Page images



HE rebellion of Shane O'Neil was

followed by the rebellion of the Geraldines. We have already seen that there was an ancient rivalry in the south between the two great Norman houses, the Butlers, Earls of Ormond, and

the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Desmond. The Fitzgeralds were in the main on the side of the Irish, the Butlers were in the main on the side of the English. During the reign of Elizabeth, the differences between the two houses became more marked; for Ormond espoused the cause of the Reformation, and Desmond was the champion of the old faith. While Shane O'Neil was fighting in Ulster, a quarrel broke out between Ormond and Gerald, fifteenth Earl of Desmond, called by English writers the rebel earl.' Munster was desolated by these


In 1565 Desmond was defeated in a battle fought on the banks of the Blackwater, wounded and taken prisoner. As he was borne from the field by the retainers of Ormond, someone tauntingly asked, "Where is the great Earl of Desmond now?' Desmond, not in the least subdued, answered, 'Where he ought to beon the neck of the Butlers.' The English took the side of the Butlers in this civil strife. In 1567 Sydney marched into Munster, arrested Desmond, and imprisoned him in Dublin Castle. Subsequently, he and his brother John were sent to London, and cast into the Tower, where they remained for six years. During their absence, James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald (Desmond's cousin) roused Munster in the name of the Geraldines, and, in 1569, issued a manifesto calling on the prelates, princes, lords and people of Ireland' to form a league in defence of faith and fatherland. Sir Edmond Butler, (brother of the Earl of Ormond) who had recently been plundered of his lands by an English adventurer, Sir Peter Carew, joined the Geraldine league, and began hostilities by overrunning the English settlements in Leinster. *The English,' he said, 'were coming to Ireland to make fortunes by the sword, and none but fools or slaves would sit still to be robbed.' 1 Sir Peter Carew was despatched at once by Sydney to repel Butler's attacks. Carew carried on the war with brutal ferocity, surprised 1569-1572]


1 State Papers (Elizabeth). Ireland.



the Butlers at Kilkenny, inflicted a crushing defeat on them, stormed Sir Edmond's castle, and slaughtered every man, woman and child he found in it. Sydney at the same time (1569) entered Munster, captured Castle Martyr-a Desmond stronghold-marched into the city of Cork, the capital of Desmond's country ; swept over the County Limerick, pillaging, slaughtering, burning and destroying all before him. Sydney was supported pitilessly by his subordinate, Colonel Gilbert. After my first summoning of any castle or fort,' wrote this commander to his chief, 'if they would not presently yield it, I would not afterwards take it of their gift; but win it perforce, how many lives so ever it cost, putting man, woman and child of them to the sword.' Sydney's rigour brought Butler to his knees. He surrendered to the lord-deputy at Limerick, and was pardoned by the queen. But Fitzmaurice bravely held out, retreating to the Galtee Mountains in the County Tipperary, and taking up a strong position in the Glen of Aherlow.

In 1570 he renewed the war, attacked the English at Kilmallock, and burned the town to the ground. In 1571, Sir John Perrot (who had been made president of Munster) took the field against the Geraldines, destroying their castles, butchering their followers, and devastating their territories. Towards the end of 1571 he attacked Castlemane, the stronghold of the Desmonds in Kerry, but was gallantly repulsed. In 1572 he renewed the assault, and starved out the garrison Fitzmaurice now issued from his retreat in the Glen of Aherlow, and joined by the Burkes of Galway (who had been driven into revolt by the tyranny of Sir James Fitton, president of Munster), overran Connaught and Leinster, laying waste tracts of country, and sparing no foe. Fitton fiercely retaliated, seizing the castles of the Geraldines, and, as he tells us himself, putting all who crossed his path, including 'women and children,' to the sword. In 1573, worn out, hunted down, left without resources, and with but a handful of followers, Fitzmaurice surrendered to Perrot, and retired to France. Immediately afterwards, the Earl of Desmond and his brother were released, and returned to Ireland.

But Desmond was rearrested in Dublin almost immediately on his arrival, and there detained some time longer. Ultimately he escaped, and arrived safely in his own territories. Weak and vacillating, he was ready enough to remain at peace with the government, if they only trusted him, which they did not. But Fitzmaurice, a man of stouter fibre and stronger will, was resolved to renew the struggle at the first opportunity. In his exile he tried to win allies for Ireland. He appealed to the King of France, but France would not help him. He appealed to Philip II. of Spain, but Philip would give him no support. Finally, he appealed to the Pope, and the Pope gave him a force of 700 men and three ships. But the men and the ships never reached Ireland. They were placed under the command of an unscrupulous foreign adventurer, who handed them over to the King




of Portugal to reinforce an expedition against the King of Morocco. At length, in 1579, Fitzmaurice sailed from Spain with a handful of Spaniards, expecting to meet the Italian force on the way, and landed at Smerwick in the County Kerry.

Thence he moved to the old fort of Dunanore, and was joined by John and James Fitzgerald and a small force from Connaught. But the government were prepared for all emergencies, and Fitzmaurice was forced to abandon this position, and retire to the wood of Kylemore, on the borders of Cork and Limerick. But from this shelter he was also driven, and while flying from his foes across the Shannon to take refuge in Clare, he was attacked by a hostile party at Barrington's Bridge and killed.

The Geraldines were now left without any leader of resolution or resource.

John and James Fitzgerald jumped into the breach, but they were hopelessly incompetent to conduct a great insurrectionary movement. The Earl of Desmond wavered between the government and the rebels, but at last cast in his lot with his own people. But his support was of little avail. One victory the rebels gained at Springfield, in the County Limerick, and another in the defiles of Wicklow. But the English forces then swept over the country like a mighty torrent, bringing death and destruction in their wake. The struggle became, to use the words of Mr Lecky, 'a war of extermination.'

The slaughter of Irishmen was looked upon as literally the slaughter of wild beasts. Not

« PreviousContinue »