Doors 2.30pm, Talk 3pm. Tickets €16
When King James VI & I was taken on a tour of the newly founded State Papers Office at Whitehall in 1619, he was taken aback by the sheer bulk of paperwork relating to Irish affairs. As he feelingly remarked, ‘there was more ado with Ireland than all the world besides’. Much of the paper mountain had been generated by creation of the Ulster Plantation a decade earlier and personally overseen, to a surprisingly large extent, by the king himself. The eventual transformation of Ireland’s physical, political, demographic, religious, economic and cultural landscape as a result of the Plantation has accorded James a predictably prominent place in histories of early seventeenth-century Ireland. And yet, curiously, Ireland rarely features to a comparable extent in appraisals of this king.
Arising from Professor Jackson’s forthcoming biography of James – to be published on the quatercentenary of his death in March 2025 – this lecture reconsiders what Ireland meant for James. Despite never setting foot on Irish soil, he habitually referred to Irish policy in notably personal, often proprietorial, terms. Even when beset by refractory English MPs demanding large-scale military deployment on the Continent in the early 1620s, James insisted that he was no ‘idle nor sleeping king’, and that Ireland was ‘never in so great prosperity as now’. As his Lord Treasurer explained, while James always kept ‘his ears open’ to individual lobbyists, the king nevertheless ‘wished to have this work wholly left to himself, that he may make it his masterpiece’.
Clare Jackson is Honorary Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge and Walter Grant Scott Fellow in History at Trinity Hall. She is the author of Devil-Land: England under Siege 1588-1688 (Allen Lane/Penguin 2021) which won the 2022 Wolfson History Prize and was chosen as a 2021 ‘Book of the Year’ by The Times, The Times Literary Supplement, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman and The Sydney Morning Herald. Having presented a number of highly successful television programmes for the BBC, including The Stuarts (2014) and The Stuarts in Exile (2015), Clare is currently writing a life of King James VI & I, to be published in March 2025 on the 400th anniversary of James’s death.
This talk is presented by the OPW as part of the 2023 Cultural Programme at Farmleigh House.
Photograph by Alistair McCormick