Irish Rebellion of 1641

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Irish Rebellion of 1641
Part of the Irish Confederate Wars
Date23 October 1641 – May 1642
(7 months)

Irish victory

Irish Catholics
Commanders and leaders

The Irish Rebellion of 1641 (Irish: Éirí Amach 1641) was an uprising by Irish Catholics in the Kingdom of Ireland, who wanted an end to anti-Catholic discrimination, greater Irish self-governance, and to partially or fully reverse the plantations of Ireland. They also wanted to prevent a possible invasion or takeover by anti-Catholic English Parliamentarians and Scottish Covenanters, who were defying the king, Charles I. It began as an attempted coup d'état by Catholic gentry and military officers, who tried to seize control of the English administration in Ireland. However, it developed into a widespread rebellion and ethnic conflict with English and Scottish Protestant settlers, leading to Scottish military intervention. The rebels eventually founded the Irish Catholic Confederacy.

The rebellion began on 23 October. The plan to seize Dublin Castle was foiled, but the rebels swiftly captured numerous towns, forts and fortified houses in the northern province of Ulster. Within days they held most of the province. Rebel leader Felim O'Neill issued a forged proclamation claiming he had the king's blessing to secure Ireland against the king's opponents. The uprising spread southward and soon most of Ireland was in rebellion. In November, rebels besieged Drogheda and defeated an English relief force at Julianstown. The following month, many Anglo-Irish Catholic lords joined the rebellion. In these first months—especially in Ulster—some Catholic rebels drove out or killed thousands of Protestant settlers (most notably the Portadown massacre), and settlers responded in kind. Reports of rebel massacres outraged Protestants in Britain, and left a lasting impact on the Ulster Protestant community.

King Charles and the English parliament both sought to quell the rebellion, but parliament did not trust the king with command of any army raised to do so. This was one of the issues that led to the English Civil War. Charles ordered forces to be raised in Ireland, and the English parliament drafted a bill to give itself the power to raise armed forces. Eventually in April 1642, following negotiations between the English and Scottish parliaments, the Scots sent a Covenanter army to Ireland. It swiftly captured most of eastern Ulster, while a Protestant settler army held northwestern Ulster. Government forces meanwhile recaptured much of the Pale, and held the region around Cork. Most of the rest of Ireland was under rebel control.

In May 1642, Ireland's Catholic bishops met at Kilkenny, declared the rebellion to be a just war and took steps to control it. With representatives of the Catholic nobility in attendance, they agreed to set up an alternative government known as the Irish Catholic Confederacy and drew up the Confederate Oath of Association. The rebels, now known as Confederates, held most of Ireland against the Protestant Royalists, Scottish Covenanters and English Parliamentarians. The rebellion was thus the first stage of the Irish Confederate Wars and part of the wider Wars of the Three Kingdoms, which would last for the next ten years.


The roots of the 1641 rebellion lay partly in the Elizabethan conquest and colonisation of Ireland, and partly in the alienation of Anglo-Irish Catholics from the newly-Protestant English state in the decades following that conquest. Historian Aidan Clarke writes, "the religious factor was merely one aspect of a larger problem posed by the Gaelic Irish, and its importance was easily obscured; but religious difference was central to the relationship between the government and the colonists".[1]

The pre-Elizabethan Irish population is usually divided into the Gaelic Irish, and the Anglo-Irish or 'Old English', descendants of medieval English and Anglo-Norman settlers. These groups were historically antagonistic, with English settled areas such as the Pale around Dublin, south Wexford, and other walled towns being fortified against the rural Gaelic clans.[2] By the 17th century, the cultural divide between these groups, especially at elite social levels, was narrowing. An account in 1614, wrote, "the Old English race as well in the Pale as in other parts of the Kingdom, despised there mere Irish, accounting them to be a barbarous people, void of civility and religion and the other of them held the other as a hereditary enemy" but cited intermarriage "in former ages rarely seen", education of the Gaelic Irish and "the late plantation of New English and Scottish all part of the Kingdom whom the natives repute a common enemy; but this last is the principal cause of their union".[3] Many Old English lords not only spoke the Irish language, but extensively patronised Irish poetry and music, and have been described as Hiberniores Hibernis ipsis ("More Irish than the Irish themselves"). Intermarriage was also common. Moreover, in the wake of the Elizabethan conquest, the native population became defined by their shared religion, Roman Catholicism, as opposed to the Protestantism of the new settlers (Church of England, Church of Scotland and Church of Ireland).[4]

During the decades between the end of the Elizabethan wars of re-conquest in 1603 and the outbreak of rebellion in 1641, the political position of the wealthier landed Irish Catholics was increasingly threatened by the English government of Ireland.[5]


Map of Ireland in 1609 showing the major Plantations of Ireland

The Tudor conquest of Ireland during the late 16th and early 17th century saw the Plantations of Ireland: where Irish-owned land was confiscated and colonised with settlers from Britain. The Plantation of Ulster was the biggest, and saw the confiscating of vast amounts of forfeited land from the Irish lords who fled in the Flight of the Earls in 1607. Of this territory 20% was granted to "deserving" native Irish lords and clans.[6] The new settlers were required to be English-speaking and Protestant. By the time of the 1641 rebellion, native Irish society was not benefiting from the plantation and this was exacerbated by the fact many grantees had to sell their estates due to poor management and the debts they incurred.[7] This erosion of their status and influence saw them prepared to join a rebellion even if they had more to lose.[7]

