The Rebels of Ireland

The Rebels of Ireland

by Edward Rutherfurd


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The reigning master of grand historical fiction returns with the stirring conclusion to his bestselling Dublin Saga.
The Princes of Ireland, the first volume of Edward Rutherfurd’s magisterial epic of Irish history, ended with the disastrous Irish revolt of 1534 and the disappearance of the sacred Staff of Saint Patrick. The Rebels of Ireland opens with an Ireland transformed; plantation, the final step in the centuries-long English conquest of Ireland, is the order of the day, and the subjugation of the native Irish Catholic population has begun in earnest.

Edward Rutherfurd brings history to life through the tales of families whose fates rise and fall in each generation: Brothers who must choose between fidelity to their ancient faith or the security of their families; a wife whose passion for a charismatic Irish chieftain threatens her comfortable marriage to a prosperous merchant; a young scholar whose secret rebel sympathies are put to the test; men who risk their lives and their children’s fortunes in the tragic pursuit of freedom, and those determined to root them out forever. Rutherfurd spins the saga of Ireland’s 400-year path to independence in all its drama, tragedy, and glory through the stories of people from all strata of society—Protestant and Catholic, rich and poor, conniving and heroic.
His richly detailed narrative brings to life watershed moments and events, from the time of plantation settlements to the “Flight of the Earls,” when the native aristocracy fled the island, to Cromwell’s suppression of the population and the imposition of the harsh anti-Catholic penal laws. He describes the hardships of ordinary people and the romantic, doomed attempt to overthrow the Protestant oppressors, which ended in defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and the departure of the “Wild Geese.” In vivid tones Rutherfurd re-creates Grattan’s Parliament, Wolfe Tone's attempted French invasion of 1798, the tragic rising of Robert Emmet, the Catholic campaign of Daniel O’Connell, the catastrophic famine, the mass migration to America, and the glorious Irish Renaissance of Yeats and Joyce. And through the eyes of his characters, he captures the rise of Charles Stewart Parnell and the great Irish nationalists and the birth of an Ireland free of all ties to England.
A tale of fierce battles, hot-blooded romances, and family and political intrigues, The Rebels of Ireland brings the story begun in The Princes of Ireland to a stunning conclusion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345472366
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/27/2007
Series: Dublin Saga Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 896
Sales rank: 118,947
Product dimensions: 5.47(w) x 8.16(h) x 1.51(d)

About the Author

EDWARD RUTHERFURD was born in Salisbury, England, and educated at Cambridge University and Stanford University in California. His bestselling novel Sarum is based on the history of Salisbury and Stonehenge. Russka, his second novel, recounts the sweeping history of Russia. London tells the two-thousand-year story of the great city, bringing all of the richness of London’s past unforgettably to life. His novel The Forest is set in England’s ancient New Forest. His last novel, The Princes of Ireland is the companion to The Rebels of Ireland covering the first eleven centuries of Ireland’s history. Edward Rutherfurd divides his time between Dublin and New York.

Read an Excerpt


Octor Simeon Pincher knew all about Ireland. Doctor Simeon Pincher was a tall, thin, balding man, still in his twenties, with a sallow complexion and stern black eyes that belonged in a pulpit. He was a learned man, a graduate and fellow of Emmanuel College, at Cambridge University. When he had been offered a position at the new foundation of Trinity College in Dublin, however, he had come thither with such alacrity that his new hosts were quite surprised.

“I shall come at once,” he had written to them, “to do God’s work.” With which reply, no one could argue.

Not only did he come with the stated zeal of a missionary. Even before his arrival in Ireland, Doctor Pincher had informed himself thoroughly about its inhabitants. He knew, for instance, that the mere Irish, as the original native Irish were now termed in England, were worse than animals, and that, as Catholics, they could not be trusted.
But the special gift that Doctor Pincher brought to Ireland was his belief that the mere Irish were not only an inferior people, but that God had deliberately marked them out–along with others, too, of course–since the beginning of time, to be cast into eternal hellfire. For Doctor Simeon Pincher was a follower of Calvin.

To understand Doctor Pincher’s version of the subtle teachings of the great Protestant reformer, it was only necessary to listen to one of his sermons–for he was already accounted a fine preacher, greatly praised for his clarity.

“The logic of the Lord,” he would declare, “like His love, is per­fect. And since we are endowed with the faculty of reason, with which God in His infinite goodness has bestowed upon us, we may see His purpose as it is.” Leaning forward slightly towards his audience to en­sure their concentration, Doctor Pincher would then explain.

