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In July 1556 Lord Fitzwalter was sent to Ireland as Deputy. "Our said Deputy and Council," according to the royal instructions, "shall by their own good example and all other good means to them possible, advance the honour of Almighty God, the true Catholic faith and religion, now by God's great goodness and special grace recovered in our realms of England and Ireland, and namely they shall set forth the honour and dignity of the Pope's Holiness and Apostolic See of Rome, and from time to time be ready with our aid and secular force, at the request of all spiritual ministers and ordinaries there, to punish and repress all heretics and Lollards, and their damnable sects, opinions, and errors." They were commanded, too, to assist the commissioners and officials whom Cardinal Pole as papal legate intended to send shortly to make a visitation of the clergy and people of Ireland. On the arrival of the new Deputy in Dublin he went in state to Christ's Church to assist at Mass, after the celebration of which he received the sword of state from his predecessor before the altar, and took the oath in presence of the archbishop. "That done, the trumpets sounded and drums beat, and then the Lord Deputy kneeled down before the altar until the /Te Deum/ was ended."
The new Deputy was instructed to take measures for summoning a meeting of Parliament in the following year to give legal sanction to the restoration of the Catholic religion, and to deal with the ecclesiastical property that had been seized. Possibly in the hope of securing some of these again for the Church a commission was issued to the Archbishop of Dublin, the Bishop of Kildare, and a number of clerics and laymen "to inquire concerning the chalices, crosses, ornaments, bells, and other property belonging to the parish churches or chapels in the county of the city and county of Dublin and of sales made thereof to any person or persons, the price, in whose hands they then remained, and also in whose possession were the houses, lands, and tenements, belonging to those churches." Similar commissions were issued to others for the counties of Drogheda and Louth, Kildare, Carlow, Wexford, Kilkenny, Meath, Westmeath, Waterford, Tipperary, Limerick, Cork, and "for the county of Connaught."
In June 1557 the Irish Parliament met. A Bull of absolution from the penalties of heresy and schism was read by the Archbishop of Dublin on bended knees, while the Lord Deputy, officials, and members, both Peers and Commoners, knelt around him. When this ceremony was finished all retired to the cathedral, where the /Te Deum/ was sung in thanksgiving, and all pledged themselves as a sign of their sincere repentance to abolish all the laws that had been passed against the Holy See. The acts prejudicial to the rights of the Pope enacted since the year 1529 were abolished. The title of supreme head of the church, it was declared, "never was or could be justly or lawfully attributed or acknowledged to any king or sovereign governor, nor in any wise could or might rightfully, justly, or lawfully, by the king or sovereign governor of the same realms, be claimed, challenged, or used." "All Bulls, dispensations, and privileges obtained before the year 1529 or at any time since, or which shall hereafter be obtained from the See of Rome, not containing matter contrary or prejudicial to the authority, dignity, or pre-eminence royal or imperial of these said realms or to the laws of this realm" were allowed to be "put in execution, used, and alleged in any civil court in Ireland and elsewhere." The jurisdiction of the bishops was restored, the laws against heresy passed in the reign of Richard II. and Henry IV. were renewed, and the payment of First Fruits was suppressed. Care was taken, however, to avail of the dispensation granted by the Holy See, whereby those who had obtained possession of the property of churches and monasteries should not be disturbed, although it was enacted that none of the laymen who had obtained such grants could plead the rights of exemption enjoyed by some of their former owners against the jurisdiction of the bishops, and that notwithstanding the Statutes of Mortmain those who then held "manors, tenements, parsonages, tithes, pensions or other hereditaments" might bequeath or devise them to any spiritual body corporate in the kingdom, such clause to have the force of law for twenty years.
From no quarter was the slightest opposition offered to the restoration of Catholic worship, and consequently there was no need to have recourse to persecution. There was no persecution of the Protestants of Ireland by fire or torture during this reign. "In truth, the Reformation, not having been sown in Ireland, there was no occasion to water it by the blood of martyrs; insomuch that several English families, friends to the Reformation, withdrew into Ireland as into a secure asylum; where they enjoyed their opinions and worship in privacy without notice or molestation." Yet in spite of this tolerant attitude of both the officials and people of Ireland an absurd story, first mentioned in a pamphlet printed in 1681, is still to be found in many books dealing with Mary's reign. According to this story the queen appointed a body of commissioners to undertake a wholesale persecution in Ireland, and she entrusted this document to one of the commissioners, a certain Dr. Cole. On his way to Ireland the latter tarried at Chester, where he was waited upon by the mayor, to whom he confided the object of his mission. The landlady of the inn, having overheard the conversation, succeeded in stealing the commission and replacing it by a pack of cards. Dr. Cole reached Dublin and hastened to meet the Lord Deputy and council. "After he had made a speech relating upon what account he came over, he presents the box unto the Lord Deputy, who causing it to be opened, that the secretary might read the commission, there was nothing but a pack of cards with the knave of clubs uppermost." Dr. Cole assured them that "he had a commission, but knew not how it was gone." Then the Lord Deputy made answer, "Let us have another commission and we will shuffle the cards in the meanwhile." The messenger returned promptly to England, "and coming to the court, obtained another commission, but staying for a wind at the waterside, news came unto him that the queen was dead. And thus God preserved the Protestants of Ireland." This ridiculous fabrication was first referred to in a pamphlet written by that well-known forger, Robert Ware, in 1681, and was reprinted in his "Life" of Archbishop Browne (1705). Its acceptance by later writers, in spite of its obvious silliness, and unsupported as it is by the official documents of the period, or by any contemporary authority, can be explained only by their religious prejudices.
