AN IRISH IMBROGLIO
THE King's position was in every way worse than it had been a year before, and rapidly deteriorating. Even during the Uxbridge conference had come tidings that his base at Shrewsbury had fallen to a surprise attack, impairing his communications with Chester and North Wales. With his northern recruiting field lost, and with the resources of Lowland Scotland and the greater part of England at the disposal of his enemies, it had become more than ever necessary for him to tap some fresh source of manpower, and he must have begun to turn his eyes more anxiously than ever to the outer Celtic fringe. If he could only draw upon the support of his Irish subjects to redress the balance of forces upset by the Scottish intervention, it might yet give him a chance. Catholic Ireland was ready to sell her support at a price, and a far lower price than had been exacted from Parliament by Presbyterian Scotland, and agreed to by Pym. But however desperate his need, the King was not prepared to imitate his opponents by pledging himself and his country to anything that might be demanded of him, or to go one inch beyond what he himself considered just and honourable. The utmost he was prepared to concede was toleration for the Catholic religion among a Catholic people--and a very guarded measure of that. There was never the remotest question of his allowing the Irish, as Pym had allowed the Scots, to become spiritual dictators of England.
Such delicacy of scruple--as was proved when Russian support was in the market on the eve of the Second World War--though it may be justified in the long run, loses all the tricks in a game of power politics. The Irish, if left to themselves, might have been content for leave to go to Heaven in their own way, and leave their Protestant neighbours to do the same. But Ireland was a pawn in the diplomatic strategy of the Vatican, that aimed at the total reconquest of its lapsed provinces, and in which Ireland figured as an advanced base.
To add to the King's difficulties, his own Lord Lieutenant, the Marquis of Ormonde, though a paragon of Cavalier loyalty, was a diehard Protestant to whom the bare idea of toleration for Papacy was antipathetic. It was only natural therefore, that