By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Popular History of Ireland : from the Earliest Period to the Emancipation of the Catholics — Volume 1
Author: McGee, Thomas D'Arcy
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Popular History of Ireland : from the Earliest Period to the Emancipation of the Catholics — Volume 1" ***

A Popular

History of Ireland:

from the

Earliest Period

to the

Emancipation of the Catholics

by Thomas D'Arcy McGee

In Two Volumes

Volume I


Ireland, lifting herself from the dust, drying her tears, and proudly
demanding her legitimate place among the nations of the earth, is a
spectacle to cause immense progress in political philosophy.

Behold a nation whose fame had spread over all the earth ere the flag
of England had come into existence. For 500 years her life has been
apparently extinguished. The fiercest whirlwind of oppression that ever
in the wrath of God was poured upon the children of disobedience had
swept over her. She was an object of scorn and contempt to her
subjugator. Only at times were there any signs of life—an occasional
meteor flash that told of her olden spirit—of her deathless race.
Degraded and apathetic as this nation of Helots was, it is not strange
that political philosophy, at all times too Sadducean in its
principles, should ask, with a sneer, "Could these dry bones live?" The
fulness of time has come, and with one gallant sunward bound the "old
land" comes forth into the political day to teach these lessons, that
Right must always conquer Might in the end—that by a compensating
principle in the nature of things, Repression creates slowly, but
certainly, a force for its overthrow.

Had it been possible to kill the Irish Nation, it had long since ceased
to exist. But the transmitted qualities of her glorious children, who
were giants in intellect, virtue, and arms for 1500 years before Alfred
the Saxon sent the youth of his country to Ireland in search of
knowledge with which to civilize his people,—the legends, songs, and
dim traditions of this glorious era, and the irrepressible piety,
sparkling wit, and dauntless courage of her people, have at last
brought her forth like. Lazarus from the tomb. True, the garb of the
prison or the cerements of the grave may be hanging upon her, but
"loose her and let her go" is the wise policy of those in whose hands
are her present destinies.

A nation with such a strange history must have some great work yet to
do in the world. Except the Jews, no people has so suffered without

The History of Ireland is the most interesting of records, and the
least known. The Publishers of this edition of D'Arcy McGee's excellent
and impartial work take advantage of the awakening interest in Irish
literature to present to the public a book of _high-class history_, as
cheap as _largely circulating romance_. A sale as large as that of a
popular romance is, therefore, necessary to pay the speculation. That
sale the Publishers expect. Indeed, as truth is often stranger than
fiction, so Irish history is more romantic than romance. How Queen
Scota unfurled the Sacred Banner. How Brian and Malachy contended for
empire. How the "Pirate of the North" scourged the Irish coast. The
glories of Tara and the piety of Columba. The cowardice of James and
the courage of Sarsfield. How Dathi, the fearless, sounded the Irish
war-cry in far Alpine passes, and how the Geraldine forayed Leinster.
The deeds of O'Neil and O'Donnell. The march of Cromwell, the
destroying angel. Ireland's sun sinking in dim eclipse. The dark night
of woe in Erin for a hundred years. '83—'98—'48—'68. Ireland's sun
rising in glory. Surely the Youth of Ireland will find in their
country's records romance enough!

The English and Scotch are well read in the histories of their country.
The Irish are, unfortunately, not so; and yet, what is English or
Scottish history to compare with Irish? Ireland was a land of saints
and scholars when Britons were painted savages. Wise and noble laws,
based upon the spirit of Christianity, were administered in Erin, and
valuable books were written ere the Britons were as far advanced in
civilization as the Blackfeet Indians. In morals and intellect, in
Christianity and civilization, in arms, art, and science, Ireland shone
like a star among the nations when darkness enshrouded the world. And
she nobly sustained civilization and religion by her missionaries and
scholars. The libraries and archives of Europe contain the records of
their piety and learning. Indeed the echoes have scarcely yet ceased to
sound upon our ears, of the mighty march of her armed children over the
war-fields of Europe, during that terrible time when England's cruel
law, intended to destroy the spirit of a martial race, precipitated an
armed torrent of nearly 500,000 of the flower of the Irish youth into
foreign service. Irish steel glittered in the front rank of the most
desperate conflicts, and more than once the ranks of England went down
before "the Exiles," in just punishment for her terrible penal code
which excluded the Irish soldier from his country's service.

It was the Author's wish to educate his countrymen in their national
records. If by issuing a cheap edition the present Publishers carry out
to any extent that wish, it will be to them a source of satisfaction.

It is impossible to conclude this Preface without an expression of
regret at the dark and terrible fate which overtook the high-minded,
patriotic, and distinguished Irishman, Thomas D'Arcy McGee. He was a
man who loved his country well; and when the contemptible squabbles and
paltry dissensions of the present have passed away, his name will be a
hallowed memory, like that of Emmet or Fitzgerald, to inspire men with
high, ideals of patriotism and devotion.


[Note: From 1857 until his death, McGee was active in Canadian
politics. A gifted speaker and strong supporter of Confederation, he is
regarded as one of Canada's fathers of Confederation. On April 7, 1868,
after attending a late-night session in the House of Commons, he was
shot and killed as he returned to his rooming house on Sparks Street in
Ottawa. It is generally believed that McGee was the victim of a Fenian
plot. Patrick James Whelan was convicted and hanged for the crime,
however the evidence implicating him was later seen to be suspect.]


 CHAPTER I.—The First Inhabitants
 CHAPTER II.—The First Ages
 CHAPTER III.—Christianity Preached at Tara—The Result
 CHAPTER IV.—The Constitution, and how the Kings kept it
 CHAPTER V.—Reign of Hugh II.—The Irish Colony in Scotland obtains
its Independence
 CHAPTER VI.—Kings of the Seventh Century
 CHAPTER VII.—Kings of the Eighth Century
 CHAPTER VIII.—What the Irish Schools and Saints did in the Three First
Christian Centuries

 CHAPTER I.—The Danish Invasion
 CHAPTER II.—Kings of the Ninth Century (Continued)—Nial
III.—Malachy I.—Hugh VII
 CHAPTER III.—Reign of Flan "of the Shannon" (A.D. 879 to 916)
 CHAPTER IV.—Kings of the Tenth Century—Nial IV.—Donogh
II.—Congal III.—Donald IV
 CHAPTER V.—Reign of Malachy II. and Rivalry of Brian
 CHAPTER VI.—Brian, Ard-Righ—Battle of Clontarf
 CHAPTER VII.—Effects of the Rivalry of Brian and Malachy on the Ancient
 CHAPTER VIII.—Latter Days of the Northmen in Ireland

 CHAPTER I.—The Fortunes of the Family of Brian
 CHAPTER II.—The Contest between the North and South—Rise of the
Family of O'Conor
 CHAPTER III.—Thorlogh More O'Conor—Murkertach of
Aileach—Accession of Roderick O'Conor
 CHAPTER IV.—State of Religion and Learning among the Irish previous to
the Anglo-Norman Invasion
 CHAPTER V.—Social Condition of the Irish previous to the Norman Invasion
 CHAPTER VI.—Foreign Relations of the Irish previous to the Anglo-Norman

 CHAPTER I.—Dermid McMurrogh's Negotiations and Success—The First
Expedition of the Normans into Ireland
 CHAPTER II.—The Arms, Armour and Tactics of the Normans and Irish
 CHAPTER III.—The First Campaign of Earl Richard—Siege of
Dublin—Death of King Dermid McMurrogh
 CHAPTER IV.—Second Campaign of Earl Richard—Henry II. in Ireland
 CHAPTER V.—From the Return of Henry II. to England till the Death of Earl
Richard and his principal Companions
 CHAPTER VI.—The Last Years of the Ard-Righ, Roderick O'Conor
 CHAPTER VII.—Assassination of Hugh de Lacy—John "Lackland" in
Ireland—Various Expeditions of John de Courcy—Death of Conor
Moinmoy, and Rise of Cathal, "the Red-Handed" O'Conor—Close of the Career
of De Courcy and De Burgh
 CHAPTER VIII.—Events of the Thirteenth Century—The Normans in
 CHAPTER IX.—Events of the Thirteenth Century—The Normans in Munster
and Leinster
 CHAPTER X.—Events of the Thirteenth Century—The Normans in Meath
and Ulster
 CHAPTER XI.—Retrospect of the Norman Period in Ireland—A Glance at
the Military Tactics of the Times—No Conquest of the Country in the
Thirteenth Century
 CHAPTER XII.—State of Society and Learning in Ireland during the Norman

 CHAPTER I.—The Rise of "the Red Earl"—Relations of Ireland and
 CHAPTER II.—The Northern Irish enter into Alliance with King Robert
Bruce—Arrival and First Campaign of Edward Bruce
 CHAPTER III.—Bruce's Second Campaign and Coronation at Dundalk—The
Rising in Connaught—Battle of Athenry—Robert Bruce in Ireland
 CHAPTER IV.—Battle of Faughard and Death of King Edward
Bruce—Consequences of his Invasion—Extinction of the Earldom of
Ulster—Irish Opinion of Edward Bruce

 CHAPTER I.—Civil War in England—Its Effects on the
Anglo-Irish—The Knights of St. John—General Desire of the
Anglo-Irish to Naturalize themselves among the Native Population—A Policy
of Non-Intercourse between the Races Resolved on in England
 CHAPTER II.—Lionel, Duke of Clarence, Lord Lieutenant—The Penal
Code of Race—"The Statute of Kilkenny," and some of its Consequences
 CHAPTER III.—Art McMurrogh, Lord of Leinster—First Expedition of
Richard II. of England to Ireland
 CHAPTER IV.—Subsequent Proceedings of Richard II.—Lieutenancy and
Death of the Earl of March—Second Expedition of Richard against Art
McMurrogh—Change of Dynasty in England
 CHAPTER V.—Parties within "the Pale"—Battles of Kilmainham and
Killucan—Sir John Talbot's Lord Lieutenancy
 CHAPTER VI.—Acts of the Native Princes—Subdivision of Tribes and
Territories—Anglo-Irish Towns under Native Protection—Attempt of
Thaddeus O'Brien, Prince of Thomond, to Restore the Monarchy—Relations of
the Races in the Fifteenth Century
 CHAPTER VII.—Continued Division and Decline of "the English
Interest"—Richard, Duke of York, Lord Lieutenant—Civil War again in
England—Execution of the Earl of Desmond—Ascendancy of the
Kildare Geraldines
 CHAPTER VIII.—The Age and Rule of Gerald, Eighth Earl of
Kildare—The Tide begins to turn for the English Interest—The
Yorkist Pretenders, Simnel and Warbeck—Poyning's Parliament—Battles
of Knockdoe and Monabraher
 CHAPTER IX.—State of Irish and Anglo—Irish Society during the
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
 CHAPTER X.—State of Religion and Learning during the Fourteenth and
Fifteenth Centuries

 CHAPTER I.—Irish Policy of Henry the Eighth during the Lifetime of
Cardinal Wolsey
 CHAPTER II.—The Insurrection of Silken Thomas—The Geraldine
League—Administration of Lord Leonard Gray
 CHAPTER III.—Sir Anthony St. Leger, Lord Deputy—Negotiations of
the Irish Chiefs with James the Fifth of Scotland—First Attempts to
Introduce the Protestant Reformation—Opposition of the
Clergy—Parliament of 1541—The Protectors of the Clergy
Excluded—State of the Country—The Crowns United-Henry the Eighth
Proclaimed at London and Dublin
 CHAPTER IV.—Adhesion of O'Neil, O'Donnell, and O'Brien—A new
Anglo-Irish Peerage—New Relations of Lord and Tenant—Bishops
appointed by the Crown—Retrospect

 CHAPTER I.—Events of the Reign of Edward Sixth
 CHAPTER II.—Events of the Reign of Philip and Mary
 CHAPTER III.—Accession of Queen Elizabeth—Parliament of
1560—The Act of Uniformity—Career and Death of John O'Neil "the




Ireland is situated in the North Atlantic, between the degrees
fifty-one and a half and fifty-five and a half North, and five and a
quarter and ten and a third West longitude from Greenwich. It is the
last land usually seen by ships leaving the Old World, and the first by
those who arrive there from the Northern ports of America. In size it
is less than half as large as Britain, and in shape it may be compared
to one of those shields which we see in coats-of-arms, the four
Provinces—Ulster, Connaught, Leinster, and Munster—representing the
four quarters of the shield.

Around the borders of the country, generally near the coast, several
ranges of hills and mountains rear their crests, every Province having
one or more such groups. The West and South have, however, the largest
and highest of these hills, from the sides of all which descend
numerous rivers, flowing in various directions to the sea. Other rivers
issue out of large lakes formed in the valleys, such as the Galway
river which drains Lough Corrib, and the Bann which carries off the
surplus waters of Lough Neagh (_Nay_). In a few districts where the
fall for water is insufficient, marshes and swamps were long ago
formed, of which the principal one occupies nearly 240,000 acres in the
very heart of the country. It is called "the Bog of Allen," and, though
quite useless for farming purposes, still serves to supply the
surrounding district with fuel, nearly as well as coal mines do in
other countries.

In former times, Ireland was as well wooded as watered, though hardly a
tree of the primitive forest now remains. One of the earliest names
applied to it was "the wooded Island," and the export of timber and
staves, as well as of the furs of wild animals, continued, until the
beginning of the seventeenth century, to be a thriving branch of trade.
But in a succession of civil and religious wars, the axe and the torch
have done their work of destruction, so that the age of most of the
wood now standing does not date above two or three generations back.

Who were the first inhabitants of this Island, it is impossible to say,
but we know it was inhabited at a very early period of the world's
lifetime—probably as early as the time when Solomon the Wise, sat in
Jerusalem on the throne of his father David. As we should not
altogether reject, though neither are we bound to believe, the wild and
uncertain traditions of which we have neither documentary nor
monumental evidence, we will glance over rapidly what the old Bards and
Story-tellers have handed down to us concerning Ireland before it
became Christian.

The _first_ story they tell is, that about three hundred years after
the Universal Deluge, Partholan, of the stock of Japhet, sailed down
the Mediterranean, "leaving Spain on the right hand," and holding
bravely on his course, reached the shores of the wooded western Island.
This Partholan, they tell us, was a double parricide, having killed his
father and mother before leaving his native country, for which horrible
crimes, as the Bards very morally conclude, his posterity were fated
never to possess the land. After a long interval, and when they were
greatly increased in numbers, they were cut off to the last man, by a
dreadful pestilence.

The story of the _second_ immigration is almost as vague as that of the
first. The leader this time is called Nemedh, and his route is
described as leading from the shores of the Black Sea, across what is
now Russia in Europe, to the Baltic Sea, and from the Baltic to
Ireland. He is said to have built two royal forts, and to have "cleared
twelve plains of wood" while in Ireland. He and his posterity were
constantly at war, with a terrible race of Formorians, or Sea Kings,
descendants of Ham, who had fled from northern Africa to the western
islands for refuge from their enemies, the sons of Shem. At length the
Formorians prevailed, and the children of the second immigration were
either slain or driven into exile, from which some of their posterity
returned long afterwards, and again disputed the country, under two
different denominations.

The _Firbolgs_ or Belgae are the _third_ immigration. They were
victorious under their chiefs, the five sons of Dela, and divided the
island into five portions. But they lived in days when the earth—the
known parts of it at least—was being eagerly scrambled for by the
overflowing hosts of Asia, and they were not long left in undisputed
possession of so tempting a prize. Another expedition, claiming descent
from the common ancestor, Nemedh, arrived to contest their supremacy.
These last—the _fourth_ immigration—are depicted to us as accomplished
soothsayers and necromancers who came out of Greece. They could quell
storms; cure diseases; work in metals; foretell future events; forge
magical weapons; and raise the dead to life; they are called the
_Tuatha de Danans_, and by their supernatural power, as well as by
virtue of "the Lia Fail," or fabled "stone of destiny," they subdued
their Belgic kinsmen, and exercised sovereignty over them, till they in
turn were displaced by the Gaelic, or _fifth_ immigration.

This fifth and final colony called themselves alternately, or at
different periods of their history, _Gael_, from one of their remote
ancestors; _Milesians_, from the immediate projector of their
emigration; or _Scoti_, from Scota, the mother of Milesius. They came
from Spain under the leadership of the sons of Milesius, whom they had
lost during their temporary sojourn in that country. In vain the
skilful _Tuatha_ surrounded themselves and their coveted island with
magic-made tempest and terrors; in vain they reduced it in size so as
to be almost invisible from sea; Amergin, one of the sons of Milesius,
was a Druid skilled in all the arts of the east, and led by his wise
counsels, his brothers countermined the magicians, and beat them at
their own weapons. This Amergin was, according to universal usage in
ancient times, at once Poet, Priest, and Prophet; yet when his warlike
brethren divided the island between them, they left the Poet out of
reckoning. He was finally drowned in the waters of the river Avoca,
which is probably the reason why that river has been so suggestive of
melody and song ever since.

Such are the stories told of the _five_ successive hordes of
adventurers who first attempted to colonize our wooded Island. Whatever
moiety of truth may be mixed up with so many fictions, two things are
certain, that long before the time when our Lord and Saviour came upon
earth, the coasts and harbours of Erin were known to the merchants of
the Mediterranean, and that from the first to the fifth Christian
century, the warriors of the wooded Isle made inroads on the Roman
power in Britain and even in Gaul. Agricola, the Roman governor of
Britain in the reign of Domitian—the first century—retained an Irish
chieftain about his person, and we are told by his biographer that an
invasion of Ireland was talked of at Rome. But it never took place; the
Roman eagles, although supreme for four centuries in Britain, never
crossed the Irish Sea; and we are thus deprived of those Latin helps to
our early history, which are so valuable in the first period of the
histories of every western country, with which the Romans had anything
to do.


Since we have no Roman accounts of the form of government or state of
society in ancient Erin, we must only depend on the Bards and
Story-tellers, so far as their statements are credible and agree with
each other. On certain main points they do agree, and these are the
points which it seems reasonable for us to take on their authority.

As even brothers born of the same mother, coming suddenly into
possession of a prize, will struggle to see who can get the largest
share, so we find in those first ages a constant succession of armed
struggles for power. The petty Princes who divided the Island between
them were called _Righ_, a word which answers to the Latin _Rex_ and
French _Roi_; and the chief king or monarch was called _Ard-Righ_, or
High-King. The eldest nephew, or son of the king, was the usual heir of
power, and was called the _Tanist_, or successor; although any of the
family of the Prince, his brothers, cousins, or other kinsmen, might be
chosen _Tanist_, by election of the people over whom he was to rule.
One certain cause of exclusion was personal deformity; for if a Prince
was born lame or a hunchback, or if he lost a limb by accident, he was
declared unfit to govern. Even after succession, any serious accident
entailed deposition, though we find the names of several Princes who
managed to evade or escape this singular penalty. It will be observed
besides of the _Tanist_, that the habit of appointing him seems to have
been less a law than a custom; that it was not universal in all the
Provinces; that in some tribes the succession alternated between a
double line of Princes; and that sometimes when the reigning Prince
obtained the nomination of a _Tanist_, to please himself, the choice
was set aside by the public voice of the clansmen. The successor to the
Ard-Righ, or Monarch, instead of being simply called _Tanist_, had the
more sounding title of _Roydamna_, or King-successor.

The chief offices about the Kings, in the first ages, were all filled
by the Druids, or Pagan Priests; the _Brehons_, or Judges, were usually
Druids, as were also the _Bards_, the historians of their patrons. Then
came the Physicians; the Chiefs who paid tribute or received annual
gifts from the Sovereigns, or Princes; the royal stewards; and the
military leaders or Champions, who, like the knights of the middle
ages, held their lands and their rank at court, by the tenure of the
sword. Like the feudal _Dukes_ of France, and _Barons_ of England,
these military nobles often proved too powerful for their nominal
patrons, and made them experience all the uncertainty of reciprocal
dependence. The Champions play an important part in all the early
legends. Wherever there is trouble you are sure to find them. Their
most celebrated divisions were the warriors of the _Red Branch_—that is
to say, the Militia of Ulster; the _Fiann_, or Militia of Leinster,
sometimes the royal guard of Tara, at others in exile and disgrace; the
_Clan-Degaid_ of Munster, and the _Fiann_ of Connaught. The last force
was largely recruited from the Belgic race who had been squeezed into
that western province, by their Milesian conquerors, pretty much as
Cromwell endeavoured to force the Milesian Irish into it, many hundred
years afterwards. Each of these bands had its special heroes; its
Godfreys and Orlandos celebrated in song; the most famous name in
Ulster was Cuchullin: so called from _cu_, a hound, or watch-dog, and
_Ullin_, the ancient name of his province. He lived at the dawn of the
Christian era. Of equal fame was Finn, the father of Ossian, and the
Fingal of modern fiction, who flourished in the latter half of the
second century. Gall, son of Morna, the hero of Connaught (one of the
few distinguished men of Belgic origin whom we hear of through the
Milesian bards), flourished a generation earlier than Finn, and might
fairly compete with him in celebrity, if he had only had an Ossian to
sing his praises.

The political boundaries of different tribes expanded or contracted
with their good or ill fortune in battle. Immigration often followed
defeat, so that a clan, or its offshoot is found at one period on one
part of the map and again on another. As _surnames_ were not generally
used either in Ireland or anywhere else, till after the tenth century,
the great families are distinguishable at first, only by their tribe or
clan names. Thus at the north we have the Hy-Nial race; in the south
the Eugenian race, so called from Nial and Eoghan, their mutual

We have already compared the shape of Erin to a shield, in which the
four Provinces represented the four quarters. Some shields have also
_bosses_ or centre-pieces, and the federal province of MEATH was the
_boss_ of the old Irish shield. The ancient Meath included both the
present counties of that name, stretching south to the Liffey, and
north to Armagh. It was the mensal demesne, or "board of the king's
table:" it was exempt from all taxes, except those of the Ard-Righ, and
its relations to the other Provinces may be vaguely compared to those
of the District of Columbia to the several States of the North American
Union. ULSTER might then be defined by a line drawn from Sligo Harbour
to the mouth of the Boyne, the line being notched here and there by the
royal demesne of Meath; LEINSTER stretched south from Dublin
triangle-wise to Waterford Harbour, but its inland line, towards the
west, was never very well defined, and this led to constant border wars
with Munster; the remainder of the south to the mouth of the Shannon
composed MUNSTER; the present county of Clare and all west of the
Shannon north to Sligo, and part of Cavan, going with CONNAUGHT. The
chief seats of power, in those several divisions, were TARA, for
federal purposes; EMANIA, near Armagh, for Ulster; LEIGHLIN, for
Leinster; CASHEL, for Munster; and CRUCHAIN, (now Rathcrogan, in
Roscommon,) for Connaught.

How the common people lived within these external divisions of power it
is not so easy to describe. All histories tell us a great deal of
kings, and battles, and conspiracies, but very little of the daily
domestic life of the people. In this respect the history of Erin is
much the same as the rest; but some leading facts we do know. Their
religion, in Pagan times, was what the moderns call _Druidism_, but
what they called it themselves we now know not. It was probably the
same religion anciently professed by Tyre and Sidon, by Carthage and
her colonies in Spain; the same religion which the Romans have
described as existing in great part of Gaul, and by their accounts, we
learn the awful fact, that it sanctioned, nay, demanded, human
sacrifices. From the few traces of its doctrines which Christian zeal
has permitted to survive in the old Irish language, we see that _Belus_
or "Crom," the god of fire, typified by the sun, was its chief
divinity—that two great festivals were held in his honour on days
answering to the first of May and last of October. There were also
particular gods of poets, champions, artificers and mariners, just as
among the Romans and Greeks. Sacred groves were dedicated to these
gods; Priests and Priestesses devoted their lives to their service; the
arms of the champion, and the person of the king were charmed by them;
neither peace nor war was made without their sanction; their own
persons and their pupils were held sacred; the high place at the king's
right hand and the best fruits of the earth and the waters were theirs.
Old age revered them, women worshipped them, warriors paid court to
them, youth trembled before them, princes and chieftains regarded them
as elder brethren. So numerous were they in Erin, and so celebrated,
that the altars of Britain and western Gaul, left desolate by the Roman
legions, were often served by hierophants from Erin, which, even in
those Pagan days, was known to all the Druidic countries as the "Sacred
Island." Besides the princes, the warriors, and the Druids, (who were
also the Physicians, Bards and Brehons of the first ages,) there were
innumerable petty chiefs, all laying claim to noble birth and blood.
They may be said with the warriors and priests to be the only freemen.
The _Bruais_, or farmers, though possessing certain legal rights, were
an inferior caste; while of the Artisans, the smiths and armorers only
seem to have been of much consideration. The builders of those
mysterious round towers, of which a hundred ruins yet remain, may also
have been a privileged order. But the mill and the loom were servile
occupations, left altogether to slaves taken in battle, or purchased in
the market-places of Britain. The task of the herdsman, like that of
the farm-labourer, seems to have devolved on the bondsmen, while the
_quern_ and the shuttle were left exclusively in the hands of the

We need barely mention the names of the first Milesian kings, who were
remarkable for something else than cutting each other's throats, in
order to hasten on to the solid ground of Christian tunes. The
principal names are: Heber and Heremhon, the crowned sons of Milesians;
they at first divided the Island fairly, but Heremhon soon became
jealous of his brother, slew him in battle, and established his own
supremacy. Irial the Prophet was King, and built seven royal
fortresses; Tiern'mass; in his reign the arts of dyeing in colours were
introduced; and the distinguishing of classes by the number of colours
they were permitted to wear, was decreed. Ollamh ("the Wise")
established the Convention of Tara, which assembled habitually every
ninth year, but might be called oftener; it met about the October
festival in honour of Beleus or _Crom_; Eocaid invented or introduced a
new species of wicker boats, called _cassa_, and spent much of his time
upon the sea; a solitary queen, named Macha, appears in the succession,
from whom Armagh takes its name; except Mab, the mythological Queen of
Connaught, she is the sole female ruler of Erin in the first ages; Owen
or Eugene Mor ("the Great") is remembered as the founder of the notable
families who rejoice in the common name of Eugenians; Leary, of whom
the fable of Midas is told with variations; Angus, whom the after
Princes of Alba (Scotland) claimed as their ancestor; Eocaid, the tenth
of that name, in whose reign are laid the scenes of the chief
mythological stories of Erin—such as the story of Queen Mab—the story
of the Sons of Usna; the death of Cuchullin (a counterpart of the
Persian tale of Roostam and Sohrab); the story of Fergus, son of the
king; of Connor of Ulster; of the sons of Dari; and many more. We next
meet with the first king who led an expedition abroad against the
Romans in Crimthan, surnamed _Neea-Naari_, or Nair's Hero, from the
good genius who accompanied him on his foray. A well-planned
insurrection of the conquered Belgae, cut off one of Crimthan's
immediate successors, with all his chiefs and nobles, at a banquet
given on the Belgian-plain (Moybolgue, in Cavan); and arrested for a
century thereafter Irish expeditions abroad. A revolution and a
restoration followed, in which Moran the Just Judge played the part of
Monk to _his_ Charles II., Tuathal surnamed "the Legitimate." It was
Tuathal who imposed the special tax on Leinster, of which, we shall
often hear—under the title of _Borooa_, or Tribute. "The Legitimate"
was succeeded by his son, who introduced the Roman _Lex Talionis_ ("an
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth") into the Brehon code; soon
after, the Eugenian families of the south, strong in numbers, and led
by a second Owen More, again halved the Island with the ruling race,
the boundary this time being the _esker_, or ridge of land which can be
easily traced from Dublin west to Galway. Olild, a brave and able
Prince, succeeded in time to the southern half-kingdom, and planted his
own kindred deep and firm in its soil, though the unity of the monarchy
was again restored under Cormac Ulla, or _Longbeard_. This Cormac,
according to the legend, was in secret a Christian, and was done to
death by the enraged and alarmed Druids, after his abdication and
retirement from the world (A.D. 266). He had reigned full forty years,
rivalling in wisdom, and excelling in justice the best of his
ancestors. Some of his maxims remain to us, and challenge comparison
for truthfulness and foresight with most uninspired writings.

Cormac's successors during the same century are of little mark, but in
the next the expeditions against the Roman outposts were renewed with
greater energy and on an increasing scale. Another Crimthan eclipsed
the fame of his ancestor and namesake; Nial, called "of the Hostages,"
was slain on a second or third expedition into Gaul (A.D. 405), while
Dathy, nephew and successor to Nial, was struck dead by lightning in
the passage of the Alps (A.D. 428). It was in one of Nial's Gallic
expeditions that the illustrious captive was brought into Erin, for
whom Providence had reserved the glory of its conversion to the
Christian faith—an event which gives a unity and a purpose to the
history of that Nation, which must always constitute its chief
attraction to the Christian reader.


The conversion of a Pagan people to Christianity must always be a
primary fact in their history. It is not merely for the error it
abolishes or the positive truth it establishes that a national change
of faith is historically important, but for the complete revolution it
works in every public and private relation. The change socially could
not be greater if we were to see some irresistible apostle of Paganism
ariving from abroad in Christian Ireland, who would abolish the
churches, convents, and Christian schools; decry and bring into utter
disuse the decalogue, the Scriptures and the Sacraments; efface all
trace of the existing belief in One God and Three Persons, whether in
private or public worship, in contracts, or in courts of law; and
instead of these, re-establish all over the country, in high places and
in every place, the gloomy groves of the Druids, making gods of the sun
and moon, the natural elements, and man's own passions, restoring human
sacrifices as a sacred duty, and practically excluding from the
community of their fellows, all who presumed to question the divine
origin of such a religion. The preaching of Patrick effected a
revolution to the full as complete as such a counter-revolution in
favour of Paganism could possibly be, and to this thorough revolution
we must devote at least one chapter before going farther.

The best accounts agree that Patrick was a native of Gaul, then subject
to Rome; that he was carried captive into Erin on one of King Nial's
returning expeditions; that he became a slave, as all captives of the
sword did, in those iron times; that he fell to the lot of one Milcho,
a chief of Dalriada, whose flocks he tended for seven years, as a
shepherd, on the mountain called Slemish, in the present county of
Antrim. The date of Nial's death, and the consequent return of his last
expedition, is set down in all our annals at the year 405; as Patrick
was sixteen years of age when he reached Ireland, he must have been
born about the year 390; and as he died in the year 493, he would thus
have reached the extraordinary, but not impossible age of 103 years.
Whatever the exact number of his years, it is certain that his mission
in Ireland commenced in the year 432, and was prolonged till his death,
sixty-one years afterwards. Such an unprecedented length of life, not
less than the unprecedented power, both popular and political, which he
early attained, enabled him to establish the Irish Church, during his
own time, on a basis so broad and deep, that neither lapse of ages, nor
heathen rage, nor earthly temptations, nor all the arts of Hell, have
been able to upheave its firm foundations. But we must not imagine that
the powers of darkness abandoned the field without a struggle, or that
the victory of the cross was achieved without a singular combination of
courage, prudence, and determination—God aiding above all.

If the year of his captivity was 405 or 406, and that of his escape or
manumission seven years later (412 or 413), twenty years would
intervene between his departure out of the land of his bondage, and his
return to it clothed with the character and authority of a Christian
Bishop. This interval, longer or shorter, he spent in qualifying
himself for Holy Orders or discharging priestly duties at Tours, at
Lerins, and finally at Rome. But always by night and day he was haunted
by the thought of the Pagan nation in which he had spent his long years
of servitude, whose language he had acquired, and the character of
whose people he so thoroughly understood. These natural retrospections
were heightened and deepened by supernatural revelations of the will of
Providence towards the Irish, and himself as their apostle. At one
time, an angel presented him, in his sleep, a scroll bearing the
superscription, "the voice of the Irish;" at another, he seemed to hear
in a dream all the unborn children of the nation crying to him for help
and holy baptism. When, therefore, Pope Celestine commissioned him for
this enterprise, "to the ends of the earth," he found him not only
ready but anxious to undertake it.

When the new Preacher arrived in the Irish Sea, in 432, he and his
companions were driven off the coast of Wicklow by a mob, who assailed
them with showers of stones. Running down the coast to Antrim, with
which he was personally familiar, he made some stay at Saul, in Down,
where he made few converts, and celebrated Mass in a barn; proceeding
northward he found himself rejected with scorn by his old master,
Milcho, of Slemish. No doubt it appeared an unpardonable audacity in
the eyes of the proud Pagan, that his former slave should attempt to
teach him how to reform his life and order his affairs. Returning again
southward, led on, as we must believe, by the Spirit of God, he
determined to strike a blow against Paganism at its most vital point.
Having learned that the monarch, Leary (_Laeghaire_), was to celebrate
his birthday with suitable rejoicings at Tara, on a day which happened
to fall on the eve of Easter, he resolved to proceed to Tara on that
occasion, and to confront the Druids in the midst of all the princes
and magnates of the Island. With this view he returned on his former
course, and landed from his frail barque at the mouth of the Boyne.
Taking leave of the boatmen, he desired them to wait for him a certain
number of days, when, if they did not hear from him, they might
conclude him dead, and provide for their own safety. So saying he set
out, accompanied by the few disciples he had made, or brought from
abroad, to traverse on foot the great plain which stretches from the
mouth of the Boyne to Tara. If those sailors were Christians, as is
most likely, we can conceive with what anxiety they must have awaited
tidings of an attempt so hazardous and so eventful.

The Christian proceeded on his way, and the first night of his journey
lodged with a hospitable chief, whose family he converted and baptized,
especially marking out a fine child named Beanen, called by him
Benignus, from his sweet disposition; who was destined to be one of his
most efficient coadjutors, and finally his successor in the Primatial
see of Armagh. It was about the second or third day when, travelling
probably by the northern road, poetically called "the Slope of the
Chariots," the Christian adventurers came in sight of the roofs of
Tara. Halting on a neighbouring eminence they surveyed the citadel of
Ancient Error, like soldiers about to assault an enemy's stronghold.
The aspect of the royal hill must have been highly imposing. The
building towards the north was the Banquet Hall, then thronged with the
celebrants of the King's birth-day, measuring from north to south 360
feet in length by 40 feet wide. South of this hall was the King's Rath,
or residence, enclosing an area of 280 yards in diameter, and including
several detached buildings, such as the house of Cormac, and the house
of the hostages. Southward still stood the new rath of the reigning
king, and yet farther south, the rath of Queen Mab, probably
uninhabited even then. The intervals between the buildings were at some
points planted, for we know that magnificent trees shaded the well of
Finn, and the well of Newnaw, from which all the raths were supplied
with water. Imposing at any time, Tara must have looked its best at the
moment Patrick first beheld it, being in the pleasant season of spring,
and decorated in honour of the anniversary of the reigning sovereign.

One of the religious ceremonies employed by the Druids to heighten the
solemnity of the occasion, was to order all the fires of Tara and Meath
to be quenched, in order to rekindle them instantaneously from a sacred
fire dedicated to the honour of their god. But Patrick, either
designedly or innocently, anticipated this striking ceremony, and lit
his own fire, where he had encamped, in view of the royal residence. A
flight of fiery arrows, shot into the Banqueting Hall, would not have
excited more horror and tumult among the company there assembled, than
did the sight of that unlicensed blaze in the distance. Orders were
issued to drag the offender against the laws and the gods of the Island
before them, and the punishment in store for him was already decreed in
every heart. The Preacher, followed by his trembling disciples,
ascended "the Slope of the Chariots," surrounded by menacing minions of
the Pagan law, and regarded with indignation by astonished spectators.
As he came he recited Latin Prayers to the Blessed Trinity, beseeching
their protection and direction in this trying hour. Contrary to
courteous custom no one at first rose to offer him a seat. At last a
chieftain, touched with mysterious admiration for the stranger, did him
that kindness. Then it was demanded of him, why he had dared to violate
the laws of the country, and to defy its ancient gods. On this text the
Christian Missionary spoke. The place of audience was in the open air,
on that eminence, the home of so many kings, which commands one of the
most agreeable prospects in any landscape. The eye of the inspired
orator, pleading the cause of all the souls that hereafter, till the
end of time, might inhabit the land, could discern within the
spring-day horizon, the course of the Blackwater and the Boyne before
they blend into one; the hills of Cavan to the far north; with the
royal hill of Tailtean in the foreground; the wooded heights of Slane
and Skreen, and the four ancient roads, which led away towards the four
subject Provinces, like the reins of empire laid loosely on their
necks. Since the first Apostle of the Gentiles had confronted the
subtle Paganism of Athens, on the hill of Mars, none of those who
walked in his steps ever stood out in more glorious relief than
Patrick, surrounded by Pagan Princes, and a Pagan Priesthood, on the
hill of Tara.

