Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland exhibition material

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This article offers a comprehensive and descriptive list of each piece included in Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland, one of the Exhibitions at the Folger.

London: City of Two Realms (case 1 and wall after case 1)

The 1554-1555 Office of the revels from Shrovetide. Folger Digital Image 60634.

London bore a heavy Irish mark, politically and culturally, in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Richard Duke of York's return from Ireland in 1450, where he served as Governor and enjoyed great support, helped spark the Wars of the Roses. The first Tudor king, Henry VII, (crowned 1485), would in turn face two Yorkist invasions launched from Ireland. Ireland was made a kingdom by Act of Parliament in 1541, and the crown's efforts to control the western realm inspired sixteenth-century mapmakers and historians: Knowledge equals power, and the Tudor capital was awash in new maps, histories, ethnographies, and political treatises concerning Ireland and its governance. Literary London, meanwhile, played to popular sentiment and emphasized the exotic character of the Irish in prose, verse, and drama.

Items included

Case 1

Wall after case 1

Dublin (case 2)

English and Irish noble connections played out in Dublin much as they did in London—at times harmonious, at times violently contentious. Founded by Vikings in the ninth century, Dublin was always an international settlement, and it became the de facto capital of the island by the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion in the late twelfth century. This first "English" conquest established intimate connections—by blood, marriage, and alliance—between nominally "English" and nominally "Irish" aristocracy. By the late Tudor period, the descendants of these two groups had become the "Old English" and "native Irish" (or "Gaels") respectively, and both were predominantly Catholic. The Tudor reconquest then introduced a (mostly Protestant) "New English" interest to this mingled society and thereby added a new level of complexity to cosmopolitan Dublin and the rest of the country.

Items included

Turmoil in the Pale: the Decline of Kildare (case 3 and wall above case 3)

The English Pale was an ill-defined legislative zone create in 1494 to protect Dublin's hinterland from what lay beyond. From its inception, the Pale was a site of cultural hybridity, political negotiation, and occasional rebellion. Most local nobles were of mixed English-Irish ancestry and they had to maintain allegiance to the distant English crown while living among the Gaelic neighbors, who had their own established language, laws and traditions. After Henry VIII's break with Rome, the nobles also had to defend their Catholicism against a state-sponsored Protestantism. The greatest of these families was the Fitzgeralds, earls of Kildare, who were among the most powerful and wealthy lords in all of England and Ireland. Until their rebellion in the 1530s, they regularly served as the English crown's cheif governors in Ireland.

Items included

Case 3

  • Richard Stanyhurst. De Rebus de Hibernia Gestis...1584. Call number: DA930.S8 1584 Cage; displayed title page.
  • Richard Stanyhurst. The First Foure Bookes of Virgil’s Aeneis. London: Henry Bynneman, 1583. Call number: STC 24807; displayed p. 1.
  • FACSIMILE from the National Gallery of Ireland. Attributed to the Master of the Countess of Warwick. Portrait of “The Fair Geraldine,” Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Countess of Lincoln (ca. 1528–90). Oil on panel, 16th century. NGI number: NGI.1195 and Image.
  • Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Sonnet to Elizabeth Fitgerald in Songs and Sonets. London: Richard Tottell, 1574. Call number: STC 13866 Copy 1; displayed fol. 5r and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Thomas Nashe. The Unfortunate Traveller. London: T. Scarlet, 1594. Call number: STC 18380; displayed p. 35.

Wall above case 3

Continuity & Change: Ormond’s Leinster (wall before case 4 and case 4)

The genealogy of the earls of Ormond. Folger Digital Image 62635.

As their rivals the Kildares fell from grace, the earls of Ormond rose to fill their place as the crown's Irish favorite. The greatest of the Ormond earls was Thomas "Black Tom" Butler (1531–1614), tenth earl of Ormond. He was a cousin of Queen Elizabeth and a man of immense wealth, connection, and diplomatic skill across cultural lines. While the earl's brothers in Tipperary took up arms against the government in 1569, Black Tom was staunchly loyal and helped to supress his rebellious brethren. Ormond spent many years at court in London and he also owned property in England. His proximity to the queen and near total power over his Irish territories aroused the envy of rivals on both islands.

Items included

Wall before case 4

  • FACSIMILE from the National Gallery of Ireland. Attributed to Steven van der Meule. Portrait of Thomas Butler (1532–1614), tenth Earl of Ormond. Oil on panel, 16th century. NGI number: NGI.4687 and Image.