Many of the exiles (notably Eoghan Ruadh Ó Néill) found service as mercenaries in the Catholic armies of Spain and France. They formed a small émigré Irish community, militantly hostile to the English-run Protestant state in Ireland, but restrained by the generally good relations England had with Spain and France after 1604. In Ireland itself the resentment caused by the plantations was one of the main causes for the outbreak and spread of the rebellion. Moreover, the Irish Parliament's legislation had to be approved by the English privy council, under a 15th-century Act of the Irish Parliament, known as Poynings' Law. The Protestant settler-dominated administration took opportunities to confiscate more land from longstanding Catholic landowners.[8] In the late 1630s Thomas Wentworth, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, proposed a new round of plantations,[9] though these had not been implemented by 1641. In 1641, 60% of land still belonged to Catholics.[10]

Religious discrimination[edit]

Most of the Irish Catholic upper classes were not opposed to the sovereignty of Charles I over Ireland but wanted to be full subjects and maintain their pre-eminent position in Irish society. This was prevented by their religion and by the threat of losing their land in the Plantations. The failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 had led to further discrimination against, and mistrust of, Catholics.

Anglicanism, a branch of Protestantism, was the only approved form of worship. Practicing Catholicism in public could lead to arrest, and non-attendance at Protestant church services was punishable by recusant fines. Catholics could not hold senior offices of state, or serve above a certain rank in the army. The Irish privy council was dominated by English Protestants. The constituencies of the Irish House of Commons gave Protestants a majority.[11]

In response, the Irish Catholic upper classes sought 'The Graces', and appealed directly to the King, first James I and then Charles I, for full rights as subjects and toleration of their religion. On several occasions, the kings seemed to have reached an agreement with them, granting their demands in return for raising taxes. Irish Catholics were disappointed when, on paying the increased taxes after 1630, Charles postponed implementing their last two demands until he and the Privy Council of England instructed the Irish Lords Justices on 3 May 1641 to publish the required Bills.[12][13]

Etching, by Jan Luyken, depicting the execution of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford in 1641

The advancement of the Graces were particularly frustrated during the time that Wentworth was Lord Deputy. On the pretext of checking of land titles to raise revenue, Wentworth confiscated and was going to plant lands in counties Roscommon and Sligo and was planning further plantations in counties Galway and Kilkenny directed mainly at the Anglo-Irish Catholic families.[14] In the judgement of historian Pádraig Lenihan, "It is likely that he [Wentworth] would have eventually encountered armed resistance from Catholic landowners" if he had pursued these policies further.[15] However, the actual rebellion followed the destabilisation of English and Scottish politics and the weakened position of the king in 1640. Wentworth was executed in London in May 1641.


From 1638 to 1640 Scotland rose in a revolt known as the Bishops' Wars against Charles I's attempt to impose Church of England practices there, believing them to be too close to Catholicism. The King's attempts to put down the rebellion failed when the English Long Parliament, which had similar religious concerns to the Scots, refused to vote for new taxes to pay for raising an army. Charles therefore started negotiations with Irish Catholic gentry to recruit an Irish army to put down the rebellion in Scotland, in return for granting Irish Catholics their longstanding requests for religious toleration and land security. This army, made up mostly of Irish Catholics from Ulster, was slowly mobilised at Carrickfergus opposite the Scottish coast, but then began to be disbanded in mid-1641. To the Scots and the English parliament, this seemed to confirm that Charles was a tyrant, who wanted to impose his religious views on his kingdoms, and to govern again without his parliaments as he had done in 1628–1640. In early 1641, some Scots and English Parliamentarians even proposed invading Ireland and subduing Catholics there, to ensure that no royalist Irish Catholic army would land in England or Scotland.[16]

Frightened by this, and wanting to seize the opportunity, a small group of Irish Catholic landed gentry (some of whom were Members of Parliament) plotted to take Dublin Castle and other important towns and forts around the country in a quick coup in the name of the King, both to forestall a possible invasion and to force him to concede the Catholics' demands. At least three Irish colonels were also involved in the plot, and the plotters hoped to use soldiers from the disbanding Irish army.[17]


Unfavourable economic conditions also contributed to the outbreak of the rebellion. This decline may have been a consequence of the Little Ice Age event of the mid 17th Century. The Irish economy had hit a recession and the harvest of 1641 was poor. Interest rates in the 1630s had been as high as 30% per annum. The leaders of the rebellion like Phelim O'Neill and Rory O'Moore were heavily in debt and risked losing their lands to creditors. What was more, the Irish peasantry were hard hit by the bad harvest and were faced with rising rents. This aggravated their desire to remove the settlers and contributed to the widespread attacks on them at the start of the rebellion.[18][19]


