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A History of Silken Thomas in Ireland

pardon granted
by vtemz

Article by Russell Shortt

In 1534, Garret Oge, Earl of Kildare and Chief Governor was summoned to England by Henry VIII. He entrusted the administration of the country to his eldest son, Thomas, Lord Offaly. On 11 June 1534, Offaly galloped into Dublin with a band of armed men each sporting a silken fringe on his jacket giving Lord Offaly the moniker of ‘Silken Thomas’. He strode into the council chamber of St. Mary’s Abbey and declared that he was no longer the king’s deputy but his enemy. Some accounts of this saga attribute Thomas’ actions to youthful impetuosity on hearing that his father had been imprisoned in the Tower of London but others state that his father had orchestrated the whole event to indicate to Henry VIII that he could not rule Ireland without the complicity of the Earls of Kildare. Silken Thomas demanded a royal pardon for the rebellion and permission to hold the chief governorship for life. In July he attacked Dublin Castle but failed to take it and his troops were routed. He ordered the execution of Archbishop Alen at Clontarf, thus losing the support of the clergy. His father died in London, technically making Thomas the tenth Earl of Kildare, although the Crown never recognised his title. He retreated to his Maynooth stronghold but in March 1535 this was taken by the king’s representative Sir William Skeffington. Skeffington granted the survivors ‘the pardon of Maynooth’, which is to say that he executed them. This action was without precedent in Irish wars but it was a foretaste of what was to come. Silken Thomas had wrongly expected his insurrection to attract widespread support especially from Catholics opposed to King Henry VIII’s Reformation. In July 1535, Lord Leonard Grey was appointed as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Silken realising that further resistance was futile surrendered requesting pardon for his offences. In October he was sent as a prisoner to the Tower of London, despite Grey’s guarantee he was hanged, drawn and quartered with his five uncles in February 1537. This completed the downfall of the House of Kildare, from then on the viceroy was to be an Englishman and until 1922 there would always be an English army in Dublin.

Russell Shortt is a travel consultant with Exploring Ireland, the leading specialists in customised, private escorted tours, escorted coach tours and independent self drive tours of Ireland. Article source: http://www.exploringireland.net

About the Author

Russell Shortt is a travel consultant with Exploring Ireland, the leading specialists in customised, private escorted tours, escorted coach tours and independent self drive tours of Ireland. Article source: http://www.exploringireland.net

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