The First Ormond Peace, 1646

The summer of 1646 was the high point of the Confederate war-effort. Following O'Neill's victory at Benburb, General Preston's Leinster army captured Roscommon and Bunratty castles in July. These victories strengthened Archbishop Rinuccini and the hardline "clerical party" on the Supreme Council but at the same time prompted Viscount Muskerry and the "peace party" to press ahead with negotiations for a treaty with the King's representative the Marquis of Ormond. The political factionalism of the Supreme Council prevented the Confederates from fully exploiting the military success of their armies. Meanwhile, King Charles disavowed the pro-Catholic Glamorgan Treaty and returned sole authority in negotiations to Ormond.

Ormond versus Rinuccini

Prompted by Lord Digby, who arrived at Dublin early in July, Ormond moved quickly to conclude a treaty with Muskerry and the Anglo-Irish lords which would allow an Irish army to cross over to England to fight for the King in return for limited toleration of the Catholic faith in Ireland. On 30 July 1646, the "Ormond Peace" was publicly proclaimed in Dublin.

Although Muskerry and his supporters on the Supreme Council ratified the Ormond Peace, Archbishop Rinuccini rejected it because it did not allow the open practice of Catholicism nor the return of churches and cathedrals taken by the Protestants during the course of the war. Rinuccini summoned the Irish clergy to a synod at Waterford where, on 12 August, the Ormond Peace was denounced. Confederates who supported it were guilty of breaking the Oath of Association; towns that allowed it to be proclaimed were threatened with interdiction. On 1 September, Rinuccini pronounced a sentence of excommunication on any Confederates who continued to support the treaty.

Ormond went to Kilkenny and attempted to rally support for the treaty among members of the Supreme Council. He called a meeting of the Irish nobility at Cashel, but was refused admission to the town. Amid mounting hostility from the Irish population and on hearing news that the Confederate generals O'Neill and Preston were rallying forces in support of Rinuccini, Ormond returned to Dublin on 14 September. A few days later, Rinuccini arrived at Kilkenny at the head of an armed force. Ormond's supporters were imprisoned and the Ormond Peace was declared void. On 26 September, the clergy appointed a new Supreme Council, with Archbishop Rinuccini as its president.

Under Rinuccini's presidency, the new Council adopted an aggressive stance and immediately began making preparations for an attack on Dublin.


S.R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War vol.iii, (London 1889)

C.P. Meehan, The Confederation of Kilkenny (Dublin 1846)

Jane Ohlmeyer, The Civil Wars in Ireland (in The Civil Wars, a military history of England, Scotland and Ireland 1638-60), Oxford 1998

James Scott Wheeler, Cromwell in Ireland, (New York 1999)