CAIN Web Service
A Chronology of Key Events in Irish History
1169 to 1799
Text and Research: Brendan Lynn ... with additional text by: Martin Melaugh
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change
This is a draft chronology of key events in Irish history from 1169 to 1799.
This chronology has been compiled from a number of sources.
See also: Events 1800-1967 and chronologies 1968-2001
Chronology of Key Events in Irish History, 1169 to 1799
In 1066 the Normans, a term used to describe people from the region of Normandy and the surrounding areas of northern France, conquered England under the leadership of William, Duke of Normandy (widely known as ‘William the Conqueror’). He sought to establish a feudal monarchy in his new kingdom and this objective was in turn pursued by his heirs.
In Ireland, following the death of Brian Boru in 1014, rivals constantly engaged in feuds and bloody conflicts in order to become High King of Ireland. During one such struggle one of the defeated Irish chiefs, Dermott MacMorrough, fled to England and sought the assistance of Norman allies to recover his position in Ireland. Such support was granted and the superior military expertise and weaponry of the Normans proved invaluable. Once in Ireland the Norman lords moved quickly to expand their power and influence.
Gradually as the Anglo-Norman barons began to settle in Ireland they sought to drive out the existing Gaelic aristocracy and establish the same feudal system that had been created in England. In spite of periodic attempts to do so the English crown failed to establish effective centralised control in Ireland. This led to a number of important consequences for the governance of Ireland. In particular, although an English-style legal system and administration was introduced into Ireland, large parts still remained effectively outside the control of the crown. Beyond Dublin and its surrounding area (known as the Pale) large parts of Ireland were effectively ruled by Anglo-Irish lords, who paid only nominal allegiance to the crown. Furthermore along the western coast and parts of the north of Ireland, Gaelic chiefs continued to rule their kingdoms with their own style and customs.
The following are some of the key events and developments that were to occur over this period.
A force, largely consisting of Norman knights and archers, captured the town of Wexford.
Another force of Norman soldiers this time led by Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke (subsequently known as ‘Strongbow’), landed in Ireland. They arrived as a result of an invitation from Dermot MacMurrough who was then involved in a struggle to regain the position of the kingship of Leinster, a position he had lost in 1166. The combination of these forces succeeded in capturing the fortified towns of Dublin and Waterford. As a consequence of this military campaign MacMurrough succeeded in reclaiming his position as King of Leinster. In reward for his help MacMurrough offered his daughter in marriage to ‘Strongbow’.
Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, died. Following his marriage to the daughter of MacMurrough, ‘Strongbow’ became the new King of Leinster. Concerned that some of his knights would seek to establish a separate kingdom in Ireland Henry II, then King of England, decided to act. In order to assert his authority he landed in Ireland in October 1171 with a large army.
Prince John arrived in Ireland as Lord of Ireland and worked to further strengthen the influence of the crown over the whole country.
On his second visit to Ireland Prince John sought to deal with some of the crown’s rebellious subjects such as the De Laceys and the De Braoses. After a successful campaign he returned to England in August 1210.
Following his submission to Pope Innocent III, King John was granted England and Ireland as a papal fief.
Anglo-Norman lords (this term later changes to ‘Anglo-Irish’ lords) further strengthened their grip on Ireland and by the middle of the 13th century controled large parts of the modern Irish provinces of Munster and Leinster. Some also succeeded in moving into parts of Connacht and the eastern half of Ulster.
One of the first Irish parliaments met in Dublin.
Edward Bruce of Scotland (brother of Robert Bruce, then King of the Scots) landed in Ireland at the head of an army with the intention of claiming the crown of Ireland. With the assistance of native Irish forces he attacked the existing Anglo-Irish colony. His arrival led to a period of instability in Ireland and over the next few years the conflict led to widespread destruction and famine.
Edward Bruce’s military campaign in Ireland continued.
Donal O’Neill, then King of the Gaelic kingdom of Cenél nEógan, sent a Remonstrance to Pope John XXII. It listed a series of grievances held by the native Irish against the English crown. In addition it also called on the Pope to acknowledge Edward Bruce as the rightful King of Ireland.
