336 The Jacobean Plantations of Ireland


The Jacobean plan for Ulster owed much not only to previous failed Tudor plantation schemes, but to James’s highland experience and his desire to build a unified, secure British state across all his three kingdoms.

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Plantations to 1641



Now then everyone, it is time, the time has come to introduce you to a character called Arthur Chichester. As I was reading up about our Art, one historian discussed how he was up there in the Pantheon of the most hated figures in Irish history – almost all of course, for obvious reasons, are English. I will have to explain why Chichester makes it into the said Pantheon, although I might leaven the bread of his reputation just a touch. Today gentle listeners we are going to talk about James and his policy in Ireland, and the impact of said policy and governance upon the Irish.

Arthur Chichester, then, was a military man and a Devonian, born in 1563. He became a career soldier in the wars against Spain rising to become a captain of the marines; he was part of Francis Drakes last voyage where he excelled himself, and was given a command in northern France in 1597. So far so good, but then in 1598 the trouble starts, with the Nine Year’s against Hugh O’Neil, Earl of Tyrone. Obviously, Mountjoy the commander of the English forces in that conflict, was on the lookout for experienced and capable military men; though after Tyrone’s victory at Yellow Ford fighting in Ireland looked like a risky business. But Arthur had a personal interest in joining Mountjoy; his brother John Chichester had been governor of Carrickfergus, had been killed in the fighting and his head used as a football in Tyrone’s camp, which is rude.

As you may remember, the Nine Year’s War came at the end of Elizabethan rule in Ireland, a period described by one historian as the ‘age of atrocities’. We went through them, and you may also remember that both Mountjoy and Tyrone used a policy of scorched earth during the wars in Ulster in particular to slow each other down – never mind the local people. Chichester seems to have taken particular, grim satisfaction with the effectiveness of the policy; he carried out one particularly merciless raid across Loch Neagh, and infamously said of the scorched earth policy

a million swords will not do them so much harm as one winter’s famine

Hence, Chichester’s presence in the Pantheon. I tell you all this not to besmirch Chichester’s name. I tell you because we have an editorial policy of covering the Good, the Bad and also not shying away from the Ugly here at the History of England, but mainly because it gives some context when I tell you that Arthur Chichester was made Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1605 after the end of the war, and would continue in that role until 1616. Chichester also commits other crimes in the minds of Catholics, which we will come to, but I do want to leaven the bread of Chichester’s understandably flat-ish reputation to allow it to rise just a little. Chichester was not a stupid man, nor an unthinking one incapable of changing his views. In the mind of some historians, his career might be seen in two parts – the military and without doubt blood soaked first half, and the second half after becoming Governor. Not that, in 21st century terms he will appear to be in anyway saint like, but his focus and attitudes changes to a degree. For example he wrote to Salisbury in 1610 acknowledging that he had been among the ‘wasters and destroyers’, but was trying to now earn his place in the ranks of the ‘builders and planters’.

Chichester was however deeply anti-catholic. In this, of course he was entirely unexceptional in Protestant England, Wales and Scotland. His primary objection, though, was political rather than theological; he firmly believed that you could not combine religious loyalty to Catholicism with secular loyalty to a Protestant king. For this reason, he would make life hard for recusant Catholics – and of course most Old English and Gaelic Irish were firmly and determinedly recusant catholic. And however he might want to become a builder and planter, he could be brutal; on one occasion for example, he persuaded an Old English Catholic to walk with him to the Protestant church; when the man, Barnewell refused to go in Chichester hit him hard over the head and dragged him inside.

