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The 1641 Rebellion.


Read about The 1641 Rebellion in Ireland From 'A Concise History of Ireland' by P W Joyce

Religion was a major cause of discontent. Roman Catholics had enjoyed a certain degree of religious freedom under King James I and Charles I. But they feared that the Puritans under Cromwell, who were coming to power in England, would persecute them. In 1641 with memories of their ruthless suppression by Lord Mountjoy, Sir Arthur Chichester and others, little more than a generation past, the Irish rebelled, and for 10 years war raged throughout the country.

The Irish Catholics fought for independence. The Old English joined them, but all through the war they declared that they were loyal to the king and were fighting only for religious freedom. The Protestants were also divided into two groups: those who supported the king and those who supported Cromwell's Parliament.

In 1642, the leaders of the rebellion formed the Confederation of Kilkenny and appointed Owen Roe ONeill and Thomas Preston as generals. ONeill won a great victory at Benburb, in County Tyrone on 5th June 1646, ONeill and Preston didn't work well as a team. Three years later on 6th November 1649 ONeill died at Cloughoughter Castle in Lough Oughter, County Cavan while on his way to join a Royalist army assembled by the Earl of Ormond.

Cromwell landed in Dublin in August 1649 with an army of twenty thousand, he sacked Wexford and marched north against Drogheda, took the town, and massacred its people. His ruthlessness struck fear into Irish hearts, and many of the southern and eastern towns surrendered without a struggle. When Cromwell returned to England in 1650, the war was almost over, but the Irish army did not surrender for another two years. After the war, Ireland was in a wretched condition. Its population was halved. Most of its leaders were either dead or living in exile, and about 30,000 of its armed men had left to join the armies of France or Spain.

The English government then undertook what it hoped would be the final settlement of Ireland. Irish landowners were ordered to move west of the River Shannon to the province of Connacht before May 1, 1652, on pain of death. (Giving rise to the phrase to 'Hell or Connaught.' attributed to Cromwell.) The provinces of Ulster, Leinster, and Munster were divided among Cromwellian soldiers and adventurers (Englishmen who had subscribed money to pay for Cromwell's campaign in Ireland). Only the Irish landowners were transplanted. The poor people were allowed to remain as tenants, tradespeople, and labourers.

The Cromwellian settlement was not a complete success. Many of the settlers sold their farms and returned home. Others married into Irish families, and their descendants lost their English characteristics. But the settlement did succeed in creating a new landlord class. Before 1641, Roman Catholics owned about three-fifths of the land. By the 1680's, they owned one-fifth.