A little change of pace . . .



Dr. J. Michael Hill


As a state Great Britain has always been an abstraction; the realities are its organic, historic components: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Cornwall. What obviously separates England from the others is that she is ethnically and culturally Anglo-Saxon while the other “nations” of the archipelago are Celtic. But there is more to it than that. Of all the parts, England alone has not been content to mind her own affairs. Rather, in 1485 a new dynasty, the Tudors, embarked on a new round of conquests against its Celtic neighbors that gave rise to the modern, bureaucratic, imperial English state. Internal warfare and colonialism thus were major elements of this process of state/empire building by the Tudors.

This article focuses on the historic problems posed for the ambitious Tudors by the existence on England’s periphery of a number of independent Gaelic associations (clans and families) with a heritage of cultural (as opposed to political) nationalism bolstered by a strong military ethos. It also attempts to elucidate the Gaelic response to the English effort at state- and empire-making. Indeed, most modern European states (as opposed to true “nations”) are artificial constructs formed by a core elite who manage, either by persuasion or domination, to place the various sub-groups in its ambit into subservient roles for the benefit of the ruling group. As we shall see, the development of the Tudor state from 1485 to 1560 involved the subjugation of the Gaelic peoples and their subsequent exploitation in the quest for empire. The Gaels of Scotland and Ireland, though they resisted fiercely and often successfully on the battlefield, were the first casualties of this ambitious policy.

A half century ago, the German scholar Ferdinand Tonnies wrote of the dichotomy between Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesellschaft (society). The former concept is grounded in the private, informal, historic association of extended family and friends and places high value on personal honor, private property rights, ties to a particular piece of land or locality, cultural nationalism (volksgebunden), and self-protection. The latter is based on the concept of the public, formal, abstract state with its bureaucratic organization, unitary nationalism (staatsgebunden), and imperialistic ambitions to which are subordinated the aspirations and properties of the common classes. It is my contention that under the Tudors the organizing principle of the English state changed from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft.


The Tudor dynasty served as the catalyst for the formation of an aggressive English state based on the cooperation and manipulation of a central political elite: peers, gentry, lawyers, judges, clerics, merchants, and various administrators. The crown and political elites joined in this enterprise and established an English empire that would control the entire archipelago from a well-established political center–London and the southeastern counties. Populous and prosperous, southeast England contained the majority of the country’s two million people and most of its industry and trade in 1500. By the middle of Henry VII’s reign (1485-1509) there were telltale signs that the political and economic upheavals of the Wars of the Roses had abated and that the country was settling quite nicely into an era of stability. The growth of royal authority in the sixteenth century in England, as well as in Western Europe in general, would be predicated on the conquest and consolidation of territories belonging to great magnates, the subsequent integration of the landed aristocracy into the new political system, and the establishment of an efficient (though by continental standards, small) centralized state to counter any residual centrifugal forces. One might very well call this a struggle between new central elites and old regional elites.i

Henry VII provided the impetus for the particularly English brand of absolutism that was to be nurtured by the Tudors. He first made the monarchy financially independent and thus better able to control the ubiquitous “overmighty subject,” especially in the western and northern counties. The old aristocracy had been weakened by the turmoil of the mid-fifteenth century, and Henry saw this as an opportunity to extend monarchical authority by harnessing great dynastic families in the interests of the state. During his reign, Henry allowed the upper nobility to decline from twenty to ten, creating no new dukes, marquises, or earls. The assimilation of the nobility was symbiotic; in return for the loyalty and service of magnate families the crown bestowed upon them the rewards of patronage and office rather than lands. Moreover, noble ambition was to be further checked by the crown’s promoting able and loyal commoners who owed their posts to the sovereign. Of the 227 councilors that he appointed between 1485 and 1509, only forty-three were from the upper aristocracy, the remainder being courtiers, clerics, lawyers, and lay administrators. The most important position filled by this new class of royal servants was Justice of the Peace. By pitting JPs and other administrators of the “middling sort” against the old aristocracy, Henry VII tried to root out the practice of keeping retainers and thus promoted not only local law and order, but centralized state authority as well.ii

Between 1485 and 1509 the Tudor government’s increased power, prestige, and wealth not only spread order and stability from the southeast outward, but fostered the rise of the gentry, a sort of middling class of about 1,500 to 2,000 families that eagerly sought admission to the ranks of the upper nobility. But unlike the old aristocracy, the gentry increasingly came to see their lands and offices as sources of wealth and social standing rather than as means to becoming overmighty subjects with armies of retainers to challenge the central authority. In fact, the gentry, along with the lesser nobility and those of humbler origin, provided the cogs for the machinery of the Tudor state. They became the secretaries, councilors, ministers, and legal and financial experts who provided the professional expertise to run the managerial state day by day. Patronage and the holding of office by these royal bureaucrats provided economic opportunities heretofore unavailable to men of their station. Moreover, the king and his “service nobility” were the beneficiaries of powerful economic (as well as social and intellectual) forces unleashed by the Northern Renaissance and the European discovery of the New World. When the founder of the Tudor dynasty died in 1509, he left a solid foundation on which the state’s power might grow under his successors.iii

During Henry VIII’s reign (1509-47), the absolutist English state continued to assimilate the aristocracy and gentry into its service, exerted its ecclesiastical authority over the Church, its territorial control over Wales and the Northern counties, its political influence over parts of southern Scotland, and its legal claim to the kingship of Ireland. Such an expansion of Tudor rule within the British Isles was predicated on a fundamental change in the nature of English government. Whereas his parsimonious father had enriched the royal treasury, thus fostering the monarchy’s financial independence, young Henry VIII’s vainglorious pursuit of war brought the crown to the brink of insolvency. Both the king and his principal advisor, Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey, seemed to have forgotten Henry VII’s policy of keeping England out of continental affairs unless her interests were directly threatened. Henry’s ill-advised forays into continental warfare had so depleted royal finances by 1520 that the king found it necessary to depend on Parliamentary subventions. Thus Parliament, especially the Commons, became a factor in the expansion of English state power in the crucial decades of the 1520s and 1530s.iv

Henry VIII’s break with the church at Rome points up the increasingly important role of the merchant class in the affairs of state. Legislation resulting from the Reformation Parliament (1529-36), in particular the Act of Appeals (1533) and the Act of Supremacy (1534), the replacement of the vain and arrogant Wolsey by the efficient and ruthless Thomas Cromwell as the king’s chief minister in 1534, and the subsequent dissolution of the monasteries wrought a national revolution in England that in large part was based on the transfer of wealth from the church to the royal treasury and the landed estates of the gentry and lower aristocracy. Even before Henry had assumed the headship of the Anglican Church in 1534, the Act of Appeals had declared England a free and sovereign empire that owed no allegiance to any foreign power. Thus the tithes that normally flowed to Rome now went into the crown’s coffers, as did the great portable wealth of the monasteries. More importantly, at least from the standpoint of gathering support for the English Reformation, the lands confiscated from the church under Cromwell’s direction were sold at bargain prices after 1540 mainly to the gentry and the lower aristocracy, thus giving rise to a number of new influential families.v

The sovereign English state over which Henry VIII now ruled had been created with support from the House of Commons and its constituents in the materially prosperous professional middle class. While the subjugation of the church by the state had little immediate impact on religious dogma and ritual, the attendant destruction of some 800 monasteries had tragic effects on the economic, social, and cultural life of the realm, not the least of which was the wanton destruction of medieval art, architecture, manuscripts, and books. The Pilgrimage of Grace (1536) notwithstanding, there was little open dissent to royal policy regarding the church mainly because of the increase of centralized power in what has been termed “the Tudor revolution in government.”vi

An English empire would not have been possible without a tremendous increase in the power and efficiency of a central government based on unitary nationalism. This state-fostered unitary nationalism (staatsgebunden) stood in stark contrast to the cultural nationalism (volksgebunden) that prevailed in the Gaelic periphery. It permitted the emergence under Thomas Cromwell of a national, bureaucratic administration in place of a medieval-style personal, household regime and made possible the assertion of statutory law over divine law, the state over the church. To affect such a secular “revolution” in government required the establishment of a sophisticated administrative machine run by a managerial elite lured to office by the prospect of personal profit extracted from the pockets of their fellow countrymen. By making his own office of Secretary superior to all other royal offices and by transforming the large and unwieldy Council into a much smaller and more efficient Privy Council, Cromwell gave Henry VIII the means to rule a quasi-modern state. With this new machinery the king expanded England’s military power, revamped the royal household, widened diplomatic contacts, settled disputes among the aristocracy, and most importantly for the present study, began a concerted effort to make royal authority supreme throughout the kingdom by force. The abolition of the marcher lordships and their reconstitution as English counties in 1536 led to the subjugation of Wales, and the creation of the Council in the North in 1537 extended the king’s writ into a turbulent area where before it had not run.vii

