Timeline 1641: The Great Rebellion breaks out in Ireland


Timeline 1641

(Julian dates have been adjusted to modern time frame)

The key events of 1641 were:

  • The Trial and execution of Strafford
  • Imprisonment of Archbishop Laud
  • The Triennial Act
  • The Irish Uprising
  • The Grand Remonstrance

From an Irish perspective, the key figure was James FitzThomas Butler, then 12th Earl of Ormond and Commander of the Army in Ireland.

James FitzThomas Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, 12th Earl of Ormond, 5th Earl of Ossory, 1st Marquess of Ormond, 1st Earl of Brecknock KG, PC(19 October 1610 – 21 July 1688) was an Anglo-Irish statesman and soldier, known as Earl of Ormond from 1634 to 1642 and Marquess of Ormonde from 1642 to 1661. From 1641 to 1647, he led the fighting against the Irish Catholic Confederation. From 1649 to 1650 he was the leading commander of the Royalist forces in the fight against the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. In the 1650s he lived in exile in Europe with King Charles II of England. Upon the restoration of Charles to the throne in 1660, Ormonde became a major figure in English and Irish politics, holding many high government offices.

James FitzThomas Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, 12th Earl of Ormonde, 5th Earl of Ossory, 1st Marquess of Ormonde, 1st Earl of Brecknock KG, PC (19 October 1610 – 21 July 1688) was an Anglo-Irish statesman and soldier, known as Earl of Ormonde from 1634 to 1642 and Marquess of Ormonde from 1642 to 1661. From 1641 to 1647, he led the fighting against the Irish Catholic Confederation. From 1649 to 1650 he was the leading commander of the Royalist forces in the fight against the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. In the 1650s he lived in exile in Europe with King Charles II of England. Upon the restoration of Charles to the throne in 1660, Ormonde became a major figure in English and Irish politics, holding many high government offices.

Timeline 1641

January 20

  • John Pym presents the list of charges against the Earl of Strafford in the House of Commons
    • Rather than criticize the King directly, John Pym and other opposition leaders concentrated their attacks on his closest advisers who were blamed for all the nation’s grievances, e,g, Strafford and Archbishop Laud
  • The House of Commons passes the Triennial Bill, obliging the monarch to call a new Parliament within three years of ending the old

(Early February)

  • Rory O’More and Lord Conor Maguire begin plotting against the Protestant government of Ireland

February 5

  • The House of Lords passes the Triennial Bill

February 10

  • Swearing-in of the Lord Justices Sir William Parsons and Sir John Borlase, who assume responsibility for the government of Ireland.

February 11

  • Sir Walter Earle draws attention to the danger to the English Parliament from Strafford’s Irish army

February 13

  • The House of Commons petitions for the disbandment of Strafford’s Irish army

February 19

  • King Charles appoints seven opposition leaders in the House of Lords to the privy council, hoping to win their support for the Earl of Strafford: Bristol, Bedford, Essex, Hertford, Saye, Mandeville and Savile

February 24

  • The Commons votes fourteen articles of impeachment against Archbishop Laud
    • Laud was the chancellor of Oxford University and became archbishop of Canterbury in 1633
    • During the eleven-year Personal Rule, Laud worked closely with the King to root out nonconformity
      • His attempts to force uniformity of worship ran contrary to all shades of Puritan opinion
      • His Arminian doctrines were regarded as dangerously close to Roman Catholicism
      • Looking beyond England, Laud insisted upon conformity from congregations in Ireland and Scotland, and even from the American colonies. He corresponded regularly with Sir Thomas Wentworth in Ireland and collaborated with him in developing the policy of ruthless efficiency and uncompromising devotion to the King’s interest known as “Thorough”.
    • Laud was accused of assuming tyrannical powers in church and state, of subverting the true religion with popish superstition and of causing the recent disastrous wars against the Scots

March 1

  • Laud imprisoned in the Tower of London

March 22

  • The trial of the Earl of Strafford opens at Westminster Hall

April 5

  • Sir Henry Vane the elder gives evidence against Strafford, claiming that he advised the King to use the Irish army against his opponents in England but Strafford’s defence against the accusations gains support amongst the Lords

April 7

  • In view of Strafford’s successful defence, Pym tries to present new charges against him

April 8

  • The Commons resolves to produce private state papers copied by Sir Henry Vane the younger as evidence against Strafford

April 10

  • The Lords rule in Strafford’s favour in a dispute over his right to produce fresh evidence in reply to the new charges against him.
  • The House of Commons supports a proposal by Sir Arthur Hesilrige to proceed with a bill of attainder against Strafford

April 13

  • Strafford makes a final speech in his defence in which he eloquently demonstrates that all his actions had been in accordance with law and tradition

