The period 1500 to 1610 witnessed a fundamental transformation in the nature of Franco-Irish relations. In 1500 contact was exclusively based on trade and small-scale migration. However, from the early 1520s to the early 1580s, the dynamics of 'normal' relations were significantly altered as unprecedented political contacts between Ireland and France were cultivated. These ties were abandoned when, after decades of unsuccessful approaches to the French crown for military and financial support for their opposition to the Tudor regime in Ireland, Irish dissidents redirected their pleas to the court of Philip II of Spain. Trade and migration, which had continued at a modest level throughout the sixteenth century, re-emerged in the early 1600s as the most important and enduring channels of contact between the France and Ireland, though the scale of both had increased dramatically since the early sixteenth century. In particular, the unprecedented influx of several thousand Irish migrants into France in the later stages and in the aftermath of the Nine Years' War in Ireland (1594-1603) represented a watershed in Franco-Irish relations in the early modern period. By 1610 Ireland and Irish people were known to a significantly larger section of French society than had been the case 100 years before. The intensification of their contacts notwithstanding, the intricacies of Irish domestic political, religious and ideological conflicts continued to elude the vast majority of educated Frenchmen, including those at the highest rank in government and diplomatic circles. In their minds, Ireland remained an exotic country whose people they judged to be as offensive, slothful, dirty, prolific and uncouth in the streets of their cities and towns as they were depicted in the French scholarly tracts read by the French elite. This study explores the various dimensions to this important chapter in the evolution of Franco-Irish relations in the early modern period. MARY ANN LYONS lectures in the Department of History, St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dublin City University.
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