Clan MacMhadóc

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1169–75    Norman invasion of Ireland

1315–18      Bruce campaign in Ireland Part of the First War of Scottish Independence

1333–38      Burke Civil Wars

1534            Silken Thomas Rebellion

1569–73      First Desmond Rebellion Part of the Tudor conquest of Ireland

1579–83      Second Desmond Rebellion Part of the Tudor conquest of Ireland

1594–1603  Nine Years' War Part of the Tudor conquest of Ireland

1641–42      Irish Rebellion of 1641 Part of the Eleven Years War

1642–49      Confederate War Part of the Eleven Years War

1649–53      Cromwellian conquest of Ireland Part of the Eleven Years War

1689–91      Williamite–Jacobite War Part of the War of the Grand Alliance

1798            Irish Rebellion of 1798

1803            Irish Rebellion of 1803

1831–36      Tithe War

1848            Young Irleander Rebellion

1867            Fenian 1870–93     Land War  Rising

1870–93   Land War

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The Norman invasion of Ireland was a two-stage process, which began on 1 May 1169 when a force of loosely associated Norman knights landed near Bannow, County Wexford. This was at the request of Dermot MacMurrough (Diarmait Mac Murchada), the ousted King of Leinster, who sought their help in regaining his kingdom.

On 18 October 1171, Henry II landed a much bigger army in Waterford to ensure his continuing control over the preceding Norman force. In the process he took Dublin and had accepted the fealty of the Irish kings and bishops by 1172, so creating the Lordship of Ireland, which formed part of his Angevin Empire.

Pope Adrian IV, the only English pope, in one of his earliest acts issued a Papal Bull in 1155, giving Henry authority to invade Ireland as a means of ensuring reform by bringing the Irish Church more directly under the control of the Holy See.[1] Little contemporary use, however, was made of the Bull Laudabiliter since its text enforced papal suzerainty not only over the island of Ireland but of all islands off of the European coast, including England, in virtue of the Constantinian Donation. The relevant text reads:

There is indeed no doubt, as thy Highness doth also acknowledge, that Ireland and all other islands which Christ the Son of Righteousness has illumined, and which have received the doctrines of the Christian faith, belong to the jurisdiction of St. Peter and of the holy Roman Church.

References to Laudabiliter become more frequent in the later Tudor period when the researches of the Renaissance humanist scholars cast doubt on the historicity of the Donation. But even if the Donation was spurious, other documents such as Dictatus papae (1075–87) reveal that by the 12th century the Papacy felt it had political powers superior to all kings and local rulers.

Pope Alexander III, who was Pope at the time of the invasion, mentioned and reconfirmed the effect of Laudabiliter in his "Privilege" of 1172.


After losing the protection of Tyrone Chief, Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn, High King of Ireland, who died in 1166, MacMorrough was forcibly exiled by a confederation of Irish forces under the new High King, Rory O'Connor. MacMurrough fled first to Bristol and then to Normandy. He sought and obtained permission from Henry II of England to use the latter's subjects to regain his kingdom. Having received an oath of fealty from Dermod, Henry gave him letters patent in the following words:

Henry, King of England, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and earl of Anjou, to all his liegemen, English, Norman, Welsh and Scotch, and to all the nations under his dominion, greeting. When these letters shall come into your hands, know ye, that we have received Dermod, Prince of Leinster, into the bosom of our grace and benevolence. Wherefore, whosoever, in the ample extent of all our territories, shall be willing to assist in restoring that prince, as our vassal and liegeman, let such person know, that we do hereby grant to him our license and favor for the said undertaking.[2]

By 1167 MacMurrough had obtained the services of Maurice Fitz Gerald and later persuaded Rhys ap Gruffydd Prince of Deheubarth to release Fitz Gerald's half-brother Robert Fitz-Stephen from captivity to take part in the expedition. Most importantly he obtained the support of the Earl of Pembroke Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow.

