- 1 These were the descendants of the pre-Reformation settlers from England, Normandy and Wales who set (...)
- 2 The Irish Catholic Confederation, also known as the “Confederation of Kilkenny’, (based in Kilkenny (...)
- 3 Scott defined the “hidden transcript” as critiques of power by subaltern groups that goes on “outsi (...)
1It has long since been established that most of those Irish Catholics who left Ireland for European exile in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were opposed to the Stuart dynasty’s sovereign claim to Ireland. This opposition centred on religious conflict and resentment at having lost out in the redistribution of land, wealth and power that the Stuarts sponsored (Canny 418-31). Historians have also stressed that those Irish Catholics who remained at home were committed to Stuart rule; the Gaelic Irish because the Stuarts were scions of the Gaelic Irish dynasty that had established the Scottish monarchy under King Fergus I; the “Old English”1 because of that group’s longstanding commitment to the English crown. This essay is informed by a belief that throughout the seventeenth century the vast majority of Irish Catholics, either in Ireland or in exile, privileged their religious allegiance over their political attachment to the Stuarts. This was demonstrated in 1605 by their refusal to swear an oath of allegiance to James I which would have required foreswearing the pope’s indirect deposing power. It was further underlined by their willingness to take a revised oath in 1628 when a financially strapped Charles I waived the offending clause. This prioritisation of religious values was again revealed in the Irish Catholic Confederation’s Oath of Association of 1642 (Ó Buachalla; Clarke).2 Yet despite the collective articulation of such principles by Irish Catholics, when discussing their religious and political views, historians have always privileged their statements to the government, especially those made by their “Old English” legal-constitutionalist spokesmen, which sought to downplay the impediment of their confessional allegiance. Little effort has been made to truly investigate the “hidden transcript” of Irish Catholic political thinking (Scott).3 This essay focuses upon a largely unexamined but highly significant episode during which the “hidden transcript” of Irish Catholic political thinking spectacularly intruded onto the public domain. It assesses the fluidity of Irish Catholic perceptions of faith, nation and King after Charles IV, Duke of Lorraine, offered “to succour our friends in distress, especially in the cause of religion” by leading the royalist war effort in Ireland at the close of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (Clanricarde 5-7). This essay begins with a consideration of the context in which Lorraine’s offer emerged, before analysing the intricacies of the negotiations between the Duke and a number of Irish delegations and their significance. It will conclude by considering what the episode suggests about Irish Catholic views of their commonwealth and its precise relationship to its Protestant ruler alongside a consideration of the Catholic hierarchy’s teaching on the subject of spiritual and temporal allegiances.
- 4 For the classic statement see J. Temple, The Irish rebellion ... together with the barbarous cruelt (...)
- 5 The Inchiquin Truce was a deal concluded by the Confederation after a succession of disastrous mili (...)
- 6 Signed on 17 January 1649, the Second Ormond Peace promised religious freedom to Roman Catholics in (...)
- 7 For comparison with the 1646 peace negotiations see M. Ó Siochrú, Confederate Ireland, 1642-1649. D (...)
- 8 A harsh verdict on Ormond’s performance as lord lieutenant has been delivered in M. Ó Siochrú, God’ (...)
