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derived from British ancestors™ to be ˜governed according to the munici-
pal and fundamental laws of England™.   In a celebrated speech of 1641,
Patrick Darcy, an Old English lawyer from Galway educated at the Inns
of Court, who was to become a Confederate Catholic during the 1640s,
vaunted the identity and concomitant liberties of the king™s loyal English
subjects of the Irish kingdom:

to be governed only by the common laws of England, and statutes of force in this
kingdom, in the same manner and form, as his majesty™s subjects of the kingdom
of England, are and ought to be governed by the said common laws, and statutes
of force in that kingdom; which of right the subjects of this kingdom do challenge,
and make their protestation to be their birthright and best inheritance. À

However, this proved to be an ideological cul-de-sac, at least for the Old
English. In future this song would be sung only by the Protestant nation
in Ireland. The 1640s saw Gothicist constitutionalism displaced by a
more overtly Catholic pan-Irishness which did not sacriWce Stuart loyal-
ism, an ideology whose internal tensions were captured by the Confeder-

 ¦ P. Corish, The Catholic community in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Dublin,
1981), pp. 25, 39“46, 72; B. Fitzpatrick, Seventeenth-century Ireland (Dublin, 1988),
pp. 68, 72, 74, 177“8; M. Mac Craith, ˜The Gaelic reaction to the Reformation™, in S.
Ellis and S. Barber (eds.), Conquest and union: fashioning a British state 1485“1725
(London, 1995), pp. 156“7; Connolly, Religion, law, and power, pp. 114“16. For divi-
sions within the Old English community in the middle of the seventeenth century where
Keating and Darcy deployed similar ancient constitutionalist arguments, but with refer-
ence to diVerent ethnic-historical matter, see B. Bradshaw, ˜GeoVrey Keating: apologist
of Irish Ireland™, in Bradshaw, A. HadWeld and W. Maley (eds.), Representing Ireland:
literature and the origins of conXict, 1534“1660 (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 186“7; Leerssen,
Mere Irish, p. 277; Canny, ˜Responses to centralisation™, p. 156. However, for the
absorption of ˜Old English recusancy™ through a ˜general identiWcation between Gaelic
culture and Irish sanctity™, see Leerssen, Mere Irish, p. 268. For the role of Stuart loyalism
in the emergence “ not without serious tensions until after 1691 “ of Irish Catholic
´
nationhood, see B. O Buachalla, ˜James our true king: the ideology of Irish royalism in the
seventeenth century™, in Boyce, Eccleshall and Geoghegan, Political thought in Ireland,
and Barnard, ˜Settling and unsettling Ireland™, pp. 289“91.
   Quoted in J. Hill, ˜˜˜Ireland without union™™: Molyneux and his legacy™, in J. Robertson
(ed.), A union for empire (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 280“1.
 À An argument delivered by Patrick Darcy esquire, by the expresse order of the House of Commons
in the parliament of Ireland, 9 Iunii, 1641 (Waterford, 1643), p. 4. See A. Clarke, The Old
English in Ireland 1625“1642 (London, 1966), pp. 145“6.
The weave of Irish identities, 1600“1790 155

ate Catholic slogan: ˜pro Deo, pro rege, pro patria Hibernia unanimis™. Ã
The Old English would shed their dual Anglo-Irish identity for an
alternative hybrid, a Milesian mythistoire, refashioned by the Old English
antiquary GeoVrey Keating (1570?“1644?) in his widely disseminated
´
manuscript treatise Foras feasa ar Eirinn (c. 1634), • which celebrated the
grafting of the twelfth-century Normans on to the ancient Milesian stem
of the Irish nation. Though it has been described as ˜a monument to a
´
doomed civilization™, ’ Keating™s Foras feasa ar Eirinn marked a water-
shed in the emergence of an Irish Catholic identity capable of transcen-
ding the ethnic divisions of native Irish and Old English. As Brendan
Bradshaw has shown, Keating recognised the importance of explaining
the twelfth-century arrival of the Normans not as a conquest which
extinguished traditional Irish rights and institutions, but as a translatio
imperii under papal auspices by which Henry II was made responsible for
safeguarding the Catholic faith and the existing privileges of Ireland.
Furthermore, as Keating recognised, the Book of Invasions oVered a
traditional template for reconciliation, showing how the various ancient
waves of settlement on the island had contributed to the development of
its culture and institutions. The Old English conquest was assimilated to
this existing ˜multicultural™ vision. In the long run Keating™s polyethnicist
framework allowed the Old English to appropriate the history of Gaelic
Ireland as their own. “
As elsewhere in the early modern world, the primary domestic function
of stories of ethnic origins was to lend historic legitimacy to institutions,
both temporal and ecclesiastical. Externally, origin myths were deployed
to found or refute claims made by neighbouring kingdoms upon their
prized jurisdictions. For example, GeoVrey of Monmouth™s claim that
Ireland had been a tributary kingdom of a pan-Britannic English imperium
remained a staple of English political commentary into the seventeenth
century. “ In particular, Irish Catholic scholars “ Old English as well as
Old Irish “ rejected the charge that King Arthur had ever extracted tribute