The first Norman knight to land in Ireland was Richard fitz Godbert de Roche in 1167, but it was not until 1169 that the main body of Norman, Welsh and Flemish forces landed in Wexford. Within a short time Leinster was conquered, Waterford and Dublin were under Diarmait's control. Strongbow married Diarmait's daughter, Aoife, and was named as heir to the Kingdom of Leinster. This latter development caused consternation to Henry II, who feared the establishment of a rival Norman state in Ireland. Accordingly, he resolved to visit Leinster to establish his authority.

Arrival of Henry II in 1171

Henry landed with a large fleet at Waterford in 1171, becoming the first King of England to set foot on Irish soil. Both Waterford and Dublin were proclaimed Royal Cities. In November Henry accepted the submission of the Irish kings in Dublin. In 1172 Henry arranged for the Irish bishops to attend the Synod of Cashel and to run the Irish Church in the same manner as the Church in England. Adrian's successor, Pope Alexander III, then ratified the grant of Ireland to Henry, “following in the footsteps of the late venerable Pope Adrian, and in expectation also of seeing the fruits of our own earnest wishes on this head, ratify and confirm the permission of the said Pope granted you in reference to the dominion of the kingdom of Ireland."

Henry was happily acknowledged by most of the Irish Kings, who saw in him a chance to curb the expansion of both Leinster and the Normans. He then had to leave for England to deal with papal legates investigating the death of Thomas Becket in 1170, and then for France to suppress the Revolt of 1173–1174. His next involvement with Ireland was the Treaty of Windsor in 1175 with Roader Ua Concho air.[3]

However, with both Diarmaid and Strongbow dead (in 1171 and 1176 respectively) and Henry back in England, within two years this treaty was not worth the vellum it was inscribed upon. John de Corky invaded and gained much of east Ulster in 1177, Raymond FitzGerald (known as Raymond le Gross) had already captured Limerick and much of the Kingdom of Thomond (also known as North Munster), while the other Norman families such as Prendergast, fitz-Stephen, fitz-Gerald, fitz-Henry and le Pore were actively carving out petty kingdoms for themselves.

In 1185 Henry awarded his Irish territories to his 18-year-old youngest son, John, with the title Dominus Hibernia ("Lord of Ireland"), and planned to establish it as a kingdom for him. When John unexpectedly succeeded his brother Richard as king in 1199, the Lordship became a possession of the English Crown.

1315–18    Bruce campaign in Ireland

After his victory at the Battle of Bannockburn, King Robert I of Scotland decided to expand his war against the English by sending an army under his younger brother, Edward Bruce, to invade Ireland. Another reason for the expedition was also the fact that supporters of the exiled House of Balliol had fled to Ireland after fighting at Bannockburn and remained a dangerous threat. These men were led by John MacDougall of Lorna who was the cousin of John III Coming, Lord of Bad Enoch, and nephew of King John Balliol. The murder of Coming in 1306 had set off a bloody civil war for the throne of Scotland which King Robert had all but won at Bannockburn and was now attempting to finish off by capturing their last remaining stronghold. Robert was also invited by some of the native Irish to send an army to drive out the English settlers and in return they would crown his brother High King of Ireland.

Historical Background

By the early 14th century, Ireland had not had a High King since Roader mac Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair (Rory O'Conor) who had been deposed by his son in 1186. Further, the Plantagenet dynasty had been assigned Ireland by Laudabiliter in 1155 and indirectly ruled much of the eastern part of the island. The country was divided between the Irish dynasties that survived the Norman invasion and the Norman-Irish Lordship of Ireland.

In 1258 some of the Gaelic dynasties and clans elected Brian Ua Néill to this position; however he was defeated by the Normans at the Battle of Downpatrick in 1260.

The Invasion of Ireland

In 1315, Robert Bruce of Scotland sent his younger brother Edward Bruce to invade Ireland. Bruce's main mission in invading Ireland was to create a second front in the ongoing war against Norman England, draining her of much needed men, materials and finance by creating havoc on the island. This became critical when the Isle of Man was recaptured by Norman-backed Scots from King Robert's control in January 1315, thereby threatening the south and south-west of Scotland and also reopening up a potential source of aid to the Normans from the Anglo-Irish and native Irish.

