When the Mermaid had reached a certain height her prow
Acting on this suggestion a royal commission, consisting of Anthony St. Leger, George Poulet, Thomas Moyle, and William Berners, was dispatched to Ireland (July 1537) to deliver the following acts to be passed by Parliament, namely, acts depriving the spiritual proctors of their right to vote, and against the power of the Bishop of Rome, together with acts giving to the king the tax of one-twentieth on benefices, enforcing the use of the English language and dress, and prohibiting alliances with the "wild Irish." At the same time Henry wrote to the Deputy and council warning them to obey the instructions of the commissioners, and to the House of Lords ordering them to ratify the bills to be submitted, and telling them that if any member be unwilling to do so, "we shall look upon him with our princely eye as his ingratitude therein shall be little to his comfort." When Parliament met again in October the spiritual proctors were deprived of their votes, and it was only then that the Act against the Bishop of Rome could be carried. The threats of royal vengeance seem to have produced the same effects in the Dublin assembly as in the English Parliament. Probably, as happened in England, those who could not agree with the measures were content to absent themselves during the discussions. The truth is, therefore, that Archbishop Cromer was supported in his attitude by the bishops and the representatives of the clergy, and that the acts against the jurisdiction of the Pope were carried against the wishes of the spirituality.
But the placing of the acts upon the statute book did not mean that the cause of the king had triumphed. Steps must be taken to enforce the laws against the jurisdiction of the Pope. Already in October 1537 the royal commissioners, who had been sent over by the king to overawe the Parliament, undertook a judicial tour through the south-eastern portion of Ireland to inquire into the grievances of the people, and especially to secure grounds of complaint against the ecclesiastics, so as to enable the government to overcome the opposition of their representatives in Parliament. During their journey they held sessions at Kilkenny, Waterford, Wexford, New Ross, Clonmel, and Tipperary. In the circumstances it is not difficult to understand how easy it was for them to find individuals ready to come forward with accusations both against the lay lords and the clergy, especially as the commissioners in some cases at least suggested the points of complaint. In Wexford, for example, the crime alleged against the Dean of Ferns and three other priests of having "pursued" Bulls from Rome has a very suspicious ring. Against many individual clerics, including the Archbishop of Cashel and the Bishop of Waterford, the priors and heads of several religious houses and certain rectors and vicars, it was alleged that they levied various exactions like the lay lords, that they demanded excessive fees on the occasion of their ministrations, and that they asserted claims to fishing weirs, etc., to which they were not entitled. If it be borne in mind that the bishops, priors, and heads of religious houses were also landlords like the lay lords, against whom charges of almost similar exactions were lodged, the presentments of grievances at least in this respect were not very convincing. For the same reason the fact that the Archbishop of Cashel was said to have been in a boat which robbed a boat from Clonmel and that he caused a riot in the latter city, that the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore took bribes, or that Purcell, the Bishop of Ferns, joined with O'Kavanagh in an attack upon Fethard need not cause any surprise. It was only against James Butler, the Cistercian abbot of Inislonagh and his monks, the Augustinian monks of Athassel, the Carmelite priors of Lady Abbey near Clonmel and Knocktopher, and the abbot of Duisk that grave charges of immorality were made. Even if these charges were true, and the evidence is by no means convincing, they serve only to emphasise the downfall of discipline caused in the individual religious houses by the interference with canonical election, and the intrusion oftentimes by family influence of unworthy men as abbots or commendatory abbots.
Henry VIII. was anxious to complete the conquest of Ireland even before he had broken with the Pope, but after the separation of England from Rome he realised more clearly the dangers that might ensue unless the Irish and Anglo-Irish princes were reduced to submission. As things stood, Ireland instead of contributing anything was a constant source of loss to the royal treasury, and, were an invasion attempted by some of his Continental rivals, Ireland might become a serious menace to England's independence. The complete overthrow of the Geraldine rebellion (1535) had prepared the way for a more general advance, but the failure of the Deputy to capture the young heir to the Earldom of Kildare was as displeasing to the king personally as it was dangerous to his plans. The boy was conveyed away secretly by his tutor, a priest named Leverous, who was advanced afterwards to the See of Kildare, and was brought for safety to the territory of O'Brien of Thomond. When Thomond was threatened by the rapid advance of the Deputy, the young Earl of Kildare was conveyed to his aunt, Lady Eleanor MacCarthy of Cork, who on her marriage to Manus O'Donnell, Prince of Tyrconnell, brought the boy with her to Donegal (1538).