 Ã Boyce, Nationalism in Ireland, p. 15; Fitzpatrick, Seventeenth-century Ireland, p. 178. For
divisions between Old Irish Rinuccinians and Old English loyalists which frustrated the
religious solidarity of the Catholic Confederation of the 1640s, see Leerssen, Mere Irish,
pp. 257“9.
´
 • GeoVrey Keating, Foras feasa ar Eirinn (ed. D. Comyn and P. Dineen, 4 vols., Irish Texts
Society, 1902“14).
 ’ T. Dunne, ˜The Gaelic response to conquest and colonisation: the evidence of the
poetry™, Studia Hibernica 20 (1980), 19.
 “ Bradshaw, ˜Keating™, esp. pp. 174“6; B. Cunningham, ˜Seventeenth-century interpreta-
tions of the past: the case of GeoVrey Keating™, IHS 25 (1986), 116“28.
 “ GeoVrey of Monmouth, The history of the kings of Britain (trans. L. Thorpe, Harmonds-
worth, 1966), pp. 221“2; A. HadWeld, ˜Briton and Scythian: Tudor representations of
Irish origins™, IHS 28 (1993), 390“408.
156 The three kingdoms

as a suzerain from their Milesian forebears. ” These antiquaries further
denied that English monarchs from Henry II onwards had enjoyed regal
sovereignty over Ireland. Rather, they argued, the kings of England from
Henry II to Queen Elizabeth I had exercised only a ˜lordship™ “ without
any suggestion of conquest “ over Ireland.À» John Lynch (1599?“1673?)
also challenged the authenticity of the supposed papal bulls transferring
sovereignty to the kings of England.À¦ From the reign of James VI and I,
however, as Irish royalist antiquaries boasted, matters were diVerent. For
James and his descendants came of Milesian blood through the Scottish
royal line. Coincidentally, it was only under the early Stuarts that Ireland
had been properly subdued by the British. Fortuitously, sovereignty
remained with the ancient Milesian kings and the Stuarts had justly
compelled the full allegiance of their Milesian kinsmen in Ireland. The
Gaelic antiquary and champion of Irish royalism, Roderic O™Flaherty
(1629“1718), argued in his Ogygia (1685) that only in 1603 was Ireland
formally subordinated to a mainland-based monarchy. SigniWcantly, Ire-
land had never submitted to the English nation or legislature, ˜nor ever
could submit to be governed by any prince save those descended from the
line of her ancient kings™.À 
Similarly, there was a dispute between Scottish and Irish historians as
to whether the Scots colony of Dalriada had acknowledged a tributary
status to the Milesian kingdom of the Irish motherland. Peter Walsh
denied the story found in the work of Scots historian George Buchanan
that King Gregory of Scotland had conquered Ireland in 875.ÀÀ Irish
historians also asserted that the Scottish nation in Scotland “ ˜Scotia
Minor™ “ had been tributary to the Hibernian parent-race.ÀÃ
Patriotic antiquaries rejoiced that Ireland had enjoyed well over 2,000
years of regal sovereignty. O™Flaherty boasted that the Stuarts derived
their greatest glory from their Milesian ancestry, and trumpeted the
superior antiquity of the kingdom of Ireland to the kingdoms of England
and Scotland. It was the antiquity of the Milesian throne, he claimed,
´
 ” Keating, Foras feasa ar Eirinn, I, pp. 13“17; John Lynch, Cambrensis eversus (1662: trans.
M. Kelly, 3 vols., Dublin, 1848“51), II, pp. 81“5; Walsh, Prospect, pp. 342“4, 396.
Keating also denied the claims that the Irish had been subjected to the Saxons and that
the Church of Ireland had been subordinate to Canterbury since the coming of August-
´
ine: Foras feasa ar Eirinn, I, pp. 25, 51“3.
À» Lynch, Cambrensis eversus, II, ch. 24, esp. pp. 517, 523, 525“7. À¦ Ibid., II, p. 567.
À  Roderic O™Flaherty, Ogygia, ˜Dedication™, I, p. xiv; Lynch, Cambrensis eversus, III, p. 53.
ÀÀ Walsh, Prospect, p. 373.
´
ÀÃ Keating, Foras feasa ar Eirinn, I, pp. 13“15; III, pp. 95“7; Lynch, Cambrensis eversus, II,
pp. 183, 227“9; Walsh, Prospect, pp. 16“18, 23“4. For the persistence of this argument,
see Hugh MacCurtin, A brief discourse in vindication of the antiquity of Ireland (Dublin,
1717), pp. 3, 166; Charles O™Conor, A dissertation on the Wrst migrations, and Wnal
settlement of the Scots in North-Britain (Dublin, 1766), p. 7; Theophilus O™Flanagan,
Deirdri (Dublin, 1808), ˜Preliminary discourse™, pp. 10“11.
The weave of Irish identities, 1600“1790 157

