on the ocean. Those aboard the Mermaid knew no harm could
It is important to bear in mind that the highest English officials in Ireland at this period were divided into two factions, one favouring the Deputy, and another attempting to secure his downfall by charging him with being too friendly towards the Papists and the Geraldines. The leaders of the latter section, and, according to a trustworthy witness, the only men in authority who favoured the campaign against the Pope were Browne, Alen, the Master of the Rolls, Brabazon, the Vice-Treasurer, and one or two others, amongst whom might be reckoned Aylmer the Chief Justice. They were annoyed at the reported success of Lord Grey in 1538, and however much they tried to disparage it, they felt that unless they could accomplish something remarkable for the king's cause the triumph of the Deputy was assured. Early in December 1538 a message had been received containing "an advertisement for the setting forth of the Word of God, abolishing of the Bishop of Rome's usurped authority, and extinguishing of idolatry." Immediately the members of the council hostile to Lord Grey saw their opportunity of scoring a signal victory. If they could not penetrate into the North or West they determined to make an excursion into the "four shires above the Barrow" to assert the king's supremacy, "but also to levy the first fruits and twentieth part with other of the king's revenue." Leaving Dublin towards the end of December they proceeded first to Carlow, where they were entertained by Lord James Butler, and thence to Kilkenny, where they were welcomed by the Earl of Ormond. On New Year's Day the archbishop preached to a large audience setting forth the royal (or rather Cromwell's) Injunctions (1536), several copies of which were supplied to the bishops and dignitaries of the diocese for the use of the clergy. Something similar was done in Ross, Wexford, and Waterford, except that in the latter place they hanged a friar in his habit, and ordered that his corpse should be left on the gallows "for a mirror to all others of his brethren to live truly." Next they visited Clonmel, in which town according to their own story they achieved their greatest success. "At Clonmel was with us two archbishops and eight bishops, in whose presence my Lord of Dublin preached in advancing the King's Supremacy, and the extinguishment of the Bishop of Rome. And, his sermon finished, all the said bishops, in all the open audience, took the oath mentioned in the Acts of Parliament, both touching the king's succession and supremacy, before me, the king's chancellor; and divers others present did the like."
Though, as shall be seen, there was probably some foundation for this report, there are many things about it which would seem to indicate that its authors were guilty of gross exaggeration. In the first place it should be noted that though it is headed "The Council of Ireland to Cromwell," it is signed only by Browne, Alen, Brabazon, and Aylmer, the sworn enemies of the Deputy, and the very men who had denounced him for magnifying his success in the previous year. Secondly, it deals only in generalities, giving no particulars about the names of the archbishops or bishops who were alleged to have been present, though such details would have been of the highest importance. Thirdly, as can be seen from the correspondence of the period, Browne was not accustomed to hide his merits or his services, and yet in a personal letter written to Cromwell a week later he merely states that during the month he spent in Munster "he did not only preach and set forth the word of God, but also my master, the King's Highness most goodly purpose." Lastly, it should not be forgotten that, though Browne and his friends claim to have been honoured with the presence of the bishops from the entire province of Munster, yet at that time the Earl of Desmond and his adherents, O'Brien of Thomond, the MacCarthys and nearly all the Irish and Anglo-Irish nobles of the province, with the exception of the Ormond faction which controlled only a portion of south-eastern Munster, were still loyal to Rome. The object of the report, then, seems to have been to destroy the influence of the Deputy and the effect of his victory, by showing what his opponents had effected and could effect if only their hands were not tied by the action of a superior who was leagued with the Papists and the enemies of the crown. Any one acquainted with the miserable intrigues and petty jealousies revealed by the official correspondence of the period can have no difficulty in believing that the authors of this report would have had little scruple in departing from the truth.
