The Kingdom of Ireland (Classical Irish: Ríoghacht Éireann; Modern Irish: Ríocht Éireann) was a nominal state ruled by the King of England and later the King of Great Britain that existed on Ireland from 1542 until 1800. While ruled by the King of England in personal union with his other realms, it had its own legislature (Parliament of Ireland), its own nobility (Peerage of Ireland) and its own legal system and codes until it was merged into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1800. It came into being when the Parliament of Ireland passed the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 and proclaimed King Henry VIII of England as King of Ireland. The territory of the Kingdom had previously had the status of a lordship held by the Crown. The Kingdom was administered from Dublin Castle nominally by the King of England, who appointed a viceroy (being the Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1542—1688 and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1688—1800) to rule in his stead.
The Parliament of Ireland passed the Acts of Union 1800 by which it abolished itself and the Kingdom. The act was also passed by the Parliament of Great Britain. The act also had the effect of establishing the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on the first day of 1801 by uniting the Crowns of Ireland and of Great Britain. In its early years, the Kingdom of Ireland had limited recognition. While some Protestant powers in Europe recognised Henry and his heir Edward as monarch of Ireland, no Catholic power did so. Henry's daughter, Queen Mary I of England, was recognised as Queen of Ireland by Pope Paul IV in 1555.
The papal bull Laudabiliter of Pope Adrian IV was issued in 1155. It granted the Angevin King Henry II of England the title Dominus Hibernae (Latin for "Lord of Ireland"). Laudabiliter authorised the king to invade Ireland, to bring the country into the European sphere. In return, Henry was required to remit a penny per hearth of the tax roll to the Pope. This was reconfirmed by Adrian's successor Pope Alexander III in 1172.
When Pope Clement VII excommunicated the king of England, Henry VIII, in 1533, the constitutional position of the lordship in Ireland became uncertain. Henry had broken away from the Holy See and declared himself the head of the Church in England. He had petitioned Rome to procure an annulment of his marriage to Queen Catherine. Clement VII refused Henry's request and Henry subsequently refused to recognise the Roman Catholic Church's vestigial sovereignty over Ireland, and was excommunicated again in late 1538 by Pope Paul III. The Treason Act (Ireland) 1537 was passed to counteract this.
Following the failed revolt of Silken Thomas in 1534–35, Grey, the lord deputy, had some military successes against several clans in the late 1530s, and took their submissions. By 1540 most of Ireland seemed at peace and under the control of the king's Dublin administration; a situation that was not to last for long.
Henry was proclaimed King of Ireland by the Crown of Ireland Act 1542, an Act of the Irish Parliament. The new kingdom was not recognised by the Catholic monarchies in Europe. After the death of King Edward VI, Henry's son, the papal bull of 1555 recognised the Roman Catholic Queen Mary I as Queen of Ireland. The link of "personal union" of the Crown of Ireland to the Crown of England became enshrined in Catholic canon law. In this fashion, the Kingdom of Ireland was ruled by the reigning King of England. This placed the new Kingdom of Ireland in personal union with the Kingdom of England.
In line with its expanded role and self-image, the administration established the King's Inns for barristers in 1541, and the Ulster King of Arms to regulate heraldry in 1552. Proposals to establish a university in Dublin were delayed until 1592.
In 1593 war broke out, as Hugh O'Neill, earl of Tyrone, led a confederation of Irish lords against the crown, in what later became known as the Nine Years' War. A series of stunning Irish victories brought English power in Ireland to the point of collapse by the beginning of 1600, but a renewed campaign under Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy forced Tyrone to submit in 1603, completing the Tudor conquest of Ireland.
In 1603 James VI King of Scots became James I of England, uniting the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland in a personal union. The political order of the kingdom was interrupted by the Wars of the Three Kingdoms starting in 1639. During the subsequent interregnum period, England, Scotland and Ireland were ruled as a republic until 1660. This period saw the rise of the loyalist Irish Catholic Confederation within the kingdom and, from 1653, the creation of the republican Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. The kingdom's order was restored 1660 with the restoration of Charles II. Without any public dissent, Charles's reign was backdated to his father's execution in 1649.
Poynings' Law was repealed in 1782 in what came to be known as the Constitution of 1782, granting Ireland legislative independence. Parliament in this period came to be known as Grattan's Parliament, after the principal Irish leader of the period, Henry Grattan. Although Ireland had legislative independence, executive administration remained under the control of the executive of the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1788–89 a Regency crisis arose when King George III became ill. Grattan wanted to appoint the Prince of Wales, later George IV, as Regent of Ireland. The king recovered before this could be enacted.
The Irish Rebellion of 1798, and the rebels' alliance with Great Britain's longtime enemy the French, led to a push to bring Ireland formally into the British Union. By the Acts of Union 1800, voted for by both Irish and British Parliaments, the Kingdom of Ireland merged on 1 January 1801 with the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Irish Parliament ceased to exist, though the executive, presided over by the Lord Lieutenant, remained in place until 1922. The union was later the subject of much controversy.