However, Chichester seems to have been relatively free of the attitudes that affected so many of his English and Scottish compatriots; the view of the Gaelic Irish as a savage and barbarous race. The language is pretty horrific to the modern ear, and of course though such attitudes were endemic across cultures and countries worldwide, that doesn’t make the any easier to deal with. I guess we have dealt with this before but just to make you crystal clear that it’s not getting any better; the way of life, traditions and culture of the Irish appeared to English and lowland Scottish eyes to be chaotic and barbaric. The agriculture, relying much more on pasture and cattle rearing, with arable cultivation going on in strips and small fields, seemed to the English, mistakenly, to leave much of the land empty and unexploited, which they put down to laziness or worse. They saw Irish chieftans as tyrannical and in their use of Gallowglasses and constant cattle raiding as part of a violent society, which to be fair is undersytandable. The English saw the system of landholding by the clan to be perplexing and chaotic and very different, the mysticism of aspects of culture and the bardic tradition as marking the Irish as practically pagan – and then there was the stubborn love of catholicism to boot. In summary, many from the king down saw the Gaelic Irish as savages who had failed to progress, to farm for their food or live in an ordered polity regulated by law. I am honour bound to give you one quote so here’s one from a tract in 1615 describing the Irish as

More barbarous and more brutish in their costumes and demeanours than in any part of the world that is known

Chichester however does not appear to have viewed the Irish in this way; his concern was religion and obedience. But many did, among them King James. There are clear parallels here with longstanding Lowland Scottish attitudes towards Gaelic highlanders; the 14th century lowland Scottish chronicler John of Fordoun, for example described highlanders as ‘a savage and untamed nation, rude and independent…and exceedingly cruel’. James himself had tried to enforce plantations of lowlanders on the Isle of Lewis, and in 1609 would impose the Statute of Iona on the Highland chiefs – an attempt to bring to what was termed ‘civility’ to the Highland and Islanders. There is here, by the way, not only parallels between English and Scottish attitudes; but parallels to the attitudes with which the English will face the native Americans. It’s been pointed out by cleverer people than me, that Ireland might be considered the first of England’s colonial ventures.

I feel I’m treading on old ground again, and sorry if so, but you know, it’s pretty crucial stuff. This then was the new British policy because it was now a British policy under James. Everyone used the word ‘civility’ – the native Irish were to be made more like us, said the English and lowland Scots, they are to be civilised and anglicised. Ireland was in a sense a frontier region – it must be brought within the wider whole of the state; we’ve already seen how Elizabethan policy had been, in their view, to make Ireland English – impose English laws, limit the thuggery and tyrannical power of the clan chiefs, feuding and raiding to be replaced by order, the rule of law, to create a society that channelled labour into productiveness rather than destruction. For James and most others, the attitude was therefore not one of understanding and respecting Irish culture and way of life, it was to replace it with one the British understood. This was to the official mind, not a war of conquest; it was simply targeting ‘unnatural and barbarous rebels’ that needed to be ‘rooted out’. Francis Bacon was one of those whose view while supportive of his king’s was gentler in tone – the Irish should be treated even-handedly and impartially as if they were ‘one nation’ within James’ domains.

The Irish responded to this in flexible and various ways. One historian has commented that modern laments that the native Irish chiefs did not unite against the English enemy, rather presupposes that unity was what the Irish lords were looking for. In general it was not, although the seeds of nationalism seem to be appearing by the end of Elizabeth’s reign – but many Irish lords saw even O’Neill’s claims to be fighting for Ireland as bogus, and more about O’Neill. Often they tried to adapt, and often they were confused about who was the enemy – Mountjoy remarked finding in one rebel’s house paintings of both Elizabeth and Philip of Spain. As far as the Old Irish were concerned in particular, they were looking for the preservation of their status and traditions – under the king. But as we’ll see, every time they sought representation – by parliament or king – they were stymied, until there appeared no way out.

For the likes of Chichester and James, religion was one of the keys to making the Irish part of the one, British nation. This must be done by a mixture of coercion and persuasion, stick and carrot. The stick side is what tends to be focussed on as regards Chichester. There was no recusancy law in Ireland, unlike in England; so in 1606 Chichester issued mandates in the King name, using the king’s prerogative rights, to require everyone to attend protestant services within the Pale, and later extended it to Munster and Galway. For a couple of years until the policy was rescinded, thousands of Catholics were harassed and fined.

