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Buckingham and Ireland, 1616-1628
A study in Anglo-Irish Politics
Victor Treadwell


American Historical Review
'At the heart of this book by Victor Treadwell is a minute investigation of the role of George Villiers,, duke of Buckingham, in the New English aggrandizement in early seventeenth-century Ireland. Through his agency, a strong client party was intruded into the Irish administration, and, under the aegis of this Villiers connection, Buckingham's own extensive operations in landholding and commerce were surreptitiously developed. Treadwell adduces fascinating details of a ramifying network based upon entrepreneurial opportunism and propitious intermarriage. The latter feature was very important in the construction of a New English peerage centred on the duke and his family and strengthened through matrimonial ties with the older Irish, as well as English and Scottish, aristocracies. Buckingham himself was shaping up to become a major Anglo-Irish magnate, the title of "Prince of Tipperaria" being among those adumbrated for him. At the time of his assassination, he had clandestinely accumulated a portfolio of lands in Leitrim and Upper Ossory and was preparing to reveal himself as a major landholder in Ireland at the head of a landed faction. Essential to the spinning of a web of noble kinship was the promotion of continuous plantation in many parts of Ireland through a variety of stratagems. Treadwell's perspicacious discussion of this policy reveals the tension between the public interest in fostering English civility and Protestantism and the private drive toward quick profits.

It was in order to protect his multifaceted Irish enterprise and to cover its traces that Buckingham became involved in hampering the work of the Irish commissioners of 1622 and subsequently sabotaging a standing commission for the affairs of Ireland. The account of the setting up of the commission and the nomination of its members affords brilliant insights into the interconnectedness of English and Irish politics. Determined to make Ireland "live of her own," Lionel Cranfield, the earl of Middlesex, provided the momentum for the inquiry into all aspects of Irish administration, including finance. Treadwell superbly contextualizes the reforming program, which ultimately perished on the rocks of venality and corruption and led to its author's downfall, but tantalizing glimpses are caught of how it might have succeeded given the right conditions.
Against the backdrop of English foreign policy as the duke's career reached its apogee in the years 1624-1628, the negotiation of the Graces by the older elites of Ireland is considered within the milieu of Anglo-Irish politics. The convergence of the conciliation of Ireland's Catholic population, burgeoning Protestant patriotism, and English parliamentary anger is masterfully shown to have had a significant bearing on the passage of the Petition of Right. The intertwining of English and Irish discourse on the royal prerogative and the rule of law was particularly piquant, not just in 1628 but also in the period leading to the war of the three kingdoms in 1640-1641.

Although Treadwell's work is important in its placing of Ireland squarely within the process of "Britishization" which was under way during the period, there are ample riches here for the reader accustomed to "the more discrete conventional parameters of narrative national histories" (p. 19). The author's panoramic survey of political and social change in early modern Ireland is tellingly brought to bear on the period of Buckingham's engagement with Ireland. Most interesting in this respect perhaps is the painstaking reconstruction of the social and political ascent of the members of Villiers's connection in Ireland and the detection of the measures adopted to conceal the extent of the duke's own involvement.

This book makes a valuable contribution to scholarship on a number of levels. Within the new field of British history that looks at the composite monarchy of the early modern British Isles, this applied study notably advances our knowledge of the systems of court patronage and lobbying in respect of Ireland. And the history of early Stuart politics in England is broadened by the drawing in of a vital Irish dimension to explain crucial junctures in court-Parliament relations. All of this is achieved through Treadwell's formidable research, to whose monument of writings on Irish administrative history this volume and an edition of the 1622 Irish commission papers provide a capstone.
COLM LENNON, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, American Historical Review.