“Consider. It is undeniable that God, the fount of all knowl-edge–to whom all ages are but as the blinking of an eye–must in His infinite wisdom know all things, past, present, and to come. And therefore it must be that even now, He knows full well who upon the Day of Judgement is to be saved, and who shall be cast down into the pit of Hell. He has established all things from the be­ginning. It cannot be otherwise. Even though, in His mercy, He has left us ignorant of our fate, some have already been chosen for Heaven and others for Hell. The divine logic is absolute, and all who believe must tremble before it. Those who are chosen, those who shall be saved, we call the Elect. All other, damned from the first, shall perish. And so,” he would fix his audience with a terrible stare, “well may you ask: ‘Which am I?’”

The grim logic of John Calvin’s doctrine of predestination was hard to refute. That Calvin was a deeply religious and well-meaning man could not be doubted. His followers strove to follow the loving teachings of the gospels, and to live lives that were honest, hard­working, and charitable. But for some critics, his form of religion ran a risk: its practice could become unduly harsh. Moving from France to Switzerland, Calvin had set up his church in Geneva. The rules governing his community were sterner than those of the Lutheran Protestants, and he believed that the state should enforce them by law. Following their strict moral regime–and reporting their neigh­bours to the authorities for any failure to live according to God’s law–his congregation did not only seek to earn a place in Heaven, but also to prove to themselves and to the world that they were in­deed the predestined Elect who had already been chosen to go there.

Soon Calvinist communities had sprung up in other parts of Eu­rope. If the Scottish Presbyterians were known for their somewhat dour adherence to the doctrines of predestination, the Church of England and its sister Church of Ireland had nowadays a Calvinis­tic air. “Only the Godly are part of the Church,” its congregations would declare.

But could it be that certain among the community might in fact not be chosen to go to Heaven at all? Most certainly, the Calvinists would concede. Any moral backsliding might be an indication of it. And even then, as Doctor Pincher put it in one of his finest ser­mons, there remained a great uncertainty.

“No man knows his fate. We are like men walking across a frozen river, foolishly unmindful that, at any time, the ice may crack, and buckle, and drop us down into the frozen waters–below which, hidden deeper yet, burn the fiery furnaces of Hell. Be not puffed up with pride, therefore, as you follow the law of the scriptures, but re­member that we are all miserable sinners and be humble. For this is the divine trap, and from it there is no escape. All is foretold, and the mind of God, being perfect, will not be changed.” Then, look­ing round at his disconsolate congregation, Doctor Pincher would cry out: “And even though, if God has so ordained, you may be doomed, yet I beseech you, be of good cheer. For remember, no matter how hard the way, we are commanded, always, to hope.”

Might there, perhaps, be hope for some of those not in the Calvinist congregation? Perhaps. No man could know the mind of God. But it seemed doubtful. In particular, for those in the Catholic Church, the future looked bleak. Did they not indulge in popish su­perstitions and worship the saints as idols–things specifically pro­hibited in the scriptures? Hadn’t they had opportunity to turn away from their errors? To Doctor Pincher it seemed that all followers of the Pope in Rome must surely be on their way to perdition, and that the natives of Ireland, whose bad character was so well-known, were probably in the devil’s clutch already. And might they not yet be saved if they converted? Could not their case be remedied? No. Their sin, to Doctor Pincher, was a clear sign that they had been se­lected to be damned from the first. They belonged, like the pagan spirits that infested the place, deep underground. Such were the thoughts that had strengthened the keen resolve of Doctor Pincher as he crossed the sea to Dublin.

Yet what of his own fate? Was Simeon Pincher sure, in the secret places of his heart, that he himself was one of the Elect? He had to hope so. If there had been certain sins, indiscretions at least, in his own life, might they be signs that his own nature was corrupt? He turned his face from the thought. To sin, of course, was the lot of every man. Those who repented might indeed be saved. If sins there had been in his life, therefore, he repented most earnestly. And his daily conduct, and his zeal for the Lord, proved, he hoped and be­lieved, that he was, indeed, not the least amongst God’s chosen.

It was a quiet day, with a light breeze, when he arrived at Dublin. His ship had anchored out in the Liffey. A waterman rowed him to the Wood Quay.

And he had just clambered onto the terra firma of Ireland represented by the old quay when, quite suddenly, something happened and the world turned upside down.

The next thing he remembered, he was lying facedown, con­scious of a great roar, and that something had given him a huge blow in the stomach so that he could hardly breathe. He looked up, blinked, and saw the face of a man, a gentleman by his clothes, dusting himself off and gazing down at him with concern.

“You are not hurt?”