Catholics in particular responded in a variety of ways; Catholic priests were not happy with the idea of attending protestant churches to avoid trouble – church papism; compromise was for them not an option either, and they tried to get parishioners to swear not to attend Protestant services. Many complied, and hoped in the end James would have to give way. On occasion they asserted their right to follow their religion in collective ways – in County Wexford, 200 of them turned up to the protestant church of Ireland and made such a noise the sermon was drowned out and the service could not proceed. Or they used passive resistance – such as for example a chief magistrate refusing to publish a proclamation banishing catholic priests. Those in the worst position were the poor, as ever – they couldn’t afford fines but were often dependent on Catholic landlords. So here’s an example of rock and a hard place, fat and the fire. The protestant governor in Munster forced a crowd of peasants to attend the Protestant church. Afterwards, the poor peasants’ Catholic landlord threatened to cancel their tenancies until they were ‘reconciled with the church’; so he made them go on a pilgrimage, on foot, in white linen to atone for their crimes. You have to feel for those poor souls. Devil and deep blue sea time.

The thing is though, that the mandating policy was cancelled; and there is a history of te government blowing hot and blowing cold, and of changes in view between James and Chichester – particularly James alternating between a hard and a soft line. Even Chichester to a degree suffered from it. So, an extreme case is the Catholic Bishop Concobhar Ó Duibheannaigh, [Concobber o Duodeenay) one of the Irish Catholic Martyrs. In 1612 Chichester had him tried after he was caught confirming people in the faith, packed the court jury, and had him executed – he was 80 years old at the time. With him died Patrick O’Loughran (Pádraig Ó Lochráin). The crowd saw their brave deaths, and pressed forward to take momentos away with them, and when he was buried exhumed him to be interred instead in St James’ churchyard.

On the other hand Chichester sought to re-invigorate the Church of Ireland, providing ministers to improve the ability of the church to provide pastoral care. He recognised the central importance of protestant texts in Gaelic, and sponsored devotional texts and prayers in gaelic; and promoted the Gaelic Bible – the New Testament had been available in Gaelic since 1602. There was some other progress as well; a Convocation met and produced a set of 104 articles of protestant faith – specific to Ireland but, as it happens, much more Calvinist and less open to interpretation than Cranmer’s 39 articles. But the church of Ireland showed little ability to evangelise, livings were so poor it was difficult to recruit ministers and so, many parishes were left empty. Often though in many areas the evidence of persecution is actually rather difficult to find; observance of the Catholic Religion was fairly open, marriages were performed by catholic priests. Catholics were made JPs and Sheriffs on a large scale – 2/3rds of the Limerick JPs were Catholics in 1620 for example. Catholic Priests often lived in the houses of the Gentry saying mass openly[1]– and even being given the patronage of parsonages and vicarages. There remained a strong tradition of peripatetic Catholic primary schoolmasters – I am not saying these were sanctioned by the state of course, they were part of a response by Catholics to keep their faith alive and burning in the darkness; all I am saying is that persecution is patchy and periodic, and presents an oddly mixed picture.

Which brings us to the plantations of Ulster. As background it’s important to remember the impact of the flight of the earls in 1607, and O’Doherty’s failed rebellion in 1608; together both of these allowed James to take the view that these were rebels and their lands could therefore be confiscated to the crown, escheated as the legal jargon has it, and redistributed, as had often been the case of course with rebels against the crown in England.