Though Browne, like his masters Cromwell and Cranmer, was inclined to push forward rapidly with his radical schemes of reform, yet, well aware of the state of feeling in Dublin and throughout the country, he feared to give offence by proceeding at once to extremes. At first he contented himself with issuing the "bedes" or a form of prayer for the king as supreme head of the church, for Prince Edward, for the Deputy, council, and nobles, and for the faithful departed. Encouraged, however, by the wholesale attack on images and pilgrimage shrines begun in England (1538), he determined to undertake a similar work in Ireland in the same year. But such a work proved to be so distasteful to the people that he was obliged to deny that he had any intention of pulling down the image of Our Lady of Trim or the Holy Cross in Tipperary, though in his letter to Cromwell he admitted that "his conscience would right well serve him to oppress such idols." In August of the same year Lord Butler reported to Cromwell that the vicar of Chester announced in the presence of the Deputy, the archbishop, and several members of the council that the king had commanded that images should be set up again and worshipped as before, whereupon the Deputy remained silent, but some of the others answered, that if the vicar were not protected by the presence of the Deputy they "would put him fast by the heels," as he deserved grievous punishment. In October Lord Grey, the Archbishop of Dublin, and others attended the sessions at Trim for the trial of a bishop and of a Franciscan friar, and, to the no small indignation of the archbishop, Lord Grey visited the shrine of Our Lady of Trim to pray before the image. The encouragement given to Browne and his friends by Cromwell's instructions (Dec. 1538) strengthened them to continue their campaign "for the plucking down of idols and the extinguishing of idolatry." The shrine of Our Lady at Trim was destroyed; the Staff of Jesus was burned publicly; the Cross of Ballybogan was broken, and a special commission was established to search for and to destroy images, pictures, and relics. Even the Deputy, who was accused of favouring idols and papistry, had already despoiled the Cathedral of Down, the monastery of Killeigh and the collegiate church of Galway, though in all probability this action was taken not so much out of contempt for the practices of the Church as with the hope of raising money to pay his troops, and of securing the favour of the king.
In England Henry VIII. had turned his attention almost immediately after the separation from Rome to the suppression of the monasteries and religious houses. This step was undertaken by him, partly because the religious orders were the strongest and most energetic supporters of the Pope, and partly, also, because he wished to enrich the royal treasury by the plunder of the goods and possessions of the monasteries. In England, however, some form of justice was observed; but in Ireland no commission was appointed to report on the condition of the monasteries or convents, and no opportunity was given them to defend themselves against the slanderous statements of officials, who were thirsting to get possession of their lands and their revenues. According to the estimate given by De Burgo, there were in Ireland at the time of Henry VIII. two hundred and thirty-one houses of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine, thirty-six houses belonging to the Premonstratensians, twenty-two of the Knights of St. John, fourteen to the Trinitarians or Crouched Friars, nine to the Benedictines, forty- two to the Cistercians, forty-three to the Dominicans, sixty-five to the Franciscans, twenty-six to the Hermits of St. Augustine, twenty- five to the Carmelites, and forty-three belonging to various communities of Nuns. Though in many particulars this summary is far from being accurate, it may be taken as giving a fairly correct idea of the number of religious houses at the period. Many of these institutions were possessed of immense wealth, derived for the most part from lands and church patronage. According to a return drawn up in 1536 the annual revenue of the religious houses in Meath was set down at ￡900 Irish money, in Dublin at ￡900, in Louth at ￡600, and in Kildare at ￡255. If steps were taken to suppress immediately the houses within these four shires it was reckoned that the king might secure an annual revenue of ￡3,000, but if the communities concerned got warning of the danger it was thought that the king would lose ￡1,000 of this.
By Henry's orders steps were taken in 1536 to secure the approval of Parliament for the suppression of the monasteries, but though the Abbey of St. Wolstan near Leixlip, belonging to the Canons Regular of St. Victor was suppressed, both the spiritual and the lay peers together with the proctors of the clergy offered a strenuous opposition to the attack on the religious establishments. They knew better than the English officials the work that was being done by many of these institutions for religion, education, and hospitality, as well as for the comfort of the poor and the infirm. In October 1537, however, an act was passed for the suppression of Bective, St. Peter's beside Trime, Duisk, Duleek, Holmpatrick, Baltinglass, Taghmolin, Dunbrody, Tintern, and Ballybogan. Their lands, houses and possessions generally were to be vested in the king, and a pension was to be secured to the abbots and priors. Together with these, eight abbies mentioned in a special commission under the great seal were suppressed.