The Bruce invasion of Ireland came to an end following the death of Edward Bruce at the battle of Faughart in October 1318 at the hands of an Anglo-Irish force. The conflict of the previous three years had however led to a further weakening of central government control over Ireland.
The Irish parliament opened for a session in Dublin.
During a meeting of the Irish parliament widespread criticism was made by Anglo-Irish lords of the conduct of those attempting to administer Ireland for the crown.
The Black Death (bubonic plague) arrived in Ireland and quickly spread across the country.
A meeting of the Irish parliament passed legislation which sought to prevent Anglo-Irish settlers from becoming overtly Gaelicised.
During a session of the Irish parliament in Kilkenny legislation, subsequently known as the ‘Statutes of Kilkenny’, was passed. In essence its purpose was to codify laws passed over the previous decades which had sought to halt and reverse the Gaelicisation of English settlers in Ireland. For instance the use of Irish language, dress, and customs by all English and Irish subjects who had sworn loyalty to the king was forbidden.
Richard II, then King of England, arrived in Ireland. His aim was to try to bring all of Gaelic Ireland under the effective control of the crown.
Through a series of military successes and diplomatic negotiations, Richard II was able to accept the submission of a large number of Irish chiefs.
As a result of growing political and administrative turmoil Richard II was forced to return to Ireland in order to complete the task he had set himself during his first military campaign.
The word ‘Pale’ was adopted to describe the counties around Dublin under the direct control of the crown.
In England a civil war, known as the ‘War of the Roses’, broke out. It continued on an intermittent basis until its conclusion in 1487. The conflict itself was between the rival Houses of York and Lancaster, who both claimed the English crown. In Ireland, as in other outlying areas, rival lords chose to align themselves with the competing factions in England. As a consequence Ireland became a source of potential support for both the Houses of York and Lancaster.
The Battle of Bosworth Field in England effectively ended the ‘War of the Roses’, with the victor of the battle, Henry Tudor, ascending to the English throne as Henry VII and thereby establishing the Tudor dynasty.
A pretender to the English throne, Lambert Simnel, a member of the House of York, arrived in Ireland and following a ceremony in Dublin was crowned as king. He then recruited an army, with the backing of many prominent Anglo-Irish lords, which then sailed for England. The invasion failed however to achieve its objective of reclaiming the English crown. After Simnel’s defeat many of these same Anglo-Irish lords, after receiving pardons from Henry VII, took an oath of allegiance and pledged their loyalty to him.
In a significant change of approach Henry VII decided to appoint an English nobleman, Sir Edward Poyning, to the post of Lord Deputy of Ireland. The post holder was effectively seen as being the crown’s representative in Ireland and had previously been held by an Anglo-Irish noble. The move was interpreted as marking a real effort by the crown to reassert its authority over Ireland. Evidence to support this came with the calling of an Irish parliament which passed legislation known as ‘Poynings Law’. This set out that in the future the prior approval of the crown had to be sought before any meeting of a parliament in Ireland could be called. Furthermore it also established that the crown’s permission had to be secured for any proposed legislation arising from an Irish parliament.
Overview 1495 to 1699
Since the Normans had arrived in Ireland the power and influence of the English crown in Ireland had fluctuated but at no time could it have been said to have exerted total control. Such a situation was however to witness a significant change with the succession of the Tudor dynasty to the throne of England. This new approach was to be based on the need to enlarge the power and influence of the crown throughout Ireland by means of a powerful and centrally-controlled administration. Although at times various methods were to be adopted to achieve such an objective there remained throughout a determination that in the future Ireland would be subject to strong government under the crown.
The pursuit of this goal was however to have implications for those groups in Ireland who had previously benefited from the crown remaining weak. In particular there were those Anglo-Irish lords and Gaelic chiefs who, although nominally loyal to the English king, had retained a measure of independence that had allowed them to pursue their own objectives. If anything the picture in Ireland was then to become further complicated by the break down in relations between the Papacy and Henry VIII. Later as this chasm widened with the advent of the Protestant reformation in the 16th century, people in Ireland were increasingly faced with a choice whereby their political loyalty to the English crown was also measured in terms of their religious faith. Not surprisingly such developments were to impact on the future development of events in Ireland. Some of the most important of these in this period are now highlighted.
