Ireland, William (DNB00)
|←Ireland, Samuel||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 29
IRELAND, alias Ironmonger, WILLIAM (1636–1679), Jesuit, born in 1636, was eldest son of William Ireland of Crofton Hall, Yorkshire, by Barbara, daughter of Ralph (afterwards Lord) Eure of Washingborough, Lincolnshire. He was sent at an early age to the English College at St. Omer, was admitted into the Society of Jesus 7 Sept. 1655, and made a professed father in 1673. After being for some years confessor to the Poor Clares at Gravelines, he was in 1677 sent to the English mission, and shortly afterwards became procurator of the province in London. On the night of 28 Sept. 1678 he was arrested by a body of constables, headed by Titus Oates in person, and carried before the privy council, together with Thomas Jenison, John Grove [q. v.], Thomas Pickering, and John Fenwick [q. v.] After examination by the privy council the prisoners were committed to Newgate, where Ireland appears to have undergone exceptionally severe treatment. He was tried at the Old Bailey sessions on 17 Dec. following, the charge against him being that, in addition to promoting the general plot, he had been present at a meeting held in William Harcourt's rooms on 19 Aug. 1678, when a plan for assassinating the king was discussed, and it was finally decided to 'snap him in his morning's walk at Newmarket.' Ireland attempted to prove an alibi, and in a journal written afterwards in Newgate he accounted for his absence from London on every day between 3 Aug. and 14 Sept. The trial curred, however, at the moment when the excitement concerning the plot was at its climax. Edward Coleman [q. v.], the first victim, had been executed barely a fortnight, Oates was at the summit of his popularity, and the death of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey [q. v.] was still fresh in people's memory. The hard swearing of Gates and Bedloe, together with the evidence of a woman called Sarah Pain, who swore to having seen Ireland on 20 Aug. at a scrivener's in Fetter Lane, overcame any scruples on the part of the jury. Chief-justice Scroggs summed up against the prisoner, who in vain pleaded his relationship to the Pendrells of Boscobel, and the death of his uncle, Francis Ireland, in the king's service. Ireland was executed together with John Grove on 3 Feb. 1679, the event being attended (it was alleged by the victim's friends) by a number of miraculous circumstances, which are detailed in Tanner's 'Brevis Relatio Felicis Agonis,' Prague, 1683, and in Foley's 'Jesuits,' v. 233 seq. Portraits of Ireland are given in both these works. A deposition, 'plainly proving' that Ireland's plea of an alibi was false, was subsequently published by Robert Jenison (1649-1688) [q. v.], and further charges were brought against Ireland in John Smith's 'Narrative containing a further Discovery of the Popish Plot,' 1679, fol., p. 32. The supposed plot of Ireland was also the occasion of another very curious pamphlet entitled 'The Cabal of several notorious Priests and Jesuits discovered as William Ireland … Shewing their endeavours to subvert the Government and Protestant Religion … by a Lover of his King and Country who was formerly an Eyewitness of those things' (London), 1679, fol.
[Cobbett's State Trials, vii. 570 sq.; The History of the Plot, or a Brief and Historical Account of the Charge and Defence of William Ireland, &c., London, 1679, fol.; Challoner's Memoirs of Missionary Priests, 1748, ii. 208, 376; Burnet's Own Time ii. 178; Gillow's Dict. of Engl. Cath.iii. 552; Lingard's Hist. ix. 191.]