The accession of Edward VI (1547-53) proved just how efficient the machinery of government had become under Henry VIII. The young king lacked the personal strength and will of his father, but his reign did not plunge the kingdom into the factionalism and strife of the previous century; rather, three forces–militant Protestantism, a sort of bastard capitalism, and unitary nationalism based on the loyalty and service of central elites–served to hold the state together. By century’s end these newly unleashed forces would bring England into conflict with Europe’s superpower, Habsburg Spain, and lead to an expansionist foreign and economic policy that would transform this small island nation’s destiny beyond the wildest dreams of even the most imperial-minded Englishmen in 1550.viii

Despite the establishment of a Protestant liturgy in the Church of England under Edward VI and a subsequent return to the Catholic fold during the reign of Mary I (1553-8), neither monarch was able to prevent the continuing secularization of English society. The aforementioned transfer of massive amounts of monastic land and property to the gentry and lower aristocracy combined with the sixteenth-century “price revolution,” an expanding population, the decline of the guilds, and the rapid expansion of the English cloth trade to stimulate industry and commerce like never before. Much of England’s burgeoning trade in the 1550s was carried on with the London government’s support between middle-class Protestants and their co-religionists in northern Europe, the Dutch Republic and the Lutheran states of north Germany in particular. Thus a nationalist, unitary, secular English state, driven by a rising managerial elite drawn from both nobility and commoners, had taken the first small steps towards establishing a globalist policy that eventually would result in a great external empire. But before devoting its full attention to the myriad, far-flung opportunities of the age, England first had to confront the internal problem of the Gaelic periphery.ix


Beginning in the middle of the sixteenth century the English state, through an aggressive policy of conquest and colonization, sought once and for all to bring the entire British archipelago under control of London’s managerial and mercantile interests. England wished to dominate the Gaelic regions of Scotland and Ireland for two reasons: 1) to forestall foreign invasion by continental Counter-Reformation powers, and 2) to free the government from threats of internal strife in order that the unified nation’s resources might be fully employed toward further state-building and external expansion.

We must now turn our attention to England’s neighboring kingdom north of the Tweed. Scotland in 1500 was divided between the Gaelic north and west and the increasingly anglicized south and east, including Edinburgh. Earlier observers had been quick to point out the cultural differences separating the “wild” Scots of the Highlands and Isles from the Lowland “householding” Scots. Writing in the late fourteenth century, John of Fordun noted, on the one hand, that the “highlanders and people of the isles . . . are a savage and untamed nation, rude and independent, given to rapine, easy living, of . . . a warm disposition, [and] comely in person. . . . “ On the other, he described Lowlanders as being of “domestic and civilized habits, trusty, patient, and urbane, decent in their attire, affable and peaceful. . . .”x It is not surprising that Scotland’s ethnic and cultural dichotomy eventually was reflected in the nation’s early modern political development.

The Lowland monarchy since the late middle ages had recognized that the tumultuous Gaelic west, centered on the kinship-based MacDonald Lordship of the Isles–what we might call of melding of tribal-and feudal-type polities–was beyond its control.xi Though the Highland clans generally recognized the Stewart kings as their patriarchal heads, they were unwilling to submit to political control from Edinburgh and thus presented a challenge to the dynasty’s claim to national sovereignty. The fall of the Lordship in 1493 coincided with the beginnings of a Renaissance-era “New Monarchy” in Edinburgh, James IV (1488-1513) being the first of these new kings of Scotland.xii

The growth of centralized power at the Stewart court in Edinburgh, though much less severe than that of the Tudors’ in London, brought Scotland to pursue more active policies towards both England and the Gaelic Highlands and Isles. James IV’s reliance on a small “Secret Council” of dependable commoners rather than on a large assembly of nobles, the dissemination of information through the printing press, the development of a professional standing army to replace the feudal host, an artillery arm, and a navy, and the renewal of the “Auld Alliance” with Valois France made the Edinburgh regime into what appeared to be the archipelago’s second Renaissance state.xiii But in reality, an independent Scottish government, perceived by London as a tool of the French monarchy, was an impediment to the extension of English hegemony throughout the British Isles and to the continued political and cultural independence of the Highland clans. Thus it was squeezed between two powerful forces which, in the long run, reduced Edinburgh to a provincial capital and administrative center for the execution of London’s military and diplomatic policies.

James IV earned the enmity of the new Tudor dynasty from the start. In the 1490s he first offered sanctuary and then assistance to the pretender Perkin Warbeck. The resulting crisis was allayed by treaty in 1502 when Henry VII pledged his daughter Margaret’s hand to James IV, a “Union of the Thistle and the Rose” that the English king full well knew might eventually bring Scotland under England’s legitimate control. But the accession of the aggressive Henry VIII made it clear to James IV that the Tudors coveted his kingdom and would take it by force. In 1511 Henry joined the Holy League against France, Scotland’s nominal ally since 1295. While Henry was away on the continent leading the English army, James IV let himself be persuaded by Louis XII of France (1498-1515) to launch a foolhardy invasion of northern England that led to the slaughter of the Scottish army at Flodden in 1513.xiv

Flodden was a Lowland disaster that gave many of the Highland clans, especially the various septs of Clan Donald, an opportunity to re-exert authority in the southwestern Highlands and Isles. Barring the Campbells and their allies, few Highland clans suffered losses on that dark day at Flodden. In the battle’s aftermath, Clan Ian Mor (or Clan Donald South), the main branch of the defunct MacDonald Lordship of the Isles, took advantage of the power vacuum to reclaim its influence in the Hebrides and on the Scottish mainland. Clan Ian Mor’s leader, Alasdair Cahanagh MacDonnell (fifth Lord of Dunyveg and the Glynnes, d. 1538), curried favor with the various regents and then with the young king himself, James V (1513-42).xv

James V seemed anxious to establish improved relations with Clan Ian Mor, which at this time had a strong presence in northeastern Ireland as well as in Islay and Kintyre. By planting seeds of doubt in the Scottish king’s mind concerning the loyalty of Colin, third earl of Argyll (d. 1530), his son, Archibald, fourth earl, and their ambitious kinsman (brother and uncle), Sir John Campbell of Calder (Cawdor), Alasdair Cahanagh MacDonnell by the mid-1530s had restored Clan Donald to a position of prominence it had not enjoyed since the zenith of the Lordship in the previous century.xvi But the untimely death of James V after the Scottish defeat at Solway Moss in 1542 prevented a firm alliance between Edinburgh and Clan Ian Mor, a combination that doubtless would have diminished the power of the grasping earls of Argyll. Moreover, the accession of James’s infant daughter and the grand-niece of Henry VIII, Mary, Queen of Scots, meant that the unlucky Stewart dynasty would again suffer through a regency government. Indeed, the diminution of central authority in Edinburgh appeared to presage two developments: England’s meddling in Scotland’s affairs and a resumption of Gaelic “lawlessness” in the west. Unfortunately for the Edinburgh regime, these two things were to be closely related, bringing together as they did the fortunes of Lowland and Highland Scotland at mid century.xvii

The crisis that befell Scotland in the middle of the sixteenth century had its origins in the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Competition for the regency between the Catholic pro-French and Protestant pro-English factions gave Henry VIII an opportunity to claim superiority over Scotland. In early 1543 Henry sent north across the Tweed a dozen or so “Assured” Scottish lairds, whom the English had captured at Solway Moss, with instructions to strike a marriage alliance between the infant queen and his young son Edward. The triumph of the Protestant James Hamilton, second earl of Arran, as regent and the subsequent treaty of Greenwich in July cemented the alliance. But as events would soon show, Henry had gone too far in assuming that the Scots would bend to his authority.xviii

Henry VIII’s policy in the Scottish Lowlands soon was complicated by his attempt to use the disgruntled anti-government clans–chiefly the Roman Catholic MacDonalds–against the Edinburgh regime. It was not long after Arran’s accession to the regency that he faced a challenge from the Catholic faction, led by David, Cardinal Beaton, and the youthful Matthew Stewart, earl of Lennox. As a result, the Protestant Arran meekly returned to the Catholic fold, the marriage treaty was annulled, and the French alliance was restored. Henry VIII was sorely displeased; consequently, he dispatched an army into southern Scotland to begin his “Rough Wooing” in 1544-5. At this point trouble flared in the western Highlands and Isles, as Donald Dubh MacDonald, a descendant of the last Lord of the Isles, took advantage of the crisis in the Lowlands by attempting to resurrect the Lordship. Donald Dubh received succor from several Highland clan chiefs, and had he attracted sufficient French military support, he might have foiled Henry VIII’s attempt to subdue Scotland. The Catholic Lennox, ever eager to be rid of his Protestant enemies–Arran and the powerful earl of Argyll–let it be known that he had secretly negotiated an agreement on behalf of the English king with Donald Dubh and his supporters. Arran, who before Lennox’s revelation had vacillated over whether to support the revived Lordship or to denounce it and risk an English-MacDonald alliance, now had no choice but to proclaim against the self-styled “Lord of the Isles.”xix