Added to this was a request for aid from the King of Tír Eógain, Domnall mac Brian Ó Néill. Ó Néill had been troubled by Anglo-Irish incursions to the south-east (the de Verdons), the east (tenants of the Earl of Ulster) and west (also by the Earl of Ulster) of Tír Eógain and in order to retain his lands, he and some twelve of his vassals and allies jointly asked for aid from Scotland. The Bruce brothers agreed, on condition that they would support Edward as King of Ireland, as the brothers envisaged themselves as separate rulers of Scotland and Ireland, while Robert would regain Man and Edward possibly making an attack on Wales, with Welsh support. They personally envisioned "a grand Gaelic alliance against England", between Scotland and Ireland since both countries had a common heritage, language and culture.

Ó Néill approved of the conditions for himself and on behalf of his vassals, and preparations began. At about this point, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, received news from Irish sources that an invasion was about to take place, and made his way to Ireland where he held land, mainly in and around the castle and town of Trim. He had previously fought against the Bruces at Bannockburn where he was taken prisoner and freed to return King Edward II's royal seal, lost in the rout.

The Scottish assembly met at Ayr on April 26, 1315, just across the Irish Channel from Antrim. As King Robert did not yet have any legitimate male heir, Edward was proclaimed his legal heir and successor as King of Scotland and all other titles in case of his death. Edward's invasion fleet also mustered there, having received calls to assemble as far back as at least the previous month.


The Campaign Of 1315

On May 26, 1315 Edward and his fleet (estimated at in excess of 6,000 men) landed on the Irish coast at points at and between Olderfleet Castle at Larne, and Glendrum. His brother had sailed from Tarbert for the Western Isles with his son-in-law Walter Stewart, to subjugate them till "all the isles, great and small, were brought to his will." Edward meanwhile was swiftly faced by an army led by vassals and confederates of the Earl of Ulster, the de Mandevilles, Bissets of the Glens, Logans, and Savages, as well as their Irish allies, overall led by Sir Thomas de Mandeville. However they were defeated in battle by the Scots under Thomas, Earl of Moray. Subsequently, the Scots managed to take the town, though not the castle, of Carrickfergus.

In early June Ó Néill of Tyrone and some twelve fellow northern Kings and lords met Edward Bruce at Carrickfergus and swore fealty to him as King of Ireland. The Irish annals state that Bruce "took the hostages and lordship of the whole province of Ulster without opposition and they consented to him being proclaimed King of Ireland and all the Gaels of Ireland agreed to grant him lordship and they called him King of Ireland." In fact, Bruce was never to receive anything more than purely nominal recognition from any of the more powerful Irish Kings, and despite entreatys at various times over the next three years was ignored by those whom he did not directly interest. He did however directly or indirectly rule much of eastern and mid-Ulster.

In late June, Edward proceeded with his army from Carrickfergus along Magh Line (Six Mile Water), burning Rathmore, near Antrim town, which was a holding of the Savages. He then went south by way of the Moiry Pass — called "Innermallan"/"Enderwillane"/Imberdiolan" in contemporary accounts — between Newry and Dundalk. This ancient routeway had been for centuries the passage south out of Ulster into the Kingdom of Mide, Leinster and Munster but because of its narrowness Ulster armies had frequently ambushed and been ambushed at the pass. Here he was met by Mac Duilechain of Clanbrassil and Mac Artain of Iveagh, both of whom had submitted to him at Carrickfergus. Their attempted ambush ended in their defeat and the army pressed on, destroying de Verdon's fortress of Castleroache, and on June 29 attacked Dundalk. The town, another possession of the de Verdon's, was almost totally destroyed with its population, both Anglo-Irish and Gaelic, massacred alike.

