figure one (google images)
Since Henry VIII’s rule Ireland had become a colonial country under British Imperialism, Ireland which had always been a strong Catholic country after paganism did not take lightly to the imposing of Henry’s Protestant faith, in which battles of faith had risen up.
After Elizabeth I’s death and the rule of James I, Ireland had become somewhat peaceful in comparison to the years of suppression by Elizabeth. This had a lot to do with the careful management by James, but with the eventual rise of Charles I the troubles had once again started to rise up. Charles I was somewhat sympathetic of the Catholic landowners and had promised them protection for money against Protestant enforcement and animosity. Charles had allowed Catholic missionaries to carry out their work and increased Catholic support since now instead of solely the peasantry, the missionaries could now preach to the landed gentry, the Protestant majority of the British ruled Ireland which had mostly invested in the North and North Central of the country saw this as an insult as it was supposed to be an act of tolerance, not insurance. The timing of this was terrible as the Protestant church had only just established itself and was planning to depart on its own missionary work. The problem facing the Protestants is that the Catholic populace had increased to a large following due to the success of the Catholic missionaries, the difficulty for the Protestants increased when they could not enact the power of state, making the conversion of all the native populace impossible. The increased Catholic support meant that the Protestants had to build more churches in an attempt to sway support; this act had made it obvious that Ireland was a divided country, with Protestants on one side and Catholics on the other.
figure two (google images)
The clear division in Ireland made it very difficult for the British tax collectors who would collect from both Catholic and Protestant settlements alike. The tax collecting made things difficult as it seemed that the King was in support of the Catholics by collecting from the Protestants as well, the King who needed the support of his parliament made the Catholic landowners rely on themselves with no hope for support from the King, with this train of thought the Catholic landowners resorted to arming themselves in defence of any possible Protestant attacks. As tensions grew between the Catholics and Protestants many of the Catholic ‘elite’ had looked at the example of the Scottish covenanters and their success at getting a Presbyterian Church set up in Scotland and decided that if negotiation was not going work they would go to war with their Protestant invaders. This act was supposed to only be a last resort but the less ‘privileged’ and the hotter blooded ‘elites’ began to revolt, many of the participants were still angered over past deeds. Soon after revolts had broken out and in October 1602 the rebels had already claimed central Ulster by taking the two strongholds and key points of Charlemont and Dungannon. This revolt gained momentum very quickly and by December the revolts flared up all over Ireland. This was the beginning of a long series of events in Ireland with Catholics and Protestants killing each other and unrest in Ireland.
figure three (google images)
The Catholics were at disadvantage equipment wise but outnumbered the Protestants in Ireland. The Protestants who are essentially England had support and money both in Ireland and out of Ireland, this being said, the Catholics were well organised and caused many problems for the Protestants. The revolts successes as grand as they were became the fall of the Catholics, before they were fighting an un-conciliatory English government and Protestant movement but with the arrival of a Protestant Monro along with 10000 men from England the tides began to change. Monro was an experienced commander and had a very disciplined army, this with the showing cracks between the ‘Old English’ (Settled Englishmen who did not convert to Protestantism) and the ‘Old Irish’ (Native Irish Catholics) alliance and the fact that the Catholic forces were spread thinly over very large stretches of Ireland led to the defeat of the Catholic forces and was essentially the end of all ‘major’ fighting between the two forces. Though the Catholics were defeated the battle never ended as it would continue in courts and parliament until the American Revolution in which there were more attempts of uprising but this impact was short lived.
figure four ( google images)
The next major uprising was in 1797. The French Revolution in 1789 and its success at the end of 1797 led to the rise of national identity and liberalism with the organising of their own government, this became a very appealing thought to the oppressed Irishmen. This led to the establishment of the ‘Society of United Irishmen’ and the Wexford rebellion again the success of the rebellion brought a massive surge in momentum and with sweeping successes the Catholic though at this time it could also be called a battle of Catholics and Catholic sympathisers and can be argued as a political movement rather than a religious one. This movement gained a following of 16000 troops, as before the troops were under equip but with such a large number of bodies the English government was forced to recognize Ireland as a genuine threat. The English in response to the rising threat from Ireland again was forced to send over an army with competent commanders one in particular was General Lake, Lake was commander in chief of the military in British India, Lake was fast to rise through the ranks from 1758 when he joined the military he gained the general rank by 1790. Lake was a brutal man but an incredible commander, when he had arrived in Ireland he had stalled the momentum of the Irish and after the battle of Vinegar Hill pushed them all the way back to Wexford where the rebellion was finally crushed. Lake launched several assaults from five different points. Lake’s men entered the county from five points: Duncannon, New Ross, Newtownbarry, Carnew and Arklow. Pushing the rebels back to Vinegar Hill where the rebels had put up an impressive defence but finally meeting the main forces on Vinegar Hill Lake had defeated them and pushed through to Wexford slaughtering the rebel leaders, beheading them and displaying their heads, these leaders also included the political leaders of the government. Vinegar Hill took place only a few months after the rebellion of 1798 and the rebellion itself came to an end a short time after 21 June 1798 after Lake’s victory at Vinegar Hill.
The next major conflicts would be followed much later, the conflicts between the IRA and British Army. These battles were not as bloody and were definitely more political than religious, but the roots of the conflict are inextricably linked to the religious dissention between the British Protestants and the Irish Catholics that had started when Henry VIII had bought out many of the Old Irish families and spread his religion, that of Protestantism across the land. The history of how Henry gained such holdings in Ireland is a different subject altogether.