Arran was fortunate to have behind him not only Argyll but James MacDonnell, sixth Lord of Dunyveg and the Glynnes, who was betrothed to Campbell’s kinswoman, Lady Agnes. The Arran-Argyll-MacDonnell combination prevented the lesser island chiefs from giving their full support to Donald Dubh. Moreover, the rebellion suffered because Henry VIII was more concerned with a continental war against Francis I (1515-47) than with providing arms and money to the unpredictable Highlanders, who at any moment might change sides and use these precious resources to stir up trouble for England in Ulster. Donald Dubh’s uprising, then, ran out of steam even before his death later in 1545. Though James MacDonnell emerged from the abortive restoration of the Lordship as the acknowledged leader of Clan Ian Mor, he understood that Argyll was still the most powerful man in the Gaelic west.xx

The widening rift between MacDonald and Campbell in the western Highlands and Isles was mirrored by the breach between Catholic Francophiles and Protestant Anglophiles in the Lowlands. In spring 1545 Francis I had launched an attack to recapture the French port of Boulogne from Henry VIII. This plan had called for a diversionary campaign in Lowland Scotland, which miscarried because of a lack of French troops available for service there. Nonetheless, by 1547 the demise of Cardinal Beaton and Henry VIII persuaded the French to try once again to move into Scotland. After having driven out the pro-English garrison from the castle of St. Andrews, the French force was asked to depart. But following the English victory at Pinkie in September, Marie of Guise, the queen mother, dispatched an appeal to France for immediate aid. The new Valois king, Henry II (1547-59), agreed to assist the Scots if in return they would send their young queen to Paris to marry the Dauphin when the two came of age. It was not long until 6,000 French troops landed at Leith. The war finally ended with the treaty of Boulogne in 1549, and the English agreed to withdraw from Scotland. France was now in control of the Edinburgh regime, Marie of Guise becoming regent in 1554 by an act of the Scots Parliament. The stage was set for a Protestant backlash that would give birth to the Scottish Reformation and further entangle the fortunes of Highlands and Lowlands.xxi

Old Archibald Campbell, fourth earl of Argyll (d. 1558), as both Lowland laird and Highland chief, had been a pivotal figure linking the two halves of Scotland. For the past century his family had been used by the Stewart dynasty to police the western Highlands and Hebrides, and the Campbells frequently had used their unique position to further self-aggrandizing policies, thus earning the enmity of other clans, especially the MacDonalds. By the mid-1550s, Argyll and his son and successor Archibald, the fifth earl, were being drawn into the whirlwind of religious controversy that accompanied the return of John Knox and other Protestant zealots from the continent. By early 1558, the revolt against the Catholic Church and French dominance of Scotland had begun in earnest with the formation of the Lords of the Congregation, a powerful combination that saw great political and economic advantage in getting rid of French influence in Edinburgh and controlling the lands and property of the Church. The Lords of the Congregation were able to play on the fears and discontent of nobles and commoners, both of whom saw the Catholic clergy and the Church as profiting at their expense in a country whose economy was stagnant and whose resources were in short supply. When the fifth earl of Argyll and his compatriot, James Stewart, earl of Moray, half-brother to the Queen of Scots, joined the Lords in 1559, the Highland clans were bound to be drawn into the turmoil brought on by the Scottish Reformation in Edinburgh and the surrounding Lowlands.xxii

Upon the death of the Catholic Mary I of England in 1558 and the subsequent accession of the Protestant Elizabeth I (1558-1603), the Lords of the Congregation took heart, hoping to secure aid from the young queen. Indeed, Marie of Guise, facing violent mobs in Edinburgh, seemed ready to negotiate with the Lords; however, by early 1559 she let it be known that she intended to crush them and restore the old faith in Scotland. As the queen regent summoned her army to the field, Argyll and Moray publicly went over to the Lords. Nonetheless, her forces managed to hold Dunbar, and when reinforcements arrived from France, she was able to take and fortify the port of Leith. Dispirited, the army of the Lords scattered westward, abandoning Edinburgh castle to the Guise forces. It was at that moment that William Cecil, Elizabeth’s principal secretary, advised his mistress to intervene north of the Tweed. By early 1560 an English fleet in the Forth established a blockade against the French forces in Leith and Edinburgh. Shortly, England and the Lords of the Congregation signed the Treaty of Berwick (27 February), a pact of mutual assistance that resulted in an English army crossing into Scotland to besiege the garrison at Leith. By mid-year Marie of Guise was dead and Leith had surrendered. On 6 July England and France signed the Treaty of Edinburgh, thus effectively ending the French presence in Scotland. Though Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Dauphin Francis were recognized as sovereigns with power to rule as Catholics, effective political power was now in Protestant hands. xxiii

The Protestant Revolution and the end of the Auld Alliance in 1560 opened a new chapter in the history of Scotland, Highlands and Lowlands alike. In August the Reformation parliament met in Edinburgh, broke with the church at Rome, and established the independent Kirk (Church) of Scotland. The Kirk stressed the equality of all men before God, and in doing so cast out the bishops and effectively removed the new church from the authority of the monarch. But in predominantly Gaelic regions the old religion stood fast, as Clan Donald in the Isles and the Gordon earls of Huntly in the northeast simply chose to ignore the establishment of the new Kirk. As members of a conservative, patriarchal, kin-based society, the Highlanders traditionally had been willing to pay homage to the Stewart monarchs and uphold the established church. But because the Protestant Revolution and the resulting Scottish Kirk were born in opposition to the rule of the crown, most of the Gaelic Scots did not support the new religious order in the Lowlands, Such a split between Highlands and Lowlands–and within the Highlands themselves between the Catholic clan chiefs and the Protestant earl of Argyll–meant political instability that might be exploited either by the English or by continental Counter-Reformation powers. For the next four decades Scotland would find little peace, primarily because of English meddling.xxiv


Gaelic Ireland was a remote and virtually inaccessible fastness when Henry VII became king of England in 1485. The Tudors could lay claim only to Dublin and its immediate hinterland–the English Pale–and their hold on that thirty-mile-deep strip of land was tenuous at bet. Since the 1470s London had ruled this small part of the island through the Anglo-Irish earls of Kildare, kinsmen by marriage to the greatest Gaelic family of Ulster, the O’Neills of Tyrone. Henry VII continued this tradition, but when the ruling eighth earl of Kildare, Garret Mor FitzGerald (d. 1513), and his family became involved in the Yorkist plots of 1487 and 1491, the king dispatched an English Lord Deputy, Sir Edward Poynings (1494-6), to rule in his name. During this short period of direct English rule in the Pale, the Dublin parliament passed Poynings Law (1494), which provided for the defense of the Pale at the expense of local border lords and, most importantly, stipulated that the Irish parliament should not meet without the king’s consent and that all legislation submitted to it first must be approved by the Privy Council in London. Through Poynings Law, Kildare’s power was to be subverted; however, Henry VII soon realized that direct rule over Ireland was difficult, if not impossible, without the cooperation of one or more of the great Anglo-Irish families (Kildare, Desmond, or Ormond). Not surprisingly, then, Garret Mor was brought back to power in the Pale in 1496.xxv

Poynings Law notwithstanding, Henry VII’s re-appointment of the earl of Kildare as deputy in the mid-1490s revealed England’s weak position in Ireland; her entire military establishment there in 1494-5 amounted to only about 650 troops. Despite the king’s revelation to Charles VIII of France that he intended to subdue the Gaelic Irish and pacify the island, Henry could not rule even the small confines of the Pale without aid from the Kildares, and it was that family’s connections with the O’Neills of Ulster that most concerned the Tudors. Isolated from the rest of the island by a chain of mountains, hills, and drumlins and further protected by a network of rivers, loughs, bogs, and forests, the province of Ulster was the cultural and political center of Gaelic Ireland. Thusly protected, the O’Neills of both Tyrone and Clandeboy, the O’Donnells of Tyrconnell, the Antrim MacDonnells, and several lesser families could with virtual impunity ignore the pronouncements of Dublin and London at the beginning of the sixteenth century. In this “Gaelic heartland,” the inhabitants lived in extended families, or septs, similar to the clans of Highland Scotland. Indeed, because of the mobility resulting from the Norse-inspired seafaring tradition, long-established commercial, military, and social contacts between the western Highlands and Isles and Ulster by 1500 had fused the area into a common cultural unit. For instance, galloglaigh, heavily-armed Scottish mercenaries, had found ready employment with native Irish chiefs since the late fourteenth century, many of them settling permanently in Ulster.xxvi