“I do not think so,” Pincher answered. “What has happened?”

“An explosion.” The stranger pointed, and, twisting round, Pincher saw that, in the middle of the quays, where he had noticed a tall building with a crane standing before, there was now a broken stone stump, while the houses in the street opposite were blackened ruins.

Pincher took the stranger’s proffered arm gratefully as he stum­bled to his feet. His leg hurt.

“You are just arrived?”

“Yes. For the first time.”

“Come, then, Sir. My name, by the way, is Martin Walsh. There’s an inn close by. Let me help you there.”

Having left Pincher at the inn, the obliging gentleman went off to inspect the damage. He returned an hour later to report.

“The strangest business. An accident without a doubt.” It seemed that a spark from a horse’s shoe upon a cobble had ignited a keg of gunpowder, which had set off a large gunpowder store by the big central crane.
“The lower part of Winetavern Street is destroyed. Even the fabric of Christ Church Cathedral up the hill has been shaken.” He smiled wryly. “I have heard of strangers bringing bad weather, Sir, but an explosion is something new. I hope you do not mean the Irish any further harm.”

It was gentle banter, kindly meant. Pincher understood this very well. But he had never been very good at this sort of thing himself.

“Not,” he said with grim satisfaction, “unless they are papists.”

“Ah.” The gentleman smiled sadly. “You will find many of those, Sir, in Dublin.”

It was not until after this Good Samaritan had conducted him up to Trinity College and seen him safely into the care of the porter there that Doctor Pincher discovered that Mr. Walsh himself was of the Roman faith. It was an embarrassing moment, it couldn’t be de­nied. Yet how could he have guessed that the kindly stranger, so ob­viously English, so clearly a gentleman, could be a papist? Indeed, as Walsh had warned him, he was soon shocked to discover that many of the gentlefolk and better sort in Dublin were.

But this very discovery only showed, he was also to understand, how much work there was to be done.


A midsummer evening. Martin Walsh stood with his three children on the Ben of Howth and stared across the sea. His cautious, lawyer’s mind was engaged in its own careful calculations.

Martin had always been a thoughtful soul–old for his years, people used to say. His own mother had died when he was three, his father Robert Walsh a year after. His grandfather, old Richard, and his grandmother had brought him up and, used to the company of older people all the time, he had unconsciously taken on many of their attitudes. One of these had been caution.

He gazed fondly at his daughter. Anne was only fifteen. It was hard to believe that he must already make such decisions about her. His fingers clasped the letter in the hidden pocket in his breeches, and he wondered, as he had been wondering for hours: should he tell her about it?

The marriage of a daughter should be a private family affair. But it wasn’t. Not nowadays. He wished his wife were still alive. She would have known how to deal with this. Young Smith might possess a good character or a bad one. Walsh hoped that it was good. Yet some­thing more would be necessary. Principles, certainly. Strength, without a doubt. But also that indefinable and all-important quality–a talent for survival.

For people like himself–for the loyal Old English–life in Ire­land had never been more dangerous.

It was four and a half centuries since the Norman-French king Henry Plantagenet of England had invaded and, taking the place of the old High Kings of Ireland, bullied the Irish princes into accepting him as their nominal lord. Apart from the Pale area around Dublin, of course, it had still been Irish princes and Plantagenet magnates like the Fitzgeralds–who were soon not much different from the Irish– that had ruled the island in practice ever since. Until seventy years ago, when King Henry VIII of England had smashed the Fitzgeralds and made plain, once and for all, England’s intention to rule the western island directly. He’d even taken the title King of Ireland.

A few years later, the disease-ridden English monarch with the six wives had been dead. For half a dozen years his son Edward, a sickly boy, had ruled; his daughter Mary for another five. But then it had been Elizabeth, the virgin queen, who for nearly half a cen­tury had remained on England’s throne. They had all tried to rule Ireland, but they hadn’t found it easy.

Governors were sent over, some wise, some not. English aristo­crats, almost always, with resonant names or titles: Saint Leger, Sussex, Sidney, Essex, Grey. And always they encountered the same, traditional Irish problems: Old English magnates–Fitzgeralds and Butlers–still jealous of each other; Irish princes impatient of royal control–up in Ulster, the mighty O’Neills had still not forgotten they had once been High Kings of Ireland. And everyone–yes, in­cluding the loyal Old English gentry like the Walshes–only too glad to send deputations to the monarch to undermine the gover-nor’s authority wherever the governor did something they didn’t like. If they came to turn Ireland into a second England, this was not only supposed to be for the benefit of the Irish. With them came a collection of fortune hunters–the New English, they were called–hungry for land. Some of these rogues even tried to claim they were descended from long-forgotten Plantagenet settlers and that they had ancient title to Irish property.

