As a source of ready manpower and a safe but nearby base for launching invasions of England, Ireland played an important role in the WARS OF THE ROSES.
   Fifteenth-century Ireland was divided between the English Lordship, which was centered on Dublin and controlled by Anglo-Irish nobles loyal to the English Crown, and the areas controlled by native Irish clan chiefs, who were largely independent of English rule. In the 1450s, the ancient rivalry between the leading Anglo-Irish families of Ireland, the Fitzgeralds and the Butlers,was subsumed into the conflict developing in England between the houses of LANCASTER and YORK. Thomas FITZGERALD, eighth earl of Desmond, and his kinsman, Thomas FITZGERALD, seventh earl of Kildare, were RETAINERS of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, while James BUTLER,fifth earl of Ormond, was a supporter of HENRY VI. Thus, as the English civil wars evolved, both sides, but particularly York, who had extensive Irish lands, used their Irish connections to draw small but steady streams of troops from Ireland, mainly ARCHERS, axmen, or the light-armed native infantry known as kerns.
   Although York held appointment as lord lieutenant of Ireland in the late 1450s, he was largely absent pursuing his political interests in England, a situation that left Kildare, as York’s deputy, in charge of the Irish government. With Ormond in England at the Lancastrian COURT, the political leadership of Ireland was thus strongly Yorkist, and the duke found safe haven in Dublin when he fled England after the Battle of LUDFORD BRIDGE in October 1459. Although the Lancastrian government sought to undermine Kildare’s authority, especially after the death of York at the Battle of WAKEFIELD in December 1460, the Fitzgerald earls remained loyal to York and were richly rewarded with lands and offices after EDWARD IV’s victory at the Battle of TOWTON in March 1461. When Ormond was executed shortly after Towton, the Lancastrian position in Ireland was further weakened. In 1468, the Fitzgerald earls fell briefly out of favor with Edward IV. Acting on the complaints of Anglo-Irish landowners against the financial exactions imposed by the Fitzgeralds for maintenance of their troops, John TIPTOFT, earl of Worcester, the new English lord deputy, attainted both earls and executed Desmond, thus permanently muting the Yorkist sympathies of the Desmond branch of the family. Because the king soon realized that he needed Fitzgerald support to govern Ireland, especially in view of the continuing Lancastrian threat to England, Edward reversed Kildare’s ATTAINDER and reappointed him lord deputy in 1470.
   After Kildare’s death in 1478, his son, Gerald FITZGERALD, eighth earl of Kildare, maintained his family’s Yorkist allegiance, governing Ireland as deputy for RICHARD III’s son, Prince Edward, and, after Richard’s death in 1485, allowing the island to become a base of operations for Yorkist opponents of HENRY VII. In 1487, he welcomed Lambert SIMNEL to Ireland and accepted Simnel’s claim to be Edward PLANTAGENET, earl of Warwick, a Yorkist claimant to the throne. Kildare also allowed John de la POLE, earl of Lincoln, another nephew of Edward IV, to land at Dublin with 2,000 troops supplied by his aunt, MARGARET OF YORK, duchess of BURGUNDY. After permitting Simnel’s coronation in Dublin as “Edward VI,” Kildare governed Ireland in “King Edward’s” name, and allowed Lincoln to recruit Irish troops for an invasion of England, which ended in failure at the Battle of STOKE in June 1487. Although pardoned by Henry VII, Kildare again fell out of favor in the 1490s when he was suspected of supporting Perkin WARBECK, another Yorkist pretender. Warbeck invaded Ireland in 1495 and 1497 but failed both times to establish himself in the island. Restored as lord deputy in 1496, Kildare gradually abandoned his Yorkist sympathies, and Ireland gradually accepted TUDOR rule.
   Further Reading: Cosgrove, Art, Late Medieval Ireland, 1370-1541 (Dublin: Helicon, 1981); Lydon, James, Ireland in the Later Middle Ages (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1973); OtwayRuthven, A. J., A History of Medieval Ireland (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1980).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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