In a reversal of policy Henry VII decided to re-appoint one of the most powerful Anglo-Irish lords, the Earl of Kildare as Lord Deputy of Ireland. The decision was seen as being taken in response to the crown’s growing frustration with the financial cost and other difficulties of appointing an English nobleman to the position.
The reign of Henry VIII as King of England (1509-47) began.
Following the death of his father, Gearóid Mór, Garret óg, became the new Earl of Kildare and succeeded him as Lord Deputy of Ireland. Garret óg’s relations with the crown however proved troublesome and during his three periods in the post (1513-20, 1524-28 and 1532-34) he was imprisoned by the crown in England.
In the wake of allegations of misconduct against him Garret óg was replaced as Lord Deputy. These were to originate from a variety of sources. To begin with rival Anglo-Irish lords claimed that the Kildare family was using the post to further its own goals at the expense of not only them but also the crown. Furthermore the growing power and influence of Kildare was also viewed with equal concern by advisers close to Henry VIII. In particular they believed the Kildare’s posed a challenge to the ongoing effort to enlarge the English crown’s control over Ireland.
The Earl of Surrey, an English nobleman and the new Lord Deputy in Ireland, at the behest of Henry VIII sought to restore control and order by means of persuasion rather than at the huge cost of a protracted military campaign. [This policy was subsequently known as ‘surrender and regrant’ and largely involved those Gaelic lords who had no security of tenure of their land from the crown. In order to rectify this it was proposed that they would surrender their land to the crown who which would then in turn grant them legal title for their possessions.]
For a third and final time, Garret óg, was removed from his position as Lord Deputy of Ireland. He was subsequently charged with treason and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. [He later died in prison.] His son, known as Silken Thomas, who Garret óg had appointed as his vice-deputy, became aware of rumours that his father has been executed. This prompted him to lead a rebellion against Henry VIII.
The revolt led by Silkin Thomas was defeated. Along with five of his uncles he was arrested and all were brought to London.
The English crown confiscated the entire estate of the Earldom of Kildare.
A meeting of the Irish parliament in Dublin formally endorses Henry VIII’s split with the Papacy. It passed legislation recognising the king as the supreme spiritual head of the church in Ireland. In addition steps were taken to close all monasteries in Ireland and to confiscate all property belonging to them.
In London Silkin Thomas and five of his uncles were executed for their part in the rebellion against Henry VIII.
Under the policy of ‘surrender and regrant’, which was then being pursued by the new English-born Lord Deputy, Sir Anthony St Leger, many of the leading Gaelic chiefs in Ireland submitted to Henry VIII. In return for accepting English law and authority, they were given titles and land under the crown.
The Irish parliament met in Dublin and in a significant move agreed to change Henry VIII’s official title from ‘Lord of Ireland’ to King of Ireland.
In England the death of Henry VIII resulted in the accession to the throne of his son as Edward VI (1547-53). Under the new monarch there was a concerted move to introduce the doctrinal Protestant reformation into Ireland.
The Book of Common Prayer, containing a uniform Protestant religious service, was published in Ireland.
The death of Edward VI, led to Mary Tudor succeeding to the English throne (1553-58). Unlike her father Henry VIII, Mary I remained a committed Catholic and therefore was determined to try to reverse the impact of the reformation across her kingdom.
In a new departure the English crown completed the first real effort of introducing English settlers into Ireland (this process became more widely known as a ‘plantation’). Two Irish counties, Offaly and Laois, were reformed to establish King’s County and Queen’s County, with people from England introducing new agricultural styles and methods not seen previously in Ireland.
The death of Mary I who was replaced on the English throne by Elizabeth Tudor, a daughter of Henry VIII. As Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), the new monarch was determined to further the cause of the Protestant faith.
The Irish parliament met in Dublin and passed legislation aimed at restoring the dominant position of the Protestant religion in Ireland. The Act of Supremacy stipulated that the monarch was now the supreme governor of the church, whilst the Act of Uniformity made the use of The Book of Common Prayer compulsory.
