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The Protestant Ascendancy, known simply as the Ascendancy, was the political, economic, and social domination of Ireland between the 17th century and the early 20th century by a minority of landowners, Protestant clergy, and members of the professions, all members of the Established Church (Church of Ireland or the Church of England). The Ascendancy excluded from politics and the elite other groups, most numerous among them Roman Catholics but also members of the Presbyterian and other Protestant denominations, along with non-Christians such as Jews. Until the Reform Acts (1832–1928) even the majority of Irish Protestants were effectively excluded from the Ascendancy, being too poor to vote. In general, the privileges of the Ascendancy were resented by Irish Catholics, who made up the majority of the population.

The gradual dispossession of large holdings belonging to several hundred native Roman Catholic landowners in Ireland took place in various stages from the reigns of the Roman Catholic Mary I and her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth I onwards. Unsuccessful revolts against English rule in 1595–1603 and 1641–53 and then the 1689–91 Williamite Wars caused much Irish land to be confiscated by the Crown, and then sold to people who were thought loyal, most of whom were English and Protestant. English soldiers and traders became the new ruling class, as its richer members were elevated to the Irish House of Lords and eventually controlled the Irish House of Commons (see Plantations of Ireland). This class became collectively known as the Anglo-Irish.

From the 1790s the phrase became used by the main two identities in Ireland: nationalists, who were mostly Catholics, used the phrase as a "focus of resentment", while for unionists, who were mostly Protestants, it gave a "compensating image of lost greatness".[1] [2]

The festering sense of native grievance was magnified by the Great Irish Famine of 1845–52, with many of the Ascendancy reviled as absentee landlords whose agents were shipping locally produced food overseas, while much of the population starved, over a million dying of hunger or associated diseases. Ireland remained a net exporter of food throughout most of the famine. About 20% of the population emigrated. The Encumbered Estates Act of 1849 was passed to allow landlords to sell mortgaged land, where a sale would be restricted because the land was "entailed". Over ten percent of landlords went bankrupt as their tenants could not pay any rent due to the famine.[15] One example was the Browne family which lost over 50,000 acres (200 km2) in County Mayo.[16]

Land War

As a consequence, the remnants of the Ascendancy were gradually displaced during the 19th and early 20th centuries through impoverishment, bankruptcy, the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland by the Irish Church Act 1869 and finally the Irish Land Acts, which legally allowed the sitting tenants to buy their land. Some typical "Ascendancy" land-owning families like the Marquess of Headfort and the Earl of Granard had by then converted to Catholicism, and a considerable number of Protestant Nationalists had already taken their part in Irish history. The government-sponsored Land Commission then bought up a further 13 million acres (53,000 km2) of farmland between 1885 and 1920 whe

The festering sense of native grievance was magnified by the Great Irish Famine of 1845–52, with many of the Ascendancy reviled as absentee landlords whose agents were shipping locally produced food overseas, while much of the population starved, over a million dying of hunger or associated diseases. Ireland remained a net exporter of food throughout most of the famine. About 20% of the population emigrated. The Encumbered Estates Act of 1849 was passed to allow landlords to sell mortgaged land, where a sale would be restricted because the land was "entailed". Over ten percent of landlords went bankrupt as their tenants could not pay any rent due to the famine.[15] One example was the Browne family which lost over 50,000 acres (200 km2) in County Mayo.[16]

Land War

As a consequence, the remnants of the Ascendancy were gradually displaced during the 19th and early 20th centuries through impoverishment, bankruptcy, the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland by the As a consequence, the remnants of the Ascendancy were gradually displaced during the 19th and early 20th centuries through impoverishment, bankruptcy, the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland by the Irish Church Act 1869 and finally the Irish Land Acts, which legally allowed the sitting tenants to buy their land. Some typical "Ascendancy" land-owning families like the Marquess of Headfort and the Earl of Granard had by then converted to Catholicism, and a considerable number of Protestant Nationalists had already taken their part in Irish history. The government-sponsored Land Commission then bought up a further 13 million acres (53,000 km2) of farmland between 1885 and 1920 where the freehold was assigned under mortgage to tenant farmers and farm workers.

Nationalist movement