History Ireland
'Victor Treadwell's early works on Irish customs reform and the Irish Commission of 1622 have long been fundamental reading for anyone seeking to understand the inner workings of Irish administration during the early Stuart period.  He has produced another major contribution to both Irish and English historical scholarship by concentrating on the political and social networks created in Ireland by George Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham. In the process, the author reveals the substantial, albeit hidden, economic and political pillars supporting the royal favourite’s rise to power in England.  Treadwell then goes on to detail the impact of Buckingham's previously unrecognised Irish connections on the high politics of Caroline England, and concludes with some general remarks concerning Buckingham and the Irish dimension to the 'general crisis' of the seventeenth century.  This is no mean feat, and the author laboured hard, in his own words, 'to ride several horses at once' in his quest to delineate the political interrelationships linking Ireland with England.  In doing so, Treadwell successfully captures a dimension of Buckingham's career curiously absent in the works of the duke's several biographers.  Thus the author's introductory remarks excoriating the narrow and provincial nature of past and current British historiography seem appropriate.

The story begins with the death of Sir Robert Cecil in 1612, and the displacement in Ireland of government officials linked to Cecil and the Irish Lord Deputy Sir Arthur Chichester.  The key personage behind this metamorphosis proved to be the well-connected Irish servitor Sir John Graham whose contacts with the English Privy Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury succeeded in manoeuvring the youthful but unknown George Villiers into the royal presence at court.  So began an infamous royal infatuation, that inspired James I to bestow an avalanche of offices and honours on the young favourite.  But as Treadwell shows, it was the Irish connection that served to launch and sustain Buckingham's ambition at court.  Predictably the Villiers ascendancy brought about the removal of an earlier regime of New English predators in favour of characters more supple and pliant toward the favourite and his supporters in Ireland.  This led to the appointment of Buckingham's first major client and distant kinsman, Sir Oliver St John, as lord deputy in Ireland.  From here Treadwell patiently takes the reader through the labyrinth of kinship, patronage and public office that formed the Villiers Irish clientele.  Buckingham and his cronies built their Irish fortunes by openly exploiting monopolies, titles, and estates and enthusiastically pursuing earlier policies of confiscation and plantation.  During the financial crisis of the 1620s, such occurrences attracted the attention of English fiscal reformers and parliamentary men apprehensive of the royal prerogative.  This led no less a figure than the Lord Treasurer, Lionel Cranfield, the first Earl of Middlesex, to investigate matters so that, Ireland ‘may live of its own’.  The ensuing Commission of 1622, launched to investigate abusive governmental practices in Ireland, threatened the Villiers Irish interest.  Treadwell skilfully recounts how Buckingham impeded Cranfield by intriguing in English parliamentary Politics and foreign policy, ultimately thwarting the Lord Treasurer and the standing commission for Irish affairs.

By showing the interaction between English policies in Ireland and the impact of Irish lobbies on the English Privy Council and parliament, Treadwell illuminates much that historians have overlooked in 1620s Anglo-Irish relations.  Especially interesting are Treadwell's comments on the creation of a transnational British aristocracy arising from the plethora of Irish estates and titles bestowed by early Stuart monarchs.  During the period 1616 to 1630, the Irish peerage increased from twenty-four to ninety-nine.  This expansion of peerages and estates, not to mention the creation of 258 new knighthoods, led to the appearance of members of both English and Irish parliaments with land and titles on both sides of the Irish Sea.  This, according to Treadwell, also led to specialised Irish lobbies that first made their appearance in the English parliament of 1621.  As Treadwell further observes, an expanded Irish peerage fostered by Buckingham undoubtedly contributed to Lord Deputy Sir Thomas Wentworth's ability to manage the Irish House of Lords in the parliament of 1634 through proxies supplied to the government by absentees.  For those interested in fixing a chronology to Ireland's place in the seventeenth century crisis, Treadwell's concluding remarks about Wentworth's tenure as Lord Deputy seem to suggest that it was Buckingham who had unwittingly paved the way for Wentworth's demise and his royal master's destruction.  There is little to criticise in this important work.  But it would have been useful to understand how the native element perceived Villiers and his supporters.  This is also a detailed and densely argued book accessible only to the serious student.  While the author apologises for the book's density and complexity, it fundamentally alters our understanding of the early Stuart period in Ireland, and will long remain a classic study' Hans S. Pawlisch, History Ireland.