Growing unease amongst Gaelic lords and some prominent Anglo-Irish noblemen against the policies of Elizabeth I in Ireland led to growing unrest. This eventually was to culminate into what became known as the ‘Elizabethan wars’. In essence this involved a series of rebellions against the English crown’s commitment to promote the Protestant reformation and also the ongoing efforts to enlarge its control over Ireland.
A series of Irish parliaments (1569-71) resulted in the crown setting out new approaches as to how Ireland was to be governed in the future. Provincial presidents, appointed by the monarch, were to be established to govern Connacht and Munster with private colonisation schemes proposed in Munster and Ulster. This provoked local revolts against government plans across Ireland.
A papal bull issued by Pope Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth I. In Ireland appeals were issued to the Pope and the King of Spain for military assistance in order to protect the Catholic faith and to preserve Catholic landowners’ property.
A small military force of papal soldiers arrived in Munster where a rebellion against the crown was under way.
The crown was fully engaged in a bitter struggle to quell the rebellion in Munster. Then in October 1580, a force of Spaniards, Italians and Irish was massacred by English forces at Dún an Óir (‘Golden Fort’), Smerwick Harbour, County Kerry. Following a three day siege over 600 Spanish, Italian, and Irish soldiers, surrendered, only to be killed by Lord Grey's troops.
The rebellion in Munster, under the leadership of the Earl of Desmond, came to an end following his death in November 1583.
In the wake of the ending of a rebellion in Munster the Irish parliament seized all land held by those who had participated. Plans were then drawn up for the property that was confiscated and people in England were invited to participate in a plantation of Munster. Elsewhere in Connacht, most of the Gaelic chiefs and the English crown come to an agreement, known as the Composition of Connacht, whereby they submitted to English rules and practices.
A Spanish invasion of England failed after its fleet (‘the Armada’) was defeated.
In Ulster growing opposition to interference by the English government eventually led to Hugh O’Neill, then Earl of Tyrone and the most powerful Gaelic chief in the area, to join in a rebellion against Elizabeth I. This became known as the ’Nine Years War’. Along with his main ally Hugh O’Donnell, an appeal was made for direct military assistance from Phillip II, then King of Spain.
In the most decisive battle to date of the rebellion in Ulster, O’Neill and his allies defeated an English army led by Sir Henry Bagenal, outside Armagh, in the ‘Battle of Yellow Ford’. After an appeal from O’Neill for others to join his revolt, risings broke out throughout Ireland. In Munster this led to the plantation being overthrown.
A new Lord Deputy, Lord Mountjoy, arrived in Ireland with a large army and began the task of bringing O’Neill’s rebellion to an end.
Under the command of Don Juan del Aguila a Spainish army landed at Kinsale in County Cork and Mountjoy marched south to lay siege to the town. In order to link up with the Spanish forces, O’Neill and his allies, decide to leave Ulster and to meet up with them in Kinsale. Late in December Lord Mounjoy defeated O’Neill’s army just outside Kinsale and in doing so effectively brought a military end to the rebellion.
Left without any real option Del Aguila decided to surrender to Mountjoy at Kinsale.
On 24 March 1603 Elizabeth I died and, without any natural heir, this marked the end of the Tudor dynasty. James VI of Scotland was to succeed to the throne of England as James I (1603-25) and in doing so established the Stuart dynasty.
The ‘Nine Years War’ was brought to a formal conclusion when Hugh O’Neill submitted to the English crown as part of the Treaty of Mellifont. Both O’Neill and O’Donnell received pardons and as a consequence were allowed to retain their titles and estates.
Plans were announced for a new plantation in parts of Ulster.
In an attempt to further strengthen the Protestant reformation in Ireland steps were taken to proscribe Catholic priests and religious orders such as the Jesuits. Furthermore those holding public office in the future were expected to take the Oaths of Supremacy and Uniformity.
Scottish settlers were 'planted' in the Ards peninsula in Ulster.
Amidst fears that the English crown was set to move against them O’Neill, O’Donnell and other Gaelic lords in Ulster, decided to flee Ireland for Spain. This departure was to become known as the ‘Flight of the Earls’. As a consequence large areas of land in Ulster were seized by the crown.
