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Kingdom of Ireland
Rioghacht Éireann


1542 – 1651
1651 – 1659 : Commonwealth
1659 – 1801

Coat of arms2

Capital Dublin
Language(s) Irish, English, Scots
Government Monarchy
 - 1542–1547 Henry VIII (first)
 - 1760–1801 George III (last)
Lord Lieutenant
 - 1541–1548 Anthony St Leger (first)
 - 1798–1801 Charles Cornwallis (last)
Legislature Parliament of Ireland
 - Upper house Irish House of Lords
 - Lower house Irish House of Commons
 - Crown of Ireland Act 1542
 - Act of Union 1 January 1801
Today part of  Ireland
 United Kingdom4
1From 1642, overlapping control with Confederate Ireland.
2See notes regarding use of a crowned harp as the arms of Ireland. No official flag is known to exist for the Kingdom of Ireland. Numerous unofficial flags were used throughout its history, including: 1. Azure, a harp Or, stringed Argent, based on the coat of arms adopted in 1541 and much later to become the presidential standard; 2. Vert, a harp Or, stringed Argent, the Leinster flag, used from the mid-17th century; and 3. Argent a saltire Gules, Saint Patrick's Flag,[1] from 1783. The latter was integrated into the Union Flag, the first flag officially used to represent Ireland. However, the second appears to have been the most popular and its use as a naval jack is debated as to whether it had official status or not.
3 Represented by a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
4Northern Ireland.

The Kingdom of Ireland (Irish: Rioghacht Éireann) was the name given to the Irish state from 1542, by the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 of the Parliament of Ireland. It was based on the contested legitimacy of the right of conquest. The new monarch replaced the Lordship of Ireland, which had been created in 1171. King Henry VIII thus became the first recognised King of Ireland since 1169. The separate Kingdom of Ireland ceased to exist when Ireland joined with the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801.


Reason for creation

The papal bull Laudabiliter of Pope Adrian IV, a native of Hertfordshire, England, was decreed in 1155. It granted the Angevin King Henry II of England who ruled from Anjou in France, the title Dominus Hibernae. Laudabiliter enabled the king to invade Ireland, in order to bring the country into the European sphere. In return, Henry was required to remit a penny per hearth of the tax roll to the Pope. This was reconfirmed by Adrian's successor Pope Alexander III in 1172.

When Pope Clement VII excommunicated the King of England, Henry VIII, in 1533, the constitutional position of the lordship in Ireland became uncertain. Henry had broken away from the Holy See and declared himself the head of the Church in England. He had petitioned Rome in order to procure an annulment of his marriage to Queen Catherine. Clement VII refused Henry's request for political as much as religious reasons. Henry subsequently refused to recognize the Roman Catholic Church's nominal sovereignty over Ireland. Henry was proclaimed King of Ireland by the Crown of Ireland Act 1542. The Act was passed by the Irish Parliament.

The new kingdom was not recognized by the Catholic monarchies in Europe. After the death of King Edward VI, Henry's son, the papal bull of 1555 recognised the Roman Catholic Queen Mary I as Queen of Ireland.[2] The link of "personal union" of the Crown of Ireland to the Crown of England became enshrined in Catholic canon law. However Mary and her husband, the then Philip, Prince of Asturias, were to be the last as well as the first Catholic monarchs of Ireland.[citation needed]

In this fashion, the Kingdom of Ireland was ruled by the reigning King of England. This placed the new Kingdom of Ireland in personal union with the Kingdom of England. In 1603 James VI King of Scots, became James I of England, which led to a Union in the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1707 the parliaments of Scotland and England were united at Westminster in London.

In 1801, the Irish and British parliaments were similarly combined in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.


The Kingdom of Ireland was governed by an executive under the control of a Lord Deputy or viceroy. The post was held by senior nobles such as Thomas Radcliffe. It was elevated to the title of Lord Lieutenant. In the absence of a Lord Deputy, lords justices ruled. While some Irishmen held the post, most deputies were English noblemen. While the viceroy controlled the Irish administration as the monarch's representative, in the eighteenth century the political post of Chief Secretary for Ireland became increasingly powerful.