Irish Literary Supplement 
'In recent years, English and Irish historians have focused their attention on what is termed "three kingdom history . This shift away from "myopic Anglocentric" studies has promoted a "multiple kingdom"or "composite monarchy" view that has placed Anglo-Irish history into a new and expansive context. The author of Buckingham and Ireland, 1616-1628, Victor Treadwell, reminded his readers that "General textbooks of English history routinely tucked away Ireland into a single, more or less self-contained chapter, which did not disturb the universal sweep of the domestic narrative.... [with] embarrassing intrusions ... accommodated by an expedient marginalization." The author warned that by the 1620's "there lurked at, or not far from, the centre of English politics an Irish dimension of hitherto unsuspected potency." This hypothesis was demonstrated by Treadwell's "re-interpretation of the course of English ' high politics' " in Irish affairs. He exposed how George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, the transcendent court favourite of James I and his son Charles I, exercised through corrupt patronage a dominating role over English policy in Ireland In the late 1610's and early 1620's. The results of his study alters how we perceive the Falkland and St. John governments of Ireland. It also provides new insights for understanding the Lord Deputyship of Thomas Wentworth.

In the wake of the Elizabethan Nine Years War, it was the intention of James I "not to carve up Ireland into distinct spheres ... but to encourage the growth of a loyal, Protestant, homogenous-in short, a 'British' population." As Treadwell explains, the Stuart monarchy went from "harvesting the escheated fruits" of former Irish rebellions to the discovery of current crown titles. The “re-integration” of Ireland into British – "a convenient imperial synonym for 'English'" -composite monarchy conformed with King James's desire to restructure Irish society along English lines by bestowing Irish honours and offices. Into this setting strode the aspiring George Villiers, who took advantage of the spoils of Irish patronage in offices, patents and lands to enhance the wealth and power of his family. Orbiting around this hub emerged a grappling collection of self-serving office seekers and their kin. This patronage empire characterized English colonial ventures in pre-Wentworth Ireland. One of the book's most fascinating disclosures is the linkage of Villiers Buckingham's Irish practices to the growing alienation of the English Parliament.  No one is better suited to examine Buckingham and early Stuart policies than Victor Treadwell.  Retired Senior Tutor in History at Ruskin College, Oxford, the author has contributed to Irish administrative history for almost forty years.  His works are standard reading and reference for any serious student of the early modern Irish era.

His study of Buckingham is a natural companion to his long-awaited Irish Manuscript Commission work on the Irish Commission of 1622, an examination of the operation of all ecclesiastical and civil administration of Ireland from 1615 to 1622.  Buckingham in Ireland explores this abusive network which inspired the 1622 Commission.  Operating as Ireland's  "grand bounty-master," Buckingham was able to capture and manipulate the administration and bureaucracy of the island.  Treadwell cites Professor Lawrence Stone's assertion that Ireland became "virtually a colony of exploitation mounted by the Villiers family . Irish lands, titles and monopolies generated a ready source of revenue and power for the crown and its agents.  This mechanism was energized by the revitalized Irish Court of Wards and a re-invigorated plantation policy. Under the guise of “civility,” Buckingham oversaw the "social engineering" of the Irish ruling classes. In a book that is often belaboured by detailed personal histories, the radical transformation of Ireland’s titular aristocracy makes for intriguing reading. The author deftly shows how the traffic in less-expensive Irish peerages raised revenue and coalesced itself into a conflicted new alien ruling elite; one that was committed to the fortunes of Buckingham’s governing network. Under the "confiscatory plantation" schemes of Buckingham’s governing cadre, the “inflation of  honors" by the early Stuarts saw the traffic in Irish titles aggrandize English and Scottish suitors.  Irish peerage quadrupled between 1616-1630, 258 new Irish knighthoods were established by 1629 and over 45 Irish baronets were in place by the time Thomas Wentworth came to Ireland.  The most enterprising of these new peers acquired English wives, estates and titles for their children.  This fascinating cycle, Treadwell contends, laid the basis for a "British" or tri-kingdom Protestant aristocracy.  These transactions and their corruptions also attracted the attention of fiscal reformers, English Parliamentarians, who saw these Irish  practices as a symptom of an abusive royal prerogative.

