The tradition of coyne and livery in Gaelic areas meant that families had to provide food and lodging for troops. This could be troublesome as most people lived in primitive conditions in small houses. The English condemned and forbade the practice though they later adopted it themselves. Gráinne Ní Mháille claimed that Sir Richard Bingham, President of Connacht in 1594 abused the practice when he sent his soldiers to stay with her followers to,

'... place and cess themselves, taking up meat and drink after their own serving and 6 pence per day for every soldier and 4 pence for his man where they do remain all these seven months.' The result, as Gráinne vividly described [it] ... was the impoverishment of herself, her son, cousins and followers.
Anne Chambers, Granuaile, Dublin, 1998, p 154.

In 1596 Lord Deputy Russell acknowledged such abuses when he issued orders to soldiers in the English Pale:

All soldiers shall ... march above 10 miles by the day, and not lie above one night in one place ... shall not at their own will (as heretofore they have done) be their own carvers in killing of the subjects' lambs, hens geese and such like or in demanding of wine and whisky to their meat ... whereby many poor people were utterly undone and driven to forsake their dwellings. Pain of death for ravishing any woman against her will and for taking any moveable goods.
Quoted in Constantia Maxwell, Irish history from contemporary sources, London, 1923, p.214.

Slaughter and maiming of animals, destruction of crops and burning of houses frequently took place during war, leading to famine and thousands of refugees. The English poet, Edmund Spenser described the state of Munster after the Munster Rebellions,

... for notwithstanding that the same was a most rich and plentiful country, full of corn and cattle ... yet ere one year and a half they were brought to such wretchedness as that any stony heart would have rued the same. Out of every corner of the woods and glens they came, creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs would not bear them. They looked like anatomies of death; they spake like ghosts crying out of their graves, they did eat of the carrions, happy where they could find them ...
Edmund Spenser, A view of the state of Ireland (1596).

Sometimes women non-combatants were abused and killed, both by Irish and English soldiers.

The old women deliberately singled out for especially harsh treatment by Humphrey Gilbert during his campaign in Munster in the late 1560s ... the Mayo women massacred by Bingham in the 1580s have been remembered only as instances of the Elizabethans' increasing ruthlessness, while the women of Carlingford raped and murdered by Shane O'Neill and his men during one of their raids on the Pale in the 1560s have not been remembered at all.
Ciaran Brady, 'Political women and reform in Tudor Ireland' in Margaret MacCurtain & Mary O'Dowd, Women in early modern Ireland, Dublin, 1991, p. 69.

The Poor Law in England made each parish responsible for its own poor but this law was not extended to Ireland during the early modern period. While men were absent fighting in many wars, the women, children and other non-combatants had to survive as best they could. Widows and deserted wives and families created huge social problems during and after wars and some became vagrants wandering the countryside or drifting into towns and cities begging and looting.


  1. The tradition of coyne and ___ imposed the provision of ____ and ____ for ____ on families in ___ areas.
  2. Suggest possible implications for women of the practice of coyne and livery.
  3. On what grounds did Gráinne Ní Mháille object to the practice of coyne and livery by Sir Richard Bingham's soldiers?
  4. Discuss the value as historical evidence of Lord Deputy Russell's orders to soldiers in the English Pale when combined with Gráinne Ní Mháille's objections.
  5. Suggest reasons why some soldiers might have abused women during and after war.
  6. Discuss the implications of warfare for women in general during the Early Modern period.


  1. Write a letter to Sir Richard Bingham or Lord Deputy Russell complaining about soldiers abusing their coyne and livery accommodation in your area in the late seventeenth century.
contents index