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Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland
Online Exhibition

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Online Exhibition

Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland highlights the close interactions between Ireland and England in the age of Shakespeare. For much of their history both nations were kingdoms under one crown, and cooperation was more frequent than conflict. This exhibition tells a tale of English conquest and Irish rebellion and resistance, but also of enduring connections between the two countries that persist to the modern day.


The Irish nobles are among the best examples of that linked history, sharing cultural, political, and family connections wtih their English continental peers. They are some of the best documented Irish figures of the age and are represented here, in part, by portraits, family pedigrees, and poems of praise in English, Latin, and Irish Gaelic. As politicians, courtiers, and soldiers who shaped modern Ireland, Irish nobles were also linked to some of the greatest lights of the "English" literary Renaissance. Edmund Spenser lived and wrote his greatest work in Ireland, for example. Sir Philip Sidney, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare had Irish connections and interests.


"Newcomers" of lower status also transformed Irish society. Not only administrators and writers, but military captains, Protestant preachers, land speculators, and many other journeyed to Ireland to seek their fortunes, and some proved more fortunate than others. Richard Boyle arrived there a commoner from Kent, England; he died as first Earl of Cork and the wealthiest man in the British realms.




Explore selections from this exhibition, case by case, by clicking the links below:

Payne. Henry VII. Engraving, 1622

Great Britain. Office of the revels. Revells ffrom shrovetide. Manuscript, 1554/55

Sir Anthony van Dyck. The Marchioness of Worcester. ca. 1637

James Shirley. St. Patrick for Ireland. London, 1640

John Speed. Theatrum imperii Magnæ Britanniæ. London, 1616

Additional Information

Listen to the Audio Tour

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