The Plantation of Ulster was presented to James I as a joint “British”, or English and Scottish, venture to ‘pacify’ and ‘civilise’ Ulster, with at least half the settlers to be Scots. James had been King of Scots before he also became King of England and needed to reward his subjects in Scotland with land in Ulster to assure them they were not being neglected now that he had moved his court to London. In addition, long-standing contact and settlement between Ulster and the west of Scotland meant that Scottish participation was a practical necessity.
Six counties were involved in the official plantation – Donegal, Coleraine, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cavan and Armagh. In the two officially unplanted counties of Antrim and Down, substantial Presbyterian Scots settlement had been underway since at least 1606.
The plan for the plantation was determined by two factors. One was the wish to make sure the settlement could not be destroyed by rebellion as the first Munster Plantation had been in the Nine Years War. This meant that, rather than settling the planters in isolated pockets of land confiscated from Irish rebels, all of the land would be confiscated and then redistributed to create concentrations of British settlers around new towns and garrisons.
What was more, the new landowners were explicitly banned from taking Irish tenants and had to import workers from England and Scotland. The remaining Irish landowners were to be granted one quarter of the land in Ulster. The peasant Irish population was intended to be relocated to live near garrisons and Protestant churches. Moreover, the planters were barred from selling their lands to any Irishman and were required to build defences against any possible rebellion or invasion. The settlement was to be completed within three years. In this way, it was hoped that a defensible new community composed entirely of loyal British subjects would be created.
The second major influence on the Plantation was the negotiation among various interest groups on the British side. The principal landowners were to be “Undertakers”, wealthy men from England and Scotland who undertook to import tenants from their own estates. They were granted around 3000 acres (12 km²) each, on condition that they settle a minimum of 48 adult males (including at least 20 families), who had to be English-speaking and Protestant. Veterans of the Nine Years War (known as “Servitors”) led by Arthur Chichester successfully lobbied to be rewarded with land grants of their own.
Since these former officers did not have enough private capital to fund the colonisation, their involvement was subsidised by the twelve great guilds. Livery companies from the City of London were coerced into investing in the project, as were City of London guilds which were granted land on the west bank of the River Foyle, to build their own city (Londonderry near the older Derry) as well as lands in Co Coleraine. They were known jointly as the The Honourable The Irish Society. The final major recipient of lands was the Protestant Church of Ireland, which was granted all the churches and lands previously owned by the Roman Catholic Church. The British government intended that clerics from England and the Pale would convert the native population to Anglicanism.