At start of the 17th century following the 9 years’ war, Ulster remained the part of Ireland where local autonomy was greatest. Although the government did not press the Earl’s too closely after their submission, the government was intent on introducing regular civil administration into the area supported by substantial military presence. Sheriffs, justices of the peace, coroners and constables were appointed, and assizes held.
Tyrone effectively reasserted his rights over as much as three counties directly and through the various branches of the O’Neill. This apparent restoration and t forbearance were unacceptable to the Lord Deputy Arthur Chichester who himself was a substantial landowner in Antrim and to John Davies, Solicitor General who regarded the position as creating an independent jurisdiction in Ulster. A proclamation issued in 1605 confirming that all persons in the realm were free, natural and immediate subjects of the King, independent of Lords and Chiefs.
A commission forced Rory O’Donnell created Earl of Tyrconnell to restore the rights to freeholders within Donegal. The commissioners distributed the McMahon lands in Monaghan amongst freeholders.
Cavan was deemed Crown property and freeholds were arranged to be created. In Fermanagh, the rival Maguires chiefs claimed the entire County and commissioners divided the lands between them equally, distributing the remainder to freeholders.
Flight of the Earls
The Irish administration sought to appoint a Lord Presidency, but Tyrone drew on his direct relationship and favour with the king. Davies was intent to reduce the Earl to the status of an ordinary subject. An opportunity arose in a dispute between the Earl and his son-in-law over the lands of Coleraine which the Earl claimed to control. Davies prepared a case on the basis that the lands were vested in the Crown. The case if successful would have the effect of reducing O’Neill to his demesne lands and establishing freeholders and Crown tenants to the remainder of his earldom.
O’Neill managed to have the dispute referred to London in 1607 and was confident of a successful outcome. Events rapidly changed. Suspicions were raised in the government regarding the possibility of O’Neill and O’Donnell raising a Continental Army. He foresaw the probability of ending his days in a reducing estate under a Lord President and the possibility that he might not be allowed to return from England for the dispute. Hastily he gathered his family and joined Tyrconnell and Maguire and sailed for Italyfrom Rathmullen on 7 September 1607, the so-called flight of the Earls.
Forfeiture of Lands
The move proved providential for the government. It was in a position to characterise the recent activities as conspiratorial. Having allegedly conspired against the King abroad and oppressed subjects at home and they were attained by outlawry in the courts of Kings Bench in December 1607 and were deemed to have forfeited the lands to the Crown.
It was proposed to transfer a limited amount of lands for the introduction of colonists with the remainder being allotted to Irish freeholders. Sir Cahir O’Doherty held the lordship of Inishowen due to his support for the government and had acted as foreman of the jury which indicted the Earls for treason. A new governor of Derry made it difficult for him to sustain his authority. In 1608 he rose in arms and burned Derry. He was ultimately defeated and killed. He had been supported by certain other chiefs.
The rebellion conveniently illustrated the difficulty of maintaining order in Ulster and was used to justify a more widespread plantation. The policy of limited anglicisation was abandoned in favour of more thoroughgoing colonisation with Englishmen and lowland Scots.
In summer assizes of 1608 almost all the lands in Armagh, Cavan, Corraine (Derry), Donegal, Fermanagh and Tyrone were deemed forfeited to the Crown. The alleged treason of a few was purported to justify forfeiture of all lands which contradicted assurances given to previous freeholders who had been assured of independence from their Lord.
Plantation of Ulster
A Committee involving Davies and others prepared a detailed scheme of plantation. It was put into effect in five of the counties in 1610. In most of the areas English and Scottish undertakers with tenants were settled on land cleared of Gaelic natives. The latter were to be permitted to live only in lands granted to favoured Irishmen, to the church and to military officers who had served in the wars (Servitors).
There were provisions for grant sizes of 2,000, 1,500 and 1,000 acres. The plantation took place over the six counties of Western Ulster. This comprised modern-day Ulster except Antrim, Down and Monaghan.
Certain lands, up to 23% were assigned to the established church. Certain grants made pre-plantation where not interfered with. This included lands granted to certain branches of the O’Neills family. Lands were assigned to corporate towns and a free school in each county. Trinity College received 95,000 acres in Armagh, Donegal and Fermanagh.
The County of Londonderry was formed in 1613 by the merger of the former County of Coleraine, the detachment from County Tyrone of a substantial Barony comprising the modern southern part of the county, the city of Derry and its northwest liberties and Coleraine and its northeast liberties.
In each county areas were grouped into precincts corresponding to the existing Baronies and were and certain precincts were reserved for undertakers, servitors and native grantees. Certain precincts were allotted by lot to chief undertakers who were to be charged with managerial duties.