In July, two separate armies opposing Bruce met and assemble at Sliabh Breagh, south of Ardee. One was led out of Connacht by Richard Og de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster and his ally, the King of Connacht, Felim mac Aedh Ua Conchobair. The second consisted of forces raised in Munster and Leinster by the Justicier Edmund Butler. The Scots-Irish army was located at Inniskeen, ten miles north. In between Sliabh Breagh and Inniskeen was the village of Louth. De Burgh moved his army north of Louth and set up camp while his cousin, William Liath de Burgh attempted to ambush Bruce's forces. While some skirmishing did result in a number of Scots deaths, Bruce refused to give battle and instead, with the Ó Néill, retreated northwards to Coleraine via Armagh. Bruce and Ó Néill sacked and burned Coleraine, threw down the bridge over the river Bann and faced off de Burgh's pursuing army on the opposite bank. While both sides now were experiencing shortages of food and supplies, Bruce and Ó Néill could at least draw support from local lords such as Ó Cathain and Ó Floinn. Mindful of this, de Burgh eventually withdrew back forty miles to Antrim, while Butler had to return to Ormond due to lack of supplies.

In addition to this, Bruce sent separate messages both to King Felim and a rival dynast, Cathal Ua Conchobair, promising to support them if they withdrew. Cathal managed to return to Connacht and had himself proclaimed king, leaving Felim with no choice but to return to put down his rebellion. Worst was to follow: De Burgh found himself deprived of not two but three allies and their armies when his kinsman, Walter mac Walter Cattach Burke deserted back to Connacht at the head of several hundred men, probably to guard his own estates from the upcoming conflict. Thus when in August Bruce and his men crossed the Bann (in four ships supplied by Scots sea captain, Thomas Dun, de Burgh retreated still further to Connor, where on either the first or ninth of September a charge by the Scots-Irish led to his defeat. William Liath was captured and taken as hostage to Scotland by Moray who arrived there on September 15, 1315 to raise more troops, "his ships filled with booty." De Burgh retreated back to Connacht, while other Anglo-Irish took refuge in Carrickfergus Castle.

Finally appraised of the seriousness of the situation, Edward II had on September 1 ordered an assembly of the leading Anglo-Irish, which met at Parliament in Dublin in late October, but no decisive action was taken. On November 13, Bruce marched further south via Dundalk — where, incredibly, some gave them the right hand", i.e., a fight — garrisoned Nobber on the 30th, and advanced to Kells, where he was met by Mortimer. Mortimer had managed to raise a large force consisting both of his Anglo-Irish and Gaelic vassals, in addition to forces of other magnates. At the same time, Bruce was reinforced by Moray who had returned from Scotland with around five hundred fresh troops and supplies. The Battle of Kells was fought on the sixth or seventh of November, with Mortimer being decisively defeated by Bruce. Mortimer was forced to retreat to Dublin while his lieutenant, Walter Cusack, held out at Trim. He almost immediately set sail for England to urge Edward II for reinforcements. At the same time, Governor of Ireland (and Bishop of Ely) John de Hothum began to take drastic action to defend Dublin from Bruce, such as leveling entire tenement and churches.

After sacking and burning Kells, Bruce proceeded to do the same to Granard, Finnea, the Cistercian monastery of Abbeylara and raided Angaile (Annaly), the lordship of Gaelic lord O Hanely. Bruce spent Christmas at de Verdon's manor of Loughsewdy, consuming its supplies entirely and before leaving, razing it to the ground. The only manors left alone belonged to Irish lords intimidated to join him, or that of a junior branch of the de Lacy family who in an effort to gain lands voluntarily joined him.

Remonstrance Of 1317

In 1317 Edward's Irish allies sent a remonstrance to Pope John XXII asking him to revoke Laudabiliter and mentioning Edward as King of Ireland.[1] Pope John ignored the request.

"And that we may be able to attain our purpose more speedily and fitly in this respect, we call to our help and assistance Edward de Bruyis, illustrious earl of Carrick, brother of Robert by the grace of God most illustrious king of the Scots, who is sprung from our noblest ancestors.

"And as it is free to anyone to renounce his right and transfer it to another, all the right which is publicly known to pertain to us in the said kingdom as its true heirs, we have given and granted to him by our letters patent, and in order that he may do therein judgment and justice and equity which through default of the prince [i.e. Edward II of England] have utterly failed therein, we have unanimously established and set him [Edward Bruce] up as our king and lord in our kingdom aforesaid, for in our judgment and the common judgment of men he is pious and prudent, humble and chaste, exceedingly temperate, in all things sedate and moderate, and possessing power (God on high be praised) to snatch us mightily from the house of bondage with the help of God and our own justice, and very willing to render to everyone what is due to him of right, and above all is ready to restore entirely to the Church in Ireland the possessions and liberties of which she was damnably despoiled, and he intends to grant greater liberties than ever otherwise she has been wont to have."

