A sense of humour compels us to return to the earl of Kildare. After lying for a year captive in the Tower, he was brought before Henry and there allowed to plead his cause. His wit and audacity were marvellous. Charged with burning the church at Cashel, he solemnly assured the king that he would not have thought of doing so if he had not believed that the archbishop was then inside it. The archbishop alluded to was one of his hearers. When he was advised by Henry to obtain a good counsel, he replied that he would have the best in England - the king himself. At last the patience of the accusers was at an end, and they cried out that "All Ireland could not govern the earl of Kildare." "So it seems," said the king; "then let the earl of Kildare govern all Ireland." He was at once released and again made lord-deputy. He justified the king's conduct by energetic doings in the cause of order. Rebels were attainted; garrisons were placed at Cork and Kinsale; towns in Leinster, ruined in native raids, were rebuilt. Within the Pale, Kildare held despotic sway, and outside it he kept all other power in check.
Evil days for the Geraldines came with the accession of Henry VIII. Wolsey was their sworn enemy, and the conduct of Kildare had caused many complaints. In 1520 Henry adopted the policy of ruling Ireland again direct from London, and sent over the earl of Surrey as lord-deputy. He formed the plan, thoroughly practical and statesmanlike, of a complete conquest of the country, district by district, with fortresses and strong garrisons for permanent security. This plan was unwisely rejected, and Surrey, at his own earnest request, was recalled. Kildare was again ruler then he was summoned to London and thrown into the Tower through the influence of the Ormonds with Wolsey; restored to office, and finally deposed in 1534, to become again a prisoner in the Tower, where he shortly afterwards died. His son Thomas, acting as vice-deputy, revolted on false news of his father's execution in London, and took possession of Dublin. Allen, the archbishop, a foe of the Geraldines, was murdered on the coast, near Clontarf, as he sought escape to England. The time was a critical one for Henry, who was in the midst of his struggle with the Pope, and under excommunication. A Spanish landing in Ireland was to be feared, and Sir William Skeffington, with a large force of troops, was sent over as governor. The choice was a bad one, and the old, cautious, feeble lord-deputy remained idle in Dublin, while the Geraldines ravaged the country up to near its walls. The earl of Ormond, marching up from the south, was the chief support of the government. Skeffington at last moved out, and, with the help of his artillery, breached and stormed the strong Maynooth Castle, the chief fortress of the Geraldines. The defenders, including two priests, were at once hanged, and this blow ended the revolt. A new deputy, Lord Leonard Grey, in power from 1536 to 1539, warred with success against the tribes, and within a year or two all the leading Geraldines of Leinster, save a boy of 12 years, had been taken and executed. In 1541 Henry assumed the title of "King of Ireland," and a parliament held at Dublin included some Irish chiefs, of whom O'Neill was created earl of Tyrone and O'Brien became earl of Thomond.