The Irish Rebellion 1641 – Sorting the facts from the fake news

Events in Scotland and Ireland in the late 1630s and early 1640s directly contributed to and amplified, the worsening political crisis which in 1642 would explode into Civil War in England and Wales.

By 1641 there was instability across the Three Kingdoms.  In Ireland, the deteriorating condition of the so-called “deserving Catholics” who held property and retained social positions, was being increasingly undermined by the arbitrary changes imposed by the King’s Lord Deputy Governor, Thomas Wentworth; in Scotland the Covenanters’ victory over the King had left him irreparably weakened and unable to push through his religious reforms; and in England the breakdown in relations between the King and Parliament became irreconcilable.

Seeing the King’s weakness and feeling increasingly threatened, on 23rd October 1641 a small poorly organised, group of Catholic gentry and military officers tried to seize control of the English administration with a failed attempt to occupy Dublin Castle.  Despite this setback in other parts of the island the coup d’etat went ahead and dispossessed Irish Catholics in rural communities and towns  ferociously attacked their Protestant neighbours.

Reports of the Rebellion soon reached England where lurid and often exaggerated, stories of massacres of Protestant men, women and children became the focus of graphically illustrated newssheets just as waves of refugees escaping Ireland reached England and Scotland with their own stories of terror.  Exploited by Protestant propagandists in late 1641 and the early months of 1642, this often “fake news”, fuelled an increasingly febrile atmosphere as the outbreak of civil war became increasingly likely.

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The Irish Rebellion 1641 - Sorting the facts from the fake news
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Jane Ohlmeyer

Erasmus Smith's Professor of Modern History

Jane is Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Modern History (1762) at Trinity College Dublin and Chair of the Irish Research Council, which funds frontier research across all disciplines….

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