So was it surprising that the English governors found that Ire­land resisted change, or new taxes, or English adventurers trying to steal their land? Was it surprising that during Martin Walsh’s child­hood there had been more than one local rising, especially down in the south, where the Fitzgeralds of Munster felt threatened? There was more than a suspicion, however, that some of the English offi­cials were deliberately trying to stir up trouble. “If they can provoke us into rebellion,” some Irish landowners concluded, “then our es­tates are confiscated and they can get their own hands on them. That’s the game.” But it was at the end of Elizabeth’s long reign that the big rebellion had come.

Of all the provinces of Ireland, Ulster had the reputation as the wildest and the most backward. Ulster chiefs had watched the progress of the English officials in the other provinces with disgust and increasing restlessness. The greatest of them all, O’Neill–who had been educated in England and held the English title Earl of Ty-rone–had usually managed to keep the peace up there. Yet in the end it had been Tyrone who led the revolt.

What did he want? To rule all Ireland as his ancestors had done? Perhaps. Or just to frighten the English so much that they’d leave him to rule Ulster as his own? Also possible. Like Silken Thomas Fitzgerald, sixty years earlier, he had appealed to Catholic loyalties against the heretic English and sent messages to the Catholic king of Spain asking for troops. And this time, Catholic troops–four and a half thousand of them–had actually come. Tyrone was quite a skilful soldier, too. He’d destroyed the first English force sent against him up in Ulster, at the Battle of the Yellow Ford, and peo­ple had rallied to his cause from all over the island. That had only been a decade ago, and no one in Dublin had known what was go­ing to happen; but in due course Mountjoy, the tough and able English commander, had broken Tyrone and his Spanish allies down in Munster. There was nothing Tyrone could do after that. At the very moment that old Queen Elizabeth had been on her deathbed in London, Tyrone, last of the princes of Ireland, had ca­pitulated. The English had been surprisingly lenient; he was allowed to keep some of the old O’Neill lands.

There was a new king, Elizabeth’s cousin James, on the throne now. Tyrone’s game was over, and he knew it. Yet was Ireland any safer?