which gave the Stuarts precedence among the crowned heads of
Europe.À•
In Catholic Ireland the Milesian past also served another primary
function. The Gaels of Ireland, and the Hibernicised Old English, needed
to repudiate the charges of barbarism which had Wrst been heaped on
their culture by Giraldus Cambrensis and which were later reprised by
sixteenth- and seventeenth-century New English colonisers.À’ In their
eVorts to recover the historical origins of the Irish nation, Catholic
antiquaries, Old English as well as Old Irish, endowed Ireland with a
powerful sense of identity rooted in the idea of an ancient Gaelic civilisa-
tion. Some writers answered these calumnies by projecting the legend of
dark-age Ireland as an island of saints and scholars.À“ For example, the
work of the Four Masters in constructing a national past for the Gaelic
Irish in the seventeenth century was subordinate to the imperative for a
patriotic hagiography.À“ A large part of the eVort on this front involved the
repatriation of many of the Irish saints and scholars appropriated for
Scotland by the ˜notorious hagioclept™ Thomas Dempster (who had
exploited confusions surrounding the geographical term Scotia).À” Other
writers, including Philip O™Sullevan Beare, Keating and, most famously,
John Lynch in Cambrensis eversus (1662), saw that there were secular
aspects of ancient Gaelic civilisation of which the nation could be proud,
including law, medicine, commerce and the arts.û
Nevertheless, Gaeldom was neither promoted on its own terms, nor
defended in its totality. Keating, for example, argued that foreign critics
applied the wrong standard of judgement to Irish culture: they were
oblivious of the reWned life of the higher echelons of Gaelic society, and
what they denigrated was in fact the culture of the common people.
Keating objected Wercely to the assumption that the culture of the aristo-
cratic elite was barbaric, but he did not insist on a wholesale rehabilitation
of Gaeldom. The reputation of the lower segment of Gaelic society was a
À• Roderic O™Flaherty, Ogygia, I, p. 56. See also Thomas Comerford, The history of Ireland
(Dublin, 1755), ˜Preface™, p. vii; A letter from Dr. Anthony Raymond, to my Lord Inchiquin,
giving some account of the monarchs and ancient state of Ireland (Dublin, 1723), p. 10;
Sylvester O™Halloran, A general history of Ireland (2 vols., London, 1778), II, p. 68, for the
Irish basis of English claims to precedence at Constance.
À’ See Leerssen, Mere Irish, pp. 277“8, for Stephen White™s manuscript treatise Apologia pro
Hibernia adversus Cambrensis calumnias (c. 1615: ed. M. Kelly, Dublin, 1849) and John
Lynch, Cambrensis eversus (1662). À“ Leerssen, Mere Irish, pp. 259, 265“6.
´ Buachalla, ˜James our true king™, p. 21.
À“ Ibid., p. 267; O
À” W. Reeves, The Culdees of the British Islands (Dublin, 1864), p. 68; M. Mac Craith,
˜Gaelic Ireland and the Renaissance™, in G. Williams and R. Jones (eds.), The Celts and the
Renaissance (CardiV, 1990), p. 78.
û T. O™Donnell (ed.), Selections from the Zoilomastix of Phillip O™Sullivan Beare (Dublin,
´
1960), bk V, ret. vi“vii; Keating, Foras feasa ar Eirinn, I, pp. 39“41, 67“79; Lynch,
Cambrensis eversus, II, pp. 166“93, 272“9, 363“75.
158 The three kingdoms