2On 17 January 1649 the Catholic Confederation of Kilkenny, the independent Irish Catholic government formed in the aftermath of the 1641 Rebellion, dissolved itself having reached an agreement with King Charles I’s representative, James Butler, the Marquis of Ormond and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. After years of negotiations Ireland’s Catholics had finally agreed to join with Ireland’s Protestant royalists to oppose the parliamentarians. Although Sir Richard Blake, chairman of the Confederation’s Assembly at Kilkenny, believed it would “prove a firm stable and lasting peace ... that will cure these bleeding wounds ... a peace that will (as we hope, and is the height of our desires as it shall be our endeavours) reinvest his sacred Majesty in his most due and royal rights and prerogatives”, the royalist alliance was a rickety construction (Ormond’s Proclamation 6). Many Protestant royalists were deeply unhappy with the alliance given their deeply held conviction that Ireland’s Catholics had attempted their annihilation in 1641.4 One must also bear in mind that despite Blake’s rhetoric this was not the simple re-establishment of the regular reciprocal relationship between royal authority and Catholic subject that the Confederates had sought since its breakdown in late 1641. For although Blake claimed that the Treaty had been concluded by “the representative body of the Roman Catholics of this kingdom” and was intended as a reflection of their “ardent zeal naturally ingrafted [sic] in their hearts to their sacred sovereign King Charles his service” he was ignoring some rather large elephants both within and without the Great Room at Kilkenny Castle where he delivered his oration (Kavanagh IV: i, 389-91; IV: ii, 89). For notwithstanding the exclusion of GianBattista Rinuccini, the papal nuncio, and his supporters, from the Confederation after the split over the Inchiquin Truce5 the previous summer, most of the confederate “rump” remained committed to the religious terms of the Confederate Oath of Association. Indeed support for the truce was largely governed by desperation after the Confederation’s disastrous defeats of 1647-8. The Archbishop of Tuam, John Burke, Rinuccini’s most high-profile Episcopal opponent during 1648-9, had been willing to support the nuncio provided papal subsidies were forthcoming for he saw that without these, the exhausted confederates were doomed. The persistent appeal of these terms, even for those who supported the Inchiquin Truce, had looked like preventing the conclusion of the Second Ormond Peace6 in the winter of 1648-49 (Embassy 525-6). It took three months of intense negotiations before the confederates could be brought to accept terms and as late as 24 December, Ormond had feared that the treaty negotiations might “rupture.”7 It was clear that this was a decision that many Catholics had taken with little enthusiasm and it was ultimately only the deadly threat to Charles I, then on trial in London, that persuaded them to row in behind Ormond. That the best interests of Irish Catholicism continued to remain the chief concern of even Rinuccini’s clerical opponents became quite clear when over the next eighteen months Ormond’s inept military leadership, his failure to secure a united royalist alliance and his steadfast refusal to consider Catholic assistance from the Continent threatened to expose Ireland’s Catholics to the vengeance of “the Puritans” (Kavanagh IV: ii, 416-30; Carte MS 24: ff.795-6; 25: ff.19-22; 26: ff.219, 223, 330-1, 349, 381-3, 389-91, 414-15).8 Irish Catholics were aware that while Irish Protestants could hope to negotiate with the Parliamentarians, they had been marked out for exemplary punishment (Carte MS 26: f.223).
3Although anxious to secure foreign assistance, Ormond’s Protestantism made him reluctant to accept support from Spain (for their “subtlety, circumspection and delays’) or France throughout 1649, and after they recognised the parliamentarian regime in 1650, he displayed little interest in negotiating with the Duke of Lorraine, the only individual to make a concrete offer of assistance to the royalist cause in Ireland (Clanricarde 11-18). This was unwise for after 1650 this enigmatic figure, a curious admixture of political opportunist and Catholic zealot, became the main hope of Ireland’s Catholics (Jennings 574; Kavanagh IV: iii, 544-6). He had a reputation for militant Catholicism and one hostile source wondered “where can a more desperate and Jesuited Prince, or a more declared enemy to Protestants be found?’ (The Lord Digby’s Cabinet 8). Lorraine had a longstanding association with the Stuarts and it was rumoured that he had been willing to transport troops to assist Charles I in 1644-5 and again in 1648 (The King’s Cabinet). He had responded favourably to Rinuccini’s request for munitions and supplies for his Irish mission in 1645 (Jennings 370, 596-8). His renewed interest in Ireland in 1650 initially centred on the factional machinations of Randal MacDonnell, marquis of Antrim, who delegated Hugh Rochford to persuade Lorraine to sponsor resistance in Ireland as a means of ousting Ormond and restoring Antrim to the political centre-stage (Ohlmeyer, 223-6, 234-5).