The other religious houses, alarmed by the course of proceedings both in England and at home, began to cut down the timber on their properties, to dispose of their goods, to hide their valuable church plate, and to lease their farms. Urgent appeals were sent to Cromwell from Archbishop Browne and others, requesting that a commission should be issued instantly for the suppression of the monasteries and convents. Henry VIII. and Cromwell were nothing loath to accede to these demands, particularly as some of the Mendicants had been very zealous in defence of the rights of the Pope; and accordingly a royal commission was addressed to the Archbishop of Dublin, John Alen Chancellor, William Brabazon Vice-Treasurer, Robert Cowley Master of the Rolls, and Thomas Cusake empowering them to undertake the work of suppression (April 1539). "From information of trustworthy persons," it was stated, "it being manifestly apparent that the monasteries, abbies, priories and other places of religious or regulars in Ireland, are at present in such a state that in them the praise of God and the welfare of man are next to nothing regarded; the regulars and nuns dwelling there being so addicted, partly to their own superstitious ceremonies, partly to the pernicious worship of idols, and to the pestiferous doctrines of the Romish Pontiff, that, unless an effective remedy be promptly provided, not only the weak lower order, but the whole Irish people, may be speedily infected, to their total destruction by such persons." To prevent such a calamity the king resolved to take into his hands the religious houses and to disband the monks and nuns, for which purpose he commanded the commissioners to notify his wishes to the heads of the religious houses, to receive their resignations and surrender of their property, to offer to those who surrendered willingly a benefice or a pension, and "to apprehend and punish such as adhere to the usurped authority of the Romish Pontiff and contumaciously refuse to surrender their houses." It should be noted that from the terms of this commission it is clear that no serious abuses or irregularities could have been charged against the religious houses, else in the decree condemning them to extinction something more serious would have been alleged to their charge than adherence to their own superstitious ceremonies, to the worship of idols, and to the Roman Pontiff. A month later Alen, Brabazon, and Cowley were appointed to survey and value the rents and revenues of the dissolved monasteries, to issue leases for twenty-one years of both their spiritualities and temporalities, to reserve for the king the plate, jewels, and ornaments, and to grant to the monks and nuns pensions for their maintenance.
Although many members of the privy council in Ireland had petitioned more than once for such a commission, yet when rumours reached Dublin that it had been granted, a request was forwarded from the council to Cromwell begging him to spare St. Mary's Abbey Dublin, Christ's Church, Grace-Dieu, Conall, Kells (Co. Kilkenny), and Jerpoint, on the ground amongst others that "in them young men and children, both gentlemen children and others both of man kind and woman kind, be brought up in virtue, learning and in the English tongue and behaviour, to the great charge of the said houses; that is to say, the woman kind of the whole Englishry of this land, for the more part, in the said nunnery, and the man kind in the other said houses." This petition received but scant consideration, and no wonder; because, although the Archbishop of Dublin had agreed to it, he wrote on the same day to Cromwell asking him for the lands of Grace-Dieu, and, according to a letter addressed to Cromwell by another prominent Irish official, the Deputy at that very time "had obtained from the abbot of St. Mary's leases of all the good lodgings in the monastery, and of the farms of Ballyboghill and Portmarnock on an agreement evidently meant to defraud the king."
Hardly had the commission been received than Browne and his companions went to work in good earnest to carry out the task entrusted to them. The superiors of most of the monasteries and convents situated within the Pale or in the territories dominated by the Ormond faction surrendered their houses at the first summons. Not even the Abbey of St. Mary's, which petitioned for mercy on the ground that it kept open house for poor men, scholars, and orphans, was spared, nor the priory of Conall, which boasted that though it lay among the wild Irish it had never any brethren unless they belonged to the "very English nation." During the years 1539, 1540, and 1541 nearly all the monasteries and convents in the territories within the jurisdiction of the king were suppressed. Amongst the communities and institutions that suffered were St. Mary's and the Abbey of St. Thomas the Martyr, the Carmelite, Dominican and Franciscan houses of Dublin; the Hospital of St. John and the Augustinians and Franciscans of Naas, the Priories of Conall and Clane, the Hospital of Castledermott, the Dominicans of Athy; the Franciscans of New Abbey, the Carmelites of Cloncurry, the Abbey of Baltinglass, and the College of Maynooth, the Priory of St. John in Kilkenny together with the houses of the Franciscans, and Dominicans, and the Hospital for Lepers near the same city, Jerpoint, Inistoge, Kells (Co. Kilkenny), the Carmelites of Leighlin Bridge, Knocktopher, Thurles, Clonmel, the Augustinians of Callan, Tipperary and Fethard, the Franciscans of Cashel and Clonmel, the monastery of Duisk, Hore Abbey, Kilcool and Inislonagh, Mellifont, the Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary near Trim, and of Kells, the Priories of St. Fechin at Fore, and of Mullingar, the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem at Kilmainham, together with several other religious houses at Louth, Dundalk, Drogheda, Waterford, and Carlow. At the same time most of the convents within the English sphere of influence surrendered their houses and possessions, amongst the last to do so being the celebrated convent of Grace-Dieu.