Case 4

  • Dermot O'Meara. Ormonius. London: Thomas Snodham, 1615. Call number: STC 17761; displayed title page.
  • Genealogies of earls of England and Ireland. Manuscript, 1581 – c.1625. Call number: V.a.266; displayed leaf between 20 & 21.
  • LOAN courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University. Michael O’Byrne, scribe. Ag so Duainaire Aodha mac Seain UiBhruin ó Glen Moluara. Manuscript, compiled 1726–28. Harvard call number: MS Ir 6 and Harvard Digital Copy.
  • FACSIMILE from Houghton Library, Harvard University. Michael O’Byrne, scribe. Ag so Duainaire Aodha mac Seain UiBhruin ó Glen Moluara. Manuscript, compiled 1726–28. Houghton Call number: MS Ir 6 and Harvard Digital Copy.
  • FACSIMILE from Royal Irish Academy. Míchéal mac Peadair Uí Longáin, scribe. Miscellany, “Toghaim Tomas rogha” on “Black Thomas” Butler. Manuscript, 18th century. Shelf-mark: RIA, MS 23 N 15 and (Image)
  • FACSIMILE from the Huntington Library. Thomas Churchyard. A Scourge for Rebels. London: Thomas Dawson, 1584. Call number: 56400 and (Image)
  • Edmund Spenser. The Faerie Queene. London: John Wolfe, 1590. Call number: STC 23080 Copy 1; displayed sig. 2Q2v–2Q2r and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Attributed to Thomas Morgan. Leycesters Commonwealth. Paris, 1584. Call number: STC 19399; displayed p. 44–45.

Wall after Case 4

  • Plaster cast made from portrait in relief (1565–75) of King Edward VI, from the ornamental frieze of the Long Gallery, Ormond Castle, Carrick-On-Suir, County Tipperary, Ireland. Kindly reproduced for exhibition by the National Monument Service, Office of Public Works, Ireland.

Rebellion in Munster: the Fall of Desmond (case 5)

Like Ormond and Kildare, the house of Desmond in the southwest had a long, wealthy, and proud history in Ireland dating back to the Anglo-Norman invasion. Unlike its rivals to the north and east, however, it did not survive the Tudor period. The fifteenth earl launched a major rebellion that was crushed in 1583, and the crown, on the grounds of treason, siezed the earl's property and that of his rebel associates. The Desmonds had been one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in England and Ireland in the mid-sixteenth century; by the early seventeenth century, they had become powerless, and their titles passed into the hands of Richard Preston, Lord Dingwall, one of King James's Scottish favorites.

Items included

  • LOAN courtesy of Rolf and Magda Loeber. Francesco Petrarch. Le Volgari Opere del Petrarcha con la Espositione di Alessandro Vellutello da Lucca. Venice, 1525. (Image)
  • FACSIMILE from Lambeth Palace. Desmond pedigree. 17th century. Order No. MS 610.
  • Thomas Churchyard. The miserie of Flaunders, calamitie of Fraunce, misfortune of Portugall, unquietnes of Irelande, troubles of Scotlande: and the blessed state of Englande. London: Felix Kingston, 1579. Call number: STC 5243; displayed sig. C3v–D1.
  • FACSIMILE from Cambridge University Library. A[nthony] M[unday]. The True Reporte of the Prosperous Successe which God Gave Unto our English Souldiours. London: Edward White, 1581. (Image)
  • Edmund Spenser. The Faerie Queene. London: Richard Field, 1596. Call number: STC 23082 copy 2; displayed p. 466–467 and LUNA Digital Image.

Wall above Case 5

Vitrine after Case 5

Rise of the New English “New Men”: The Munster Plantation (case 6 and wall after case 6)

The death of the "Rebel Earl" of Desmond and that of many of his followers was a boon for newcomers. Almost half a million acres were siezed by the crown and distributed to those well-conected at cuort and those in government service, like the well-known poet Edmund Spenser. The result was Munster Planation, the largest colonial scheme in the country. It was based on humanistic and classical principles harking back to ancient Rome, as well as on modern surveying techniques. The primary goal of the Munster Plantation was to transform—with order, industry, and innovation—a supposedly savage, Catholic, backward, and degenerated Irish land into a Protestant and profitable realm that would be repeopled with English settlers.

