Great dearth prevailed this year, so that sixpence of the old money was given for a cake of bread in Connaught, or six white pence in Meath.
In 1546 they mention a rising of the Geraldines, “which did indescribable damages;” and two invasions of the Lord Justice in Offaly, who plundered and spoiled, burning churches and monasteries, crops and corn. They also mention the introduction of a new copper coin into Ireland, which the men of Ireland were obliged to use as silver.
The immense sums which Henry had accumulated by the plunder of religious houses, appear to have melted away, like snow-wreaths sunshine, long before the conclusion of his reign. His French and Scotch wars undoubtedly exhausted large supplies; his mistresses made large demands for their pleasures and their needy friends; yet there should have been enough, and to spare, for all these claims. When the monasteries were destroyed, the English clergy trembled for their own existence. The King could easily have dispensed with their services, and deprived them of their revenues. They were quite aware of their precarious tenure of office, and willingly agreed, in 1543, to give Henry ten per cent, on their incomes for three years, after the deduction of the tenths already vested in the crown. Their incomes were thus ascertained, and a loan was demanded, which, when granted, was made a gift by the ever-servile Parliament.
In 1545 a benevolence was demanded, though benevolences had been declared illegal by Act of Parliament. This method of raising money had been attempted at an early period of his reign; but the proposal met with such spirited opposition from the people, that even royalty was compelled to yield. A few years later, when the fatal result of opposition to the monarch’s will and pleasure had become apparent, he had only to ask and obtain. Yet neither percentage, nor tenths, nor sacrilegious spoils, sufficed to meet his expenses; and, as a last expedient, the coin was debased, and irreparable injury inflicted on the country.
On the 28th of January, 1547, Edward VI. was crowned King of England. The Council of Regency appointed by Henry was set aside, and Seymour, Duke of Somerset, appointed himself Protector. St. Leger was continued in the office of Lord Deputy in Ireland; but Sir Edward Bellingham was sent over as Captain-General, with a considerable force, to quell the ever-recurring disturbances. His energetic character bore down all opposition, as much by the sheer strength of a strong will as by force of arms. In 1549 the Earl of Desmond refused to attend a Council in Dublin, on the plea that he wished to keep Christmas in his own castle. Bellingham, who had now replaced St. Leger as Lord Deputy, set out at once, with a small party of horse, for the residence of the refractory noble, seized him as he sat by his own fireside, and carried him off in triumph to Dublin.
In 1548 O’Connor and O’More were expelled from Offaly and Leix, and their territory usurped by an Englishman, named Francis Bryan. Cahir Roe O’Connor, one of the sept, was executed in Dublin, and a number of the tribe were sent to assist in the Scotch wars. The political cabals in England consequent on the youth of the King, who nominally governed the country, occasioned frequent changes in the Irish administration.