4The scheme, which Charles II sanctioned, proposed “engaging the fort of Dun[c]annon [near Wexford] or some other place to raise money [£24,000] for the supply of our army in Ireland” subject to Ormond’s approval (Duffy 75; Ó Siochrú, “The Duke of Lorraine” 912). The increasingly clamorous opposition to his leadership of the Irish royalists obliged Ormond to at least negotiate. Accordingly in May 1650, Lorraine dispatched Colonel Oliver Synott, an Irish officer in his army, to Ireland. During their negotiations the proposals concerning Duncannon were dropped – such was the speed of the Parliamentarian advance – and Ormond instead offered Galway as security for an advance of £10,000 (Duffy 75). Ormond privately doubted the existence of the money and the employment of such a notorious Catholic, but he kept the negotiations on foot by dispatching Theobald Lord Viscount Taaffe to secure Charles II’s opinion on the matter (Carte MS 28: ff.205-6).
- 9 By this juncture, Ormond remarked, the Catholics were only “with much ado withheld from sending com (...)
5Yet Ormond’s reluctance to treat with Lorraine’s emissaries further persuaded the clerical party – especially those who had opposed the nuncio – that his sworn commitment to uphold equally the interests of all the king’s subjects had been disingenuous. This suspicion hardened into certainty following Charles II’s acceptance of the Treaty of Breda (May 1650), and thereby the Covenant (which he publicly swore the following month. This changed everything: the clerical party argued, it repudiated the January 1649 peace and released Irish Catholics from their obligations to the King. Indeed they considered that “His Majesty throweth away the nation” given that “the king will have no friends but the friends of the Covenant, and no enemies, but the enemies of the Covenant … the Irish nation as bloody are cast from the protection of the king’s laws and royal favours. It may not, therefore, be presumed that he would have his authority kept over such a nation to govern them” (Add. MS 4819: ff.390r-91r, f.392v. Thereafter although they continued to swear loyalty to Charles II, they proved willing to suspend Stuart authority indefinitely and appoint Lorraine Ireland’s Protector Royal (Carte MS 26: f.292).9
6Ormond’s authority, already undermined by Protestant defections, collapsed after the Irish bishops threatened him with excommunication (Kavanagh IV: ii, 416-30. In December 1650, as even Catholic moderates withdrew their support, Ormond resigned as Lord Lieutenant and sailed for France, nominating the Catholic Marquis of Clanricarde, Ulick Burke, as his successor. The bishops insisted that this was but an interim measure “until ... a free and lawful assembly be made to sit to judge upon the people’s preservation … for defence of the nation touching the King’s authority to be kept over them” (Add. MS 4819: f.396v; Carte III: 561-2, 591). The bishops hoped that upon this appointment “all such divisions [for which Ormond was held responsible] between either provinces or families, or between the English and Old Irish or any of the English or Scots adhering to His Majesty” would disappear (Moran II: 40-2).
7While publicly employing the rhetoric of reconciliation the bishops were aggravating against royalist strategy behind the scenes for they were aware that Clanricarde privileged his royalism over his religion. The “Commissioners of Trust”, themselves increasingly suspicious of royal intentions, had only just managed to ensure that the reconvened General Assembly of the Confederates rejected motions to seek terms with Parliament in December 1650 and January 1651 (Carte MS 29: ff.246-7; Gilbert, The history of the Irish confederation VII: 362-3). While according to his own account Clanricarde received strong support from this assembly despite an attempt by Nicholas French, Bishop of Ferns “and some few other violent clergy” to drive out royal authority and “renew their confederacy” of the 1640s, it was clear that the clerical party’s argument that the Royalists intended sacrificing Ireland’s Catholics to tie up Parliamentary resources to enable the King to make headway in the Scottish theatre was gaining ground (CMMO n.s., I, 169, 192; Clanricarde 11-18, 206-212; Castlehaven, 103). So while the royalists continued to operate largely within a three-kingdom context, Irish Catholic horizons were firmly fixed on the Continent as their priorities narrowed to that of self-preservation. In pursuit of this goal they now proved willing to flout Royal authority. On 5 October 1650, and completely independently of Ormond, the clergy assembled at Jamestown delegated Bishop French and Hugh Rochford to negotiate with any Catholic prince on the continent in any cause that might assist Irish Catholics (Kavanagh IV: ii, 461-2). Furthermore, and despite Clanricarde’s outrage, French also obtained letters of credence from the towns of Limerick and Galway (Duffy 77). Thus from the outset, Clanricarde struggled to impose his authority on an unravelling royalist alliance.