The defence of the fire he had kindled, unlicensed, soon extended into
wider issues. Who were the gods against whom he had offended? Were they
true gods or false? They had their priests: could they maintain the
divinity of such gods, by argument, or by miracle? For his God, he,
though unworthy, was ready to answer, yea, right ready to die. His God
had become man, and had died for man. His name alone was sufficient to
heal all diseases; to raise the very dead to life. Such, we learn from
the old biographers, was the line of Patrick's argument. This sermon
ushered in a controversy. The king's guests, who had come to feast and
rejoice, remained to listen and to meditate. With the impetuosity of
the national character—with all its passion for debate—they rushed into
this new conflict, some on one side, some on the other. The daughters
of the king and many others—the Arch-Druid himself—became convinced and
were baptized. The missionaries obtained powerful protectors, and the
king assigned to Patrick the pleasant fort of Trim, as a present
residence. From that convenient distance, he could readily return at
any moment, to converse with the king's guests and the members of his

The Druidical superstition never recovered the blow it received that
day at Tara. The conversion of the Arch-Druid and the Princesses, was,
of itself, their knell of doom. Yet they held their ground during the
remainder of this reign—twenty-five years longer (A.D. 458). The king
himself never became a Christian, though he tolerated the missionaries,
and deferred more and more every year to the Christian party. He
sanctioned an expurgated code of the laws, prepared under the direction
of Patrick, from which every positive element of Paganism was rigidly
excluded. He saw, unopposed, the chief idol of his race, overthrown on
"the Plain of Prostration," at Sletty. Yet withal he never consented to
be baptized; and only two years before his decease, we find him
swearing to a treaty, in the old Pagan form—"by the Sun, and the Wind,
and all the Elements." The party of the Druids at first sought to stay
the progress of Christianity by violence, and even attempted, more than
once, to assassinate Patrick. Finding these means ineffectual they
tried ridicule and satire. In this they were for some time seconded by
the Bards, men warmly attached to their goddess of song and their lives
of self-indulgence. All in vain. The day of the idols was fast verging
into everlasting night in Erin. Patrick and his disciples were
advancing from conquest to conquest. Armagh and Cashel came in the wake
of Tara, and Cruachan was soon to follow. Driven from the high places,
the obdurate Priests of Bel took refuge in the depths of the forest and
in the islands of the sea, wherein the Christian anchorites of the next
age were to replace them. The social revolution proceeded, but all that
was tolerable in the old state of things, Patrick carefully engrafted
with the new. He allowed much for the habits and traditions of the
people, and so made the transition as easy, from darkness into the
light, as Nature makes the transition from night to morning. He seven
times visited in person every mission in the kingdom, performing the
six first "circuits" on foot, but the seventh, on account of his
extreme age, he was borne in a chariot. The pious munificence of the
successors of Leary, had surrounded him with a household of princely
proportions. Twenty-four persons, mostly ecclesiastics, were chosen for
this purpose: a bell-ringer, a psalmist, a cook, a brewer, a
chamberlain, three smiths, three artificers, and three embroiderers are
reckoned of the number. These last must be considered as employed in
furnishing the interior of the new churches. A scribe, a shepherd to
guard his flocks, and a charioteer are also mentioned, and their proper
names given. How different this following from the little boat's crew,
he had left waiting tidings from Tara, in such painful apprehension, at
the mouth of the Boyne, in 432. Apostolic zeal, and unrelaxed
discipline had wrought these wonders, during a lifetime prolonged far
beyond the ordinary age of man.

The fifth century was drawing to a close, and the days of Patrick were
numbered. Pharamond and the Franks had sway on the Netherlands; Hengist
and the Saxons on South Britain; Clovis had led his countrymen across
the Rhine into Gaul; the Vandals had established themselves in Spain
and North Africa; the Ostrogoths were supreme in Italy. The empire of
barbarism had succeeded to the empire of Polytheism; dense darkness
covered the semi-Christian countries of the old Roman empire, but
happily daylight still lingered in the West. Patrick, in good season,
had done his work. And as sometimes, God seems to bring round His ends,
contrary to the natural order of things, so the spiritual sun of Europe
was now destined to rise in the West, and return on its light-bearing
errand towards the East, dispelling in its path, Saxon, Frankish, and
German darkness, until at length it reflected back on Rome herself, the
light derived from Rome.

On the 17th of March, in the year of our Lord 493, Patrick breathed his
last in the monastery of Saul, erected on the site of that barn where
he had first said Mass. He was buried with national honours in the
Church of Armagh, to which he had given the Primacy over all the
churches of Ireland; and such was the concourse of mourners, and the
number of Masses offered for his eternal repose, that from the day of
his death till the close of the year, the sun is poetically said never
to have set—so brilliant and so continual was the glare of tapers and


We have fortunately still existing the main provisions of that
constitution which was prepared under the auspices of Saint Patrick,
and which, though not immediately, nor simultaneously, was in the end
accepted by all Erin as its supreme law. It is contained in a volume
called "the Book of Rights," and in its printed form (the Dublin
bilingual edition of 1847), fills some 250 octavo pages. This book may
be said to contain the original institutes of Erin under her Celtic
Kings: "the Brehon laws," (which have likewise been published), bear
the same relation to "the Book of Rights," as the Statutes at large of
England, or the United States, bear to the English Constitution in the
one case, or to the collective Federal and State Constitutions in the
other. Let us endeavour to comprehend what this ancient Irish
Constitution was like, and how the Kings received it, at first.

There were, as we saw in the first chapter, beside the existing four
Provinces, whose names are familiar to every one, a fifth principality
of Meath. Each of the Provinces was subdivided into chieftainries, of
which there were at least double or treble as many as there are now
counties. The connection between the chief and his Prince, or the
Prince and his monarch, was not of the nature of feudal obedience; for
the fee-simple of the soil was never supposed to be vested in the
sovereign, nor was the King considered to be the fountain of all
honour. The Irish system blended the aristocratic and democratic
elements more largely than the monarchical. Everything proceeded by
election, but all the candidates should be of noble blood. The Chiefs,
Princes, and Monarchs, so selected, were bound together by certain
customs and tributes, originally invented by the genius of the Druids,
and afterwards adopted and enforced by the authority of the Bishops.
The tributes were paid in kind, and consisted of cattle, horses,
foreign-born slaves, hounds, oxen, scarlet mantles, coats of mail,
chess-boards and chess-men, drinking cups, and other portable articles
of value. The quantity in every case due from a King to his
subordinate, or from a subordinate to his King—for the gifts and grants
were often reciprocal—is precisely stated in every instance. Besides
these rights, this constitution defines the "prerogatives" of the five
Kings on their journeys through each other's territory, their accession
to power, or when present in the General Assemblies of the Kingdom. It
contains, besides, a very numerous array of "prohibitions"—acts which
neither the Ard-Righ nor any other Potentate may lawfully do. Most of
these have reference to old local Pagan ceremonies in which the Kings
once bore a leading part, but which were now strictly prohibited;
others are of inter-Provincial significance, and others, again, are
rules of personal conduct. Among the prohibitions of the monarch the
first is, that the sun must never rise on him in his bed at Tara; among
his prerogatives he was entitled to banquet on the first of August, on
the fish of the Boyne, fruit from the Isle of Man, cresses from the
Brosna river, venison from Naas, and to drink the water of the well of
Talla: in other words, he was entitled to eat on that day, of the
produce, whether of earth or water, of the remotest bounds, as well as
of the very heart of his mensal domain. The King of Leinster was
"prohibited" from upholding the Pagan ceremonies within his province,
or to encamp for more than a week in certain districts; but he was
"privileged" to feast on the fruits of Almain, to drink the ale of
Cullen, and to preside over the games of Carman, (Wexford.) His
colleague of Munster was "prohibited" from encamping a whole week at
Killarney or on the Suir, and from mustering a martial host on the
Leinster border at Gowran; he was "privileged" to pass the six weeks of
Lent at Cashel (in free quarters), to use fire and force in compelling
tribute from north Leinster; and to obtain a supply of cattle from
Connaught, at the time "of the singing of the cuckoo." The Connaught
King had five other singular "prohibitions" imposed on him—evidently
with reference to some old Pagan rites—and his "prerogatives" were
hostages from Galway, the monopoly of the chase in Mayo, free quarters
in Murrisk, in the same neighbourhood, and to marshal his border-host
at Athlone to confer with the tribes of Meath. The ruler of Ulster was
also forbidden to indulge in such superstitious practices as observing
omens of birds, or drinking of a certain fountain "between two
darknesses;" his prerogatives were presiding at the games of Cooley,
"with the assembly of the fleet;" the right of mustering his border
army in the plains of Louth; free quarters in Armagh for three nights
for his troops before setting out on an expedition; and to confine his
hostages in Dunseverick, a strong fortress near the Giant's Causeway.
Such were the principal checks imposed upon the individual caprice of
Monarchs and Princes; the plain inference from all which is, that under
the Constitution of Patrick, a Prince who clung to any remnant of
ancient Paganism, might lawfully be refused those rents and dues which
alone supported his dignity. In other words, disguised as it may be to
us under ancient forms, "the Book of Rights" establishes Christianity
as the law of the land. All national usages and customs, not
conflicting with this supreme law, were recognized and sanctioned by
it. The internal revenues in each particular Province were modelled
upon the same general principle, with one memorable exception—the
special tribute which Leinster paid to Munster—and which was the cause
of more bloodshed than all other sources of domestic quarrel combined.
The origin of this tax is surrounded with fable, but it appears to have
arisen out of the reaction which took place, when Tuathal, "the
Legitimate," was restored to the throne of his ancestors, after the
successful revolt of the Belgic bondsmen. Leinster seems to have clung
longest to the Belgic revolution, and to have submitted only after
repeated defeats. Tuathal, therefore, imposed on that Province this
heavy and degrading tax, compelling its Princes not only to render him
and his successors immense herds of cattle, but also 150 male and
female slaves, to do the menial offices about the palace of Tara. With
a refinement of policy, as far-seeing as it was cruel, the proceeds of
the tax were to be divided one-third to Ulster, one-third to Connaught,
and the remainder between the Queen of the Monarch and the ruler of
Munster. In this way all the other Provinces became interested in
enforcing this invidious and oppressive enactment upon Leinster which,
of course, was withheld whenever it could be refused with the smallest
probability of success. Its resistance, and enforcement, especially by
the kings of Munster, will be found a constant cause of civil war, even
in Christian times.

The sceptre of Ireland, from her conversion to the time of Brian, was
almost solely in the hands of the northern Hy-Nial, the same family as
the O'Neills. All the kings of the sixth and seventh centuries were of
that line. In the eighth century (from 709 to 742), the southern
annalists style Cathal, King of Munster, Ard-Righ; in the ninth century
(840 to 847), they give the same high title to Felim, King of Munster;
and in the eleventh century Brian possessed that dignity for the twelve
last years of his life, (1002 to 1014). With these exceptions, the
northern Hy-Nial, and their co-relatives of Meath, called the southern
Hy-Nial, seem to have retained the sceptre exclusively in their own
hands, during the five first Christian centuries. Yet on every
occasion, the ancient forms of election, (or procuring the adhesion of
the Princes), had to be gone through. Perfect unanimity, however, was
not required; a majority equal to two-thirds seems to have sufficed. If
the candidate had the North in his favour, and one Province of the
South, he was considered entitled to take possession of Tara; if he
were a Southern, he should be seconded either by Connaught or Ulster,
before he could lawfully possess himself of the supreme power. The
benediction of the Archbishop of Armagh, seems to have been necessary
to confirm the choice of the Provincials. The monarchs, like the petty
kings, were crowned or "made" on the summit of some lofty mound
prepared for that purpose; an hereditary officer, appointed to that
duty, presented him with a white wand perfectly straight, as an emblem
of the purity and uprightness which should guide all his decisions,
and, clothed with his royal robes, the new ruler descended among his
people, and solemnly swore to protect their rights and to administer
equal justice to all. This was the civil ceremony; the solemn blessing
took place in a church, and is supposed to be the oldest form of
coronation service observed anywhere in Christendom.

A ceremonial, not without dignity, regulated the gradations of honour,
in the General Assemblies of Erin. The time of meeting was the great
Pagan Feast of Samhain, the 1st of November. A feast of three days
opened and closed the Assembly, and during its sittings, crimes of
violence committed on those in attendance were punished with instant
death. The monarch himself had no power to pardon any violator of this
established law. The _Chiefs_ of territories sat, each in an appointed
seat, under his own shield; the seats being arranged by order of the
Ollamh, or Recorder, whose duty it was to preserve the muster-roll,
containing the names of all the living nobles. The _Champions_, or
leaders of military bands, occupied a secondary position, each sitting
under his own shield. Females and spectators of an inferior rank were
excluded; the Christian clergy naturally stepped into the empty places
of the Druids, and were placed immediately next the monarch.

We shall now briefly notice the principal acts of the first Christian
kings, during the century immediately succeeding St. Patrick's death.
Of OLLIOL, who succeeded Leary, we cannot say with certainty that he
was a Christian. His successor, LEWY, son of Leary, we are expressly
told was killed by lightning (A.D. 496), for "having violated the law
of Patrick"—that is, probably, for having practised some of those Pagan
rites forbidden to the monarchs by the revised constitution. His
successor, MURKERTACH, son of Ere, was a professed Christian, though a
bad one, since he died by the vengeance of a concubine named Sheen,
(that is, _storm_,) whom he had once put away at the instance of his
spiritual adviser, but whom he had not the courage—though brave as a
lion in battle—to keep away (A.D. 527). TUATHAL, "the Rough," succeeded
and reigned for seven years, when he was assassinated by the tutor of
DERMID, son of Kerbel, a rival whom he had driven into exile. DERMID
immediately seized on the throne (A.D. 534), and for twenty eventful
years bore sway over all Erin. He appears to have had quite as much of
the old leaven of Paganism in his composition—at least in his youth and
prime—as either Lewy or Leary. He kept Druids about his person,
despised "the right of sanctuary" claimed by the Christian clergy, and
observed, with all the ancient superstitious ceremonial, the national
games at Tailteen. In his reign, the most remarkable event was the
public curse pronounced on Tara, by a Saint whose sanctuary the
reckless monarch had violated, in dragging a prisoner from the very
horns of the altar, and putting him to death. For this offence—the
crowning act of a series of aggressions on the immunities claimed by
the clergy—the Saint, whose name was Ruadan, and the site of whose
sanctuary is still known as Temple-Ruadan in Tipperary, proceeded to
Tara, accompanied by his clergy, and, walking round the royal rath,
solemnly excommunicated the monarch, and anathematized the place. The
far-reaching consequences of this awful exercise of spiritual power are
traceable for a thousand years through Irish history. No king after
Dermid resided permanently upon the hill of Tara. Other royal houses
there were in Meath—at Tailteen, at the hill of Usna, and on the margin
of the beautiful Lough Ennell, near the present Castlepollard, and at
one or other of these, after monarchs held occasional court; but those
of the northern race made their habitual home in their own patrimony
near Armagh, or on the celebrated hill of Aileach. The date of the
malediction which left Tara desolate is the year of our Lord, 554. The
end of this self-willed semi-Pagan (Dermid) was in unison with his
life; he was slain in battle by Black Hugh, Prince of Ulster, two years
after the desolation of Tara.

Four kings, all fierce competitors for the succession, reigned and
fell, within ten years of the death of Dermid, and then we come to the
really interesting and important reign of Hugh the Second, which lasted
twenty-seven years (A.D. 566 to 593), and was marked by the
establishment of the Independence of the Scoto-Irish Colony in North
Britain, and by other noteworthy events. But these twenty-seven years
deserve a chapter to themselves.


Twenty-seven years is a long reign, and the years of King-Hugh II. were
marked with striking events. One religious and one political
occurrence, however, threw all others into the shade—the conversion of
the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (then called Alba or Albyn by the
Gael, and Caledonia by the Latins), and the formal recognition, after
an exciting controversy, of the independence of the Milesian colony in
Scotland. These events follow each other in the order of time, and
stand partly in the relation of cause and effect.

The first authentic Irish immigration into Scotland seems to have taken
place about the year of our Lord 258. The pioneers crossed over from
Antrim to Argyle, where the strait is less than twenty-five miles wide.
Other adventurers followed at intervals, but it is a fact to be
deplored, that no passages in our own, and in all other histories, have
been so carelessly kept as the records of emigration. The movements of
rude masses of men, the first founders of states and cities, are
generally lost in obscurity, or misrepresented by patriotic zeal.
Several successive settlements of the Irish in Caledonia can be faintly
traced from the middle of the third till the beginning of the sixth
century. About the year 503, they had succeeded in establishing a
flourishing principality among the cliffs and glens of Argyle. The
limits of their first territory cannot be exactly laid down; but it
soon spread north into Rosshire, and east into the present county of
Perth. It was a land of stormy friths and fissured headlands, of deep
defiles and snowy summits. "'Tis a far cry to Lough Awe," is still a
lowland proverb, and Lough Awe was in the very heart of that old Irish

The earliest emigrants to Argyle were Pagans, while the latter were
Christians, and were accompanied by priests, and a bishop, Kieran, the
son of the carpenter, whom, from his youthful piety and holy life, as
well as from the occupation followed by his father, is sometimes
fancifully compared to our Lord and Saviour himself. Parishes in
Cantyre, in Islay, and in Carrick, still bear the name of St. Kieran as
patron. But no systematic attempt—none at least of historic memory—was
made to convert the remoter Gael and the other races then inhabiting
Alba—the Picts, Britons, and Scandinavians, until the year of our era,
565, Columba or COLUMBKILL, a Bishop of the royal race of Nial,
undertook that task, on a scale commensurate with its magnitude. This
celebrated man has always ranked with Saint Patrick and Saint Bridget
as the most glorious triad of the Irish Calendar. He was, at the time
he left Ireland, in the prime of life—his 44th year. Twelve companions,
the apostolic number, accompanied him on his voyage. For thirty-four
years he was the legislator and captain of Christianity in those
northern regions. The King of the Picts received baptism at his hands;
the Kings of the Scottish colony, his kinsmen, received the crown from
him on their accession. The islet of I., or Iona, as presented to him
by one of these princes. Here he and his companions built with their
own hands their parent-house, and from this Hebridean rock in after
times was shaped the destinies, spiritual and temporal, of many tribes
and kingdoms.

The growth of Iona was as the growth of the grain of mustard seed
mentioned in the Gospel, even during the life of its founder. Formed by
his teaching and example, there went out from it apostles to Iceland,
to the Orkneys, to Northumbria, to Man, and to South Britain. A hundred
monasteries in Ireland looked to that exiled saint as their patriarch.
His rule of monastic life, adopted either from the far East, from the
recluses of the Thebaid, or from his great contemporary, Saint
Benedict, was sought for by Chiefs, Bards, and converted Druids.
Clients, seeking direction from his wisdom, or protection through his
power, were constantly arriving and departing from his sacred isle. His
days were divided between manual labour and the study and transcribing
of the Sacred Scriptures. He and his disciples, says the Venerable
Bede, in whose age Iona still flourished, "neither thought of nor loved
anything in _this_ world." Some writers have represented Columbkill's
_Culdees_, (which in English means simply "Servants of God,") as a
married clergy; so far is this from the truth, that we now know, no
woman was allowed to land on the island, nor even a cow to be kept
there, for, said the holy Bishop, "wherever there is a cow there will
be a woman, and wherever there is a woman there will be mischief."

In the reign of King Hugh, three domestic questions arose of great
importance; one was the refusal of the Prince of Ossory to pay tribute
to the Monarch; the other, the proposed extinction of the Bardic Order,
and the third, the attempt to tax the Argyle Colony. The question
between Ossory and Tara, we may pass over as of obsolete interest, but
the other two deserve fuller mention:

The Bards—who were the Editors, Professors, Registrars and
Record-keepers—the makers and masters of public opinion in those days,
had reached in this reign a number exceeding 1,200 in Meath and Ulster
alone. They claimed all the old privileges of free quarters on their
travels and freeholdings at home, which were freely granted to their
order when it was in its infancy. Those chieftains who refused them
anything, however extravagant, they lampooned and libelled, exciting
their own people and other princes against them. Such was their
audacity, that some of them are said to have demanded from King Hugh
the royal brooch, one of the most highly prized heirlooms of the
reigning family. Twice in the early part of this reign they had been
driven from the royal residence, and obliged to take refuge in the
little principality of Ulidia (or Down); the third time the monarch had
sworn to expel them utterly from the kingdom. In Columbkill, however,
they were destined to find a most powerful mediator, both from his
general sympathy with the Order, being himself no mean poet, and from
the fact that the then Arch-Poet, or chief of the order, Dallan
Forgaill, was one of his own pupils.

To settle this vexed question of the Bards, as well as to obtain the
sanction of the estates to the taxation of Argyle, King Hugh called a
General Assembly in the year 590. The place of meeting was no longer
the interdicted Tara, but for the monarch's convenience a site farther
north was chosen—the hill of Drom-Keth, in the present county of Derry.
Here came in rival state and splendour the Princes of the four
Provinces, and other principal chieftains. The dignitaries of the
Church also attended, and an occasional Druid was perhaps to be seen in
the train of some unconverted Prince. The pretensions of the
mother-country to impose a tax upon her Colony, were sustained by the
profound learning and venerable name of St. Colman, Bishop of Dromore,
one of the first men of his Order.

When Columbkill "heard of the calling together of that General
Assembly," and of the questions to be there decided, he resolved to
attend, notwithstanding the stern vow of his earlier life, never to
look on Irish soil again. Under a scruple of this kind, he is said to
have remained blindfold, from his arrival in his fatherland, till his
return to Iona. He was accompanied by an imposing train of attendants;
by Aidan, Prince of Argyle, so deeply interested in the issue, and a
suite of over one hundred persons, twenty of them Abbots or Bishops.
Columbkill spoke for his companions; for already, as in Bede's time,
the Abbots of Iona exercised over all the clergy north of the Humber,
but still more directly north of the Tweed, a species of supremacy
similar to that which the successors of St. Benedict and St. Bernard
exercised, in turn, over Prelates and Princes on the European

When the Assembly was opened the holy Bishop of Dromore stated the
arguments in favour of Colonial taxation with learning and effect. Hugh
himself impeached the Bards for their licentious and lawless lives.
Columbkill defended both interests, and, by combining both, probably
strengthened the friends of each. It is certain that he carried the
Assembly with him, both against the monarch and those of the resident
clergy, who had selected Colman as their spokesman. The Bardic Order
was spared. The doctors, or master-singers among them, were prohibited
from wandering from place to place; they were assigned residence with
the chiefs and princes; their losel attendants were turned over to
honest pursuits, and thus a great danger was averted, and one of the
most essential of the Celtic institutions being reformed and regulated,
was preserved. Scotland and Ireland have good reason to be grateful to
the founder of Iona, for the interposition that preserved to us the
music, which is now admitted to be one of the most precious
inheritances of both countries.

The proposed taxation Columbkill strenuously and successfully resisted.
Up to this time, the colonists had been bound only to furnish a
contingent force, by land and sea, when the King of Ireland went to
war, and to make them an annual present called "chief-rent."

From the Book of Rights we learn that (at least at the time the
existing transcript was made) the Scottish Princes paid out of Alba,
seven shields, seven steeds, seven bondswomen, seven bondsmen, and
seven hounds all of the same breed. But the "chief-rent," or "eric for
kindly blood," did not suffice in the year 590 to satisfy King Hugh.
The colony had grown great, and, like some modern monarchs, he proposed
to make it pay for its success. Columbkill, though a native of Ireland,
and a prince of its reigning house, was by choice a resident of
Caledonia, and he stood true to his adopted country. The Irish King
refused to continue the connection on the old conditions, and declared
his intention to visit Alba himself to enforce the tribute due;
Columbkill, rising in the Assembly, declared the Albanians "for ever
free from the yoke," and this, adds an old historian, "turned out to be
the fact." From the whole controversy we may conclude that Scotland
never paid political tribute to Ireland; that their relation was that
rather of allies, than of sovereign and vassal; that it resembled more
the homage Carthage paid to Tyre, and Syracuse to Corinth, than any
modern form of colonial dependence; that a federal connection existed
by which, in time of war, the Scots of Argyle, and those of Hibernia,
were mutually bound to aid, assist, and defend each other. And this
natural and only connection, founded in the blood of both nations,
sanctioned by their early saints, confirmed by frequent intermarriage,
by a common language and literature, and by hostility to common
enemies, the Saxons, Danes, and Normans, grew into a political bond of
unusual strength, and was cherished with affection by both nations,
long ages after the magnates assembled at Drom-Keth had disappeared in
the tombs of their fathers.

The only unsettled question which remained after the Assembly at
Drom-Keth related to the Prince of Ossory. Five years afterwards (A.D.
595), King Hugh fell in an attempt to collect the special tribute from
all Leinster, of which we have already heard something, and shall, by
and by, hear more. He was an able and energetic ruler, and we may be
sure "did not let the sun rise on him in his bed at Tara," or anywhere
else. In his time great internal changes were taking place in the state
of society. The ecclesiastical order had become more powerful than any
other in the state. The Bardic Order, thrice proscribed, were finally
subjected to the laws, over which they had at one time insolently
domineered. Ireland's only colony—unless we except the immature
settlement in the Isle of Man, under Cormac Longbeard—was declared
independent of the parent country, through the moral influence of its
illustrious Apostle, whose name many of its kings and nobles were of
old proud to bear—_Mal-Colm_, meaning "servant of Columb," or
Columbkill. But the memory of the sainted statesman who decreed the
separation of the two populations, so far as claims to taxation could
be preferred, preserved, for ages, the better and far more profitable
alliance, of an ancient friendship, unbroken by a single national
quarrel during a thousand years.

A few words more on the death and character of this celebrated man,
whom we are now to part with at the close of the sixth, as we parted
from Patrick at the close of the fifth century. His day of departure
came in 596. Death found him at the ripe age of almost fourscore,
_stylus_ in hand, toiling cheerfully over the vellum page. It was the
last night of the week when the presentiment of his end came strongly
upon him. "This day," he said to his disciple and successor, Dermid,
"is called the day of rest, and such it will be for me, for it will
finish my labours." Laying down the manuscript, he added, "let Baithen
finish the rest." Just after Matins, on the Sunday morning, he
peacefully passed away from the midst of his brethren.

Of his tenderness, as well as energy of character, tradition, and his
biographers have recorded many instances. Among others, his habit of
ascending an eminence every evening at sunset, to look over towards the
coast of his native land. The spot is called by the islanders to this
day, "the place of the back turned upon Ireland." The fishermen of the
Hebrides long believed they could see their saint flitting over the
waves after every new storm, counting the islands to see if any of them
had foundered. It must have been a loveable character of which such
tales could be told and cherished from generation to generation.

Both Education and Nature had well fitted Columbkill to the great task
of adding another realm to the empire of Christendom. His princely
birth gave him power over his own proud kindred; his golden eloquence
and glowing verse—the fragments of which still move and delight the
Gaelic scholar—gave him fame and weight in the Christian schools which
had suddenly sprung up in every glen and island. As prince, he stood on
equal terms with princes; as poet, he was affiliated to that
all-powerful Bardic Order, before whose awful anger kings trembled, and
warriors succumbed in superstitious dread. A spotless soul, a
disciplined body, an indomitable energy, an industry that never
wearied, a courage that never blanched, a sweetness and courtesy that
won all hearts, a tenderness for others that contrasted strongly with
his rigour towards himself—these were the secrets of the success of
this eminent missionary—these were the miracles by which he
accomplished the conversion of so many barbarous tribes and Pagan


THE five years of the sixth century, which remained after the death of
Hugh II., were filled by Hugh III., son of Dermid, the semi-Pagan. Hugh
IV. succeeded (A.D. 599) and reigned for several years; two other
kings, of small account, reigned seven years; Donald II. (A.D. 624)
reigned sixteen years; Connall and Kellach, brothers, (A.D. 640)
reigned jointly sixteen years; they were succeeded (A.D. 656) by Dermid
and Blathmac, brothers, who reigned jointly seven years; Shanasagh, son
of the former, reigned six years; Kenfala, four; Finnacta, "the
hospitable," twenty years, and Loingsech (A.D. 693) eight years.

Throughout this century the power of the Church was constantly on the
increase, and is visible in many important changes. The last armed
struggle of Druidism, and the only invasion of Ireland by the
Anglo-Saxons, are also events of the civil history of the seventh

The reign, of Donald II. is notable for the passing away of most of
those saintly men, the second generation of Irish abbots and bishops;
for the foundation of the celebrated school of Lismore on the Munster
Blackwater; and the battle of Moira, in the present county of Down. Of
the school and the saints we shall speak hereafter; the battle deserves
more immediate mention.

The cause of the battle was the pretension of the petty Prince of
Ulidia, which comprised little more than the present county of Down, to
be recognised as Prince of all Ulster. Now the Hy-Nial family, not only
had long given monarchs to all Ireland, but had also the lion's share
of their own Province, and King Donald as their head could not permit
their ascendency to be disputed. The ancestors of the present
pretender, Congal, surnamed "the squint-eyed," had twice received and
cherished the licentious Bards when under the ban of Tara, and his
popularity with that still powerful order was one prop of his ambition.
It is pretty clear also that the last rally of Druidism against
Christianity took place behind his banner, on the plain of Moira. It
was the year 637, and preparations had long gone on on both sides for a
final trial of strength. Congal had recruited numerous bands of Saxons,
Britons, Picts and Argyle Scots, who poured into the harbours of Down
for months, and were marshalled on the banks of the Lagan, to sustain
his cause. The Poets of succeeding ages have dwelt much in detail on
the occurrences of this memorable day. It was what might strictly be
called a pitched battle, time and place being fixed by mutual
agreement. King Donald was accompanied by his Bard, who described to
him, as they came in sight, the several standards of Congal's host, and
who served under them. Conspicuous above all, the ancient banner of the
Red Branch Knights-"a yellow lion wrought on green satin"—floated over
Congal's host. On the other side the monarch commanded in person,
accompanied by his kinsmen, the sons of Hugh III. The red hand of
Tirowen, the cross of Tirconnell, the eagle and lion of Innishowen, the
axes of Fanad, were in his ranks, ranged closely round his own
standard. The cause of the Constitution and the Church prevailed, and
Druidism mourned its last hope extinguished on the plains of Moira, in
the death of Congal, and the defeat of his vast army. King Donald
returned in triumph to celebrate his victory at Emania and to receive
the benediction of the Church at Armagh.

The sons of Hugh III., Dermid and Blathmac, zealous and pious Christian
princes, survived the field of Moira and other days of danger, and
finally attained the supreme power—A.D. 656. Like the two kings of
Sparta they reigned jointly, dividing between them the labours and
cares of State. In their reign, that terrible scourge, called in Irish,
"the yellow plague," after ravaging great part of Britain, broke out
with undiminished virulence in Erin (A.D. 664). To heighten the awful
sense of inevitable doom, an eclipse of the sun occurred concurrently
with the appearance of the pestilence on the first Sunday in May. It
was the season when the ancient sun-god had been accustomed to receive
his annual oblations, and we can well believe that those whose hearts
still trembled at the name of Bel, must have connected the eclipse and
the plague with the revolution in the national worship, and the
overthrow of the ancient gods on that "plain of prostration," where
they had so long received the homage of an entire people. Among the
victims of this fearful visitation—which, like the modern cholera,
swept through all ranks and classes of society, and returned in the
same track for several successive seasons—were very many of those
venerated men, the third and fourth generation of the Abbots and
Bishops. The Munster King, and many of the chieftain class shared the
common lot. Lastly, the royal brothers fell themselves victims to the
epidemic, which so sadly signalizes their reign.

The only conflicts that occurred on Irish soil with a Pictish or an
Anglo-Saxon force—if we except those who formed a contingent of
Congal's army at Moira—occurred in the time of the hospitable Finnacta.
The Pictish force, with their leaders, were totally defeated at
Rathmore, in Antrim (A.D. 680), but the Anglo-Saxon expedition (A.D.
684) seems not to have been either expected or guarded against. As
leading to the mention of other interesting events, we must set this
inroad clearly before the reader.

The Saxons had now been for four centuries in Britain, the older
inhabitants of which—Celts like the Gauls and Irish—they had cruelly
harassed, just as the Milesian Irish oppressed their Belgic
predecessors, and as the Normans, in turn, will be found oppressing
both Celt and Saxon in England and Ireland. Britain had been divided by
the Saxon leaders into eight separate kingdoms, the people and princes
of several of which were converted to Christianity in the fifth, sixth,
and seventh century, though some of them did not receive the Gospel
before the beginning of the eighth. The Saxons of Kent and the Southern
Kingdoms generally were converted by missionaries from France or Rome,
or native preachers of the first or second Christian generation; those
of Northumbria recognise as their Apostles St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert,
two Fathers from Iona. The Kingdom of Northumbria, as the name implies,
embraced nearly all the country from the Humber to the Pictish border.
York was its capital, and the seat of its ecclesiastical primacy,
where, at the time we speak of, the illustrious Wilfrid was
maintaining, with a wilful and unscrupulous king, a struggle not unlike
that which Becket maintained with Henry II. This Prince, Egfrid by
name, was constantly engaged in wars with his Saxon cotemporaries, or
the Picts and Scots. In the summer of 683 he sent an expedition under
the command of Beort, one of his earls, to ravage the coast of
Leinster. Beort landed probably in the Boyne, and swept over the rich
plain of Meath with fire and sword, burning churches, driving off herds
and flocks, and slaughtering the clergy and the husbandmen. The piety
of an after age saw in the retribution which overtook Egfrid the
following year, when he was slain by the Picts and Scots, the judgment
of Heaven, avenging the unprovoked wrongs of the Irish. His Scottish
conquerors, returning good for evil, carried his body to Iona, where it
was interred with all due honour.

