Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 July 2009
The contempt in which Thomas Wentworth, later earl of Strafford, held the Irish peerage is well known. Shortly after he arrived in Ireland in 1634 he noted how ‘they would have nothing shew more great or magnificent than themselves so they might … lord it the more bravely and uncontrollably at home, take from the poor churl what, and as they pleased’. The need to declaw and harness the power of these overmighty lords – Catholic and Protestant alike – quickly become a feature of Wentworth's lord deputyship. He rewarded and nurtured the select few, such as the earl of Ormond, and castigated and humiliated the vast majority. The earls of Antrim, Clanricard, Cork, Fingal, Kildare, Meath and Westmeath; Viscounts Dillon of Costello-Gallen, Loftus of Ely, Roche of Fermoy, Sarsfield of Kilmallock, Valentia and Wilmot of Athlone; Lords Balfour of Glenawley, Esmond, Lambert, Mountnorris – to name just a few – all fell foul of Wentworth's waspish pen and heavy hand.
Late in February 1641 the Irish peers struck back. A petition to the king articulated their collective position: ‘That, of late years, the nobility of this your realm have been [held] in so little esteem, and so much undervalued by the powerfulness and misgovernment of Thomas, earl of Strafford.’ Their appeal continued ‘that by his untrue representations and misinformations unto your majesty’ and his employment of ‘sundry persons of mean condition’ he had not only performed a great disservice to the king but had dishonoured the nobility.