Declaration of Independence of the Irish Parliament
Declarationof Independenceofthe Irish Parliament
By the mid-fifteenth century the English colony in Ireland was clearly on the defensive. They were looking to King Henry VI to shore up the Pale, and when he appointed Richard, duke of York, lieutenant of Ireland in 1447, the Anglo-Irish hoped that this would improve their fortunes. However, in October 1459 the Yorkist forces in England were defeated by the Lancastrians, and the duke of York fled to Ireland. This "Declaration of Independence" was passed by the Irish parliament in Drogheda in the following winter to ensure support for York, confirming him in his office and making it a treasonable offense for anyone to challenge his authority. However, the document also reaffirmed the separateness of the Anglo-Irish colony, and even if its validity was later questioned, its very existence is memorable.
SEE ALSO English Government in Medieval Ireland
Statutes, ordinances and acts published in a parliament of the Lord King at Drogheda on Friday next after the feast of St. Blaise in the 38th year of King Henry VI [7 February 1460], held before Richard, Duke of York, Lieutenant of Lord King, and thence adjourned to Dublin on Saturday next before the feast of St. Matthias, Apostle, next following [22 February], until Monday next after the feast of St. David next following; and there on Friday next after the feast of St. David until Monday next before the feast of the apostles Philip and James next following prorogued. And from that Monday to Monday next after the feast of Holy Trinity next following prorogued. And on Wednesday next before the feast of Corpus Christi next following to Monday next after the feast of St. Margaret, Virgin [21 July 1460] next following prorogued, and there ended and terminated in the form which follows:
I. Firstly it is ordained and agreed that Holy Church be free and have and enjoy all her franchises, liberties, and free usages without any infringement, as it has been used heretofore.
II. Also it is ordained and agreed that the land of Ireland have and enjoy all its franchises, good usages and customs as it has been used heretofore.
III. Also it is ordained and established that the cities of Dublin, Waterford and the town of Drogheda and all the other cities and good towns in the said land of Ireland have and enjoy all their good customs, liberties, franchises, privileges and usages as they have had and used heretofore.
IV. Also at the request of the Commons: That whereas the King our sovereign lord by his latters patent given at Coventry the 6th day of March in the 35th year of his reign  ordained and constituted his well-beloved cousin Richard, duke of York, his lieutenant of his land of Ireland to have and to hold [the same] office from the 8th day of December next following, in manner and form as is more fully specified and declared in the said letters patent enrolled of record in the rolls of the Chancery of the said land that it may be ordained, established and enacted in the said Parliament that by authority of the said Parliament the said letters patent be confirmed ratified and approved and that the said Duke may have occupy and enjoy the office and all things contained in the said letters patent according to the tenor form and effect thereof from the said eighth day to the end of the said ten years. Whereupon the premises considered: It is ordained established and enacted in the said Parliament that the said letters patent be confirmed ratified and approved and that the said Duke may have occupy and enjoy the said office and all things contained in the said letters patent, according to the tenor form and effect thereof from the said 8th day to the end of the said ten years.
V. Also at the request of the Commons: That, whereas the King of sovereign lord has constituted and appointed his well-beloved cousin Richard duke of York lieutenant and governor of his land of Ireland, wherein he represents in the absence of our said sovereign lord out of the same land his right noble person and estate; and that to the said lieutenant and governor in the said absence such reverence, obedience and fear ought to be given in the said land as to our sovereign lord whose estate is thereby honoured feared and obeyed. Whereupon, the premises considered, it is ordained, established and enacted in the said Parliament and by authority of the same that if any person or persons imagine, compass, excite or provoke the destruction or death of the said lieutenant and governor, or to that intent confederate or assent with the Irish enemies of our said sovereign lord or with any other persons, or provoke any rebellion or disobedience towards the said lieutenant and governor or by any statute made in the said parliament be proved a rebel to our said sovereign lord, that the said person or persons upon whom such imagining, compassing, excitement or provocation, confederacy, assent or rebellion is lawfully proved be and stand as attainted of high treason committed against the high person of our said sovereign lord. And it is ordained established and enacted in the said Parliament . . . that if any person or persons shall hereafter listen to the said imagining, compassing, etc. and assent to them, they be attainted of rebellion. And that thereupon the King shall send his writ to any sheriff of any county of the said land, any mayor, bailiff and commonalty, any mayor, sheriff and commonalty, any mayor and commonalty, or any sovereign portreeve and commonalty of any city or town or any other his subject of his said land to assist his said lieutenant and governor in resistance to the said person or persons in their said intention; and to chastise, punish, and subdue them as law requires, and that every of the said mayor, bailiff, sheriff, sovereign, portreeve, commonalty and subject shall put himself with all his force and power into due and immediate [readiness] for obedience to the said writ. And if any mayor ,bailiff and commonalty, etc. [as before] herein disobey or harbour, receive, aid or favour the person or persons in the said writ specified, that they shall forfeit all such profits and commodities or other things as they have of the grant of the King or of any of his noble progenitors and moreover a thousand pounds to the King. And if any of the sheriffs of any county of the said land or any of the said subjects do contrary [to this Act] that then they so doing shall forfeit one thousand pounds, one moiety to the King for the defence of the said land and the other moiety to the party who in that case will sue a writ of "scire facias" upon this act. Provided that this act be not prejudicial to the franchises of any city or town of the said land granted to the same city or town by our said sovereign lord of any of his progenitors. This to continue so long as the said lieutenant and governor shall be resident in his own person in the said land.