Iona was now in the zenith of its glory. The barren rock, about three
miles in length, was covered with monastic buildings, and its cemetery
was already adorned with the tombs of saints and kings. Five successors
of Columbkill slept in peace around their holy Founder, and a sixth,
equal in learning and sanctity to any who preceded him, received the
remains of King Egfrid from the hands of his conquerors. This was Abbot
Adamnan, to whom Ireland and Scotland are equally indebted for his
admirable writings, and who might almost dispute with Bede himself, the
title of Father of British History. Adamnan regarded the fate of
Egfrid, we may be sure, in the light of a judgment on him for his
misdeeds, as Bede and British Christians very generally did. He
learned, too, that there were in Northumbria several Christian
captives, carried off in Beort's expedition and probably sold into
slavery. Now every missionary that ever went out from Iona, had taught
that to reduce Christians to slavery was wholly inconsistent with a
belief in the doctrines of the Gospel. St. Aidan, the Apostle of
Northumbria, had refused the late Egfrid's father absolution, on one
occasion, until he solemnly promised to restore their freedom to
certain captives of this description. In the same spirit Adamnan
voluntarily undertook a journey to York, where Aldfrid (a Prince
educated in Ireland, and whose "Itinerary" of Ireland we still have)
now reigned. The Abbot of Iona succeeded in his humane mission, and
crossing over to his native land, he restored sixty of the captives to
their homes and kindred. While the liberated exiles rejoiced on the
plain of Meath, the tent of the Abbot of Iona was pitched on the rath
of Tara—a fact which would seem to indicate that already, in little
more than a century since the interdict had fallen on it, the edifices
which made so fine a show in the days of Patrick were ruined and
uninhabitable. Either at Tara, or some other of the royal residences,
Adamnan on this visit procured the passing of a law, (A.D. 684,)
forbidding women to accompany an army to battle, or to engage
personally in the conflict. The mild maternal genius of Christianity is
faithfully exhibited in such a law, which consummates the glory of the
worthy successor of Columbkill. It is curious here to observe that it
was not until another hundred years had past—not till the beginning of
the ninth century—that the clergy were "exempt" from military service.
So slow and patient is the process by which Christianity infuses itself
into the social life of a converted people!

The long reign of FINNACTA, the hospitable, who may, for his many other
virtues, be called also the pious, was rendered farther remarkable in
the annals of the country by the formal abandonment of the special tax,
so long levied upon, and so long and desperately resisted by, the men
of Leinster. The all-powerful intercessor in this case was Saint
Moling, of the royal house of Leinster, and Bishop of Fernamore (now
Ferns). In the early part of his reign Finnacta seems not to have been
disposed to collect this invidious tax by force; but, yielding to other
motives, he afterwards took a different view of his duty, and marched
into Leinster to compel its payment. Here the holy Prelate of Ferns met
him, and related a Vision in which he had been instructed to demand the
abolition of the impost. The abolition, he contended, should not be
simply a suspension, but final and for ever. The tribute was, at this
period, enormous; 15,000 head of cattle annually. The decision must
have been made about the time that Abbot Adamnan was in Ireland, (A.D.
684,) and that illustrious personage is said to have been opposed to
the abolition. Abolished it was, and though its re-enactment was often
attempted, the authority of Saint Moling's solemn settlement, prevented
it from being re-enforced for any length of time, except as a political
or military infliction.

Finnacta fell in battle in the 20th year of his long and glorious
reign; and is commemorated as a saint in the Irish calendar. St. Moling
survived him three years, and St. Adamnan, so intimately connected with
his reign, ten years. The latter revisited Ireland in 697, under the
short reign of Loingsech, and concerned himself chiefly in endeavouring
to induce his countrymen to adopt the Roman rule, as to the tonsure,
and the celebration of Easter. On this occasion there was an important
Synod of the Clergy, under the presidency of Flan, Archbishop of
Armagh, held at Tara. Nothing could be more natural than such an
assembly in such a place, at such a period. In every recorded instance
the power of the clergy had been omnipotent in politics for above a
century. St. Patrick had expurgated the old constitution; St. Ruadan's
curse drove the kings from Tara; St. Columbkill had established the
independence of Alba, and preserved the Bardic Order; St. Moling had
abolished the Leinster tribute. If their power was irresistible in the
sixth and especially in the seventh centuries, we must do these
celebrated Abbots and Bishops the justice to remember that it was
always exercised against the oppression of the weak by the strong, to
mitigate the horrors of war, to uphold the right of sanctuary (the
_Habeus Corpus_ of that rude age), and for the maintenance and spread
of sound Christian principles.


The kings of the eighth century are Congal II. (surnamed Kenmare), who
reigned seven years; Feargal, who reigned ten years; Forgartah,
Kenneth, Flaherty, respectively one, four, and seven years; Hugh V.
(surnamed Allan), nine years; Donald III., who reigned (A.D. 739-759)
twenty years; Nial II. (surnamed Nial of the Showers), seven years; and
Donogh I., who reigned thirty-one years, A.D. 766-797. The obituaries
of these kings show that we have fallen on a comparatively peaceful
age, since of the entire nine, but three perished in battle. One
retired to Armagh and one to Iona, where both departed in the monastic
habit; the others died either of sickness or old age.

Yet the peaceful character of this century is but comparative, for in
the first quarter (A.D. 722), we have the terrible battle of Almain,
between Leinster and the Monarch, in which 30,000 men were stated to
have engaged, and 7,000 to have fallen. The Monarch who had double the
number of the Leinster Prince, was routed and slain, _apropos_ of which
we have a Bardic tale told, which almost transports one to the far
East, the simple lives and awful privileges of the Hindoo Brahmins. It
seems that some of King FEARGAL's army, in foraging for their fellows,
drove off the only cow of a hermit, who lived in seclusion near a
solitary little chapel called Killin. The enraged recluse, at the very
moment the armies were about to engage, appeared between them,
regardless of personal danger, denouncing ruin and death to the
monarch's forces. And in this case, as in others, to be found in every
history, the prophecy, no doubt, helped to produce its own fulfilment.
The malediction of men dedicated to the service of God, has often
routed hosts as gallant as were marshalled on the field of Almain.

FEARGAL'S two immediate successors met a similar fate—death in the
field of battle—after very brief reigns, of which we have no great
events to record.

FLAHERTY, the next who succeeded, after a vigorous reign of seven
years, withdrew from the splendid cares of a crown, and passed the long
remainder of his life—thirty years—in the habit of a monk at Armagh.
The heavy burthen which he had cheerfully laid down, was taken up by a
Prince, who combined the twofold character of poet and hero. HUGH V.
(surnamed Allan), the son of FEARGAL, of whom we have just spoken, was
the very opposite of his father, in his veneration for the privileges
of holy persons and places. His first military achievement was
undertaken in vindication of the rights of those who were unable by
arms to vindicate their own. Hugh Roin, Prince of the troublesome
little principality of Ulidia (Down), though well stricken in years and
old enough to know better, in one of his excursions had forcibly
compelled the clergy of the country through which he passed to give him
free quarters, contrary to the law everywhere existing. Congus, the
Primate, jealous of the exemptions of his order, complained of this
sacrilege in a poetic message addressed to Hugh Allan, who, as a
Christian and a Prince, was bound to espouse his quarrels. He marched
into the territory of the offender, defeated him in battle, cut off his
head on the threshold of the Church of Faughard, and marched back
again, his host chanting a war song composed by their leader.

In this reign died Saint Gerald of Mayo, an Anglo-Saxon Bishop, and
apparently the head of a colony of his countrymen, from whom that
district is ever since called "Mayo of the Saxons." The name, however,
being a general one for strangers from Britain about that period, just
as Dane became for foreigners from the Baltic in the next century, is
supposed to be incorrectly applied: the colony being, it is said,
really from Wales, of old British stock, who had migrated rather than
live under the yoke of their victorious Anglo-Saxon Kings. The
descendants of these Welshmen are still to be traced, though intimately
intermingled with the original Belgic and later Milesian settlers in
Mayo, Sligo, and Galway—thus giving a peculiar character to that
section of the country, easily distinguishable from all the rest.

Although Hugh Allan did not imitate his father's conduct towards
ecclesiastics, he felt bound by all-ruling custom to avenge his
father's death. In all ancient countries the kinsmen of a murdered man
were both by law and custom the avengers of his blood. The members of
the Greek _phratry_, of the Roman _fatria_, or _gens_, of the Germanic
and Anglo-Saxon _guild_, and of the mediaeval sworn _commune_, were all
solemnly bound to avenge the blood of any of their brethren, unlawfully
slain. So that the repulsive repetition of reprisals, which so disgusts
the modern reader in our old annals, is by no means a phenomenon
peculiar to the Irish state of society. It was in the middle age and in
early times common to all Europe, to Britain and Germany, as well as to
Greece and Rome. It was, doubtless, under a sense of duty of this sort
that Hugh V. led into Leinster a large army (A.D. 733), and the day of
Ath-Senaid fully atoned for the day of Almain. Nine thousand of the men
of Leinster were left on the field, including most of their chiefs; the
victorious monarch losing a son, and other near kinsmen. Four years
later, he himself fell in an obscure contest near Kells, in the plain
of Meath. Some of his quartrains have come down to us, and they breathe
a spirit at once religious and heroic—such as must have greatly
endeared the Prince who possessed it to his companions in arms. We are
not surprised, therefore, to find his reign a favourite epoch with
subsequent Bards and Storytellers.

The long and prosperous reign of Donald III. succeeded (A.D. 739 to
759). He is almost the only one of this series of Kings of whom it can
be said that he commanded in no notable battle. The annals of his reign
are chiefly filled with ordinary accidents, and the obits of the
learned. But its literary and religious record abounds with bright
names and great achievements, as we shall find when we come to consider
the educational and missionary fruits of Christianity in the eighth
century. While on a pilgrimage to Durrow, a famous Columbian foundation
in Meath, and present King's County, Donald III. departed this life,
and in Durrow, by his own desire, his body was interred.

Nial II. (surnamed of the Showers), son to FEARGAL and brother of the
warrior-Bard, Hugh V., was next invested with the white wand of
sovereignty. He was a prince less warlike and more pious than his elder
brother. The _soubriquet_ attached to his name is accounted for by a
Bardic tale, which represents him as another Moses, at whose prayer
food fell from heaven in time of famine. Whatever "showers" fell or
wonders were wrought in his reign, it is certain that after enjoying
the kingly office for seven years, Nial resigned, and retired to Iona,
there to pass the remainder of his days in penance and meditation.
Eight years he led the life of a monk in that sacred Isle, where his
grave is one of those of "the three Irish Kings," still pointed out in
the cemetery of the Kings. He is but one among several Princes, his
cotemporaries, who had made the same election. We learn in this same
century, that Cellach, son of the King of Connaught, died in Holy
Orders, and that Bec, Prince of Ulidia, and Ardgall, son of a later
King of Connaught, had taken the "crostaff" of the pilgrim, either for
Iona or Armagh, or some more distant shrine. Pilgrimages to Rome and to
Jerusalem seem to have been begun even before this time, as we may
infer from St. Adamnan's work on the situation of the Holy Places, of
which Bede gives an abstract.

The reign of Donogh I. is the longest and the last among the Kings of
the eighth century (A.D. 776 to 797). The Kings of Ireland had now not
only abandoned Tara, but one by one, the other royal residences in
Meath as their usual place of abode. As a consequence a local
sovereignty sprung up in the family of O'Melaghlin, a minor branch of
the ruling race. This house developing its power so unexpectedly, and
almost always certain to have the national forces under the command of
a Patron Prince at their back, were soon involved in quarrels about
boundaries, both with Leinster and Munster. King Donogh, at the outset
of his reign, led his forces into both principalities, and without
battle received their hostages. Giving hostages—generally the sons of
the chiefs—was the usual form of ratifying any treaty. Generally also,
the Bishop of the district, or its most distinguished ecclesiastic, was
called in as witness of the terms, and both parties were solemnly sworn
on the relics of Saints—the Gospels of the Monasteries or Cathedrals—or
the croziers of their venerated founders. The breach of such a treaty
was considered "a violation of the relics of the saint," whose name had
been invoked, and awful penalties were expected to follow so heinous a
crime. The hostages were then carried to the residence of the King, to
whom they were entrusted, and while the peace lasted, enjoyed a parole
freedom, and every consideration due to their rank. If of tender age
they were educated with the same care as the children of the household.
But when war broke out their situation was always precarious, and
sometimes dangerous. In a few instances they had even been put to
death, but this was considered a violation of all the laws both of
hospitality and chivalry; usually they were removed to some strong
secluded fort, and carefully guarded as pledges to be employed,
according to the chances and changes of the war. That Donogh preferred
negotiation to war, we may infer by his course towards Leinster and
Munster, in the beginning of his reign, and his "kingly parlee" at a
later period (A.D. 783) with FIACHNA, of Ulidia, son of that
over-exacting Hugh Roin, whose head was taken from his shoulders at the
Church door of Faughard. This "kingly parlee" was held on an island off
the Methian shore, called afterwards "King's Island." But little good
came of it. Both parties still held their own views, so that the
satirical poets asked what was the use of the island, when one party
"would not come upon the land, nor the other upon the sea?" However, we
needs must agree with King Donogh, that war is the last resort, and is
only to be tried when all other means have failed.

Twice during this reign the whole island was stricken with panic, by
extraordinary signs in the heavens, of huge serpents coiling themselves
through the stars, of fiery bolts flying like shuttles from one side of
the horizon to the other, or shooting downward directly to the earth.
These atmospheric wonders were accompanied by thunder and lightning so
loud and so prolonged that men hid themselves for fear in the caverns
of the earth. The fairs and markets were deserted by buyers and
sellers; the fields were abandoned by the farmers; steeples were rent
by lightning, and fell to the ground; the shingled roofs of churches
caught fire and burned whole buildings. Shocks of earthquake were also
felt, and round towers and cyclopean masonry were strewn in fragments
upon the ground. These visitations first occurred in the second year of
Donogh, and returned again in 783. When, in the next decade, the first
Danish descent was made on the coast of Ulster (A.D. 794), these signs
and wonders were superstitiously supposed to have been the precursors
of that far more terrible and more protracted visitation.

The Danes at first attracted little notice, but in the last year of
Donogh (A.D. 797) they returned in greater force, and swept rapidly
along the coast of Meath; it was reserved for his successors of the
following centuries to face the full brunt of this new national danger.

But before encountering the fierce nations of the north, and the stormy
period they occupy, let us cast back a loving glance over the
world-famous schools and scholars of the last two centuries. Hitherto
we have only spoken of certain saints, in connection with high affairs
of state. We must now follow them to the college and the cloister, we
must consider them as founders at home, and as missionaries abroad;
otherwise how could we estimate all that is at stake for Erin and for
Christendom, in the approaching combat with the devotees of Odin,—the
deadly enemies of all Christian institutions?


We have now arrived at the close of the third century, from the death
of Saint Patrick, and find ourselves on the eve of a protracted
struggle with the heathen warriors of Scandinavia; it is time,
therefore, to look back on the interval we have passed, and see what
changes have been wrought in the land, since its kings, instead of
waiting to be attacked at home, had made the surrounding sea "foam with
the oars" of their outgoing expeditions.

The most obvious change in the condition of the country is traceable in
its constitution and laws, into every part of which, as was its wont
from the beginning, the spirit of Christianity sought patiently to
infuse itself. We have already spoken of the expurgation of the
constitution, which prohibited the observance of Pagan rites to the
kings, and imposed on them instead, certain social obligations. This
was a first change suggested by Saint Patrick, and executed mainly by
his disciple, Saint Benignus. We have seen the legislative success
which attended the measures of Columbkill, Moling, and Adamnan; in
other reforms of minor importance the paramount influence of the
clerical order may be easily traced.

But it is in their relation as teachers of human and divine science
that the Irish Saints exercised their greatest power, not only over
their own countrymen, but over a considerable part of Europe. The
intellectual leadership of western Europe—the glorious ambition of the
greatest nations—has been in turn obtained by Italy, France, Britain
and Germany. From the middle of the sixth to the middle of the eighth
century, it will hardly be disputed that that leadership devolved on
Ireland. All the circumstances of the sixth century helped to confer it
upon the newly converted western isle; the number of her schools, and
the wisdom, energy, and zeal of her masters, retained for her the proud
distinction for two hundred years. And when it passed away from her
grasp, she might still console herself with the grateful reflection
that the power she had founded and exercised, was divided among British
and continental schools, which her own _alumni_ had largely contributed
to form and establish. In the northern Province, the schools most
frequented were those of Armagh, and of Bangor, on Belfast lough; in
Meath, the school of Clonard, and that of Clomnacnoise, (near Athlone);
in Leinster, the school of Taghmon (_Ta-mun_), and Beg-Erin, the former
near the banks of the Slaney, the latter in Wexford harbour; in
Munster, the school of Lismore on the Blackwater, and of Mungret (now
Limerick), on the Shannon; in Connaught, the school of "Mayo of the
Saxons," and the schools of the Isles of Arran. These seats of learning
were almost all erected on the banks of rivers, in situations easy of
access, to the native or foreign student; a circumstance which proved
most disastrous to them when the sea kings of the north began to find
their way to the shores of the island. They derived their
maintenance—not from taxing their pupils—but in the first instance from
public endowments. They were essentially free schools; not only free as
to the lessons given, but the venerable Bede tells us they supplied
free bed and board and books to those who resorted to them from abroad.
The Prince and the Clansmen of every principality in which a school was
situated, endowed it with a certain share—often an ample one—of the
common land of the clan. Exclusive rights of fishery, and exclusive
mill-privileges seem also to have been granted. As to timber for
building purposes and for fuel, it was to be had for carrying and
cutting. The right of quarry went with the soil, wherever building
stone was found. In addition to these means of sustenance, a portion of
the collegiate clergy appeared to have discharged missionary duty, and
received offerings of the produce of the land. We hear of periodical
_quests_ or collections made for the sustenance of these institutions,
wherein the learned Lectors and Doctors, no doubt, pleaded their claims
to popular favour, with irresistible eloquence. Individuals, anxious to
promote the spread of religion and of science, endowed particular
institutions out of their personal means; Princes, Bishops, and pious
ladies, contributed to enlarge the bounds and increase the income of
their favourite foundations, until a generous emulation seems to have
seized on all the great families as well as on the different Provinces,
as to which could boast the most largely attended schools, and the
greatest number of distinguished scholars. The love of the _alma
mater_—that college patriotism which is so sure a sign of the
noble-minded scholar—never received more striking illustration than
among the graduates of those schools. Columbkill, in his new home among
the Hebrides, invokes blessings on blessings, on "the angels" with whom
it was once his happiness to walk in Arran, and Columbanus, beyond the
Alps, remembers with pride the school of Bangor—the very name of which
inspires him with poetic rapture.

The buildings, in which so many scholars were housed and taught, must
have been extensive. Some of the schools we have mentioned were, when
most flourishing, frequented by one, two, three, and even, at some
periods, as many as seven thousand scholars. Such a population was
alone sufficient to form a large village; and if we add the requisite
number of teachers and attendants, we will have an addition of at least
one-third to the total. The buildings seem to have been separately of
no great size, but were formed into streets, and even into something
like wards. Armagh was divided into three parts—_trian-more_ (or the
town proper), _trian-Patrick_, the Cathedral close, and
_trian-Sassenagh_, the Latin quarter, the home of the foreign students.
A tall sculptured Cross, dedicated to some favourite saint, stood at
the bounds of these several wards, reminding the anxious student to
invoke their spiritual intercession as he passed by. Early hours and
vigilant night watches had to be exercised to prevent conflagrations in
such village-seminaries, built almost wholly of wood, and roofed with
reeds or shingles. A Cathedral, or an Abbey Church, a round tower, or a
cell of some of the ascetic masters, would probably be the only stone
structure within the limits. To the students, the evening star gave the
signal for retirement, and the morning sun for awaking. When, at the
sound of the early bell, two or three thousand of them poured into the
silent streets and made their way towards the lighted Church, to join
in the service of matins, mingling, as they went or returned, the
tongues of the Gael, the Cimbri, the Pict, the Saxon, and the Frank, or
hailing and answering each other in the universal language of the Roman
Church, the angels in Heaven must have loved to contemplate the union
of so much perseverance with so much piety.

The lives of the masters, not less than their lessons, were studied and
observed by their pupils. At that time, as we gather from every
authority, they were models of simplicity. One Bishop is found,
erecting with his own hands, the _cashel_ or stone enclosure which
surrounded his cell; another is labouring in the field, and gives his
blessing to his visitors, standing between the stilts of the plough.
Most ecclesiastics work occasionally either in wood, in bronze, in
leather, or as scribes. The decorations of the Church, if not the
entire structure, was the work of those who served at the altar. The
tabernacle, the rood-screen, the ornamental font; the vellum on which
the Psalms and Gospels were written; the ornamented case which
contained the precious volume, were often of their making. The music
which made the vale of Bangor resound as if inhabited by angels, was
their composition; the hymns that accompanied it were their own. "It is
a poor Church that has no music," is one of the oldest Irish proverbs;
and the _Antiphonarium_ of Bangor, as well as that of Armagh, remains
to show that such a want was not left unsupplied in the early Church.

All the contemporary schools were not of the same grade nor of equal
reputation. We constantly find a scholar, after passing years in one
place, transferring himself to another, and sometimes to a third and a
fourth. Some masters were, perhaps, more distinguished in human
Science; others in Divinity. Columbkill studied in two or three
different schools, and _visited_ others, perhaps as disputant or
lecturer—a common custom in later years. Nor should we associate the
idea of under-age with the students of whom we speak. Many of them,
whether as teachers or learners, or combining both characters together,
reached middle life before they ventured as instructors upon the world.
Forty years is no uncommon age for the graduate of those days, when as
yet the discovery was unmade, that all-sufficient wisdom comes with the
first trace of down upon the chin of youth.

The range of studies seems to have included the greater part of the
collegiate course of our own times. The language of the country, and
the language of the Roman Church; the languages of Scripture—Greek and
Hebrew; the logic of Aristotle, the writings of the Fathers, especially
of Pope Gregory the Great—who appears to have been a favourite author
with the Irish Church; the defective Physics of the period;
Mathematics, Music, and Poetical composition went to complete the
largest course. When we remember that all the books were manuscripts;
that even paper had not yet been invented; that the best parchment was
equal to so much beaten gold, and a perfect MS. was worth a king's
ransom, we may better estimate the difficulties in the way of the
scholar of the seventh century. Knowing these facts, we can very well
credit that part of the story of St. Columbkill's banishment into
Argyle, which turns on what might be called a copyright dispute, in
which the monarch took the side of St. Finian of Clonard, (whose
original MSS. his pupil seems to have copied without permission,) and
the Clan-Conal stood up, of course, for their kinsman. This dispute is
even said to have led to the affair of Culdrum, in Sligo, which is
sometimes mentioned as "the battle of the book." The same tendency of
the national character which overstocked the Bardic Order, becomes
again visible in its Christian schools; and if we could form anything
like an approximate census of the population, anterior to the northern
invasions, we would find that the proportion of ecclesiastics was
greater than has existed either before or since in any Christian
country. The vast designs of missionary zeal drew off large bodies of
those who had entered Holy Orders; still the numbers engaged as
teachers in the great schools, as well as of those who passed their
lives in solitude and contemplation, must have been out of all modern
proportion to the lay inhabitants of the Island.

The most eminent Irish Saints of the fifth century were St. Ibar, St.
Benignus and St. Kieran, of Ossory; in the sixth, St. Bendan, of
Clonfert; St. Brendan, of Birr; St. Maccartin, of Clogher; St. Finian,
of Moville; St. Finbar, St. Cannice, St. Finian, of Clonard; and St.
Jarlath, of Tuam; in the seventh century, St. Fursey, St. Laserian,
Bishop of Leighlin; St. Kieran, Abbot of Clonmacnoise; St. Comgall,
Abbot of Bangor; St. Carthage, Abbot of Lismore; St. Colman, Bishop of
Dromore; St. Moling, Bishop of Ferns; St. Colman Ela, Abbot; St.
Cummian, "the White;" St. Finian, Abbot; St. Gall, Apostle of
Switzerland; St. Fridolin, "the Traveller;" St. Columbanus, Apostle of
Burgundy and Lombardy; St. Killian, Apostle of Franconia; St.
Columbkill, Apostle of the Picts; St. Cormac, called "the Navigator;"
St. Cuthbert; and St. Aidan, Apostle of Northumbria. In the eighth
century the most illustrious names are St. Cataldus, Bishop of
Tarentum; St. Adamnan, Abbot of Iona; St. Rumold, Apostle of Brabant;
Clement and Albinus, "the Wisdom-seekers;" and St. Feargal or
Virgilius, Bishop of Saltzburgh. Of holy women in the same ages, we
have some account of St. Samthan, in the eighth century; of St. Bees,
St. Dympna and St. Syra, in the seventh century, and of St. Monina, St.
Ita of Desies, and St. Bride, or Bridget, of Kildare, in the sixth. The
number of conventual institutions for women established in those ages,
is less easily ascertained than the number of monastic houses for men;
but we may suppose them to have borne some proportion to each other,
and to have even counted by hundreds. The veneration in which St.
Bridget was held during her life, led many of her countrywomen to
embrace the religious state, and no less than fourteen _Saints_, her
namesakes, are recorded. It was the custom of those days to call all
holy persons who died in the odour of sanctity, _Saints_, hence
national or provincial tradition venerates very many names, which the
reader may look for in vain, in the Roman calendar.

The intellectual labours of the Irish schools, besides the task of
teaching such immense numbers of men of all nations on their own soil,
and the missionary conquests to which I have barely alluded, were
diversified by controversies, partly scientific and partly
theological—such as the "Easter Controversy," the "Tonsure
Controversy," and that maintained by "Feargal the Geometer," as to the
existence of the Antipodes.

The discussion, as to the proper time of observing Easter, which had
occupied the doctors of the Council of Nice in the fourth century, was
raised in Ireland and in Britain early in the sixth, and complete
uniformity was not established till far on in the eighth. It occupied
the thoughts of several generations of the chief men of the Irish
Church, and some of their arguments still fortunately survive, to
attest their learning and tolerance, as well as their zeal. St. Patrick
had introduced in the fifth century the computation of time then
observed in Gaul, and to this custom many of the Irish doctors rigidly
adhered, long after the rest of Christendom had agreed to adopt the
Alexandrian computation. Great names were found on both sides of the
controversy: Columbanus, Finian, and Aidan, for adhering exactly to the
rule of St. Patrick; Cummian, the White, Laserian and Adamnan, in
favour of strict agreement with Rome and the East. Monks of the same
Monastery and Bishops of the same Province maintained opposite opinions
with equal ardour and mutual charity. It was a question of discipline,
not a matter of faith; but it involved a still greater question,
whether national churches were to plead the inviolability of their
local usages, even on points of discipline, against the sense and
decision of the Universal Church.

In the year of our Lord 630, the Synod of Leighlin was held, under the
shelter of the ridge of Leinster, and the presidency of St. Laserian.
Both parties at length agreed to send deputies to Rome, as "children to
their mother," to learn her decision. Three years later, that decision
was made known, and the midland and southern dioceses at once adopted
it. The northern churches, however, still held out, under the lead of
Armagh and the influence of Iona, nor was it till a century later that
this scandal of celebrating Easter on two different days in the same
church was entirely removed. In justification of the Roman rule, St.
Cummian, about the middle of the seventh century, wrote his famous
epistle to Segenius, Abbot of Iona, of the ability and learning of
which all modern writers from Archbishop Usher to Thomas Moore, speak
in terms of the highest praise. It is one of the few remaining
documents of that controversy. A less vital question of discipline
arose about the tonsure. The Irish shaved the head in a semicircle from
temple to temple, while the Latin usage was to shave the crown, leaving
an external circle of hair to typify the crown of thorns. At the
conference of Whitby (A.D. 664) this was one of the subjects of
discussion between the clergy of Iona, and those who followed the Roman
method—but it never assumed the importance of the Easter controversy.

In the following century an Irish Missionary, Virgilius, of Saltzburgh,
(called by his countrymen "Feargal, the Geometer,") was maintaining in
Germany against no less an adversary than St. Boniface, the sphericity
of the earth and the existence of antipodes. His opponents endeavoured
to represent him, or really believed him to hold, that there were other
men, on our earth, for whom the Redeemer had not died; on this ground
they appealed to Pope Zachary against him; but so little effect had
this gross distortion of his true doctrine at Rome, when explanations
were given, that Feargal was soon afterwards raised to the See of
Saltzburgh, and subsequently canonized by Pope Gregory IX. In the ninth
century we find an Irish geographer and astronomer of something like
European reputation in Dicuil and Dungal, whose treatises and epistles
have been given to the press. Like their compatriot, Columbanus, these
accomplished men had passed their youth and early manhood in their own
country, and to its schools are to be transferred the compliments paid
to their acquirements by such competent judges as Muratori, Latronne,
and Alexander von Humboldt. The origin of the scholastic
philosophy—which pervaded Europe for nearly ten centuries—has been
traced by the learned Mosheim to the same insular source. Whatever may
now be thought of the defects or shortcomings of that system, it
certainly was not unfavourable either to wisdom or eloquence, since
among its professors may be reckoned the names of St. Thomas and St.

We must turn away our eyes from the contemplation of those days in
which were achieved for Ireland the title of the land of saints and
doctors. Another era opens before us, and we can already discern the
long ships of the north, their monstrous beaks turned towards the holy
Isle, their sides hung with glittering shields and their benches
thronged with fair-haired warriors, chanting as they advance the fierce
war songs of their race. Instead of the monk's familiar voice on the
river banks we are to hear the shouts of strange warriors from a
far-off country; and for matin hymn and vesper song, we are to be beset
through a long and stormy period, with sounds of strife and terror, and
deadly conflict.



Hugh VI., surnamed Ornie, succeeded to the throne vacant by the death
of Donogh I. (A.D. 797), and reigned twenty-two years; Conor II.
succeeded (A.D. 819), and reigned fourteen years; Nial III. (called
from the place of his death Nial of Callan), reigned thirteen years;
Malachy I. succeeded (A.D. 845), and reigned fifteen years; Hugh VII.
succeeded and reigned sixteen years (dying A.D. 877); Flan (surnamed
Flan of the Shannon) succeeded at the latter date, and reigned for
thirty-eight years, far into the tenth century. Of these six kings,
whose reigns average twenty years each, we may remark that not one died
by violence, if we except perhaps Nial of Callan, drowned in the river
of that name in a generous effort to save the life of one of his own
servants. Though no former princes had ever encountered dangers equal
to these—yet in no previous century was the person of the ruler so
religiously respected. If this was evident in one or two instances
only, it would be idle to lay much stress upon it; but when we find the
same truth holding good of several successive reigns, it is not too
much to attribute it to that wide diffusion of Christian morals, which
we have pointed out as the characteristic of the two preceding
centuries. The kings of this age owed their best protection to the
purer ethics which overflowed from Armagh and Bangor and Lismore; and
if we find hereafter the regicide habits of former times partially
revived, it will only be after the new Paganism—the Paganism of
interminable anti-Christian invasions—had recovered the land, and
extinguished the beacon lights of the three first Christian centuries.

The enemy, who were now to assault the religious and civil institutions
of the Irish, must be admitted to possess many great military
qualities. They certainly exhibit, in the very highest degree, the
first of all military virtues—unconquerable courage. Let us say
cheerfully, that history does not present in all its volumes a braver
race of men than the Scandinavians of the ninth century. In most
respects they closely resembled the Gothic tribes, who, whether
starting into historic life on the Euxine or the Danube, or faintly
heard of by the Latins from the far off Baltic, filled with constant
alarm the Roman statesmen of the fourth century; nor can the invasions
of what we may call the maritime Goths be better introduced to the
reader than by a rapid sketch of the previous triumphs of their kindred
tribes over the Roman Empire.

It was in the year of our Lord 378 that these long-dreaded barbarians
defeated the Emperor Valens in the plain of Adrianople, and as early as
404—twenty-six years after their first victory in Eastern Europe—they
had taken and burned great Rome herself. Again and again—in 410, in
455, and in 472—they captured and plundered the Imperial City. In the
same century they had established themselves in Burgundy, in Spain, and
in Northern Africa; in the next, another branch of the Gothic stock
twice took Rome; and yet another founded the Lombard Kingdom in
Northern Italy. With these Goths thus for a time masters of the Roman
Empire, whose genius and temper has entered so deeply into all
subsequent civilization, war was considered the only pursuit worthy of
men. According to their ideas of human freedom, that sacred principle
was supposed to exist only in force and by force; they had not the
faintest conception, and at first received with unbounded scorn the
Christian doctrine of the unity of the human race, the privileges and
duties annexed to Christian baptism, and the sublime ideal of the
Christian republic. But they were very far from being so cruel or so
faithless as their enemies represented them; they were even better than
they cared to represent themselves. And they had amongst them men of
the highest capacity and energy, well worthy to be the founders of new
nations. Alaric, Attila, and Genseric, were fierce and unmerciful it is
true; but their acts are not all written in blood; they had their
better moments and higher purposes in the intervals of battle; and the
genius for civil government of the Gothic race was in the very
beginning demonstrated by such rulers as Theodoric in Italy and Clovis
in Gaul. The rear guard of this irresistible barbaric invasion was now
about to break in upon Europe by a new route; instead of the long land
marches by which they had formerly concentrated from the distant Baltic
and from the tributaries of the Danube, on the capital of the Roman
empire; instead of the tedious expeditions striking across the
Continent, hewing their paths through dense forests, arrested by rapid
rivers and difficult mountains, the last northern invaders of Europe
had sufficiently advanced in the arts of shipbuilding and navigation to
strike boldly into the open sea and commence their new conquests among
the Christian islands of the West. The defenders of Roman power and
Christian civilization in the fifth and sixth centuries, were arrayed
against a warlike but pastoral people encumbered with their women and
children; the defenders of the same civilization, in the British
Islands in the ninth and tenth centuries, were contending with kindred
tribes, who had substituted maritime arts and habits for the pastoral
arts and habits of the companions of Attila and Theodoric. The Gothic
invasion of Roman territory in the earlier period was, with the single
exception of the naval expeditions of Genseric from his new African
Kingdom, a continental war; and notwithstanding the partiality of
Genseric for his fleet, as an arm of offence and defence, his
companions and successors abandoned the ocean as an uncongenial
element. The only parallel for the new invasion, of which we are now to
speak, is to be found in the history and fortunes of the Saxons of the
fifth century, first the allies and afterwards the conquerors of part
of Britain. But even their descendants in England had not kept pace,
either in the arts of navigation or in thirst for adventure, with their
distant relatives, who remained two centuries later among the friths
and rocks of Scandinavia.

The first appearance of these invaders on the Irish and British coasts
occurred in 794. Their first descent on Ireland was at Rathlin island,
which may be called the outpost of Erin, towards the north; their
second attempt (A.D. 797) was at a point much more likely to arouse
attention—at Skerries, off the coast of Meath (now Dublin); in 803, and
again in 806, they attacked and plundered the holy Iona; but it was not
until a dozen years later they became really formidable. In 818 they
landed at Howth; and the same year, and probably the same party, sacked
the sacred edifices in the estuary of the Slaney, by them afterwards
called Wexford; in 820 they plundered Cork, and in 824—most startling
blow of all—they sacked and burned the schools of Bangor. The same year
they revisited Iona; and put to death many of its inmates; destroyed
Moville; received a severe check in Lecale, near Strangford lough (one
of their favourite stations). Another party fared better in a land
foray into Ossory, where they defeated those who endeavoured to arrest
their progress, and carried off a rich booty. In 830 and 831, their
ravages were equally felt in Leinster, in Meath, and in Ulster, and
besides many prisoners of princely rank, they plundered the primatial
city of Armagh for the first time, in the year 832. The names of their
chief captains, at this period, are carefully preserved by those who
had so many reasons to remember them; and we now begin to hear of the
Ivars, Olafs, and Sitricks, strangely intermingled with the Hughs,
Nials, Connors, and Felims, who contended with them in battle or in
diplomacy. It was not till the middle of this century (A.D. 837) that
they undertook to fortify Dublin, Limerick, and some other harbours
which they had seized, to winter in Ireland, and declare their purpose
to be the complete conquest of the country.

