The bishops were summoned before the Deputy, Sir Anthony St. Leger, to receive the new English Liturgy, which, though written in a tongue as strange to the native Irish as Latin itself, was now to supersede the Latin service-book in every diocese. The order was the signal for an open strife. " Now shall every illiterate fellow read Mass," burst forth Dowdall, the Archbishop of Armagh, as he flung out of the chamber with all but one of his suffragans at his heels. Archbishop Browne, of Dublin, on the other hand, was followed in his profession of obedience by the Bishops of Meath, Limerick, and Kildare. The Government, however, was far from quailing before the division of the episcopate. Dowdall was driven from the country, and the vacant sees were filled with Protestants, like Bale, of the most advanced type. But no change could be wrought by measures such as these on the opinions of the people themselves. The new episcopal reformers spoke no Irish, and of their English sermons not a word was understood by the rude kernes around the pulpit. The native priests remained silent. " As for preaching we have none," reports a zealous Protestant, "without which the ignorant can have no knowledge." The prelates who used the new Prayer-book were simply regarded as heretics.
The Bishop of Meath was assured by one of his flock that, " if the country wist how, they would eat you." Protestantism had failed to wrest a single Irishman from his older convictions, but it succeeded in uniting all Ireland against the Crown. The old political distinctions which had been produced by the conquest of Strongbow faded before the new struggle for a common faith. The population within the Pale and without it became one, "not as the Irish nation," it has been acutely said, " but as Catholics." A new sense of national identity was found in the identity of religion. "Both English and Irish begin to oppose your Lordship's orders," Browne had written years before to Cromwell, "and to lay aside their national old quarrels".
With the accession of Mary the shadowy form of this earlier Irish Protestantism melted quietly away. There were no Protestants in Ireland save the new bishops; and when Bale had fled over sea, and his fellow-prelates had been deprived, the Church resumed its old appearance. No attempt, indeed, was made to restore the monasteries; and Mary exercised her supremacy, deposed and appointed bishops, and repudiated Papal interference with her ecclesiastical acts, as vigorously as her father. But the Mass was restored, the old modes of religious worship were again held in honour, and religious dissension between the Government and its Irish subjects was for the time at an end. With the close, however, of one danger came the rise of another. England was growing tired of the policy of conciliation which had been steadily pursued by Henry the Eighth and his successor. As yet it had been rewarded with precisely the sort of success which Wolsey and Cromwell anticipated: the chiefs had come quietly in to the plan, and their septs had followed them in submission to the new order. "The winning of the Earl of Desmond was the winning of the rest of Munster with small charges.
The making O'Brien an Earl made all that country obedient." The Macwilliam became Lord Clanrickard, and the Fitzpatricks Barons of Upper Ossory. A visit of the great northern chief who had accepted the title of Earl of Tyrone to the English Court was regarded as a marked step in the process of civilization. In the south, where the system of English law was slowly spreading, the chieftains sate on the bench side by side with the English justices of the peace; and something had been done to check the feuds and disorder of the wild tribes between Limerick and Tippe-rary. "Men may pass quietly throughout these countries without danger of robbery or other displeasure." In the Clanrickard county, once wasted with war, "ploughing increaseth daily." In Tyrone and the north, indeed, the old disorder reigned without a check; and everywhere the process of improvement tried the temper of the English Deputies by the slowness of its advance. The only hope of any real progress lay in patience; and there were signs that the Government at Dublin found it hard to wait.
The "rough handling " of the chiefs by Sir Edward Bellingham, a Lord Deputy under the Protector Somerset, roused a spirit of revolt that only subsided when the poverty of the Exchequer forced him to withdraw the garrisons he had planted in the heart of the country. His successor in Mary's reign, Lord Sussex, made raid after raid to no purpose on the obstinate tribes of the north, burning in one the Cathedral of Armagh and three other churches. A far more serious breach in the system of conciliation was made when the project of English colonization which Henry had steadily rejected was adopted by the same Lord Deputy, and when the country of the O'Connors was assigned to English settlers, and made shire-land under the names of King's and Queen's Counties, in honour of Philip and Mary. A savage warfare began at once between the planters and the dispossessed septs, which only ended in the following reign in the extermination of the Irishmen. Commissioners were appointed to survey waste lands, with the aim of carrying the work of colonization into other districts, but the pressure of the French war put an end to these wider projects.
Elizabeth at her accession recognized the risk of the policy of confiscation and colonization, and the prudence of Cecil fell back on the safer though more tedious methods of Henry.
The alarm however at English aggression had already spread among the natives: and its result was seen in a revolt of the north, and in the rise of a leader far more vigorous and able than any with whom the Government had had as yet to contend. An acceptance of the Earldom of Tyrone by the chief of the O'Neills brought about the inevitable conflict between the system of succession recognized by English and that recognized by Irish law. On the death of the Earl, England acknowledged his eldest son as the heir of his Earldom; while the sept maintained their older right of choosing a chief from among the members of the family, and preferred Shane O'Neill, a younger son of less doubtful legitimacy. Sussex marched northward to settle the question by force of arms; but ere he could reach Ulster the activity of Shane had quelled the disaffection of his rivals, the O'Donnells of Donegal, and won over the Scots of Antrim. "Never before," wrote Sussex, "durst Scot or Irishman look Englishman in the face in plain or wood since I came here; "but Shane had fired his men with a new courage, and charging the Deputy's army with a force hardly half its number, drove it back in rout on Armagh. A promise of pardon induced him to visit London, and make an illusory submission, but he was no sooner safe home again than its terms were set aside; and after a wearisome struggle, in which Shane foiled the efforts of the Lord Deputy to entrap or to poison him, he remained virtually master of the north.