8Shortly after French had left for Brussels in late February, Stephen de Henin, Abbot of St Catherine’s and “one of the best gentlemen of Lorraine” arrived at Galway as the Duke’s ambassador (MDP I: 564). This embassy was the fruit of the labours of Viscount Taaffe, a fervent royalist. Perhaps nothing was more revealing of the changed attitude of Irish Catholics than the transformation wrought upon Taaffe’s view of the interests of Catholicism and royal policy in Ireland. Thereafter he adopted a more independent streak in his negotiations with Lorraine. He had no royal commission for this embassy but was “sent in the name of the Kingdom to take charge of these public affairs in the German and Belgian provinces” by the Archbishops of Dublin, Cashel and Tuam and the bishops of Clogher and Limerick (Kavanagh IV: i, ii, 82-4, 85; Duffy 75-6). Fearing that “nothing but destruction” was to be expected from the Covenanters and believing that it was necessary to “make our recourse to the most probable means of preservation” he informed Ormond that there was nothing to fear from supporting a temporary transfer of Irish sovereignty to Lorraine (Clanricarde 11-18, 19-22). In persuading Lorraine – disappointed by Ormond’s foot-dragging response to his overtures – not to despair of the project it appears that Taaffe made larger offers than the exiled court were likely to sanction (Clanricarde 11-18; Carte III: 600-02).
9Just how large became clear at Clanricarde’s summit with de Henin in early March. Lorraine now sought recognition as protector of Ireland with full sovereign authority (‘with subordination to the King”) and the towns of Galway and Limerick as security for any loans advanced. Clanricarde rejected the terms as “inconsistent with the king’s authority”, despite seeing correspondence in which Ormond suggested that accepting assistance from Lorraine “almost upon any terms” was more in the royal interest than surrendering to the parliamentarians (Clanricarde 31-6; CMMO 165; Moran III: 216). Doubting that the King supported a venture that would so impugn royal authority yet “observing the earnest expectations generally, to be relieved by those supplies, much enlarged by reports and considering further, in case of disagreement, how apt they would be to charge” him “with betraying of them’, Clanricarde opted to have the matter discussed publicly by the Commissioners of Trust and other “persons of quality” then in Galway (Clanricarde 22-28; Castlehaven 136). If, as he expected, they considered the demands unreasonable then no blame could be attached to him for rejecting them (Clanricarde 29-30). Events however ran contrary to his forecast. The delegates “having taken into consideration the evident danger the nation is in at present” and given its inability to resist “of itself” put the following proposals to Clanricarde on 9 March 1651. First, that Lorraine’s offer “to afford such aids as may probably serve to rescue the Catholic religion, and his Majesty’s subjects of this kingdom” from the parliamentarians without prejudice to the rights and interests of the King in Ireland be immediately accepted; second, that the extent of the assistance required in arms, ammunition, money and men be ascertained at once; and third, that the cities and ports of Galway and Limerick be engaged as security to Lorraine, his heirs and successors until he was repaid (26-8).