O’Doherty’s rebellion is also particularly important, because it greatly extended the amount of land that was identified as available for plantation. This is important, and here we need to bring in Chichester again, who is often quoted as a hardliner. The strategy and policy for the Ulster plantations was a matter of constant negotiations and differing opinions – with the king, the Privy Councils in Ireland and England, and Chichester. After the flight of the earls, Chichester’s view was that plantation should be used to entice the local native population away from their traditional allegiance to Gaelic chiefs into this much vaunted new ‘civility’ and English way; and therefore that the native Irish populations should be a central part of the resettlement of the escheated lands. He wrote that land should be awarded so that

every man of note or good desert so much as he can conveniently stock and manure by himself and his tenants and followers, and so much more as by conjecture he shall be able to so stock and manure for five years to come.[2]

O’Dohertys rebellion panicked everyone; and the plans that finally emerged horrified Chichester, who thought the expectations were way too high and that the treatment of the native Irish would spawn grievances – as, of course they absolutely would. In Wexford therefore, where new plantations were organised, he followed his original plan of allocating land to native Irish; not that the plantations in Wexford were a success; the Old English and native Irish were outraged that the approach used – for existing landowners to give up the land in return for new title from the crown – was much abused and saw their landholdings reduced.

The point I am clumsily making here, though, is that at the heart of Chichester’s view was the concept of inducement to the native Irish and indeed Old English. Look he was saying, we’ll offer order and structure through the re-organisation of government, English law will give you new rights to protect you from the tyranny of your existing lords, new methods of agriculture and the establishment of towns to build wealth, we’ll make sure you have secure title to land. Now I am not saying this offer would have been a success either; there’s no doubt that religion was an absolutely key difference from the eventual integration of England, Scotland, and Wales into one British kingdom. But as thing unfold one of the extraordinary things about English and British rule in Ireland, was the very limited extent of any positive offer and inducement to the native population. In both Wales and Scotland, whatever might be said of integration and whatever your view, existing elites were not to be replaced wholesale; there were benefits offered; there was nothing like the violence constantly involved in Ireland; and a union was therefore formed that has survived pretty harmoniously for over 300 years – don’t shout at me, it’s true. This did not happen in Ireland. The result was a hideous process of multiple bloody conquests and violence from Tudor times through to the 18th century, and the establishment of a state that was never an effective representation of all its peoples.

Anyway, onward with the detail of the plantations everyone, onward. What were the principles behind the idea that by bringing a mass of English and Scottish settlers into Ulster, that a new society would be formed, and Ireland become a happy, successful and productive kingdom? The Historian Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin (tige as in tiger; o henration) and Nicholas Canny summarised it into 5 general ideas[3].

There was firstly, the traditional idea behind plantations since the 1550’s that the colonies would be an example to everyone in Ireland of how a society could work – exemplary you might say, everyone would see how great it was and say ‘Yeah! Wow, let’s all give up thousands of years of history and do that now!’ To do this, crucially – the exemplary plantations must be composed of Protestant English and Scots only, who knew how to do it.

Secondly, the plantation would create an urban network of towns and fortified dwellings which would protect the plantations until the locals saw the light but also crucially, deliver benefits through economic growth.

There was then a realisation of the importance of religion and conversion to Protestantism – and so the state church needed strong economic and structural foundations so that it could make the Reformation fly.

The architects then looked at history, and the experience of the previous Munster plantation suggested that scattering colonies over a wide area among a native population which still outnumbered them and where local lords retained their traditional influence was a bad idea with a capital B. So – where natives did get estates in the plantation, they would be forced into designated areas where they could be controlled. And finally, the plantation would allow for the compensation of blameless natives forced off the land. This was based on the fundamental misunderstanding of Irish subsistence agriculture, which suggested that plenty of vacant or underutilized land was available for them. I have got that right, that is five, isn’t it?