The earliest of these expeditions seem to have been annual visitations;
and as the northern winter sets in about October, and the Baltic is
seldom navigable before May, the summer was the season of their
depredations. Awaiting the breaking up of the ice, the intrepid
adventurers assembled annually upon the islands in the Cattegat or on
the coast of Norway, awaiting the favourable moment of departure. Here
they beguiled their time between the heathen rites they rendered to
their gods, their wild bacchanal festivals, and the equipment of their
galleys. The largest ship built in Norway, and probably in the north,
before the eleventh century, had 34 banks of oars. The largest class of
vessel carried from 100 to 120 men. The great fleet which invaded
Ireland in 837 counted 120 vessels, which, if of average size for such
long voyages, would give a total force of some 6,000 men. As the whole
population of Denmark, in the reign of Canute who died in 1035, is
estimated at 800,000 souls, we may judge from their fleets how large a
portion of the men were engaged in these piratical pursuits. The ships
on which they prided themselves so highly were flat-bottomed craft,
with little or no keel, the sides of wicker work, covered with strong
hides. They were impelled either by sails or oars as the changes of the
weather allowed; with favourable winds they often made the voyage in
three days. As if to favour their designs, the north and north-west
blast blows for a hundred days of the year over the sea they had to
traverse. When land was made, in some safe estuary, their galleys were
drawn up on shore, a convenient distance beyond highwater mark, where
they formed a rude camp, watch-fires were lighted, sentinels set, and
the fearless adventurers slept as soundly as if under their own roofs,
in their own country. Their revels after victory, or on returning to
their homes, were as boisterous as their lives. In food they looked
more to quantity than quality, and one of their most determined
prejudices against Christianity was that it did not sanction the eating
of horse flesh. An exhilarating beer, made from heath, or from the
spruce tree, was their principal beverage, and the recital of their own
adventures, or the national songs of the Scalds, were their most
cherished amusement. Many of the Vikings were themselves Scalds, and
excelled, as might be expected, in the composition of war songs.

The Pagan belief of this formidable race was in harmony with all their
thoughts and habits, and the exact opposite of Christianity. In the
beginning of time, according to their tradition, there was neither
heaven nor earth, but only universal chaos and a bottomless abyss,
where dwelt Surtur in an element of unquenchable fire. The generation
of their gods proceeded amid the darkness and void, from the union of
heat and moisture, until Odin and the other children of Asa-Thor, or
the Earth, slew Ymer, or the Evil One, and created the material
universe out of his lifeless remains. These heroic conquerors also
collected the sparks of eternal fire flying about in the abyss, and
fixed them as stars in the firmament. In addition, they erected in the
far East, Asgard, the City of the Gods; on the extreme shore of the
ocean stood Utgard, the City of Nor and his giants, and the wars of
these two cities, of their gods and giants, fill the first and most
obscure ages of the Scandinavian legend. The human race had as yet no
existence until Odin created a man and woman, Ask and Embla, out of two
pieces of wood (ash and elm), thrown upon the beach by the waves of the

Of all the gods of Asgard, Odin was the first in place and power; from
his throne he saw everything that happened on the earth; and lest
anything should escape his knowledge, two ravens, Spirit and Memory,
sat on his shoulders, and whispered in his ears whatever they had seen
in their daily excursions round the world. Night was a divinity and the
father of Day, who travelled alternately throughout space, with two
celebrated steeds called Shining-mane and Frost-mane. Friga was the
daughter and wife of Odin; the mother of Thor, the Mars, and of the
beautiful Balder, the Apollo, of Asgard. The other gods were of
inferior rank to these, and answered to the lesser divinities of Greece
and Rome. Niord was the Neptune, and Frega, daughter of Niord, was the
Venus of the North. Heimdall, the watchman of Asgard, whose duty it was
to prevent the rebellious giants scaling by surprise the walls of the
celestial city, dwelt under the end of the rainbow; his vision was so
perfect he could discern objects 100 leagues distant, either by night
or day, and his ear was so fine he could hear the wool growing on the
sheep, and the grass springing in the meadows.

The hall of Odin, which had 540 gates, was the abode of heroes who had
fought bravest in battle. Here they were fed with the lard of a wild
boar, which became whole every night, though devoured every day, and
drank endless cups of hydromel, drawn from the udder of an
inexhaustible she-goat, and served out to them by the Nymphs, who had
counted the slain, in cups which were made of the skulls of their
enemies. When they were wearied of such enjoyments, the sprites of the
Brave exercised themselves in single combat, hacked each other to
pieces on the floor of Valhalla, resumed their former shape, and
returned to their lard and their hydromel.

Believing firmly in this system—looking forward with undoubting faith
to such an eternity—the Scandinavians were zealous to serve their gods
according to their creed. Their rude hill altars gave way as they
increased in numbers and wealth, to spacious temples at Upsala, Ledra,
Tronheim, and other towns and ports. They had three great festivals,
one at the beginning of February, in honour of Thor, one in Spring, in
honour of Odin, and one in Summer, in honour of the fruitful daughter
of Niord. The ordinary sacrifices were animals and birds; but every
ninth year there was a great festival at Upsala, at which the kings and
nobles were obliged to appear in person, and to make valuable
offerings. Wizards and sorcerers, male and female, haunted the temples,
and good and ill winds, length of life, and success in war, were
spiritual commodities bought and sold. Ninety-nine human victims were
offered at the great Upsala festival, and in all emergencies such
sacrifices were considered most acceptable to the gods. Captives and
slaves were at first selected; but, in many cases, princes did not
spare their subjects, nor fathers their own children. The power of a
Priesthood, who could always enforce such a system, must have been
unbounded and irresistible.

The active pursuits of such a population were necessarily maritime. In
their short summer, such crops as they planted ripened rapidly, but
their chief sustenance was animal food and the fish that abounded in
their waters. The artizans in highest repute among them were the
shipwrights and smiths. The hammer and anvil were held in the highest
honour; and of this class, the armorers held the first place. The kings
of the North had no standing armies, but their lieges were summoned to
war by an arrow in Pagan times, and a cross after their conversion.
Their chief dependence was in infantry, which they formed into
wedge-like columns, and so, clashing their shields and singing hymns to
Odin, they advanced against their enemies. Different divisions were
differently armed; some with a short two-edged sword and a heavy
battle-axe; others with the sling, the javelin, and the bow. The shield
was long and light, commonly of wood and leather, but for the chiefs,
ornamented with brass, with silver, and even with gold. Locking the
shields together formed a rampart which it was not easy to break; in
bad weather the concave shield seems to have served the purpose of our
umbrella; in sea-fights the vanquished often escaped by swimming ashore
on their shields. Armour many of them wore; the Berserkers, or
champions, were so called from always engaging, _bare_ of defensive

Such were the men, the arms, and the creed, against which the Irish of
the ninth age, after three centuries of exemption from foreign war,
were called upon to combat. A people, one-third of whose youth and
manhood had embraced the ecclesiastical state, and all whose tribes now
professed the religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, were called to
wrestle with a race whose religion was one of blood, and whose
beatitude was to be in proportion to the slaughter they made while on
earth. The Northman hated Christianity as a rival religion, and
despised it as an effeminate one. He was the soldier of Odin, the elect
of Valhalla; and he felt that the offering most acceptable to his
sanguinary gods was the blood of those religionists who denied their
existence and execrated their revelation. The points of attack,
therefore, were almost invariably the great seats of learning and
religion. There, too, was to be found the largest bulk of the portable
wealth of the country, in richly adorned altars, jewelled chalices, and
shrines of saints. The ecclesiastical map is the map of their campaigns
in Ireland. And it is to avenge or save these innumerable sacred
places—as countless as the Saints of the last three centuries—that the
Christian population have to rouse themselves year after year, hurrying
to a hundred points at the same time. To the better and nobler spirits
the war becomes a veritable crusade, and many of those slain in
single-hearted defence of their altars may well be accounted
martyrs—but a war so protracted and so devastating will be found, in
the sequel, to foster and strengthen many of the worst vices as well as
some of the best virtues of our humanity.

The early events are few and ill-known. During the reign of Hugh VI.,
who died in 819, their hostile visits were few and far between; his
successors, Conor II. and Nial III., were destined to be less fortunate
in this respect. During the reign of Conor, Cork, Lismore, Dundalk,
Bangor and Armagh, were all surprised, plundered, and abandoned by "the
Gentiles," as they are usually called in Irish annals; and with the
exception of two skirmishes in which they were worsted on the coasts of
Down and Wexford, they seem to have escaped with impunity. At Bangor
they shook the bones of the revered founder out of the costly shrine
before carrying it off; on their first visit to Kildare they contented
themselves with taking the gold and silver ornaments of the tomb of St.
Bridget, without desecrating the relics; their main attraction at
Armagh was the same, but there the relics seemed to have escaped. When,
in 830, the brotherhood of Iona apprehended their return, they carried
into Ireland, for greater safety, the relics of St. Columbkill. Hence
it came that most of the memorials of SS. Patrick, Bridget, and
Columbkill, were afterwards united at Downpatrick.

While these deplorable sacrileges, too rapidly executed perhaps to be
often either prevented or punished, were taking place, Conor the King
had on his hand a war of succession, waged by the ablest of his
contemporaries, Felim, King of Munster, who continued during this and
the subsequent reign to maintain a species of rival monarchy in
Munster. It seems clear enough that the abandonment of Tara, as the
seat of authority, greatly aggravated the internal weakness of the
Milesian constitution. While over-centralization is to be dreaded as
the worst tendency of imperial power, it is certain that the want of a
sufficient centralization has proved as fatal, on the other hand, to
the independence of many nations. And anarchical usages once admitted,
we see from the experience of the German Empire, and the Italian
republics, how almost impossible it is to apply a remedy. In the case
before us, when the Irish Kings abandoned the old mensal domain and
betook themselves to their own patrimony, it was inevitable that their
influence and authority over the southern tribes should diminish and
disappear. Aileach, in the far North, could never be to them what Tara
had been. The charm of conservatism, the halo of ancient glory, could
not be transferred. Whenever, therefore, ambitious and able Princes
arose in the South, they found the border tribes rife for backing their
pretensions against the Northern dynasty. The Bards, too, plied their
craft, reviving the memory of former times, when Heber the Fair divided
Erin equally with Heremon, and when Eugene More divided it a second
time with Con of the Hundred Battles. Felim, the son of Crimthan, the
contemporary of Conor II. and Nial III., during the whole term of their
rule, was the resolute assertor of these pretensions, and the Bards of
his own Province do not hesitate to confer on him the high title of
_Ard-Righ_. As a punishment for adhering to the Hy-Nial dynasty, or for
some other offence, this Christian king, in rivalry with "the
Gentiles," plundered Kildare, Burrow, and Clonmacnoise—the latter
perhaps for siding with Connaught in the dispute as to whether the
present county of Clare belonged to Connaught or Munster. Twice he met
in conference with the monarch at Birr and at Cloncurry—at another time
he swept the plain of Meath, and held temporary court in the royal rath
of Tara. With all his vices lie united an extraordinary energy, and
during his time, no Danish settlement was established on the Southern
rivers. Shortly before his decease (A.D. 846) he resigned his crown and
retired from the world, devoting the short remainder of his days to
penance and mortification. What we know of his ambition and ability
makes us regret that he ever appeared upon the scene, or that he had
not been born of that dominant family, who alone were accustomed to
give kings to the whole country.

King Conor died (A.D. 833), and was succeeded by Nial III., surnamed
Nial of Callan. The military events of this last reign are so
intimately bound up with the more brilliant career of the next
ruler—Melaghlin, or Malachy I.—that we must reserve them for the
introduction to the next chapter.


When, in the year 833, Nial III. received the usual homage and
hostages, which ratified his title of _Ard-Righ_, the northern invasion
had clearly become the greatest danger that ever yet had threatened the
institutions of Erin. Attacks at first predatory and provincial had so
encouraged the Gentile leaders of the second generation that they began
to concert measures and combine plans for conquest and colonization. To
the Vikings of Norway the fertile Island with which they were now so
familiar, whose woods were bent with the autumnal load of acorns, mast,
and nuts, and filled with numerous herds of swine—their favourite
food—whose pleasant meadows were well stored with beeves and oxen,
whose winter was often as mild as their northern summer, and whose
waters were as fruitful in fish as their own Lofoden friths; to these
men, this was a prize worth fighting for; and for it they fought long
and desperately.

King Nial inherited a disputed sovereignty from his predecessor, and
the Southern annalists say he did homage to Felim of Munster, while
those of the North—and with them the majority of historians—reject this
statement as exaggerated and untrue. He certainly experienced continual
difficulty in maintaining his supremacy, not only from the Prince of
Cashel, but from lords of lesser grade—like those of Ossory and Ulidia;
so that we may say, while he had the title of King of Ireland, he was,
in fact, King of no more than Leath-Con, or the Northern half. The
central Province, Meath, long deserted by the monarchs, had run wild
into independence, and was parcelled out between two or three chiefs,
descendants of the same common ancestor as the kings, but distinguished
from them by the tribe-name of "the _Southern_ Hy-Nial." Of these heads
of new houses, by far the ablest and most famous was Melaghlin, who
dwelt near Mullingar, and lorded it over western Meath; a name with
which we shall become better acquainted presently. It does not clearly
appear that Melaghlin was one of those who actively resisted the
prerogatives of this monarch, though others of the Southern Hy-Nial did
at first reject his authority, and were severely punished for their
insubordination, the year after his assumption of power.

In the fourth year of Nial III. (A.D. 837), arrived the great Norwegian
fleet of 120 sail, whose commanders first attempted, on a combined
plan, the conquest of Erin. Sixty of the ships entered the Boyne; the
other sixty the Liffey. This formidable force, according to all Irish
accounts, was soon after united under one leader, who is known in our
Annals as _Turgeis_ or _Turgesius_, but of whom no trace can be found,
under that name, in the chronicles of the Northmen. Every effort to
identify him in the records of his native land has hitherto failed—so
that we are forced to conclude that he must have been one of those
wandering sea-kings, whose fame was won abroad, and whose story, ending
in defeat, yet entailing no dynastic consequences on his native land,
possessed no national interest for the authors of the old Norse Sagas.
To do all the Scandinavian chroniclers justice, in cases which come
directly under their notice, they acknowledge defeat as frankly as they
claim victory proudly. Equal praise may be given to the Irish annalists
in recording the same events, whether at first or second-hand. In
relation to the campaigns and sway of Turgesius, the difficulty we
experience in separating what is true from what is exaggerated or
false, is not created for us by the annalists, but by the bards and
story-tellers, some of whose inventions, adopted by _Cambrensis_, have
been too readily received by subsequent writers. For all the acts of
national importance with which his name can be intelligibly associated,
we prefer to follow in this as in other cases, the same sober
historians who condense the events of years and generations into the
shortest space and the most matter of fact expression.

If we were to receive the chronology while rejecting the embellishments
of the Bards, Turgesius must have first come to Ireland with one of the
expeditions of the year 820, since they speak of him as having been
"the scourge of the country for seventeen years," before he assumed the
command of the forces landed from the fleet of 837. Nor is it
unreasonable to suppose that an accurate knowledge of the country,
acquired by years of previous warfare with its inhabitants, may have
been one of the grounds upon which the chief command was conferred on
Turgesius. This knowledge was soon put to account; Dublin was taken
possession of, and a strong fort, according to the Scandinavian method,
was erected on the hill where now stands the Castle. This fort and the
harbour beneath it were to be the _rendezvous_ and arsenal for all
future operations against Leinster, and the foundation of foreign power
then laid, continued in foreign hands, with two or three brief
intervals, until transferred to the Anglo-Norman chivalry, three
centuries and a half later. Similar lodgment was made at Waterford, and
a third was attempted at Limerick, but at this period without success;
the Danish fort at the latter point is not thought older than the year
855. But Turgesius—if, indeed, the independent acts of cotemporary and
even rival chiefs be not too often attributed to him—was not content
with fortifying the estuaries of some principal rivers; he established
inland centres of operation, of which the cardinal one was on Lough
Ree, the expansion of the Shannon, north of Athlone; another was at a
point called Lyndwachill, on Lough Neagh. On both these waters were
stationed fleets of boats, constructed for that service, and
communicating with the forts on shore. On the eastern border of Lough
Ree, in the midst of its meadows, stood Clonmacnoise, rich with the
offerings and endowments of successive generations. Here, three
centuries before, in the heart of the desert, St. Kieran had erected
with his own hands a rude sylvan cell, where, according to the allegory
of tradition, "the first monks who joined him," were the fox, the wolf,
and the bear; but time had wrought wonders on that hallowed ground, and
a group of churches—at one time, as many as ten in number—were gathered
within two or three acres, round its famous schools, and presiding
Cathedral. Here it was Turgesius made his usual home, and from the high
altar of the Cathedral his unbelieving Queen was accustomed to issue
her imperious mandates in his absence. Here, for nearly seven years,
this conqueror and his consort exercised their far-spread and terrible
power. According to the custom of their own country—a custom attributed
to Odin as its author—they exacted from every inhabitant subject to
their sway—a piece of money annually, the forfeit for the non-payment
of which was the loss of the nose, hence called "nose-money." Their
other exactions were a union of their own northern imposts, with those
levied by the chiefs whose authority they had superseded, but whose
prerogatives they asserted for themselves. Free quarters for their
soldiery, and a system of inspection extending to every private
relation of life, were the natural expedients of a tyranny so odious.
On the ecclesiastical order especially their yoke bore with peculiar
weight, since, although avowed Pagans, they permitted no religious
house to stand, unless under an Abbot, or at least an _Erenach_ (or
Treasurer) of their approval. Such is the complete scheme of oppression
presented to us, that it can only be likened to a monstrous spider-web
spread from the centre of the Island over its fairest and most populous
districts. Glendalough, Ferns, Castle-Dermid, and Kildare in the east;
Lismore, Cork, Clonfert, in the southern country; Dundalk, Bangor,
Derry, and Armagh in the north; all groaned under this triumphant
despot, or his colleagues. In the meanwhile King Nial seems to have
struggled resolutely with the difficulties of his lot, and in every
interval of insubordination to have struck boldly at the common enemy.
But the tide of success for the first few years after 837 ran strongly
against him. The joint hosts from the Liffey and the Boyne swept the
rich plains of Meath, and in an engagement at Invernabark (the present
Bray) gave such a complete defeat to the southern Hy-Nial clans as
prevented them making head again in the field, until some summers were
past and gone. In this campaign Saxolve, who is called "the chief of
the foreigners," was slain; and to him, therefore, if to any
commander-in-chief, Turgesius must have succeeded. The shores of all
the inland lakes were favourite sites for Raths and Churches, and the
beautiful country around Lough Erne shared the fiery ordeal which
blazed on Lough Ree and Lough Neagh. In 839 the men of Connaught also
suffered a defeat equal to that experienced by those of Meath in the
previous campaign; but more unfortunate than the Methians, they lost
their leader and other chiefs on the field. In 840, Ferns and Cork were
given to the flames, and the fort at Lyndwachill, or Magheralin, poured
out its ravages in every direction over the adjacent country, sweeping
off flocks, herds, and prisoners, laymen and ecclesiastics, to their
ships. The northern depredators counted among their captives "several
Bishops and learned men," of whom the Abbot of Clogher and the Lord of
Galtrim are mentioned by name. Their equally active colleagues of
Dublin and Waterford took captive, Hugh, Abbot of Clonenagh, and
Foranan, Archbishop of Armagh, who had fled southwards with many of the
relics of the Metropolitan Church, escaping from one danger only to
fall into another a little farther off. These prisoners were carried
into Munster, where Abbot Hugh suffered martyrdom at their hands, but
the Archbishop, after being carried to their fleet at Limerick, seems
to have been rescued or ransomed, as we find him dying in peace at
Armagh in the next reign. The martyrs of these melancholy times were
very numerous, but the exact particulars being so often unrecorded it
is impossible to present the reader with an intelligible account of
their persons and sufferings. When the Anglo-Normans taunted the Irish
that their Church had no martyrs to boast of, they must have forgotten
the exploits of their Norse kinsmen about the middle of this century.

But the hour of retribution was fast coming round, and the native
tribes, unbound, divided, confused, and long unused to foreign war,
were fast recovering their old martial experience, and something like a
politic sense of the folly of their border feuds. Nothing perhaps so
much tended to arouse and combine them together as the capture of the
successor of Saint Patrick, with all his relics, and his imprisonment
among a Pagan host, in Irish waters. National humiliation could not
much farther go, and as we read we pause, prepared for either
alternative—mute submission or a brave uprising. King Nial seems to
have been in this memorable year, 843, defending as well as he might
his ancestral province—Ulster—against the ravagers of Lough Neagh, and
still another party whose ships flocked into Lough Swilly. In the
ancient plain of Moynith, watered by the little river Finn, (the
present barony of Raphoe,) he encountered the enemy, and according to
the Annals, "a countless number fell"—victory being with Nial. In the
same year, or the next, Turgesius was captured by Melaghlin, Lord of
Westmeath, apparently by stratagem, and put to death by the rather
novel process of drowning. The Bardic tale told to _Cambrensis_, or
parodied by him from an old Greek legend, of the death by which
Turgesius died, is of no historical authority. According to this tale,
the tyrant of Lough Ree conceived a passion for the fair daughter of
Melaghlin, and demanded her of her father, who, fearing to refuse,
affected to grant the infamous request, but despatched in her stead, to
the place of assignation, twelve beardless youths, habited as maidens,
to represent his daughter and her attendants; by these maskers the
Norwegian and his boon companions were assassinated, after they had
drank to excess and laid aside their arms and armour. For all this
superstructure of romance there is neither ground-work nor license in
the facts themselves, beyond this, that Turgesius was evidently
captured by some clever stratagem. We hear of no battle in Meath or
elsewhere against him immediately preceding the event; nor, is it
likely that a secondary Prince, as Melaghlin then was, could have
hazarded an engagement with the powerful master of Lough Ree. If the
local traditions of Westmeath may be trusted, where _Cambrensis_ is
rejected, the Norwegian and Irish principals in the tragedy of Lough
Owel were on visiting terms just before the denouement, and many
curious particulars of their peaceful but suspicious intercourse used
to be related by the modern story-tellers around Castle-pollard. The
anecdote of the rookery, of which Melaghlin complained, and the remedy
for which his visitor suggested to be "to cut down the trees and the
rooks would fly," has a suspicious look of the "tall poppies" of the
Roman and Grecian legend; two things only do we know for certain about
the matter: _firstly_, that Turgesius was taken and drowned in Lough
Owel in the year 843 or 844; and _secondly_, that this catastrophe was
brought about by the agency and order of his neighbour, Melaghlin.

The victory of Moynith and the death of Turgesius were followed by some
local successes against other fleets and garrisons of the enemy. Those
of Lough Ree seem to have abandoned their fort, and fought their way
(gaining in their retreat the only military advantage of that year)
towards Sligo, where some of their vessels had collected to bear them
away. Their colleagues of Dublin, undeterred by recent reverses, made
their annual foray southward into Ossory, in 844, and immediately we
find King Nial moving up from the north to the same scene of action. In
that district he met his death in an effort to save the life of a
_gilla_, or common servant. The river of Callan being greatly swollen,
the _gilla_, in attempting to find a ford, was swept away in its turbid
torrent. The King entreated some one to go to his rescue, but as no one
obeyed he generously plunged in himself and sacrificed his own life in
endeavouring to preserve one of his humblest followers. He was in the
55th year of his age and the 13th of his reign, and in some traits of
character reminded men of his grandfather, the devout Nial "of the
Showers." The Bards have celebrated the justice of his judgments, the
goodness of his heart, and the comeliness of his "brunette-bright
face." He left a son of age to succeed him, (and who ultimately did
become _Ard-Righ_,) yet the present popularity of Melaghlin of Meath
triumphed over every other interest, and he was raised to the
monarchy—the first of his family who had yet attained that honour.
Hugh, the son of Nial, sank for a time into the rank of a Provincial
Prince, before the ascendant star of the captor of Turgesius, and is
usually spoken of during this reign as "Hugh of Aileach." He is found
towards its close, as if impatient of the succession, employing the
arms of the common enemy to ravage the ancient mensal land of the kings
of Erin, and otherwise harassing the last days of his successful rival.

Melaghlin, or Malachy I. (sometimes called "of the Shannon," from his
patrimony along that river), brought back again the sovereignty to the
centre, and in happier days might have become the second founder of
Tara. But it was plain enough then, and it is tolerably so still, that
this was not to be an age of restoration. The kings of Ireland after
this time, says the quaint old translator of the Annals of
Clonmacnoise, "had little good of it," down to the days of King Brian.
It was, in fact, a perpetual struggle for self-preservation—the first
duty of all governments, as well as the first law of all nature. The
powerful action of the Gentile forces, upon an originally
ill-centralized and recently much abused Constitution, seemed to render
it possible that every new Ard-Righ would prove the last. Under the
pressure of such a deluge all ancient institutions were shaken to their
foundations; and the venerable authority of Religion itself, like a
Hermit in a mountain torrent, was contending for the hope of escape or
existence. We must not, therefore, amid the din of the conflicts
through which we are to pass, condemn without stint or qualification
those Princes who were occasionally driven—as some of them _were_
driven—to that last resort, the employment of foreign mercenaries (and
those mercenaries often anti-Christians,) to preserve some show of
native government and kingly authority. Grant that in some of them the
use of such allies and agents cannot be justified on any plea or
pretext of state necessity; where base ends or unpatriotic motives are
clear or credible, such treason to country cannot be too heartily
condemned; but it is indeed far from certain that such were the motives
in _all_ cases, or that such ought to be our conclusion in any, in the
absence of sufficient evidence to that effect.

Though the Gentile power had experienced towards the close of the last
reign such severe reverses, yet it was not in the nature of the men of
Norway to abandon a prize which was once so nearly being their own. The
fugitives who escaped, as well as those who remained within the strong
ramparts of Waterford and Dublin, urged the fitting out of new
expeditions, to avenge their slaughtered countrymen and prosecute the
conquest. But defeat still followed on defeat; in the first year of
Malachy, they lost 1,200 men in a disastrous action near Castle Dermot,
with Olcobar the Prince-bishop of Cashel; and in the same or the next
season they were defeated with the loss of 700 men, by Malachy, at
Fore, in Meath. In the third year of Malachy, however, a new northern
expedition arrived in 140 vessels, which, according to the average
capacity of the long-ships of that age, must have carried with them
from 7,000 to 10,000 men. Fortunately for the assailed, this fleet was
composed of what they called _Black_-Gentiles, or Danes, as
distinguished from their predecessors, the _Fair_-Gentiles, or
Norwegians. A quarrel arose between the adventurers of the two nations
as to the possession of the few remaining fortresses, especially of
Dublin; and an engagement was fought along the Liffey, which "lasted
for three days;" the Danes finally prevailed, driving the Norwegians
from their stronghold, and cutting them off from their ships. The new
Northern leaders are named Anlaf, or Olaf, Sitrick (Sigurd?) and Ivar;
the first of the Danish Earls, who established themselves at Dublin,
Waterford and Limerick respectively. Though the immediate result of the
arrival of the great fleet of 847 relieved for the moment the worst
apprehensions of the invaded, and enabled them to rally their means of
defence, yet as Denmark had more than double the population of Norway,
it brought them into direct collision with a more formidable power than
that from which they had been so lately delivered. The tactics of both
nations were the same. No sooner had they established themselves on the
ruins of their predecessors in Dublin, than the Danish forces entered
East-Meath, under the guidance of Kenneth, a local lord, and overran
the ancient mensal, from the sea to the Shannon. One of their first
exploits was burning alive 260 prisoners in the tower of Treoit, in the
island of Lough Gower, near Dunshaughlin. The next year, his allies
having withdrawn from the neighbourhood, Kenneth was taken by King
Malachy's men, and the traitor himself drowned in a sack, in the little
river Nanny, which divides the two baronies of Duleek. This
death-penalty by drowning seems to have been one of the useful hints
which the Irish picked up from their invaders.

During the remainder of this reign the Gentile war resumed much of its
old local and guerrilla character, the Provincial chiefs, and the
Ard-Righ, occasionally employing bands of one nation of the invaders to
combat the other, and even to suppress their native rivals. The only
pitched battle of which we hear is that of "the Two Plains" (near
Coolestown, King's County), in the second last year of Malachy (A.D.
859), in which his usual good fortune attended the king. The greater
part of his reign was occupied, as always must be the case with the
founder of a new line, in coercing into obedience his former peers. On
this business he made two expeditions into Munster, and took hostages
from all the tribes of the Eugenian race. With the same object he held
a conference with all the chiefs of Ulster, Hugh of Aileach only being
absent, at Armagh, in the fourth year of his reign, and a General
_Feis_, or Assembly of all the Orders of Ireland, at Rathugh, in
West-Meath, in his thirteenth year (A.D. 857). He found,
notwithstanding his victories and his early popularity, that there are
always those ready to turn from the setting to the rising sun, and
towards the end of his reign he was obliged to defend his camp, near
Armagh, by force, from a night assault of the discontented Prince of
Aileach; who also ravaged his patrimony, almost at the moment he lay on
his death-bed. Malachy I. departed this life on the 13th day of
November, (A.D. 860), having reigned sixteen years. "Mournful is the
news to the Gael!" exclaims the elegiac Bard! "Red wine is spilled into
the valley! Erin's monarch has died!" And the lament contrasts his
stately form as "he rode the white stallion," with the striking reverse
when, "his only horse this day"—that is the bier on which his body was
borne to the churchyard—"is drawn behind two oxen."

The restless Prince of Aileach now succeeded as Hugh VII., and
possessed the perilous honour he so much coveted for sixteen years, the
same span that had been allotted to his predecessor. The beginning of
this reign was remarkable for the novel design of the Danes, who
marched out in great force, and set themselves busily to breaking open
the ancient mounds in the cemetery of the Pagan kings, beside the
Boyne, in hope of finding buried treasure. The three Earls, Olaf,
Sitrick, and Ivar, are said to have been present, while their
gold-hunters broke into in succession the mound-covered cave of the
wife of Goban, at Drogheda, the cave of "the Shepherd of Elcmar," at
Dowth, the cave of the field of Aldai, at New Grange, and the similar
cave at Knowth. What they found in these huge cairns of the old
_Tuatha_ is not related; but Roman coins of Valentinian and Theodosius,
and torques and armlets of gold, have been discovered by accident
within their precincts, and an enlightened modern curiosity has not
explored them in vain, in the higher interests of history and science.

In the first two years of his reign, Hugh VII. was occupied in securing
the hostages of his suffragans; in the third he swept the remaining
Danish and Norwegian garrisons out of Ulster, and defeated a newly
arrived force on the borders of Lough Foyle; the next the Danish Earls
went on a foray into Scotland, and no exploit is to be recorded; in his
sixth year, Hugh, with 1,000 chosen men of his own tribe and the aid of
the Sil-Murray (O'Conor's) of Connaught, attacked and defeated a force
of 5,000 Danes with their Leinster allies, near Dublin at a place
supposed to be identical with Killaderry. Earl Olaf lost his son, and
Erin her _Roydamna_, or heir-apparent, on this field, which was much
celebrated by the Bards of Ulster and of Connaught. Amongst those who
fell was Flan, son of Conaing, chief of the district which included the
plundered cemeteries, fighting on the side of the plunderers. The
mother of Flan was one of those who composed quatrains on the event of
the battle, and her lines are a natural and affecting alternation from
joy to grief—joy for the triumph of her brother and her country, and
grief for the loss of her self-willed, warlike son. Olaf, the Danish
leader, avenged in the next campaign the loss of his son, by a
successful descent on Armagh, once again rising from its ruins. He put
to the sword 1,000 persons, and left the primatial city lifeless,
charred, and desolate. In the next ensuing year the monarch chastised
the Leinster allies of the Danes, traversing their territory with fire
and sword from Dublin to the border town of Gowran. This seems to have
been the last of his notable exploits in arms. He died on the 20th of
November, 876, and is lamented by the Bards as "a generous, wise, staid
man." These praises belong—if at all deserved—to his old age.

Flan, son of Malachy I. (and surnamed like his father "of the
Shannon"), succeeded in the year 877, of the Annals of the Four
Masters, or more accurately the year 879 of our common era. He enjoyed
the very unusual reign of thirty-eight years. Some of the domestic
events of his time are of so unprecedented a character, and the period
embraced is so considerable, that we must devote to it a separate


Midway in the reign we are called upon to contemplate, falls the
centenary of the first invasion of Ireland by the Northmen. Let us
admit that the scenes of that century are stirring and stimulating; two
gallant races of men, in all points strongly contrasted, contend for
the most part in the open field, for the possession of a beautiful and
fertile island. Let us admit that the Milesian-Irish, themselves
invaders and conquerors of an older date, may have had no right to
declare the era of colonization closed for their country, while its
best harbours were without ships, and leagues of its best land were
without inhabitants; yet what gives to the contest its lofty and
fearful interest, is, that the foreigners who come so far and fight so
bravely for the prize, are a Pagan people, drunk with the evil spirit
of one of the most anti-Christian forms of human error. And what is
still worse, and still more to be lamented, it is becoming, after the
experience of a century, plainer and plainer, that the Christian
natives, while defending with unfaltering courage their beloved
country, are yet descending more and more to the moral level of their
assailants, without the apology of their Paganism. Degenerate
civilisation may be a worse element for truth to work in than original
barbarism; and, therefore, as we enter on the second century of this
struggle, we begin to fear for the Christian Irish, _not_ from the arms
or the valour, but from the contact and example of the unbelievers.
This, it is necessary to premise, before presenting to the reader a
succession of Bishops who lead armies to battle, of Abbots whose voice
is still for war, of treacherous tactics and savage punishments; of the
almost total disruption of the last links of that federal bond, which,
"though light as air were strong as iron," before the charm of
inviolability had been taken away from the ancient constitution.

We begin to discern in this reign that royal marriages have much to do
with war and politics. Hugh, the late king, left a widow, named
Maelmara ("follower of Mary"), daughter to Kenneth M'Alpine, King of
the Caledonian Scots: this lady Flan married. The mother of Flan was
the daughter of Dungal, Prince of Ossory, so that to the cotemporary
lords of that borderland the monarch stood in the relation of cousin. A
compact seems to have been entered into in the past reign, that the
_Roydamna_, or successor, should be chosen alternately from the
Northern and Southern Hy-Nial; and, subsequently, when Nial, son of his
predecessor, assumed that onerous rank, Flan gave him his daughter
Gormley, celebrated for her beauty, her talents, and her heartlessness,
in marriage. From these several family ties, uniting him so closely
with Ossory, with the Scots, and with his successor, much of the wars
and politics of Flan Siona's reign take their cast and complexion. A
still more fruitful source of new complications was the co-equal power,
acquired through a long series of aggressions, by the kings of Cashel.
Their rivalry with the monarchy, from the beginning of the eighth till
the end of the tenth century, was a constant cause of intrigues,
coalitions, and wars, reminding us of the constant rivalry of Athens
with Sparta, of Genoa with Venice. This kingship of Cashel, according
to the Munster law of succession, "the will of Olild," ought to have
alternated regularly between the descendants of his sons, Eugene More
and Cormac Cas—the Eugenians and Dalcassians. But the families of the
former kindred were for many centuries the more powerful of the two,
and frequently set at nought the testamentary law of their common
ancestor, leaving the tribe of Cas but the border-land of Thomond, from
which they had sometimes to pay tribute to Cruachan, and at others to
Cashel. In the ninth century the competition among the Eugenian
houses—of which too many were of too nearly equal strength—seems to
have suggested a new expedient, with the view of permanently setting
aside the will of Olild. This was, to confer the kingship when vacant,
on whoever happened to be Bishop of Emly or of Cashel, or on some other
leading ecclesiastical dignitary, always provided that he was of
Eugenian descent; a qualification easily to be met with, since the
great sees and abbacies were now filled, for the most part, by the sons
of the neighbouring chiefs. In this way we find Cenfalad, Felim, and
Olcobar, in this century, styled Prince-Bishops or Prince-Abbots. The
principal domestic difficulty of Flan Siona's reign followed from the
elevation of Cormac, son of Cuillenan, from the see of Emly to the
throne of Cashel.