Royal Coat of Arms after the Act of Union 1800
Displayed over the 19th century King's Inns in Dublin. These arms of dominion are similar to the royal arms before the union inasmuch as the arms of Ireland (the harp) form one quarter of the shield with the remaining quarters referring to the king's other realms: England, Scotland and Electorate of Hanover.

The Kingdom of Ireland was legislated by the bicameral Parliament of Ireland, made up of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The powers of the Irish parliament were circumscribed by a series of restrictive laws, mainly Poynings' Law of 1492.

Church of Ireland

The Church of Ireland became the established church in Ireland. It was not universally accepted, as some eighty percent of the population chose to reject Anglicanism. Roman Catholics and dissenters, mostly Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists, were excluded from membership of the Irish parliament from 1693 and their rights were restricted by a series of laws called the Penal Laws. They were denied voting rights from 1728 until 1793. The Grattan Parliament succeeded in achieving the repeal of Poyning's Law in 1782. This allowed progressive legislation and gradual liberalisation was effected. Catholics and Dissenters were given the right to vote in 1793, but Catholics were still excluded from the Irish Parliament and senior public offices in the kingdom. As in Britain and the rest of Europe, voting and membership of parliament was restricted to property owners. In the 1720s the new Irish Houses of Parliament was built in College Green, Dublin.

Grattan's Parliament

Poynings' law was repealed in 1782, granting Ireland legislative independence in what came to be known as the Constitution of 1782. Parliament in this period came to be known as Grattan's Parliament, after the principal Irish leader of the period, Henry Grattan. Although Ireland had legislative independence, its executive administration continued under British control. In 1788-89 a Regency crisis arose caused when George III became ill. Grattan wanted to appoint the Prince of Wales later George IV as Regent of Ireland. The king recovered before this could be enacted.

Union of kingdoms

The Irish Rebellion of 1798, and the rebels alliance with Great Britain's mortal enemy the French, led to a push to bring Ireland formally into the British Union. By the Act of Union, voted for by the Irish Parliament, the Kingdom of Ireland merged in 1801 with the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Irish Parliament ceased to exist, though the executive, presided over by the Lord Lieutenant, remained in place until 1922. The union was the subject of much controversy.[3]

The Act of 1542 that confirmed Henry VIII's Kingdom of Ireland and its link to the English crown was repealed in the Republic of Ireland in 2007, as part of a review of historic Irish law.[1][2]


  • de Beaumont, Gustave and William Cooke Taylor, Ireland Social, Political, and Religious :Translated by William Cooke Taylor : Contributor Tom Garvin, Andreas Hess: Harvard University Press : 2006 : ISBN 9780674021655 (reprint of 1839 original)
  • Pawlisch, Hans S., : Sir John Davies and the Conquest of Ireland: A Study in Legal Imperialism :Cambridge University Press, 2002 : ISBN 9780521526579
  • Keating, Geoffrey : The History of Ireland, from the Earliest Period to the English Invasion (Foras Feasa Ar Éirinn) Translated by John O'Mahony 1866 Full text at Google Books