Sir Felim O'Neill

The planners of the rebellion were a small group of Catholic landed gentry and military officers, mainly Gaelic Irish and from the heavily planted province of Ulster. The rising was to take place on Saturday 23 October 1641. Armed men led by Connor Maguire and Rory O'Moore were to seize Dublin Castle and its arsenal and hold it until help came from insurgents in neighbouring County Wicklow. Meanwhile, Felim O'Neill and his allies were to take several forts in Ulster.[20] Their plan was to use surprise rather than force to take their objectives without bloodshed, and then issue their demands, in expectation of support from the rest of the country.[21] The English garrison of Ireland was only about 2,000 strong and scattered around the country.[20] The plan to seize Dublin Castle was foiled after one of the plotters, Hugh Og MacMahon, mistakenly revealed details of the plot to his foster-brother, a Protestant convert named Owen O'Connolly. O'Connolly informed one of the Lord Justices, and MacMahon and Maguire were arrested.[22] The remaining rebels slipped out of Dublin.[20] (After the Restoration, the Parliament of Ireland made 23 October an annual day of Thanksgiving.[23])

Meanwhile, Felim O'Neill and his allies captured several forts and small towns in Ulster. Within two days, the rebels had captured most of counties Armagh, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Monaghan. O'Neill and his men took Dungannon and Charlemont, the McCartans and Magennises took Newry, the O'Hanlons took Tandragee, the McCanns took Portadown, the O'Quinns took Mountjoy Castle, the McMahons took Castleblaney and Carrickmacross,[24] and rebels led by Rory Maguire captured most of Fermanagh.[25] Any forts that did not surrender were besieged. On 24 October, O'Neill issued the Proclamation of Dungannon, saying they were not in arms against the king, but only in defence of their freedoms, and that they meant no harm to the king's subjects.[26] Within a week, most of County Cavan had also been captured by rebels led by Philip O'Reilly (its Member of Parliament) and Mulmore O'Reilly (its High Sheriff).[27] An army of at least 8,000 rebels advanced into eastern Ulster and besieged Lisnagarvey, but failed to take it.[25] At Newry on 4 November, Felim O'Neill and Rory Maguire issued a declaration, claiming the rebels were doing the king's bidding. It claimed King Charles had commissioned O'Neill to lead Irish Catholics to secure Ireland against the king's Protestant Parliamentarian opponents.[28] Though a forgery, the declaration persuaded many Catholic gentry in the rest of Ireland to support him.[29]

By early November, organized rebellion had begun outside Ulster: in County Louth, where Dundalk was captured and the Anglo-Irish Catholic gentry joined the rebellion,[30] as well as counties Leitrim and Longford.[31] Rebel forces from Ulster began advancing south towards Dublin. On 21 November, rebels under Brian McMahon began to besiege the important town of Drogheda from the north. Another rebel force under the O'Reilleys advanced through County Meath, capturing towns, before blockading Drogheda from the south. On 29 November, they defeated an English relief force sent from Dublin in the battle of Julianstown, killing 600 English soldiers.[32] By this time, rebellion had spread further south to counties Kildare,[33] Wicklow, Wexford and Tipperary.[34] In early December, the Anglo-Irish Catholic lords of the Pale joined the rebellion.[35]

The English authorities in Dublin over-reacted to the rebellion, calling it "a most disloyal and detestable conspiracy" by "some evil affected Irish Papists", which was aimed at "a general massacre of all English and Protestant inhabitants".[36] In December, the English authorities in Dublin sent troops under commanders Charles Coote and William St Leger (both Protestants) to rebel-held areas in counties Wicklow and Tipperary respectively. Their expeditions were characterised by what modern historian Padraig Lenihan has called, "excessive and indiscriminate brutality" against the general Catholic population there[37] and helped to provoke the general Catholic population into joining the rebellion. The rebellion in Munster, the last region to witness such disturbances, was driven by the severe martial law William St Leger imposed there.[26]

Meanwhile, the breakdown of state authority prompted widespread attacks by the native Irish on the English Protestant settlers, especially in Ulster.[38] Initially, Scottish settlers were not attacked but as the rebellion went on, they too became targets.[39] O'Neill and the other rebel leaders tried to stop the attacks on settlers but were unable to control the peasantry. A contemporary (though hostile) Catholic source tells us that O'Neill "strove to contain the raskall multitude from those frequent savage actions of stripping and killing" but that "the floodgate of rapine, once being laid open, the meaner sort of people was not to be contained".[40] Many Catholic lords who had lost lands or feared dispossession joined the rebellion and participated in attacks on settlers. Such attacks usually involved the beating and robbing rather than the killing of Protestants. Historian Nicholas Canny writes, "most insurgents seemed anxious for a resolution of their immediate economic difficulties by seizing the property of any of the settlers. These popular attacks did not usually result in loss of life, nor was it the purpose of the insurgents to kill their victims. They nevertheless were gruesome affairs because they involved face to face confrontations between people who had long known each other. A typical attack involved a group of Irish descending upon a Protestant family and demanding, at knifepoint, that they surrender their moveable goods. Killings usually only occurred where Protestants resisted".[41]

