Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

June Books 7) The Irish Constitutional Revolution of the Sixteenth Century, by Brendan Bradshaw

What made the liberal formula unique was its strategy of conciliation. Where the moderate radicals proposed to achieve the assimilation of the Irishry by compulsion, the liberals envisaged achieving it by consent.
This is an in depth look at the Irish policy of the later part of the reign of Henry VIII, arguing that Thomas Cromwell was (as in everything else) a key actor in dismantling the old regime, of leaving Ireland to muddle through under the Earl of Kildare, and that after his fall, two relatively obscure figures from Irish history, Anthony St Leger and Thomas Cusack, engineered the policies of surrender and regrant and of making Ireland a kingdom under Henry VIII in its own right (previously English kings were "Lords of Ireland"). In both cases this was doggedly carried through in the teeth of resistance from the old guard and of vicious court politics in London; it is particularly interesting to see how the officials persuaded Henry to agree to their plans after he had expressed characteristic opposition, or alternatively where they just went ahead and did what they wanted anyway knowing that he was on the other side of the sea and had no easy way of punishing or replacing them.

The claim of the book's title that this was a "constitutional revolution" is a little exaggerated; the old system was overthrown, sure, but that is not really Bradshaw's focus; and the St Leger / Cusack reform policy, after a promising start, wasn't followed through as Henry ran out of money and time, and his successors had other concerns during their brief reigns. (St Leger continued to serve as head of the Irish government, off and on, under both Edward VI and Mary I.) But it's convincing to say that what was going on in the 1530s and 1540s was a genuinely interesting and different constitutional experiment, to incorporate the peripheral but troublesome Irishry into the English-rules realm, and it had a lot of contemporary resonances for me with my own work on unrecognised states.

I caught two possible family notes. When Wexford is seized by the Crown in 1536-7 (from its previous absentee English ruler), Bradshaw notes that the three men charged with running the town and surroundings, all "in close contact" with Thomas Cromwell, included one James White of Waterford as justice of the liberty. This James White is presumably my ancestor who was poisoned in London ten years later. The second is a brief account of a treatise written in 1555, extolling the virtues of the St Leger / Cusack approach and urging a continuation of those policies; the author is not known but appears to have been a Palesman living in London, possibly studying at the Inns of Court. The Treatise was never published but survives in the papers of the Cecil family. This is an interesting fit with James White's son, Nicholas White, who was certainly a law student in London and as far as I can tell was a tutor to Cecil's son Thomas in the mid-1550s. More research necessary (as ever).
Tags: bookblog 2013, people: sir nicholas white, tudor ireland, world: ireland
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