But though Mary restored the Mass and re-asserted the jurisdiction of the Pope, her political policy in Ireland differed little from that of her father or her brother. She was as determined as had been Henry VIII. to bring the country under English law, and to increase thereby the resources of the Treasury. It is true that she allowed the young Garrett Fitzgerald, who had found a refuge in Rome, to return to the country, that she restored to him his estates and honoured him with a seat at the privy council. Brian O'Connor of Offaly was also released from prison and allowed to revisit his territories. During the time St. Leger held office he followed the old policy of strengthening English influence by conciliation rather than by force. But the Earl of Sussex was of a different mind. He marshalled his forces and made raids into the Irish districts, for the princes and inhabitants of which he entertained the most supreme contempt. It was during the reign of Mary that the plan of the English Plantations was first put into force by the removal of the native Irish from large portions of Leix and Offaly to make room for English settlers. And yet, in spite of the warlike expeditions of Sussex, the country went from bad to worse, so that Primate Dowdall could write to the privy council in England (1557) that "this poor realm was never in my remembrance in worse case than it is now, except the time only that O'Neill and O'Donnell invaded the English Pale and burned a great piece of it. The North is as far out of frame as it was before, for the Scots beareth as great rule as they do wish, not only in such lands as they did lately usurp, but also in Clandeboy. The O'Moores and O'Connors have destroyed and burned Leix and Offaly saving certain forts."
On the death of Queen Mary in November 1558, her sister Elizabeth succeeded to the English throne. Although she had concealed carefully her Protestant sympathies, and had even professed her sincere attachment to the old religion during the reign of her predecessor, most people believed that important changes were pending. As soon as news of her proclamation reached Ireland early in December, the small knot of officials, who had fallen into disgrace during the reign of the late queen, hastened to offer their congratulations and to put forward their claims for preferment. Sir John Alen, formerly Lord Chancellor and Chief Commissioner for the dissolution of the monasteries, wrote to Cecil to express his joy at the latter's promotion, enclosed "a token," and reminded him of what he (Alen) had suffered during the previous five years. Sir John Bagenall, ex-governor of Leix and Offaly, recalled the fact that he had lost heavily, and had been obliged to escape to France for resisting papal supremacy. He petitioned for a free farm worth ￡50 a year. Bishop Staples, in a letter to Cecil, took pains to point out that he had been deprived of his See on account of his marriage, and had incurred the personal enmity of Cardinal Pole because he presumed to pray "for his old master's (Henry VIII.) soul." For some time, however, no change was made, and Catholic worship continued even in Dublin as in the days of Queen Mary. The Lord Deputy Sussex went to England in December 1559, and entrusted the sword of state to the Archbishop of Dublin and Sir Henry Sidney, both of whom took the oath of office before the high altar in Christ's Church after Mass had been celebrated in their presence.
But the strong anti-Catholic policy of the new government soon made itself felt in England, and though the ministers were more guarded as far as Ireland was concerned, it was felt that something should be done there to lessen the influence of Rome. In the instructions issued to the Lord Deputy (July 1559) he was told that "the Deputy and Council shall set the service of Almighty God before their eyes, and the said Deputy and all others of that council, who be native born subjects of this realm of England, do use the rites and ceremonies which are by law appointed, at least in their own houses." In the draft instructions as first prepared a further clause was added "that others native of that country be not otherwise moved to use the same than with their own contentment they shall be disposed, neither therein doth her Majesty mean to judge otherwise of them than well, and yet for the better example and edification of prayer in the Church, it shall be well done, if the said councillors being of that country born, shall at times convenient cause either in their own houses or in the churches the litany in the English tongue to be used with the reading of the epistle and gospel in the same tongue and the ten commandments." Although Cecil struck out this clause with his own hand, it helps to show that the government feared to push things to extremes in Ireland.
On the return of the Earl of Sussex he paid the usual official visit in state to Christ's Church, where apparently the English Litany (probably that prescribed by Henry VIII.) was sung after the Mass. In connexion with this celebration a story was put in circulation by Robert Ware in 1683 that the clergy, dissatisfied with the change in liturgy, determined to have recourse to a disgraceful imposture to prevent further innovations. On the following Sunday when the Archbishop and Deputy assisted at Mass, one of their number having inserted a sponge soaked in blood into the head of the celebrated statue of the Redeemer, blood began to trickle over the face of the image. Suddenly during the service a cry was raised by the trickster and his associates, "Behold Our Saviour's image sweats blood." Several of the common people wondering at it, fell down with their beads in their hands, and prayed to the image, while Leigh who was guilty of the deception kept crying out all the time, "How can He choose but sweat blood whilst heresy is now come into the Church?" Amidst scenes of the greatest excitement the archbishop caused an examination to be made; the trick was discovered; Leigh and his accomplices were punished by being made "to stand upon a table with their legs and hands tied for three Sundays, with the crime written upon paper and pinned to their breasts"; and to complete the story, a recent writer adds, "the Protestants were triumphant, the Roman party confounded, and Curwen's orders to have the statue broken up were obeyed without demur." Needless to say there is no foundation for such a tale. It first saw the light in that collection of gross inventions, /The Hunting of the Romish Fox/, published by Robert Ware in 1683, and is unsupported by any contemporary witnesses. It was not known to Sir Robert Ware, from whose papers the author pretended to borrow it; it was not known to Sir Dudley Loftus who devoted himself to the study of Irish history, and who, as nephew of Elizabeth's Archbishop of Dublin, would have had exceptional opportunities of learning the facts, nor was it known to Archbishop Parker, to whom, according to Ware, a full account was forwarded immediately. The author of it was employed to stir up feeling in England and Ireland so as to prevent the accession of James II., and as a cover for his forgeries he pretended to be using the manuscripts of his father.