Defeat In 1318

After several years of mobile warfare, Bruce and his allies failed to hold areas that they had conquered. His army fed itself by pillaging, which caused increasing unpopularity. The pan-European Great Famine of 1315–1317 affected Ireland also, and disease became widespread in his army, causing it to shrink, and he was defeated and killed at the end of 1318 at the Battle of Faughart in County Louth.


1333–38    Burke Civil War

The Burke/de Burgh Civil War was a conflict in Ireland in the 1330s between three leading members of the de Burgh (Burke/Bourke) family.

William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster, was murdered by his household knights in June 1333. His only child, Elizabeth de Burgh (1332–1363), succeeded as Countess of Ulster and legal heir to the de Burgh estate as an infant. But because she was an infant, and a female, she was taken by her mother to England for safety.

Meanwhile, three members of the de Burgh family fought against each other in an attempt to preserve their own personal estates, and overall control of the massive de Burgh inheritance in Ireland. They were:

The eventual outcome of the war was the loss of almost all the de Burgh lands in Ulster, which was reconquored within a year by the Gaelic-Irish.

The remaining de Burghs in Ireland fragmented into three distinct clans, all of which had several sub-septs. They were:

Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare (1513–1537), also known as Silken Thomas (Irish: Tomás an tSíoda), was a figure in Irish history.

He spent a considerable part of his early life in England: his mother Elizabeth Zouche, was a cousin of Henry VII.[1] In February 1534, when his father, Gerald FitzGerald, the 9th Earl of Kildare, was summoned to London, he appointed Thomas deputy governor of Ireland in his absence. In June 1534 Thomas heard rumours that his father had been executed in the Tower of London and that the English government intended the same fate for himself and his uncles. He summoned the Council to St. Mary's Abbey, Dublin, and on 11 June, accompanied by 140 horsemen with silk fringes on their helmets (from which he got his nickname), rode to the abbey and publicly renounced his allegiance to King Henry VIII, Lord of Ireland.

In July he attacked Dublin Castle, but his army was routed. He ordered the execution of Archbishop Alen at Clontarf who had tried to mediate; this lost him any support from the clergy. By this time his father had taken ill and died in London, and he had technically succeeded as tenth earl, but the Crown never confirmed his title. He retreated to his stronghold at Maynooth, County Kildare, but in March 1535 this was taken by an English force under Sir William Skeffington by bribing a guard, while Thomas was absent gathering reinforcements to relieve it. The surrendered garrison was put to death, which was known as the "Maynooth Pardon". Thomas had wrongly assumed that his cause would attract overwhelming support, in particular from Catholics opposed to Henry VIII's English Reformation. But Henry's new anti-Papal policy also outlawed Lutheranism, and so he was not finally excommunicated until 1538.

In July Lord Leonard Grey arrived from England as Lord Deputy of Ireland; Fitzgerald, seeing his army melting away and his allies submitting one by one, asked pardon for his offences. He was still a formidable opponent, and Grey, wishing to avoid a prolonged conflict, guaranteed his personal safety and persuaded him to submit unconditionally to the king's mercy. In October 1535 he was sent as a prisoner to the Tower. Despite Grey's guarantee he was executed, with his five uncles, at Tyburn, 3 February 1537. According to G.G. Nichols, (ed.) in The Chronicle of the Gray Friars of London (London, 1852) page 39, the five uncles were "...draune from the Tower in to Tyborne, and there alle hongyd and hedded and quartered, save the Lord Thomas for he was but hongyd and hedded and his body buried at the Crost Freeres in the qwere...[2]

Silken Thomas's revolt caused Henry to pay more attention to Irish matters, and was a factor leading on to the creation of the Kingdom of Ireland in 1542. In particular the powers of the lords deputy were to be curbed, and policies such as surrender and regrant were introduced.