A commission was set up by the English government to survey the confiscated land in Ulster.
Plans were announced for the commencement of a scheme for the widespread plantation of Ulster. Amongst those who agreed to participate in the scheme was the City of London which agreed to undertake to plant and to introduce new settlers in the county of Derry.
A meeting of the Irish parliament approved the plantation of Ulster and moved to provide representation in the future for the settlers who have arrived as a result of the recent plantations.
The death of James I, resulted in the accession of Charles I (1625-49) to the throne of England.
In need of finance to support a war with Spain Charles I offered concessions, known as the ‘Graces’, to some of his subjects in Ireland. These largely were aimed at Irish Catholic landowners who still retained most of the land in Ireland but who wanted greater toleration for their religion from the crown. Such a strategy however alarmed Protestant opinion in England and Ireland.
Those planters who have settled in Ulster were permitted to have native Irish as tenants on their lands.
Thomas Wentworth, later to become Earl of Stafford, was appointed as Lord Deputy in Ireland. His term in office (1633-40) was to be dominated by his ongoing efforts to substantially increase the amount of revenue the English crown received from its Irish subjects. This policy however antagonized both Catholic and Protestant opinion in Ireland.
Wentworth raised an army in Ireland to assist Charles I who was then engaged in a war with Scotland. This move caused alarm in the English parliament and Wentworth was later arrested and charged with treason. [He was subsequently found guilty and executed in 1641.]
In Ulster a rebellion broke out fuelled by unrest amongst the native Irish population. The focus of the attacks were those Protestant settlers who had arrived in the wake of the recent plantations. Reports of the massacre of Protestants at locations in Ulster provoked widespread anger in England.
In England a civil war broke out between Charles I and the English parliament.
The revolt in Ulster began to spread throughout Ireland with remaining Catholic landowners, both native Irish and Anglo-Irish (now widely known as the ‘Old English’) taking up arms in the defence of their religion and property. This alliance was formally established at a meeting in Kilkenny and was subsequently referred to as the ‘Confederation of Kilkenny’. To try to suppress the revolt in Ireland the English parliament passed the Adventurers Act. This provided for investors to pay the cost of subduing the rising in return for receiving land that would be confiscated in Ireland.
An army largely consisting of Scottish Protestants and led by Robert Munro arrived in Ulster.
In many parts of Ireland there was widespread unrest as rival armies fought for supremacy.
A papal envoy, Archbishop Rinuccini, arrived in Ireland and through the ‘Confederation of Kilkenny’ he attempted to provide a unified course of action amongst those involved in the rebellion. This objective however was not to be achieved and instead the Confederation was affected by a power struggle between competing factions.
In one of the major battles of the rebellion in Ireland, Owen Roe O’Neill, the leader of the rebel army in Ulster, defeated the Scottish forces under Munro at the Battle of Benburb.
A series of military setbacks forced Charles I to sue for peace and as a result it was to be the Parliamentary forces that emerged victorious from the English civil war. [During 1647-48 the conflict was to briefly reignite between Charles I and the parliamentarians.]
After being tried for treason Charles I was executed in London. England was declared a Commonwealth with Oliver Cromwell later assuming the title of Lord Protector (1653-58).
Oliver Cromwell, who had emerged as the dominant political and military figure on the Parliamentary side during the English civil war, arrived in Ireland. Influenced by the massacre of Protestants in 1641 he was determined to harshly punish all those implicated in the rebellion in Ireland. The tone was set when the towns of Drogheda and Wexford were seized by his army and survivors massacred.
The task of subduing Ireland resumed.
The English parliament passed The Act for Settling Ireland. This piece of legislation outlined the range of punishments that were to be inflicted on all those in Ireland involved, actively or passively, in the 1641 rebellion. For instance all Catholic land was to be confiscated and to be redistributed as a means of paying Cromwell’s soldiers and those investors who had paid for the cost of subjugating Ireland. Former Catholic landowners and their supporters were to be exiled to the province of Connacht.
The task of carrying out the surveys to allow for the Cromwellian plantation of Ireland began in earnest.
