Why Did England Want Ireland? 1250 – 1303

What’s the point?

England had to put down rebellion after rebellion after rebellion after rebellion in Ireland from the moment it moved in. Well, it was worth it when you consider the amount of money and resources that Ireland could provide. King Edward really liked waging wars. In 1277 he launched a nice long war against Wales that lasted into the 1280s and Ireland played an important role.

Okay, well, not right away, because in 1277 when Edward asked for money from Ireland, his justiciar (administrator of justice) couldn’t comply, as he was dealing with a rebellion similar to the one Edward was dealing with. Edward asked for supplies to use in Wales and the justiciar wrote back that there were none to spare and could Edward send over about 2000 Welshmen for the chief governor and his campaign against the Irish.

Okay, so excluding that, when the war broke out in Wales again five years later, there was greater Irish participation. In the twelve months from November 1282 to November 1283, the money that went to Wales from Ireland totted up to nearly £9000. This, from a time when normal revenues from Ireland rarely exceeded £6000. What’s more, when Edward won, he went about building castles that cover the North Wales landscape. It’s estimated that these had cost in the region of £80,000 to build and Ireland paid for about £30,000.

So Ireland was a goldmine! Wow! So it was just infinite money flowing from Ireland?

If Ireland is sending virtually ALL its money to Edward, what pays for law and order in Ireland? Exactly. Ireland became a lawless land in most parts of the country and without the funding to afford proper protection for land owners and infrastructure, crime and corruption spread. The country didn’t prosper as much. This meant that the purse that Edward could collect from Ireland got smaller and smaller as the years went by.

No matter! Edward went to war in Scotland and needed more bodies. Unfortunately for him, the Irish knew he was desperate. This meant they could demand extremely high wages. In 1296 over 3000 men left Ireland to fight for him at the cost of nearly £7500 – a HUGE sum. It took a lot to get the Irish to fight the Scottish.

One thing the crown did to deal with these problems was to wipe debts that lords and chiefs owed them in order to obtain their arms in times of war. This was employed everywhere, not just in Ireland and it was a very effective form of conscription. In 1303, the earl of Ulster owed over £11,000 to the crown! Edward wiped the slate clean for his help in his military campaigns.

Where this practice turns nasty is when it became possible to get your crimes wiped clean. Murderers could be given salvation if they agreed to serve. He even ended up giving some people a pardon in advance.

No, come back! I’m ALLOWED to kill you.

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