Edward Carson was the ‘uncrowned king’ of Protestants in Ireland. Edward Carson became the prime mover in Ulster’s anti-Home Rule campaign. Carson was born in February 1854 in Dublin. Trained as a barrister, Carson lead the anti-Home Rule movement in Westminster where he stood as a Member of Parliament. A natural leader, Carson came to dominate the Unionist cause in Ulster.
As early as 1904, the many strands of Unionism in Ulster had come together to fight for “consistent and continuous political action” to resist Home Rule. At a meeting in Belfast, Unionists decided to form an Ulster Council “to bring into line all local Unionist Associations in the Province of Ulster”. Carson was the leading barrister in Ireland at the time and seemed the most obvious choice to lead the Unionists.
Between 1904 and 1912, political action seemed to take a precedence in Ireland but this changed in 1912 to 1913 when a Home Rule Bill/Act seemed a likelihood. Promised by the Liberals under Asquith, it galvanised people and actions in Ireland.
In 1912, many people in Ulster had signed the Ulster Covenant which stated quite clearly that they would reject any form of Home Rule whilst promising loyalty to the king. In response to the increase in tension that followed the whole issue of the Covenant, the Irish Citizen Army was created by James Connolly. Made up of Roman Catholics, it was seen as a force that would defend the rights of the Roman Catholics, who primarily lived in the southern counties and outside of Ulster. To counter this, Carson and Sir James Craig (later to be Northern Ireland’s first Prime Minister) created the Ulster Volunteer Force. By the time of the outbreak of World War One in August 1914 (and the suspension of the Home Rule Bill until war was over) two armed camps had developed in Ireland. Sir Edward Carson was the accepted leader of the Protestant Ulster camp.
During the war, Carson was brought into office by both Asquith and Lloyd George. He was made Attorney-General in 1915; First Lord of the Admiralty in 1916 and member of the War Cabinet from 1917 to 1918. Carson, who had been knighted in 1896, was made a baron in 1921 and in the same year became Lord of Appeal in Ordinary – a position he held until 1929. Carson died in October 1935.