The motivations for the popular rebellion were complex. Among them was a desire to reverse the plantations; rebels in Ulster were reported as saying, "the land was theirs and lost by their fathers".[42] Another motivating factor was antagonism towards the English language and culture which had been imposed on the country. For example, rebels in County Cavan forbade the use of the English language and decreed that the original Irish language place names should replace English ones.[42] A third factor was religious antagonism. The rebels consciously identified themselves as Catholics and justified the rising as a defensive measure against the Protestant threat to "extirpate the Catholic religion". Rebels in Cavan stated "we rise for our religion. They hang our priests in England".[43] Historian Brian MacCuarta writes, "Longstanding animosities against the [Protestant] clergy were based on the imposition of the state church since its inception thirty years previously. Ulster Irish ferocity against everything Protestant were fuelled by the wealth of the church in Ulster, exceptional in contemporary Ireland".[44] There were also cases of purely religious violence, where native Irish Protestants were attacked and Catholic settlers joined the rebellion.[45]

Ulster massacres[edit]

English atrocity propaganda of alleged rebel attacks on women and children

The number of Protestant settlers killed in the early months of the uprising is debated.[46] Early English Parliamentarian pamphlets claimed that over 200,000 Protestants had lost their lives.[47] Recent research suggests the number is much lower, in the region of 4,000 or so killed, though thousands more were expelled from their homes.[48] It is estimated that up to 12,000 Protestants may have lost their lives in total, most dying of cold or disease after being expelled from their homes in the depths of winter.[49][50] If the upper estimate of 12,000 deaths is accurate, this would represent less than 10% of the British settler population in Ireland, though in Ulster the ratio of deaths to the settler population would have been somewhat higher, namely around 30%.[51]

The general pattern was that the attacks intensified the longer the rebellion went on. At first, there were beatings and robbing of settlers, then house burnings and expulsions, and finally killings, most of them concentrated in Ulster. Historian Nicholas Canny suggests that attacks on settlers escalated after a failed rebel assault on Lisnagarvey in November 1641, after which the settlers killed several hundred captured rebels. Canny writes, "the bloody-mindedness of the settlers in taking revenge when they gained the upper hand in battle seems to have made such a deep impression on the insurgents that, as one deponent put it, 'the slaughter of the English' could be dated from this encounter".[52] That month, rebels killed about 100 captive settlers at Portadown by forcing them off the bridge into the River Bann, and shooting those who tried to swim to safety. Known as the Portadown massacre, it was one of the bloodiest massacres in Ireland during the conflicts of the 1640s.[53] In nearby Kilmore parish, English and Scottish men, women, and children were burned to death in the cottage in which they were imprisoned.[54] In County Armagh, recent research has shown that about 1,250 Protestants were killed in the early months of the rebellion, or about a quarter of the settler population there.[55] In County Tyrone, modern research has identified three blackspots for the killing of settlers, with the worst being near Kinard, "where most of the British families planted... were ultimately murdered".[56] There were also massacres of settlers outside Ulster, such as the Shrule massacre in County Mayo, where dozens of Protestant prisoners were killed by their Catholic escorts.

The massacres were used to support the view that the rebellion was a Catholic conspiracy to wipe out all Protestants in Ireland.[57] This narrative was constructed in the Depositions, a collection of accounts by victims gathered between 1642 and 1655 and now housed in Trinity College Dublin.[58][59] The accounts were outlined in a book published by John Temple in 1646, entitled The Irish Rebellion.[60] Temple used the massacres of Protestants to lobby for the military re-conquest of Ireland and the segregation of Irish Catholics from British Protestants.[61]

Some settlers also massacred Catholics, particularly in 1642–43 when a Scottish Covenanter army landed in Ulster. William Lecky, the 19th-century historian of the rebellion, concluded that "it is far from clear on which side the balance of cruelty rests".[62] On its march through County Down, the Covenanter army killed Irish prisoners at Kilwarlin woods near Dromore and then massacred Catholic prisoners and civilians in Newry.[63][64] James Turner records that Catholic soldiers and local merchants were lined up on the banks of the Newry River and "butchered to death ... without any legal process".[63] On Rathlin Island, Scottish Covenanter soldiers of Clan Campbell were encouraged by their commanding officer Sir Duncan Campbell to kill the local Catholic MacDonnells, who were related to the Campbells' enemies in Scotland, Clan MacDonald. They threw scores of MacDonnell women over cliffs to their deaths.[65] The number of victims of this massacre has been put as low as 100 and as high as 3,000.

The widespread killing of civilians was brought under control to some degree in 1642, when Owen Roe O'Neill arrived in Ulster to command the Irish Catholic forces and hanged several rebels for attacks on civilians. Thereafter, the war, though still brutal, was fought in line with the code of conduct that both O'Neill and the Scottish commander Robert Monro had learned as professional soldiers in mainland Europe.[66]

In the long term, the killings by both sides in 1641 intensified the sectarian animosity that originated in the plantations. Modern historians argue that the killings had a powerful psychological impact on the Protestant settlers especially.[67][68] Dr. Mary O'Dowd wrote that they "were very traumatic for the Protestant settler community in Ulster, and they left long-term scars within that community".[69] Contemporary Protestant accounts depict the rebellion as a complete surprise; one stated that it was "conceived among us and yet we never felt it kick in the womb, nor struggle in the birth".[70] Many of them took the view that Catholics could no longer be trusted. Ulster Protestants commemorated the anniversary of the rebellion every 23 October for over two hundred years. According to Pádraig Lenihan, "This anniversary helped affirm communal solidarity and emphasise the need for unrelenting vigilance; [they perceived that] the masses of Irish Catholics surrounding them were and always would be, unregenerate and cruel enemies".[71] Images of rebel massacres are still shown on the banners of the Orange Order.

