In the 1500s the official religion of England changed from Catholic to Protestant. This created even greater tension with Ireland – which remained a Catholic country.
King James was particularly worried that Ireland would resist rule from England and conspire with foreign Catholic countries like Spain against him. James sent Protestants to settle in Ireland – particularly an area called Ulster – and control the island. He even hoped they would convert Irish Catholics to Protestantism. These Protestants came from Scotland, England and Wales. It was a process called colonisation.
Andrew Stuart was one example – a Protestant Scottish nobleman and advisor to King James (of both England and Scotland). James sent Stuart out to Ulster to establish more control on the island and convert locals.
The Ulster settlements at Derry and Coleraine were part of a royal plantation that King James I asked the City of London to support, since it became very expensive. In 1613 Derry was renamed Londonderry to show the City merchants’ involvement. However, these plantations didn’t replace many of the local people, and in 1622 it was reported that there were about 1000 English settlers compared to 4000 native Catholic Irish in the region. Ulster would not turn out to be the ‘perfect colony’ that James had desired.
However, the migration settlement of thousands of British Protestants in the region would have enormous consequences in centuries to come. Northern Ireland is still a separate part of the Irish island, and joined to Britain in the United Kingdom, while the remainder is its own independent republic.