Cormac, a scholar, and, as became his calling, a man of peace, was
thus, by virtue of his accession, the representative of the old quarrel
between his predecessors and the dominant race of kings. All Munster
asserted that it was never the intention of their common ancestors to
subject the southern half of Erin to the sway of the north; that Eber
and Owen More had resisted such pretensions when advanced by Eremhon
and Conn of the Hundred Battles; that the _esker_ from Dublin to Galway
was the true division, and that, even admitting the title of the
Hy-Nial king as Ard-Righ, all the tribes south of the _esker_, whether
in Leinster or Connaught, still owed tribute by ancient right to
Cashel. Their antiquaries had their own version in of "the Book of
Rights," which countenanced these claims to co-equal dominion, and
their Bards drew inspiration from the same high pretensions. Party
spirit ran so high that tales and prophecies were invented to show how
St. Patrick had laid his curse on Tara, and promised dominion to Cashel
and to Dublin in its stead. All Leinster, except the lordship of
Ossory—identical with the present diocese of the same name-was held by
the _Brehons_ of Cashel to be tributary to their king; and this
_Borooa_ or tribute, abandoned by the monarchs at the intercession of
Saint Moling, was claimed for the Munster rulers as an inseparable
adjunct of their southern kingdom.

The first act of Flan Siona, on his accession, was to dash into
Munster, demanding hostages at the point of the sword, and sweeping
over both Thomond and Desmond with irresistible force, from Clare to
Cork. With equal promptitude he marched through every territory of
Ulster, securing, by the pledges of their heirs and _Tanists_, the
chiefs of the elder tribes of the Hy-Nial. So effectually did he
consider his power established over the provinces, that he is said to
have boasted to one of his hostages, that he would, with no other
attendants than his own servants, play a game of chess on Thurles
Green, without fear of interruption. Carrying out this foolish wager,
he accordingly went to his game at Thurles, and was very properly taken
prisoner for his temerity, and made to pay a smart ransom to his
captors. So runs the tale, which, whether true or fictitious, is not
without its moral. Flan experienced greater difficulty with the tribes
of Connaught, nor was it till the thirteenth year of his reign (892)
that Cathal, their Prince, "came into his house," in Meath, "under the
protection of the clergy" of Clonmacnoise, and made peace with him. A
brief interval of repose seems to have been vouchsafed to this Prince,
in the last years of the century; but a storm was gathering over
Cashel, and the high pretensions of the Eugenian line were again to be
put to the hazard of battle.

Cormac, the Prince-Bishop, began his rule over Munster in the year 900
of our common era, and passed some years in peace, after his accession.
If we believe his panegyrists, the land over which he bore sway, "was
filled with divine grace and worldly prosperity," and with order so
unbroken, "that the cattle needed no cowherd, and the flocks no
shepherd, so long as he was king." Himself an antiquary and a lover of
learning, it seems but natural that "many books were written, and many
schools opened," by his liberality. During this enviable interval,
councillors of less pacific mood than their studious master were not
wanting to stimulate his sense of kingly duty, by urging him to assert
the claim of Munster to the tribute of the southern half of Erin. As an
antiquary himself, Cormac must have been bred up in undoubting belief
in the justice of that claim, and must have given judgment in favour of
its antiquity and validity, before his accession. These _dicta_ of his
own were now quoted with emphasis, and he was besought to enforce, by
all the means within his reach, the learned judgments he himself had
delivered. The most active advocate of a recourse to arms was Flaherty,
Abbot of Scattery, in the Shannon, himself an Eugenian, and the kinsman
of Cormac. After many objections, the peaceful Prince-Bishop allowed
himself to be persuaded, and in the year 907 he took up his line of
march, "in the fortnight of the harvest," from Cashel toward Gowran, at
the head of all the armament of Munster. Lorcan, son of Lactna, and
grandfather of Brian, commanded the Dalcassians, under Cormac; and
Oliol, lord of Desies, and the warlike Abbot of Scattery, led on the
other divisions. The monarch marched southward to meet his assailants,
with his own proper troops, and the contingents of Connaught under
Cathel, Prince of that Province, and those of Leinster under the lead
of Kerball, their king. Both armies met at Ballaghmoon, in the southern
corner of Kildare, not far from the present town of Carlow, and both
fought with most heroic bravery. The Munster forces were utterly
defeated; the Lords of Desies, of Fermoy, of Kinalmeaky, and of Kerry,
the Abbots of Cork and Kennity, and Cormac himself, with 6,000 men,
fell on the ensanguined field. The losses of the victors are not
specified, but the 6,000, we may hope, included the total of the slain
on both sides. Flan at once improved the opportunity of victory by
advancing into Ossory, and establishing his cousin Dermid, son of
Kerball, over that territory. This Dermid, who appears to have been
banished by Munster intrigues, had long resided with his royal cousin,
previous to the battle, from which he was probably the only one that
derived any solid advantage. As to the Abbot Flaherty, the instigator
of this ill-fated expedition, he escaped from the conquerors, and, safe
in his island sanctuary, gave himself up for a while to penitential
rigours. The worldly spirit, however, was not dead in his breast, and
after the decease of Cormac's next successor, he emerged from his cell,
and was elevated to the kingship of Cashel.

In the earlier and middle years of this long reign, the invasions from
the Baltic had diminished both in force and in frequency. This is to be
accounted for from the fact, that during its entire length it was
contemporaneous with the reign of Harold, "the Fair-haired" King of
Norway, the scourge of the sea-kings. This more fortunate Charles XII.,
born in 853, died at the age of 81, after sixty years of almost
unbroken successes, over all his Danish, Swedish, and insular enemies.
It is easy to comprehend, by reference to his exploits upon the Baltic,
the absence of the usual northern force from the Irish waters, during
his lifetime, and that of his cotemporary, Flan of the Shannon. Yet the
race of the sea-kings was not extinguished by the fair-haired Harold's
victories over them, at home. Several of them permanently abandoned
their native coasts never to return, and recruited their colonies,
already so numerous, in the Orkneys, Scotland, England, Ireland, and
the Isle of Man. In 885, Flan was repulsed in an attack on Dublin, in
which repulse the Abbots of Kildare and Kildalkey were slain; in the
year 890, Aileach was surprised and plundered by Danes, for the first
time, and Armagh shared its fate; in 887, 888, and 891, three minor
victories were gained over separate hordes, in Mayo, at Waterford, and
in Ulidia (Down). In 897, Dublin was taken for the first time in sixty
years, its chiefs put to death, while its garrison fled in their ships
beyond sea. But in the first quarter of the tenth century, better
fortune begins to attend the Danish cause. A new generation enters on
the scene, who dread no more the long arm of the age-stricken Harold,
nor respect the treaties which bound their predecessors in Britain to
the great Alfred. In 912, Waterford received from sea a strong
reinforcement, and about the same date, or still earlier, Dublin, from
which they had been expelled in 897, was again in their possession. In
913, and for several subsequent years, the southern garrisons continued
their ravages in Munster, where the warlike Abbot of Scattery found a
more suitable object for the employment of his valour than that which
brought him, with the studious Cormac, to the fatal field of

The closing days of Flan of the Shannon were embittered and darkened by
the unnatural rebellion of his sons, Connor and Donogh, and his
successor, Nial, surnamed _Black-Knee_ (_Glundubh_), the husband of his
daughter, Gormley. These children were by his second marriage with
Gormley, daughter of that son of Conaing, whose name has already
appeared in connection with the plundered sepulchres upon the Boyne. At
the age of three score and upwards Flan is frequently obliged to
protect by recourse to arms his mensal lands in Meath—their favourite
point of attack—or to defend some faithful adherent whom these
unnatural Princes sought to oppress. The daughter of Flan, thus wedded
to a husband in arms against her father, seems to have been as little
dutiful as his sons. We have elegiac stanzas by her on the death of two
of her husbands and of one of her sons, but none on the death of her
father: although this form of tribute to the departed, by those skilled
in such compositions, seems to have been as usual as the ordinary
prayers for the dead.

At length, in the 37th year of his reign, and the 68th of his age, King
Flan was at the end of his sorrows. As became the prevailing character
of his life, he died peacefully, in a religious house at Kyneigh, in
Kildare, on the 8th of June, in the year 916, of the common era. The
Bards praise his "fine shape" and "august mien," as well as his
"pleasant and hospitable" private habits. Like all the kings of his
race he seems to have been brave enough: but he was no lover of war for
war's-sake, and the only great engagement in his long reign was brought
on by enemies who left him no option but to fight. His munificence
rebuilt the Cathedral of Clonmacnoise, with the co-operation of Colman,
the Abbot, the year after the battle of Ballaghmoon (908); for which
age, it was the largest and finest stone Church in Ireland. His charity
and chivalry both revolted at the cruel excesses of war, and when the
head of Cormac of Cashel was presented to him after his victory, he
rebuked those who rejoiced over his rival's fall, kissed reverently the
lips of the dead, and ordered the relics to be delivered, as Cormac had
himself willed it, to the Church of Castledermot, for Christian burial.
These traits of character, not less than his family afflictions, and
the generally peaceful tenor of his long life, have endeared to many
the memory of Flan of the Shannon.


Nial IV. (surnamed _Black-Knee_) succeeded his father-in-law, Flan of
the Shannon (A.D. 916), and in the third year of his reign fell in an
assault on Dublin; Donogh II., son of Flan Siona, reigned for
twenty-five years; Congal III. succeeded, and was slain in an ambush by
the Dublin Danes, in the twelfth year of his reign (A.D. 956); Donald
IV., in the twenty-fourth year of his reign, died at Armagh, (A.D.
979); which four reigns bring us to the period of the accession of
Malachy II. as _Ard-Righ_, and the entrance of Brian Boru, on the
national stage, as King of Cashel, and competitor for the monarchy.

The reign of Nial _Black-Knee_ was too brief to be memorable for any
other event than his heroic death in battle. The Danes having recovered
Dublin, and strengthened its defences, Nial, it is stated, was incited
by his confessor, the Abbot of Bangor, to attempt their re-expulsion.
Accordingly, in October, 919, he marched towards Dublin, with a
numerous host; Conor, son of the late king and _Roydamna_; the lords of
Ulidia (Down), Oriel (Louth), Breagh (East-Meath), and other chiefs,
with their clans accompanying him. Sitrick and Ivar, sons of the first
Danish leaders in Ireland, marched out to meet them, and near
Rathfarnham, on the Dodder, a battle was fought, in which the Irish
were utterly defeated and their monarch slain. This Nial left a son
named Murkertach, who, according to the compact entered into between
the Northern and Southern Hy-Nial, became the _Roydamna_ of the next
reign, and the most successful leader against the Danes, since the time
of Malachy I. He was the step-son of the poetic Lady Gormley, whose lot
it was to have been married in succession to the King of Munster, the
King of Leinster, and the Monarch. Her first husband was Cormac, son of
Cuilenan, before he entered holy orders; her second, Kerball of
Leinster, and her third, Nial _Black-Knee_. She was an accomplished
poetess, besides being the daughter, wife, and mother of king's, yet
after the death of Nial she "begged from door to door," and no one had
pity on her fallen state. By what vices she had thus estranged from her
every kinsman, and every dependent, we are left to imagine; but that
such was her misfortune, at the time her brother was monarch, and her
step-son successor, we learn from the annals, which record her penance
and death, under the date of 948.

The defeat sustained near Rathfarnham, by the late king, was amply
avenged in the first year of the new _Ard-Righ_ (A.D. 920), when the
Dublin Danes, having marched out, taken and burned Kells, in Meath,
were on their return through the plain of Breagh, attacked and routed
with unprecedented slaughter. "There fell of the nobles of the Norsemen
here," say the old Annalists, "as many as fell of the nobles and
plebeians of the Irish, at Ath-Cliath" (Dublin). The Northern Hydra,
however, was not left headless. Godfrey, grandson of Ivar, and Tomar,
son of Algi, took command at Dublin, and Limerick, infusing new life
into the remnant of their race. The youthful son of the late king, soon
after at the head of a strong force (A.D. 921), compelled Godfrey to
retreat from Ulster, to his ships, and to return by sea to Dublin. This
was Murkertach, fondly called by the elegiac Bards, "the Hector of the
West," and for his heroic achievements, not undeserving to be named
after the gallant defender of Troy. Murkertach first appears in our
annals at the year 921, and disappears in the thick of the battle in
938. His whole career covers seventeen years; his position throughout
was subordinate and expectant—for King Donogh outlived his heir: but
there are few names in any age of the history of his country more
worthy of historical honour than his. While Donogh was king in name,
Murkertach was king in fact; on him devolved the burden of every
negotiation, and the brunt of every battle. Unlike his ancestor, Hugh
of Aileach, in his opposition to Donogh's ancestor, Malachy I., he
never attempts to counteract the king, or to harass him in his
patrimony. He rather does what is right and needful himself, leaving
Donogh to claim the credit, if he be so minded. True, a coolness and a
quarrel arises between them, and even "a challenge of battle" is
exchanged, but better councils prevail, peace is restored, and the king
and the _Roydamna_ march as one man against the common enemy. It has
been said of another but not wholly dissimilar form of government, that
Crown-Princes are always in opposition; if this saying holds good of
father and son, as occupant and expectant of a throne, how much more
likely is it to be true of a successor and a principal, chosen from
different dynasties, with a view to combine, or at worst to balance,
conflicting hereditary interests? In the conduct of Murkertach, we
admire, in turn, his many shining personal qualities, which even
tasteless panegyric cannot hide, and the prudence, self-denial,
patience, and preservance with which he awaits his day of power.
Unhappily, for one every way so worthy of it, that day never arrived!

At no former period,—not even at the height of the tyranny of
Turgesius,—was a capable Prince more needed in Erin. The new generation
of Northmen were again upon all the estuaries and inland waters of the
Island. In the years 923-4 and 5, their light armed vessels swarmed on
Lough Erne, Lough Ree, and other lakes, spreading flame and terror on
every side. Clonmacnoise and Kildare, slowly recovering from former
pillage, were again left empty and in ruins. Murkertach, the base of
whose early operations was his own patrimony in Ulster, attacked near
Newry a Northern division under the command of the son of Godfrey (A.D.
926), and left 800 dead on the field. The escape of the remnant was
only secured by Godfrey marching rapidly to their relief and covering
the retreat. His son lay with the dead. In the years 933, at Slieve
Behma, in his own Province, Murkertach won a third victory; and in 936,
taking political advantage of the result of the great English battle of
Brunanburgh, which had so seriously diminished the Danish strength, the
Roydamna, in company with the King, assaulted Dublin, expelled its
garrison, levelled its fortress, and left the dwellings of the Northmen
in ashes. From Dublin they proceeded southward, through Leinster and
Munster, and after taking hostages of every tribe, Donogh returned to
his Methian home and Murkertach to Aileach. While resting in his own
fort (A.D. 939), he was surprised by a party of Danes, and carried off
to their ships, but, says the old translator of the Annals of
Clonmacnoise, "he made a good escape from them, as it was God's will."
The following season he redoubled his efforts against the enemy.
Attacking them on their own element, he ravaged their settlements on
the Scottish coasts and among the isles of Insi-Gall (the Hebrides),
returned laden with spoils, and hailed with acclamations as the
liberator of his people.

Of the same age with Murkertach, the reigning Prince at Cashel was
Kellachan, one of the heroes of the latter Bards and Story-tellers of
the South. The romantic tales of his capture by the Danes, and
captivity in their fleet at Dundalk, of the love which Sitrick's wife
bore him, and of his gallant rescue by the Dalcassians and Eugenians,
have no historical sanction. He was often both at war and at peace with
the foreigners of Cork and Limerick, and did not hesitate more than
once to employ their arms for the maintenance of his own supremacy; but
his only authentic captivity was, as a hostage, in the hands of
Murkertach. While the latter was absent, on his expedition to
Insi-Gall, Kellachan fell upon the Deisi and Ossorians, and inflicted
severe chastisement upon them-alleging, as his provocation, that they
had given hostages to Murkertach, and acknowledged him as _Roydamna_ of
all Erin, in contempt of the co-equal rights of Cashel. When Murkertach
returned from his Scotch expedition, and heard what had occurred, and
on what pretext Kellachan had acted, he assembled at Aileach all the
branches of the Northern Hy-Nial, for whom this was cause, indeed. Out
of these he selected 1000 chosen men, whom he provided, among other
equipments, with those "leathern coats," which lent a _soubriquet_ to
his name; and with these "ten hundred heroes," he set out—strong in his
popularity and his alliances—to make a circuit of the entire island
(A.D. 940). He departed from Aileach, says his Bard, whose Itinerary we
have, "keeping his left hand to the sea;" Dublin, once more rebuilt,
acknowledged his title, and Sitrick, one of its lords, went with him as
hostage for Earl Blacair and his countrymen; Leinster surrendered him
Lorcan, its King; Kellachan, of Cashel, overawed by his superior
fortune, advised his own people not to resist by force, and consented
to become himself the hostage for all Munster. In Connaught, Conor,
(from whom the O'Conors take their family name), son of the Prince,
came voluntarily to his camp, and was received with open arms.
Kellachan alone was submitted to the indignity of wearing a fetter.
With these distinguished hostages, Murkertach and his leather-cloaked
"ten hundred" returned to Aileach, where, for five months, they spent a
season of unbounded rejoicing. In the following year, the _Roydamna_
transferred the hostages to King Donogh, as his _suzerain_, thus
setting the highest example of obedience from the highest place. He
might now look abroad over all the tribes of Erin, and feel himself
without a rival among his countrymen. He stood at the very summit of
his good fortune, when the Danes of Dublin, reinforced from abroad,
after his "Circuit," renewed their old plundering practices. They
marched north, at the close of winter, under Earl Blacair, their
destination evidently being Armagh. Murkertach, with some troops
hastily collected, disputed their passage at the ford of Ardee. An
engagement ensued on Saturday, the 4th of March, 943, in which the
noble _Roydamna_ fell. King Donogh, to whose reign his vigorous spirit
has given its main historical importance, survived him but a
twelvemonth; the Monarch died in the bed of repose; his destined
successor in the thick of battle.

The death of the brave and beloved Murkertach filled all Erin with
grief and rage, and as King Donogh was too old to avenge his destined
successor, that duty devolved on Congal, the new _Roydamna_. In the
year after the fatal action at Ardee, Congal, with Brann, King of
Leinster, and Kellach, heir of Leinster, assaulted and took Dublin, and
wreaked a terrible revenge for the nation's loss. The "women, children,
and plebeians," were carried off captive; the greater part of the
garrison were put to the sword; but a portion escaped in their vessels
to their fortress on Dalkey, an island in the bay of Dublin. This was
the third time within a century that Dublin had been rid of its foreign
yoke, and yet as the Gaelic-Irish would not themselves dwell in
fortified towns, the site remained open and unoccupied, to be rebuilt
as often as it might be retaken. The gallant Congal, the same year,
succeeded on the death of Donogh to the sovereignty, and, so soon as he
had secured his seat, and surrounded it with sufficient hostages, he
showed that he could not only avenge the death, but imitate the
glorious life of him whose place he held. Two considerable victories in
his third and fourth years increased his fame, and rejoiced the hearts
of his countrymen: the first was won at Slane, aided by the Lord of
Breffni (O'Ruarc), and by Olaf the Crooked, a northern chief. The
second was fought at Dublin (947), in which Blacair, the victor at
Ardee, and 1,600 of his men were slain. Thus was the death of
Murkertach finally avenged.

It is very remarkable that the first conversions to Christianity among
the Danes of Dublin should have taken place immediately after these
successive defeats—in 948. Nor, although quite willing to impute the
best and most disinterested motives to these first neophytes, can we
shut our eyes to the fact that no change of life, such as we might
reasonably look for, accompanied their change of religion. Godfrid, son
of Sitrick, and successor of Blacair, who professed himself a Christian
in 948, plundered and destroyed the churches of East-Meath in 949,
burnt 150 persons in the oratory of Drumree, and carried off as
captives 3,000 persons. If the tree is to be judged by its fruits, this
first year's growth of the new faith is rather alarming. It compels us
to disbelieve the sincerity of Godfrid, at least, and the fighting men
who wrought these outrages and sacrileges. It forces us to rank them
with the incorrigible heathens who boasted that they had twenty times
received the Sacrament of Baptism, and valued it for the twenty white
robes which had been presented to them on those occasions. Still, we
must endeavour hereafter, when we can, to distinguish Christian from
Pagan Danes, and those of Irish birth, sons of the first comers, from
the foreign-born kinsmen of their ancestors. Between these two classes
there grew a gulf of feeling and experience, which a common language
and common dangers only partially bridged over. Not seldom the
interests and inclinations of the Irish-born Dane, especially if a true
Christian, were at open variance with the interests and designs of the
new arrivals from Denmark, and it is generally, if not invariably, with
the former, that the Leinster and other Irish Princes enter into
coalitions for common political purposes. The remainder of the reign of
Congal is one vigorous battle. The Lord of Breffni, who had fought
beside him on the hill of Slane, advanced his claim to be recognised
_Roydamna_, and this being denied, broke out into rebellion and
harassed his patrimony. Donald, son of Murkertach, and grandson of
Nial, (the first who took the name of _Uai-Nial_, or O'Neill), disputed
these pretensions of the Lord of Breffni; carried his boats overland
from Aileach to Lough Erne in Fermanagh, and Lough Oughter in Cavan;
attacked the lake-islands, where the treasure and hostages of Breffni
were kept, and carried them off to his own fortress. The warlike and
indefatigable king was in the field summer and winter enforcing his
authority on Munster and Connaught, and battling with the foreign
garrisons between times. No former Ard-Righ had a severer struggle with
the insubordinate elements which beset him from first to last. His end
was sudden, but not inglorious. In returning from the chariot-races at
the Curragh of Kildare, he was surprised and slain in an ambuscade laid
for him by Godfrid at a place on the banks of the Liffey called Tyraris
or Teeraris house. By his side, fighting bravely, fell the lords of
Teffia and Ferrard, two of his nephews, and others of his personal
attendants and companions. The Dublin Danes had in their turn a day of
rejoicing and of revenge for the defeats they had suffered at Congal's

This reign is not only notable for the imputed first conversion of the
Danes to Christianity, but also for the general adoption of family
names. Hitherto, we have been enabled to distinguish clansmen only by
tribe-names formed by prefixing _Hy_, _Kinnel_, _Sil_, _Muintir_,
_Dal_, or some synonymous term, meaning race, kindred, sept, district,
or part, to the proper name of a remote common ancestor, as Hy-Nial,
Kinnel-Connel, Sil-Murray, Muintir-Eolais, Dal-g Cais, and Dal-Riada.
But the great tribes now begin to break into families, and we are
hereafter to know particular houses, by distinct hereditary surnames,
as O'Neill, O'Conor, MacMurrough, and McCarthy. Yet, the whole body of
relatives are often spoken of by the old tribal title, which, unless
exceptions are named, is supposed to embrace all the descendants of the
old connection to whom it was once common. At first this alternate use
of tribe and family names may confuse the reader—for it _is_ rather
puzzling to find a MacLoughlin with the same paternal ancestor as an
O'Neill, and a McMahon of Thomond as an O'Brien, but the difficulty
disappears with use and familiarity, and though the number and variety
of newly-coined names cannot be at once committed to memory, the story
itself gains in distinctness by the change.

In the year 955, Donald O'Neill, son of the brave and beloved
Murkertach, was recognised as Ard-Righ, by the required number of
Provinces, without recourse to coercion. But it was _not_ to be
expected that any Ard-Righ should, at this period of his country's
fortunes, reign long in peace. War was then the business of the King;
the first art he had to learn, and the first to practise. Warfare in
Ireland had not been a stationary science since the arrival of the
Norwegians and their successors, the Danes. Something they may have
acquired from the natives, and in turn the natives were not slow to
copy whatever seemed most effective in their tactics. Donald IV. was
the first to imitate their habit of employing armed boats on the inland
lakes. He even improved on their example, by carrying these boats with
him overland, and launching them wherever he needed their co-operation;
as we have already seen him do in his expedition against Breffni, while
_Roydamna_, and as we find him doing again, in the seventh year of his
reign, when he carried his boats overland from Armagh to West-Meath in
order to employ them on Loch Ennell, near Mullingar. He was at this
time engaged in making his first royal visitation of the Provinces,
upon which he spent two months in Leinster, with all his forces,
coerced the Munster chiefs by fire and sword into obedience, and
severely punished the insubordination of Fergal O'Ruarc, King of
Connaught. His fleet upon Loch Ennell, and his severities generally
while in their patrimony, so exasperated the powerful families of the
Southern Hy-Nial (the elder of which was now known as O'Melaghlin),
that on the first opportunity they leagued with the Dublin Danes, under
their leader, Olaf "the Crooked" (A.D. 966), and drove King Donald out
of Leinster and Meath, pursuing him across Slieve-Fuaid, almost to the
walls of Aileach. But the brave tribes of Tyrconnell and Tyrowen
rallied to his support, and he pressed south upon the insurgents of
Meath and Dublin; West-Meath he rapidly overran, and "planted a
garrison in every cantred from the Shannon to Kells," In the campaigns
which now succeeded each other, without truce or pause, for nearly a
dozen years, the Leinster people generally sympathised with and
assisted those of West-Meath, and Olaf, of Dublin, who recruited his
ranks by the junction of the Lagmans, a warlike tribe, from Insi-Gall
(the Hebrides). Ossory, on the other hand, acted with the monarch, and
the son of its Tanist (A.D. 974) was slain before Dublin, by Olaf and
his Leinster allies, with 2,600 men, of Ossory and Ulster. The campaign
of 978 was still more eventful: the Leinster men quarrelled with their
Danish allies, who had taken their king captive, and in an engagement
at Belan, near Athy, defeated their forces, with the loss of the heir
of Leinster, the lords of Kinsellagh, Lea and Morett, and other chiefs.
King Donald had no better fortune at Killmoon, in Meath, the same
season, where he was utterly routed by the same force, with the loss of
Ardgal, heir of Ulidia, and Kenneth, lord of Tyrconnell. But for the
victories gained about the same period in Munster, by Mahon and Brian,
the sons of Kennedy, over the Danes of Limerick, of which we shall
speak more fully hereafter, the balance of victory would have strongly
inclined towards the Northmen at this stage of the contest.

A leader, second in fame and in services only to Brian, was now putting
forth his energies against the common enemy, in Meath. This was
Melaghlin, better known afterwards as Malachy II., son of Donald, son
of King Donogh, and, therefore, great-grandson to his namesake, Malachy
I. He had lately attained to the command of his tribe—and he resolved
to earn the honours which were in store for him, as successor to the
sovereignty. In the year 979, the Danes of Dublin and the Isles marched
in unusual strength into Meath, under the command of Rannall, son of
Olaf the Crooked, and Connail, "the Orator of Ath-Cliath," (Dublin).
Malachy, with his allies, gave them battle near Tara, and achieved a
complete victory. Earl Rannall and the Orator were left dead on the
field, with, it is reported, 5,000 of the foreigners. On the Irish side
fell the heir of Leinster, the lord of Morgallion and his son; the
lords of Fertullagh and Cremorne, and a host of their followers. The
engagement, in true Homeric spirit, had been suspended on three
successive nights, and renewed three successive days. It was a genuine
pitched battle—a trial of main strength, each party being equally
confident of victory. The results were most important, and most
gratifying to the national pride. Malachy, accompanied by his friend,
the lord of Ulidia (Down), moved rapidly on Dublin, which, in its
panic, yielded to all his demands. The King of Leinster and 2,000 other
prisoners were given up to him without ransom. The Danish Earls
solemnly renounced all claims to tribute or fine from any of the
dwellers without their own walls. Malachy remained in the city three
days, dismantled its fortresses, and carried off its hostages and
treasure. The unfortunate Olaf the Crooked fled beyond seas, and died
at Iona, in exile, and a Christian. In the same year, and in the midst
of universal rejoicing, Donald IV. died peacefully and piously at
Armagh, in the 24th year of his reign. He was succeeded by Malachy, who
was his sister's son, and in whom all the promise of the lamented
Murkertach seemed to revive.

The story of Malachy II. is so interwoven with the still-more
illustrious career of Brian _Borooa_, that it will not lose in interest
by being presented in detail. But before entering on the rivalry of
these great men, we must again remark on the altered position which the
Northmen of this age hold to the Irish from that which existed
formerly. A century and a half had now elapsed since their first
settlement in the seaports, especially of the eastern and southern
Provinces. More than one generation of their descendants had been born
on the banks of the Liffey, the Shannon, and the Suir. Many of them had
married into Irish families, had learned the language of the country,
and embraced its religion. When Limerick was taken by Brian, Ivar, its
Danish lord, fled for sanctuary to Scattery Island, and when Dublin was
taken by Malachy II., Olaf the Crooked fled to Iona. Inter-marriages
with the highest Gaelic families became frequent, after their
conversion to Christianity. The mother of Malachy, after his father's
death, had married Olaf of Dublin, by whom she had a son, named
_Gluniarran (Iron-Knee_, from his armour), who was thus half-brother to
the King. It is natural enough to find him the ally of Malachy, a few
years later, against Ivar of Waterford; and curious enough to find
Ivar's son called Gilla-Patrick—servant of Patrick. Kellachan of Cashel
had married a Danish, and Sitrick "of the Silken beard," an Irish lady.
That all the Northmen were not, even in Ireland, converted in one
generation, is evident. Those of Insi-Gall were still, perhaps, Pagans;
those of the Orkneys and of Denmark, who came to the battle of Clontarf
in the beginning of the next century, chose to fight on Good Friday
under the advice of their heathen Oracles. The first half of the
eleventh century, the age of Saint Olaf and of Canute, is the era of
the establishment of Christianity among the Scandinavians, and hence
the necessity for distinguishing between those who came to Ireland,
direct from the Baltic, from those who, born in Ireland and bred up in
the Christian faith, had as much to apprehend from such an invasion, as
the Celts themselves.


Melaghlin, or Malachy II., fifth in direct descent from Malachy I. (the
founder of the Southern Hy-Nial dynasty), was in his thirtieth year
when (A.D. 980) he succeeded to the monarchy. He had just achieved the
mighty victory of Tara when the death of his predecessor opened his way
to the throne; and seldom did more brilliant dawn usher in a more
eventful day than that which Fate held in store for this victor-king.
None of his predecessors, not even his ancestor and namesake, had ever
been able to use the high language of his "noble Proclamation," when he
announced on his accession—"Let all the Irish who are suffering
servitude in the land of the stranger return home to their respective
houses and enjoy themselves in gladness and in peace." In obedience to
this edict, and the power to enforce it established by the victory at
Tara, 2,000 captives, including the King of Leinster and the Prince of
Aileach, were returned to their homes.

The hardest task of every Ard-Righ of this and the previous century had
been to circumscribe the ambition of the kings of Cashel within
Provincial bounds. Whoever ascended the southern throne—whether the
warlike Felim or the learned Cormac—we have seen the same policy
adopted by them all. The descendants of Heber had tired of the long
ascendancy of the race of Heremon, and the desertion of Tara, by making
that ascendancy still more strikingly Provincial, had increased their
antipathy. It was a struggle for supremacy between north and south; a
contest of two geographical parties; an effort to efface the real or
fancied dependency of one-half the island on the will of the other. The
Southern Hy-Nial dynasty, springing up as a third power upon the
Methian bank of the Shannon, and balancing itself between the
contending parties, might perhaps have given a new centre to the whole
system; Malachy II. was in the most favourable position possible to
have done so, had he not had to contend with a rival, his equal in
battle and superior in council, in the person of Brian, the son of
Kennedy, of Kincorra.

The rise to sovereign rank of the house of Kincorra (the O'Briens), is
one of the most striking episodes of the tenth century. Descending,
like most of the leading families of the South, from Olild, the Clan
Dalgais had long been excluded from the throne of Cashel, by successive
coalitions of their elder brethren, the Eugenians. Lactna and Lorcan,
the grandfather and father of Kennedy, intrepid and able men, had
strengthened their tribe by wise and vigorous measures, so that the
former was able to claim the succession, apparently with success.
Kennedy had himself been a claimant for the same honour, the alternate
provision in the will of Olild, against Kellachan Cashel (A.D. 940-2),
but at the Convention held at Glanworth, on the river Funcheon, for the
selection of king, the aged mother of Kellachan addressed his rival in
a quatrain, beginning—

"Kennedi Cas revere the law!"

which induced him to abandon his pretensions. This Prince, usually
spoken of by the Bards as "the chaste Kennedy," died in the year 950,
leaving behind him four or five out of twelve sons, with whom he had
been blessed. Most of the others had fallen in Danish battles—three in
the same campaign (943), and probably in the same field. There appear
in after scenes, Mahon, who became King of Cashel; Echtierna, who was
chief of Thomond, under Mahon; Marcan, an ecclesiastic, and Brian, born
in 941, the Benjamin of the household. Mahon proved himself, as Prince
and Captain, every way worthy of his inheritance. He advanced from
victory to victory over his enemies, foreign and domestic. In 960 he
claimed the throne of Munster, which claim he enforced by royal
visitation five years later. In the latter year, he rescued
Clonmacnoise from the Danes, and in 968 defeated the same enemy, with a
loss of several thousand men at Sulchoid. This great blow he followed
up by the sack of Limerick, from which "he bore off a large quantity of
gold, and silver, and jewels." In these, and all his expeditions, from
a very early age, he was attended by Brian, to whom he acted not only
as a brother and prince, but as a tutor in arms. Fortune had
accompanied him in all his undertakings. He had expelled his most
intractable rival—Molloy, son of Bran, lord of Desmond; his rule was
acknowledged by the Northmen of Dublin and Cork, who opened their
fortresses to him, and served under his banner; he carried "all the
hostages of Munster to his house," which had never before worn so
triumphant an aspect. But family greatness begets family pride, and
pride begets envy and hatred. The Eugenian families who now found
themselves overshadowed by the brilliant career of the sons of Kennedy,
conspired against the life of Mahon, who, from his too confiding
nature, fell easily into their trap. Molloy, son of Bran, by the advice
of Ivar, the Danish lord of Limerick, proposed to meet Mahon in
friendly conference at the house of Donovan, an Eugenian chief, whose
rath was at Bruree, on the river Maigue. The safety of each person was
guaranteed by the Bishop of Cork, the mediator on the occasion. Mahon
proceeded unsuspiciously to the conference, where he was suddenly
seized by order of his treacherous host, and carried into the
neighbouring mountains of Knocinreorin. Here a small force, placed for
the purpose by the conspirators, had orders promptly to despatch their
victim. But the foul deed was not done unwitnessed. Two priests of the
Bishop of Cork followed the Prince, who, when arrested, snatched up
"the Gospel of St. Barry," on which Molloy was to have sworn his
fealty. As the swords of the assassins were aimed at his heart, he held
up the Gospel for a protection, and his blood spouting out, stained the
Sacred Scriptures. The priests, taking up the blood-stained volume,
fled to their Bishop, spreading the horrid story as they went. The
venerable successor of St. Barry "wept bitterly, and uttered a prophecy
concerning the future fate of the murderers;" a prophecy which was very
speedily fulfilled.

This was in the year 976, three or four years before the battle of Tara
and the accession of Malachy. When the news of his noble-hearted
brother's murder was brought to Brian, at Kinkora, he was seized with
the most violent grief. His favourite harp was taken down, and he sang
the death-song of Mahon, recounting all the glorious actions of his
life. His anger flashed out through his tears, as he wildly chanted

   "My heart shall burst within my breast,
    Unless I avenge this great king;
    They shall forfeit life for this foul deed
    Or I must perish by a violent death."