English and Scottish intervention[edit]

James Butler, Duke of Ormond, who commanded the royal army during the rebellion

King Charles, the English Parliament and the Scottish Parliament all agreed that the rebellion should be crushed. However, British intervention was stalled by the ongoing tension between the king and the parliaments. Charles received news of the rebellion while in Scotland on 28 October. He urged the Scottish Parliament to be ready to send troops to Ulster as soon as the English Parliament agreed to Scottish intervention. In the meantime, he bought weapons and gunpowder and had them sent to Ireland at his own expense, and arranged for a small number of Scottish volunteers to be sent to Ulster. Charles "had no money to finance an expedition on his own, and had he tried to raise funds by non-parliamentary means, the Commons would have protested".[72] The king and Lords Justices in Dublin appointed James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, to command the King's forces in Ireland. He recruited three infantry regiments from among the refugees flooding into Dublin.[73] The King and the Lords Justices commissioned many of the leading Ulster Scots settlers to raise regiments, such as Robert and William Stewart, who formed the Laggan Army.[74]

On 4 November, the English parliament voted to send weapons and gunpowder to the English government in Ireland, and for an army of 8,000 to be raised to crush the rebellion.[75] By law, the army would be under the king's overall command. However, neither the English nor Scottish parliaments wanted the king to have command of such an army, as they feared he would then use it against them.[73] Some of them suspected that Charles was involved in the rebellion. The rebels claimed to be doing the king's bidding, and there was suspicion he would use the rebellion to gain an army for himself.[76] During the first few months, the English parliament instead ordered separate regiments to be recruited and shipped to Ireland to join the forces already there.[77] In early 1642, parliament passed the Militia Ordinance, which meant that parliament (rather than the king) would have command of military forces.[78] In March 1642, the English parliament passed the Adventurers' Act, which received royal assent. Under this act, wealthy Englishmen could fund the army to crush the rebellion, and be repaid with land confiscated from the rebels.[79]

At the outbreak of the rebellion, the Scottish Covenanters requested funds from the English parliament for sending an army to Ulster. An army could be sent from Scotland more quickly and cheaply, and a Scottish army would not be commanded by the king nor the English parliament.[80] Some in the English parliament had misgivings about letting a large Scottish army land in Ulster, but on 21 December the House of Lords eventually agreed on sending 10,000 Scots. The Scots then insisted they should control the three biggest ports in Ulster (Carrickfergus, Coleraine and Derry), and be given Irish land for their services. This led to further delay, as there was opposition in the English parliament. Meanwhile, the rebellion in Ireland continued to spread. Eventually, in February 1642, the English and Scottish parliaments put aside their differences and agreed on sending 2,500 Scots to Ulster.[81] The army, led by Robert Monro, landed at Carrickfergus on 15 April 1642. It advanced through County Down and captured Newry on 1 May.[26]

Meanwhile, the royal army led by Ormond regained much of the Pale from the rebels in early 1642. In March his forces ended the rebel siege of Drogheda and re-took Dundalk, and in April defeated a rebel force at the Battle of Kilrush.[26]

In mid-1642, British forces totalled: 40,000-foot and 3600 horse with 300 manning the artillery. Included in this total are 10,000-foot raised by the Scottish parliament and sent to Ulster to defend their compatriots there.[82]

A quick defeat of the rebels in Ireland was prevented by the outbreak of the English Civil War in August 1642. Some English troops were withdrawn from Ireland in late 1642 and a military stalemate ensued.[83]

Founding of the Confederation[edit]

The Great Seal of the Irish Catholic Confederation, with the motto "Irishmen united for God, king and country"

By early 1642, there were four main concentrations of rebel forces; in Ulster under Felim O'Neill, in the Pale around Dublin led by Viscount Gormanston, in the south-east, led by the Butler family – in particular Lord Mountgarret, and in the south-west, led by Donagh MacCarthy, Viscount Muskerry. In areas where British settlers were concentrated, around Cork, Dublin, Carrickfergus and Derry, they raised their own militia in self-defence and managed to hold off the rebel forces.[84]

Within a few months of the rebellion's outbreak, almost all of the Catholic gentry had joined it, including the Anglo-Irish Catholics. There are three main reasons for this. First, local lords and landowners raised armed units of their dependents to control the violence that was engulfing the country, fearing that after the settlers were gone, the Irish peasantry would turn on them as well. Secondly, the Long Parliament and the Irish administration, and King Charles, made it clear that Irish Catholics who did not demonstrate their loyalty would be held responsible for the rebellion and killings of settlers, and would confiscate their lands under the Adventurers Act, agreed on 19 March 1642. The old policy of issuing pardons to stop conflicts was ended, and the rebel leaders were outlawed on 1 January 1642. Thirdly, it looked initially as if the rebels would be successful after they defeated a government force at Julianstown in November 1641. This perception was soon shattered when the rebels failed to take nearby Drogheda, but by then most of the Catholic gentry had already committed themselves to rebellion.[85] The Catholic gentry around Dublin, known as the "Lords of the Pale", issued their Remonstrance to the king on 17 March 1642 at Trim, County Meath.