To control Ireland, England would have to break the power of the Gaelic chiefs, especially those in Ulster. But to do this militarily would require the expenditure of more treasure than either Henry VII or Henry VIII were willing to commit. Thus conquest and colonization gave way to conciliation and compromise. After Poynings’ departure in 1496, Garret Mor FitzGerald had been reappointed to govern the Pale and had shown his loyalty to the Tudors by raising a large Anglo-Irish and Gaelic army and defeating the Clanricard Burkes at the battle of Knockdoe in 1504. Upon the elder Kildare’s death in 1513, Henry VIII appointed his son and successor, Garret Oge. The new earl, despite his propensity to govern increasingly through Gaelic methods, got on well with the Tudor king until 1519, when he was replaced by Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey. Surrey’s appointment as Lord Lieutenant, like Poynings’ as deputy a generation earlier, reflected England’s inability to subdue the Gaelic north and west without a proper and reliable military force directed by a loyal Englishman.xxvii

Before 1534 Henry VIII considered Ireland to be an external problem to be dealt with by periodic military interventions when necessary. Surrey’s tenure from 1519-22 revealed the futility of such a policy. After taking the field and ultimately receiving submissions from the two most important Gaelic lords in Ulster, Con Bacagh O’Neill (d. 1559) and Hugh Dubh O’Donnell (d. 1537), as well as from several of the great houses of Leinster and Munster, Surrey revealed to his master that if the island was to be pacified it would take an army of 5,000 to 6,000 regulars and a string of fortresses from one corner to the other. If the recalcitrant chiefs were to be prevented from periodic uprisings, certain lands outside the Pale had to be permanently settled by English colonists. Moreover, this Herculean effort would have to be financed from England itself. Because Henry VIII was not prepared to bear the cost of such an undertaking, he recalled Surrey in 1522. ’xxviii

The appointment of a great English nobleman to intervene in Gaelic Irish affairs when the king could no longer depend on an Anglo-Irish lord proved to be an ineffective way of handling the problem. If Ireland was to be considered an internal problem by London, as it was after 1534, Henry VIII had to find a way to make military conquest a self-financing proposition or else fall back on some less aggressive, less expensive undertaking. Though Gaelic political disunity had allowed the earls of Kildare frequently to pit one chief or faction against another for his own and the crown’s benefit, shifting political alliances among the native Irish, the lesser Anglo-Irish lords, and the Scots along the north coast made such a course increasingly foolhardy, if not dangerous, by the 1520s and 1530s. Though internecine squabbles did not abate completely between O’Neill and O’Donnell, the various loci of power in Gaelic Ulster, as elsewhere, stood ready to defy the authority of Kildare and Ormond in Dublin and, by extension, that of the king himself in London.xxix

From 1485 to 1534 London viewed Ireland in much the same way it did Wales and England north of the river Trent. During this half century, the centralizing English state found it necessary still to depend on great feudal magnates to carry on local government on the periphery of a developing internal empire. In the 1530s Henry VIII finally abandoned the practice of ruling Ireland through an Anglo-Irish magnate. In effect, the, this meant the fall of the house of Kildare. Through the machinations of Thomas Cromwell, Garret Oge was summoned to London in early 1534, where he was imprisoned in the Tower on a questionable charge of treason. The government in Ireland was left to Kildare’s eldest son, Thomas, Lord Offaly, who soon rose in rebellion upon hearing a false report of his father’s execution. Even though the resulting revolt of “Silken Thomas,” which drew support from a number of important Catholic leaders in the Pale, as well as the O’Neills of Tyrone, the O’Mores, and the O’Connors, was rapidly extinguished after Lord Deputy Sir William Skeffington’s artillery pounded the castle of Maynooth into submission, it pointed up a growing opposition to the crown among the Anglo-Irish and Gaelic aristocracy. This opposition would next find vent in the Geraldine League, a confederation of Irish lords centered on the person of young Gerald FitzGerald, half-brother to Silken Thomas. xxx

By the late 1530s Henry VIII most assuredly came to the realization that the great lords of Gaelic Ireland (and of Highland Scotland, too, for that matter), like the aristocracy throughout much of Renaissance Europe, saw their allegiance to the monarchy as purely conditional. When it was in their interests to do so, they might seek the aid of foreign princes, thus endangering England’s national security on the exposed western flank. Ireland, therefore, became an internal problem for the Tudors; to have left it an external one was to invite invasion from a continental rival, a danger that would grow in severity with the beginnings of the Catholic Counter-Reformation in the next decade. Thus when Silken Thomas had thrown down the gauntlet as the king’s enemy and appealed to the vexing question of religion he had forced Henry’s hand. The brutal execution of the tenth earl of Kildare (Thomas, Lord Offaly’s father, Garret Oge, the ninth earl, having died in late 1534), threw Munster into turmoil as James FitzGerald, the new earl of Desmond, joined with many of the Anglo-Irish lords of the south to oppose the English.xxxi

The Geraldine uprising began in Munster, but the focus soon shifted to Ulster where Con Bacagh O’Neill and Manus O’Donnell (d. 1563), the new chief of Tyrconnell, managed to put aside their differences and present a united front against Henry VIII’s deputy, Lord Leonard Gray. By mid-1538 O’Neill and O’Donnell had taken possession of young FitzGerald from the O’Briens and were actively seeking military support from James V of Scotland. Moreover, the MacDonnells of Antrim had already landed 2,000 redshank mercenaries on the northeastern coast, a force believed to be reserved for the Geraldine League. But the Scots proved too sagacious to commit to this scheme, correctly assessing the prevailing weaknesses of the two Ulster chiefs, especially Con Bacagh O’Neill. Gray, a masterful tactician, indeed was a precursor to the able Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, the scourge of the Gaelic Irish in Elizabeth’s last years. Gray’s campaigns in the Irish midlands in 1537, his harrying of the impotent O’Neill from his lair at Dungannon, and the subsequent defeat of an O’Neill-O’Donnell army at Bellahoe in late 1539 ushered in a new era in English warfare in Ireland. This new style of war brought Henry VIII a temporary political advantage in his dealings with the Gaelic lords. Not only did the Geraldine League fall apart when young FitzGerald fled to France (reportedly with Scottish assistance), but Gray’s success in the field convinced Henry VIII that he might now be able to negotiate with the Irish chiefs. He also used the league’s demise as an opportunity to issue a claim to the kingship of Ireland.xxxii

Henry VIII became nominal king of Ireland in 1541. In suppressing the Geraldine uprising, Gray had introduced an instrument called the “indenture,” by which the Gaelic lords in all four provinces agreed to acknowledge Henry as their sovereign. Many of the chiefs who agreed to the indentures in principal were themselves of some note: MacMahon, O’Connor, O’Byrne, and Burke, among others. Whether the chiefs would adhere to these agreements after the removal of the threat of English military force remained to be seen. Indeed, Gray’s execution on trumped up charges of treason because of his “Geraldine sympathies” and the accession of the conciliatory Anthony St. Leger as deputy in mid-1540 seemingly did little to enhance the validity of the indentures. But perhaps Gray’s demise was the king’s way of revealing to the Gaelic lords his desire to incorporate them peacefully into the new kingdom of Ireland. After all, one of the Geraldine League’s objectives had been Gray’s recall. Henry knew that the military subjugation of the island was beyond his means; Gray’s and Sir William Brereton’s (who served as Lord Justice from April to July 1540) tenure in Dublin undoubtedly had convinced the king that conciliation was preferable to conquest, at least from a purely financial standpoint. But if Con Bacagh O’Neill and Manus O’Donnell were unwilling to negotiate, Henry would be hard-pressed to subdue them without more manpower, money and material. To avoid open conflict, the English king in the autumn of 1540 instructed St. Leger to commence a policy known as “surrender and regrant.” xxxiii

Surrender and regrant involved the Gaelic chiefs’ recognition of Henry VIII’s authority as king and his theoretical ownership of all the land of Ireland in return for a regrant of their territories and the conferring of English titles upon them. Thus the Gaelic lords would join the Anglo-Irish in receiving the protection of English military forces and, more importantly, the right to bring suit in English courts and hold lands by English methods of tenure. Such fundamental changes obviously would undermine the authority of the great provincial lords (ceannfine) by stripping them of their oir rioghtha (anglicized as ‘urraights’) or subordinate chiefs, similar to the “tacksmen” in the Highlands and of their control over commonly held clan territories. A shift in the allegiance of the urraights from their chiefs to the English king and the transfer of the ownership of land from the organic, corporate clan to the private individual whose affairs were increasingly subject to the dictates of the English state would mean the beginning of the end of Gaelic Ireland. Therefore, the Tyrone O’Neills and Tyrconnell O’Donnells might have been expected to resist surrender and regrant. xxxiv