All Catholic landowners and their followers were ordered to make their way to Connacht. Elsewhere prisoners of war, Catholic priests, vagrants and others deemed to be ‘undesirables’ were transported to English possessions in the West Indies.
Oliver Cromwell died on 3rd September 1658.
Following a period of political instability the monarchy was restored in England and Charles II (1660-85) succeeded his father to the throne.
Charles II agreed to restore the Irish parliament which had been closed by Oliver Cromwell.
The Irish parliament passed the Act of Settlement. In essence it proposed to recognise the recent Cromwellian land settlement in Ireland but also to establish a Court of Claims to hear the cases of those who alleged that their land had been confiscated unfairly.
Legislation was passed by the English parliament prohibiting all exports of wool from Ireland.
Further legislation was enacted by the English parliament restricting Irish trade. Irish cattle exports and other general trade with England and the colonies was to be controlled.
The Irish parliament passed, the Act of Uniformity, which limited all religious, teaching and official positions to those people who were members of the Church of Ireland.
The Test Act stipulated that all appointed office holders in Ireland must participate in and take Church of Ireland sacraments.
In England allegations of a "Popish Plot" to overthrow Charles II emerged and lead to widespread public suspicion of Catholics throughout the kingdom.
Oliver Plunkett, then Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, was arrested and put on trial over his alleged involvement in the "Popish Plot".
After been found guilty of treason Oliver Plunkett, then Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, was executed in London.
The death occurred of Charles II. Without an heir the throne of England and Ireland passed to his brother, James II (1685-88). For many in England and Ireland the new king was viewed with suspicion given the fact that he had become a convert to Catholicism.
Under the direction of James II the Irish exchequer was directed to pay Catholic bishops and archbishops.
Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell, a close friend and ally of James II was appointed Lord Deputy in Ireland. His plans however soon provoked unease when for instance Protestant officials were replaced by Catholics. Furthermore he confirmed his intention to press ahead with plans to call an Irish parliament to overturn the land settlement in Ireland that had been agreed by the Act of Settlement 1662.
The concerns of Protestant opinion in England and Ireland were increased further when the wife of James II gave birth to a son. This confirmed the fear that a new Catholic royal dynasty was about to be emerge. Prompted by this development a number of prominent Englishmen decided to approach Prince William of Orange and his wife, Mary, the Protestant daughter of James II, to accept the throne. Both arrive in England and attract widespread support for their cause. In response to their arrival on English soil James II fled to France. In Ireland Protestant citizens of the walled city of Derry refused to hand the city over to troops loyal to James II and a siege began in December 1688.
William and Mary accepted the invitation of the English parliament and agreed to rule as joint sovereigns (1689-94). James II arrived in Ireland at the head of a French army and appealed to Catholic opinion to rally to his cause. (His supporters were commonly referred to as Jacobites and support for James as Jacobitism). On 28 July 1689 the siege of Derry was lifted.
With his position in England secured William of Orange, now officially William III, arrived in Ireland at Carrickfergus. In July 1690 the armies of James II and William III met at the Battle of the Boyne. Following his defeat James left Ireland whilst his forces decided to fall back on a defensive line along the River Shannon.
In a decisive battle at Aughrim the Williamite army now under the command of General Ginkel defeated the Jacobite forces under the French General, the Marquis de St Ruth. Following their defeat the remaining Jacobites fell back on the city of Limerick and the city was surrounded and besieged by the Williamites. The siege was ended with the signing of the Treaty of Limerick between Ginkel and the Irish commander in the city, Patrick Sarsfield. This allowed for over 10,000 Jacobite troops to leave Ireland for France, where they later become known as the "Wild Geese". For those supporters of James II who remained in Ireland they were promised that religious tolerance of the Catholic faith will be maintained.
Large areas of land in Ireland belonging to Catholic supporters of the Jacobite cause were seized. [In 1641 it has been estimated that the percentage of land held by Catholics in Ireland was 59 per cent, this subsequently dropped to 22 per cent as a result of the Cromwellian settlement, and dropped further to 14 per cent in 1695.]