But the climax of his lament was, that Mahon "had not fallen in battle
behind the shelter of his shield, rather than trust in the treacherous
words of Donovan." Brian was now in his thirty-fifth year, was married,
and had several children. Morrogh, his eldest, was able to bear arms,
and shared in his ardour and ambition. "His first effort," says an old
Chronicle, "was directed against Donovan's allies, the Danes of
Limerick, and he slew Ivar their king, and two of his sons." These
conspirators, foreseeing their fate, had retired into the holy isle of
Scattery, but Brian slew them between "the horns of the altar." For
this violation of the sanctuary, considering his provocation, he was
little blamed. He next turned his rage against Donovan, who had called
to his aid the Danish townsmen of Desmond. "Brian," says the Annalist
of Innisfallen, "gave them battle where Auliffe and his Danes, and
Donovan and his Irish forces, were all cut off." After that battle,
Brian sent a challenge to Molloy, of Desmond, according to the custom
of that age, to meet him in arms near Macroom, where the usual
coalition, Danes and Irish, were against him. He completely routed the
enemy, and his son Morrogh, then but a lad, "killed the murderer of his
uncle Mahon with his own hand." Molloy was buried on the north side of
the mountain where Mahon was murdered and interred; on Mahon the
southward sun shone full and fair; but on the grave of his assassin,
the black shadow of the northern sky rested always. Such was the
tradition which all Munster piously believed. After this victory over
Molloy, son of Bran (A.D. 978), Brian was universally acknowledged King
of Munster, and until Malachy had won the battle of Tara, was justly
considered the first Irish captain of his age.

Malachy, in the first year of his reign, having received the hostages
of the Danes of Dublin, having liberated the Irish prisoners and
secured the unity of his own territory, had his attention drawn,
naturally enough, towards Brian's movements. Whether Brian had refused
him homage, or that his revival of the old claim to the half-kingdom
was his offence, or from whatever immediate cause, Malachy marched
southwards, enforcing homage as he went. Entering Thomond he plundered
the Dalcassians, and marching to the mound at Adair, where, under an
old oak, the kings of Thomond had long been inaugurated, he caused it
to be "dug from the earth with its roots," and cut into pieces. This
act of Malachy's certainly bespeaks an embittered and aggressive
spirit, and the provocation must, indeed, have been grievous to
palliate so barbarous an action. But we are not informed what the
provocation was. At the time Brian was in Ossory enforcing his tribute;
the next year we find him seizing the person of Gilla-Patrick, Lord of
Ossory, and soon after he burst into Meath, avenging with fire and
sword the wanton destruction of his ancestral oak.

Thus were these two powerful Princes openly embroiled with each other.
We have no desire to dwell on all the details of their struggle, which
continued for fully twenty years. About the year 987, Brian was
practically king of half Ireland, and having the power, (though not the
title,) he did not suffer any part of it to lie waste. His activity was
incapable of exhaustion; in Ossory, in Leinster, in Connaught, his
voice and his arm were felt everywhere. But a divided authority was of
necessity so favourable to invasion, that the Danish power began to
loom up to its old proportions. Sitrick, "with the silken beard," one
of the ablest of Danish leaders, was then at Dublin, and his occasional
incursions were so formidable, that they produced (what probably
nothing else could have done) an alliance between Brian and Malachy,
which lasted for three years, and was productive of the best
consequences. Thus, in 997, they imposed their yoke on Dublin, taking
"hostages and jewels" from the foreigners. Reinforcements arriving from
the North, the indomitable Danes proceeded to plunder Leinster, but
were routed by Brian and Malachy at Glen-Mama, in Wicklow, with the
loss of 6,000 men and all their chief captains. Immediately after this
victory the two kings, according to the Annals, "entered into Dublin,
and the fort thereof, and there remained seven nights, and at their
departure took all the gold, silver, hangings, and other precious
things that were there with them, burnt the town, broke down the fort,
and banished Sitrick from thence" (A.D. 999).

The next three years of Brian's life are the most complex in his
career. After resting a night in Meath, with Malachy, he proceeded with
his forces towards Armagh, nominally on a pilgrimage, but really, as it
would seem, to extend his party. He remained in the sacred city a week,
and presented ten ounces of gold, at the Cathedral altar. The
Archbishop Marian received him with the distinction due to so eminent a
guest, and a record of his visit, in which he is styled "Imperator of
the Irish," was entered in the book of St. Patrick. He, however, got no
hostages in the North, but on his march southward, he learned that the
Danes had returned to Dublin, were rebuilding the City and Fort, and
were ready to offer submission and hostages to him, while refusing both
to Malachy. Here Brian's eagerness for supremacy misled him. He
accepted the hostages, joined the foreign forces to his own, and even
gave his daughter in marriage to Sitrick of "the silken beard."
Immediately he broke with Malachy, and with his new allies and
son-in-law, marched into Meath in hostile array. Malachy, however,
stood to his defence; attacked and defeated Brian's advance guard of
Danish horse, and the latter, unwilling apparently to push matters to
extremities, retired as he came, without "battle, or hostage, or spoil
of any kind."

But his design of securing the monarchy was not for an instant
abandoned, and, by combined diplomacy and force, he effected his end.
His whole career would have been incomplete without that last and
highest conquest over every rival. Patiently but surely he had gathered
influence and authority, by arms, by gifts, by connections on all
sides. He had propitiated the chief families of Connaught by his first
marriage with More, daughter of O'Heyne, and his second marriage with
Duvchalvay, daughter of O'Conor. He had obtained one of the daughters
of Godwin, the powerful Earl of Kent, for his second son; had given a
daughter to the Prince of Scots, and another to the Danish King of

Malachy, in diplomatic skill, in foresight, and in tenacity of purpose,
was greatly inferior to Brian, though in personal gallantry and other
princely qualities, every way his equal. He was of a hospitable,
out-spoken, enjoying disposition, as we gather from many characteristic
anecdotes. He is spoken of as "being generally computed the best
horseman in those parts of Europe;" and as one who "delighted to ride a
horse that was never broken, handled, or ridden, until the age of seven
years." From an ancient story, which represents him as giving his
revenues for a year to one of the Court Poets and then fighting him
with a "headless staff" to compel the Poet to return them, it would
appear that his good humour and profusion were equal to his
horsemanship. Finding Brian's influence still on the increase west of
the Shannon, Malachy, in the year of our Lord 1000, threw two bridges
across the Shannon, one at Athlone, the other at the present
Lanesborough. This he did with the consent and assistance of O'Conor,
but the issue was as usual—he made the bridges, and Brian profited by
them. While Malachy was at Athlone superintending the work, Brian
arrived with a great force recruited from all quarters (except Ulster),
including Danish men-in-armour. At Athlone was held the conference so
memorable in our annals, in which Brian gave his rival the alternative
of a pitched battle, within a stated time, or abdication. According to
the Southern Annalists, first a month, and afterwards a year, were
allowed the Monarch to make his choice. At the expiration of the time
Brian marched into Meath, and encamped at Tara, where Malachy, having
vainly endeavoured to secure the alliance of the Northern Hy-Nial in
the interval, came and submitted to Brian without safeguard or surety.
The unmade monarch was accompanied by a guard "of twelve score
horsemen," and on his arrival, proceeded straight to the tent of his
successor. Here the rivals contended in courtesy, as they had often
done in arms, and when they separated, Brian, as Lord Paramount,
presented Malachy as many horses as he had horsemen in his train when
he came to visit him. This event happened in the year 1001, when Brian
was in his 60th and Malachy in his 53rd year. There were present at the
Assembly all the princes and chiefs of the Irish, except the Prince of
Aileach, and the Lords of Oriel, Ulidia, Tyrowen and Tyrconnell, who
were equally unwilling to assist Malachy or to acknowledge Brian. What
is still more remarkable is, the presence in this national assembly of
the Danish Lords of Dublin, Carmen (Wexford), Waterford and Cork, whom
Brian, at this time, was trying hard to conciliate by gifts and


By the deposition of Malachy II., and the transfer of supreme power to
the long-excluded line of Heber, Brian completed the revolution which
Time had wrought in the ancient Celtic constitution. He threw open the
sovereignty to every great family as a prize to be won by policy or
force, and no longer an inheritance to be determined by usage and law.
The consequences were what might have been expected. After his death
the O'Conors of the west competed with both O'Neills and O'Briens for
supremacy, and a chronic civil war prepared the path for Strongbow and
the Normans. The term "Kings with Opposition" is applied to nearly all
who reigned between Brian's time and Roderick O'Conor's, meaning,
thereby, kings who were unable to secure general obedience to their
administration of affairs.

During the remainder of his life, Brian wielded with accustomed vigour
the supreme power. The Hy-Nials were, of course, his chief difficulty.
In the year 1002, we find him at Ballysadare, in Sligo, challenging
their obedience; in 1004, we find him at Armagh "offering twenty ounces
of gold on Patrick's altar," staying a week there and receiving
hostages; in 1005, he marched through Connaught, crossed the river Erne
at Ballyshannon, proceeded through Tyrconnell and Tyrowen, crossed the
Bann into Antrim, and returned through Down and Dundalk, "about
Lammas," to Tara. In this and the two succeeding years, by taking
similar "circuits," he subdued Ulster, without any pitched battle, and
caused his authority to be feared and obeyed nearly as much at the
Giant's Causeway as at the bridge of Athlone. In his own house of
Kinkora, Brian entertained at Christmas 3,000 guests, including the
Danish Lords of Dublin and Man, the fugitive Earl of Kent, the young
King of Scots, certain Welsh Princes, and those of Munster, Ulster,
Leinster and Connaught, beside his hostages. At the same time Malachy,
with the shadow, of independence, kept his unfrequented court in
West-Meath, amusing himself with wine and chess and the taming of
unmanageable horses, in which last pursuit, after his abdication, we
hear of his breaking a limb. To support the hospitalities of Kinkora,
the tributes of every province were rendered in kind at his gate, on
the first day of November. Connaught sent 800 cows and 800 hogs; Ulster
alone 500 cows, and as many hogs, and "sixty loads of iron;" Leinster
300 bullocks, 300 hogs, and 300 loads of iron; Ossory, Desmond, and the
smaller territories, in proportion; the Danes of Dublin 150 pipes of
wine, and the Danes of Limerick 365 of red wine. The Dalcassians, his
own people, were exempt from all tribute and taxation—while the rest of
Ireland was thus catering for Kinkora.

The lyric Poets, in their nature courtiers and given to enjoyment,
flocked, of course, to this bountiful palace. The harp was seldom
silent night or day, the strains of panegyric were as prodigal and
incessant as the falling of the Shannon over Killaloe. Among these
eulogiums none is better known than that beautiful allegory of the poet
McLaig, who sung that "a young lady of great beauty, adorned with
jewels and costly dress, might perform unmolested a journey on foot
through the Island, carrying a straight wand, on the top of which might
be a ring of great value." The name of Brian was thus celebrated as in
itself a sufficient protection of life, chastity, and property, in
every corner of the Island. Not only the Poets, but the more exact and
simple Annalists applaud Brian's administration of the laws, and his
personal virtues. He laboured hard to restore the Christian
civilization, so much defaced by two centuries of Pagan warfare. To
facilitate the execution of the laws he enacted the general use of
surnames, obliging the clans to take the name of a common ancestor,
with the addition of "Mac," or "O"—words which signify "of," or "son
of," a forefather. Thus, the Northern Hy-Nials divided into O'Neils,
O'Donnells, McLaughlins, &c.; the Sil-Murray took the name of O'Conor,
and Brian's own posterity became known as O'Briens. To justice he added
munificence, and of this the Churches and Schools of the entire Island
were the recipients. Many a desolate shrine he adorned, many a bleak
chancel he hung with lamps, many a long silent tower had its bells
restored. Monasteries were rebuilt, and the praise of God was kept up
perpetually by a devoted brotherhood. Roads and bridges were repaired
and several strong stone fortresses were erected, to command the passes
of lakes and rivers. The vulnerable points along the Shannon, and the
Suir, and the lakes, as far north as the Foyle, were secured by forts
of clay and stone. Thirteen "royal houses" in Munster alone are said to
have been by him restored to their original uses. What increases our
respect for the wisdom and energy thus displayed, is the fact, that the
author of so many improvements, enjoyed but five short years of peace,
after his accession to the Monarchy. His administrative genius must
have been great when, after a long life of warfare, he could apply
himself to so many works of internal improvement and external defence.

In the five years of peace just spoken of (from 1005 to 1010), Brian
lost by death his second wife, a son called Donald, and his brother
Marcan, called in the annals "head of the clergy of Munster;" Hugh, the
son of Mahon, also died about the same period. His favourite son and
heir, Morrogh, was left, and Morrogh had, at this time, several
children. Other sons and daughters were also left him, by each of his
wives, so that there was every prospect that the posterity for whom he
had so long sought the sovereignty of Ireland, would continue to
possess it for countless generations. But God disposes of what man only

The Northmen had never yet abandoned any soil on which they had once
set foot, and the policy of conciliation which the veteran King adopted
in his old age, was not likely to disarm men of their stamp. Every
intelligence of the achievements of their race in other realms
stimulated them to new exertions and shamed them out of peaceful
submission. Rollo and his successors had, within Brian's lifetime,
founded in France the great dukedom of Normandy; while Sweyn had swept
irresistibly over England and Wales, and prepared the way for a Danish
dynasty. Pride and shame alike appealed to their warlike compatriots
not to allow the fertile Hibernia to slip from their grasp, and the
great age of its long-dreaded king seemed to promise them an easier
victory than heretofore was possible. In 1012 we find Brian at Lough
Foyle repelling a new Danish invasion, and giving "freedom to Patrick's
Churches;" the same year, an army under Morrogh and another under
Malachy was similarly engaged in Leinster and Meath; the former
carrying his arms to Kilmainham, on the south side of Dublin, the other
to Howth, on the north; in this year also "the Gentiles," or Pagan
Northmen, made a descent on Cork, and burned the city, but were driven
off by the neighbouring chiefs.

The great event, however, of the long war which had now been waged for
full two hundred years between the men of Erin and the men of
Scandinavia was approaching. What may fairly be called the last field
day of Christianity and Paganism on Irish soil, was near at hand. A
taunt thrown out over a game of chess, at Kinkora, is said to have
hastened this memorable day. Maelmurra, Prince of Leinster, playing or
advising on the game, made, or recommended, a false move, upon which
Morrogh, son of Brian, observed, it was no wonder his friends, the
Danes, (to whom he owed his elevation,) were beaten at Glen-Mama, if he
gave them advice like that. Maelmurra, highly incensed by this
allusion—all the more severe for its bitter truth—arose, ordered his
horse, and rode away in haste. Brian, when he heard it, despatched a
messenger after the indignant guest, begging him to return, but
Maelmurra was not to be pacified, and refused. We next hear of him as
concerting with certain Danish agents, always open to such
negotiations, those measures which led to the great invasion of the
year 1014, in which the whole Scanian race, from Anglesea and Man,
north to Norway, bore an active share.

These agents passing over to England and Man, among the Scottish isles,
and even to the Baltic, followed up the design of an invasion on a
gigantic scale. Suibne, Earl of Man, entered warmly into the
conspiracy, and sent the "war arrow" through all those "out-islands"
which obeyed him as Lord. A yet more formidable potentate, Sigurd, of
the Orkneys, next joined the league. He was the fourteenth Earl of
Orkney of Norse origin, and his power was, at this period, a balance to
that of his nearest neighbour, the King of Scots. He had ruled since
the year 996, not only over the Orkneys, Shetland, and Northern
Hebrides, but the coasts of Caithness and Sutherland, and even Ross and
Moray rendered him homage and tribute. Eight years before the battle of
Clontarf, Malcolm II., of Scotland, had been feign to purchase his
alliance, by giving him his daughter in marriage, and the Kings of
Denmark and Norway treated with him on equal terms. The hundred
inhabited isles which lie between Yell and Man,—isles which after their
conversion contained "three hundred churches and chapels"—sent in their
contingents, to swell the following of the renowned Earl Sigurd. As his
fleet bore southward from Kirkwall it swept the subject coast of
Scotland, and gathered from every lough its galleys and its fighting
men. The rendezvous was the Isle of Man, where Suibne had placed his
own forces under the command of Brodar or Broderick, a famous leader
against the Britons of Wales and Cornwall. In conjunction with Sigurd,
the Manxmen sailed over to Ireland, where they were joined, in the
Liffey, by Carl Canuteson, Prince of Denmark, at the head of 1400
champions clad in armour. Sitrick of Dublin stood, or affected to
stand, neutral in these preparations, but Maelmurra of Leinster had
mustered all the forces he could command for such an expedition. He was
himself the head of the powerful family of O'Byrne, and was followed in
his alliances by others of the descendants of Cahir More. O'Nolan and
O'More, with a truer sense of duty, fought on the patriotic side.

Brian had not been ignorant of the exertions which were made during the
summer and winter of the year 1013, to combine an overwhelming force
against him. In his exertions to meet force with force, it is
gratifying to every believer in human excellence to find him actively
supported by the Prince whom he had so recently deposed. Malachy,
during the summer of 1013, had, indeed, lost two sons in skirmishes
with Sitrick and Maelmurra, and had, therefore, his own personal wrongs
to avenge; but he cordially co-operated with Brian before those
occurrences, and now loyally seconded all his movements. The Lords of
the southern half-kingdom—the Lords of Desies, Fermoy, Inchiquin,
Corca-Baskin, Kinalmeaky, Kerry, and the Lords of Hy-Many and
Hy-Fiachra, in Connaught, hastened to his standard. O'More and O'Nolan
of Leinster, and Donald, Steward of Marr, in Scotland, were the other
chieftains who joined him before Clontarf, besides those of his own
kindred. None of the Northern Hy-Nial took part in the battle—they had
submitted to Brian, but they never cordially supported him.

Clontarf, the lawn or meadow of bulls, stretches along the
crescent-shaped north strand of Dublin harbour, from the ancient
salmon-weir at Ballyboght bridge, towards the promontory of Howth. Both
horns of the crescent were held by the enemy, and communicated with his
ships: the inland point terminating in the roofs of Dublin, and the
seaward marked by the lion-like head of Howth. The meadow land between
sloped gently upward and inward from the beach, and for the myriad
duels which formed the ancient battle, no field could present less
positive vantage-ground to combatants on either side. The invading
force had possession of both wings, so that Brian's army, which had
first encamped at Kilmainham, must have crossed the Liffey higher up,
and marched round by the present Drumcondra in order to reach the
appointed field. The day seems to have been decided on by formal
challenge, for we are told Brian did not wish to fight in the last week
of Lent, but a Pagan oracle having assured victory to Brodar, one of
the northern leaders, if he engaged on a Friday, the invaders insisted
on being led to battle on that day. And it so happened that, of all
Fridays in the year, it fell on the Friday before Easter: that awful
anniversary when the altars of the Church are veiled throughout
Christendom, and the dark stone is rolled to the door of the mystic

The forces on both sides could not have fallen short of twenty thousand
men. Under Carl Canuteson fought "the ten hundred in armour," as they
are called in the Irish annals, or "the fourteen hundred," as they are
called in northern chronicles; under Brodar, the Manxmen and the Danes
of Anglesea and Wales; under Sigurd, the men of Orkney and its
dependencies; under Maelmurra, of Leinster, his own tribe, and their
kinsmen of Offally and Cullen—the modern Kildare and Wicklow; under
Brian's son, Morrogh, were the tribes of Munster; under the command of
Malachy, those of Meath; under the Lord of Hy-Many, the men of
Connaught; and the Stewart of Marr had also his command. The engagement
was to commence with the morning, so that, as soon as it was day,
Brian, Crucifix in hand, harangued his army. "On this day Christ died
for _you_!" was the spirit-stirring appeal of the venerable Christian
King. At the entreaty of his friends, after this review, he retired to
his tent, which stood at some distance, and was guarded by three of his
aids. Here, he alternately prostrated himself before the Crucifix, or
looked out from the tent door upon the dreadful scene that lay beyond.
The sun rose to the zenith and took his way towards the west, but still
the roar of the battle did not abate. Sometimes as their right hands
swelled with the sword-hilts, well-known warriors might be seen falling
back to bathe them, in a neighbouring spring, and then rushing again
into the melee. The line of the engagement extended from the
salmon-weir towards Howth, not less than a couple of miles, so that it
was impossible to take in at a glance the probabilities of victory.
Once during the heat of the day one of his servants said to Brian, "A
vast multitude are moving towards us." "What sort of people are they?"
inquired Brian. "They are green-naked people." said the attendant.
"Oh!" replied the king, "they are the Danes in armour!" The utmost fury
was displayed on all sides. Sigurd, Earl of Orkney, fell by Thurlogh,
grandson of Brian; and Anrud, one of the captains of the men in armour,
by the hand of his father, Morrogh; but both father and son perished in
the dreadful conflict; Maelmurra of Leinster, with his lords, fell on
one side, and Conaing, nephew of Brian, O'Kelly, O'Heyne, and the
Stewart of Marr, on the other. Hardly a nobly-born man escaped, or
sought to escape. The ten hundred in armour, and three thousand others
of the enemy, with about an equal number of the men of Ireland, lay
dead upon the field. One division of the enemy were, towards sunset,
retreating to their ships, when Brodar, the Viking, perceiving the tent
of Brian, standing apart, without a guard, and the aged king on his
knees before the Crucifix, rushed in, cut him down with a single blow,
and then continued his flight. But he was overtaken by the guard, and
despatched by the most cruel death they could devise. Thus, on the
field of battle, in the act of prayer, on the day of our Lord's
Crucifixion, fell the Christian King in the cause of native land and
Holy Cross. Many elegies have been dedicated to his memory, and not the
least noble of these strains belong to his enemies. In death as in life
he was still Brian "of the tributes."

The deceased hero took his place at once in history, national and
foreign. On hearing of his death, Maelmurra, Archbishop of Armagh, came
with his clergy to Swords, in Meath, and conducted the body to Armagh,
where, with his son and nephew and the Lord of Desies, he was solemnly
interred "in a new tomb." The fame of the event went out through all
nations. The chronicles of Wales, of Scotland, and of Man; the annals
of Ademar and Marianus; the Sagas of Denmark and the Isles all record
the event. In "the Orcades" of Thormodus Torfaeus, a wail over the
defeat of the Islesmen is heard, which they call

"Orkney's woe and Randver's bane."

The Norse settlers in Caithness saw terrific visions of Valhalla "the
day after the battle." In the NIALA SAGA a Norwegian prince is
introduced as asking after his men, and the answer is, "they were all
killed." Malcolm of Scotland rejoiced in the defeat and death of his
dangerous and implacable neighbour. "Brian's battle," as it is called
in the Sagas, was, in short, such a defeat as prevented any general
northern combination for the subsequent invasion of Ireland. Not that
the country was entirely free from their attacks till the end of the
eleventh century, but from the day of Clontarf forward, the long
cherished Northern idea of a conquest of Ireland, seems to have been
gloomily abandoned by that indomitable people.


If a great battle is to be accounted lost or won, as it affects
principles rather than reputations, then Brian lost at Clontarf. The
leading ideas of his long and political life were, evidently,
centralization and an hereditary monarchy. To beat back foreign
invasion, to conciliate and to enlist the Irish-born Danes under his
standard, were preliminary steps. For Morrogh, his first-born, and for
Morrogh's descendants, he hoped to found an hereditary kinship after
the type universally copied throughout Christendom. He was not ignorant
of what Alfred had done for England, Harold for Norway, Charlemagne for
France, and Otho for Germany; and it was inseparable from his imperial
genius to desire to reign in his posterity, long after his own brief
term of sway should be for ever ended. A new centre of royal authority
should be established on the banks of the great middle river of the
island—itself the best bond of union, as it was the best highway of
intercourse; the Dalgais dynasty should there flourish for ages, and
the descendants of Brian of the Tributes, through after centuries,
eclipse the glory of the descendants of Nial of the Hostages. It is
idle enough to call the projector of such a change an usurper and a
revolutionist. Usurper he clearly was not, since he was elevated to
power by the action of the old legitimate electoral principle;
revolutionist he was not, because his design was defeated at Clontarf,
in the death of his eldest son and grandson. Not often have three
generations of Princes of the same family been cut off on the same
field; yet at Clontarf it so happened. Hence, when Brian fell, and his
heir with him, and his heir's heir, the projected Dalgais dynasty, like
the Royal Oak at Adair, was cut down and its very roots destroyed. For
a new dynasty to be left suddenly without indisputable heirs is ruinous
to its pretensions and partizans. And in this the event of the battle
proved destructive to the Celtic Constitution. Not from the
Anglo-Norman invasion, but from the day of Clontarf we may date the
ruin of the old electoral monarchy. The spell of ancient authority was
effectually broken and a new one was to be established. Time, which was
indispensable, was not given. No Prince of the blood of Brian succeeded
immediately to himself. On Clontarf Morrogh, and Morrogh's heir fell,
in the same day and hour. The other sons of Brian had no direct title
to the succession, and, naturally enough, the deposed Malachy resumed
the rank of monarch, without the consent of Munster, but _with_ the
approval of all the Princes, who had witnessed with ill-concealed envy
the sudden ascendancy of the sons of Kennedy. While McLaig was
lamenting for Brian, by the cascade of Killaloe, the Laureat of Tara,
in an elegy over a lord of Breffni, was singing—

"Joyful are the race of Conn after Brian's
Fall, in the battle of Clontarf."

A new dynasty is rarely the work of one able man. Designed by genius,
it must be built up by a succession of politic Princes, before it
becomes an essential part of the framework of the State. So all history
teaches—and Irish history, after the death of Brian, very clearly
illustrates that truth. Equally true is it that when a nation breaks up
of itself, or from external forces, and is not soon consolidated by a
conqueror, the most natural result is the aggrandizement of a few great
families. Thus it was in Rome when Julius was assassinated, and in
Italy, when the empire of the west fell to pieces of its own weight.
The kindred of the late sovereign will be sure to have a party, the
chief innovators will have a party, and there is likely to grow up a
third or moderate party. So it fell out in Ireland. The Hy-Nials of the
north, deprived of the succession, rallied about the Princes of Aileach
as their head. Meath, left crownless, gave room to the ambition of the
sons of Malachy, who, under the name of O'Melaghlin, took provincial
rank. Ossory, like Issachar, long groaning beneath the burdens of Tara
and of Cashel, cruelly revenged on the Dalgais, returning from
Clontarf, the subjection to which Mahon and Brian had forcibly reduced
that borderland. The Eugenians of Desmond withdrew in disgust from the
banner of Donogh O'Brien, because he had openly proclaimed his
hostility to the alternate succession, and left his surviving clansmen
an easy prey to the enraged Ossorians. Leinster soon afterwards passed
from the house of O'Byrne to that of McMurrogh. The O'Briens maintained
their dominant interest in the south; as, after many local struggles,
the O'Conors did in the west. For a hundred and fifty years, after the
death of Malachy II., the history of Ireland is mainly the history of
these five families, O'Neils, O'Melaghlins, McMurroghs, O'Briens and
O'Conors. And for ages after the Normans enter on the scene, the same
provincialized spirit, the same family ambitions, feuds, hates, and
coalitions, with some exceptional passages, characterize the whole
history. Not that there will be found any want of heroism, or piety, or
self-sacrifice, or of any virtue or faculty, necessary to constitute a
state, save and except the _power of combination_, alone. Thus, judged
by what came after him, and what was happening in the world abroad,
Brian's design to re-centralize the island, seems the highest dictate
of political wisdom, in the condition to which the Norwegian and Danish
wars had reduced it, previous to his elevation to the monarchy. Malachy
II.—of the events of whose second reign some mention will be made
hereafter—held the sovereignty after Brian's death, until the year
1023, when he died an edifying death in one of the islands of Lough
Ennel, near the present Mullingar. He is called, in the annals of
Clonmacnoise, "the last king of Ireland, of Irish blood, that had the
crown." An ancient quatrain, quoted by Geoffrey Keating, is thus
literally translated:

"After the happy Melaghlin
Son of Donald, son of Donogh,
Each noble king ruled his own tribe
But Erin owned no sovereign Lord."

The annals of the eleventh and twelfth centuries curiously illustrate
the workings of this "anarchical constitution"—to employ a phrase first
applied to the Germanic Confederation. "After Malachy's death," says
the quaint old Annalist of Clonmacnoise, "this kingdom was without a
king 20 years, during which time the realm was governed by two learned
men; the one called Con O'Lochan, a well learned temporal man, and
chief poet of Ireland; the other Corcran Claireach, a devout and holy
man that was anchorite of all Ireland, whose most abiding was at
Lismore. The land was governed like a free state, and not like a
monarchy by them." Nothing can show the headlessness of the Irish
Constitution in the eleventh century clearer than this interregnum. No
one Prince could rally strength enough to be elected, so that two
Arbitrators, an illustrious Poet and a holy Priest, were appointed to
take cognizance of national causes. The associating together of a
Priest and a layman, a southerner and a northerner, is conclusive proof
that the bond of Celtic unity, frittered away during the Danish period,
was never afterwards entirely restored. Con O'Lochan having been killed
in Teffia, after a short jurisdiction, the holy Corcran exercised his
singular jurisdiction, until his decease, which happened at Lismore,
(A.D. 1040.) His death produced a new paroxysm of anarchy, out of which
a new organizer arose among the tribes of Leinster. This was Dermid,
son of Donogh, who died (A.D. 1005), when Dermid must have been a mere
infant, as he does not figure in the annals till the year 1032, and the
acts of young Princes are seldom overlooked in Gaelic Chronicles. He
was the first McMurrogh who became King of Leinster, that royalty
having been in the O'Byrne family, until the son of Maelmurra, of
Clontarf, was deposed by O'Neil in 1035, and retired to a monastery in
Cologne, where he died in 1052. In 1036 or 1037 Dermid captured Dublin
and Waterford, married the grand-daughter of Brian, and by '41 was
strong enough to assume the rank of ruler of the southern half-kingdom.
This dignity he held with a strong and warlike hand thirty years, when
he fell in battle, at Ova, in Meath. He must have been at that time
full threescore years and ten. He is described by the elegiac Bards as
of "ruddy complexion," "with teeth laughing in danger," and possessing
all the virtues of a warrior-king; "whose death," adds the lamentation,
"brought scarcity of peace" with it, so that "there will not be peace,"
"there will not be armistice," between Meath and Leinster. It may well
be imagined that every new resort to the two-third test, in the
election of Ard-Righ, should bring "scarcity of peace" to Ireland. We
can easily understand the ferment of hope, fear, intrigue, and passion,
which such an occasion caused among the great rival families. What
canvassing there was in Kinkora and Cashel, at Cruachan and Aileach,
and at Fernamore! What piecing and patching of interests, what libels
on opposing candidates, what exultation in the successful, what
discontent in the defeated camp!

The successful candidate for the southern half-kingdom after Dermid's
death was Thorlogh, grandson of Brian, and foster-son of the late
ruler. In his reign, which lasted thirty-three years, the political
fortunes of his house revived. He died in peace at Kinkora (A.D. 1087),
and the war of succession again broke out. The rival candidates at this
period were Murrogh O'Brien, son of the late king, whose ambition was
to complete the design of Brian, and Donald, Prince of Aileach, the
leader of the Northern Hy-Nials. Two abler men seldom divided a country
by their equal ambition. Both are entered in the annals as "Kings of
Ireland," but it is hard to discover that, during all the years of
their contest, either of them submitted to the other. To chronicle all
the incidents of the struggle would take too much space here; and, as
was to be expected, a third party profited most by it; the West came
in, in the person of O'Conor, to lord it over both North and South, and
to add another element to the dynastic confusion.

This brief abstract of our civil affairs after the death of Brian,
presents us with the extraordinary spectacle of a country without a
constitution working out the problem of its stormy destiny in despite
of all internal and external dangers. Everything now depended on
individual genius and energy; nothing on system, usage, or
prescription. Each leading family and each province became, in turn,
the head of the State. The supreme title seems to have been fatal for a
generation to the family that obtained it, for in no case is there a
lineal descent of the crown. The prince of Aileach or Kinkora naturally
preferred his permanent patrimony to an uncertain tenure of Tara; an
office not attached to a locality became, of course, little more than
an arbitrary title. Hence, the titular King of Ireland might for one
lifetime reign by the Shannon, in the next by the Bann, in a third, by
Lough Corrib. The supremacy, thus came to be considered a merely
personal appurtenance, was carried about in the old King's tent, or on
the young King's crupper, deteriorating and decaying by every
transposition it underwent. Herein, we have the origin of Irish
disunion with all its consequences, good, bad, and indifferent.

Are we to blame Brian for this train of events against which he would
have provided a sharp remedy in the hereditary principle? Or, on the
other hand, are we to condemn Malachy, the possessor of legitimate
power, if he saw in that remedy only the ambition of an aspiring family
already grown too great? Theirs was in fact the universal struggle of
reform and conservatism; the reformer and the heirs of his work were
cut off on Clontarf; the abuses of the elective principle continued
unrestrained by ancient salutary usage and prejudice, and the land
remained a tempting prey to such Adventurers, foreign or native, as
dare undertake to mould power out of its chaotic materials.


Though Ireland dates the decay of Scandinavian power from Good Friday,
1014, yet the North did not wholly cease to send forth its warriors,
nor were the shores of the Western Island less tempting to them than
before. The second year after the battle of Clontarf, Canute founded
his Danish dynasty in England, which existed in no little splendour
during thirty-seven years. The Saxon line was restored by Edward "the
Confessor;" in the forty-third year of the century, only to be
extinguished for ever by the Norman conquest twenty-three years later.
Scotland, during the same years was more than once subject to invasion
from the same ancient enemy. Malcolm II., and the brave usurper
Macbeth, fought several engagements with the northern leaders, and
generally with brilliant success. By a remarkable coincidence, the
Scottish chronicles also date the decadence of Danish power on their
coasts from 1014, though several engagements were fought in Scotland
after that year.

Malachy II. had promptly followed up the victory of Clontarf by the
capture of Dublin, the destruction of its fort, and the exemplary
chastisement of the tribes of Leinster, who had joined Maelmurra as
allies of the Danes. Sitrick himself seems to have eluded the
suspicions and vengeance of the conquerors by a temporary exile, as we
find in the succession of the Dublin Vikings, "one Hyman, an usurper,"
entered as ruling "part of a year while Sitrick was in banishment." His
family interest, however, was strong among the native Princes, and
whatever his secret sympathies may have been, he had taken no active
part against them in the battle of Clontarf. By his mother, the Lady
Gormley of Offally, he was a half O'Conor; by marriage he was
son-in-law of Brian, and uterine brother of Malachy. After his return
to Dublin, when, in 1018, Brian, son of Maelmurra, fell prisoner into
his hands, as if to clear himself of any lingering suspicion of an
understanding with that family, he caused his eyes to be put out—a
cruel but customary punishment in that age. This act procured for him
the deadly enmity of the warlike mountaineers of Wicklow, who, in the
year 1022, gave him a severe defeat at Delgany. Even this he outlived,
and died seven years later, the acknowledged lord of his town and
fortress, forty years after his first accession to that title. He was
succeeded by his son, grandson, and great-grandson during the remaining
half century.

The kingdom of Leinster, in consequence of the defeat of Maelmurra, the
incapacity of Brian, and the destruction of other claimants of the same
family, passed to the family of McMurrogh, another branch of the same
ancestry. Dermid, the first and most distinguished King of Leinster of
this house, took Waterford (A.D. 1037), and so reduced its strength,
that we find its hosts no longer formidable in the field. Those of
Limerick continued their homage to the house of Kinkora, while the
descendants of Sitrick recognised Dermid of Leinster as their
sovereign. In short, all the Dano-Irish from thenceforward began to
knit themselves kindly to the soil, to obey the neighbouring Princes,
to march with them to battle, and to pursue the peaceful calling of
merchants, upon sea. The only peculiarly _Danish_ undertaking we hear
of again, in our Annals, was the attempt of a united fleet, equipped by
Dublin, Wexford, and Waterford, in the year 1088, to retake Cork from
the men of Desmond, when they were driven with severe loss to their
ships. Their few subsequent expeditions were led abroad, into the
Hebrides, the Isle of Man, or Wales, where they generally figure as
auxiliaries or mercenaries in the service of local Princes. They appear
in Irish battles only as contingents to the native armies—led by their
own leaders and recognized as a separate, but subordinate force. In the
year 1073, the Dublin Danes did homage to the monarch Thorlogh, and
from 1095, until his death (A.D. 1119), they recognized no other lord
but Murkertach More O'Brien; this king, at their own request, had also
nominated one of his family as Lord of the Danes and Welsh of the Isle
of Man.