The resistance of the Stuart monarchy, fed by the beleaguered Buckingham, eventually thwarted the reforming efforts of Lord Treasurer, Lionel Cranfield, hobbled the  Investigations of the Irish Commission and led to the dissolution of English Parliaments. But Buckingham  endured, despite the expanding appetites of his dependants and the shrinkage of the royal bounty. It took the assassination of Buckingham in August 1628 to impede the progress of his “concealment business”. According to Dr. Treadwell, Buckingham insured Ireland would be a subtext to English politics. As a whole, the book is superb piece of scholarship. It takes a narrow slice of the composite realm and explains its integrative workings and dependencies. Nevertheless  it is a difficult, if not tedious read.  The author apologizes for the text's "tiring density and complexity." Steeped with rich citations and an exhaustive bibliography, Buckingham and Ireland is still required reading for the serious researcher. Treadwell’s study, together with M. Perceval-Maxwell’s The Outbreak of the Irish Rebellion in 1641, provides readers of history with riveting new details of the inner workings of the Stuart government in Ireland.  They explain and reveal why Irish disaffections progressed to a rebellion that threatened to break up the "multiple kingdom." But the book also has some weaknesses.  Treadwell's three kingdom perspective frequently failed to see Buckingham and his cadre from an Irish viewpoint and often the master dealer is lost in the labyrinths of his own designs.  More trifling would be the curiosity to know more about the Earl of Clanricard's role in the O'Rourke dispossession and Buckingham's specific expectations in his foreign policy follies.  Other than these concerns, Treadwell has made significant contribution of putting Ireland into her rightful place in the Stuart kingdom.’

Jerrold Casway, Irish Literary Supplement.


Irish Studies Review (1999)
‘Victor Treadwell is an historian's historian.  Not that, in terms of the popular stereotype, he is dense and unreadable far from it, he writes with style and panache, with a gift for clear summaries and coherent arguments.  Rather, he has that deep grounding in the primary sources that instantly commands the respect of his fellow professionals.  No one who has even glimpsed the detailed pencilled annotations on his personal copy of Griffith's edition of the Patent Rolls of James I (that essential, but, until recently, irritatingly unindexed urtext of the Irish administration) or has read his masterful studies on early seventeenth-century taxation, the Irish parliaments or the Court of Wards, could fail to be impressed by his crucial combination of detailed knowledge and synthetic exposition.  This book is his magnum opus, a product of many decades work on Ireland, which provides us with a vital insight into that crucial interface between English, Irish and 'British' history.

One of the persistent, and often justified, criticisms of 'British' historians is that they specialise in one kingdom and merely dabble in the others.  Given the contrasting skills and time required to master, say, Gaelic Irish and English parliamentary sources, it is hardly surprising that suitably equipped historians have proved few and far between.  Treadwell's field is the government of England and Ireland in the early seventeenth century: this involves coming to terms with the intricacies of both the Irish and the English administrations, with their linked but different politics, patronage and parliaments.  He meets this challenge with élan.  Though his title appears limited, the book is about much more than Buckingham and Ireland - it really deals with the political relationship between the two countries over two decades, covering the rise of the Villiers influence in Ireland in the 1610s, the challenge posed by the reforming lord treasurership of the Earl of Middlesex, 1621 24, and the subsequent apogee of the 'Villiers hegemony' brought to an end only by Buckingham's assassination in 1628.  Treadwell begins by laying bare the workings of Buckingham's patronage network, ranging from patents and monopolies to the selling of titles, providing in the process a splendid summary of the personnel of the Irish administration.  By 1624 Buckingham monopolised the distribution of Irish patronage and effectively controlled the direction of Irish affairs at the English Privy Council.  Though much of his energy was spent on his personal enrichment, he also shaped policy in more significant ways: it was Buckingham and his allies who facilitated the negotiation of the graces in England.  He was also responsible for the reinvigoration of the policy of confiscatory plantation, just when it seemed to be running out of steam.