On the death of his wife Mary, William III, became the sole monarch of England and Ireland (1694-1702).
With the Irish Parliament now firmly under the control of Protestant landowners (this group was often referred to as the Protestant Ascendancy or Anglo-Irish Ascendancy) legislation was passed which directly contravened the promise of religious tolerance set out in the Treaty of Limerick. Over the next decade these ‘Penal Laws’ placed restrictions on the Catholic faith. For instance Catholics were to be forbidden to hold any state offices, stand for Parliament or vote in any election, join the army or navy, buy land, hold a lease on a plot of land for more than 31 years, to educate their children or open schools, and severe limitations were placed on the type of activities that Catholic clergy were allowed to carry out. (The last of the ‘Penal Laws’ were not overturned until 1829.)
Legislation was passed in the English and Irish parliaments placing restrictions and duties on Irish wool exports to England.
William III died without an heir and the throne passes to the second daughter of James II, Anne, who had been brought up as a Protestant. Queen Anne (1702-14) was to be the last English monarch from the Stuart dynasty.
The Scottish parliament voted to dissolve itself and accept legislation which united the separate kingdoms of England and Scotland into one kingdom.
The death of Queen Anne led to the ascension to the throne of George I, the first English monarch to come from the Hanoverian dynasty.
It was estimated that the percentage of land owned by Catholics in Ireland had fallen to 7 per cent.
The Toleration Act was passed and this lifted some of the restrictions imposed on Protestant dissenters in Ireland (largely Presbyterians) by the Act of Uniformity 1666.
Legislation was passed by the English parliament which further limited the power and influence of its Irish counterpart. The Declaratory Act (also known as the Sixth of George I) asserted the right of the English parliament to pass legislation which would also be binding in Ireland. Jonathan Swift published ‘A Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture’. This called for the boycott of English goods in retaliation at the restrictions placed on Irish trade.
Jonathan Swift published ‘Drapier’s Letters’, a series of pamphlets which attacked the English government’s decision to award a patent to mint Irish coinage. It was alleged that the patent had been bought from the Duchess of Kendal, then mistress of George I.
The death of George I led to the ascension to the throne of his son as George II (1727-60).
Those remaining Catholic freeholders in Ireland who still had access the electoral franchise lost this right under legislation passed by the Irish parliament.
The Julian Calendar was replaced by the Gregorian Calendar.
George II died and his grandson, George III (1760-1820) succeeded him as king.
Agrarian unrest affected many parts of the Irish countryside. This led to the emergence of secret organisations amongst the Irish peasantry, such as the ‘Whiteboys’. These groups, although largely made up of Catholics, did not overtly campaign on political issues as such but instead concentrated on agrarian grievances. These included the enclosure of common land, the spread of livestock at the expense of tillage and the payment of a tithe to the established Church of Ireland.
The Octennial Act was passed limiting the term of the Irish parliament to eight years.
Legislation was passed allowing Irish Catholics to lease bog-land.
In the American colonies growing tension between the colonists and the English crown eventually led to the outbreak of armed hostilities and the American War of Independence (1775-83).
To assist with the war effort against the American colonies English troops were removed from Ireland and dispatched to America.
With the removal of English troops from Ireland the fear of invasion increased amongst Protestant opinion in Ireland. As a result the decision was taken to form a Volunteer force to guard against such a possibility. This quickly grew in popularity and within a short period of time some 40,000 Volunteers had been enlisted. A Relief Act was passed by the Irish parliament which lifted restrictions on Catholics inheriting land and their ability to secure long-term leases.
At a rally of the Volunteers in Dublin a call was made demanding that all trade restrictions placed by the English parliament on Irish goods be lifted.
The English parliament offered concessions on the issue of free trade for Ireland.
Encouraged by its success over the issue of free trade, the Volunteer movement went on to demand that all controls and restrictions imposed on the Irish parliament by its English counterpart be lifted (this demand was generally referred to as ‘legislative independence’).
