Post Reply  
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
03-05-2021, 20:38   #1
Snickers Man
Registered User
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 4,951
Did the Wars of the Roses make Ireland a Catholic Country?

As I remember, all the way back to National School, the standard narrative for why Ireland was never a fully consensual part of the English, later British, state was because Ireland stayed resolutely Catholic at a time when England broke with Rome and decided on a path of Protestantism, albeit a very watered down variant.

But why did Ireland stay with the Church of Rome when the Crown in England decided to break with European unity and go its own way? An event with such resonance today that Henry VIII has re-emerged as a role model and icon for today's Brexiteers.

In 15th century Ireland there were effectively two nations: the Hiberno-Normans, loyal to the Crown and descended mainly from adventurers who had come over in the 12th century and grabbed significant landed estates for themselves, and the Gaelic Irish, who had originally been subdued but who had undergone something of a resurgence in the centuries since the Norman conquest. Of course there was a significant hybrid nation as well with much cross-pollenation of each society, a process which led many of the Normans to be described as "Hiberniores Hibernis ipsis" or "more Irish than the Irish themselves".

Many descendants of earlier Norman invaders had by the 15th century, intermarried with Gaelic aristocrats, become Gaelic speaking, dressed like the Irish (who didn't wear pants, much to the disgust of notable medieval chroniclers such as Froissart) and had followed many Gaelic cultural norms such as fostering of sons, patronising of Irish bards and musicians, land ownership and use etc.

Despite attempts in the 14th century to impose rigid English cultural orthodoxy on loyal subjects (The Statutes of Kilkenny) the Gaelicisation of Ireland had continued apace.

The Hiberno Normans did, however, retain strong ties in England with ongoing marriage alliances with their "compatriots" and loyalty to the throne albeit at an arm's length with much of the governance of Ireland entrusted to established Norman families, especially the Fitzgeralds.

An example of a noble English family with strong Irish connections was that of Lionel Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence and second son of King Edward III. He it was who had convened that parliament in Kilkenny to try to compel, among other things, loyal English subjects to keep their hands off Irish women (yeah. That worked out well!). Clarence's first wife had been Elizabeth de Burgh, the Irish born Countess of Ulster who had presented him with a significant parcel of Irish land as a dowry.

The Wars of the Roses which erupted in the mid 15th century were essentially a dynastic dispute as to which of the sons of Edward III provided the true line of succession to the English throne. Although they were all long dead by then, there had been all manner of usurpations and regencies in the century or so since Edward III's death. His eldest son, the Black Prince, had predeceased him and that man's son, Edward's grandson Richard II, had been deposed by Henry IV, the son of Edward's third son, John of Gaunt.

When Henry IV's effete infant grandson Henry VI ascended the throne 35 years later, the descendants of Edward III's second son, the aforementioned Lionel, Duke of Clarence, insisted that they were the rightful heirs. In simple terms, these were the House of York (white rose) and their opponents were the House of Lancaster (Red Rose). They fought a bloody series of campaigns over 20-30 years, culminating in the defeat of the Yorkists, led by then by Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth and the ascension of Henry VII to the throne.

The Norman Irish, perhaps due to the strong Irish connections of Clarence, by and large supported the Yorkist claim. During Henry VII's reign, there were at least two attempts to replace him on the throne with young men who claimed to be descendants of legitimate Yorkist claimants. Although both of these men (Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck) were almost certainly imposters, they received strong backing from Hiberno Norman nobles, to such an extent that Simnel had even been crowned as Edward VI in Dublin, with significant Irish support.

Not suprisingly, the Lancastrian Kings decided that Ireland had to be brought closer into line to prevent future threats to the reigning Tudor (as the Lancastrians now called themselves) dynasty. Poyning's Law in the 1490s made the Irish (effectively Hiberno Norman) parliament subservient to England's and much closer scrutiny was made of the hitherto largely independent Fitzgeralds.

When Henry VIII broke with Rome in the 1530s he met with major resistance in England. As a large part of his reason for assuming "Supremacy" over the Church in England was to marry a fecund young woman who could produce a son or sons who could safeguard his dynasty and prevent a Yorkist resurgence, it is not surprising that much of the Catholic resistance to his reformation came from those loyal to the Yorkist cause. Yorkshire remained stubbornly "recusant" for a long time.