I’m going to add another one, or make an additional point whatever. As far as James was concerned this was absolutely a British project. And part of that was about the security of his three kingdoms and one principality. There’s the one that everyone was concerned about of course – that Catholic Ireland was the back door to conquering England. But I mean it in the sense that James was looking differently now at England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. In his mind, as we have heard, this should all be one place anyway, and he was a little miffed he couldn’t get parliament to agree with him; nonetheless that’s how he viewed it. An integrated state doesn’t have frontiers and boundaries within it; if it does, it will never be secure and successful. Thomas Cromwell clearly understood that in 1542, when he deleted the Welsh marcher lordships as part of integrating Wales into one kingdom. The reason for establishing the English language as s standard was not to delete other languages, which continued to be supported by for example, the production of Welsh and gaelic religious material; but to make sure there was a standard language all could also understand ad use to communicate. James understood that internal frontiers was his problem with the Highlands and Islands, which was one of his failures, they did not share lowland law, society and attitudes; he understood it with regards to the English Scottish Borders, which was one of his signal successes. This was what was going on in Ireland for James – Ireland looked like a frontier, the survival of different laws, landholding, lordship. He was pushing forward the kind of initiative that was going on in many states in Europe – Spain and France in particular. Often with violence every bit as horrible as occurs in Ireland.

So this was the scheme for Ulster then. There were three groups who would get land in Ulster; Firstly, the Undertakers, which is an oddly inappropriate word in a modern sense. They were all to be English and Scottish, all were required to take the oath of supremacy to attest to their Protestantism. They would make their property defensible, recruit and deploy only Scottish and English to replace the existing tenants, and the tenants they settled where not themselves allowed to accept Irish tenants. There was a second group called servitors who were mainly English, and were encouraged to settle English and Scots tenants – but not required to, they could take Irish tenants. And a third group – native Irish. The Irish who qualified would be ‘deserving’ so not a rebel basically – and they could have native tenants too – but they had to practice tillage and husbandry after the English and Lowland Scots fashion.

James was enthusiastic about the scheme. He reckoned it would produce a

‘Mixt conversation of different nations one amongst another’ to help ‘induce obedience, civilitie and Christian policie into those parts to the welfare and tranquilitie of the whole realme’

So, he was confident that plantations would deliver peace, truth, light and small furry animals into the world, that all the pineapples would be smooth ended. The road to hell and all that.

Here are some figures then everyone – are you ready with pen and paper?

English and Scots undertakers and servitors received about 217,000 acres. Irish received 94,000 acres. The London companies received 45,000 acres. London was very important in this process; it was going to be very expensive to do all this undertaking, and their money was crucial; the government wanted them to rebuild the towns of Derry and Coleraine to create more trade and wealth. So they were allocated the entire county of Coleraine, and parts of Tyrone and Antrim – to create a new county called Londonderry, and a contentious name was born.

Then 74,000 acres went to the church to foster it’s potential to spread the protestant word. And 12,400 to Trinity College Dublin.

This causes me to break off and digress I am sorry to say, but it will be brief, because I realise to my horror that I have not covered the establishment of Ireland’s oldest university, Trinity College Dublin, which is a crime obviously not just because it’s one of Europe’s elite universities, but also because it’s a lovely place to visit –  mean Dublin’s a lovely place to visit with loads of places in which to mooch, and it’s true, Guinness does taste quite decent there as opposed to the stuff served over here. But the Trinity Library is amazing, absolutely wonderful to see.

So, a group of Dubliners got together, and in 1592 managed to get letters patent and provided initial endowments from the dissolution of the Augustine monastery to set the college up outside the walls of the city. It was based on the Oxford and Cambridge model, so the University of Dublin expected to have more colleges – but that never happened. The university’s founders were determined to strengthen Ireland’s integration into the mainstream of European learning. It was also overtly designed to be a protestant college, anti Catholic and anti Gaelic, teaching a classical curriculum, and preparing ministers for the Church of Ireland. It is part in a sense of the same process of establishing mainstream education as part of the Reformation; lay schools and Grammar schools were established after the dissolution of the monasteries as well, on an anglicized model; one contemporary reported on a school in Limerick where he saw

‘one hundred and three score scholars most of them speaking good and perfect English, for that they have used to construe the Latin into English

Catholic families that could afford it carried on their education and that of their children on their traditional model, and the peripatetic school masters I have mentioned. There was established a tradition amongst Catholics of leaving Ireland to complete a university education on the continent – notably Salamanca, I am told. The close links with Catholicism there strengthened the impact of the Counter Reformation within Ireland when they returned.