The wealth of these Irish-Danes, before and after the time of Brian,
may be estimated by the annual tribute which Limerick paid to that
Prince—a pipe of red wine for every day in the year. In the year 1029,
Olaf, son of Sitrick, of Dublin, being taken prisoner by O'Regan, the
Lord of East-Meath, paid for his ransom—"twelve hundred cows, seven
score British horses, three score ounces of gold!" sixty ounces of
white silver as his "fetter-ounce;" the sword of Carlus, besides the
usual legal fees, for recording these profitable formalities.

Being now Christians, they also began to found and endow churches, with
the same liberality with which their Pagan fathers had once enriched
the temples of Upsala and Trondheim. The oldest religious foundations
in the seaports they possessed owe their origin to them; but even as
Christians, they did not lose sight of their nationality. They
contended for, and obtained Dano-Irish Bishops, men of their own race,
speaking their own speech, to preside over the sees of Dublin,
Waterford, and Limerick. When the Irish Synods or Primates asserted
over them any supervision which they were unwilling to admit—except in
the case of St. Malachy—they usually invoked the protection of the See
of Canterbury, which, after the Norman conquest of England, became by
far the most powerful Archbishopric in either island.

In the third quarter of this century there arose in the Isle of Man a
fortunate leader, who may almost be called the last of the sea kings.
This was Godard _Crovan_ (the white-handed), son of an Icelandic
Prince, and one of the followers of Harald Harfagar and Earl Tosti, in
their invasion of Northumbria (A.D. 1066). Returning from the defeat of
his chiefs, Godard saw and seized upon Man as the centre of future
expeditions of his own, in the course of which he subdued the Hebrides,
divided them with the gallant Somerled (ancestor of the MacDonalds of
the Isles), and established his son Lagman (afterwards put to death by
King Magnus _Barefoot_) as his viceroy in the Orkneys and Shetlands.
The weakened condition of the Danish settlement at Dublin attracted his
ambition, and where he entered as a mediator he remained as a master.
In the succession of the Dublin Vikings he is assigned a reign of ten
years, and his whole course of conquest seems to have occupied some
twenty years (A.D. 1077 to 1098). At length the star of this Viking of
the Irish sea paled before the mightier name of a King of Norway, whose
more brilliant ambition had a still shorter span. The story of this
_Magnus_ (called, it is said, from his adoption of the Scottish kilt,
Magnus _Barefoot_) forms the eleventh Saga in "the Chronicles of the
Kings of Norway." He began to reign in the year 1093, and soon after
undertook an expedition to the south, "with many fine men, and good
shipping." Taking the Orkneys on his way, he sent their Earls prisoners
to Norway, and placed his own son, Sigurd, in their stead. He overran
the Hebrides, putting Lagman, son of Godard Crovan, to death. He spared
only "the holy Island," as Iona was now called, even by the Northmen,
and there, in after years, his own bones were buried. The Isles of Man
and Anglesea, and the coast of Wales, shared the same fate, and thence
he retraced his course to Scotland, where, borne in his galley across
the Isthmus of Cantyre, to fulfil an old prophecy, he claimed
possession of the land on both sides of Loch Awe. It was while he
wintered in the Southern Hebrides, according to the Saga, that he
contracted his son Sigurd with the daughter of Murkertach O'Brien,
called by the Northmen "Biadmynia." In summer he sailed homeward, and
did not return southward till the ninth year of his reign (A.D. 1102),
when his son, Sigurd, had come of age, and bore the title of "King of
the Orkneys and Hebrides." "He sailed into the west sea," says the
Saga, "with the finest men who could be got in Norway. All the powerful
men of the country followed him, such as Sigurd Hranesson, and his
brother Ulf, Vidkunner Johnsson, Dag Eliffsson, Sorker of Sogn, Eyvind
Olboge, the king's marshal, and many other great men." On the
intelligence of this fleet having arrived in Irish waters, according to
the annals, Murkertach and his allies marched in force to Dublin,
where, however, Magnus "made peace with them for one year," and
Murkertach "gave his daughter to Sigurd, with many jewels and gifts."
That winter Magnus spent with Murkertach at Kinkora, and "towards
spring both kings went westward with their army all the way to Ulster."
This was one of those annual visitations which kings, whose authority
was not yet established, were accustomed to make. The circuit, as
usual, was performed in about six weeks, after which the Irish monarch
returned home, and Magnus went on board his fleet at Dublin, to return
to Norway. According to the Norse account he landed again on the coast
of Ulidia (Down), where he expected "cattle for ship-provision," which
Murkertach had promised to send him, but the Irish version would seem
to imply that he went on shore to seize the cattle perforce. It
certainly seems incredible that Murkertach should send cattle to the
shore of Strangford Lough, from the pastures of Thomond, when they
might be more easily driven to Dublin, or the mouth of the Boyne. "The
cattle had not made their appearance on the eve of Bartholomew's Mass"
(August 23rd, A.D. 1103), says the Saga, so "when the sun rose in the
sky, King Magnus himself went on shore with the greater part of his
men. King Magnus," continues the scald, "had a helmet on his head; a
red shield, in which was inlaid a gilded lion; and was girt with the
sword Legbiter, of which the hilt was of ivory, and the hand grip wound
about with gold thread; and the sword was extremely sharp. In his hand
he had a short spear, and a red silk short cloak over his coat, on
which both before and behind was embroidered a lion, in yellow silk;
and all men acknowledged that they had never seen a brisker, statelier
man." A dust cloud was seen far inland, and the Northmen fell into
order of battle. It proved, however, by their own account to be the
messengers with the promised supply of cattle; but, after they came up,
and while returning to the shore, they were violently assailed on all
sides by the men of Down. The battle is described, with true Homeric
vigour, by Sturleson. "The Irish," he says, "shot boldly; and although
they fell in crowds, there came always two in place of one." Magnus,
with most of his nobles, were slain on the spot, but Vidkunner Johnsson
escaped to the shipping, "with the King's banner and the sword
Legbiter." And the Saga of Magnus Barefoot concludes thus: "Now when
King Sigurd heard that his father had fallen, he set off immediately,
leaving the Irish King's daughter behind, and proceeded in autumn, with
the whole fleet directly to Norway." The annalists of Ulster barely
record the fact, that "Magnus, King of Lochlan and the Isles, was slain
by the Ulidians, with a slaughter of his people about him, while on a
predatory excursion." They place the event in the year 1104.

Our account with the Northmen may here be closed. Borne along by the
living current of events, we leave them behind, high up on the remoter
channels of the stream. Their terrible ravens shall flit across our
prospect no more. They have taken wing to their native north, where
they may croak yet a little while over the cold and crumbling altars of
Odin and Asa Thor. The bright light of the Gospel has penetrated even
to those last haunts of Paganism, and the fierce but not ungenerous
race, with which we have been so long familiar, begin to change their
natures under its benign influence.

Although both the scalds and chroniclers of the North frequently refer
to Ireland as a favourite theatre of their heroes, we derive little
light from those of their works which have yet been made public. All
connection between the two races had long ceased, before the first
scholars of the North began to investigate the earlier annals of their
own country, and then they were content with a very vague and general
knowledge of the western Island, for which their ancestors had so
fiercely contended throughout so many generations. The oldest maps,
known in Scandinavia, exhibit a mere outline of the Irish coast, with a
few points in the interior; fiords, with Norse names, are shown,
answering to Loughs Foyle, Swilly, Larne, Strang_ford_, and
Carling_ford_; the Provincial lines of Ulster and of Connaught are
rudely traced; and the situation of Enniskillen, Tara, Dublin,
Glendaloch, Water_ford_, Limer_ick_, and Swer_wick_, accurately laid
down. It is thought that all those places ending in _wick_ or _ford_,
on the Irish map, are of Scandinavian origin; as well as the names of
the islets, Skerries, Lambey, and Saltees. Many noble families, as the
Plunkets, McIvers, Archbolds, Harolds, Stacks, Skiddies, Cruises, and
McAuliffes, are derived from the same origin.

During the contest we have endeavoured to describe, three hundred and
ten years had passed since the warriors of Lochlin first landed on the
shores of Erin. Ten generations, according to the measured span of
adult life, were born, and trained to arms and marshalled in battle,
since the enemy, "powerful on sea," first burst upon the shield-shaped
Isle of Saints. At the close of the eighth century we cast back a
grateful retrospect on the Christian ages of Ireland. Can we do so now,
at the close of the eleventh? Alas! far from it. Bravely and in the
main successfully as the Irish have borne themselves, they come out of
that cruel, treacherous, interminable war with many rents and stains in
that vesture of innocence in which we saw them arrayed at the close of
their third Christian century. Odin has not conquered, but all the
worst vices of warfare—its violence, its impiety, discontent,
self-indulgence, and contempt for the sweet paths of peace and mild
counsels of religion—these must and did remain, long after Dane and
Norwegian have for ever disappeared!



The last scene of the Irish monarchy, before it entered on the
anarchical period, was not destitute of an appropriate grandeur. It was
the death-bed scene of the second Malachy, the rival, ally, and
successor of the great Brian. After the eventful day of Clontarf he
resumed the monarchy, without opposition, and for eight years he
continued in its undisturbed enjoyment. The fruitful land of Meath
again gave forth its abundance, unscourged by the spoiler, and beside
its lakes and streams the hospitable Ard-Righ had erected, or restored,
three hundred fortified houses, where, as his poets sung, shelter was
freely given to guests from the king of the elements. His own favourite
residence was at Dunnasciath ("the fort of shields"), in the north-west
angle of Lough Ennel, in the present parish of Dysart. In the eighth
year after Clontarf—the summer of 1022—the Dublin Danes once again
ventured on a foray into East-Meath, and the aged monarch marched to
meet them. At Athboy he encountered the enemy, and drove them, routed
and broken, out of the ancient mensal land of the Irish kings.

Thirty days after that victory he was called on to confront the
conqueror of all men, even Death. He had reached the age of
seventy-three, and he prepared to meet his last hour with the zeal and
humility of a true Christian. To Dunnasciath repaired Amalgaid,
Archbishop of Armagh, the Abbots of Clonmacnoise and of Durrow, with a
numerous train of the clergy. For greater solitude, the dying king was
conveyed into an island of the lake opposite his fort—then called
Inis-Cro, now Cormorant Island—and there, "after intense penance," on
the fourth of the Nones of September precisely, died Malachy, son of
Donald, son of Donogh, in the fond language of the bards, "the pillar
of the dignity and nobility of the western world:" and "the seniors of
all Ireland sung masses, hymns, psalms, and canticles for the welfare
of his soul."

"This," says the old Translator of the Clonmacnoise Annals, "was the
last king of Ireland of Irish blood, that had the crown; yet there were
seven kings after without crown, before the coming in of the English."
Of these seven subsequent kings we are to write under the general title
of "the War of Succession." They are called Ard-Righ _go Fresabra_,
that is, kings opposed, or unrecognised, by certain tribes, or
Provinces. For it was essential to the completion of the title, as we
have before seen, that when the claimant was of Ulster, he should have
Connaught and Munster, or Leinster and Munster, in his obedience: in
other words, he should be able to command the allegiance of two-thirds
of his suffragans. If of Munster, he should be equally potent in the
other Provinces, in order to rank among the recognised kings of Erin.
Whether some of the seven kings subsequent to Malachy II., who assumed
the title, were not fairly entitled to it, we do not presume to say; it
is our simpler task to narrate the incidents of that brilliant war of
succession, which occupies almost all the interval between the Danish
and Anglo-Norman invasions. The chaunt of the funeral Mass of Malachy
was hardly heard upon Lough Ennel, when Donogh O'Brien despatched his
agents, claiming the crown from the Provincial Princes. He was the
eldest son of Brian by his second marriage, and his mother was an
O'Conor, an additional source of strength to him, in the western
Province. It had fallen to the lot of Donogh, and his elder brother,
Teigue or Thaddeus, to conduct the remnant of the Dalcassians from
Clontarf to their home. Marching through Ossory, by the great southern
road, they were attacked in their enfeebled state by the lord of that
brave little border territory, on whom Brian's hand had fallen with
heavy displeasure. Wounded as many of them were, they fought their way
desperately towards Cashel, leaving 150 men dead in one of their
skirmishes. Of all who had left the Shannon side to combat with the
enemy, but 850 men lived to return to their homes.

No sooner had they reached Kinkora, than a fierce dispute arose,
between the friends of Teigue and Donogh, as to which should reign over
Munster. A battle ensued, with doubtful result, but by the intercession
of the Clergy this unnatural feud was healed, and the brothers reigned
conjointly for nine years afterwards, until Teigue fell in an
engagement in Ely (Queen's County), as was charged and believed, by the
machinations of his colleague and brother. Thorlogh, son of Teigue, was
the foster-son, and at this time the guest or hostage of Dermid of
Leinster, the founder of the McMurrogh family, which had now risen into
the rank justly forfeited by the traitor Maelmurra. When he reached
man's age he married the daughter of Dermid, and we shall soon hear of
him again asserting in Munster the pretensions of the eldest surviving
branch of the O'Brien family.

The death of his brother and of Malachy within the same year, proved
favourable to the ambition of Donogh O'Brien. All Munster submitted to
his sway; Connaught was among the first to recognise his title as
Ard-Righ. Ossory and Leinster, though unwillingly, gave in their
adhesion. But Meath refused to recognise him, and placed its government
in commission, in the hands of Con O'Lochan, the arch-poet, and
Corcran, the priest, already more than once mentioned. The country,
north of Meath, obeyed Flaherty O'Neil, of Aileach, whose ambition, as
well as that of all his house, was to restore the northern supremacy,
which had continued unbroken, from the fourth to the ninth century.
This Flaherty was a vigorous, able, and pious Prince, who held stoutly
on to the northern half-kingdom. In the year 1030 he made the frequent
but adventurous pilgrimage to Rome, from which he is called, in the
pedigree of his house, _an Trostain_, or the cross-bearer.

The greatest obstacle, however, to the complete ascendency of Donogh,
arose in the person of his nephew, now advanced to manhood. Thorlogh
O'Brien possessed much of the courage and ability of his grandfather,
and he had at his side, a faithful and powerful ally in his
foster-father, Dermid, of Leinster. Rightly or wrongly, on proof or on
suspicion, he regarded his uncle as his father's murderer, and he
pursued his vengeance with a skill and constancy worthy of _Hamlet_. At
the time of his father's death, he was a mere lad—in his fourteenth
year. But, as he grew older, he accompanied his foster-father in all
his expeditions, and rapidly acquired a soldier's fame. By marriage
with Dervorgoil, daughter of the Lord of Ossory, he strengthened his
influence at the most necessary point; and what, with so good a cause
and such fast friends as he made in exile, his success against his
uncle is little to be wondered at. Leinster and Ossory, which had
temporarily submitted to Donogh's claim, soon found good pretexts for
refusing him tribute, and a border war, marked by all the usual
atrocities, raged for several successive seasons. The contest, is
relieved, however, of its purely civil character, by the capture of
Waterford, still Danish, in 1037, and of Dublin, in 1051. On this
occasion, Dermid, of Leinster, bestowed the city on his son Morrogh
(grandfather of Strongbow's ally), to whom the remnant of its
inhabitants, as well as their kinsmen in Man, submitted for the time
with what grace they could.

The position of Donogh O'Brien became yearly weaker. His rival had
youth, energy, and fortune on his side. The Prince of Connaught finally
joined him, and thus, a league was formed, which overcame all
opposition. In the year 1058, Donogh received a severe defeat at the
base of the Galtees; and although he went into the house of O'Conor the
same year, and humbly submitted to him, it only postponed his day of
reckoning. Three years after O'Conor took Kinkora, and Dermid, of
Leinster, burned Limerick, and took hostages as far southward as Saint
Brendan's hill (Tralee). The next year Donogh O'Brien, then fully
fourscore years of age, weary of life and of the world, took the
cross-staff, and departed on a pilgrimage to Rome, where he died soon
after, in the monastery of St. Stephen. It is said by some writers that
Donogh brought with him to Rome and presented to the Pope, Alexander
II., the crown of his father—and from this tradition many theories and
controversies have sprung. It is not unlikely that a deposed monarch
should have carried into exile whatever portable wealth he still
retained, nor that he should have presented his crown to the Sovereign
Pontiff before finally quitting the world. But as to conferring with
the crown, the sovereignty of which it was once an emblem, neither
reason nor religion obliges us to believe any such hypothesis.

Dermid of Leinster, upon the banishment of Donogh, son of Brian (A.D.
1063), became actual ruler of the southern half-kingdom and nominal
Ard-Righ, "with opposition." The two-fold antagonism to this Prince,
came, as might be expected from Conor, son of Malachy, the head of the
southern Hy-Nial dynasty, and from the chiefs of the elder dynasty of
the North. Thorlogh O'Brien, now King of Cashel, loyally repaid, by his
devoted adherence, the deep debt he owed in his struggles and his early
youth to Dermid. There are few instances in our Annals of a more
devoted friendship than existed between these brave and able Princes
through all the changes of half a century. No one act seems to have
broken the life-long intimacy of Dermid and Thorlogh; no cloud ever
came between them; no mistrust, no distrust. Rare and precious felicity
of human experience! How many myriads of men have sighed out their
souls in vain desire for that best blessing which Heaven can bestow, a
true, unchanging, unsuspecting friend!

To return: Conor O'Melaghlin could not see, without deep-seated
discontent, a Prince of Leinster assume the rank which his father and
several of his ancestors had held. A border strife between Meath and
Leinster arose not unlike that which had been waged a few years before
for the deposition of Donogh, between Leinster and Ossory on the one
part, and Munster on the other. Various were the encounters, whose
obscure details are seldom preserved to us. But the good fortune of
Dermid prevailed in all, until, in the year 1070, he lost Morrogh, his
heir, by a natural death at Dublin, and Gluniarn, another son, fell in
battle with the men of Meath. Two years later, in the battle of Ova, in
the same territory, and against the same enemy, Dermid himself fell,
with the lord of Forth, and a great host of Dublin Danes and Leinster
men. The triumph of the son of Malachy, and the sorrow and anger of
Leinster, were equally great. The bards have sung the praise of Dermid
in strains which history accepts: they praise his ruddy aspect and
laughing teeth; they remember how he upheld the standard of war, and
none dared contend with him in battle; they denounce vengeance on Meath
as soon as his death-feast is over—a vengeance too truly pursued.

As a picture of the manners and habits of thought in those tunes, the
fate of Conor, son of Melaghlin, and its connection with the last
illness and death of Thorlogh O'Brien, are worthy of mention. Conor was
treacherously slain, the year after the battle of Ova, in a parley with
his own nephew, though the parley was held under the protection of the
_Bachall-Isa_, or Staff, of Christ, the most revered relic of the Irish
Church. After his death, his body was buried in the great Church of
Clonmacnoise, in his own patrimony. But Thorlogh O'Brien perhaps, from
his friendship for Dermid, carried off his head, as the head of an
enemy, to Kinkora. When it was placed in his presence in his palace, a
mouse ran out from the dead man's head, and under the king's mantle,
which occasioned him such a fright that he grew suddenly sick, his hair
fell off, and his life was despaired of. It was on Good Friday that the
buried head was carried away, and on Easter Sunday, it was tremblingly
restored again, with two rings of gold as a peace offering to the
Church. Thus were God and Saint Kieran vindicated. Thorlogh O'Brien
slowly regained his strength, though Keating, and the authors he
followed, think he was never the same man again, after the fright he
received from the head of Conor O'Melaghlin. He died peaceably and full
of penitence, at Kinkora, on the eve of the Ides of July, A.D. 1086,
after severe physical suffering. He was in the 77th year of his age,
the 32nd of his rule over Munster, and the 13th—since the death of
Dermid of Leinster—in his actual sovereignty of the southern half, and
nominal rule of the whole kingdom. He was succeeded by his son
Murkertach, or Murtogh, afterwards called _More_, or the great.

We have thus traced to the third generation the political fortunes of
the family of Brian, which includes so much of the history of those
times. That family had become, and was long destined to remain, the
first in rank and influence in the southern half-kingdom. But internal
discord in a great house, as in a great state, is fatal to the
peaceable transmission of power. That "acknowledged right of birth" to
which a famous historian attributes "the peaceful successions" of
modern Europe, was too little respected in those ages, in many
countries of Christendom—and had no settled prescription in its favour
among the Irish. Primogeniture and the whole scheme of feudal
dependence seems to have been an essential preparative for modern
civilization: but as Ireland had escaped the legions of Rome, so she
existed without the circle of feudal organization. When that system did
at length appear upon her soil it was embodied in an invading host, and
patriot zeal could discern nothing good, nothing imitable in the laws
and customs of an enemy, whose armed presence in the land was an insult
to its inhabitants. Thus did our Island twice lose the discipline which
elsewhere laid the foundation of great states: once in the Roman, and
again in the Feudal era.


Four years before the death of Thorlogh O'Brien, a Prince destined to
be the life-long rival of his great son, had succeeded to the kingship
of the northern tribes. This was Donald, son of Ardgall, Prince of
Aileach, sometimes called "O" and sometimes "Mac" Laughlin. Donald had
reached the mature age of forty when he succeeded in the course of
nature to his father, Ardgall, and was admitted the first man of the
North, not only in station but for personal graces and accomplishments;
for wisdom, wealth, liberality, and love of military adventure.

Murkertach, or Murtogh O'Brien, was of nearly the same age as his
rival, and his equal, if not superior in talents, both for peace and
war. During the last years of his father's reign and illness, he had
been the real ruler of the south, and had enforced the claims of Cashel
on all the tribes of Leath Mogha, from Dublin to Galway. In the year
1094, by mutual compact, brought about through the intercession of the
Archbishop of Armagh and the great body of the clergy, north and
south—and still more perhaps by the pestilence and famine which raged
at intervals during the last years of the eleventh century—this ancient
division of the midland _asker_, running east and west, was solemnly
restored by consent of both parties, and Leath Mogha and Leath Conn
became for the moment independent territories. So thoroughly did the
Church enter into the arrangement, that, at the Synod of Rath-Brazil,
held a few years later, the seats of the twelve Bishops of the southern
half were grouped round the Archbishop of Cashel, while the twelve of
the northern half were ranged round the Archbishop of Armagh. The
Bishops of Meath, the ancient mensal of the monarchy, seem to have
occupied a middle station between the benches of the north and south.

Notwithstanding the solemn compact of 1094, Murtogh did not long cease
to claim the title, nor to seek the hostages of all Ireland. As soon as
the fearful visitations with which the century had closed were passed
over, he resumed his warlike forays, and found Donald of Aileach
nothing loath to try again the issue of arms. Each prince, however,
seems to have been more anxious to coerce or interest the secondary
chiefs in his own behalf than to meet his rival in the old-style
pitched battle. Murtogh's annual march was usually along the Shannon,
into Leitrim, thence north by Sligo, and across the Erne and Finn into
Donegal and Derry. Donald's annual excursion led commonly along the
Bann, into Dalriada and Ulidia, Whence by way of Newry, across the
Boyne, into Meath, and from West-Meath into Munster. In one of these
forays, at the very opening of the twelfth century, Donald surprised
Kinkora in the absence of its lord, razed the fort and levelled the
buildings to the earth. But the next season the southern king paid him
back in kind, when he attacked and demolished Aileach, and caused each
of his soldiers to carry off a stone of the ruin in his knapsack. "I
never heard of the billeting of grit stones," exclaims a bard of those
days, "though I have heard of the billeting of soldiers: but now we see
the stones of Aileach billeted on the horses of the King of the West!"

Such circuits of the Irish kings, especially in days of opposition,
were repeated with much regularity. They seem to have set out commonly
in May—or soon after the festival of Easter—and when the tour of the
island was made, they occupied about six weeks in duration. The precise
number of men who took part in these visitations is nowhere stated, but
in critical times no prince, claiming the perilous honour of
_Ard-Righ_, would be likely to march with less than from five to ten
thousand men. The movements of such a multitude must have been attended
with many oppressions and inconveniences; their encampment for even a
week in any territory must have been a serious burthen to the resident
inhabitants, whether hostile or hospitable. Yet this was one inevitable
consequence of the breaking up of the federal centre at Tara. In
earlier days, the _Ard-Righ_, on his election, or in an emergency, made
an armed procession through the island. Ordinarily, however, his
suffragans visited him, and not he them; all Ireland went up to Tara to
the _Feis_, or to the festivals of Baaltine and Samhain. Now that there
was no Tara to go to, the monarch, or would-be monarch, found it
indispensable to show himself often, and to exercise his authority in
person, among every considerable tribe in the island. To do justice to
Murtogh O'Brien, he does not appear to have sought occasions of
employing force when on these expeditions, but rather to have acted the
part of an armed negotiator. On his return from the demolition of
Aileach (A.D. 1101), among other acts of munificence, he, in an
assembly of the clergy of Leath Mogha, made a solemn gift of the city
of Cashel, free of all rents and dues, to the Archbishop and the
Clergy, for ever. His munificence to churches, and his patronage of
holy men, were eminent traits in this Prince's character. And the
clergy of that age were eminently worthy of the favours of such
Princes. Their interposition frequently brought about a truce between
the northern and southern kings. In the year 1103, the hostages of both
were placed in custody with Donald, Archbishop of Armagh, to guarantee
a twelvemonth's peace. But the next season the contest was renewed.
Murtogh besieged Armagh for a week, which Donald of Aileach
successfully defended, until the siege was abandoned. In a subsequent
battle the northern force defeated one division of Murtogh's allies in
Iveagh, under the Prince of Leinster, who fell on the field, with the
lords of Idrone, Ossory, Desies, Kerry, and the Dublin Danes. Murtogh
himself, with another division of his troops, was on an incursion into
Antrim when he heard of this defeat. The northern visitors carried off
among other spoils the royal tent and standard, a trophy which gave new
bitterness on the one side, and new confidence on the other. Donald,
the good Archbishop, the following year (A.D. 1105) proceeded to
Dublin, where Murtogh was, or was soon expected, to renew the previous
peace between North and South, but he fell suddenly ill soon after his
arrival, and caused himself to be carried homewards in haste. At a
church by the wayside, not far from Dublin, he was anointed and
received the viaticum. He survived, however, to reach Armagh, where he
expired on the 12th day of August. Kellach, latinized Celsus, his
saintly successor, was promoted to the Primacy, and solemnly
consecrated on Saint Adamnan's day following—the 23rd of September,

Archbishop Celsus, whose accession was equally well received in Munster
as in Ulster, followed in the footsteps of his pious predecessor, in
taking a decided part with neither Leath Mogha nor Leath Conn. When, in
the year 1110, both parties marched to Slieve-Fuaid, with a view to a
challenge of battle, Celsus interposed between them the
_Bachall-Isa_—and a solemn truce followed; again, three years later,
when they confronted each other in Iveagh, in Down, similar success
attended a similar interposition. Three years later Murtogh O'Brien was
seized with so severe an illness, that he became like to a living
skeleton, and though he recovered sufficiently to resume the exercise
of authority he never regained his full health. He died in a spiritual
retreat, at Lismore, on the 4th of the Ides of March, A.D. 1119, and
was buried at Killaloe. His great rival, Donald of Leath Conn, did not
long survive him: he died at Derry, also in a religious house, on the
5th of the Ides of February, A.D. 1121.

While these two able men were thus for more than a quarter of a century
struggling for the supremacy, a third power was gradually strengthening
itself west of the Shannon, destined to profit by the contest, more
than either of the principals. This was the family of O'Conor, of
Roscommon, who derived their pedigree from the same stock as the
O'Neils, and their name from Conor, an ancestor, who ruled over
Connaught, towards the end of the ninth century. Two or three of their
line before Conor had possessed the same rank and title, but it was by
no means regarded as an adjunct of the house of Rathcrogan, before the
time at which we have arrived. Their co-relatives, sometimes their
rivals, but oftener their allies, were the O'Ruarcs of Breffny,
McDermots of Moylurg, the O'Flahertys of _Iar_ or West Connaught, the
O'Shaughnessys, O'Heynes, and O'Dowdas. The great neighbouring family
of O'Kelly had sprung from a different branch of the far-spreading
Gaelic tree. At the opening of the twelfth century, Thorlogh More
O'Conor, son of Ruari of the Yellow Hound, son of Hugh of the Broken
Spear, was the recognised head of his race, both for valour and
discretion. By some historians he is called the half-brother of Murtogh
O'Brien, and it is certain that he was the faithful ally of that
powerful prince. In the early stages of the recent contest between
North and South, Donald of Aileach had presented himself at Rathcrogan,
the residence of O'Conor, who entertained him for a fortnight, and gave
him hostages; but Connaught finally sided with Munster, and thus, by a
decided policy, escaped being ground to powder, as corn is ground
between the mill-stones. But the nephew and successor of Murtogh was
not prepared to reciprocate to Connaught the support it had rendered to
Munster, but rather looked for its continuance to himself. Conor
O'Brien, who became King of Munster in 1120, resisted all his life the
pretensions of any house but his own to the southern half-kingdom, and
against a less powerful or less politic antagonist, his energy and
capacity would have been certain to prevail. The posterity of Malachy
in Meath, as well as the Princes of Aileach, were equally hostile to
the designs of the new aspirant. One line had given three, another
seven, another twenty kings to Erin—but who had ever heard of an
_Ard-Righ_ coming out of Connaught? 'Twas so they reasoned in those
days of fierce family pride, and so they acted. Yet Thorlogh, son of
Ruari, son of Hugh, proved himself in the fifteen years' war, previous
to his accession (1021 to 1136), more than a match for all his enemies.
He had been chief of his tribe since the year 1106, and from the first
had begun to lay his far forecasting plans for the sovereignty. He had
espoused the cause of the house of O'Brien, and had profited by that
alliance. Nor were all his thoughts given to war. He had bridged the
river Suca at Ballinasloe, and the Shannon at Athlone and Shannon
harbour, and the same year these works were finished (1120 or '21) he
celebrated the ancient games at Tailtean, in assertion of his claim to
the monarchy. His main difficulty was the stubborn pride of Munster,
and the valour and enterprise of Conor O'Brien, surnamed Conor "of the
fortresses." Of the years following his assertion of his title, few
passed without war between those Provinces. In 1121 and 1127, Thorlogh
triumphed in the south, took hostages from Lismore to Tralee, and
returned home exultingly; a few years later the tide turned, and Conor
O'Brien was equally victorious against him, in the heart of his own
country. Thorlogh played off in the south the ancient jealousy of the
Eugenian houses against the Dalcassians, and thus weakened both, to his
own advantage. In the year 1126 he took Dublin and raised his son to
the lordship, as Dermid of Leinster, and Thorlogh O'Brien had done
formerly: marching southward he encamped in Ormond, from Lammas to St.
Bridget's day, and overran Munster with his troops in all directions,
taking Cork, Cashel, Ardfinnan, and Tralee. Celsus, the holy Primate of
Armagh, deploring the evils of this protracted year, left his peaceful
city, and spent thirteen months in the south and west, endeavouring to
reconcile, and bind over to the peace, the contending kings. In these
days the Irish hierarchy performed, perhaps, their highest part—that of
peacemakers and preachers of good will to men. When in 1132 and '33 the
tide had temporarily turned against Thorlogh, and Conor O'Brien had
united Munster, Leinster, and Meath, against him, the Archbishop of
Tuam performed effectually the office of mediator, preserving not only
his own Province, but the whole country from the most sanguinary
consequences. In the year 1130, the holy Celsus had rested from his
labours, and Malachy, the illustrious friend of St. Bernard, was
nominated as his successor. At the time he was absent in Munster, as
the Vicar of the aged Primate, engaged in a mission of peace, when the
crozier and the dying message of his predecessor were delivered to him.
He returned to Armagh, where he found that Maurice, son of Donald, had
been intruded as Archbishop in the _interim_, to this city peace,
order, and unity, were not even partially restored, until two years
later—A.D., 1132.

The reign of Thorlogh O'Conor over Leath Mogha, or as Ard-Righ "with
opposition," is dated by the best authorities from the year 1136. He
was then in his forty-eighth year, and had been chief of his tribe from
the early age of eighteen. He afterwards reigned for twenty years, and
as those years, and the early career of his son Roderick are full of
instruction, in reference to the events which follow, we must relate
them somewhat in detail. We again beg the reader to observe the
consequences of the destruction of the federal bond among the Irish;
how every province has found an ambitious dynasty of its own, which
each contends shall be supreme; how the ambition of the great families
grows insatiable as the ancient rights and customs decay; how the law
of Patrick enacted in the fifth century is no longer quoted or
regarded; how the law of the strong hand alone decides the quarrel of
these proud, unyielding Princes.


The successful ambition of Thorlogh O'Conor had thus added, as we have
seen in the last chapter, a fifth dynasty to the number of competitors
for the sovereignty. And if great energy and various talents could
alone entitle a chief to rule over his country, this Prince well
merited the obedience of his cotemporaries. He is the first of the
latter kings who maintained a regular fleet at sea; at one time we find
these Connaught galleys doing service on the coast of Cork, at another
co-operating with his land forces, in the harbour of Derry. The year of
his greatest power was the fifteenth of his reign (A.D. 1151), when his
most signal success was obtained over his most formidable antagonists.
Thorlogh O'Brien, King of Munster, successor to Conor of the
fortresses, had on foot, in that year, an army of three battalions (or
_caths_), each battalion consisting of 3,000 men, with which force he
overawed some, and compelled others of the southern chiefs to withdraw
their homage from his western namesake. The latter, uniting to his own
the forces of Meath, and those of Leinster, recently reconciled to his
supremacy, marched southward, and, encamping at Glanmire, received the
adhesion of such Eugenian families as still struggled with desperation
against the ascendency of the O'Briens. With these forces he
encountered, at Moanmore, the army of the south, and defeated them,
with the enormous loss of 7,000 men—a slaughter unparalleled throughout
the war of succession. Every leading house in North Munster mourned the
loss of either its chief or its tanist; some great families lost three,
five, or seven brothers on that sanguinary day. The household of
Kinkora was left without an heir, and many a near kinsman's seat was
vacant in its hospitable hall. The O'Brien himself was banished into
Ulster, where, from Murkertach, Prince of Aileach, he received the
hospitality due to his rank and his misfortunes, not without an
ulterior politic view on the part of the Ulster Prince. In this battle
of Moanmore, Dermid McMurrogh, King of Leinster, of whom we shall hear
hereafter, fought gallantly on the side of the victor. In the same
year—but whether before or after the Munster campaign is uncertain—an
Ulster force having marched into Sligo, Thorlogh met them near the
Curlew mountains, and made peace with their king. A still more
important interview took place the next year in the plain, or _Moy_,
between the rivers Erne and Drowse, near the present Ballyshannon. On
the _Bachall-Isa_ and the relics of Columbkill, Thorlogh and Murkertach
made a solemn peace, which is thought to have included the recognition
of O'Conor's supremacy. A third meeting was had during the summer in
Meath, where were present, beside the Ard-Righ, the Prince of Aileach,
Dermid of Leinster, and other chiefs and nobles. At this conference
they divided Meath into east and west, between two branches of the
family of Melaghlin. Part of Longford and South Leitrim were taken from
Tiernan O'Ruarc, lord of Breffni, and an angle of Meath, including
Athboy and the hill of Ward, was given him instead. Earlier in the same
year, King Thorlogh had divided Munster into three parts, giving
Desmond to MacCarthy, Ormond to Thaddeus O'Brien, who had fought under
him at Moanmore, and leaving the remainder to the O'Brien, who had only
two short years before competed with him for the sovereignty. By these
subdivisions the politic monarch expected to weaken to a great degree
the power of the rival families of Meath and Munster. It was an
arbitrary policy which could originate only on the field of battle, and
could be enforced only by the sanction of victory. Thorlogh O'Brien,
once King of all Munster, refused to accept a mere third, and carrying
away his jewels and valuables, including the drinking horn of the great
Brian, he threw himself again on the protection of Murkertach of
Aileach. The elder branch of the family of O'Melaghlin were equally
indisposed to accept half of Meath, where they had claimed the whole
from the Shannon to the sea. To complicate still more this tangled web,
Dermid, King of Leinster, about the same time (A.D. 1153), eloped with
Dervorgoil, wife of O'Ruarc of Breffni, and daughter of O'Melaghlin,
who both appealed to the monarch for vengeance on the ravager. Up to
this date Dermid had acted as a steadfast ally of O'Conor, but when
compelled by the presence of a powerful force on his borders to restore
the captive, or partner of his guilt, he conceived an enmity for the
aged king, which he extended, with increased virulence, to his son and

What degree of personal criminality to attach to this elopement it is
hard to say. The cavalier in the case was on the wintry side of fifty,
while the lady had reached the mature age of forty-four. Such examples
have been, where the passions of youth, surviving the period most
subject to their influence, have broken out with renewed frenzy on the
confines of old age. Whether the flight of Dermid and Dervorgoil arose
from a mere criminal passion, is not laid down with certainty in the
old Annals, though national and local tradition strongly point to that
conclusion. The Four Masters indeed state that after the restoration of
the lady she "returned to O'Ruarc," another point wanting confirmation.
We know that she soon afterwards retired to the shelter of Mellifont
Abbey, where she ended her days towards the close of the century, in
penitence and alms-deeds.