The Irish Norman Lords also tended to be reluctant to support Henry's break with Rome. Probably because of their enduring Yorkist sympathies?
It was round about then that a general coalition between previous enemies the Gaelic Irish and the Norman aristocracy began to emerge in hostility to the crown or at least hostility to its "reformed" members. The Old English and the Gaelic Irish became allies in the fight against Protestant "planters" brought over to try to tip the popular balance in favour of Protestantism, notably in Laois-Offaly, Munster and finally and most effectively in Ulster.

Would the fate of Anglo-Irish relations have been different if it were not for the Wars of the Roses and the British Irish of the day (the Hiberno Normans) backing the wrong horse?

Last edited by Snickers Man; 04-05-2021 at 14:59.
Snickers Man is offline  
Advertisement
03-05-2021, 23:16   #2
Duke of Schomberg
Registered User
 
Duke of Schomberg's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Posts: 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snickers Man View Post
. . . much of the Catholic resistance to his reformation came from those loyal to the Yorkist cause. Yorkshire remained stubbornly "recusant" for a long time.
You are mistaken here: Yorkshire was not a "Yorkist" region. Although the names of the rival houses derive from the cities of York and Lancaster, the corresponding Duchy and Dukedom had little to do with these cities: the lands and offices attached to the Duchy of Lancaster were mainly in Gloucestershire, North Wales, Cheshire, and (ironically) in Yorkshire; while the estates and castles of the Duke of York were spread throughout England and Wales, with many in the Welsh Marches.

The enduring Roman Catholicism of Yorkshire - well, until the Wesleyan revolution of the 18th century saved us from Popery - can simply be put down to our distance from London . . . the further from London the longer the reformation took to bite and the less complete it was (to this day Lancashire remains the most Roman Catholic of all English counties).
Duke of Schomberg is offline  
Thanks from:
04-05-2021, 02:26   #3
Peregrinus
Registered User
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 20,909
Quote:
Originally Posted by Duke of Schomberg View Post
The enduring Roman Catholicism of Yorkshire - well, until the Wesleyan revolution of the 18th century saved us from Popery - can simply be put down to our distance from London . . . the further from London the longer the reformation took to bite and the less complete it was (to this day Lancashire remains the most Roman Catholic of all English counties).
Which may also be at least part of the explanation of why Ireland remained largely Catholic.

The other part may be the increasingly colonial nature of English rule in Ireland. The English nobility and landowners had an incentive to conform to Anglicanism in order to demonstrate their loyalty to the crown, and their peasantry would follow suit because they accepted the leadership of landlords and landowners. But in Ireland there was much less of a link, and certainly much less trust and much less disposition to accept leadership, between the settler class of landlords/landowners and the dispossessed tenantry/peasantry.
Peregrinus is offline  
04-05-2021, 14:55   #4
Snickers Man
Registered User
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 4,951
Quote:
Originally Posted by Duke of Schomberg View Post
You are mistaken here: Yorkshire was not a "Yorkist" region.

The enduring Roman Catholicism of Yorkshire - well, until the Wesleyan revolution of the 18th century saved us from Popery - can simply be put down to our distance from London .
Well, whatever the reason, I think there were many Catholics in the North and many (not all--there's never just one reason for anything) would have been from Yorkist supporting regions.

I know the Who Do You Think You Are program is hardly definitive but I remember when they did Ryan Tubridy and traced his ancestry back to Edward III they talked about a large section of Catholic nobility in the North of England from whom he was descended. I wonder how much of that was to do to latent hostility to the Tudor/Lancastrian faction?

I'm not making any definitive claims to anything. Like I said, there is no one reason for anything historically and there were numerous wheels within wheels making up the whole mad circus of the Wars of the Roses but I am just curious how much "recusancy" was linked to one's family's or one's region's loyalty to the Yorkist cause.

