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Kingdom of Ireland

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Kingdom of Ireland
Ríoghacht Éireann
Client state of the Kingdom of England
and later the Kingdom of Great Britain
( personal union)



( 1642–1651: Confederation)
1651–59: Commonwealth


Coat of arms1

" God Save the King" (1780s–1800, customarily)
Kingdom of Ireland in 1800
Capital Dublin
Languages Irish, English, Yola, Fingallian
Religion Roman Catholicism,
Government Constitutional Monarchy
 -  1542–1547 Henry VIII (first)
 -  1760–1800 George III (last)
Lord Lieutenant
 -  1542–1548 Anthony St Leger (first)
 -  1798–1800 Charles Cornwallis (last)
Chief Secretary
 -  1660 Matthew Locke (first)
 -  1798–1800 Robert Stewart (last)
Legislature Parliament
 -  Upper house House of Lords
 -  Lower house House of Commons
 -  Crown of Ireland Act 1542
 -  Act of Union 1 January 1801
 -  1700 81,638 km² (31,521 sq mi)
 -  1700 est. 3,000,000 
     Density 36.7 /km²  (95.2 /sq mi)
Currency Irish pound
Today part of  Ireland
 United Kingdom3
1 See notes regarding use of a crowned harp as the arms of Ireland. Although numerous flags of Ireland existed during the period, the Kingdom of Ireland had no official flag. See List of flags of Ireland.
3Northern Ireland.

The Kingdom of Ireland ( Irish: Ríoghacht Éireann, Modern spelling: Ríocht Éireann) refers to the country of Ireland in the period between the proclamation of Henry VIII as King of Ireland by the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 and the Act of Union in 1800. It replaced the Lordship of Ireland, which had been created in 1171. King Henry VIII was recognised as monarch of Ireland by some Protestant powers in Europe, although not by the Catholic monarchies in Europe. However, his daughter Mary I was recognised as Queen of Ireland by the pope in 1555. The separate Kingdom of Ireland ceased to exist at the end of 1800, as Ireland joined with the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on the first day of 1801.

Reason for creation

The papal bull Laudabiliter of Pope Adrian IV was decreed in 1155. It granted the Angevin King Henry II of England the title Dominus Hibernae (Latin for 'Lord of Ireland'). Laudabiliter enabled the king to invade Ireland, in order to bring the country into the European sphere. In return, Henry was required to remit a penny per hearth of the tax roll to the Pope. This was reconfirmed by Adrian's successor Pope Alexander III in 1172.

When Pope Clement VII excommunicated the King of England, Henry VIII, in 1533, the constitutional position of the lordship in Ireland became uncertain. Henry had broken away from the Holy See and declared himself the head of the Church in England. He had petitioned Rome in order to procure an annulment of his marriage to Queen Catherine. Clement VII refused Henry's request and Henry subsequently refused to recognise the Roman Catholic Church's vestigial sovereignty over Ireland, and was excommunicated again in late 1538 by Pope Paul III. The Treason Act (Ireland) 1537 was passed to counteract this.

Royal Standard of Ireland

Following the failed revolt of Silken Thomas in 1534-35, Grey, the lord deputy, had some military successes against several clans in the late 1530s, and took their submissions. By 1540 most of Ireland seemed at peace and under the control of the king's Dublin administration; a situation that was not to last for long.

Henry was proclaimed King of Ireland by the Crown of Ireland Act 1542. The Act was passed by the Irish Parliament. The new kingdom was not recognised by the Catholic monarchies in Europe. After the death of King Edward VI, Henry's son, the papal bull of 1555 recognised the Roman Catholic Queen Mary I as Queen of Ireland. The link of "personal union" of the Crown of Ireland to the Crown of England became enshrined in Catholic canon law. In this fashion, the Kingdom of Ireland was ruled by the reigning King of England. This placed the new Kingdom of Ireland in personal union with the Kingdom of England.

In line with its expanded role and self-image, the administration established the King's Inns for barristers in 1541, and the Ulster King of Arms to regulate heraldry in 1552. Proposals to establish a university in Dublin were delayed until 1592.

In 1603 James VI King of Scots, became James I of England, uniting the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland in a personal union. In 1653-59 the three kingdoms were merged briefly into the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. In 1660 Charles II of England was restored as King of Ireland without any public dissent, backdated to his father's execution in 1649 (see: Irish Restoration).

Political union between England and Scotland was established in 1707 with the creation of the Kingdom of Great Britain and thereafter, in 1801, the Kingdom of Ireland merged with the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.


The Kingdom of Ireland was governed by an executive under the control of a Lord Deputy or viceroy. The post was held by senior nobles such as Thomas Radcliffe. From 1688 the title was usually Lord Lieutenant. In the absence of a Lord Deputy, lords justices ruled. While some Irishmen held the post, most of the lords deputy were English noblemen. While the viceroy controlled the Irish administration as the monarch's representative, in the eighteenth century the political post of Chief Secretary for Ireland became increasingly powerful.

The Kingdom of Ireland was legislated by the bicameral Parliament of Ireland, made up of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The powers of the Irish parliament were circumscribed by a series of restrictive laws, mainly Poynings' Law of 1494.

Church of Ireland

When the church in England broke communion from the Roman Catholic Church, all but two of the bishops of the Church in Ireland followed the Church of England, although almost no clergy or laity did so. The new body became the State Church, assuming possession of most Church property (and so retaining a great repository of religious architecture and other items, though some were later destroyed). The substantial majority of the population remained strongly Roman Catholic, despite the political and economic advantages of membership in the state church. Despite its numerical minority, however, the Church of Ireland remained the official state church until it was disestablished on 1 January 1871 by the Liberal government under William Ewart Gladstone.

Parliament of the Kingdom of Ireland

Roman Catholics and dissenters, mostly Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists, were excluded from membership of the Irish parliament from 1693 and their rights were restricted by a series of laws called the Penal Laws. They were denied voting rights from 1728 until 1793. The Grattan Parliament succeeded in achieving the repeal of Poynings' Law in 1782. This allowed progressive legislation and gradual liberalisation was effected. Catholics and Dissenters were given the right to vote in 1793, but Catholics were still excluded from the Irish Parliament and senior public offices in the kingdom. As in Great Britain and the rest of Europe, voting and membership of parliament was restricted to property owners. In the 1720s the new Irish Houses of Parliament was built in College Green, Dublin.

Grattan's Parliament

Poynings' law was repealed in 1782, granting Ireland legislative independence in what came to be known as the Constitution of 1782. Parliament in this period came to be known as Grattan's Parliament, after the principal Irish leader of the period, Henry Grattan. Although Ireland had legislative independence, executive administration remained under the control of the executive of the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1788-89 a Regency crisis arose caused when King George III became ill. Grattan wanted to appoint the Prince of Wales later George IV as Regent of Ireland. The king recovered before this could be enacted.

Union with Great Britain

The Irish Rebellion of 1798, and the rebels' alliance with Great Britain's longtime enemy the French, led to a push to bring Ireland formally into the British Union. By the Act of Union, voted for by the Irish Parliament, the Kingdom of Ireland merged in 1801 with the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Irish Parliament ceased to exist, though the executive, presided over by the Lord Lieutenant, remained in place until 1922. The union was later the subject of much controversy.

In 1937, the link to the U.K. Crown was repealed, but the monarch was the de jure King in the new State until 1949. In the Republic of Ireland the 1542 Act was repealed in 1962.

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