Determined and widespread Gaelic resistance to the Tudor policy of surrender and regrant, in truth, would have forced Henry VIII to resort to a military solution to the Irish problem. This undoubtedly would have resulted in a difficult situation for the English, since the Tudors, like most Renaissance-era dynasties, had grandiose ambitions that exceeded their often inadequate resources. Henry, then, realized that if the great Ulster chiefs were unwilling to negotiate, the English state would only with the utmost difficulty force them to do so on the battlefield. Though Tudor England at mid-century possessed the basic elements of a centralized, quasi-modern state, Henry VIII was certainly aware of the need to utilize the great noble families as far as was necessary to extend his own authority into the archipelago’s virtually ungovernable fringes. It would not be until the middle of the eighteenth century that London would be able to influence the outer edges of the British Isles without the aid of locally powerful aristocrats such as the earl of Argyll.xxxv

In the early 1540s Henry VIII wished to come to a quick agreement with the Ulster chiefs regarding surrender and regrant. Neither Con Bacagh O’Neill nor Manus O’Donnell seemed to be aware of England’s military and economic predicament, else they would not have moved so swiftly to cut a deal with Westminster’s representatives in Dublin. By mid-1541 O’Donnell had submitted; O’Neill held out until his position became untenable in autumn 1542. The acceptance of surrender and regrant by the two greatest lords of Ulster had terrible repercussions in the Gaelic heartland. When Con Bacagh knelt before Henry VIII at Greenwich, accepted the title of earl of Tyrone, and allowed the English monarch to place a chain of gold about his neck, the symbolism was clear: the mighty O’Neill, descendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages, had sold his birthright and become the king of England’s vassal. Con therefore lost the respect and loyalty of his own people. Both he and O’Donnell agreed to hold their lands of the king, a direct violation of the Brehon law’s decree that a clan’s communal lands cannot be disposed of merely at the chief’s will. Moreover, Con agreed to pass his lands on to an English-designated heir, his illegitimate son, Matthew O’Neill, newly created baron of Dungannon. By snubbing Con’s eldest legitimate son, the young firebrand Shane (c. 1528-67), the English unleashed upon Ulster a force destined to disrupt the province for a generation. But meanwhile, the once proud O’Neill limped back to his castle at Dungannon, bereft of his Gaelic title and suffering the indignation of vassalage to the English crown.xxxvi

The submission of Con O’Neill and Manus O’Donnell in the early 1540s stood as Henry VIII’s greatest accomplishment in dealing with Gaelic Ireland. By late 1542 the English garrison there was reduced to 500 regulars, a move that reflected London’s lack of concern over a resurgence of Gaelic power. Apparently unaware of the results that sprung from the emasculation of O’Neill and O’Donnell, London paid scant attention to two forces loose in Ulster: the MacDonnells of Antrim, who since 1538 had been under the hand of James, sixth Lord of Dunyveg and the Glynnes (d. 1565), and Shane O’Neill, the disinherited son of Con Bacagh.xxxvii


Clan Ian Mor was a bridge between the Western Highlands and Isles of Scotland and Gaelic Ulster. Having one foot firmly planted in Islay and Kintyre and the other in the Glynnes of Antrim, James MacDonnell and his family influenced affairs in both areas after 1538. The resultant pan-Gaelicism began to exert a profound effect on the region’s politics in the early 1540s. The fortunes of the Antrim MacDonnells were becoming increasingly intertwined with those of the Tyrone O’Neills, as the nature of the English threat to the Gaelic heartland became clearer. The followers of the humbled O’Neill of Tyrone were quick to shift their loyalty to Shane, who methodically began to construct a local system of alliances among the minor septs of northern Ulster, not least of whom were the O’Donnelley’s, his foster family. More significant for the time being, however, was the Antrim MacDonnells’ concerted attempt to dominate the MacQuillins and O’Cahans, the first by marriage, the second by force, and control the fertile lands of the Route from Ballycastle to Lough Foyle. The resulting confusion that attended the aggressive accumulation of urraights by Shane and the MacDonnells meant that if Henry VIII and his successors were to uphold the fundamental principles of surrender and regrant, they would have to do so either by sponsoring a Gaelic rival to neutralize the upstarts or by moving sufficient English forces into Ulster to defeat them. Since Henry VIII had no connections in Shane O’Neill’s or James MacDonnell’s inner circles, and since neither of them likely would have consented to become the king’s vassal after seeing the plight of Con Bacagh and Manus, a diplomatic solution to the problem was out of the question. Still London resisted the idea of committing to a major military action in Gaelic Ireland; but the gathering forces of the Counter-Reformation did not allow Westminster the luxury of treating the island’s tumultuous political situation as if it existed in a geopolitical vacuum.xxxviii

France posed the first threat to England’s position in Ireland. From London’s standpoint, Gaelic Ireland could not be allowed to remain politically autonomous, since this would be an open invitation to the Catholic chiefs to form continental alliances. But to colonize the island and effectively bring it into an English empire would be a costly and ambitious project. In lieu of such a project, the only way to dispel the specter of foreign intrigue and intervention would be to defeat the MacDonnells and Tyrone O’Neills in a series of short military campaigns or to persuade them to accept the introduction of English reforms. Because Henry VIII in his last years had committed England’s limited resources to a disastrous continental war with France, he had little choice but to temporize with the Irish Gaels. However, the fact that the Valois dynasty kept a keen eye on England’s “backdoor” in Ireland forced London always to contemplate the possibility of war in that region.xxxix

Throughout the late 1540s rumor circulated that a Franco-Scottish invasion force would land in Ulster and enlist various disaffected Gaelic lords against the English. The proposed operations, associated in part with the aforementioned attempt to resurrect the Lordship of the Isles, were effectively blocked by James MacDonnell and Clan Ian Mor. James understood that until the Valois dynasty was willing to commit sufficient forces and money to the Gaelic cause, it would be wise to avoid a direct challenge to England, though Westminster’s ability to effectively intervene in Ireland remained questionable. As it turned out, James MacDonnell was proved correct in his suspicion that the Valois kings sought to aid the Gaelic Irish only when it benefited France. The climax of French intrigue came in 1549-50 when Jean de Monluc, ambassador to the Guise court in Edinburgh, with the assistance of James and Angus MacDonnell, landed at the mouth of the river Bann and conferred with Con Bacagh O’Neill and Manus O’Donnell. England was alarmed, but in reality had little to fear unless the Antrim MacDonnells became party to some sort of agreement. That they did not (instead choosing to expand their grip on the Route westward across the Bann), and that both O’Neill and O’Donnell lost their nerve pretty much ended the overblown threat of a French invasion of Ulster at mid century.xl

The Franco-Scottish threat in the Gaelic heartland was one reason why London opted to rethink its Irish policy. Though French adventurism in Ireland came to nothing in 1550, the possibility of foreign intervention revealed to English policymakers the danger stemming from an independent Gaelic political and cultural bloc. This danger was especially pronounced in the north, where links with the Scottish Highlands and Isles were strong. By reappointing St. Leger as Lord Deputy from 1550-1 and then again from 1553-6, London committed for the time being to a policy of reform and reconciliation. St. Leger (and the Anglo-Irish community that he represented) had opposed the heavy-handed efforts to colonize the counties of Leix and Offaly under Lord Justice William Brabazon and Lord Deputy Edward Bellingham in the late 1540s. The latter indeed had been ruthless in pushing the Irish out and building new roads and fortresses. But England proceeded cautiously in the midlands, as in Ulster, for fear of further provoking the Irish to seek aid from Scotland or the continent. Perhaps, then, this accounts for St. Leger’s return to Dublin in 1550.xli

Until the coming of Thomas Radcliffe, Lord FitzWalter, as Lord Lieutenant in 1556, England vacillated between the conciliatory approach advocated by deputy St. Leger and Justice Sir Thomas Cusake and the hard-line approach of deputy Sir James Crofts. FitzWalter’s (created earl of Sussex in 1557) arrival, along with that of Undertreasurer Sir Henry Sidney, signaled the beginning of a renewed effort to establish a plantation in Gaelic Ireland. Sidney had been in Spain in 1554, and there had begun a study of Spanish colonial policy, which he hoped might be applied to Ireland. He noted that the Spanish were quick to resort to harsh methods that promoted conquest and colonisation over reform and conciliation. And while FitzWalter himself initially was less enamored of the Spanish solution than was Sidney, it was not long until the Catholic Anglo-Irish or “Old English” were pushed aside in favor of a new ruling elite–the Protestant “New English” (disparagingly called “bodach Sassenach,” something akin to “English sons-of-bitches” by the Gaels)–eager to implement a policy of coercion similar to Spain’s. The hardening of the English position in Ireland resulted in an entente between the Antrim MacDonnells and Shane O’Neill in the mid-1550s that threatened to breach the Carrickfergus-Erne line, the demarcation that separated the Pale from the Gaelic lordships in the north, before the English were ready or able to defend it.xlii