And how much of that fed into the Irish, or at least Norman-Irish, reluctance to embrace Anglicanism.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Duke of Schomberg View Post
(to this day Lancashire remains the most Roman Catholic of all English counties).
I would respectfully suggest that much of the reason for that is also geographical: it's the closest part of England to Ireland and would therefore have absorbed much of the waves of immigration of catholic Irish in the 18th and 19th centuries to avail of the "opportunities" of working in the mills of the Industrial Revolution.
Snickers Man is offline  
04-05-2021, 16:46   #5
A Tyrant Named Miltiades!
Alexa, Play Liveline
 
A Tyrant Named Miltiades!'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 13,020
Mod: Radio, ZTest
In his book Enforcing the English Reformation in Ireland", James Murray says that concubinage among priests was commonplace, and "the church in Gaelic Ireland waived important areas of the canon law of Western Christendom, albeit with the tacit approval of Rome, in favour of its own traditional social codes, a feature particularly evident in the areas of marriage and sexuality" — he says that sexual behaviour was disinhibited in the 16th century.

Other scholars have denied this, but I suspect that there is a grain of truth that, given Ireland's isolation from Christendom, its priests (who were not academically educated), propagated a form of pragmatic Catholicism that had deep roots in, and sensitivity to, local mores. Quite similar to the success of the Roman Catholic Church in the jungles of Brazil, or rural Argentina, today. They have been encouraged by Pope Francis to accommodate the superstitions and habits of the rural people.

It was a more informal, accommodative religion than Protestantism with deeply embedded ministers – all the early protestant preachers were English, for many decades.
A Tyrant Named Miltiades! is online now  
Advertisement
05-05-2021, 13:29   #6
Aegir
Registered User
 
Aegir's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 4,700
A rector that often fills in for ours when he is away, was the Rector of a parish in Donegal before he retired.

He was great for anecdotes and one I remembered, was a local estate owner would not pay any of his employees for a Monday if they did not attend church on the Sunday. His logic was that if they were too ill to attend church, then they were too ill to go to work the next day.

This of course, was his own way of converting his employees to Anglicanism and from what I gather, this practice was fairly widespread across these islands and for a number of generations. I guess where the estate owner is absent and lets his land out, these same practices would not have happened.

just a thought.
Aegir is offline  
Thanks from:
05-05-2021, 16:31   #7
tabbey
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 1,848
Quote:
Originally Posted by Duke of Schomberg View Post
(to this day Lancashire remains the most Roman Catholic of all English counties).
This is interesting.
When you say Lancashire, do you mean the traditional shire county, including most of Merseyside and most of Greater Manchester?
Does this statistic reflect the RC descendants of early post reformation Catholic population, or is it because of the massive influx of Irish immigrants since the 1840s?

The two categories are very different, the ethnic English Catholics were the richer elements of English society, post reformation, only they could afford the fines for non attendance at church on Sunday. The immigrants from Ireland on the other hand, were the poorest, indeed the lowest social group, reflecting not merely their poverty but also their poor standard of education and rude manner by English standards.
tabbey is offline  
06-05-2021, 02:19   #8
Peregrinus
Registered User
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 20,909
It's not quite as straightforward as that. In areas where the gentry and the landowners remained Catholic, it was easier for the proles and the peasants also to remain Catholic, so these areas tended to have above-average proportions of Catholics at every level of society. The Wikipedia article on recusancy notes that Catholicism remained the majority religion in parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria and (in Scotland) in parts of the Highlands and the Hebrides. It doesn't give a cite for that but, assuming it's correct, you don't get to be the majority religion by having adherents only among the landowning classes.

There's also a map on the page showing the proportion of Catholics in each English county in 1715-20. There's a definite regional gradient, north to south, and Lancashire has the highest proportion, in excess of 20%. This obviously long predates significant Irish immigration or the development of Liverpool as a metropolis - the British slave trade had barely started then.

It's absolutely true to say that English Catholicism was dramatically changed by mass Irish immigration in the 19ths century, with the church embracing two quite distinct communities — long-established, English-descended and rural on the one hand; Irish, recently-arrived, urban and poor on the other. There could be significant tensions within those communities, but mostly they just avoided one another, which was relatively easy to do since they were socially and geographically separate.
Peregrinus is offline  
Thanks from:
Post Reply

Quick Reply
Message:
Remove Text Formatting
Bold
Italic
Underline

Insert Image
Wrap [QUOTE] tags around selected text
 
Decrease Size
Increase Size
Please sign up or log in to join the discussion

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search



Share Tweet