Anyway, back to the plantations then now that I have scratched that itch. Progress of the plantations started rapidly enough, but stalled, and progress was slower and more chaotic than the King and his councillors hoped. Many of the undertakers found that the costs way exceeded their expectations; many simply sold up immediately and went home once they hit problems. And in particular, the idea of excluding Native Irish tenants from parts of the plantations was never a flyer; there were simply not enough colonists, and so many native Irish tenants remained; obviously not happily, often with a lower status than they’d previously held, with less land and harbouring fierce resentment at the injustice visited on them; a hostile Catholic underclass, resenting their protestant head tenants.

Nonetheless, the numbers were impressive. By 1622, the total adult population that had moved from Britain was about 12,000, over half of them Scottish.  Meanwhile there was a deal of informal movement going on from Scotland into Down and Antrim, areas not covered by the confiscations; maybe in the long term, more significant than the official projects, by 1622 about 7,000 adult Scots. By 1630, the total number was possibly around 37,000 immigrants, while there were also English that moved into Munster and Leinster to new plantations there. So by 1641, it seems that about 100,000 British may have re-settled in Ireland, whether part of official schemes or of informal migration – about 30,000 Scots, and 70,000 English and Welsh. The colonising principle in Ireland has been described as a sort of testing ground for later colonisations in Canada and America, so it’s interesting to reflect that these numbers far exceed the Great Migration of the 1630s, the 20,000 or so who migrated to New England.

The plantations had the general impact of undermining the traditional leadership in Ireland of the Old English as well as the Native Irish, and in general it would become clear that the attempt anglicise the general population would not be a success. In 1600, most of the land was owned by Old English and Native Irish; by 1641, land ownership was split three roughly equal parts between Old English, Native Irish and new British settlers.

However, there were many native lords in Ulster who did try to fit into the new world. Randal McDonnell is a good example; he was a major landowner in his own right, and he took the approach of trying to work with the new administration and with the plantations – he acquired a plantation of 4,500 acres for example, and peopled them with English and Scots, despite being Catholic. He made some effort to adapt to English social expectations and dress, built imposing residences at Dunluce and Glenarm just like any dyed in the wool English or Scottish aristocrat. He became an alderman at Derry and established distinctly Scottish style mills, roads, townships, bridges on his estates. In the background he continued though to be staunchly Catholic, continued to patronise Gaelic culture – settling land on two Gaelic bards for example. Nonetheless, he encouraged his legitimate and illegitimate children to marry into English, Scottish or Old English Catholic families in the pale; he could be described as joining the kind of British aristocracy that James was trying hard to create across his three kingdoms. And it worked – he became a member of the PC of Ireland, and in 1620 was made Earl of Antrim. Others tried a similar strategy. But in general most would find it hard; and the costs involved in adopting an anglicised mantel, however superficially, would push many into increasing debt.

There’s no doubt that native Irish and particularly Old English continued to be increasingly alienated by James’ policy in Ireland, not helped by Chichester’s renewed burst of activity against recusants in 1612-1613. Much of this resentment came to a head at the Irish parliament convened by James in 1613. James by and large didn’t have much fun with parliaments in any of his kingdom. It’s not a big shock he tried to get by without them as much as possible, as would prove to be his future strategy in Ireland too. But he needed this one; all those confiscations needed confirming if nothing else. And then there’s the money issue – root of all evil as they say. Not only was James skint and getting skinter by the year, but Ireland was part of the conveyor belt towards the ultimate level of skint-dom – between 1604 and 1619 the subsidy sent from England to Ireland was £47,000 on average a year. So James was looking for a subsidy from the Irish parliament, to help with the piggy bank problem. And also James was keen to launch some new anti Catholic laws to banish Jesuits and seminary priests, both of which groups James saw as essentially disloyal to the crown. He wanted laws to prevent Catholic Irish travelling abroad, and introduce the English style recusancy laws.