matter of some indiVerence to Keating.æ His view was typical of early
modern Europe, a world where a commitment to hierarchy cut across
ethnic solidarity, and where an international caste of scholars had not yet
begun to value popular cultures.à
There was a political dimension to the argument for ancient Milesian
civility. Keating showed how under the lawgiving monarch Ollamh Fodh-
la a parliament, or feis, had been established at Tara in which the various
learned orders of Irish society had been represented.ÃÀ In the late seven-
teenth and early eighteenth centuries there was a royalist“Jacobite version
of the argument for Milesian civility. Antiquaries such as O™Flaherty and
Hugh MacCurtin (1680?“1755) answered the English charge of Gaelic
anarchy by envisaging an ancient Irish kingdom blessed with institutional
regularity and a due subordination of ranks.ÃÃ They were especially keen
to point out that the Irish pentarchy bore no resemblance to the ram-
shackle and anarchic Anglo-Saxon heptarchy. O™Flaherty contended that
one could not ˜produce an instance in all Europe of a more ancient,
perfect or better established form of government than that of Ireland;
where the sovereign power was concentrated in one king, and the sub-
altern power gradually descending to the lowest class of men, represents
and exactly resembles, the hierarchy of celestial choirs™.Õ
In the middle of the eighteenth century the Gaelic past was reimagined
by a new generation of ˜enlightened™ Catholic antiquarians. In 1756 the
Catholic Committee was established by Thomas Wyse (X. c. 1700“70),
Dr John Curry (d. 1780) and the antiquarian Charles O™Conor of Be-
lanagare (1710“90) to campaign for a relaxation of the anti-Catholic
penal laws.Ã’ To succeed in its aims the Catholic Committee had Wrst to
challenge a well-established set of Protestant prejudices, for the penal
laws had been introduced over a thirty-year period from the 1690s in
response to the anxieties of Ireland™s ruling Protestant minority.Ó Protes-
tant worries about the numerical dominance of Ireland™s Catholics were
far from chimerical, given popular memories of the ˜massacres™ which had
accompanied the Catholic rebellion of 1641 and the suVerings of the
siege of Londonderry during the Jacobite uprising of 1689. A culture of
Protestant defensiveness had grown up around these traumatic episodes,
fed by bestselling works such as Sir John Temple™s The Irish rebellion
(1646), a one-sided account of the events of 1641, and Archbishop
´ ´
Keating, Foras feasa ar Eirinn, I, pp. 5“7, 55“9; O Buachalla, ˜James our true king™, p. 18.
æ
See P. Burke, Popular culture in early modern Europe (London, 1978).
à
´
Keating, Foras feasa ar Eirinn, II, p. 133.
ÃÀ
Roderic O™Flaherty, Ogygia, I, p. 86; MacCurtin, Brief discourse, esp. pp. 61“2.
ÃÃ
Roderic O™Flaherty, Ogygia, I, pp. 51“2.
Õ
C. Leighton, Catholicism in a Protestant kingdom (Houndmills, 1994), p. 69.
Ã’
Bartlett, Fall and rise, ch. 2.
Ó
The weave of Irish identities, 1600“1790 159

William King™s The state of the Protestants of Ireland under the late king
James™s government (1691), both of which went through numerous edi-
tions.Ó The 23rd of October, the anniversary of the 1641 rising, became a
focal date in the Protestant calendar, a day devoted to anti-Catholic
sermonising.Ô In addition to demonising seventeenth-century Catholic
atrocities, Protestant propagandists also rehearsed the traditional English
attack on Gaelic barbarity, which provided an additional reason to fear
the Irish.•» Indeed, appropriating the Old English past for Protestant
purposes, Bishop Dopping calculated that the contumacious Gaels had
launched twenty-two general and forty-four local rebellions against the
English since 1172.•¦
The Catholic Committee devised a series of strategies to overcome
these various prejudices. For a start, the Catholic Committee pointed out
that the early modern wars of religion had run their course. In their
Observations on the Popery laws (1771), Curry and O™Conor endorsed the
politique tolerationist policies of post-Revolutionary Britain. Civil govern-
ment might Xourish free from domestic broils, eighteenth-century experi-
ence had shown, so long as all parties and confessions in a nation could
unite ˜in one creed of political faith™. The authors then set out to prove
from pre-Reformation English history that Roman Catholics, in spite of
slurs against the coincidence of popery and arbitrary rule, were capable of
passing a test of ˜civil Wdelity™ set by Hanoverian whiggery: ˜Magna Carta
itself, annual elections of our representatives, and the great sanctions of

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