Hugh O'Reilly (Archbishop of Armagh) held a synod of Irish bishops at Kells, County Meath in March 1642, where a majority declared that the ongoing conflict was a "holy and just war".[86]

On 10 May 1642, Archbishop O'Reilly convened another synod at Kilkenny. Present were 3 archbishops, 11 bishops or their representatives, and other dignitaries.[87] They drafted the Confederate Oath of Association and called on all Catholics in Ireland to take it. Those who took the oath swore allegiance to Charles I and vowed to obey all orders and decrees made by the "Supreme Council of the Confederate Catholics". The rebels henceforth became known as Confederates. The synod re-affirmed that the rebellion was a "just war".[88] It called for the creation of a council (made up of clergy and nobility) for each province, which would be overseen by a national council for the whole island. It vowed to punish misdeeds by Confederate soldiers and to excommunicate any Catholic who fought against the Confederation. The synod sent agents to France, Spain and Italy to gain support, gather funds and weapons, and recruit Irishmen serving in foreign armies.[89] Lord Mountgarret was appointed president of the Confederate Council, and a General Assembly was fixed for October that year.[90]

The Confederate General Assembly was held in Kilkenny on 24 October 1642, where it set up a provisional government.[91] Present were 14 Lords Temporal and 11 Lords Spiritual from the Parliament of Ireland, along with 226 commoners.[92] The Assembly elected a Supreme Council of 24.[91] The Supreme Council would have power over all military generals, military officers and civil magistrates.[93] Its first act was to name the generals who were to command Confederate forces: Owen Roe O'Neill was to command the Ulster forces, Thomas Preston the Leinster forces, Garret Barry the Munster forces and John Burke the Connaught forces.[93] A National Treasury, a mint for making coins, and a press for printing proclamations were set up in Kilkenny.[94]

