The National Archives
Search our website
  • Search our website
  • Search our records
   
 

Uniting the Kingdoms? 1066-1603

 
   

England

Government and Law

Thumbnail linking to pop-up window

Once royal supremacy in Ireland had been secured, English influence steadily increased. Henry II created his youngest son, John, Lord of Ireland (Dominus Hiberniae). In 1199 John succeeded to the English throne, and from this date is credited with the introduction of English-style, centralized government in Ireland.

The administration now set up in Dublin included a ChanceryGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window, an ExchequerGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window and Courts of Common PleasGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window and King's BenchGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window - all modelled on English institutions. Local government also reflected its English counterpart, with sheriffs appointed to enforce the king's peace. Although, after this, the structure of Irish government remained largely unchanged in the years before 1603, some English innovations were introduced towards the end of this period. These included a Court of Wards and LiveriesGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window in the sixteenth century.

For more on the Exchequer, visit our online Treasures exhibition.

Thumbnail linking to pop-up window

Since the king did not reside in Dublin, he appointed chief governors, known initially as justiciars and later as king's lieutenants. However, these men were normally absentee royal princes and the real source of authority was the deputy-lieutenant, later styled the lord deputy. He governed with the advice of a council that included the principal governmental officers within the lordship such as the chancellor and treasurer. Until the 1530s, the deputy was normally an Anglo-Irish noble drawn from the Butler or FitzGerald families. Thereafter, English courtiers dominated appointments. One of the most well-known was Sir Henry Sidney, who held the office on two occasions under Elizabeth I and made sustained efforts to extend English rule throughout Ireland.

Next chapter

   
 
Detail from Horseman. By permission of The Board of Trinity College Dublin.
 
Detail from Horseman. By permission of The Board of Trinity College Dublin.