Queen Elizabeth

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Queen Elizabeth was queen of England from 1558 to 1603. She wanted to have firm control of Ireland because she feared that her enemy, the Spanish and Catholic king, King Philip, would send forces to Ireland and would use them to attack England. She wanted Ireland to be loyal to England. To do this , she sent more English settlers to Ireland and gave them lands cheaply so that they would keep the neighbouring Gaelic clans and chiefs under control. Elizabeth also established a new religion from the protestant faith; it was called the Anglican faith.  

Rebellion in 1580

Munster was ruled at the time by a powerful family led by the Earl of Desmond, who at first was on friendly terms with the queen. However, in 1580, a rebellion began in Munster against Queen Elizabeth. Many of the families who lived there, such as the Fitzmaurices, hoped to get help from the Catholic king of Spain to defeat Queen Elizabeth. The Earl of Desmond did not put down the rebellion and was called a traitor by the agents of the queen. His estate lands were burned and his tenants were killed. The Earl’s castles were also taken.

In 1580, the Queen’s new deputy, Lord Grey, led an English fleet of ships into the bay of Smerwick (Dún an Óir in Irish) and laid siege to the fort which was being defended by six hundred Irish and Spanish soldiers. After three days the soldiers and the rebels surrendered. A monument was erected in 1980 to commemorate the massacre of the whole garrison which had surrendered at the fort of the Fitzmaurices in Smerwick, Co. Kerry.

In order to force other rebels to surrender during the 1580s, the English troops under Lord Grey destroyed the lands of the rebels in five counties. This caused a famine to occur in Munster.

The Earl of Desmond was hunted down and killed in 1583. Huge areas of land in Munster were taken over by the English crown. From 1585, the plantation of Munster began and new English settlers were given land. Many of the new settlers found it difficult to find the location of their new land and the local Irish population was hostile to them. About 300,000 acres of land were confiscated in total.

Some huge estates were given to Englishmen, such as Walter Raleigh. These new settlements were often attacked by the local population and many settlers decided to return to England.