April 19

  • The House of Commons declares Strafford to be a traitor

April 21

  • The Commons passes the attainder against Strafford by 204 votes to 59

May 1

  • The King appeals to the House of Lords not to condemn Strafford

May 2

  • Captain Billingsley and a force of soldiers attempt to enter the Tower of London with orders from the King to release Strafford.
  • The lieutenant of the Tower, Sir William Balfour, refuses them admission.
  • The House of Lords orders the strengthening of the Tower garrison by the addition of 500 militiamen

May 3

  • The House of Commons draws up the Protestation Oath against popery

May 5

  • John Pym reveals details of the “Army Plot”
  • This is an alleged conspiracy by Royalist officers to bring the northern army to London to use force against Parliament while Colonel Goring seized Portsmouth to receive an army from France

May 6

  • Henry Jermyn, Sir John Suckling and others involved in the Army Plot flee to France

May 7

  • The House of Lords passes the bill of attainder against Strafford by 26 votes to 19

May 10

  • After anguished hesitation, King Charles gives his assent to the bill of attainder against Strafford
  • The King agrees to a bill taking from him the right to dissolve Parliament without its own consent

May 11

  • The King sends the Prince of Wales to the House of Lords to appeal for mercy on Strafford

May 12

  • Strafford beheaded on Tower Hill before a jubilant crowd

May 18

  • King Charles announces his intention to visit Scotland to conclude a final peace treaty with the Covenanters

May 27

  • Oliver St John’s bill for the abolition of Episcopacy proposed in the House of Commons by Sir Edward Dering

June 1

  • Publication of George Digby’s speech against the attainder of Lord Strafford in an attempt to rally support for the King

June 9

  • Digby raised to the peerage as Baron Digby of Sherborne to rescue him from the anger of the Commons

June 11

  • The Committee of Estates orders the arrest of the Earl of Montrose and other Royalist sympathisers for alleged slanders against the Earl of Argyll
    • Members of the Parliament of Scotland were traditionally elected from three “estates” or classes: the clergy (bishops), the nobility and lairds, and the burgesses (representatives of the royal burghs).
    • Bishops were excluded when the anti-episcopalian Covenanters gained control of the Scottish government, leading to the Bishops’ Wars between England and Scotland

June 25

  • The King obliged by Parliament to dismiss the papal envoy Count Rossetti from court

July 5

  • Parliament abolishes the courts of High Commission and Star Chamber
  • Parliament abolishes the Council of Wales
  • Parliament abolishes the Council of the North
  • Parliament suppresses the powers of the Privy Council

July 13

  • Parliament orders Digby’s speech against the attainder of Strafford to be publicly burnt by the hangman
  • The Scottish Parliament assembles at Edinburgh and rejects the King’s order that it be prorogued for another month

July 16

  • Five “Incendiaries” denounced in the Scottish Parliament for causing friction between Scotland and the the King: Lord Traquair, Sir John Hay, Sir Robert Spottiswood, Walter Balcanquhal and the Bishop of Ross

July 19

  • The Scottish Parliament agrees rules and procedures for regulating its meetings

(Early August)

  • Impeachment of thirteen bishops who had countenanced the sitting of Convocation after the dissolution of the Short Parliament

August 7

  • Parliament annuls all ship-money proceedings

August 9

  • The King appoints the Earl of Essex commander of all forces south of the River Trent for the duration of his journey to Scotland

August 10

  • King Charles signs the Treaty of London with the Scottish commissioners
  • He then leaves London for Scotland, hoping to come to terms with the Covenanters
  • Parliament declares knighthood fines illegal

August 17

  • King Charles ceremonially enters the Scottish Parliament House.
  • He declares that his intention is to clear up all misunderstandings between himself and his Scottish subjects.

August 21

  • The Army of the Covenant leaves Newcastle and marches back to Scotland

August 26

  • The Scottish Parliament ratifies the Treaty of London

August 27

  • The Army of the Covenant disbands at Leith – three regiments remain in arms

August 28

  • King Charles ratifies all legislation recently passed in the Scottish Parliament

September 1

  • The House of Commons passes a resolution for the destruction of altar rails, crucifixes and other ‘innovations’ introduced under the Laudian reforms

September 8

  • The Westminster Parliament adjourns, passing its business to a committee which includes many critics of the King

September 16

  • King Charles concedes that he will consult the Scottish Parliament over the appointment of government officials in Scotland

