The Elizabethan Conquest of Ireland

James Charles Roy

This is the story of the 'First British Empire' - in Ireland - and of the perennial Irish Question dating from the middle ages which defeated Britain at the height of her imperial power, and has reached to the present. The Tudor period is crucial and the long-simmering problem came to the boil in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Date Published :
June 2021
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
19 color illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781526770721
Pages : 668
Dimensions : 9.25 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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This is the story of the 'failed' British Empire in Ireland and the sad end of the Tudor reign.

The relationship between England and Ireland has been marked by turmoil ever since the 5th century, when Irish raiders kidnapped St. Patrick. Perhaps the most consequential chapter in this saga was the subjugation of the island during the 16th century, and particularly efforts associated with the long reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the reverberations of which remain unsettled even today. This is the story of that ‘First British Empire’.

The saga of the Elizabethan conquest has rarely received the attention it deserves, long overshadowed by more ‘glamorous’ events that challenged the queen, most especially those involving Catholic Spain and France, superpowers with vastly more resources than Protestant England. Ireland was viewed as a peripheral theater, a haven for Catholic heretics and a potential ‘back door’ for foreign invasions. Lord deputies sent by the queen were tormented by such fears, and reacted with an iron hand. Their cadres of subordinates, including poets and writers as gifted as Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, and Walter Raleigh, were all corrupted in the process, their humanist values disfigured by the realities of Irish life as they encountered them through the lens of conquest and appropriation.

These men considered the future of Ireland to be an extension of the British state, as seen in the ‘salon’ at Bryskett’s Cottage, outside Dublin, where guests met to pore over the ‘Irish Question’. But such deliberations were rewarded by no final triumph, only debilitating warfare that stretched the entire length of Elizabeth’s rule. This is the story of revolt, suppression, atrocities and genocide, and ends with an ailing, dispirited queen facing internal convulsions and an empty treasury. Her death saw the end of the Tudor dynasty, marked not by victory over the great enemy Spain, but by ungovernable Ireland – the first colonial ‘failed state’.

About The Author

JAMES CHARLES ROY is an independent scholar with an international reputation as an expert in Irish history. He is a well-known member of the Irish-American academic community, and also a former editorial contributor and American representative of the Journal of the Galway Archaeological & Historical Society, co-founded by Lady Gregory in 1900. A prolific author of books and articles on history and travel, he has been published by leading imprints in the US, Ireland and Germany. Also a gifted photographer, his work has been exhibited at the Boston Public Library, the National Library of Ireland and numerous other venues.


“Roy’s book both delineates the tortuous and often brutal story of English rule in Ireland during this transformative era; it also traces out themes (religious, intellectual and psychological) which would characterize the tangled relationship between the two countries for the ensuing centuries. It is a richly-textured, impressively researched and powerfully involving story, written with a full realization of its tragic and haunting relevance for future times.”

- Roy Foster, author of Modern Ireland, 1600-1972

Excellent at creating atmosphere while developing a fast narrative. The author is up-to-date with the most recent scholarship, and quotes extensively from primary sources. A pleasure.”

- Nicholas Canny, author of Making Ireland British

“James Charles Roy is remarkable for his wide intellectual range, erudition, penetrating analysis, capacity for sustained research, and deep familiarity with sources relating to Elizabethan Ireland. His book will add significantly to scholarship in a field already served by so many outstanding scholars.”

- David Fitzpatrick, author of The Two Irelands

“This narrative exposes not only the ineptitude of the people behind negotiating and treaty making, but also on a queen unable to focus her mind. Whereas many histories emphasize one side of Elizabeth as a canny and masterful monarch, The Elizabethan Conquest of Ireland presents her as a woman whose romantic misadventures interfere with her duties and whose lack of interest in—and commitment to—Ireland leads to extremes of violence on both sides. This reader was riveted.”

- Dr. Laurie Kaplan, Academic Director, George Washington University’s London Center

“Roy’s book The Elizabethan Conquest of Ireland is a marvellous thing.  It is amazing to see how he keeps ahold of hundreds of names and personages and how he weaves together events to provide a coherent, fast-moving, breath-taking tale.”

- Corkucopia / Irish Examiner

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