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Fitzmaurice launched his rebellion by attacking the English colony at Kerrycurihy south of Cork city in June 1569 before attacking Cork itself and those native lords who refused to join the rebellion. Fitzmaurice’s force of up to 4,500 men went on to besiege Kilkenny, seat of the Earls of Ormonde in July. In response, Sidney mobilised 600 English troops, who marched south from Dublin and another 400 troops landed by sea in Cork. Thomas Butler, Earl of Ormonde returned from London, where he had been at court, brought the rebel Butlers out of the rebellion and mobilised Gaelic Irish clans antagonistic to the Geraldines. Together, Ormonde, Sidney and Humphrey Gilbert, appointed as governor of Munster, began devastating the lands of Fitzmaurice's allies. Fitzmaurice's forces broke up, as individual lords had to retire to defend their own territories. Gilbert in particular was notorious for the terror tactics he employed, killing civilians at random and setting up a corridor of severed heads at the entrance to his camps.

Sidney forced Fitzmaurice into the mountains of Kerry, from where he launched hit and run attacks on the English and their allies. By 1570, most of Fitzmaurice's allies had submitted to Sidney. The most important, Donal MacCarthy Mor surrendered in November 1569. Nevertheless, the guerrilla campaign dragged on for three more years. In February 1571, John Perrot was made Lord President of Munster, pursuing Fitzmaurice with 700 troops for over a year without success. Fitzmaurice had some victories, capturing an English ship near Kinsale and burning the town of Kilmallock in 1571, for example, but by early 1573, his force was reduced to less than 100 men. Fitzmaurice finally submitted on February 23, 1573, having negotiated a pardon for his life. However in 1574, he again became landless and in 1575 he sailed to France to seek help from the Catholic powers to start another rebellion.

Gerald FitzGerald, Earl of Desmond, and his brother John were released from prison to stabilise the situation and to reconstruct their shattered territory. Under a new settlement imposed after the rebellion, known as "composition", the Desmond’s military forces were limited by law to just 20 horsmen and their tenants made to pay rent to them rather supply military service or to quarter their soldiers. Perhaps the biggest winner of the first Desmond Rebellion was the Earl of Ormonde, who established himself as loyal to the English Crown and as the most powerful lord in the south of Ireland.

Although all of the local chiefs had submitted by the end of the rebellion, the methods used to suppress it provoked lingering resentment, especially among the Irish mercenaries; gall oglaigh or "gallowglass" as the English termed them, who had rallied to Fitzmaurice. William Drury, the new Lord President of Munster from 1576, executed around 700 of them in the years after the rebellion. Furthermore the aftermath of the rebellion, Gaelic customs such as Brehon Laws, Irish dress, bardic poetry and the maintaining of private armies were again outlawed – things that were highly provocative to traditional Irish society. Fitzmaurice, by contrast, had deliberately emphasised the Gaelic character of the rebellion, wearing the Irish dress, speaking only Irish and referring to himself as the captain (taoiseach) of the Geraldines. Finally, Irish landowners continued to be threatened by the arrival of English colonists.[clarification needed] All of these factors meant that, when Fitzmaurice returned from continental Europe to start a new rebellion, there were plenty of discontented people in Munster waiting to join him.

In late 1569 a similar Catholic rebellion, the "Northern Rebellion," broke out in England, but was quickly crushed. This and the Desmond Rebellion caused the Pope to issue "Regnans in Excelsis", excommunciating Elizabeth, in early 1570. Thereafter, Elizabeth's previous acceptance of Roman Catholic worship in private turned into a more active suppression of organised Catholic services.

Second Desmond Rebellion

The second Desmond rebellion was sparked when James Fitzmaurice FitzGerald launched an invasion of Munster in 1579. During his exile in Europe, he had reinvented himself as a soldier of the counter-reformation, arguing that since the Pope's excommunication of Elizabeth I in 1570 Irish Catholics no longer owed loyalty to a heretic monarch. The Pope granted Fitzmaurice an "indulgence" and supplied him with troops and money. Fitzmaurice landed at Smerwick, near Dingle (modern County Kerry) on July 18, 1579 with a small force of Spanish and Italian troops. He was joined in rebellion on August 1 by John of Desmond, a brother of the Earl, who had a large following among his kinsmen and the disaffected swordsmen of Munster. Other Gaelic clans and Old English families also joined in the rebellion. After Fitzmaurice was killed in a skirmish with the Clanwilliam Burkes on 18 August, John FitzGerald assumed leadership of the rebellion.