Despite the weakness of England’s military establishment in Ireland, in mid-1556 FitzWalter and Sidney advanced into Ulster to crush the MacDonnell enclave in northeastern Antrim. That London sanctioned this adventure against the Antrim McDonnells suggests that Mary I’s government was well aware of Clan Ian Mor’s unique ability to fuel Gaelic rebellion. FitzWalter intended to hem in the MacDonnells by building a series of forts from Dundalk to Lough Foyle and by establishing a permanent English naval presence in the North Channel. But to march to Lough Foyle would take the Lord Lieutenant across Shane O’Neill’s territories. For the moment the impetuous young chief stood aside. The MacDonnells were as much a threat to his own dominance of Ulster as were the English.xliii

The result of FitzWalter’s 1556 campaign was inconclusive, despite a rather sharp skirmish southwest of Glenarm in mid-July. There, and in a subsequent search-and-destroy campaign in 1557, the English learned a lesson or two about Gaelic warfare: the Scots (as well as the Irish) possessed superior tactical mobility and could disengage from battle and disappear virtually at will. Having no major towns or infrastructure to defend, James and Colla MacDonnell had not at all been reluctant to give up ground to the English, knowing that FitzWalter could not hold it with green troops unused to the rigors of Irish warfare. In the end, the Lord Lieutenant accomplished nothing of lasting effect in his attempt to subdue Ulster from without. But he did come to understand the Achilles Heel of the Irish chiefs: localism and political fragmentation. xliv

The possibility of exploiting these internal Gaelic weaknesses by diplomatic maneuvering certainly was not lost on New English officialdom in Dublin and London. A deadly quarrel between Shane and Calvagh O’Donnell in 1557 gave England an opportunity to intervene with promises of support to the latter. Moreover, the earl of Sussex seriously began to consider the advantages of pitting O’Neill and the Antrim MacDonnells against one another. The affairs of Ireland, and especially of the Gaelic north and west, had been complicated by the outbreak of war between England and France in June 1557. Philip II (1556-98) had prevailed upon Mary I, his wife, to commit England to support the Habsburg cause in the last years of their half-century struggle with the Valois. The resumption of Anglo-French hostilities revived fears in the Pale of a Franco-Scottish invasion of Ulster with the blessing of Mary, Queen of Scots. Sussex decided to take an aggressive approach to drive a wedge between the MacDonnells and Shane O’Neill. In mid-1558 he initiated talks with James and Sorley Boy MacDonnell in order to ascertain their willingness to use Clan Ian Mor as an instrument against Shane O’Neill, who recently had been elected chief by his people. To persuade the Scots to come to terms, Sussex carried out an attack on MacDonnell holdings in Kintyre and the adjacent isles. At the same time, Sidney opened secret discussions with O’Neill. All the while Dublin kept up good relations with the Tyrconnell O’Donnells just in case either O’Neill or the Antrim Scots emerged triumphant.xlv

Both Sussex and Sidney had underestimated the political sagacity of Shane O’Neill and the Antrim MacDonnells. Since the death of his father Con Bacagh and the murder of his half-brother Matthew, Shane stood unchallenged and defiant in central Ulster. For their part, the MacDonnells had thwarted Sussex’s invasion and had refused to cut a deal with the English against O’Neill. The plantation of Leix and Offaly continued to present administrative problems for Dublin, and the Anglo-Irish and Gaelic lords of Munster and Connacht remained resistant to the imposition of English jurisprudence and the shire system. When Elizabeth I took the throne in November 1558, she found the realm of Ireland in disarray. Though the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis had ended the Habsburg-Valois war on the continent, the prospect of aid to the Gaelic Irish from the pro-French Guise party in Edinburgh kept London and Dublin on edge. Sorley Boy MacDonnell’s decisive victory over the MacQuillins in mid-1559 strengthened Clan Ian Mor’s grip over the Route, forcing Shane to break off talks with Sidney and Sussex in order to address the problem of the resurgent Scots. It was evident by 1560 that three powers–the English, O’Neill, and Clan Ian Mor–had conflicting ambitions in the north of Ireland. Their complex quarrels were the main engine propelling Gaelic Ireland toward destruction during the coming generation.xlvi


London had three Gaelic regions with which to deal in the mid-sixteenth century: 1) the northern and northeastern Highlands of Scotland within the Moidart-Caithness-Braemar triangle, 2) southern, central, and western Ireland (an area corresponding roughly to Leinster beyond the Pale, Munster, and Connacht, and 3) the Gaelic heartland–Ulster and the southern Hebrides and the western coastal mainland of Scotland from the Mull of Kintyre to Ardnamurchan. In order to extend English authority into these far-flung, remote fastnesses, the centralized Tudor state found it necessary to utilize (or create) ambitious or pliable Gaelic lords, such as the earls of Argyll and Tyrone, who would act as royal “lieutenants,” keeping in check disruptive elements within their jurisdictions. But because of the difficulty in keeping open regular communications with the Celtic fringe, London tried to establish what amounted to regional regimes (for “government” is too strong a term to describe the ruling institutions in Dublin and Edinburgh at this time) in the Pale and the Scottish Lowlands, where Privy Council policies concerning the Gaelic regions would be broadly implemented. Of course, such a complex arrangement was not as neat as all this. During Elizabeth’s reign New English officials in Dublin Castle would seek their own aggrandizement as often as they would seek to do the royal will, and the ruling element in Scotland (be it the Protestant Lords or James VI) frequently found itself at odds with Westminster. However, despite these various pullings and tuggings in all directions, by 1560 one thing becomes alarmingly clear in retrospect: the unitary English state, centered on London and moved by dreams of empire, was consciously poised to politically subjugate the Gaels of Scotland and Ireland and subsequently eradicate the organic, traditional culture that bound them together.

i ?The problem of an emergent “English empire” is treated in Hugh Kearney, The British Isles, A History of Four Nations (Cambridge, 1989), 106-27. Clayton Roberts and David Roberts, A History of England, 3rd ed., 2 vols. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1991), 218-19; Penry Williams, The Tudor Regime (Oxford, 1979), 9-10, 421, 440, 463-4; Perez Zagorin, Rebels and rulers, 1500-1660, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1982), I: 41, 88; Charles Tilly, “Reflections on the History of European State-Making,” in Charles Tilly, ed., The Formation of National States in Western Europe (Princeton, 1975), 17-18, 23-4; Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1990 (Oxford, 1990), 156-8.

ii ?English absolutism is discussed in C. H. MacIlwain, The growth of political thought in the west (New York, 1932), and Constitutionalism, ancient and modern, rev. ed. (Ithaca, 1947), 75-111, 123-35. For thorough studies of the Wars of the Roses, see Anthony Goodman, The Wars of the Roses: Military Activity and English Society, 1452-97 (London, 1981), John Gillingham, The Wars of the Roses (Baton Rouge, 1981), Charles Ross, The Wars of the Roses (London, 1976), and J. R. Lander, Wars of the Roses (1966). John Guy, Tudor England (Oxford, 1990), 170-3; Williams, Tudor Regime, 129, 422-3, 431-2, 462; Zagorin, Rebels and rulers. I: 95-6; David Starkey, ed., Lives and Letters of the Great Tudor Dynasties: Rivals in Power (London, 1990), 8; J. D. Mackie, The Earlier Tudors, 1485-1558 (Oxford, 1952), 195-6; T. B. Pugh, “Magnates, Knights, and Gentry,” in S. B. Chrimes et al. eds., Fifteenth Century England (Manchester, 1972), 115, 128n; W. C. Richardson, Tudor Chamber Administration (Baton Rouge, 1952), 451-62; Tilly, Coercion, 156.

iii ?Starkey, ed., Rivals in Power, 11; Mackie, Earlier Tudors, 189-230; Zagorin, Rebels and rulers, I: 97-8; Guy, Tudor England, 41-2, 44-50; J. A. Youings, Sixteenth Century England (Harmondsworth and New York, 1984), 54-5, 238-9; G. R. Elton, England Under the Tudors (London and New York, 1955), 43; Lawrence Stone, The Crisis of the Aristocracy, 1558-1641 (Oxford, 1965), passim. For the standard biography of Henry VII, see S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII (Berkeley and London, 1972).

