The main object of this book is to describe in some detail, and as impartially as possible, the dealings of England with Ireland during the reigns of Henry VIII. and his three children. As an introduction to the study of that period, it seemed desirable to give some account of the course of government during those 340 years which had elapsed since the first Anglo-Norman set foot upon the Irish shore. And, seeing that Teutonic invaders had effected a lodgment about three centuries and a half before Henry II.’s accession, it was hardly possible to avoid saying something about the men who built the towns which enabled his subjects to keep a firm grip upon the island. Lastly, it seemed well at the very outset to touch lightly upon the peculiarities of that Celtic system with which the King of England found himself suddenly confronted. Agricola took military possession of south-western Scotland partly in the hope of being able to invade Ireland. He had heard that the climate and people did not differ much from those of Britain, and he knew that the harbours were much frequented by merchants. He believed that annexation would tend to consolidate the Roman power in Britain, Gaul, and Spain, and kept by him for some time a petty Irish king who had been expelled by his own tribe, and to whom he professed friendship on the chance of turning him to account. Agricola thought there would be no great difficulty in conquering the island, which he rightly conjectured to be smaller than Britain and larger than Sicily or Sardinia. ‘I have often,’ says Tacitus, ‘heard him say that Ireland could be conquered and occupied with a single legion and a few auxiliaries, and that the work in Britain would be easier if the Roman arms could be made visible on all sides, and liberty, as it were, removed out of sight.’ Agricola, like many great men after him, might have found the task harder than his barbarous guest had led him to suppose; and in any case fate had not ordained that Ireland should ever know the Roman Peace. It was reserved for another petty king, after the lapse of nearly 1,100 years, to introduce an organised foreign power into Ireland, and to attach the island to an empire whose possessions were destined to be far greater than those of Imperial Rome.