Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland children's exhibition

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This article collects the children's exhibition material featured in Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland, one of the Exhibitions at the Folger.

Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland is an exhibition about two countries, England and Ireland, at a very important time in history. Although the two places are not very far apart, both have their own ways of doing things. When the English king, King Henry VIII, became king of Ireland in 1541, he found that it was not always easy to rule Ireland the same way he ruled England. Many wars and rebellions occured after he died.

Becoming One Kingdom

In 1541, a very important event happened that changed the history of England and Ireland. England and Ireland were joined under the rule of King Henry VIII. Most of the leaders in each place agreed to the change. For Irish leaders, they became connected to the powerful king of England. For the English king, he had a new realm to rule. However, what started with such promise soon led to wars and rebellions.

Did you know? Although Henry VIII was king of Ireland as well as king of England, he never visited Ireland.

A Soldier, a Lady, and a Pirate

Have you heard about Thomas Butler, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, or Grace O'Malley? If you haven't, you can find out about these famous Irish people now!

Thomas Butler

Thomas Butler was a cousin of Queen Elizabeth I. Stories say that he and Elizabeth played together as children and became good friends. When Elizabeth grew up and became queen, Thomas supported her. He fought her enemies in Ireland and he even built a beautiful house, Ormond Castle, that legend says was for Queen Elizabeth in case she ever needed a place to stay in Ireland. Unfortunately, she never came to visit. The castle is still standing today.

Elizabeth Fitzgerald

Elizabeth Fitzgerald lived in London among kings and queens of England, although she had been born in Ireland. Elizabeth was famous for her beauty, and in her lifetime people called her "The Fair Geraldine." She became a close friend and lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I. But kings and queens could change their minds easily, and sometimes Elizabeth Fitzgerald and the queen did not get along. However, Elizabeth Fitzgerald was never in trouble permanently and she became a wealthy and powerful woman.

Grace O'Malley

Grace O'Malley did a very unusual thing for a woman in the 1500s — she became a pirate! Grace led a fleet of ships on the western coast of Ireland. Sometimes she collected money from other ships she found in "her" waters. Sometimes, she sent her ships to trade and bring back items that could be sold in Ireland. Grace O'Malley had her own castle and became very rich. She is still famous in Ireland today, and even had a play made up about her called The Pirate Queen!

Shakespeare and Ireland

As far as we know, the famous poet and playwright William Shakespeare never went to Ireland himself. However, Ireland appears in several of his plays. It is clear that Shakespeare knew about Ireland and wanted to write about it.

  • In Macbeth, Donalbain, the younger son of the king of Scotland, runs away to Ireland after his father is killed.
  • In Henry V, Captain Macmorris is an Irish soldier who fights with young King Henry in France.


Did you know? England and Ireland are less than 100 miles apart. It was not long before Shakespeare's plays were being performed in Ireland. Scholars believed the first performances may have happened in 1662.

Learn Irish Words and Phrases

Below you will see some basic Irish words and phrases. The Irish phrase is on the left, with a pronunciation guide in parentheses. The English phrase is on the right.

Basic Irish Lesson

Dia Duit (dee-a gwitch)............................................Hello
Conas atá tú? (cun-as a-taw too)...............................How are you?
Tá mé go maith (taw may gu mah)..........................I'm good
Go raibh maith agat (gu ruh mah ah-gut)................Thank you
Cad is ainm duit? (cod iss an-im ditch)....................What is your name?
Lisa is ainm dom (____ iss an-im dum)...................My name is Lisa
Bíodh lá deas agat (bee-uch law jass ah-gut)............Have a nice day
Slán (slaw-n)...........................................................Goodbye

This lesson was developed by Lisa Judge.

Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland family guide