10Aghast, Clanricarde condemned those he had delegated to discuss matters with de Henin for receiving “proposals of a very high and transcendent nature ... that positively overthrow ... His Majesty’s government and authority here, and that in perpetuity” rather than giving “a speedy determination to the treaty” they had been empowered to expedite. He also criticised “that several sorts of people [clerics] are admitted to your debates, whom we cannot hold fit persons to advise us in matters of so high concernment.” Anticipating their response that “the impossibility of preserving ourselves ... without foreign assistance” demanded they accept the Duke’s terms, Clanricarde criticised those “ill-affected persons” who had given de Henin to stand upon such terms. He proposed instead that if the Duke would fund an army for the King’s service, he would offer as security the towns and ports of Galway and Limerick, but the marquis insisted that any such treaty be concluded by the King’s court and not in Ireland (31-6).
11The Commissioners of Trust and the clergy, however, were determined on satisfying de Henin (40-6; 67-8). On 29 March 1651, Father George Dillon wrote to Clanricarde claiming that in the previous November, the Duke of York had requested Lorraine to send supplies to Ireland and that Henrietta Maria, Sir Henry de Vic, the King’s resident in Brussels, and Sir George Radcliffe, York’s governor, wished Lorraine to become Protector of Ireland (69-70). The chief difficulty for Clanricarde was the court’s deafening silence and he determined that if Lorraine were to have any role in Ireland, much less be appointed its Protector Royal, then it would not be on the basis of his authority as Lord Deputy (36-9). His final ruling was that he could not believe that the king would derogate his own authority no matter how desperate the need for foreign aid and by insisting that those who claimed to be his subjects certainly had no right to do so (63-6).
12De Henin, naturally enough, refused to conclude with anyone other than Clanricarde, Charles II’s nominated representative. This compelled him to settle for lesser terms than Taaffe had discussed with Lorraine (58-9). This preliminary agreement, signed on 4 April 1651, essentially reduced Lorraine to the role of royalist banker (79-83, 87-93). Clanricarde’s stance was unpopular but he had resisted the pressure to fold and had successfully shifted events to the Continent. To perfect the arrangement with Lorraine he appointed three agents, Taaffe, Sir Nicholas Plunkett and Geoffrey Browne, but these were not authorised to proceed beyond the preliminary treaty without express written instructions from the Queen dowager, York or Ormond and one of whom must also ratify in writing any treaty concluded. Finally they were directed to ascertain the business of any persons who had recently left Ireland for the continent (93-9). Here he meant the clerical party’s representatives, especially Bishop French, whom he held responsible for the “high demands” which de Henin had put forward at Galway.
13Plunkett and Browne arrived at Brussels on 12 June 1651 where, with Taaffe, they immediately commenced negotiations with Lorraine. As Lorraine insisted upon Taaffe’s terms, Clanricarde’s emissaries eventually informed him that leading members of the court were intimating that such a deal would not incur the royal displeasure; yet they, nevertheless, considered it prudent to send Taaffe to Paris to discuss the matter more fully with the Queen dowager, York and Ormond (125-7). Henrietta Maria explicitly approved Clanricarde’s rejection of Lorraine’s propositions and indicated that while “willing to give ... Lorraine all encouragement in her power to proceed in sending relief” to Ireland this was only “if it be what consist with His Majesty’s honour, the interest of his crown” (CMMO 171-2). By the time Taaffe returned to Brussels, Plunkett and Browne had already concluded terms with Lorraine, granting most of his conditions “to avoid any loss of time in that matter.” On 22 July 1651 Taaffe was persuaded to sign with Plunkett and Browne the agreement, which crucially was on behalf of the “people and kingdom of Ireland” (Clanricarde 139-47). They subsequently excused the absence of the signatures of the Queen dowager, York and Ormond on the somewhat fatuous grounds that they could not openly “consent to it, lest it might draw danger on the King’s person, being then in the power of the Scots’, but implied that they agreed to it in secret. The articles provided that Lorraine would be declared Royal Protector of Ireland with right of succession, that he would be given chief command of the army and that there should be none superior to him in rank or authority in Ireland. The agreement also provided for further monies above the sum of £20,000 which had already been contributed, and for the provision of sufficient materiel to prosecute the war. The goods of private individuals throughout Ireland would be engaged for repayment while the towns of Galway, Limerick, Sligo, Athlone and the fort of Duncannon were to be garrisoned by Lorraine’s forces until repayment was made.