September 30

  • The Earl of Loudoun appointed lord chancellor of Scotland
    • Loudoun was among the noblemen who supported the protests against the King’s attempts to introduce innovations into the Scottish church and at his interference in the traditions of the Scottish nobility.
    • Loudoun emerged as a leading spokesman for the Covenanter movement at the Glasgow Assembly of 1638.
    • In July 1639, he was a commissioner at the treaty negotiations held at Berwick after the First Bishops’ War
    • In 1640, he was one of the Scottish commissioners sent to London to negotiate with the King
      • In March 1640, a letter was discovered from Covenanter leaders to Louis XIII of France requesting his support.
      • King Charles regarded the request as treasonous.
      • As one of the seven signatories of the letter, Loudoun was arrested in London on 11 April and imprisoned in the Tower.
      • He was released after promising to attempt to persuade the Covenanters to disband the army that was gathering in Scotland

October 5

  • Sir Phelim O’Neill, Lord Maguire and other conspirators finalise plans for the Irish Uprising

October 11

  • Colonel Hurry, Lt-Colonel Home and Captain Stewart inform General Leslie of a Royalist conspiracy against leading Scottish nobles

October 12

  • The Marquis of Argyll, the Marquis of Hamilton and the Earl of Lanark flee from Edinburgh on learning of the plot against them.
  • King Charles comes to the Parliament House to declare his innocence of involvement in the conspiracy but he is widely perceived as supporting it

October 20

  • The Westminster Parliament re-assembles

October 21

  • The King reluctantly agrees to allow an investigation into the plot against Argyll, Hamilton and Lanark.
    • The conspiracy is known as “The Incident”

October 22

  • The plot to seize Dublin Castle is revealed by Owen Connolly to Lord Justices Sir William Parsons and Sir John Borlase
  • Sir Phelim O’Neill seizes Dungannon (Co Tyrone) and Charlemont Fort (Co Armagh)

October 23

  • The lord justices and council issue a proclamation declaring a state of rebellion.
  • Rebellion spreads in Ulster

October 24

  • Sir Phelim O’Neill issues a proclamation declaring that he and his associates have taken up arms only for the defence and liberty of themselves and the native Irish; the insurgency is in no way directed to the harm either of the King or any of his subjects, English or Scottish

October 26-31

  • Armagh and Dundalk seized by rebels

October 28

  • King Charles appeals to the Scottish Parliament for an army to crush the Irish uprising.
  • The Covenanters mistrust the King’s motives and insist on obtaining the consent of the English Parliament before intervening

November 1

  • News of the Irish uprising reaches London

November 2

  • Sir Charles Coote appointed governor of Dublin

November 4

  • At Newry, Sir Phelim O’Neill publishes a forged commission purporting to come from the King authorising the Irish to rise in defence of their liberties against Parliament
  • Sir Henry Tichborne reinforces the garrison at Drogheda against the insurgents

November 5

  • John Pym proposes that Parliament should only co-operate in suppressing the Irish rebellion if the King appoints advisers approved by Parliament

November 6

  • Oliver Cromwell proposes that the Earl of Essex takes command of all armed forces in southern England, answerable to Parliament

November 8

  • John Pym brings the Grand Remonstrance before the House of Commons
  • Sir Phelim O’Neill’s initial attack on Lisburn repulsed

November ?

  • Massacre of Protestant settlers at Portadown

November 9

  • John Pym, in the English House of Commons, claims that the Irish uprising is the result of a Popish conspiracy and implies that the conspiracy was favoured by some who are close to King Charles I

November 11

  • King Charles I appoints the Earl of Ormonde Lieutenant-General in Ireland

November 12

  • The English House of Commons votes to send troops loyal to Parliament to Ireland without consulting the King

November 13

  • The King agrees to remove a number of Royalist nobles from the Scottish Privy Council and replace them with Covenanters.
    • Four committees appointed to govern Scotland after the dissolution of Parliament; they are almost entirely dominated by Covenanters.
    • The King ennobles a number of leading Covenanters in an attempt to gain their support

November 15

  • Insurgents capture Lurgan, Co Armagh.
  • Insurgents burn the town of Dromore, Co Down

November 16

  • Sir Robert Stewart commissioned to raise a Protestant army to defend north-west Ulster
    • This local militia is now known as the Lagan Army

November 17

  • The King dissolves the Scottish Parliament

November 19

  • Colonel Goring, governor of Portsmouth, appears before the House of Commons to answer accusations of disloyalty.
    • He convinces the House of his loyalty

November 21

  • Rebels besiege Drogheda

November 22

  • The Grand Remonstrance carried by 159 votes to 148, affirming Parliament’s belief in a long-standing conspiracy amongst the King’s advisers to overthrow the Protestant constitution, and requesting that the King appoints no-one to high office without their approval

November 28

  • Sir Phelim O’Neill’s forces driven back from Lisburn (again)

November 29

  • Battle of Julianstown: Rory O’More defeats government troops marching to raise the siege of Drogheda

November 30

  • Publication of The Heads of Several Proceedings in this Present Parliament — the first weekly public newsbook.
    • This was soon followed by several others and marks the beginning of the English press

(End of November)

  • Sir Charles Coote garrisons Newcastle in County Wicklow and relieves the siege of Wicklow Castle

December ?