One result of Treadwell's ability to traverse the Irish sea so adeptly is to revise the verdicts and assumptions of scholars ignorant of the 'British' dimension.  For example, he ends the mystification of English historians, vainly seeking English explanations for the dissolution of the 1621 parliament, by his convincing argument that the decisive driving force was Buckingham's fear of parliamentary investigation of his Irish interests.  Even more important, Treadwell also shows how, under Buckingham, Ireland was for the first time comprehensively included in a wider 'British' political and patronage network: Buckingham, as he puts it 'was a major agent of "Britishization"' ... (p. 299).  The influx of English proprietors ensured that landholding in both countries, like parliamentary membership and the peerage, became inextricably linked.  'This interconnectedness was, of course, to play a vital role in fuelling the crisis of the 1640s.  Finally, Treadwell demonstrates once again that all-too-familiar truism of Irish history, that corruption, inefficiency, lethargy and sheer cussedness regularly frustrated even the most noble intentions of government.  In fine, this book is a highly important addition to early-modem scholarship confirming Four Courts Press as a major publisher of Irish history, and whetting one's appetite for Treadwell's complementary volume of primary sources, his edition of the papers of the 1622 commission’ Alan Ford, Durham University, Irish Studies Review, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1999.



English Historical Review
'Victor Treadwell’s Buckingham and Ireland is a distinguished addition to the current wave of work on the 'archipelagic' dimension of early modern British and Irish history. His study is meticulously executed, finely constructed, and based upon an awesome amount of primary research. The Bibliography and endnotes reflect exhaustive exploration of manuscripts in English and Irish national archives, and more selective but well targeted use of repositories in Scotland and the United States. The exploitation of printed primary sources, both public and private, is equally impressive. Treadwell integrates a myriad of evidential fragments to produce a fundamentally important study in Anglo-Irish politics which traces the nature and development of what he neatly dubs ‘Villiers Enterprises (Ireland) Unlimited’ (p.48). He shows Ireland’s role in sustaining Buckingham’s formidable patronage network, and analyses how members of the ‘Villiers connection’ exploited early Stuart plantation policy for their own ends. The ruthlessness of Buckingham and his clients in protecting their own interests in turn reveals the intimate links between English and Irish politics. Buckingham’s stranglehold on the Court and Privy Council in London explains why his opponents among the Old English and Gaelic Irish were unable to appeal directly to the monarch against his actions. Equally, Irish affairs help to explain much about English political developments. Treadwell’s accounts of the Parliaments of 1621 and 1624 are particularly significant in this respect. He examines how Buckingham’s fears of a commission of enquiry into Irish issues led him to sabotage the 1621 Parliament by deliberately fomenting mistrust between the King and the Houses. Treadwell also shows how Lord Treasurer Middlesex’s consistent attempts to make Ireland financially self-sufficient inevitably conflicted with Villiers interests, and there is a compelling account of how this motive contributed to Buckingham’s orchestrated campaign for Middlesex’s impeachment in the Parliament of 1624. Such minute unravelling of the interaction between Irish and English affairs prompts Treadwell to make a welcome call for further research into the workings of different lobbies and interest groups within the English parliament: this is a highly fruitful approach, as David Dean’s recent monograph on the later Elizabethan Parliaments has demonstrated. Treadwell’s book is a mine of information, although the price we pay for such a wealth of factual detail is a certain density of prose that makes the book rather heavy going in places. It is also a pity that the publisher chose – presumably on grounds of cost? – to print endnotes rather that footnotes, which for a work of this intricacy involves the reader in a great deal of flipping between text and notes. Footnotes would have been much more convenient and efficient. But these are minor criticisms, and the cumulative effect of this very impressive book is to reveal Buckingham as a major agent of ‘Britishization’ in Ireland (p.299).In that sense, the Duke paved the way for the more terrible events associated with the Straffordian regime, the conflicts of the 1640s, and the Cromwellian conquest' David L. Smith. English Historical Review. nov 99.
 
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