14Taaffe’s correspondence suggests that Plunkett and Browne persuaded him to sign on the basis that the agreement still required royal assent. Yet the commissioners made no immediate efforts to secure this. Indeed it was only in October that Clanricarde learned of the agreement when Lorraine wrote to him emphasising that it was “for the good of the Catholic religion, the service of the King and the re-establishment of the Kingdom” (148-9). He was furious with his agents (although he excused Taaffe) for “the highest breach of trust imaginable.” They were berated for concluding an agreement which was “a private underhand instrument, contrived and signed by some few turbulent and seditious persons and privately conveyed over by others, with whom it seems you have now consorted yourselves” (150-1, 151-5). Clanricarde believed that the court had been deliberately deceived regarding the July agreement which “was not known at Paris in the beginning of September ... nor after at Brussels by any, but by those who managed that affair in the dark.” Bishop French was the shadowy force that Clanricarde believed had made his agents forget their obligations to their monarch. The anonymous author of the “Aphorismical Discovery of Treasonable Faction” (probably written between 1652 and 1660) suggested, that French guided Browne and Plunkett throughout the negotiations and the bishop also denounced Clanricarde to Lorraine as an excommunicate, adding that if the Duke knew the true position he would “never enter upon a bargain to preserve or rather restore holy religion in a kingdom and with agents bringing their authority from a withered, accursed hand” (Gilbert, Contemporary History II:151; Clanricarde 172-3). Browne later informed Ormond that if they had not concluded with Lorraine there were other agents in Brussels authorised to do so “in the behalf of the clergy and people of Ireland” (Ó Siochrú, God’s Executioner 182). Hostile contemporaries suggested that French’s influence destroyed whatever resolution the commissioners had of carrying out the Lord Deputy’s instructions, but Lorraine’s refusal to settle for lesser terms than those suggested to him the previous winter was probably equally decisive (Clanricarde 156-64).
15The agents had completely disregarded their commission from Clanricarde as well as the advice of the court and this partially explains why they did not seek immediate ratification of the terms (CMMO 183). Given that they knew that until ratified the terms were not binding upon the King or Clanricarde their strategy may have been to hope that Lorraine would “upon hazard” send forces to Ireland, but it seems more likely that they were acting on behalf of the Kingdom of Ireland (CMMO 186; MDP 564). This was certainly Clanricarde’s interpretation in his diplomatic reply to Lorraine. He condemned Plunkett and Browne for grossly exceeding their instructions by fraudulently entering into a private agreement “in the name of the kingdom and people of Ireland” for which they had no authority whatever. On this basis he was obliged to disavow the treaty. He appealed to Lorraine’s honour by asking him to adhere to the treaty negotiated by de Henin at Galway before concluding with a denunciation of French as “a person that hath ever been violent against and malicious to His Majesty’s Government and authority and a fatal instrument in contriving and fomenting all those divisions and differences that have rent asunder this kingdom, the introduction to our present misery and weak condition” (Clanricarde 156-64).
16Yet Clanricarde was definitely misrepresenting the Irish situation. For on the same day Lorraine had informed him of the deal the duke had also written to the Corporation of Galway expressing his earnest desire to assist them and announcing his preparation of materiel for despatch to Ireland (171-3). Their response showed that it was not merely “some few turbulent and seditious persons” that were willing to accept the diminution of Stuart sovereignty. The corporation addressed him as the “Protector Royal of Ireland’, thanked him for his promise to send relief and asserting that they would rather suffer death than fail him or be found wanting in the defence of their country (173-5). Clanricarde openly accused the corporation of having had some part in the agreement the agents had surreptitiously negotiated (176-78). The corporation’s reply was illuminating. They denied any involvement in the deal brokered by Plunkett and Browne but they did express their faith in the agents” honesty and in their faithfulness to the king. They asked Clanricarde to wink at the treaty with which, given the present circumstances, they were well pleased (180-2). A subsequent exchange of letters revealed that the corporation had (without Clanricarde’s permission) dispatched an agent to discuss the agreement with Lorraine (178-9, 183-5, 186-9).
