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

6 - The downfall of reconstruction, 1640–1641

Summary

LEGISLATION AND COMPLAINT: MARCH–JUNE 1640

The Irish parliament of 1640–1 has attracted considerable attention both for the abrupt and dramatic downfall of Strafford's administration and as a prelude to the violence of 1641. More recently, it has regained its place in a wider three kingdoms narrative. In this large literature it is easy to lose sight of the Church of Ireland and of Bramhall himself because they are so enmeshed with other events. Bramhall's own impeachment was, in many ways, ancillary to the demise of the lord lieutenant. There was no Irish trumpet blast equivalent to Root and Branch. The Irish High Commission fell victim not to rioters but rather to the Irish House of Commons. In Strafford's trial the Church of Ireland made only a few appearances and in Laud's trial it figured only to further corroborate charges of ritualism and lust for clerical wealth. If episcopacy were abolished in England, it would be abolished in Ireland as well. Irish bishops were merely a secondary branch to be lopped off.

The gradual breakdown of authority in Ireland during 1640 and 1641 raised some large constitutional questions and ushered in two decades of violence. Yet even before 23 October 1641 the reconstruction work of the 1630s had already been comprehensively dismantled. Book of canons apart, almost every aspect of Bramhall's work was obliterated or undermined to the point of collapse over five sessions from 16 March 1640 to 17 November 1641.

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