Gerald, the Earl of Desmond, initially resisted the call of the rebels and tried to remain neutral but gave in once the authorities had proclaimed him a traitor. The Earl joined the rebellion by sacking the towns of Youghal (on November 13) and Kinsale, and devastated the country of the English and their allies. However, by the summer of 1580, English troops under William Pelham and locally raised Irish forces under the Earl of Ormonde succeeded in bringing the rebellion under control, re-taking the south coast, destroying the lands of the Desmonds and their allies in the process, and killing their tenants. By capturing Carrigafoyle at Easter 1580, the principal Desmond castle at the mouth of Shannon river, they cut off the Geraldine forces from the rest of the country and prevented a landing of foreign troops into the main Munster ports. It looked as if the rebellion was fizzling out.

However, in July 1580, the rebellion spread to Leinster, under the leadership of Gaelic Irish chieftain Fiach MacHugh O'Byrne and the Pale lord Viscount Baltinglass, both motivated by Catholicism and hostility to the English administration. A large English force under the Lord Deputy of Ireland Earl Grey de Wilton was sent to subdue them, only to be ambushed and massacred at the battle of Glenmalure on 25 August, losing over 800 dead. However, the Leinster rebels were unable to capitalise on their victory or to effectively coordinate their strategy with the Munster insurgents.

On 10 September 1580, 600 papal troops landed at Smerwick in Kerry to support the rebellion, but were besieged in a fort at Dún an Óir. They surrendered after two days of bombardment and were then massacred. By relentless scorched-earth tactics, the English broke the momentum of the rebellion by mid-1581. By May 1581, most of the minor rebels and FitzGerald allies in Munster and Leinster had accepted Elizabeth I's offer of a general pardon. John of Desmond, in many ways the main leader of the rebellion, was killed north of Cork in early 1582.

For the Geraldine Earl however there could be no second pardon, and he was pursued by crown forces until the end. From 1581 to 1583, the war dragged on, with his supporters evading capture in the mountains of Kerry. The rebellion was finally ended on 2 November 1583 when the earl was hunted down and killed near Tralee in Kerry by the local clan O'Moriarty. The clan chief, Maurice, received 1000 pounds of silver from the English government for Desmond's head, which was sent to Queen Elizabeth. His body was triumphantly displayed on the walls of Cork.

After three years of scorched earth warfare, famine hit Munster. In April 1582, the provost marshal of Munster, Sir Warham St Leger, estimated that 30,000 people had died of famine in the previous six months. Plague broke out in Cork city, where the country people fled to avoid the fighting. People continued to die of famine and plague long after the war had ended, and it is estimated that by 1589 one third of the province's population had died. Grey was recalled by Elizabeth I for his excessive brutality. Two famous accounts tell us of the devastation of Munster after the Desmond rebellion. The first is from the Gaelic Annals of the Four Masters:

.. the whole tract of country from Waterford to Lothra, and from Cnamhchoill to the county of Kilkenny, was suffered to remain one surface of weeds and waste... At this period it

The second is from the View of the Present State of Ireland, written by English poet Edmund Spenser, who fought in the campaign:

In those late wars in Munster; for notwithstanding that the same was a most rich and plentiful country, full of corn and cattle, that you would have thought they could have been able to stand long, yet ere one year and a half they were brought to such wretchedness, as that any stony heart would have rued the same. Out of every corner of the wood and glens they came creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs could not bear them; they looked Anatomies [of] death, they spoke like ghosts, crying out of their graves; they did eat of the carrions, happy where they could find them, yea, and one another soon after, in so much as the very carcasses they spared not to scrape out of their graves; and if they found a plot of water-cresses or shamrocks, there they flocked as to a feast for the time, yet not able long to continue therewithal; that in a short space there were none almost left, and a most populous and plentiful country suddenly left void of man or beast.

