'You cannot take war across the countryside in a sack' (Langer, 7) The seventeenth-century German saying reminds us that the destructive impact of early modern warfare could not be isolated from society. Moreover, the origin, conduct and conclusion of war involved all society, not just its upper reaches where women exercised power and authority, but also those levels occupied by the majority of the population. Women's involvement in seventeenth-century Irish warfare, then, forms an integral part of a broader study of 'war and society' which transcends the traditional purview of military history; 'combat, weaponry, strategy, tactics, logistics, command or the organisation of armies'. (Murtagh; 1993, 61)
To begin with the uppermost reaches of female society, Merry E. Wiesner redefined the concept of power and made a crucial distinction between power, which she defines as 'the ability to shape political events' and authority which is formally recognized and legitimated. (239-40) The majority of royal women, she argues, had power, if not authority. So, while women were excluded from the institutions such as the royal council, the houses of parliament and administrative institutions, they were at the centre of the royal court, which was the heart of the political process. (Harris, 259) Indeed, every stage of the life cycle of royal women; childhood, marriage, childbirth and death, could intensify factional rivalries and lead to warfare.
The marriage by proxy of Charles 1 to Henrietta Maria, a French Catholic, in 1625, was unpopular with most of his future subjects. This marriage was the first of three Catholic marriages by the Stuart kings of England and its 'significance cannot be overstated'. (Fitzpatrick, 1988) The very fact of her religious allegiance was significant since the trigger for the crisis of authority which her husband faced in the late 1630s was the perception that he wanted 'to un-