The Elizabethan Soldier in Ireland
Cyrill Falls describes how a succession of rebellions challenged a sodden but sturdy English soldiery in late 16th century Ireland.
The wars in Ireland in the reign of Queen Elizabeth mean nothing to the average intelligent reader of history, and little enough even to most historians, because neither fully understand their background. They realize, it may be, that these wars were brought about to some extent by national sentiment and to a greater extent by religious sentiment; they may also see that the struggle was a phase of the English war with Spain.
Behind all this lie two factors not so well understood. First, there is the inevitable effort of the Renaissance states to absorb the surviving Celtic communities, as France did in Brittany, England in Wales and Cornwall, Scotland in some degree in her own Highlands. Secondly, there is the nature of the Irish people and countryside in those days and the peculiar problems which they presented to an English Government in Ireland and to English troops responsible for maintaining it and for suppressing revolt against it. In my recent book, Elizabeth’s Irish Wars, I did little more than mention the first of these factors, because I lacked room in which to do so, but to the best of my ability I made clear the second.
Since the day of Strongbow in the twelfth century England had established certain roots in Ireland. The towns, more often of Danish than of Irish origin, were generally loyal and contained a varying proportion of Anglo-Irishmen, descendants of the old settlers. In the English Pale, the five counties which could be held down from Dublin and the only region where the royal writ ran in troubled times, the inhabitants were also mainly of English birth.