  • The uprising spreads to counties Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo, Kilkenny and Tipperary
  • Initial negotiations between the Ulster Irish and “Old English” noblemen of the Pale held at Knockcrofty and Hill of Tara

December 1

  • Sir Charles Coote skirmishes with insurgents at Kilcoole, Co Wicklow before returning to Dublin

December 7

  • First reading of the Militia Bill passed by 158 votes to 125; all military and naval appointments to be controlled by Parliament
    • militia bill was proposed in December 1641 in the wake of the Irish Uprising of October.
    • The bill was drafted by Oliver St John and introduced in the House of Commons by Sir Arthur Hesilrige on 7 December
      • The King and Parliament agreed that an army was needed to supress the rebellion in Ireland, but neither side trusted the other with control of the armed forces.
      • Parliament’s militia bill proposed that a lord-general should be appointed to raise and command the militia, to levy money to pay it, and to execute martial law.
      • A lord-admiral was also to be appointed to command the navy.
      • The bill proposed that Parliament should have the right to nominate the commanders of the armed forces rather than the King.
      • Headed by Sir John Culpeper, the King’s supporters in the House of Commons vehemently opposed the measure and called for its rejecton, but the bill passed its first reading

December 9

  • MPs Wilmot, Ashburnham and Pollard expelled from Parliament for complicity in the Army Plot

December 10

  • The “London Petition” with around 15,000 signatures for the exclusion of Bishops and Catholics from the House of Lords presented at Whitehall
  • The Earls of Lothian and Lindsay begin negotiations in London for sending a Scottish army to Ireland

December 14

  • The King appeals in the House of Lords for an end to unnecessary disputes until the situation in Ireland is resolved.
  • He makes no mention of the Grand Remonstrance and will only assent to the Militia Bill if his prerogative rights are safeguarded

December 20

  • Irish insurgents assault Drogheda in the expectation that Catholic citizens would seize the town, but the plan fails when all Catholics are ordered to stay indoors on pain of death

December 22

  • The King dismisses Sir William Balfour from the lieutenancy of the Tower of London, and appoints the notorious Colonel Thomas Lunsford in his place — causing alarm amongst the King’s opponents and even amongst his more moderate supporters
    • Born into a decayed gentry family of East Hoathly in Sussex, Lunsford had a reputation as a swaggering ruffian “who neither fears God nor man”
    • In 1633, he was indicted for the attempted murder of a neighbour, Sir Thomas Pelham, but escaped from Newgate Prison and fled to the Continent. In his absence, Lunsford was fined £8,000 and outlawed for failing to appear before the Court of Star Chamber.
    • Meanwhile, he joined the French army and became colonel of a regiment of foot.
    • On the outbreak of the Bishops’ Wars in 1639, Lunsford returned to England and offered his services to King Charles, who pardoned him and remitted his fine.
    • He commanded an infantry regiment and became a favourite of the King after fighting courageously at the disastrous battle of Newburn in August 1640

December 23

  • The lord justices issue a ‘Commission for the Despoiled Subject’ to eight clergymen, headed by Henry Jones, who are to record the losses of those dispossessed by the rebels. Commissioners: Henry Jones; Randall Adams; John Watson; William Aldrich; John Sterne; Henry Brereton; Roger Puttock; William Hitchcock.
    • The 1641 depositions are a collection of 8,000 witness statements taken during the troublesome decades of the 1640s and the 1650s. They describe the outbreak of the 1641 rebellion in Ireland but have now been proven to be mostly false or exaggerated in their content. They ignited a mixture of fear in the New English (Protestant) settlers in Ireland and fury in the Parliament in London, and were designed to bring military aid from England and Scotland. 

December 26

  • The King replaces Colonel Lunsford with Sir John Byron as Lieutenant of the Tower.
    • Lunsford remains in favour with the King and heads an unofficial royal guard at Whitehall

December 27-29

  • Riots at Westminster against bishops and papists.
    • Lunsford’s troops twice disperse rioting apprentices at sword point

December 30

  • John Williams, Archbishop of York, draws up a protest against the exclusion of bishops from the House of Lords.
  • The Commons demand the impeachment of all the bishops who had signed the protest; twelve bishops arrested and imprisoned
  • Sir Simon Harcourt arrives in Dublin with 1,100 foot raised by Parliament from voluntary subscriptions, These troops were sent to protect the Protestant settlers against Catholic aggression. Beyond this brief, their loyalty lies with Parliament, not King Charles I
  • The Commission begins work with deponents from Cavan and Fermanagh

(End of December)

  • Viscount Mountgarrett assumes command of Irish rebel forces in Co Kilkenny

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