Here is a very interesting tidbit of info regarding the Catholic/Protestant conflict in Ireland. All this because King Henry VIII wanted to marry Anne Boleyn. It is amazing and tragic that this relationship could affect Ireland even to this day…
“The religious dispute in Ireland became more serious during the reign of Elizabeth I. Elizabeth was an avowed Protestant. She spent much ofher reign fighting Catholic leaders in Rome and Spain, who were constantly trying to topple her from the English thrown. Under these conditions, she couldn’t allow Catholics to attack her from her own backyard, so she gave tacit approval for Protestant adventurers to go claim land in Ireland from Catholic landowners.
The Irish were still resisting Protestant rule. In 1579 James Fitz Maurice Fitzgerald, cousin to the earl of Desmond, went to the Continent and brought back a small army to oppose Protestant rule in Ireland. Elizabeth responded by sending a bigger army of English soldiers, who broke up the Irish rebellion. She confiscated the earl of Desmond’s lands, had most of his family put to death, and resettled his old estates with loyal English subjects.
Elizabeth’s greatest Irish challenge came with the revolt of Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone. The O’Neills were an old Irish family originally from Ulster that once had claims to the high kingship of Ireland. O’Neill appealed for help in his rebellion to the king of Spain, who sent more than 4,000 soldiers to help fight England. Spain was Elizabeth’s greatest enemy , so she raised a massive army of 20,000 soldiers to crush the rebellion. In 1601 her army defeated the Hiberno-Spanish force at Kinsale.”
“O’Neill and his fellow Catholic earls tried to mount another attack, but they couldn’t gather sufficient forces to have any chance of victory. In 1607 they fled Ireland in the “Flight of the Earls”.”