17Clanricarde’s position was impossible. While he attempted to negotiate on his royal master’s behalf with Lorraine in a formal diplomatic manner, others were doing so clandestinely and with a very different agenda, and crucially, offering better terms. There was little he could do about it either as his status as royal representative now counted for little with Parliament firmly in control of affairs in England and much of Ireland; while the king’s alliance with the Covenanters had been destroyed by Cromwell at Dunbar. Moreover, he could not get Ormond to offer any advice on the matter. Indeed Ormond’s ambivalent stance suggests that he tacitly believed that an agreement with Lorraine should be reached irrespective of the terms, as this would be more to the King’s advantage than a settlement with Parliament (CMMO 191). The King’s request that Clanricarde receive Plunkett and Browne back into his favour could suggest that he tacitly approved of their proceedings, but he also categorically stated that the commissioners had exceeded their instructions and that the terms they had agreed were not acceptable and therefore could not be ratified (Clanricarde 206-12, 213-16, 217-24). Moreover, the King insisted that neither he, his mother, York nor Ormond were aware of the agreement until they received copies of it from Clanricarde. Thus it appears that the Irish Catholic agents took it upon themselves to act as brokers for the Irish Catholic Commonwealth without their monarch’s permission. This seems to have followed upon Charles II’s subscription to the Solemn League and Covenant which persuaded most of those Irish Catholics who had subscribed to the Inchiquin Truce and the Treaty with Ormond in January 1649 that their interests and those of their religion were no longer served by their alliance with the royalists. Desperate to avoid annihilation at the hands of the Parliamentarians they no longer felt themselves bound to the Stuarts. They refused to accept either Ormond’s or Clanricarde’s prevarications, initiating direct negotiations with Lorraine. It seems clear that most Catholics in Ireland, other than those connected with the Ormond affinity, accepted the need for at least a temporary suspension of Stuart sovereignty. There were doubtless those, as 1641 had shown, who hoped that it would not merely be a temporary arrangement. It is also highly significant that when called to account for their actions, Plunkett and Browne advanced as their justification their belief that the “considerable” assembly that had discussed Lorraine’s offer at Galway in the spring of 1650 had been representative of the kingdom of Ireland. This body had “unanimously” accepted Lorraine’s proposals before Clanricarde’s interference. This argument makes it plain that Plunkett and Browne believed this assembly had superior authority to the king or his deputy (235-40).