VI. Also at the request of the Commons: That, whereas the land of Ireland is, and at all times has been, corporate of itself by the ancient laws and customs used in the same, freed of the burthen of any special law of the realm of England save only such laws as by the lords spiritual and temporal and the commons of the said land had been in Great Council or Parliament there held, admitted, accepted, affirmed and proclaimed, according to sundry ancient statutes thereof made. And whereas also of ancient custom, privilege, and franchise of the said land there is, and at all times has been, the seal of the King current by which the laws there and also the King's subjects of the same land are guided and directed, which seal is called the seal of the said land to which all the said subjects ought to do lawful obedience. And it has not been seen or heard that nay person or persons inhabiting or resident in any other Christian land so corporate of itself ought to obey any mandate within the same land given or made under any other seal than the proper seal of the same by which any person should be had or compelled to go by any such mandate out of the said land. And if such mandate were obeyed in the said land of Ireland very great prejudice and derogation and very perilous inconveniences would result to the same contrary to the franchises, liberties and ancient customs thereof and to the very great and immeasurable vexations of the said subjects of the same, of which many instances have been in late days seen and experienced. And moreover, whereas in no realm or land which has within itself a Constable and Marshal of the same ought any person of that realm or land to sue or prosecute any appeal or other matter determinable before the said Constable and Marshal, before the Constable and Marshal of any other land where such appeal or matter took [can take] no foundation or effect. And this notwithstanding, that although there are in the said land, and of ancient custom have been, a Constable and Marshal, yet divers persons of the same land have oftentimes heretofore sued and procured of great malice many of the King's subjects of the same to be sent for to come into England by colour of such appeals in great derogation and prejudice of the said liberty and franchise. Whereupon, the premises considered: It is ordained, enacted and established in the said Parliament and by authority thereof that henceforth no person or persons being in the said land of Ireland shall be, by any command given or made under any other seal than the said seal of the same land, compelled to answer to any appeal or any other matter out of the said land. And that no officer or minister of the same land to whom any such command comes shall put that command or any proclamation or any other thing contrary or prejudicial to the said ancient, custom, privilege or franchise in execution, on pain of the forfeiture of all the lands and goods which he or any other to his use has in the said land, as well as [a fine] of a thousand marks, the one moiety to the King, and the other moiety to the party who will sue in this case against the said officer or minister by writ of "scire facias" or by any other action at the law proper in this behalf. It is also ordained by the said authority that any appeal of treason taken in this land shall be determined before the Constable and the Marshal of the said land for the time being and within the said land in no other place. And if any person shall hereafter appeal any other person in the said land, and the matter of said appeal shall be found and proved not true, that then such person taking or commencing such appeal for the same shall be adjudged to death, and that no pardon shall serve him in such case.
VII. Also at the request of the Commons: That, whereas the defence of the English nation of this land from the danger and malice of the Irish enemies of the same land rests and depends on English bows, which give to the said enemies the greatest resistance and terror of any weapon of war used in the said land [which is] now very nearly destitute of any great number of the said bows which are not in these days employed in the exercise of the occupation of archery, whereby the said enemies have grown into such great hardihood and audacity as to ride upon the King's subject of the said land by night, so that they suffer from the said enemies very great and hard rebuke, spoliations and robberies, to their outrageous injury and loss. Whereupon, the premises considered: It is ordained in the said Parliament and by authority thereof that every of the said subjects, for and upon every twenty pounds of lands, tenements, rents, fees, annuities or other livelihood and possessions with their appurtenances which he has in the said land of yearly rent, shall provide in his house one archer mounted and arrayed defensively with bow and arrows fit for the war according to the English fashion, to be ready at all times upon warning for the defence of he said land in manner and form as heretofore it has been accustomed, so long as the most high puissant prince the Duke of York may remain in the said land. And that in every county of the said land the archers, mounted and arrayed as above with the said bows and arrows according to the assessment of their said yearly possessions, shall every quarter make their musters in the same county before the justices or wardens of the peace having authority and power to enquire in their sessions b those to whom [the power] is given. And that by this act the same justices or wardens shall have power and authority to enquire in their sessions from time to time the value of the possession of every man within the same, and also the amerce in the same sessions according to their discretions such person and persons as ought to find the said archers and who therein make default contrary to the intent and tenor of the said act, Holy Church excepted.
Statute Rolls, Ireland, Henry VI, edited by Henry Fitzpatrick Berry (1910), pp. 639–649.