The Confederation eventually sided with the Royalists in return for the promise of self-government and full rights for Catholics after the war. They were finally defeated by the English Parliament's New Model Army from 1649 through to 1653 and land ownership in Ireland passed largely to Protestant settlers.[95]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aidan Clarke, "Plantation and the Catholic Question 1603–1623", in TW Moody, FX Martin FJ Byrne (editors), A New History of Ireland: Early Modern Ireland 1534–1691, p. 188
  2. ^ Colm Lennon, Sixteenth Century Ireland, The Incomplete Conquest pp 67–68
  3. ^ A Discourse on the Present State of Ireland, Cited in Nicholas Canny, Making Ireland British, Oxford, 2003, pp.411–412
  4. ^ Darcy, Eamonn. The Irish Rebellion of 1641 and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Boydell & Brewer, 2015. p.6
  5. ^ "The Gaelic Irish and Old English were increasingly seen by outsiders and increasingly defined themselves, as undifferentiatedly Irish." Padraig Lenihan, Confederate Catholics at War, pp 4–6.
  6. ^ Robinson, Philip (2000); The Plantation of Ulster, page 86. Ulster Historical Foundation. ISBN 978-1-903688-00-7.
  7. ^ a b Robinson, Philip (2000); The Plantation of Ulster, p. 190. Ulster Historical Foundation. ISBN 978-1-903688-00-7.
  8. ^ Padraig Lenihan, Consolidating Conquest, pp. 56–57
  9. ^ Padraig Lenihan, Confederate Catholics at War, p. 10, 'Wentworth saw plantation as the major instrument of cultural and religious change'
  10. ^ Lenihan, Consolidating Conquest, p. 58
  11. ^ TW Moody, FX Martin, FJ Byrne (editors). A New History of Ireland: Volume III. p.xlv
  12. ^ Act of Limitation; Act of Relinquishment
  13. ^ Carte T., Life of Ormonde London 1736 vol. 1, p. 236.
  14. ^ Confederate Catholics at War p. 11
  15. ^ Confederate Catholics at War, p. 12
  16. ^ Lenihan, Confederate Catholics at War, pp.22–23
  17. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, Michael. The Outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641. McGill-Queen's Press, 1994. pp.208–209
  18. ^ John Kenyon, Jane Ohlmeyer, eds. The Civil Wars, A Military History of England, Scotland and Ireland, 1638–1660, pp. 29–30. One of his [Phelim O'Neill's] creditors, Mr Fullerton of Loughal ... was one of the first to be murdered in the rebellion".
  19. ^ See also, Nicholas Canny, Making Ireland British, pp. 473–474
  20. ^ a b c Dorney, John. "Today in Irish History – First Day of the 1641 Rebellion, October 23". The Irish Story.
  21. ^ "But when they engaged in their insurrection on 22 October 1641, unquestionably they weren’t intending on the destruction of the entire Plantation that had been brought into place. We don’t know precisely what they intended: they presumably intended to seize the positions of strength, the military fortification of the province; having done that to, from this position of strength, to engage in some negotiation with the Crown with a view to bettering their condition in some way. But they, I think it is correct to say, that they weren’t intent on destroying the Plantation." (Nicholas Canny, "The Plantation of Ireland: 1641 rebellion" Archived 22 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine BBC lecture. Accessed 12 February 2008.)
  22. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, Michael. The Outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641. McGill-Queen's Press, 1994. p.210
  23. ^ "1662 (14 & 15 Chas. 2 sess. 4) c. 23". Statutes Passed in the Parliaments Held in Ireland: 1310–1662. George Grierson, printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty. 1794. pp. 610–2.
  24. ^ Liam Kennedy & Philip Ollerenshaw. Ulster Since 1600: Politics, Economy, and Society. Oxford University Press, 2013. p.29
  25. ^ a b Perceval-Maxwell, Michael. The Outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641. McGill-Queen's Press, 1994. pp.214–219
  26. ^ a b c d Corish, Patrick. "The Rising of 1641 and the Confederacy", in A New History of Ireland: Volume III, Oxford University Press, 1991. pp.289–296
  27. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, p.220
  28. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, p.218
  29. ^, Kco Ltd. -. "1641 Depositions". Archived from the original on 31 December 2011.
  30. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, p.222
  31. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, p.225
  32. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, pp.222–223
  33. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, p.256
  34. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, p.225
  35. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, p.245
  36. ^ Richard Bellings, History of the Confederation and War in Ireland (c. 1670), in Gilbert, J. T., History of the Affairs of Ireland, Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society, Dublin, 1879. pp. 9, 18
  37. ^ Lenihan, Confederate Catholics at War, p. 23
  38. ^ "But on the 23rd and the 24th and 25th of October 1641, the popular attacks which are relatively spontaneous, are clearly focused upon the tenants who had moved in and become beneficiaries of the Plantation; and that these actions, as well as the words which are articulated in justifying those actions – targeted attacks upon those who had moved in and benefited from the Plantation – these indicate that there was a popular sentiment of dispossession which was articulated in action as well as in words when the opportunity provided itself, when the political order was challenged by the actions which Phelim O'Neill and his associates engaged upon." (Nicholas Canny "The Plantation of Ireland: 1641 rebellion" Archived 22 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine BBC lecture. Accessed 12 February 2008.
  39. ^ Canny, Making Ireland British, p. 486
  40. ^ Richard Bellings, "History of the Confederation and War in Ireland" (c. 1670), in Gilbert, J. T., History of the Affairs of Ireland, Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society, Dublin, 1879. pp. 14–15
  41. ^ Nicholas Canny, Making Ireland British, p. 476
  42. ^ a b Age of Atrocity, p.154
  43. ^ Age of Atrocity, p. 153
  44. ^ Age of Atrocity, p. 155
  45. ^ Canny, Making Ireland British, p. 177; Age of Atrocity, p. 154
  46. ^ Staff Massacres and myths Archived 21 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine, University of Cambridge, Information provided by, 21 October 2007
  47. ^ Royle, Trevor (2004), Civil War: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1638–1660, London: Abacus, ISBN 0-349-11564-8 p.139
  48. ^ "William Petty's figure of 37,000 Protestants massacred... is far too high, perhaps by a factor of ten, certainly more recent research suggests that a much more realistic figure is roughly 4,000 deaths." Ohlmeyer, Jane; Kenyon, John. The Civil Wars, p. 278.