O'Connor of Offaly and O'Carroll had been compelled to sue for peace (1535). In the following year Lord Grey made a tour of the south- eastern parts of Leinster, proceeded through Tipperary, and directed his march against the strongholds of O'Brien of Thomond. Partly by his own skill and boldness, partly also by the treachery of one of the O'Briens, he succeeded in capturing some of the principal fortresses including O'Brien's Bridge. Had it not been for a mutiny that broke out among his soldiers Lord Grey might have succeeded in forcing O'Brien to make terms, but, as it was, he was obliged to desist from further attack and to retreat hastily to Dublin. O'Brien soon recaptured the positions he had lost; O'Connor of Offaly took the field once more, and the unfortunate Deputy, harassed by his enemies on the privy council and blamed by the king for his failure to get possession of the hope of the Geraldines, found himself in the greatest difficulties. But he was a man of wonderful military resource, and knowing well that failure must mean his own recall and possibly his execution, he determined to put forth all his energies in another great effort. So long as the Irish in the Leinster districts were active it was little use for him to undertake dangerous expeditions towards the more remote districts, and for this reason he turned his attention to O'Connor of Offaly. Before many months elapsed he forced the MacMurroughs, the Kavanaghs, the O'Moores, the O'Carrolls, MacGillapatrick of Ossory, and O'Connor to sue humbly for peace.
But many difficulties still remained to be overcome before he could boast of final victory. Con O'Neill, Manus O'Donnell, and many of their adherents were still threatening; Desmond, O'Brien of Thomond and the nobles of Munster generally could not be relied upon; while the Irish and Anglo-Irish of Connaught paid but scanty respect to the king or his deputy. Rumours, too, were in circulation that North and South were about to unite in defence of the heir of the Geraldines, that secret communications were carried on with Scotland, France, and the Empire, and that the Pope was in full sympathy with the movement. Surrounded by discontented subordinates, who forwarded complaints almost weekly to England in the hope of securing his disgrace, Lord Grey was resolved to push forward rapidly even though the campaign might prove risky. In 1538 he marched south and west, passing by Limerick through the territories of O'Brien and Clanrickard to Galway, having received everywhere the submission of the princes except of O'Brien and the Earl of Desmond. In the following year (1539) he directed his attention towards the North, but O'Neill and O'Donnell, having composed their differences, and having strengthened themselves by an understanding with the Earl of Desmond and the adherents of the Geraldines, marched south in the hope of joining hands with their allies. Having learned when in the neighbourhood of Tara that the Deputy was on the march against them, they retreated towards the confines of Monaghan, where they were overtaken and routed at Bellahoe near Carrickmacross (1539). Their defeat seems to have destroyed the spirit of the Irish princes. One by one they began to beg for terms, so that before Lord Grey was recalled in 1540 he had the satisfaction of knowing that he had vindicated English authority in the country. Instead of rewarding his deputy for all that he had done, Henry VIII., giving credence to the stories circulated by Archbishop Browne and others that Lord Grey had connived at the escape of the young Kildare and had supported the cause of Rome, committed him to the Tower, and later on he handed him over to the executioner (1541).
