Sunday, 13 November 2011

Poyning’s Law and Sir William Skeffington

Poyning’s Law and Sir William Skeffington


Poyning's Law clearly stated that no parliament could be held in Ireland without the specific permission of the King and his council in England. Up until this point in time the Irish Parliament was independent and made laws to suit whatever the Chief Governor decided but this Act removed any such rights.

The passing of this law at the time had little or no impact as it only applied to those living within the Pale.  It would only later become a huge source of grievance when the law was extended throughout Ireland.
The Great Earl of Kildare known as Garret Fitzgerald became the eighth Earl in 1477 and was at this time imprisoned in London on little more than suspicion.

The king wished to use him to govern Ireland but only after he was to face the charges of suspicion. After the allegations had been answered with some directness the king appointed the Great Earl as he proclaimed, “If all Ireland cannot rule him, then he shall rule Ireland”.

He was made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1496.  The Great Earl like many before him became involved in major battles including the famous battle of Athenry.  When Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509, he made the Great Earl his Lord Deputy.  Despite suffering a defeat in Limerick he marched north captured Roscommon, took Belfast Castle and plundered the green Glens of Antrim.

The Great Earl was succeeded by his son, Garret Og Fitzgerald as Lord Deputy, and like his father continued to battle against the clans of Wicklow and captured the Castle of Leap, something his father had failed to do.  He continued north and again took the castle of Dundrum, his success bringing nothing but jealousy from the Butlers who tried to persuade the king to turn against him.

They failed to do this until the persuaded a Cardinal Wolsey who in turn persuaded the king to call the ninth Earl of Kildare to England to answer charges of enriching himself from riches appropriate to the crown, and cavorting with the Irish enemies.

Thomas Howard the Earl of Surrey was sent as his replacement as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.  This Earl made peace with the O’Neills, and the Earlos of Ormond and Desmond.  His main role was to collect as much evidence as possible against the Earl of Kildare; however Kildare married Lady Elizabeth Grey, a close relative of the king which for the time prevented any further action against him.  Surrey did tire of his mission and begged the king to return to England and this was granted in 1521 some two years after he had arrived.

Pierce Roe, the Earl of Ormond and an old enemy of Kildare was appointed as Lord Deputy in Ireland.  Roe took some of Kildare’s castles and destroyed them, but when Kildare was finally allowed to return to Ireland then a full war broke out between them.

The king finally had to intervene and made his decision in favour of Kildare who was returned to Lord Deputy in 1524.  Once again he faced allegations mainly from Wolsey and was forced to return to England yet again to answer these charges.  He found himself once again in the tower and in his absence the Pale was attacked and plundered by O’Connor from Offaly.

Sir William Skeffington was sent to Ireland as Lord Deputy and the Earl of Kildare appointed as his trusted advisor.  In truth this was not something the proud Kildare would stand for, but for now he had to play second fiddle to the English knight.

Skeffington quickly marched north against O’Neill and although Kildare accompanied him, it was unlikely he would help attack O’Connor his cousin and friend.  When faced with the might of O’Neill’s arm they beat a hasty retreat and when Skeffington reported the news to the king, he was withdrawn and once again the Earl of Kildare became the Lord Deputy of Ireland.

Kildare now started to build himself a stronghold appointing friends into high places and with his arch enemy Wolsey now dead, his campaign moved quickly.  He gathered around him the most influential Irish chiefs, ravaged the lands of the Butlers and even entered parts of the Pale, burning English villages as he did so.
He was summonsed yet again to England but delayed this for as long as he could.

You can read what happened next in Irish history by reading King Henry VIII