A study of England's Irish policy, 1534-1540: with special reference to the role of Thomas Cromwell



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With regard to England's Irish policy, the years 1534-1540 are distinguishable from those which preceded or followed them. During these years, England ended a long practice of neglecting Ireland and made a concerted effort to increase royal authority there. This special policy for Ireland was prompted in part by the outbreak of an open rebellion against the King which occurred in Dublin in the spring of 1534. However, earlier direct challenges to Tudor authority from Ireland had been largely ignored, and factors other than the rebellion itself made Henry VIII decide to send an army from England to suppress the insurrection and then proceed to implement various administrative and ecclesiastical reforms in Ireland. Not the least of these factors was the rise of a new chief minister at court. By 1534, Thomas Cromwell had become Henry VIII1s principal administrative assistant and most important adviser on matters of policy. This paper examines the distinguishing features of Irish policy from 1534-1540 and attempts to discover the men and forces which promoted them. Since the years of England's rigorous program for Ireland coincide with the years in which Thomas Cromwell held preeminence at court, a special effort is made to determine his role in the formulation and execution of this policy.