Meanwhile how fared it with the new archbishop who had been sent over to enlighten the Irish nation? In July 1537 Henry felt it necessary to reprove his spiritual representative for his lightness of behaviour, his vain-glory, and his remissness in preaching the pure word of God, and to warn him that if he did not show himself more active both in religious matters and in advancing the king's cause he should be obliged to put a man of more honesty in his place. The archbishop issued a form of prayer in English to be read in all the churches, extolling royal supremacy and denouncing the Pope, but it produced no effect. Once, when the archbishop attended High Mass in St. Andrew's, the rector mounted the pulpit to read the prayer, but immediately one of the canons gave a signal to the choir to proceed, and the archiepiscopal message was lost to the congregation. In January 1538 he acknowledged that though the influence of the king ought to be greatest within the city and province of Dublin, yet, notwithstanding his gentle exhortation, his evangelical instruction, his insistence on oaths of obedience, and his threats of sharp correction, he could not induce any one to preach the word of God or the just title of the king; that men who preached formerly till Christians were tired of them, would not open their lips except in secret, when they gave full vent to their opinions and thereby destroyed the fruits of the labour of their archbishop; that the Observant Friars were the worst offenders of all, refusing to take the oath and showing open contempt for his authority; that he could not persuade the clergy to erase the name of the Pope from the Canon of the Mass and was obliged to send his own servants to carry out this work; that a papal indulgence had been published in Ireland of which many had hastened to take advantage by fulfilling the conditions laid down, namely, fasting on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday and receiving Holy Communion, and that all bishops "made by the king" except himself were repelled to make way for these appointed by Rome. Although the chapter in Dublin had been packed carefully to prepare the way for the election of Browne, the archbishop was forced to complain that he had been withstood to his face by one of the prebendaries, James Humfrey, and that of the staff of the cathedral, twenty-eight in number, there was scarce one "that favoured the word of God."
In a letter sent to Cromwell (1538) Agarde informed him that the power of the Bishop of Rome was still strong, that the Observant Friars upheld it boldly, that nobody dared to say anything against them as nearly all in authority were in favour of the Pope except Browne, Alen, Master of the Rolls, Brabazon the Vice-Treasurer, and one or two others of no importance, and that the temporal lawyers who drew the king's fees could not be trusted. Everywhere throughout the country it was the same story. Those who should set an example to others resorted to the Friars for confession, and were encouraged in their boldness; Nangle, who had been intruded into the See of Clonfert by the king, was driven out by Roland de Burgo, the papal bishop, and dared not show himself in his diocese; never was there so much "Rome- running" in the country, four or five bishops together with several priors and abbots having been appointed lately by the Pope, while a friar and a bishop, probably Rory O'Donnell of Derry, who had been arrested, were tried and acquitted at Trim, because the people in authority were hypocrites and worshippers of idols.
From 1536 therefore till 1538 the new gospel had made small progress in Ireland. Had the men entrusted with its propagation been of one mind they might have used the king's power with some effect, but the Deputy, the Archbishop of Dublin, and the Bishop of Meath were at each others throats almost continually. The Deputy treated the archbishop with studied contempt, spoke of him as a "poll-shorn" friar and obstructed his plans. According to Browne and his friends Alen and Brabazon, the Deputy befriended the papists and the friars, knelt in prayer before the shrine of Our Lady of Trim, and supported a bishop appointed by Rome against one appointed by the king. Edward Staples, a former protégé of Cardinal Wolsey, by whom he was recommended to Rome, was appointed by the Pope to Meath in 1530, but being a steady opponent of the Geraldines he was obliged to escape to his own country in 1534. There he took the side of the king against Clement VII., and on his return to Ireland, after he had received a sharp admonition from the king, he undertook to preach in favour of royal supremacy. But his views did not coincide with those of the Archbishop of Dublin. The latter was obliged to complain that Staples denounced him as "a heretic and a beggar with other rabulous revilings," and that not content with this, he preached in the church at Kilmainham where "the stations and pardons" were used as freely as ever, and attacked the archbishop before his face with "such a stomach as I think the three- mouthed Cerberus of hell could not have uttered it more viperously." He glossed every sentence (of the archbishops sermons) after such opprobrious fashion that every honest ear glowed to hear it, and "he exhorted them all, yea, and so much as in him lay he adjured them, to give no credence to (their spiritual guide) whatsoever he might say, for before God he would not." The Bishop of Meath replied that the archbishop had given himself such airs that every honest man was weary of him and that he (the bishop) had come to the conclusion that "pride and arrogance hath ravished him from the right remembrance of himself." In reply to Browne's covert hint that Staples was conniving at the authority of the Pope, the latter charged the archbishop, whom he described as his purgatory, with abhorring the Mass, and prayed that an inquiry should be held. An attempt was made to patch up the quarrel, but the archbishop was far from content that his authority had not been upheld.