In 1937, the link to the British Crown was repealed, but the monarch was the de jure king in the new State until 1949. In the Republic of Ireland the 1542 Act was repealed in 1962. Political union between England and Scotland was established in 1707 with the creation of the Kingdom of Great Britain.
The Kingdom of Ireland was governed by an executive under the control of a Lord Deputy or viceroy. The post was held by senior nobles such as Thomas Radcliffe. From 1688 the title was usually Lord Lieutenant. In the absence of a Lord Deputy, lords justices ruled. While some Irishmen held the post, most of the lords deputy were English noblemen. While the viceroy controlled the Irish administration as the monarch's representative, in the eighteenth century the political post of Chief Secretary for Ireland became increasingly powerful.
The Kingdom of Ireland was legislated by the bicameral Parliament of Ireland, made up of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The powers of the Irish parliament were circumscribed by a series of restrictive laws, mainly Poynings' Law of 1494.
Roman Catholics and dissenters, mostly Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists, were excluded from membership of the Irish parliament from 1693 and their rights were restricted by a series of laws called the Penal Laws. They were denied voting rights from 1728 until 1793. The Grattan Parliament succeeded in achieving the repeal of Poynings' Law in 1782. This allowed progressive legislation and gradual liberalisation was effected. Catholics and Dissenters were given the right to vote in 1793, but Catholics were still excluded from the Irish Parliament and senior public offices in the kingdom. As in Great Britain and the rest of Europe, voting and membership of parliament was restricted to property owners. In the 1720s the new Irish Houses of Parliament were built in College Green, Dublin.
When Henry VIII was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church in 1538, all but two of the bishops of the Church in Ireland followed the doctrine of the Church of England, although almost no clergy or laity did so. Having paid their Annates to the Papacy, the bishops had no reason to step down, and in the 1530s nobody knew how long the reformation would last. Unlike Henry VIII, this hierarchy was not excommunicated by the Papacy, and still controlled what became the State Church of the new Kingdom in 1542, and retained possession of most Church property (including a great repository of religious architecture and other items, though some were later destroyed). In 1553 Irish Catholics were heartened by the coronation of Queen Mary I, who persuaded the Papacy to recognise the Kingdom in 1555, via the papal bull "Ilius".
Then in 1558 the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne, survived the 1570 bull Regnans in Excelsis, and all but one of the following monarchs were Anglican. Contrary to the official plan, the substantial majority of the population remained strongly Roman Catholic, despite the political and economic advantages of membership in the state church. Despite its numerical minority, however, the Church of Ireland remained the official state church until it was disestablished on 1 January 1871 by the Liberal government under William Ewart Gladstone.
The legacy of the Kingdom of Ireland remains a bone of contention in Irish-British relations to this day because of the constant ethnic conflict between the native Irish inhabitants and primarily the New English ruling caste (as well as a parallel conflict with settled Ulster-Scots). The regime privileged English culture (law, language, dress, religion, economic relations and definitions of land ownership) in Ireland, while the Gaelic culture and Irish language, though maintained to a significant extent by the majority of the native population was presented as "barbaric", "savage" or otherwise the mark of undesirability. While the Lordship of Ireland had existed since the 12th century and nominally owed allegiance to the English monarchy, many kingdoms of Gaelic Ireland continued to exist; this came to an end with the Kingdom of Ireland, where the whole island was brought under the centralised control of an Anglocentric regime based at Dublin. This phase of Irish history marked the beginning of an officially organised policy of settler colonialism, orchestrated from London and the incorporation of Ireland into the British Empire (indeed Ireland is called "England's first colony"). The theme is prominently addressed in Irish postcolonial literature.
The nominal religion of the native majority and its clergy; the Catholic Church in Ireland; was actively persecuted by the state and a set of Penal Laws in favour of the Anglican Church in Ireland, highly damaging to the native Irish Catholics, were erected. There is some controversy that during Tudor times, elements within the government at times engaged in and advanced a genocidal policy against the Irish Gaels, while during the Plantations of Ireland (particularly "successful" in Ulster) the local population were displaced in a project of ethnic cleansing where regions of Ireland became de-Gaelicised, which led in turn to bloody retaliations, which drags on to modern times. Some of the native inhabitants, including their leadership were permitted to flee into exile from the country following ending up on the losing side in conflicts (i.e. the Flight of the Earls and the Flight of the Wild Geese) or in the case of the Cromwellian regime were forced into indentured servitude in the Caribbean, following mass land confiscation for the benefit of New English settlers.
On the other hand, the fact that the kingdom had been a unitary state gave Irish nationalists in 1912–22 a reason to expect that the island of Ireland would be treated as a single political unit.
The arms of the Kingdom of Ireland were blazoned: Azure, a harp Or stringed Argent. A crown was not part of the arms but use of a crowned harp was apparently common as a badge or as a device. A crowned harp also appeared as a crest although the delineated crest was: a wreath Or and Azure, a tower (sometime triple-towered) Or, from the port, a hart springing Argent.
