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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: July 2009

1 - Bishop Bramhall, the ‘Great Arminian’, ‘Irish Canterbury’ and ‘Most Unsound Man in Ireland’, 1633–1641

Summary

In the tumult that followed in the wake of the Ulster Rising that broke out on 23 October 1641, the anglican bishop of Derry, John Bramhall, was forced to flee for his life. Before his flight, he had been the subject of a plot. As the Roman catholic Irish laid siege to the Scots-presbyterian-dominated Londonderry, Sir Phelim O'Neill conceived a plan to bring about the bishop's destruction. While Bramhall was within, O'Neill, outside the walls of the town, would try to mislead the Scots into thinking that Bramhall was in league with him. O'Neill's trick was to fabricate a letter in which Bramhall was given orders to carry out the action that they had already agreed upon: the delivery of one of the gates. This counterfeit letter was then handed to an uninformed messenger who would, it was calculated, be seized by the Scots. Upon discovery of Bramhall's conspiracy with the Roman catholic leader, presumably the Scots would execute the unsuspecting and innocent Bramhall for betrayal. However, the plot was spoiled when the messenger aborted his mission: overcome with fear, apparently he ran off without delivering the letter. Having unknowingly escaped one danger, Bramhall was immediately exposed to another. Hated by those outside, he was not much less loathed by those within the town. Having become dominated by a recent influx of covenanters from Scotland, Londonderry was no haven for a fierce and outspoken anti-covenant, anti-presbyterian royalist anglican bishop.

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