18This stands at odds with the existing historiography but if one looks beyond the rhetorical statements made by certain representatives of the “Old English” community as they sought to preserve their estates and political influence in a Protestant Irish state in the first half of the seventeenth century to consider the views of the ideal relationship between ruler and commonwealth articulated in the writings of the Catholic clergy in the same period, the matter becomes much more intelligible. The Catholic clergy’s view that they retained the right to monitor the temporal power is best exemplified in Patrick Comerford’s Inquisition of a Sermon (1644). Citing Haggai 2:11 “ask the priests the law’, Comerford, bishop of Waterford and Lismore (1629-52), argued that within a truly Christian commonwealth the clergy, who should be completely independent of the civil power, should arbitrate the law (Comerford, 63-72, 106-112). Dismissing the Protestant Church’s use of Romans 13:1 “Let every soul be subject to higher powers’, as an argument for clerical subordination to the government, he insisted that this applied “only in such things as the higher power [monarchy] may lawfully command” (65-6). For Comerford, Kings should have no power over the clergy “because they cannot show whence they should have it” (68) The spiritual-temporal division was both necessary and justified
for temporal power and civil laws of themselves aim only at temporal Justice and peace, and conservation of the temporal state of the kingdom or commonwealth; but Ecclesiastical power and laws intend in this life the spiritual health of the soul and eternal peace and rest in the other life. (80)
19Within this Gelasian context, Comerford believed that people had to obey their rulers “for whilst the King keepeth within his bounds, he hath no superior in temporal matters, but God.” Yet he did not advocate a complete separation for given the obvious superiority of the spiritual life it was necessary that God’s earthly representative (and his representatives) should guide secular rulers through the potestas indirecta (78, 88, 138-42, 185-92). By citing Pope John XXII’s admonition to Edward II that he must justly rule the Irish or face his “choice of some other to rule over them’, Comerford indicated that the papacy retained the right to intervene in Ireland. He also held that while the “commonwealth cannot depose a King, as it may a Magistrate’, in cases of “intolerable Tyranny” the people could remove their ruler. This was because although “the commonwealth did pass over to the king, the jurisdiction that God and nature gave it” this was “not principally for his own private, but for the common good of the whole kingdom” (67-75, 82). The subordination of temporal to spiritual authority also explains why Catholic clergy felt able to accept the oath of allegiance to their Protestant monarch within the confederate oath of association in the first instance.
- 10 In the appeal to Rome they stressed the absolute necessity of a deal because of “their weakness to (...)
20This was unquestionably the thinking of the Catholic clergy as revealed in their individual writings in the first half of the seventeenth century, but especially in their behaviour during the period 1641-53. That they inculcated this view amongst the vast majority of the laity is clear from the clerical coup that wrecked the First Ormond Peace in 1646 and there seems little doubt that had the clergy unanimously backed Rinuccini over the Inchiquin Truce in 1648 that too would have failed (Ó hAnnracháin 123-65). Moreover, the split in the clerical ranks over the Inchiquin Truce centred not on whether the Church had the right to intervene in political matters where the interests of religion were threatened, for the actions of all protagonists, despite the Supreme Council’s pronounced “fullness of power’, revealed that the vast majority of Ireland’s Catholics held the clergy’s authority to exercise this right as axiomatic. It was definitely not a Gallican moment (Brennan 219-37; O’Connor 275-305. The dissenting bishops and even the Supreme Council sought Rome’s approbation for their action (Gilbert, Irish Confederation vi, 243-53, 408-17).10 They were not disputing ultramontanism and its plenitudo potestatis, but rather its misuse by one man. Although Rinuccini argued that his opponents proceeded “with little respect to the Apostolic See and its jurisdiction” the efforts made before the Truce to secure his agreement, and afterwards to persuade him to lift the censures, suggest otherwise (Embassy, 429-36; 436-40, 452-6; Kavanagh IV: i, 43-4, 49-50). This was because throughout the first half of the seventeenth century Irish Catholics were conditioned by their clergy to see the interests of their Catholic commonwealth as distinct from the Protestant state (even if they occasionally overlapped). They also set the limits of royal authority by advancing the argument that the papacy and its clerical representatives had ultimate responsibility for the welfare of the Catholic Irish commonwealth. Thus when the hierarchy – as a united body – ruled that it was time to consider alternatives to the royalist alliance it was inevitable that most of the Catholic laity acquiesced. That was why Clanricarde, one of the few Irish Catholics whose royalism overrode his faith, was reluctant to give Lorraine any toehold in Ireland. The fear was, as Inchiquin articulated, that the Irish bishops had “designed the Duke of Lorraine for their king” (Ó Siochrú, “Lorraine and Ireland” 922). Thus as the “hidden transcript” of Irish Catholic theological and political thinking surfaced in extremis it became clear that this community had an elastic concept of loyalty to the Stuart dynasty and that they privileged their faith before their king. The tendency amongst historians to focus on the more readily available English language sources has led to a historiographical failure to incorporate their alternative, and often hidden, mode of political thinking.