  1. ^ W. G. Perrin and Herbert S. Vaughan, 1922, "British Flags. Their Early History and their Development at Sea; with an Account of the Origin of the Flag as a National Device", Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, pp. 51-52:
    The red saltire on white ground which represents Ireland in the Union flag had only an ephemeral existence as a separate flag. Originating as the arms of the powerful Geraldines, who from the time of Henry II held the predominant position among those whose presence in Ireland was due to the efforts of the English sovereigns to subjugate that country, it is not to be expected that the native Irish should ever have taken kindly to a badge that could only remind them of their servitude to a race with whom they had little in common, and the attempt to father this emblem upon St Patrick (who, it may be remarked, is not entitled to a cross - since he was not a martyr) has evoked no response from the Irish themselves.
    The earliest evidence of the existence of the red saltire flag known to the author occurs in a map of "Hirlandia" by John Goghe dated 1576 and now exhibited in the Public Record Office. The arms at the head of this map are the St George's cross impaled on the crowned harp, but the red saltire is prominent in the arms of the Earl of Kildare and the other Geraldine families placed over their respective spheres of influence. The red saltire flag is flown at the masthead of a ship, possibly an Irish pirate, which is engaged in action in the St George's Channel with another ship flying the St George's cross. The St George's flag flies upon Cornwall, Wales and Man, but the red satire flag does not appear upon Ireland itself, though it is placed upon the adjacent Mulls of Galloway and Kintyre in Scotland. It is, however, to be found in the arms of Trinity College, Dublin (1591), in which the banners of St George and of this saltire surmount the turrets that flank the castle gateway.
    The Graydon MS. Flag Book of 1686 which belonged to Pepys does not contain this flag, but give as the flag of Ireland (which, it may be noted, appears as an afterthought right at the end of the book) the green flag with St George's cross and the harp, illustrated in Plate X, fig. 3. The saltire flag is nevertheless given as "Pavillon d'Ierne" in the flags plates at the commencement of the Neptune François of 1693, whence it was copied into later flag collections.
    Under the Commonwealth and Protectorate, when England and Scotland were represented in the Great and other Seals by their crosses, Ireland was invariably represented by the harp that was added to the English and Scottish crosses to form a flag representative of the three kingdoms. At the funeral of Cromwell the Great Standards of England and Scotland had the St George's and St Andrew's crosses in chief respectively, but the Great Standard of Ireland had in chief a red cross (not saltire) on a yellow field.
    When the Order of St Patrick was instituted in 1783 the red saltire was taken for the badge of the Order, and since this emblem was of convenient form for introduction into the Union flag of England and Scotland it was chosen in forming the combined flag of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1801.
  2. ^ Text of 1555 Bull
  3. ^ de Beaumont, G pp114-115


The arms of the Kingdom of Ireland were blazoned: azure, a harp or string argent. A crown was not part of the arms but use of a crowned harp was apparently common as a badge or as a device. A crowned harp also appeared as a crest although the delineated crest was: a wreath or and azure, a tower (sometime triple-towered) or, from the port, a hart springing argent.

"King James not only used the harp crowned as the device of Ireland, but quartered the harp in this royal achievement for the arms of that kingdom, in the third quarter of the royal achievement upon his Great Seal, as it has continued ever since. The blazon was azure, a harp or string argent, as appears by the great embroidered banner, and at the funeral of Queen Anne, King James' queen, AD 1618, and likewise by the great banner and banner of Ireland at the funeral of King James. The difference between the arms and device of Ireland appears to be on the crown only, which is added to the harp when used as a device. "At the funeral of King James was likewise carried the standard of the crest of Ireland, a buck proper (argent in the draught) issuing from a tower tripple towered or, which is the only instance of this crest that I have met, and therefore was probably devised and assinged for the crest of Ireland upon occasion of this funeral, but with what propriety I do not understand." - Questions and Answers, Notes and Queries‎, 1855, p. 350

"The insignia of Ireland have variously been given by early writers. In the reign of Edward IV, a commission appointed to enquire what were the arms of Ireland found them to be three crowns in pale. It has been supposed that these crowns were abandoned at the Reformation, from an idea that they might denote the feudal sovereignty of the pope, whose vassal the king of England was, as lord of Ireland. However, in a manuscript in the Heralds' College of the time of Henry VII, the arms of Ireland are blazoned azure, a harp or, stringed argent; and when they were for the first time placed on the royal shield on the accession of James I. they were thus delineated: the crest is on a wreath or and azure, a tower (sometime triple-towered) or, from the port, a hart springing argent. Another crest is a harp or. The national flag of Ireland exhibits the harp in a field vert. The royal badge of Ireland, as settled by sign-manual in 1801 is a harp, or, stringed argent, and a trefoil vert, both ensigned with the imperial crown." - Chambers's Encyclopædia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge‎, 1868, p. 627


Simple English

Ríocht na hÉireann
Kingdom of Ireland
1541 – 1651
1659 – 1801
File:Flag of the Commonwealth (1649-1651).svg
File:Flag of the United

Capital Dublin
Language(s) Irish, English
Government Monarchy
 - 1542-1547 Henry VIII
 - 1760-1801 George III
Chief Secretary
 - 1660 Matthew Lock
 - 1798-1801 Viscount Castlereagh
Legislature Parliament of Ireland
 - Upper house Irish House of Lords
 - Lower house Irish House of Commons
 - Act of Parliament 1541
 - Act of Union January 11801

The Kingdom of Ireland was a country in Western Europe. It is now two home nations. These home nations are Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.


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