iv ?For scholarly assessments of Henry VIII’s reign, see J. J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (Berkeley and London, 1968), and David Starkey, The Reign of Henry VIII: Personalities and Politics (New York, 1986). Zagorin, Rebels and rulers, 90-2; Guy, Tudor England, 85, 98-9, 173-4; Elton, England Under the Tudors, 92-4; Williams, Tudor Regime, 33-5, 60-1; Conrad Russell, The Crisis of Parliaments: English History, 1509-1660 (Oxford, 1971), 38-44.

v ?Guy, Tudor England, 124-39, contains a thorough discussion of the Reformation Parliament. A. G. Fox and J. A. Guy, Reassessing the Henrician Age: Humanism, Politics, and Reform, 1500-1550 (Oxford, 1986), 162-3; S. T. Bindoff, ed., The House of Commons, 1509-1558, 3 vols. (London, 1982), I: 10-11; F. C. Dietz, English Public Finance, 1485-1641, 2 vols., 2nd ed. (London, 1964), I: 137-49; J. A. Youings, The Dissolution of the Monasteries (London, 1971), 117-31. For Cromwell’s role in the growth of English government, see A. G. Dickens, Thomas Cromwell and the English Reformation (London, 1959) and G. R. Elton, Reform and Renewal: Thomas Cromwell and the Common Weal (Cambridge, 1973).

vi ?For an explanation of this thesis, see G. R. Elton, The Tudor Revolution in Government (Cambridge, 1953) and Reform and Reformation: England 1509-1558 (London, 1977). For a revisionist perspective, see C. Coleman and D. R. Starkey, eds., Revolution Reassessed: Revisions in the History of Tudor Government and Administration (Oxford, 1986). Williams, Tudor Regime, 445.

vii ?Guy, Tudor England, 156-64, 173-6; Russell, Crisis of Parliaments, 49-50; Mackie, Earlier Tudors, 562-7; G. R. Elton, The Tudor Constitution, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 1982), 87-93, 101-04; Williams, Tudor Regime, 147-8, 458-9.

viii ?For the reign of Edward VI, see W. K. Jordan, Edward VI, 2 vols. (London, 1968-70) and M. L. Bush, The Government Policy of Protector Somerset (London, 1975). Mackie, Earlier Tudors, 461-3.

ix ?H. M. P. Prescott, Mary Tudor, 2nd ed. (New York, 1952) and D. M. Loades, The Reign of Mary Tudor (London, 1979) discuss the reign of Henry VIII’s eldest daughter. Elton, Reform and Reformation, 314-16; Williams, Tudor Regime, 140-2; S. T. Bindoff, Tudor England (London, 1950), 142-5. Also see Peter H. Ramsay, ed., The Price Revolution in Sixteenth-Century England (London, 1971).

x ?John of Fordun, 1380, quoted in P. Hume Brown, ed., Scotland Before 1700 from Contemporary Documents (Edinburgh, 1893), 11-12.

xi ?J. M. Brown, ed., Scottish Society in the Fifteenth Century (New York and London, 1977), 214-15.

xii ?J. D. Mackie, A History of Scotland, 2nd ed. rev. and ed. by B. Lenman and G. Parker (Harmondsworth, 1978), 112. For the newest, most authoritative biography of James IV, see Norman MacDougall, James IV (Edinburgh, 1989).

xiii ?Mackie, History of Scotland, 112-13, 116, 118, 121-2; MacDougall, James IV, 88, 135-6, 223-46.

xiv ?William Ferguson, Scotland’s Relations with England: A Survey to 1707 (Edinburgh, 1977), 40; R. L. Mackie, King James IV of Scotland: A Brief Survey of his Life and Times (Edinburgh, 1958; reprint ed., Westport, CT, 1976), 78-80, 97; Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, 28-9; MacDougall, James IV, 252-3; R. L. Mackie, ed., The Letters of James the Fourth, 1505-1513 (Edinburgh, 1953), nos. 126, 138, 139, 140; Moray McLaren, If Freedom Fail: Bannockburn, Flodden, the Union (London, 1964), 197-252.

xv ?Rev. George Hill, An Historical Account of the MacDonnells of Antrim (Belfast, 1873), 36; W. C. MacKenzie, The Highlands and Isles of Scotland: A Historical Survey (Edinburgh and London, 1937; reprint ed. New York, 1977), 121. For a recent study of Clan Ian Mor during this period, see J. Michael Hill, Fire and Sword: Sorley Boy MacDonnell and the Rise of Clan Ian Mor, 1538-1590 (London,, 1993).

xvi ?Donald Gregory, The History of the Western Highlands and Isles of Scotland from A.D. 1493 to A.D. 1625 (Edinburgh, 1881), 136, 142-3; Gordon Donaldson, Scotland, James V to James VII (Edinburgh and London, 1965), 50-1; A. MacDonald and A. MacDonald, The Clan Donald, 3 vols. (Inverness, 1896-1904), II: 520-3; G. G. Smith, ed., The Book of Islay (Privately printed, 1895), 40-3; Bannatyne Club, ed., Origines Parochiales Scotiae, 2 vols. (Edinburgh, 1850), II: 5.

xvii ?W. C. Dickenson, Scotland from the Earliest Times to 1603, 3rd ed., rev. and ed. by A. A. M. Duncan (Oxford, 1977), 310-11; MacDonald and MacDonald, Clan Donald, II: 527-8; W. D. Lamont, The Early History of Islay, 500-1726 (Dundee, 1966), 40-1.

xviii ?Rosalind Mitchison, A History of Scotland (London, 1970), 102-06; Michael Lynch, Scotland: A New History (London, 1991), 205-06; Ferguson, Scotland’s Relations with England, 59-60; John Prebble, The Lion in the North (London, 1971), 183-4; Mackie, History of Scotland, 137-8.

xix ?Dickenson, Scotland from the Earliest Times, 330-3; Lynch, Scotland, 204-05; Hill, MacDonnells of Antrim, 42-3; Gregory, Western Highlands and Isles, 168-9; Hill, Fire and Sword.

xx ?Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 6 vols. (London, 1808; reprint ed., New York, 1965), V: 543; Lamont, Islay, 41-2; Gregory, Western Highlands and Isles, 171; Hill, MacDonnells of Antrim, 43; R. B. Wernham, Before the Armada: The Emergence of the English Nation, 1485-1588 (New York, 1966), 149-63.

xxi ?Donaldson, James V to James VII, 76-84; Mitchison, History of Scotland, 107-08; Ferguson, Scotland’s Relations with England, 62; Wernham, Before the Armada, 161-3, 170; James Hogan, Ireland in the European System, 1550-1557 (London, 1920), 74-5; Sir Charles Oman, A History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century (London, 1937), 358-67; Prebble, Lion in the North, 184-6.

xxii ?For the exploits of Clan Campbell to 1500, see Colin MacDonald, The History of Argyll up to the beginning of the sixteenth century (Glasgow, 1951). Ferguson, Scotland’s Relations with England, 68-70; Maurice Lee, Jr., James Stewart, earl of Moray (New York, 1953), 26, 40; Mackie, History of Scotland, 139; J. E. A. Dawson, Two Kingdoms or Three?: Ireland in Anglo-Scottish Relations in the Middle of the Sixteenth Century, in Roger A. Mason, ed., Scotland and England, 1286-1815 (Edinburgh, 1987), 120; “The Fifth Earl of Argyle, Gaelic Lordship and political Power in Sixteenth-Century Scotland,” The Scottish Historical Review LXVII, I, no. 183 (April 1988): 1-27.

xxiii ? Prebble, Lion in the North, 188-90; Lee, James Stewart, 39-40; Lynch, Scotland, 208; Donaldson, James V to James VII, 94-5; Ferguson, Scotland’s Relations with England, 71-2.

xxiv ? Mackie, History of Scotland, 152-3; Mitchison, History of Scotland, 123-4; Dickenson, Scotland from the Earliest Times, 344.

xxv ? Margaret MacCurtain, Tudor and Stuart Ireland (Dublin, 1972), 6-8; Agnes Conway, Henry VII’s Relations with Scotland and Ireland, 1485-1498 (Cambridge, 1932), 44, 118-43.

xxvi ? S. G. Ellis, Tudor Ireland, Crown, Community and the Conflict of Cultures, 1470-1603 (London and New York, 1985), 74-5; Hill, Fire and Sword, 5-11. See G. A. Hayes-McCoy, Scots Mercenary Forces in Ireland (1565-1603) (Dublin and London, 1937), for a discussion of the galloglaigh tradition.