King James not only used the harp crowned as the device of Ireland, but quartered the harp in this royal achievement for the arms of that kingdom, in the third quarter of the royal achievement upon his Great Seal, as it has continued ever since. The blazon was azure, a harp or string argent, as appears by the great embroidered banner, and at the funeral of Queen Anne, King James' queen, AD 1618, and likewise by the great banner and banner of Ireland at the funeral of King James. The difference between the arms and device of Ireland appears to be on the crown only, which is added to the harp when used as a device. At the funeral of King James was likewise carried the standard of the crest of Ireland, a buck proper (argent in the draught) issuing from a tower triple towered or, which is the only instance of this crest that I have met, and therefore was probably devised and assigned for the crest of Ireland upon occasion of this funeral, but with what propriety I do not understand.— Questions and Answers, Notes and Queries, 1855, p. 350
The insignia of Ireland have variously been given by early writers. In the reign of Edward IV, a commission appointed to enquire what were the arms of Ireland found them to be three crowns in pale. It has been supposed that these crowns were abandoned at the Reformation, from an idea that they might denote the feudal sovereignty of the pope, whose vassal the king of England was, as lord of Ireland. However, in a manuscript in the Heralds' College of the time of Henry VII, the arms of Ireland are blazoned azure, a harp or, stringed argent; and when they were for the first time placed on the royal shield on the accession of James I. they were thus delineated: the crest is on a wreath or and azure, a tower (sometime triple-towered) or, from the port, a hart springing argent. Another crest is a harp or. The national flag of Ireland exhibits the harp in a field vert. The royal badge of Ireland, as settled by sign-manual in 1801 is a harp, or, stringed argent, and a trefoil vert, both ensigned with the imperial crown.— Chambers' Encyclopædia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge, 1868, p. 627
The red saltire on white ground which represents Ireland in the Union flag had only an ephemeral existence as a separate flag. Originating as the arms of the powerful Geraldines, who from the time of Henry II held the predominant position among those whose presence in Ireland was due to the efforts of the English sovereigns to subjugate that country, it is not to be expected that the native Irish should ever have taken kindly to a badge that could only remind them of their servitude to a race with whom they had little in common, and the attempt to father this emblem upon St Patrick (who, it may be remarked, is not entitled to a cross – since he was not a martyr) has evoked no response from the Irish themselves.
The earliest evidence of the existence of the red flag known to the author occurs in a map of "Hirlandia" by John Goghe dated 1576 and now exhibited in the Public Record Office. The arms at the head of this map are the St George's cross impaled on the crowned harp, but the red saltire is prominent in the arms of the Earl of Kildare and the other Geraldine families placed over their respective spheres of influence. The red saltire flag is flown at the masthead of a ship, possibly an Irish pirate, which is engaged in action in the St George's Channel with another ship flying the St George's cross. The St George's flag flies upon Cornwall, Wales and Man, but the red saltire flag does not appear upon Ireland itself, though it is placed upon the adjacent Mulls of Galloway and Kintyre in Scotland. It is, however, to be found in the arms of Trinity College, Dublin (1591), in which the banners of St George and of this saltire surmount the turrets that flank the castle gateway.
The Graydon MS. Flag Book of 1686 which belonged to Pepys does not contain this flag, but give as the flag of Ireland (which, it may be noted, appears as an afterthought right at the end of the book) the green flag with St George's cross and the harp, illustrated in Plate X, fig. 3. The saltire flag is nevertheless given as "Pavillon d'Ierne" in the flags plates at the commencement of the Neptune François of 1693, whence it was copied into later flag collections.
Under the Commonwealth and Protectorate, when England and Scotland were represented in the Great and other Seals by their crosses, Ireland was invariably represented by the harp that was added to the English and Scottish crosses to form a flag of the three kingdoms. At the funeral of Cromwell the Great Standards of England and Scotland had the St George's and St Andrew's crosses in chief respectively, but the Great Standard of Ireland had in chief a red cross (not saltire) on a yellow field.
When the Order of St Patrick was instituted in 1783 the red saltire was taken for the badge of the Order, and since this emblem was of convenient form for introduction into the Union flag of England and Scotland it was chosen in forming the combined flag of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1801.
Féach ár bpian le sé chéad bliain aige Gaill in éigean, gan rí dár rialadh de Ghaeil, mo chian, i ríoghacht Éireann.
(the above Gaelic sentence is translated a few lines later as:) Consider our torment for six hundred years by violent foreigners, with no king of the Gaels ruling us, my grief, in the kingdom of Ireland.
Here can be seen, in close association, expressions of religious loyalty to the pre-Reformation faith represented by Creggan churchyard; dynastic loyalty to the house of Stuart; and national loyalty to 'ríocht Éireann' , 'the kingdom of Ireland'.
The enactments concerns the Church in Queen Elizabeth's first Parliament had no unpleasant effects upon its governors; save that by the Act of Supremacy, or rather their own obnoxious conduct in defiance of it, two bishops were deprived of their sees: Leverious, bishop of Kildare, who refused to take the Oat of Supremacy; and Walsh, bishop of Meath, who not only refused to take the oath, but preached also against the queen's supremacy, and against the Book of Common Prayer.