigotry of the conquest of Ireland in the years that followed was the fault of others.

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The marquess of Ormond, Archbishop Ussher and the appointment of Irish bishops, 1643–47

This chapter looks at the marquess of Ormond’s involvement with Archbishop Ussher and the running of the Church of Ireland, specifically the appointment of bishops. It shows not only the determination of Ormond to keep the church hierarchy filled with suitably able men – which was especially important during the negotiations with the confederates, in which the future of church property was paramount – but also his sympathies with Calvinist divines such as Dr Henry Jones of Clogher, who could provide robust opposition to the covenanters as well as the Catholics. The chapter thus provides yet another layer to the complicated negotiations conducted by Ormond in the mid-1640s, reinforcing the impression that the lord lieutenant was a politician of considerable ingenuity.

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In this chapter Bríd McGrath considers the MPs ‘recruited’ to the Irish Parliament between 1642 and 1647. Her analysis of the 87 identified MPs added to the Commons during that period reveals that they mostly represented Leinster seats (especially those under the control of the government in Dublin); two-thirds were Protestant New English, and most were soldiers or government officials. The problems of conducting wartime elections meant that many MPs were ‘elected’ by the use of blank returns or effectively chosen by the local sheriffs, and the numbers varied considerably through the decade, with peaks in 1642 (to replace ejected Catholics), 1644 and 1647. Despite this, there was a considerable variety of political views, reflecting the increasingly divided Protestant community.

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