Items included

Case 6

  • Richard Beacon. Solon his Follie. Oxford: Joseph Barnes, 1594. Call number: STC 1653.2; displayed title page.
  • Copy of letter from Erhardus Stibarus to Erasmus Neustetter from Lotichius, Elegiarum (Lyon, 1553), in the hand of Edmund Spenser. Manuscript, copied after 1576. Call number: X.d.520 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Georg Sabinus. Poemata. Leipzig, 1563? Call number: V.a.341; displayed title page.
  • Edmund Spenser. Amoretti and Epithalamion. London: P. Short, 1595. Call number: STC 23076; displayed title page and LUNA Digital Copy.
  • Edmund Spenser. Colin Clouts Come Home Againe. London: Thomas Creede, 1595. Call number: STC 23077 copy 4; displayed sig. A2r
  • Lodowick Bryskett. “A Pastorall Aeglogue upon the death of Sir Phillip Sidney Knight, & Co.” in Edmund Spenser Colin Clouts Come Home Againe. London: Thomas Creede, 1595. Call number: STC 23077 copy 2; displayed sig. H2r.
  • FACSIMILE from the Royal Irish Academy. Feargal Dubh Ó Gadhra, scribe. Court verse. Poem by Eochaid Ó hEodhusa in O’Gara manuscript, 17th century. Shelf Mark: RIA, MS 23 F 16 and Digital copy at Irish Script on Screen.

Wall after case 6

  • FACSIMILE from the National Gallery of Ireland. William Segar [attributed]. Portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh (1522–1618), Soldier and Historian. Oil on canvas, 16th century. NGI number: NGI.281.
  • LOAN courtesy of Elizabethan Gardens, North Carolina. Artist unknown, attributed to the school of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Portrait of Elizabeth I (1533–1603). Oil on oak panels, ca. 1593. Image.
  • FACSIMILE from Private Collection, via The Bridgeman Art Library. Portrait of a gentleman, said to be Edmund Spenser (c. 1552–99), the Kinnoull Portrait. Oil on panel, early 17th century. Image number: MOU84829.

Breaking the West: Queens, Captains, and Nobility in Connacht (case 7 and wall after case 7)

The province of Connacht experienced the same heady mix of negotiation, resistance, alliance, and violence that marked English–Irish contact in Leinster and Munster. Yet the government of Connacht was particularly prone to abuse by nominally loyal officials, many of them newcomers, who operated largely outside of crown control in remote parts of the realm. Not all of the entrenched local families in the west suffered in the late-Tudor and early-Stuart periods as a result, however. The O’Briens, a native Irish kingship of ancient ancestry, continued to rule as earls of Thomond and flourished during these turbulent times. They owed their success to their unswerving loyalty to the crown, but also in part to the fatal missteps of their rivals.

Items included

Case 7

  • John Speed. Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. London: Thomas Snodham, 1616. Call number: STC 23044; displayed map between p. 143–144 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • FACSIMILE from private collection. English School. Portrait of Sir William Fitzwilliam (1529–99), Lord Deputy of Ireland. 1595.
  • FACSIMILE from the National Portrait Gallery, London. Unknown artist. Sir Richard Bingham (1528–99). Oil on panel, 1564. NPG number: NPG 3793.
  • Program for The Pirate Queen. Hilton Theatre, New York. New York, 2007.
  • FACSIMILE from the Irish Image Collection/Getty Images. Rockfleet Castle on Clew Bay, County Mayo, Ireland (“Pirate Queen” Tower House). Photograph. Image.
  • Conrad Heresbach. Foure Bookes of Husbandry. London: John Kingston, 1578. Call number: STC 13197 copy 2; displayed sig. ij.
  • John Milton. “Lycidas” from Justa Edouardo King Naufrago. Cambridge: Thomas Buck, 1638. Call number: STC 14964; displayed p. 20–21.

Wall after Case 7

Wall before case 8

  • FACSIMILE. Mantle. Created December 2012 by Professor Robin Haller and students of the Textiles Program, School of Fine Arts and Communication, East Carolina University. Image and ECU blog post.

The Nine Year’s War (case 8)

The heavily marked-up title page of A letter from a souldier of a good place in Ireland, 1602. Folger Digital Image 62671.

The Nine Years’ War (1594–1603) was a watershed conflict in Irish history and a major event in England, costing more than all of Queen Elizabeth’s previous military forays combined. It ruined the career of the dashing second Earl of Essex, the Queen’s final favorite courtier, and it concluded only a few days after Elizabeth’s death in London. Commanding the “rebels” was the wily and supremely capable Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone. The protracted conflict began in Ulster; had its climax at the Battle of Kinsale (1601), at the opposite end of the country; and reached its denouement back in Ulster. It led to the destruction of the Munster Plantation in the south and, after many punishments, pardons, and minor rebellions, the beginning of the Ulster Plantation in the north.