At a convention of the Volunteers held in Dungannon, County Tyrone, delegates supported the call for ‘legislative independence’. The English parliament effectively conceded the principle of ‘legislative independence’ by moving to repeal the Declaratory Act and to amend Poynings Law. The figure most associated with the campaign, was the Irish MP Henry Grattan, and in the wake of the reforms the Irish parliament becomes known as ‘Grattan’s Parliament’. A further series of Relief Acts were enacted restoring further property rights to Irish Catholics.
At a convention of the Volunteer movement in Dublin demands were made for the reform of the Irish parliament.
In Belfast the Society of United Irishmen was established. The new organisation inspired by the ideal of the French Revolution and consisting of largely radical Presbyterians set out to secure parliamentary reform along with the ending of English control over Irish affairs.
A young Protestant barrister, Wolfe Tone, was appointed as Secretary of the Catholic Committee, a body which sought to represent the interests of Catholics in Ireland. A convention called by the Catholic Committee met in Dublin and agreed to send a delegation, including Wolfe Tone, to London. There was a further relaxation of the Penal Laws in Ireland as a result of a Relief Act that allowed Catholics to have their own schools and to practice law.
A further Relief Act restored the parliamentary franchise to Irish Catholics and removed most of the remaining legal restrictions that had been placed on them.
The authorities moved to suppress the United Irishman and in response the organisation decided to turn itself into a secret society. Furthermore it committed itself to organising an armed rebellion in order to remove English control over Ireland. Leading members of the United Irishman, such as Wolfe Tone, decided to leave Ireland in search of military assistance for their plans.
In the village of Loughall, County Armagh, there were sectarian clashes between Protestant and Catholics. The violence was centred on rival agrarian gangs, the Catholic ‘Defenders’ and the Protestant ‘Peep of the Day Boys’. During one of these confrontations, which was subsequently known as the Battle of the Diamond, the ‘Peep of Day Boys’ overcame the Defenders. Following this victory the Orange Order was established on 21 September 1795 to commemorate the victory of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
The first Orange Order parade to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne was held on 12 July 1796 (the 'twelfth'). French fleet of thirty-five ships with Wolfe Tone on board tried to land in Ireland at Bantry Bay but were prevented from doing so by bad weather.
Alarmed by the apparent threat of an armed uprising the authorities in Ireland imposed martial law and this was then combined with harsh anti-insurgency measures across the Irish countryside.
The United Irishmen planned for a national uprising for May but the plans were thwarted when most of its leadership was arrested. During May and June 1798 however a series of local risings did break out. In County Wexford a force led by a Catholic priest, Father John Murphy, achieved some initial success but then suffered a fatal defeat at the Battle of Vinegar Hill. Meanwhile in Ulster, the rebellion was centred on the counties of Antrim and Down and was largely made up of Presbyterians who were members or sympathetic to the cause of the United Irishmen. Again however early success was hard to sustain and the rising in Ulster ended with the decisive battles of Antrim and Ballynahinch. Then in August 1798 a small French force under General Humbert landed in the west of Ireland in County Mayo. It too gained some early military victories but an attempt to march on Dublin to attract new support failed and Humbert was defeated at Ballinamuck, County Longford. Finally in October 1798 a French invasion fleet was defeated of the coast of Donegal and Wolfe Tone was captured. On 19 November 1978 Tone committed suicide.
In response to the recent events in Ireland the English authorities decided that stability could only be restored through a ‘union’ between Great Britain and Ireland. Legislation was drawn up to make this possible and included the decision to seek the abolition of the Irish parliament. The task of guiding the necessary legislation through the Irish parliament was given to Robert Stewart, later known as Viscount Castlereagh, then Chief Secretary for Ireland.
See also: Events 1800-1967 and chronologies 1968-2001
Bardon, J. (1992) A History of Ulster. Belfast: Blackstaff Press.
Barton, Brian. (1996) A Pocket History of Ulster. Dublin: The O'Brien Press.
Beckett, J.C. (1981) The Making of Modern Ireland 1603-1923. London: Faber and Faber.
Buckland, P. (1981) A History of Northern Ireland. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan.
Kee, Robert. (1982) Ireland: A History. London: Sphere Books Ltd.
Power, Patrick.C., and Duffy, Sean. (2001) The Timechart History of Ireland. London: Worth Press Ltd.