Elizabeth I

Ireland would prove to be a huge drag on the finances and political focus of her reign. Her father had claimed the title of King of Ireland but without having the resources on the ground to assert his authority. It was left to Elizabeth to try and turn the claims into reality.

Further tension revolved around the Reformation with Catholic Irish being reluctant to have an overtly Protestant Queen ruling over them. For Elizabeth, Ireland became a potential target of Catholic rival powers seeking to destabilise her rule or use the island as a base to invade England.

A series of revolts were put down with ruthless policies and determination but at great political and financial cost. Many Irish began to associate English rule with repression and hardship. For English soldiers, Ireland became a hated posting where reputations were ruined and little financial benefit could be gained from such a relatively poor population.

Attempts were made to establish plantations of loyal subjects, but these resulted in a serious backlash with the outbreak of Desmond Rebellions. Atrocities were committed on both sides, but the rebellions succeeded in making it clear that English and Protestantism was not welcome.

The most serious revolt was in Ulster with Hugh O'Neill the Earl of Tyrone. the despatching of her favourite, the Earl of Essex, not only ended in disaster in Ireland, but came close to destabilising her own regime when he lead an ill-fated revolt against her. He was executed.

Events in Ireland appeared to be spiralling out of control for Elizabeth, especially when the Spanish decided to become involved. It was only the successful generalship of Lord Mountjoy that saved English rule in Ireland as he successfully defeated the rebels and Spanish at Kinsale.

Despite this victory, Ireland was not even close being pacified. And with her treasury empty from the constant fighting in Ireland, alternative arrangements had to be made by her Scottish cousin who replaced her in 1603.

Ireland | Significant Individuals


Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames |

by Stephen Luscombe