Process of Plantation
English and Scottish undertakers were required to take the oath of supremacy and held their land by common socage at a yearly rent of £5.6.8 per 1000 acres. They were required to live on the lands for five years and introduced a quota of 24 able-bodied men from at least 10 families rt of colonists. They were obliged to provide for the security of the holding by maintaining arms. They were prohibited from having Irish tenants or assigning land to them.
Servitors received their lands on the same conditions, but on payment of 50% surcharge, they might take native tenants. They were obliged to build houses and use husbandry of the pale and pay double rent but were excused from the oath of supremacy.
Due to the disappointing response to the scheme a decision was taken by the government to invite corporate City of London undertakers for a corporate plantation of the entire county of Londonderry which was attractive largely due to the strategic and commercial development of the port. A final agreement was reached in 1610 which saw the expansion of the county in the manner set out above.
The commissioners were given power to allot land. Some Irish were excluded from plantation who had been deemed loyal, including certain members of the O’Neill, Maguire families, who received lands as did others.
The land reorganisation was substantially complete by late 1610. Undertakers were required to come to Ireland and take up residence by the end of that year and fulfil the building and settlement conditions by 1613.
Although it was assumed that natives would have to be moved before undertakers could take up allotments, it became evident quickly that this would need to be phased. Accordingly, in large measure, undertakers took possession of estates which were tenanted. The interim arrangement came to be seen in many cases as more advantageous than plantation. The exploitation of existing tenants was more profitable than the introduction of new tenants and settlers.
Some introduced planters and rented the remainder to native Irish. The deadline for removal of natives was extended outwards and ultimately remained unenforced. Natives were ultimately allowed to remain and pay fines or undertakers themselves paid fines and double rents. Ultimately undertakers were permitted to have natives on a quarter of their estate. The same broad pattern occurred in the County of Derry.
At the start of the 17th century, the lands of Clandeboye in South Antrim and North Down passed from Con O’Neill to Hamilton and Montgomery who commenced colonisation by migrants from the Scots lowlands and England. Montgomery’s friendship with the king was useful to him next in establishing this Settlement in Ireland in 1606.
Looking for an opportunity for advancement, Montgomery came into contact with the wife of Con O’Neill, a landowner in Ulster, who was imprisoned at Carrickfergus Castle for instigating rebellion against the Queen. Montgomery and Ellis O’Neill (the wife) made a deal that the O’Neill’s would give half of their land to him if he could free Con and secure for him a royal pardon.
At this point, James Hamilton interfered with the negotiations with the King, securing for himself a share of the land in question with the resultant shares being one-third each for Hamilton, Montgomery and O’Neill, who gained pardon. In May 1606 the first wave of settlers arrived. Montgomery settled at Newtownards and soon established a trade route between Donaghadee in Ireland and Portpatrick in Scotland.
Revival of Munster Plantations
The settlements in the Muster proceeded in the same way but in breach of the original conditions through official indulgence after the end of the 9 year war. Pre-war colonists were ordered to return to their lands in 1604 and were given revised patents and reduced rents. Not all returned. Some seignories were abandoned. Half a dozen weere recovered by old English claimants.
Ultimately only a third of the 33 seignories in Munster remained in the hands of the original grantees after 30 years. In Munster a smaller group of large established church proprietors dominated the regional government through membership of the Presidency Council.
Imposition of English Property Law
The imposition of English property law deprived many Irish title holders of title to their land. A commission for remediation of defective titles was established in 1606. It was authorised to give new titles by way of patent. They allowed for succession of the eldest son in place of native customary rights which could favour more remote family members. In return for an annual rent tenants received a life interest which reverted on death. This allowed the Crown to exert feudal dues at the end of the tenancy. Tenants who wished to sell were required to pay a licence. Heirs were required to pay for a symbolic re-grant.
Some tenancies were held by Knight service. The wardship of the heir and lands was assumed by the Crown. While the heir was underage it was necessary to pay a charge equivalent to one year’s income suing for livery upon coming of age.
King James made grants to his courtiers and others and their clients which directed authorities in Ireland to convey royal land of a specified value. There was in fact no reserve of royal land and some such were used to improve existing leasehold titles or to convert a fee farm into fee simple.
Many existing landowners were challenged, almost invariably, native Irish or Catholic. There was significant corruption surrounding the process of rediscovery of crown titles, re-grants and confirmations. The process was exacerbated further by incentivising those who discovered so-called irregular titles. In practice it was the so-called new English settlers who were in a position to exploit uncertainties in land titles to make challenges to existing owners on the basis of irregularities in title with official connivance to benefit that class over the old English and Irish classes.