Items included

James and the Three Kingdoms (case 9 and wall after case 9)

The end of the Nine Years’ War ushered in great change to Irish-English relations. Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, surrendered mere days after the death of Elizabeth I, last of the Tudor monarchs. Irish nobles faced a new dynasty, centered around Elizabeth’s successor, James Stuart. King James was the first monarch to unite the crowns of Ireland, England, and Scotland. He claimed descent from the peoples of all three kingdoms, and he worked hard to maintain peace between and among them. He worked equally hard to make the Irish nobility loyal to him, which he did by giving noble titles to favorites and selling them to loyal servants with deep pockets.

Items included

Case 9

Wall after case 9

  • English School, after Daniel Mytens. Portrait of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. Not before 1620. Oil on canvas. Call number: FPb55 and LUNA Digital Image.

Flight(s) of the Earls to the Continent and England (case 10)

The Irish nobility was an international one, and under the Stuart kings, many of its members moved outside of the realm. Sometimes their relocation was spurred by religious and political tensions: Many Gaelic lords fled to Continental Europe seeking the support of Catholic sympathizers. The momentous “Flight of the Earls” of Tyrone and Tyrconnell to Rome in 1607 is typically thought to mark the end of the Gaelic—and Catholic—order in Ireland. Sometimes flight was motivated by loyalty to England’s monarch, however, as when the Protestant Duke of Ormond joined his king, Charles II, in exile from Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth. Less well-known is the phenomenon of Irish nobles—both Catholic and Protestant—willingly leaving Ireland in order to be closer to the crown and court in England.

Items included

  • Maurice O'Fihely. Enchyridion Fidei. Venice: Boneto Locatelli, 1509. Call number: 159- 114q; displayed sig. A3r.
  • Richard Stanyhurst. De Vita S. Patricii. Antwerp: Christophe Plantin, 1587. Call number: BX4700.P3 S8 1587 Cage; displayed title page.
  • Phillip O’Sullivan Beare. Historiae Catholicae Iberniae compendium. Lisbon: Petro Crasbecckio, 1621. Call number: DA910.O7 Cage; displayed p. 14.
  • FACSIMILE from Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute, University College, Dublin. Tadhg Ó Cianáin. Diary of the Flight of Earls. Manuscript, ca. 1609. MS A 21 Digital copy at Irish Script on Screen
  • FACSIMILE from Hiram Morgan. Hugh O’Neill (back row, far left) in Rome. Detail from an Italian fresco (16th century). (Image)
  • Thomas Carve. Itinerarium. London: Nicholas Heyll, 1639. Call number: D915.C29 1639 Cage; displayed sig. )( 6.

The Ulster Plantation (case 11)

In 1607, the earls of Ulster abandoned their ancestral lands and moved to the Continent. This change had radical consequences for the north of Ireland as well as for the rest of the island. The crown read this move as proof of yet another plot between the earls and the Spanish against the English state. The ancestral territories of the O’Neills, O’Donnells, Maguires, and their supporters therefore fell to the crown, which turned these lands into the Ulster Plantation, a colonization scheme on an unprecedented scale in Ireland. British law and investment were introduced, and the region, which was previously deemed the most uncivil and intractable in Ireland, was newly populated with English and Presbyterian Scots settlers.

Items included

Land and Law: The New Nobility (pilaster after case 11, case 12, and vitrine after case 12)

The pedigree of the family of the Taylors of Shadoxhurst, 1665. Folger Digital Image 14470.

The defeat and exile of the Ulster earls caused revolutionary changes in landownership in the north and elsewhere in Ireland. The social landscape also underwent radical change, as the Stuarts worked hard to fashion a new nobility, like-minded and loyal. Whereas Elizabeth had been stingy with elevations to the nobility, James gave his subjects what they wanted. However, what began as a social good—the elevation of the loyal and deserving—quickly turned sour as the regime handed out titles to favorites and sold others to the highest bidders. Because of the new vacancies, Ireland typically served as the site of these new ennoblements. The crown even created a new category of minor nobility, the baronet, which could be peddled to social climbers with deep pockets, a development that scandalized the “ancient” nobility.