The problem was that the Catholic Old English dominated the Irish parliament and they weren’t going to like this, they weren’t going to like this one little bit. So, James pre-empted the 19th century Governor of Massachusetts, Eldrige Gerry, and decided to do some mandering. He created 84 new parliamentary seats all cunningly located whey they could be pretty sure they’d get protestant MPs returned – boroughs, Trinity College, as well as sharing out others around the regions. Now there was a need for more seats and more equitable distribution – but this wasn’t it. What this meant was that the Old English could no longer hope to be able to block hostile legislation in parliament.




The Old English fought back. The election was hotly contested, which really isn’t normally the case in the Early Modern parliamentary selection process. But when parliament met James had achieved his ends – Protestants outnumbered Catholics by 132 to 100. Still the Catholic members resisted; and you get this lovely bit of theatre where the Catholic candidate for the position of Speaker tried to take the speakers chair from the protestant candidate, John Davies. He sat in the chair and would not move, so John Davies sat in his lap, and Davies had, by all accounts been on the pies for some time. Parliamentary democracy is so dignified. Eventually, the Catholics walked out and parliament had to be prorogued.

Outraged, Catholics sent a delegation to England to see James. They had a whip round to get the cash together, and interestingly many native Irish lords also contributed, despite the fact that the vast majority of Catholics in the parliament were Old English; here is a worrying sign for James. That the Native Irish and Old English were sinking their old differences in a joint solidarity against the plantations and against the Protestant Church of Ireland.

James received the petition, and the petitioners. They had let rip; about the constant use of martial law, the extortions of soldiers, abuses in civil government, their lack of faith in redress from the legal system; the lack of knowledge of Gaelic among the Common Law Judges. There was more. And of course, they objected to the recusancy legislation. Well, James listened to be fair – he was a canny politician at times, and agreed to set up an inquiry, demonstrating that setting up an inquiry is a time honoured approach for wayward governments to give themselves time or quietly shelve embarrassing cock ups, which is still in use today. However, apparently the petitioners then celebrated their apparent success far too joyously – I’m not sure quite how? Possibly swinging on the chandeliers in the new Banquetting House, or trying to photocopy their bottoms on the king’s throne a few centuries before photocopying had been invented – I am not sure. Either way it got James’ goat, so in 1614 he called them back and gave them the traditional carpeting that Edwin Sandys had got used to. He called them ‘half subjects’ – echoes of Henry VIII there, denounced them as ‘full of pride and arrogancy’ and threw a few of them in the Tower for a few days just to underline his crossness.

It was, however, bluster – James needed his cash, and also to give him his due, he knew when to back down. He unwound at least some of his gerrymandering, so that the protestant majority was to reduce to a margin of 108 to 102. The recusancy laws were shelved. This did the trick; the business of the parliament proceeded, a subsidy of £26,000 was voted, the sun came out through the clouds.

Well, where does that leave us then, by the time Chichester gave way to Oliver St John in 1616, and Oliver St John to Henry Carey in 1622 as Lord Deputy? In some ways, the optimistic observer of a sunny dispos-ish, as Bertie would have it, could be well pleased. There appeared to be on the surface peace, stability, and a distinct absence of rebellion – maybe the worst was over? It helped that economically things were going pretty well, up to the 1630s. Although the Irish economy was still heavily subsistence based, there was a sign of increasing sophistication and commercialisation, and the export led part of the economy was performing impressively, focussing on wool, timber, cattle and some fish exports – mainly to Britain, but also to France and Spain. In Munster, the fisheries trade was worth £29,000; there were signs of close trade links with the English south west. The number of towns and associated trade was very much invigorated by the plantations; of the 117 municipal boroughs recorded in 1692, 80 were created after 1603. So there were signs of vitality and growth in the economy, and the population grew accordingly, from around 1m to 1.4m – part of which of course was due to the arrival of settler, but much of which was organic growth as times and stability improved, and in the absence of violence.

