On the Research: How I Approached the Document

"Sir Robert Southwell's Notes on a Biography for the Duke of Ormond"

            In approaching this sort of document, the first thing that I knew that I had to do was to get a proper understanding of who the Duke of Ormond was before I actually began to read the document. I knew that I needed to do this in order to level the playing field with Southwell, as I wanted to make sure that my opinion wasn’t necessarily impacted by him until I had enough information on Ormond to be able to really understand where his stance came from. This was doubly important as I knew little about either the English Civil War or about the Duke of Ormond.

Accordingly, I went about the research in a two-step approach. In the first step, I looked at the conflict at large before I would then consequentially look into the specifics about the Duke of Ormond himself in relation to the conflict. To that end, I set about reading up on the English Civil War, particularly as the conflict pertained to Ireland (as I knew that Ormond was tied to Ireland due to the title being an Irish one.) The English Civil War, known as the “War of the Three Kingdoms” in Ireland, was perhaps as convoluted a debacle as they come. It saw the armies of four major players (the Irish Confederates, Scottish Covenanters, Royalists, and Parliamentarians) clash for what would ultimately prove to be the fates of both Britain and Ireland. Now, the fact that the Irish revolt had preceded the fighting in England[1] and that for the timeframe in which the Irish fought the royalists, they did so while claiming to be in support of King Charles I[2] really cemented the conflict as being a messy one, which helped to inform me that I was going to have to be careful with this source. Because I already knew going into this that Ormond was a royalist in Ireland, I knew that this would have been a complicated set of loyalties for him to navigate.

As the document itself primarily deals with James Butler, Duke of Ormond during the timespan of the English Civil War, the next step in the research process for me was to then look into who exactly the Duke of Ormond was both before, during, and after the war ended. This was done so that I could subsequentially get an idea of what Southwell may have discussed before I went into the document properly. Born to an “Old English”[3] family in Clerkenwell, England, Butler was from an early age entwined with the Stuarts due to his father’s untimely passing and his subsequent wardship by King James I (which led to his conversion to Protestantism despite being from a Catholic family).[6] These facts would make him an ideal candidate for the monarchy to place him in command of their forces in Ireland during the timeframe of the English Civil War (due to his status and connection to the island), and so it was that he would be arguably the single most important royalist on the island. It would be Ormond who would lead the charge first against the Irish and later in negotiating with them in order to bring the Irish on board against the Parliamentarians[7], a common enemy between the groups. Ormond apparently had difficulties with the negotiations[8] but eventually the two parties would unify to present a common front against Parliament.[9] It would be for naught as Oliver Cromwell would ultimately conquer the island in any case.

I found that Ormond would later on become the lord governor of Ireland and serve the Stuarts well during the Restoration, helping to pacify the island.[11] By utilizing this sort of research method, I was essentially narrowing my focus down to reach the specific subject material of the document that I would be working with. This crash course that I made for myself on the English Civil War and specifically on the Duke of Ormond was useful in both familiarizing myself with the time period that was being discussed as well as providing a touchstone to which I could compare whatever facts that Southwell presented against. I still would investigate the specific events and double-check as needed, but nonetheless doing this groundwork ahead of time was something I found to be essential to beginning the process of handling a document such as the Southwell one.

[1] Patrick Little, “The English Parliament and the Irish Constitution,” in Kingdoms in Crisis: Ireland in the 1640s, ed Micheál Ó Siochrú, Dublin, Ireland: Four Corners Press, 2001, pg108-109

[2] Bernard, “Histories of the 1640s,”pg26

[3] The “Old English,” when dealing with Ireland, were descendants of the Norman invaders of Ireland during the 12th century. They had a bit of a complicated history with the central government in Westminster since the English themselves oftentimes viewed them to have “gone native,” so to speak. Steven Ellis, “History - Turning Ireland English,” BBC (BBC, February 17, 2011), http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/tudors/elizabeth_ireland_01.shtml#five.

[4] Billy Kelly, “James Butler, First Duke of ORMOND 1610-1688,” History Ireland, January 28th, 2013, https://www.historyireland.com/early-modern-history-1500-1700/most-illustrious-cavalier-or-u-nkinde-desertor-james-butler-first-duke-of-ormond-1610-1688-by-billy-kelly/.

[5] Billy Kelly, “James Butler, First Duke of ORMOND 1610-1688,” History Ireland, January 28th, 2013, https://www.historyireland.com/early-modern-history-1500-1700/most-illustrious-cavalier-or-u-nkinde-desertor-james-butler-first-duke-of-ormond-1610-1688-by-billy-kelly/.

[6] Billy Kelly, “James Butler, First Duke of ORMOND 1610-1688,” History Ireland, January 28th, 2013, https://www.historyireland.com/early-modern-history-1500-1700/most-illustrious-cavalier-or-u-nkinde-desertor-james-butler-first-duke-of-ormond-1610-1688-by-billy-kelly/.

[7] Robert Armstrong, “Ormond, the Confederate Peace Talks and Protestant Royalism,” in Kingdoms in Crisis: Ireland in the 1640s, ed Micheál Ó Siochrú, Four Corners Press, Dublin, Ireland, pg122

[8] Armstrong, “Ormond, the Confederate Peace Talks and Protestant Royalism,” pg122

[9] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, "James Butler, 12th earl and 1st duke of Ormonde," Encyclopedia Britannica, July 17th 2021, https://www.britannica.com/biography/James-Butler-12th-earl-and-1st-duke-of-Ormonde, Accessed August 5th, 2021

[10] HistoryNet Staff, “Irish Confederate WARS: Oliver Cromwell's Conquest of Ireland,” HistoryNet (HistoryNet, August 9th, 2016), https://www.historynet.com/irish-confederate-wars-oliver-cromwells-conquest-of-ireland.htm. Accessed August 18th, 2021

[11] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, "James Butler, 12th earl and 1st duke of Ormonde," Encyclopedia Britannica, July 17th 2021, https://www.britannica.com/biography/James-Butler-12th-earl-and-1st-duke-of-Ormonde, Accessed August 5th, 2021