The Pale was defined by an Act of Parliament (1488), setting out the (much reduced) area of Ireland still effectively under the direct control of the English king. ‘Beyond the Pale’, the rule of Ireland was effectively parcelled out between resurgent Gaelic chieftains and the largely autonomous Hiberno-Norman earldoms. But the passage of the statute was, in itself, a sign that the Tudors would take a renewed interest in Ireland, and, ultimately, dramatically reassert centralized control. It was followed in 1494, by Poynings’ Law, which placed the Irish parliament under Crown control. The Pale was in part a physical boundary, composed of ditches and earthworks, more typically it resembled the Scots Marches, a frontier area where all dwellings were fortified. The enactor of the Law, Lord Deputy Edward Poynings, made it a requirement of Pale residents to maintain its defences, and bought off the Irish ‘septs’ or clans, such as the O’ Tooles, O’ Byrnes and O’ Neills most responsible for incursions.
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