Items included

Pilaster after case 11

Case 12

  • FACSIMILE from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. Boyle’s funerary monument.
  • FACSIMILE from the National Library of Ireland. Thomond Pedigree. Manuscript, 16th century. (Image)
  • Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica. Dublin: David Hay, 1772. Call number: DA905.L8 Cage; displayed p. 196.
  • John Cusack. Ireland’s Comfort. Manuscript, 1629? Call number: G.a.10; displayed p. 175.
  • FACSIMILE from Lambeth Palace Library. Fear Flatha Ó Gnímh’s pedigree of Randall MacDonnell, a Scotsman made Viscount Dunluce in the Irish peerage.

Vitrine after case 12

Stuart Dublin (case 13)

Stuart Dublin was a very different provincial capital than Tudor Dublin. Military “pacification” of Ireland and the attendant process of “Anglicization,” as envisioned by New English policymakers like Edmund Spenser, Richard Beacon, and Sir John Davies, reshaped the social, cultural, and political landscapes of the city. The 1630s witnessed stunning growth and change for the capital. Under the stern viceregal eye of Sir Thomas Wentworth—close advisor to Charles I, and eventual Earl of Strafford—Dublin became a site of theater, learning, and high society. It also became a place of high political intrigue as Wentworth tested the king’s preference for absolute rule. Simultaneously, nobles of all backgrounds convened in Dublin during Charles’ reign.

Items included

  • Edmund Spenser. A View of the [Present] State of Ireland in Edmund Campion’s Two Histories of Ireland. Dublin: Society of Stationers, 1633. Call number: STC 25067a Copy 2; displayed part 3 title page.
  • FACSIMILE from Private Collection, via The Bridgeman Art Library. Sir Anthony van Dyck. Portrait of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford. Oil on canvas, 17th century. Image number: BAL14172.
  • Sir James Ware. De Scriptoribus Hiberniæ. Dublin: Society of Booksellers, 1639. Call number: STC 25066 Copy 2; displayed sig. A3.
  • James Shirley. The Royall Master. London: Thomas Cotes, 1638. Call number: STC 22454a copy 2; displayed title page.
  • James Shirley. St. Patrick for Ireland. London: J. Raworth, 1640. Call number: STC 22455 copy 1; displayed title page.
  • LOAN from Rolf and Magda Lorber. Sir Philip Sidney. The Countess of Pembrokes Arcadia. Dublin: Society of Stationers, 1621. (Image)

Irish London (case 14)

The London of the early Stuarts was truly an imperial center. Henry VIII may have made Ireland a kingdom, but James and his son, Charles I, governed over England, Ireland, and Scotland and, thus, over the budding British Empire. The imperial crown demanded religious and cultural uniformity of the entire population, not simply the loyalty of elites. Consequently, it had to defend the legitimacy of its claim to Ireland on ideological as well as political grounds. The Stuarts did, however, enjoy significant support among Irish nobles, some of whom made London their home. Ireland and the Irish would continue to influence the capital into the modern era.

Items included

  • James Ussher. A Discourse of the Religion Anciently Professed by the Irish and Brittish. London: Robert Young, 1631. Call number: STC 24549 Copy 1; displayed title page.
  • James Butler, Duke of Ormond, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Articles of Peace, Made and Concluded with the Irish Rebels, and Papists. Including “Observations” attributed to John Milton. London: Matthew Simmons, 1649. Call number: A3863; displayed title page.
  • Wenceslaus Hollar. The True Maner of the Execution of Thomas Earle of Strafford. London, between 1641 and 1677. Call number: ART 264809 (size S) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • John Ford. The Chronicle Historie of Perkin Warbeck. London: Thomas Purfoot, 1634. Call number: STC 11157; displayed title page.
  • Owen Felltham. Resolves: Divine, Morall, Politicall. London: for Anne Seile, 1661. Call number: F655; displayed sig. A1r.
  • FACSIMILE from His Grace the Duke of Bedford and the Trustees of the Bedford Estates. Circle of Peter Lely. Margaret Russell with her niece Lady Diana. 17th century.
  • FACSIMILE from the Royal Irish Academy. Mícheál Ó Longáin, scribe. Copy of poem to Meg Russell. Manuscript, 18th century. Shelf Mark: RIA, MS 23 G 20. (Image)
  • Henry Peacham. Minerva Britanna, or, A Garden of Heroical Devises. London: Wa. Dight, 1612. Call number: STC 19511 Copy 1; displayed p. 45 and LUNA Digital Copy.
  • James Howell. Mercurius Hibernicus. Bristol, 1644. Call number: H3093 Bd.w. STC 7434 Copy 2; displayed title page.