xxvii ? K. S. Bottingheimer, Ireland and the Irish, A Short History (New York, 1982), 71-2, 74; MacCurtain, Tudor and Stuart Ireland, 6-7; Conway, Henry VII’s Relations, 91; Edmund Curtis, A History of Mediaeval Ireland from 1110 to 1513 (New York, 1923), 405, 407-10; R. D. Edwards, Ireland in the Age of the Tudors (London, 1977), 37, 39-40; S. G. Ellis, Reform and Revival: English Government in Ireland, 1470-1534 (Woodbridge, Suffolk and New York, 1984), 19-24; Brendan Bradshaw, The Irish Constitutional Revolution of the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 1979), 58-83.

xxviii ? Bradshaw, Irish Constitutional Revolution, 58-83; Ellis, Tudor Ireland, 114-15; J. O. Ranelagh, A Short History of Ireland (Cambridge, 1983), 46; Edmund Curtis, A History of Ireland (London, 1936), 160.

xxix ? Hill, Fire and Sword, 11-19. For contemporary accounts of the shifting alliances and frequent quarrels among the various Gaelic families of Ulster in the first half of the sixteenth century, see W. M. Hennessy, ed., Annals of Loch Ce. A Chronicle of Irish Affairs from A.D. 1014 to A.D. 1590, 2 vols. (London, 1871); W. M. Hennessy and B. MacCarthy, ed., Annals of Ulster, A Chronicle of Irish Affairs from A.D. 431 to A.D. 1540, 4 vols. (Dublin, 1887-1901); John O’Donovan, ed., Annala Rioghachta Eireann, Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, by the Four Masters, from the earliest period to the year 1616, 5 vols. (Dublin, 1848).

xxx ? D. B. Quinn, “Ireland and Sixteenth Century European Expansion,” Historical Studies I (1958): 20-32; S. G. Ellis, “Historiographical debate: Representations of the past in Ireland: whose past and whose present?,” Irish Historical Studies XXVII, no. 108 (November 1991): 289-308; Bottingheimer, Ireland and the Irish, 75; Laurence McCorristine, The Revolt of Silken Thomas: A Challenge to Henry VIII (Dublin, 1987), passim; J. C. Beckett, A Short History of Ireland (London, 1958), 44-5; MacCurtain, Tudor and Stuart Ireland, 15-16; Ellis, Tudor Ireland, 136-7; S. G. Ellis, The Pale and the Far North: Government and society in two early Tudor borderlands (Galway, 1988), passim; Williams, Tudor Regime, 428-9.

xxxi ?Edwards, Ireland in the Age of the Tudors, 42-3; Bottigheimer, Ireland and the Irish, 75-6.

xxxii ? Hill, Fire and Sword, 20-5; Ellis, Tudor Ireland, 135-6; MacCurtain, Tudor and Stuart Ireland, 17; J. M. Hill, Celtic Warfare, 1595-1763 (Edinburgh, 1986), 30-41.

xxxiii ? Ellis, Tudor Ireland, 135-7; T. W. Moody, F. X. Martin, and F. J. Byrne, eds., A New History of Ireland, 9 vols., Early Modern Ireland, 1534-1691, III, 44-5; MacCurtain, Tudor and Stuart Ireland, 42; Ranelagh, Short History of Ireland, 49; Bottigheimer, Ireland and the Irish, 83-4.

xxxiv ? For a study of Gaelic Irish jurisprudence, see Laurence Ginnell, The Brehon Laws (London, 1894); F. E. Ball, The judges in Ireland, 1221-1921, 2 vols. (London, 1926). T. W. Moody and F. X. Martin, ed., The Course of Irish History (Cork, 1967), 48-9.

xxxv ? See Sir Charles Oman, History of the Art of War, 285-389, for an as yet unsurpassed overall assessment of the Tudor military system.

xxxvi ? Con O’Neill to Henry VIII, 20 July 1540, London, Public Record Office, State Papers, Ireland, Henry VIII, SP 60/9/38; Henry VIII to Con O’Neill, 7 September 1540, SP 60/9/50; Privy Council to Henry VIII, 23 September 1541, SP 60/10/35; Sir Thomas Cusake to Privy Council, October 1541, SP 60/10/38; Submission of Con O’Neill, 24 September 1542, SP 60/10/78; Indenture between Sir Anthony St. Leger and Manus O’Donnell, 6 August 1541, in C. Maxwell, ed., Irish History from Contemporary Sources (1509-1610) (London, 1923), 110-11; Hill, Fire and Sword, 25-8; James Morrin, ed., Calendar of the Patent and Close Rolls of Chancery in Ireland, 2 vols. (Dublin, 1861), I: 85-6.

xxxvii ? Ellis, Tudor Ireland, 143-4; Hill, Fire and Sword, 26-7.

xxxviii ? Hill, MacDonnells of Antrim, 46; O’Donovan, ed., Four Masters, IV: 1471-5; Hennessy, ed., Loch Ce, II: 337.

xxxix ? St. Leger and council to Privy Council, 1 September 1542, in Maxwell, ed., Irish History, 108-09; St. Leger to Henry VIII, 6 April 1543, SP 60/11/2; Con O’Neill to Henry VIII, 1 May 1544, SP 60/11/41; Hogan, Ireland in the European System, 74-5; Wernham, Before the Armada, 161-3.

xl ? Con O’Neill to Henry VIII, 1 May 1544, SP 60/11/41; Privy Council to St. Leger and council, 4 June 1545, SP 60/12/10; James MacDonnell to St. Leger, 24 January 1546, SP 60/12/29,i; Manus O’Donnell to Lords Deputy and council, 4 March 1550, London, Public Record Office, State Papers, Ireland, Edward VI, SP 61/2/52,i; Con O’Neill to George Dowdall, archbishop of Armagh, 7 March 1550, SP 61/2/52,ii; Holinshed, Chronicles, V: 539; Hill, Fire and Sword, 32-4; Sir James Melville of Halhill, Memoirs of his own Life, ed. Bannatyne Club (Edinburgh, 1827), 11-12.

xli ? Hill, Fire and Sword, 35-41; Richard Cox, Hibernia Anglicana: or, the History of Ireland from the Conquest thereof by the English, to this present time, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London, 1692), II: 282; Quinn, “Ireland and Sixteenth Century European Expansion;” Ellis, Tudor Ireland, 230-2; Hill, MacDonnells of Antrim, 46-7; MacDurtain, Tudor and Stuart Ireland, 53-5; Bottigheimer, Ireland and the Irish, 84-5.

xlii ? Lord Deputy and Council to Privy Council, 2 September 1551, SP 61/3/51; Ellis, Tudor Ireland, 177, 232-4, 317-18; Hill, Fire and Sword, 41-2; Quinn, “Ireland and Sixteenth Century European Expansion.”

xliii ? Instructions from Sussex, 12 June 1566, in Historical Manuscripts Commission, The Manuscripts of Charles Haliday, Esq., of Dublin. Acts of the Privy Council in Ireland, 1556-1571, fifteenth report, appendix, part III, ed. J. T. Gilbert (London, 1897), 3-4; Cox, Hibernia Anglicana, II: 303; Sussex’s journey, 8 August 1556, London, Lambeth Palace Library, Carew MSS, vol. 621, f. 15; Hill, MacDonnells of Antrim, 129n; Hill, Fire and Sword, 42-3.

xliv ? Hill, Celtic Warfare, passim; Hill, Fire and Sword, 43-4; J. M. Hill, “The Distinctiveness of Gaelic Warfare, 1400-1750,” European History Quarterly XXII, no. 3 (July 1992): 323-46.

xlv ? J. T. Gilbert, ed., Account of Facsimiles of National Manuscripts of Ireland (London, 1884), 153; O’Donovan, ed., Four Masters IV: 1551, 1553, 1555, 1557, 1559; J. J. Silke, Ireland and Europe, 1559-1607 (Dundalk, 1966), 4-5; Charter by Mary, Queen of Scots, and Francis to the MacDonalds of Dunnyveg (1558), in Smith, ed., Book of Islay, 62-5; Origines Parochiales Scotiae, II: 6, 24; Hill, Fire and Sword, 44-50; Holinshed, Chronicles, V: 586; Cox, Hibernia Anglicana, II: 307; Edmund Campion, A Historie of Ireland, written in the Yeare 1571, ed. James Ware (Dublin, 1633; reprint ed. 1809), 185; Extract from a letter from Sussex to Mary, Queen of England, 6 October 1558, in Smith, ed., Book of Islay, 66-7.

xlvi ? Cox, Hibernia Anglicana, II: 313; Ellis, Tudor Ireland, 238-9; Hill, Fire and Sword, 50-6; MacCurtain, Tudor and Stuart Ireland, 59.