Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Church and Society in County Kildare, C. 1470-1547

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Church and Society in County Kildare, C. 1470-1547

Article excerpt

MARY ANN LYONS. Church and Society in County Kildare, c. 1470-1547. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000. Pp. 208, appendix, bibliography, index. $55.00.

Irish history, whether ecclesiastical, social, economic, or political in the late medieval and English Reformation periods, is rarely covered in standard histories of those times. This is what makes Mary Ann Lyons' book very helpful and, for some, rewarding. Moreover, she uses one of the best present-day approaches to doing history through research and writing about a local area. Local history can, and in this book does, illuminate the wider history of a country, region, or movement.

The locale in this book is County Kildare, which was a significant part of Ireland at that time because it included "part of the maghery (heartland) and marches (outlying areas) of the English Pale" (p. 17). The Pale encompassed that part of Ireland which extended out from Dublin and was under the authority of the English crown and parliamentary law. Beyond the Pale was Gaelic Ireland, which did not recognize the crown or laws of England.

The first and longer part of the book focuses on the Fitzgerald family, who as successive earls of Kildare dominated all aspects of life in the county and most of the Pale from the late fifteenth century until 1535. In 1535 the Gaelic war lords attacked and decimated the county, and executed the earl and other Fit/geralds. Thomas Cromwell sent English troops to put down the rebellion and restore order, but not to restore the Fitzgeralds, who, he believed, had usurped too much of the crown's authority in Ireland.

The life of the Irish church on the eve of the Reformation is well presented in this section. The church thrived from local parish to highest hierarchy in matters of late medieval piety, beliefs, and customs. However, as was true of parts of England and Wales at the same time, decadence reigned in the church's infrastructure. The abuses of pluralism., absenteeism, clerical concubinage, and poorly-educated and poorly-paid local clergy abounded. …

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