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Rebels of Ireland 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
honeygrams5 More than 1 year ago
This is a very interesting view of the Irish history with England, as well as the Catholic vs Protastants. It will enlighten the reader of some of the problems resulting from these conflicts. I enjoyed the reading.
Orla More than 1 year ago
There are few words that can explain how much I enjoyed this book. Edward Rutherfurd's writing is utterly captivating. The books of his that I have read I have loved every paragraph and chapter. The characters become so real to me that I feel like I am right there with them experiencing everything I read.
1Taibhse More than 1 year ago
This author is able to perfectly blend historical fact and make it interesting with his addition of characters to make it interesting! Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a great read! Although lengthy, it moves along and does not get boring. A lot of facts about Irish history were intriguing.
RocketTerp More than 1 year ago
Heart-breaking, but still very good. Ireland has such a dramatic history; yet visit Ireland and her people are some of the kindest, most welcoming. This book and Princes of Ireland give background to their history great and horrible. I enjoyed it, though at times it can become depressing. Interesting and eye-opening to read a book like this and then contemplate what European ancestors did to native populations around the world.
MJ44 More than 1 year ago
Edward Rutherfurd does not disappoint. His novels are full of history,intrigue and adventure. He doesn't hesitate to captivate you with his easy flow of words, hooking you into the saga right to the end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read both of the Irish books written by Rutherfurd and have enjoyed them. As an Irish Catholic I could not believe how ignorant I was about Ireland and its history. I plan on reading his other books as they are not only instructive but also entertaining
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read all of Edward Rutherfurd's work and have enjoyed it all. However, I'm convinced that Rebels of Ireland is his best effort to date. In trying to ascertain why this may be, I have come to the conclusion that the condensed time frame captured by the book (around 300 years as opposed to the thousands of years in his previous efforts) may be the key. Many of Rutherfurd's earlier books were in the mold of Michener, and while Rutherfurd is good, in my opinion, he is not the equal of Michener in taking a story from prehistory to the present day. Especially where Rutherford tries to tie together family units through centuries, the result is often confusing and hard to follow. However, in the case of Rebels of Ireland, Rutherfurd is given the time necessary to develop characters and story lines to extents not available in his earlier works. The subject matter is engrossing, especially to one who has actually travelled to and toured the Emerald Isle. The chapter on the potato famine of the 1800s was heart breaking in its vivid portrayal of mass starvation through the eyes of a poor Irish family in County Clare. Religious turmoil and English domination are certainly the cornerstones of Irish history through the period canvassed by the novel. For those not familiar with contemporary Irish history, this book would be an excellent primer. If you enjoy this novel, I would recommend Russka, another novel by Rutherfurd dealing with Russian peasantry. Rutherfurd's other work (Sarum, London, The Forest and Princes of Ireland), while entertaining and certainly worthwhile, are not the equal of the other two.
Osbaldistone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Honestly, this book probably deserves a 4-star rating, but my expectations of Rutherfurd are higher than most hist. fiction authors, based on hist terrific "London" and "Sarum" ."Rebels" is the sequel to his "Princes of Ireland", but you don't have to read "Princes" to fully enjoy this work. Together, they form "The Dublin Saga". Note that these works appear under other titles ("Dublin: Foundation" and "Ireland: Awakening" are, I believe, "The Princes of Ireland" and "The Rebels of Ireland", respectively).Rutherfurd's works read like several short novels tied together by family threads as he moves through history, so don't let the size put you off. You can read about a three families in late 1700s Ireland, set it aside for awhile, and then pick it up later to read about their descendants in the early 1800s. However, once you've started, you probably won't want to set it aside.Rutherfurd does his usual splended job of presenting well researched history from the viewpoint of totally plausable fictional families and individuals. Historical characters move through these stories, and historical events drive them. And all the while, you develop a personal interest in what happens to these people and how their progeny turn out. The connections between generational stories seemed a bit more forced than in his best work, making the narrator as history teacher a bit more obvious. But this is a small complaint compared to the epic tale he has to tell, and the importance of the historic events that unfold in this novel. You'll see why the "Irish" Irish felt as they did about the English; why the English felt as they did about the Irish, and how the "English:" Irish and "Irish" English (not to mention the Scots-Irish) covered the spectrum from revolutionary to merchant to aristocrat to ruler. And through the lives of these families, you'll see that a simple "Protestant" vs "Catholic" explanation of the troubles in Ireland doesn't come close to explaining the hows and whys of the last 300 years of Ireland's relationship with England and it's own peoples.
gregory_gwen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really like this one! I feel like I know much more about Ireland and its history now. I want to get his earlier book, the Princes of ireland, and read it too.
LTFL_JMLS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really like this one! I feel like I know much more about Ireland and its history now. I want to get his earlier book, the Princes of ireland, and read it too.
Fourborne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A travel through Irish history by following families and how they are connected. I really enjoyed this book. It is a very long read.
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rutherfurd's Rebels of Ireland completes his two-volume epic saga of Ireland. The emerald isle posed a challenge for Rutherfurd, who normally sweeps across thousands of years in a single volume. The Rebels of Ireland is unusual in that it commences quite late in the day - 1534 and continues through Irish independence in 1922 - a mere four centuries! In his standard style Rutherfurd follows the fortunes and machinations of several families through Irish history. We meet Oliver Cromwell, Robert Emmet, Wolfe Tone, Daniel O'Connell, and Charles Stewart Parnell. Rutherfurd takes us through the Flight of the Earls, the Battle of the Boyne, the skedaddling of the Wild Geese, the Famine, and the Great Migration to America. Rutherfurd gives a fascinating description of how some families, especially those with aspirations, would more or less choose or at least encourage one son to convert to Protestantism so as to have one foot in each camp - in particular one foot in the official church of the elite. The Rebels of Ireland necessarily lacks the full epic scope of Rutherfurd's other works and feels a bit cramped as a result. Not at the top of my personal Rutherfurd favorites, but well worth the read. Recommended for fans of Rutherfurd or any reader with an interest in Irish history. By the way, if you enjoy historical novels about Ireland also try the excellent "IRELAND: A Novel" by Frank Delaney.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a must read to learn about Irish history that is not usually taught in our schools.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is written in a way that appeals to me as a history nerd and the inner book nerd. I am Irish, so this book gives me an interesting look into where my heritage is and what I came from. The stories of the characters line up in a very pleasing way, and their stories are all  enveloping and well written. One of my favorite things about the book is how I think of Dublin. In the first section, Tara, I think of Dublin as  Dubh Linn. I see the words and know exactly what it is. It was the same when the transition from Tara to Vikings and the new Dyflin. It took me a few times reading Dyflin to make the transition complete, but it is still the same thing. The transition from a distant pagan island to Christian Ireland is also a very interesting aspect of the book. Well done Mr. Rutherfurd. 
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