The wars of the 1570s and 1580s marked a watershed in Ireland. Although English control over the country was still far from total, the southern Geraldine axis of power had been annihilated, and Munster was "planted" with English colonists following the parliamentary arrangements of 1585. Following a survey begun in 1584 by Sir Valentine Browne, Surveyor General of Ireland, the thousands of English soldiers and administrators who had been imported to deal with the rebellion were allocated land in the Munster Plantation of Desmond's confiscated estates. The Elizabethan conquest of Ireland was completed after the subsequent Nine Years War in Ulster and the extension of plantation policy to other parts of the country.


1579–83      Second Desmond Rebellion Part of the Tudor

 conquest of Ireland


The Second Desmond rebellion (1579–1583) was the more widespread and bloody of the two Desmond Rebellions launched by the FitzGerald dynasty of Desmond in Munster, Ireland, against English rule in Ireland. The second rebellion began in July 1579 when James FitzMaurice FitzGerald, landed in Ireland with a force of Papal troops, triggering an insurrection across the south of Ireland on the part of the Desmond dynasty, their allies and others who were dissatisfied for various reasons with English government of the country. The rebellion ended with the 1583 death of Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond and the defeat of the rebels.

The rebellion was in equal part a protest by feudal lords against the intrusion of central government into their domains, a conservative Irish reaction to English policies that were altering traditional Gaelic society; and a religious conflict, in which the rebels claimed that they were upholding Catholicism against a Protestant queen who had been pronounced a heretic in 1570 by the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis.

The result of the rebellions was the destruction of the Desmond dynasty and the subsequent Munster Plantations – the colonisation of Munster with English settlers. In addition the fighting laid waste to a large part of the south of Ireland. War-related famine and disease are thought to have killed up to a third of Munster's pre-war population.

The Munster branch of the FitzGeralds, known as the Geraldines, were holders of the title Earl of Desmond, which at the time of the rebellions was held by Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond, Earl of Desmond.

The first Desmond rebellion (1569–73) had been an armed protest against English intrusion into the Desmond territories. Specifically it was against the creation of the office of "Lord President" (governor) in the province of Munster and the English pursuit of policies that favoured the FitzGerald's rivals, the Butlers of Ormonde, and various English colonists. The most pressing grievance of the Geraldines had been the government's arrest of Gerald the Earl and his brother John of Desmond in 1568 for their part in a private war against the Butlers in 1565, which had culminated in the Battle of Affane in County Waterford.

The First Desmond Rebellion, was launched in 1569, in the absence of the Desmond leadership, by James FitzMaurice FitzGerald, the 'captain general' of the FitzGerald army. That rebellion was quashed by the English crown forces and their Irish allies (primarily the Butlers, led by Thomas Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormonde), and ended in 1573.\The English response after the first rebellion was conciliation of the Geraldines. Fitzmaurice, the leader of the rebellion, was pardoned and the Earl and his brother John of Desmond were released from imprisonment and returned to their lands. As late as 1579, it looked most unlikely that the FitzGeralds would again challenge English rule in Munster. However, a combination of personal, economic and religious factors, and the actions of James Fitzmaurice FitzGerald himself, led to an explosion of rebellion in July of that year.

Fitzmaurice, who had led the first rebellion, found himself without property and powerless after peace was restored. Lands that he had inherited were confiscated and colonised by English settlers. The Earl of Desmond was forbidden from exacting military service and quartering his troops on his dependants (a practice known as coyne and livery

 ), and he was reduced to maintaining only 20 horsemen in his private service. This abolition by the government of private armies meant that Fitzmaurice who was a professional soldier, was without a source of income.

Fitzmaurice was therefore impoverished, and in 1574 he was evicted by the Earl from lands he had been renting since 1573. On top of these discontents, Fitzmaurice also had a genuine commitment to the Catholic counter-reformation and a deep antipathy to Protestantism, which had been introduced into Ireland by the English. Fitzmaurice left Ireland for France in 1575, seeking help from Catholic powers to re-start the rebellion.