For my assignment, I have chosen to examine the history of Poynings’ Law, 1494. This law would dominate the Irish political landscape for three centuries until its repeal at the end of the eighteenth century. In this essay, I intend to examine this law, its various interpretations and the impact it had from its inception until its practical annulment in 1782.
Poynings’ Law was created in the aftermath of the English War of the Roses. The victorious Lancastrian Tudor, Henry VII, succeeded to the English throne in 1485. After the civil war, Henry was determined to restore order to England. His marriage to Elizabeth of York combined the Lancastrian and Yorkist factions within the Tudor line. However, Ireland was involved in two Yorkist plots centred on pretenders who claimed the English throne The Anglo-Irish Feudal magnates, who administered the Lordship of Ireland on behalf of the Crown, demonstrated a disconcerting willingness to aid enemies of the ruling Tudor dynasty. An example of this happened in 1487 when Lambert Simnel, a pretender to the throne, was crowned Edward VI in Dublin with the support of the Gearóid Mór, the eighth earl of Kildare, who was Lord Deputy. While Kildare was more prudent when Perkin Warbeck sought to assert a similar claim in the early 1490’s, it was not enough to deflect suspicion. Therefore, after Henry had crushed these two insurrections, moved to cease the threat that Ireland presented to his rule. In 1494 he sent Sir Edward Poynings to replace Kildare as his Lord-Deputy. Poynings arrived in Ireland with a substantial number of civil officers and soldiers, to pursue his dual strategy of reducing the country to obedience and introducing a series of constitutional and administrative reforms. He convened a parliament at Drogheda late in 1494 and passed a number of acts, the most important undoubtedly being the eponymous Poynings’ Law. Under its terms, parliament was to meet in Ireland only after royal permission had been granted and after the king and the council in England had been informed of and had approved the measures which it had proposed to enact. While the interpretation of Poynings’ Law varied massively in the centuries that followed, it’s original intent was to prevent a chief governor in Ireland using the parliament for their own gains and to the King’s detriment as Kildare had done in 1487.
Poynings’ Law was the foundation stone for a peculiar system of legislative procedure that made it impossible for the Irish parliament to develop on parallel lines to its English counterpart. The act required that, before a parliament could be summoned, the viceroy and council must certify to the king and his council, under the great seal of Ireland, the reasons for its meeting, together with drafts of all intended legislation; and must receive from the king and his council licence under the great seal of England to hold a parliament, together with such bills as the king and his council approved.
After 1494, the first stage in the preparation of a parliament was that the lieutenant and the council in Ireland decided that parliament should be called and prepared all of the draft legislation to be put before it. Then the application for a license to hold parliament and the draft bills were formally certified under the great seal of Ireland and sent to England. During this period, it was normal for a member of the Anglo-Irish administration to travel with these documents so that they could be explained to the King and council in England. In England, the bearer was brought before the King’s council and a signed formal license to hold parliament was drawn up, and all of the bills that had been approved to go before the Irish parliament were added to it. This signed document is then sent to the King, who was asked to grant letters patent and to give his sign manual as a warrant to the Lord Chancellor for sealing the patent. They were then sent to the Lord Chancellor, who issued letters patent...
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