So, some of the New English in Ireland were fooled into thinking that the summit of Elizabethan violence and rebellion had been conquered, and now to come was the easy descent into the green and pleasant downlands. John Davies, the bloke who’d sat on the Speaker’s lap wrote happily, probably munching on some sort of pie, that

Whereas the Irish, in former times, were left under the tyranny and their lords and chieftans…they were free subjects to the Kings of England’

For once the protection of the crown was real and a benefit, they sat on juries, the assize circuits were established and operated. In England, Francis Bacon could tell the new Chief Justice of Ireland in 1617 that the country

‘Which hath come in and been reclaimed from desolation and a desert to population and plantation, and from savage and barbarous custom to humanity and civility’.

In fact, of course, the Catholics of Ireland, both Old English and Native Irish, harboured bitter resentments at their treatment. The reason for their relative quietism in the first half of the century were many and various; some did turn to the new laws and processes to fight their claims through English law rather through violence; for others, resistance simply seemed futile in the face of English military presence; and some left Ireland to fight in the Thirsty Years wars. Others reflected that the misfortunes they had suffered were maybe God’s punishment for their sins, a theme often followed by Gaelic poets and bards, which encouraged stoic resignation.

The more observant of the English recognised that a sunny view of the Irish reaction to English rule was far from accurate. In a deeply anti Catholic tract, Barnaby Rich writing from the Pale was convinced things wouldn’t improve until the dominance of Catholicism had been addressed. John Carew, who became President of Munster, warned prophetically how the recent plantations had encouraged the native Irish and Old English to put behind them centuries of hatred and unite in opposition. He predicted that

The next rebellion, whensoever it shall happen would threaten more danger to the state than any other that has preceded it, because the revolt is likely to be general

Golly. Get hold of that bloke’s crystal ball and head down to the bookies, and make yourself a fortune.

[1] Foster, R ‘Modern Ireland’ p42

[2] McCavitt, J, Athur Chichester in ONDB

[3] Ó hAnnracháin, Tadhg ‘The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish History’, p299

4 thoughts on “336 The Jacobean Plantations of Ireland

  1. You refer to: “A society that channelled labour into productiveness rather than destruction.”

    Was it not THEIR society to destroy> Was it not THEIR land to waste? If you’ll forgive the labored analogy, God forbid my neighbor should seize my house and force me to mow the lawn and hold hands with my wife AT GUNPOINT. Better for the entire property to be engulfed in flames. If that is fanaticism, perhaps it is a fanaticism that arises in response to the fanatical fetishization of order and productivity.

    Even if there was no Westphalian nationhood at the time, significant natural barriers like the Irish Sea and the English Channel represented natural borders. With resultant demarcations in language and culture. Surely those natural borders were seen as mattering at the time. After all, here we are in a time just one generation separated from the Treaty of Westphalia.

    1. Yes indeed. As per our previous discussion, though, you need to understand attitudes of the time to understand history. That doesn’t mean you have to like them, of course.

  2. I’m not quite here yet, I’m still listening to the fight for leadership upon the death of King John and the English Revolution, but I just discovered that your website isn’t missing, just moved to .co.uk, and all the maps I’ve mourned are here!!!

    Anyway, thinking you must have died and your website expired, I am delighted to suddenly be able to show my appreciation for your podcast.

    I drive schoolbus and usually drive the children crazy with a terrible loop of news, traffic and weather, over and over and over… Now I have one earphone in and listen to you podcast, relieving the children of the annoying din.

    I’m REALLY enjoying the easily digestible bites of the history of England and not quite England and often chuckle at the dry British humor sprinkled throughout, (I’m a Canadian, eh?)

    Thank you for your endeavor. Its been enlightening and entertaining for an old woman beginning to study the dreadful subject of history that I hated soooo much in high school.

    1. I have no doubt the children loved it, and I have deprived them of a source of news! It’s a delightful thought, of you driving your bus of children so far across the world – thanks for getting in touch with me, and I hope the podcast keeps you amused for some time yet

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