Thomas Wentworth

CriticismCommentaryReferences


Life
[Earl of Strafford]; Lord Deputy of Ireland, 1633-41; hoped by ‘through government to make every Irishman a loyal a prosperous English citizen’; forced the Laudian 39 Articles on Ussher, suppressing the former 104 Articles of the Church of Ireland, with effect of breaking down Protestant solidarity between Episcopalians and Presbyterians in Ireland, 1634; encouraged industry politically and selectively; didn’t grant the Graces, but boasted that the King was absolute in Ireland; Earl of Strafford, 1640;
 
defended himself against the twenty-eight articles of impeachment at the Long Parliament, but was beheaded under a bill of attainder; hindered Irish woollen trade and fostered linen; strong man, great adversary of Richard Boyle (Earl of Cork), despised and exploited ethos of Irish [new English] planter society; caused a brief ascendancy of Old English interests, but pressed on with raising Crown revenues; parleyed with new Ulster planters, and showed himself authoritarian to all. ‘Wentworth’s alienation from both elites in Irish politics is preserved in the literature of the day;
 
he is the villain of Richard Boyle’s diaries as well as of Old English polemical pamphlets.’ (Foster, p.81); called a Parliament in 1640, with two thirds Protestants. Notoriously anti-Scottish, he imposed an Oath of Abjuration or ‘Black Oath’ to curb the Covenanting movement. The raising of a King’s army and his ‘overweening authority’ in Ireland were made the basis of the attack ... that ended with his execution on 12 May 1641; created John Ogilby Master of the Revells, a patent renewed after the Restoration, and commanded performances both in Dublin Castle and in Werburgh St. ODNB OCEL FDA OCIL

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Works
The Earl of Strafford’s Letters and Dispatches (London: Bowyer 1739; rep. Dublin 1740); The Papers of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, 1593-1641, from Sheffield Archives [‘Crown Servants’, Series 1], on 20 reels 35 silver-halide pos. microfilm (Adam Matthew Publ., Oxford St., Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, SN8 1AP).

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Criticism
  • Elizabeth Cooper, The Life of Thomas Wentworth: Earl of Strafford and Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, 2 vols. (London: Tinsley Brothers 1874);
  • Baroness Winifrede Burghclere, Strafford, 2 vols. (London: Macmillan 1931);
  • Hugh O’Grady, Strafford in Ireland, History of his Vice-royalty with an Account of his Trial (Dublin 1923);
  • Hugh Kearney, Strafford in Ireland, a study in Absolutism (Manchester UP 1959), xvii, 294pp.; Do. [rep. edn.] (Cork UP 1989), 294pp.;
  • J. F. Merritt, ed., The Political World of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford 1621-1641 (Cambridge UP 1996), 307pp.
See also Hugh F. Kearney, Eleven Years Tyranny of Charles I [Hist. Assoc. Aids for Teachers, No. 9] (London: Cox & Wyman 1962), 15pp. , and Do. [rev. edn.] (Hist. Assoc. 1973), 16pp.

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Commentary
Thomas Crofton Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland (1824): ‘“That Ireland was never conquered has been her pride, but it has also been her misfortune”; and I believe it will be found that her children have been alternately treated as allies, as rebels, or as slaves; perhaps it may be urged that they have conducted themselves as such; but have the measures of those who formerly governed them been unexceptionable, and has that faith, that honour, and that humanity been inviolably observed, which would call forth reciprocal virtues in a people whose traducers even have not denied their warmth of heart, and capability of ardent and devoted attachment? / The circumstances of Charles I’s reign contain many features of historical importance. It will be recollected amongst the charges most loudly urged against Lord Strafford was his arbitrary and rigorous administration in Ireland, regarding that island as a conquered county; a position received with acclaim by the English parliament, and tacitly acknowledged by Charles himself. / The Irish shortly after took up arms and declared their independence, and were proclaimed traitors and rebels by the very same assembly for presuming to maintain the doctrine they had themselves first asserted; nor is this monstrous inconsistency less remarkable for being slurred over and unnoticed by almost every historian.’ (p.8; note that this conception of Ireland’s status as both subject to the crown and independent of it is reiterated in a different vein by James A. Froude, q.v.)

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Derry: Field Day 1991, Vol. 1 (Field Day 1991), notes that Ogilby found a patron in Wentworth, a man eager to build up a little court around himself in Dublin. Deane notes that Wentworth appointed John Ogilby Master of the Revells, a patent renewed after the Restoration, and commanded performances both in Dublin Castle and in Werburgh St. (p.550.)

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Notes
A wooden triumphal arch was erected to welcome Wentworth at Limerick in 1637 with cupids, Apollo, ‘ancient genii’, and ‘laureate poets’ (R. Loeber, Calendar of State Papers, Ireland 1633-47, p.168; cited in W.B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition IAP 1976; this ed. 1984).

John Cleveland (1613-1658), Epitaph on the Earl of Strafford: ‘Strafford, was hurried hence / ’Twixt Treason and Convenience’. Note the Cleveland also wrote an elegy for Edward King, Milton's friend, drowned on the Irish sea.

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