  49. ^ "Modern historians estimate the number massacred in Ireland in 1641 at between 2,000 and 12,000." Marshal, John (2006). John Locke, Toleration and Early Enlightenment Culture Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-65114-X, Page 58, footnote 10.
  50. ^ Staff. "The Plantation of Ulster: 1641 rebellion" Archived 26 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine, BBC Paragraph 3. Accessed 17 February 2008.
  51. ^ Mary O'Dowd. 1641 rebellion Archived 26 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine BBC. Accessed 8 March 2008
  52. ^ Canny, Making Ireland British, p. 485.
  53. ^ Darcy, Eamon. The Irish Rebellion of 1641 and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Boydell & Brewer, 2015. pp.68–69
  54. ^ A deposition made by one William Clarke to the effect that "about 100 Protestants (including women and children) from the nearby parish of Loughal, who were already prisoners" were killed at the bridge in Portadown in November 1641. Nicholas Canny, Making Ireland British, p. 485.
  55. ^ Ohlmeyer and Kenyon, The Civil Wars, p. 74
  56. ^ Lenihan, Confederate Catholics at War, p. 31
  57. ^ Mac Cuarta, Brian. Ulster 1641: Aspects of the Rising. Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University of Belfast, 1993. p.126
  58. ^ "How lies about Irish 'barbarism' in 1641 paved way for Cromwell's atrocities". The Guardian. 18 February 2011.
  59. ^ "1641 Depositions". Trinity College Dublin. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  60. ^ Noonan, Kathleen M. "Martyrs in Flames": Sir John Temple and the conception of the Irish in English martyrologies. Albion, 2004[ISBN missing]
  61. ^ Darcy, pp.99–100
  62. ^ Patrick J. Corish, A New History of Ireland, Volume 3: Early Modern Ireland 1534–1691 By T. W. Moody, F. X. Martin, F. J. Byrne in , p292
  63. ^ a b Royle, Trevor (2004), Civil War: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1638–1660, London: Abacus, ISBN 0-349-11564-8 p. 142
  64. ^ Ulster Archaeological Society, (1860). Ulster Journal of Archaeology Volume 8, London: Russell J Smith, Ireland: Hodges & Smith. p. 78–80
  65. ^ Royle, Trevor (2004), Civil War: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1638–1660, London: Abacus, ISBN 0-349-11564-8 p. 143
  66. ^ Pádraig Lenihan, (2001) Confederate Catholics at War, 1641–49, Cork University Press, ISBN 1-85918-244-5. p. 211, 212
  67. ^ Staff Massacres and myths Archived 21 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine, University of Cambridge, Information provided by, 21 October 2007. John Morrill wrote: "The 1641 massacres have played a key role in creating and sustaining a collective Protestant and British identity in Ulster."
  68. ^ Dr. Raymond Gillespie of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, "I think in some ways it's what happens after the Plantation which is much more important for the enduring legacy. It's the fears of the Irish which are created in 1641, the fear of massacre, the fear of attack, that somehow or other accommodations which had been made before were no longer possible after that because the Irish were quite simply, as John Temple put it in his history of the rebellion 'untrustworthy'. And that book was repeatedly reprinted – I think the last time it was reprinted was 1912, so that this message (the message not of the Plantation but the message of the rebellion) is the one that persists and the one which is used continuously right through the 19th century – that the Catholics are untrustworthy; that we can’t do business with them; we shouldn’t be involved with them; they are part of a large conspiracy to do us down" (Raymond Gillespie Plantation of Ulster: Long term consequences Archived 24 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine, BBC. Accessed 13 February 2008).
  69. ^ Mary O'Dowd. The Plantation of Ulster: Long term consequences Archived 22 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine BBC. Accessed 12 February 2008
  70. ^ Ohlmeyer, Kenyon, The Civil Wars, p. 29
  71. ^ Pádraig Lenihan, 1690, Battle of the Boyne. Tempus (2003) ISBN 0-7524-2597-8 pp. 257–258
  72. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, p.262
  73. ^ a b Wheeler, James. The Irish and British Wars, 1637–1654: Triumph, Tragedy, and Failure. Routledge, 2003. p.46
  74. ^ Stevenson, David. Scottish Covenanters and Irish Confederates. Ulster Historical Foundation, 2005. p.52
  75. ^ "House of Lords Journal Volume 4: 4 November 1641 – British History Online".
  76. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, p.264
  77. ^ Wheeler, p.49
  78. ^ Carpenter, Stanley. Military Leadership in the British Civil Wars. Routledge, 2004. p.36
  79. ^ Ohlmeyer, Jane. Ireland from Independence to Occupation, 1641–1660. Cambridge University Press, 2002. p.192
  80. ^ Stevenson, David. Scottish Covenanters and Irish Confederates. pp.45, 48
  81. ^ Perceval-Maxwell, pp.267–268
  82. ^ Ryder, An English Army for Ireland, p.14
  83. ^ Kenyon, Ohlmeyer, p.77
  84. ^ Kenyon, Ohlmeyer, pp.73–74
  85. ^ Lenihan, Confederate Catholics at War, pp. 24–26
  86. ^ "Hugh O'Reilly". Archived from the original on 2 April 2017.
  87. ^ Meehan, Charles Patrick. The Confederation of Kilkenny. 1846. p. 27
  88. ^ Meehan, p. 29
  89. ^ Meehan, p. 30
  90. ^ Meehan, p. 31
  91. ^ a b Meehan, p. 43
  92. ^ Meehan, p. 41
  93. ^ a b Meehan, p. 44
  94. ^ Meehan, p. 45
  95. ^ Canny pp. 562–566



  • Bellings, Richard. "History of the Confederation and War in Ireland" (c. 1670), in Gilbert, J.T., History of the Affairs of Ireland, Irish Archaeological and Celtic society, Dublin, 1879
  • Canny, Nicholas, Making Ireland British 1580–1650, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2001. ISBN 0-19-925905-4
  • Edwards, David; Lenihan, Padraig; Tait, Clodagh (eds). Age of Atrocity, Violence and Political Conflict in Early Modern Ireland Four Courts Press, Dublin 2007, ISBN 978-1-85182-962-0
  • Lenihan, Pádraig (2001). Confederate Catholics at War, 1641–49, Cork University Press, ISBN 1-85918-244-5.
  • Lenihan, Pádraig (2003). 1690, Battle of the Boyne. Tempus ISBN 0-7524-2597-8
  • Ohlmeyer, Jane and Kenyon, John, eds. (1998) The Civil Wars: A Military history of England, Scotland, and Ireland 1638–1660 Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 0-19-280278-X
  • O'Siochru, Michael, Confederate Ireland 1642–49, Four Courts Press Dublin 1999.
  • Royle, Trevor (2004), Civil War: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1638–1660, London: Abacus, ISBN 0-349-11564-8


Depositions of witnesses[edit]

External links[edit]