from the word Pale, a fence or ditch
describes a ditch created during the Middle Ages as the English colony shrank to a small area around Dublin on the east coast.
The culture of this area is of vital importance in Irish history, politics and psychology to this day.
Like all the people were divided Some remained loyal, some rebelled during O'Neills war
How could he declaim against policies keeping the country in ignorance and incivility when the Pale was the upholder of civilised values in Ireland with its many good schools and many of its gentry going to university in England.
Pale note the tax called Smokesilver" for keeping wards and sentries against Irish raids. a society organised for war,
And if the Palesmen now abandoned their natural and god-given link with the English crown, they would degenerate into a similar state of barbarism.
An Exchange of Views
Lord Delvin, whose lands lay on the frontier of the Pale, sums up the attitude of many Anglo-Irish lords at this time in this exchange of letters with O' Neill.
At the end of November 1599 Delvin sent Thomas Leicester and Matthew Archbold with certain questions to O’Neill in the hope of gaining a respite in order to thresh his corn.
The tenor of these questions suggest familiarity with O’Neill’s proclamation. Delvin’s men were instructed to ask O’Neill why he was attempting to destroy in the English Pale to which he had no claim but which the Nugents and others had held legally from the Queen and her progenitors for 400 years.
O'Neill replied that he did not seek land, but to uphold the Catholic religion and stop abuses
Delvin was more vehement in his second instruction to Leicester and Archbold:
‘you are to tell him (if he pretend he doth the same for the advancement of the Catholic religion, as commonly he giveth out) that all the inhabitants of the English Pale, for the more part, and specially myself, are Catholics, and were when he was not thought to be one; and many of us, having heard and read more than he did, could never find in Scripture, General Council, by the Fathers or any authentical authority, that subjects ought to carry arms against their anointed Christian Prince, for religion or any other cause, and specially against so gracious a Prince as we have, whose bounty and special favour we have ever found, and he himself most of any. Therefore this gross and inexcusable ignorance is not sufficient for him to seek our destruction, who must regard our duty unto our native and gracious Prince (enjoined thereunto by God’s commandment) more than what life or living he can deprive us of’
If O’Neill had any greivances about religion, he should seek redress through the normal channels and to await the Queen’s answer like an honest and reasonable subject. ‘Which course if he shall deny, let him understand that the world in general must judge that he useth pretence of religion but as a cloak for tyranny, for which he may expect no other reward in this world, or in the world to come, than every other presevering in like purpose have had.’
To this expostulation of Catholic loyalism, O’Neill answered ‘that the English Palesmen were a kind of Catholics, and said, howbeit the Lord of Delvin taketh upon to be one, and that he endured trouble for the same, when himself was a schismatic, yet he knew that the Lord of Delvin would not hazard the loss of a foot of land, or forego his good meat, drink, and lodging to advance the Catholic Religion; therefore said he would not spare those that would serve, and did maintain others to serve, against him.
The problem was that the Palesmen hated the Gaelic Irish more than they disliked the Protestant arrivistes from England. Their ancestors had lost their blood conquering and defending their lands against the Gaelic Irish.
They may have learned to speak the Irish language but they valued the purity of their English culture and had ingrained habits of loyalty to the English crown. They considered themselves not only more civilised but also by the same token better Catholics than the Irish.
government adviser writing in 1598 judged the situation correctly: ‘Of their defection to the Irish there is no fear, but to remain neutral in this action is their desire’.1
1‘Instructions for my lieutenant, Thomas Leicester, and my servant, Matthew Archbold, to treat and parley with Tyrone’, 25 Nov. 1599 (Cal S.P. Ire., 1599-1600, pp.292-3); ‘The proceedings of us, the said Thomas and Matthew, with Tyrone’, 26 Nov. 1599 (Ibid, pp293-4)
1 Anonymous, ‘Paper on the condition of Ireland’, 1598 (Cal. S.P. Ire., 1597-98, pp.443-5).
to the happy relationship between the Palesmen and their benevolent Queen.