Murtogh of Aileach now became master of the situation. Thorlogh was old
and could not last long; Dermid of Leinster was for ever estranged from
him; the new arbitrary divisions, though made with the general consent,
satisfied no one. With a powerful force he marched southward, restored
to the elder branch of the O'Melaghlins the whole of Meath, defeated
Thaddeus O'Brien, obliterated Ormond from the map, restored the old
bounds of Thomond and Desmond, and placed his guest, the banished
O'Brien, on the throne of Cashel. A hostile force, under Roderick
O'Conor, was routed, and retreated to their own territory. The next
year (A.D. 1154) was signalized by a fierce naval engagement between
the galleys of King Thorlogh and those of Murtogh, on the coast of
Innishowen. The latter, recruited by vessels hired from the Gael and
Galls of Cantire, the Arran Isles, and Man, were under the command of
MacScellig; the Connaught fleet was led by O'Malley and O'Dowda. The
engagement, which lasted from the morning till the evening, ended in
the repulse of the Connaught fleet, and the death of O'Dowda. The
occurrence is remarkable as the first general sea-fight between vessels
in the service of native Princes, and as reminding us forcibly of the
lessons acquired by the Irish during the Danish period.

During the two years of life—which remained to King Thorlogh O'Conor,
he had the affliction of seeing the fabric of power, which had taken
him nearly half a century to construct, abridged at many points, by his
more vigorous northern rival. Murtogh gave law to territories far south
of the ancient _esker_. He took hostages from the Danes of Dublin, and
interposed in the affairs of Munster. In the year 1156, the closing
incidents which signalized the life of Thorlogh More, was a new peace
which he made between the people of Breffni, Meath, and Connaught, and
the reception of hostages from his old opponent, the restored O'Brien.
While this new light of prosperity was shining on his house, he passed
away from this life, on the 13th of the Kalends of June, in the 68th
year of his age, and the 50th of his government. By his last will he
bequeathed to the clergy numerous legacies, which are thus enumerated
by Geoffrey Keating: "namely, four hundred and forty ounces of gold,
and forty marks of silver; and all the other valuable treasures he
possessed, both cups and precious stones, both steeds and cattle and
robes, chess-boards, bows, quivers, arrows, equipments, weapons,
armour, and utensils." He was interred beside the high altar of the
Cathedral of Clonmacnoise, to which he had been in life and in death a
munificent benefactor.

The Prince of Aileach now assumed the title of Monarch, and after some
short-lived opposition from Roderick O'Conor, his sovereignty was
universally acknowledged. From the year 1161 until his death, he might
fairly be called Ard-Righ, without opposition, since the hostages of
all Ireland were in those last five years in his hands. These hostages
were retained at the chief seat of power of the northern dynasty, the
fortress of Aileach, which crowns a hill nearly a thousand feet high,
at the head of Lough Swilly. To this stronghold the ancestor of Murtogh
had removed early in the Danish period, from the more exposed and more
ancient Emania, beside Armagh. On that hill-summit the ruins of Aileach
may still be traced, with its inner wall twelve feet thick, and its
three concentric ramparts, the first enclosing one acre, the second
four, and the last five acres. By what remains we can still judge of
the strength of the stronghold which watched over the waters of Lough
Swilly like a sentinel on an outpost. No Prince of the Northern Hy-Nial
had for two centuries entered Aileach in such triumph or with so many
nobles in his train, as did Murtogh in the year 1161, But whether the
supreme power wrought a change for the worse in his early character, or
that the lords of Ulster had begun to consider the line of Conn as
equals rather than sovereigns, he was soon involved in quarrels with
his own Provincial suffragans which ended in his defeat and death. Most
other kings of whom we have read found their difficulties in rival
dynasties and provincial prejudices; but this ruler, when most freely
acknowledged abroad, was disobeyed and defeated at home. Having taken
prisoner the lord of Ulidia (Down), with whom he had previously made a
solemn peace, he ordered his eyes to be put out, and three of his
principal relatives to be executed. This and other arbitrary acts so
roused the lords of Leath Conn, that they formed a league against him,
at the head of which stood Donogh O'Carroll, lord of Oriel, the next
neighbour to the cruelly ill-treated chief of Ulidia. In the year 1166,
this chief, with certain tribes of Tyrone and North Leitrim, to the
number of three battalions (9,000 men), attacked the patrimony of the
monarch—that last menace and disgrace to an Irish king. Murtogh with
his usual valour, but not his usual fortune, encountered them in the
district of the Fews, with an Inferior force, chiefly his own
tribesmen. Even these deserted him on the eve of the battle, so that he
was easily surprised and slain, only thirteen men falling in the
affray. This action, of course, is unworthy the name of a battle, but
resulting in the death of the monarch, it became of high political

Roderick O'Conor, son of Thorlogh More, was at this period in the tenth
year of his reign over Connaught, and the fiftieth year of his age.
Rathcrogan, the chief seat of his jurisdiction, had just attained to
the summit of its glory. The site of this now almost forgotten palace
is traceable in the parish of Elphin, within three miles of the modern
village of Tulsk. Many objects contributed to its interest and
importance in Milesian times. There were the _Naasteaghna_, or place of
assembly of the clans of Connaught, "the Sacred Cave," which in the
Druidic era was supposed to be the residence of a god, and the _Relig
na Righ_—the venerable cemetery of the Pagan kings of the West, where
still the red pillar stone stood over the grave of Dathy, and many
another ancient tomb could be as clearly distinguished. The relative
importance of Rathcrogan we may estimate by the more detailed
descriptions of the extent and income of its rivals—Kinkora and
Aileach. In an age when Roscommon alone contained 470 fortified _duns_,
over all which the royal rath presided; when half the tributes of the
island were counted at its gate, it must have been the frequent
_rendezvous_ of armies, the home of many guests, the busy focus of
intrigue, and the very elysium of bards, story-tellers, and mendicants.
In an after generation, Cathal, the red-handed O'Conor, from some
motive of policy or pleasure, transferred the seat of government to the
newly-founded Ballintober: in the lifetime of Thorlogh More, and the
first years of Roderick, when the fortunes of the O'Conors were at
their full, Rathcrogan was the co-equal in strength and in splendour of
Aileach and Kinkora.

Advancing directly from this family seat, on the first tidings of
Murtogh's death, Roderick presented himself before the walls of Dublin,
which opened its gates, accepted his stipend of four thousand head of
cattle, and placed hostages for its fidelity in his hands. He next
marched rapidly to Drogheda, with an auxiliary force of Dublin Danes,
and there O'Carroll, lord of Oriel (Louth), came into his camp, and
rendered him homage. Retracing his steps he entered Leinster, with an
augmented force, and demanded hostages from Dermid McMurrogh. Thirteen
years had passed since his father had taken up arms to avenge the rape
of Dervorgoil, and had earned the deadly hatred of the abductor. That
hatred, in the interim, had suffered no decrease, and sooner than
submit to Roderick, the ravager burned his own city of Ferns to the
ground, and retreated into his fastnesses. Roderick proceeded
southward, obtained the adhesion of Ossory and Munster; confirming
Desmond to McCarthy, and Thomond to O'Brien. Returning to Leinster, he
found that Tiernan O'Ruarc had entered the province, at the head of an
auxiliary army, and Dermid, thus surrounded, deserted by most of his
own followers, outwitted and overmatched, was feign to seek safety in
flight beyond seas (A.D. 1168). A solemn sentence of banishment was
publicly pronounced against him by the assembled Princes, and Morrogh,
his cousin, commonly called Morrogh _na Gael_, or "of the Irish," to
distinguish him from Dermid _na Gall_, or "of the Stranger," was
inaugurated in his stead. From Morrogh _na Gael_ they took seventeen
hostages, and so Roderick returned rejoicing to Rathcrogan, and O'Ruarc
to Breffni, each vainly imagining that he had heard the last of the
dissolute and detested King of Leinster.


At the end of the eighth century, before entering on the Norwegian and
Danish wars, we cast a backward glance on the Christian ages over which
we had passed; and now again we have arrived at the close of an era,
when a rapid retrospect of the religious and social condition of the
country requires to be taken.

The disorganization of the ancient Celtic constitution has already been
sufficiently described. The rise of the great families, and their
struggles for supremacy, have also been briefly sketched. The
substitution of the clan for the race, of pedigree for patriotism, has
been exhibited to the reader. We have now to turn to the inner life of
the people, and to ascertain what substitutes they found in their
religious and social condition, for the absence of a fixed
constitutional system, and the strength and stability which such a
system confers.

The followers of Odin, though they made no proselytes to their horrid
creed among the children of St. Patrick, succeeded in inflicting many
fatal wounds on the Irish Church. The schools, monasteries, and
nunneries, situated on harbours or rivers, or within a convenient march
of the coast, were their first objects of attack; teachers and pupils
were dispersed, or, if taken, put to death, or, escaping, were driven
to resort to arms in self-defence. Bishops could no longer reside in
their sees, nor anchorites in their cells, unless they invited
martyrdom; a fact which may, perhaps, in some degree account for the
large number of Irish ecclesiastics, many of them in episcopal orders,
who are found, in the ninth century, in Gaul and Germany, at Rheims,
Mentz, Ratisbon, Fulda, Cologne, and other places, already Christian.
But it was not in the banishment of masters, the destruction of
libraries and school buildings, the worst consequences of the Gentile
war were felt. Their ferocity provoked retaliation in kind, and
effaced, first among the military class, and gradually from among all
others, that growing gentleness of manners and clemency of temper,
which we can trace in such princes as Nial of the Showers and Nial of
Callan. "A change in the national spirit is the greatest of all
revolutions;" and this change the Danish and Norwegian wars had
wrought, in two centuries, among the Irish.

The number of Bishops in the early Irish Church was greatly in excess
of the number of modern dioceses. From the eighth to the twelfth
century we hear frequently of _Episcopi Vagantes_, or itinerant, and
_Episcopi Vacantes_, or unbeneficed Bishops; the Provincial Synods of
England and Gaul frequently had to complain of the influx of such
Bishops into their country. At the Synod held near the Hill of Usny, in
the year 1111, fifty Bishops attended, and at the Synod of Rath-Brazil,
seven years later, according to Keating, but twenty-five were present.
To this period, then, when Celsus was Primate and Legate of the Holy
See, we may attribute the first attempted reduction of the Episcopal
body to something like its modern number; but so far was this salutary
restriction from being universally observed that, at the Synod of Kells
(A.D. 1152), the hierarchy had again risen to thirty-four, exclusive of
the four Archbishops. Three hundred priests, and three thousand
ecclesiastics are given as the number present at the first-mentioned

The religious orders, probably represented by the above proportion of
three thousand ecclesiastics to three hundred [secular] priests had
also undergone a remarkable revolution. The rule of all the early Irish
monasteries and convents was framed upon an original constitution,
which St. Patrick had obtained in France from St. Martin of Tours, who
in turn had copied after the monachism of Egypt and the East. It is
called by ecclesiastical writers the Columban rule, and was more rigid
in some particulars than the rule of St. Benedict, by which it was
afterwards supplanted. Amongst other restrictions it prohibited the
admission of all unprofessed persons within the precincts of the
monastery—a law as regards females incorporated in the Benedictine
constitution; and it strictly enjoined silence on the professed—a
discipline revived by the brethren of La Trappe. The primary difference
between the two orders lay perhaps in this, that the Benedictine made
study and the cultivation of the intellect subordinate to manual labour
and implicit obedience, while the Columban Order attached more
importance to the acquisition of knowledge and missionary enterprise.
Not that this was their invariable, but only their peculiar
characteristic: a deep-seated love of seclusion and meditation often,
intermingled with this fearless and experimental zeal. It was not to be
expected in a century like the ninth, especially when the Benedictine
Order was overspreading the West, that its milder spirit should not act
upon the spirit of the Columban rule. It was, in effect, more social,
and less scientific, more a wisdom to be acted than to be taught. Armed
with the syllogism, the Columbites issued out of their remote island,
carrying their strongly marked personality into every controversy and
every correspondence. In Germany and Gaul, their system blazed up in
Virgilius, in Erigena, and Macarius, and then disappeared in the
calmer, slower, but safer march of the Benedictine discipline. By a
reform of the same ancient order, its last hold on native soil was
loosened when, under the auspices of St. Malachy, the Cistercian rule
was introduced into Ireland the very year of his first visit to
Clairvaux (A.D. 1139). St. Mary's Abbey, Dublin, was the first to adopt
that rule, and the great monastery of Mellifont, placed under the
charge of the brother of the Primate, sprung up in Meath, three years
later. The Abbeys of Bective, Boyle, Baltinglass, and Monasternenagh,
date from the year of Malachy's second journey to Rome, and death at
Clairvaux—A.D. 1148. Before the end of the century, the rule was
established at Fermoy, Holycross, and Odorney; at Athlone and Knockmoy;
at Newry and Assaroe, and in almost every tribe-land of Meath and
Leinster. It is usually but erroneously supposed that the Cistercian
rule came in with the Normans; for although many houses owed their
foundation to that race, the order itself had been naturalized in
Ireland a generation before the first landing of the formidable allies
of Dermid on the coast of Wexford. The ancient native order had
apparently fulfilled its mission, and long rudely lopped and shaken by
civil commotions and Pagan war, it was prepared to give place to a new
and more vigorous organization of kindred holiness and energy.

As the horrors of war disturbed continually the clergy from their
sacred calling, and led many of them, even Abbots and Bishops, to take
up arms, so the yoke of religion gradually loosened and dropped from
the necks of the people. The awe of the eighth century for a Priest or
Bishop had already disappeared in the tenth, when Christian hands were
found to decapitate Cormac of Cashel, and offer his head as a trophy to
the Ard-Righ. In the twelfth century the Archbishop and Bishops of
Connaught, bound to the Synod of Trim, were fallen upon by the Kern of
Carbre the Swift, before they could cross the Shannon, their people
beaten and dispersed and two of them killed. In the time of Thorlogh
More O'Conor, a similar outrage was offered by Tiernan O'Ruarc to the
Archbishop of Armagh, and one of his ecclesiastics was killed in the
assault. Not only for the persons of ministers of religion had the
ancient awe and reverence disappeared, but even for the sacred
precincts of the Sanctuary. In the second century of the war with the
Northmen we begin to hear of churches and cloisters plundered by native
chiefs, who yet called themselves Christians, though in every such
instance our annalists are careful to record the vengeance of Heaven
following swift on sacrilege. Clonmacnoise, Kildare, and Lismore, were
more than once rifled of their wealth by impious hands, and given over
to desolation and burning by so-called Christian nobles and soldiers!
It is some mitigation of the dreadful record thus presented to be
informed—as we often are—especially in the annals of the twelfth
century, that the treasures so pillaged were not the shrines of saints
nor the sacred ornaments of the altar, but the temporal wealth of
temporal proprietors, laid up in churches as places of greatest

The estates of the Church were, in most instances, farmed by laymen,
called _Erenachs_, who, in the relaxation of all discipline, seem to
have gradually appropriated the lands to themselves, leaving to the
Clergy and Bishops only periodical dues and the actual enclosure of the
Church. This office of Erenach was hereditary, and must have presented
many strong temptations to its occupants. It is indeed certain that the
Irish Church was originally founded on the broadest voluntaryism, and
that such was the spirit of all its most illustrious fathers. "Content
with food and raiment," says an ancient Canon attributed to St.
Patrick, "reject the gifts of the wicked beside, seeing that the lamb
takes only that with which it is fed." Such, to the letter, was the
maxim which guided the conduct of Colman and his brethren, of whom Bede
makes such honourable mention, in the third century after the preaching
of St. Patrick. But the munificence of tribes and Princes was not to be
restrained, and to obviate any violation of the revered canons of the
apostle, laymen, as treasurers and stewards over the endowments of the
Church, were early appointed. As those possessions increased, the
desire of family aggrandizement proved too much for the Erenachs not
only of Armagh, but of most other sees, and left the clergy as
practically dependent on free-will offerings, as if their Cathedrals or
Convents had never been endowed with an acre, a mill, a ferry, or a
fishery. The free offerings were, however, always generous, and
sometimes munificent. When Celsus, on his elevation to the Primacy,
made a tour of the southern half-kingdom, he received "seven cows and
seven sheep, and half an ounce of silver from every cantred [hundred]
in Munster." The bequests were also a fruitful source of revenue to the
principal foundations; of the munificence of the monarchs we may form
some opinion by what has been already recorded of the gifts left to
churches by Thorlogh More O'Conor.

The power of the clerical order, in these ages of Pagan warfare, had
very far declined from what it was, when Adamnan caused the law to be
enacted to prevent women going to battle, when Moling obtained the
abolition of the Leinster tribute, and Columbkill the recognition of
Scottish independence. Truces made in the presence of the highest
dignitaries, and sworn to on the most sacred relics, were frequently
violated, and often with impunity. Neither excommunication nor public
penance were latterly inflicted as an atonement for such perjury: a
fine or offering to the Church was the easy and only mulct on the
offender. When we see the safeguard of the Bishop of Cork so flagrantly
disregarded by the assassins of Mahon, son of Kennedy, and the solemn
peace of the year 1094 so readily broken by two such men as the Princes
of the North and the South, we need no other proofs of the decadence of
the spiritual authority in that age of Irish history.

And the morals of private life tell the same sad tale. The facility
with which the marriage tie was contracted and dissolved is the
strongest evidence of this degeneracy. The worst examples were set in
the highest stations, for it is no uncommon incident, from the ninth
century downwards, to find our Princes with more than one wife living,
and the repudiated wife married again to a person of equal or superior
rank. We have the authority of Saint Anselm and Saint Bernard, for the
existence of grave scandal and irregularities of life among the clergy,
and we can well believe that it needed a generation of Bishops, with
all the authority and all the courage of Saint Celsus, Saint Malachy,
and Saint Lawrence, to rescue from ruin a Priesthood and a people, so
far fallen from the bright example of their ancestors. That the
reaction towards a better life had strongly set in, under their
guidance, we may infer from the horror with which, in the third quarter
of the twelfth century, the elopement of Dermid and Dervorgoil was
regarded by both Princes and People. A hundred years earlier, that
event would have been hardly noticed in the general disregard of the
marriage tie, but the frequent Synods, and the holy lives of the
reforming Bishops, had already revived the zeal that precedes and
ensures reformation.

Primate Malachy died at Clairvaulx, in the arms of Saint Bernard, in
the year 1148, after having been fourteen years Archbishop of Armagh
and ten years Bishop of Down and Conor. His episcopal life, therefore,
embraced the history of that remarkable second quarter of the century,
in which the religious reaction fought its first battles against the
worst abuses. The attention of Saint Bernard, whose eyes nothing
escaped, from Jerusalem to the farthest west, was drawn ten years
before to the Isle of Saints, now, in truth, become an Isle of Sinners.
The death of his friend, the Irish Primate, under his own roof, gave
him a fitting occasion for raising his accusing voice—a voice that
thrilled the Alps and filled the Vatican—against the fearful degeneracy
of that once fruitful mother of holy men and women. The attention of
Rome was thoroughly aroused, and immediately after the appearance of
the Life of Saint Malachy, Pope Eugenius III.—himself a monk of
Clairvaulx—despatched Cardinal Papiron, with legantine powers, to
correct abuses, and establish a stricter discipline. After a tour of
great part of the Island, the Legate, with whom was associated
Gilla-Criost, or Christianus, Bishop of Lismore, called the great Synod
of Kells, early in the year after his arrival (March, 1152), at which
simony, usury, concubinage, and other abuses, were formally condemned,
and tithes were first decreed to be paid to the secular clergy. Two new
Archbishoprics, Dublin and Tuam, were added to Armagh and Cashel,
though not without decided opposition from the Primates both of Leath
Mogha and Leath Conn, backed by those stern conservatives of every
national usage, the Abbots of the Columban Order. The _pallium_, or
Roman cape, was, by this Legate, presented to each of the Archbishops,
and a closer conformity with the Roman ritual was enacted. The four
ecclesiastical Provinces thus created were in outline nearly identical
with the four modern Provinces. Armagh was declared the metropolitan
over all; Dublin, which had been a mere Danish borough-see, gained most
in rank and influence by the new arrangement, as Glendalough, Ferns,
Ossory, Kildare and Leighlin, were declared subject to its presidency.

We must always bear in mind the picture drawn of the Irish Church by
the inspired orator of Clairvaulx, when judging of the conduct of Pope
Adrian IV., who, in the year 1155—the second of his Pontificate—granted
to King Henry II. of England, then newly crowned, his Bull authorising
the invasion of Ireland. The authenticity of that Bull is now
universally admitted; and both its preamble and conditions show how
strictly it was framed in accordance with St. Bernard's accusation. It
sets forth that for the eradication of vice, the implanting of virtue,
and the spread of the true faith, the Holy Father solemnly sanctions
the projected invasion; and it attaches as a condition, the payment of
Peter's pence, for every house in Ireland. The bearer of the Bull, John
of Salisbury, carried back from Rome a gold ring, set with an emerald
stone, as a token of Adrian's friendship, or it may be, his
subinfeudation of Henry. As a title, however powerless in modern times
such a Bull might prove, it was a formidable weapon of invasion with a
Catholic people, in the twelfth century. We have mainly referred to it
here, however, as an illustration of how entirely St. Bernard's
impeachment of the Irish Church and nation was believed at Rome, even
after the salutary decrees of the Synod of Kells had been promulgated.

The restoration of religion, which was making such rapid progress
previous to the Norman invasion, was accompanied by a relative revival
of learning. The dark ages of Ireland are not those of the rest of
Europe—they extend from the middle of the ninth century to the age of
Brian and Malachy II. This darkness came from the North, and cleared
away rapidly after the eventful day of Clontarf. The first and most
natural direction which the revival took was historical investigation,
and the composition of Annals. Of these invaluable records, the two of
highest reputation are those of Tigernach (Tiernan) O'Broin, brought
down to the year of his own death, A.D. 1088, and the chronicle of
Marianus Scotus, who died at Mentz, A.D. 1086. Tiernan was abbot of
Clonmacnoise, and Marian is thought to have been a monk of that
monastery, as he speaks of a superior called Tigernach, under whom he
had lived in Ireland. Both these learned men quote accurately the works
of foreign writers; both give the dates of eclipses, in connection with
historical events for several centuries before their own time; both
show a familiarity with Greek and Latin authors. _Marianus_ is the
first writer by whom the name _Scotia Minor_ was given to the Gaelic
settlement in Caledonia, and his chronicle was an authority mainly
relied on in the disputed Scottish succession in the time of Edward I.
of England. With _Tigernach_, he may be considered the founder of the
school of Irish Annalists, which flourished in the shelter of the great
monasteries, such as Innisfallen, Boyle and Multifernan; and culminated
in the great compilation made by "the Four Masters" in the Abbey of

Of the Gaelic metrical chroniclers, Flann of the Monastery, and
Gilla-Coeman; of the Bards McLiag and McCoisse; of the learned
professors and lectors of Lismore and Armagh—now restored for a season
to studious days and peaceful nights, we must be content with the
mention of their names. Of Lismore, after its restoration, an old
British writer has left us this pleasant and happy picture. "It is," he
says, "a famous and holy city, half of which is an asylum, into which
no woman dares enter; but it is full of cells and monasteries; and
religious men in great abundance abide there."

Such was the promise of better days, which cheered the hopes of the
Pastors of the Irish, when the twelfth century had entered on its third
quarter. The pious old Gaelic proverb, which says, "on the Cross the
face of Christ was looking westwards—," was again on the lips and in
the hearts of men, and though much remained to be done, much had been
already done, and done under difficulties greater than any that
remained to conquer.


The total population of Ireland, when the Normans first entered it, can
only be approximated by conjecture. Supposing the whole force with
which Roderick and his allies invested the Normans in Dublin, to be, as
stated by a cotemporary writer, some 50,000 men, and that that force
included one-fourth of all the men of the military age in the country;
and further, supposing the men of military age to bear the proportion
of one-fifth to the whole number of inhabitants, this would give a
total population of about one million. Even this conjecture is to be
taken with great diffidence and distrust, but, for the sake of
clearness, it is set down as a possible Irish census, towards the close
of the twelfth century.

This population was divided into two great classes, the _Saer-Clanna_,
or free tribes, chiefly, if not exclusively, of Milesian race; and the
_Daer-Clanna_, or unfree tribes, consisting of the descendants of the
subjugated older races, or of clans once free, reduced to servitude by
the sword, or of the posterity of foreign mercenary soldiers. Of the
free clans, the most illustrious were those of whose Princes we have
traced the record—the descendants of Nial in Ulster and Meath, of
Cathaeir More in Leinster, of Oliold in Munster, and of Eochaid in
Connaught. An arbitrary division once limited the free clans to six in
the southern half-kingdom, and six in the north; and the unfree also to
six. But Geoffrey Keating, whose love of truth was quite as strong as
his credulity in ancient legends—and that is saying much—disclaimed
that classification, and collected his genealogies from principal
heads—branching out into three families of tribes, descended from Eber
Finn, one from Ir, and four from Eremhon, sons of Milesians of Spain;
and ninth tribe sprung from Ith, granduncle to the sons of Milesius.
The principal Eberian families' names were McCarthy, O'Sullivan,
O'Mahony, O'Donovan, O'Brien, O'Dea, O'Quin, McMahon (of Clare),
McNamara, O'Carroll (of Ely), and O'Gara; the Irian families were
Magennis, O'Farrall, and O'Conor (of Kerry); the posterity of Eremhon
branched out into the O'Neils, O'Donnells, O'Dohertys, O'Gallahers,
O'Boyles, McGeoghegans, O'Conors (of Connaught), O'Flahertys, O'Heynes,
O'Shaughnessys, O'Clerys, O'Dowdas, McDonalds (of Antrim), O'Kellys,
Maguires, Kavanaghs, Fitzpatricks, O'Dwyers, and O'Conors (of Offally).
The chief families of Ithian origin were the O'Driscolls, O'Learys,
Coffeys, and Clancys. Out of the greater tribes many subdivisions arose
from time to time, when new names were coined for some intermediate
ancestor; but the farther enumeration of these may be conveniently
dispensed with.

The _Daer-Clanna_, or unfree tribes, have left no history. Under the
despotism of the Milesian kings, it was high treason to record the
actions of the conquered race; so that the Irish Belgae fared as badly
in this respect, at the hands of the Milesian historians, as the latter
fared in after times from the chroniclers of the Normans. We only know
that such tribes were, and that their numbers and physical force more
than once excited the apprehension of the children of the conquerors.
What proportion they bore to the _Saer-Clanna_ we have no positive data
to determine. A fourth, a fifth, or a sixth, they may have been; but
one thing is certain, the jealous policy of the superior race never
permitted them to reascend the plane of equality, from which they had
been hurled, at the very commencement of the Milesian ascendency.

In addition to the enslaved by conquest and the enslaved by crime,
there were also the enslaved by purchase. From the earliest period,
slave dealers from Ireland had frequented Bristol, the great British
slave market, to purchase human beings. Christian morality, though it
may have mitigated the horrors of this odious traffic, did not at once
lead to its abolition. In vain Saint Wulfstan preached against it in
the South, as Saint Aidan had done long before him in the North of
England. Files of fair-haired Saxon slaves, of both sexes, yoked
together with ropes, continued to be shipped at Bristol, and bondmen
and bondwomen continued to be articles of value—exchanged between the
Prince and his subordinates, as stipend or tribute. The King of Cashel
alone gave to the chief of the Eugenians, as part of his annual
stipend, ten bondmen and ten women; to the lord of Bruree, seven pages
and seven bondwomen; to the lord of Deisi, eight slaves of each sex,
and seven female slaves to the lord of Kerry; among the items which
make up the tribute from Ossory to Cashel are ten bondmen and ten grown
women; and from the Deisi, eight bondmen and eight "brown-haired"
women. The annual exchanges of this description, set down as due in the
Book of Rights, would require the transfer of several hundreds of
slaves yearly, from one set of masters to another. Cruelties and
outrages must have been inseparable from the system, and we can hardly
wonder at the sweeping decree by which the Synod of Armagh (A.D. 1171)
declared all the English slaves in Ireland free to return to their
homes, and anathematized the whole inhuman traffic. The fathers of that
council looked upon the Norman invasion as a punishment from Heaven on
the slave trade; for they believed in their purity of heart, that power
_is_ transferred from one nation to another, because of injustices,
oppressions, and divers deceits.

The purchased slaves and unfree tribes tilled the soil, and practised
the mechanic arts. Agriculture seems first to have been lifted into
respectability by the Cistercian Monks, while spinning, weaving, and
almost every mechanic calling, if we except the scribe, the armorer,
and the bell-founder, continued down to very recent tunes to be held in
contempt among the Gael. A brave man is mentioned as having been a
"weaving woman's son," with much the same emphasis as Jeptha is spoken
of as the son of an Harlot. Mechanic wares were disposed of at those
stated gatherings, which combined popular games, chariot races for the
nobles, and markets for the merchants. A Bard of the tenth or eleventh
century, in a desperate effort to vary the usual high-flown
descriptions of the country, calls it "Erin of the hundred fair
greens,"—a very graphic, if not a very poetic illustration.

The administration of justice was an hereditary trust, committed to
certain judicial families, who held their lands, as the Monks did, by
virtue of their profession. When the posterity of the Brehon, or Judge
failed, it was permitted to adopt from the class of students, a male
representative, in whom the judicial authority was perpetuated: the
families of O'Gnive and O'Clery in the North, of O'Daly in Meath,
O'Doran in Leinster, McEgan in Munster, Mulconry or Conroy in
Connaught, were the most distinguished Brehon houses. Some
peculiarities of the Brehon law, relating to civil succession and
sovereignty, such as the institution of Tanistry, and the system of
stipends and tributes, have been already explained; parricide and
murder were in latter ages punished with death; homicide and rape by
_eric_ or fine. There were, besides, the laws of gavelkind or division
of property among the members of the clan; laws relating to boundaries;
sumptuary laws regulating the dress of the various castes into which
society was divided; laws relating to the planting of trees, the
trespass of cattle, and billeting of troops. These laws were either
written in detail, or consisted of certain acknowledged ancient maxims
of which the Brehon made the application in each particular case,
answering to what we call "Judge-made law." Of such ancient tracts as
composed the Celtic code, an immense number have, fortunately survived,
even to this late day, and we may shortly expect a complete digest of
all that are now known to exist, in a printed and imperishable form,
from the hands of native scholars, every way competent to the task.

The commerce of the country, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, was
largely in the hands of the Christian Hiberno-Danes, of the eastern and
southern coast. By them the slave trade with Bristol was mostly
maintained, and the Irish oak, with which William Rufus roofed
Westminster Abbey, was probably rafted by them in the Thames. The
English and Welsh coasts, at least, were familiar to their pilots, and
they combined, as was usual in that age, the military with the
mercantile character. In 1142, and again in 1165, a troop of Dublin
Danes fought under Norman banners against the brave Britons of Cambria,
and in the camps of their allies, sung the praises of the fertile
island of the west. The hundred fairs of Erin—after their conversion
and submission to native authority—afforded them convenient markets for
disposing of the commodities they imported from abroad.

The Gaelic mind, long distracted by the din of war from the purifying
and satisfying influences of a Christian life, naturally fell back upon
the abandoned, half-forgotten superstitions of the Pagan period.
Preceding every fresh calamity, we hear of signs and wonders, of
migratory lakes disappearing in a night, of birds and wolves speaking
with human voices, of showers of blood falling in the fields, of a
whale with golden teeth stranded at Carlingford, of cloud ships, with
their crews, seen plainly sailing in the sky. One of the marvels of
this class is thus gravely entered in our Annals, under the year
1054—"A steeple of fire was seen in the air over Rossdala, on the
Sunday of the festival of St. George, for the space of five hours;
innumerable black birds passed into and out of it, and one large bird
in the middle of them; and the little birds went under his wings when
they went into the steeple. They came out and raised up a greyhound
that was in the middle of the town aloft in the air, and let it drop
down again, so that it died immediately; and they took up three cloaks
and two shirts, and let them drop down in the same manner. The wood on
which these birds perched fell under them; and the oak tree on which
they perched shook with its roots in the earth." In many other
superstitions of the same age we see the latent moral sentiment, as
well as the over-excited imagination of the people. Such is the story
of the stolen jewels of Clonmacnoise, providentially recovered in the
year 1130. The thief in vain endeavoured to escape out of the country,
from Cork, Lismore, and Waterford, "but no ship into which he entered
found a wind to sail, while all the other ships did." And the
conscience stricken thief declared, in his dying confession, that he
used to see Saint Kieran "stopping with his crozier, every ship into
which he entered." It was also an amiable popular illusion that
abundant harvests followed the making of peace, the enacting of
salutary laws, and the accession of a King who loved justice; and
careful entry is made in our chronicles of every evidence of this

The literature of the masses of the people was pretty equally composed
of the legends of the Saints and the older Ossianic legend, so much
misunderstood and distorted by modern criticism. The legends of the
former class were chiefly wonders wrought by the favourite Saints of
the district or the island, embellished with many quaint fancies and
tagged out with remnants of old Pagan superstition. St. Columbkill and
St. Kieran were, most commonly, the heroes of those tales, which,
perhaps, were never intended by their authors to be seriously believed.
Such was the story of the great founder of Iona having transformed the
lady and her maid, who insulted him on his way to Drom-Keth, into two
herons, who are doomed to hover about the neighbouring ford till the
day of doom; and such that other story of "the three first monks" who
joined St. Kieran in the desert, being a fox, a badger, and a bear, all
endowed with speech, and all acting a part in the legend true to their
own instincts. Of higher poetic merit is the legend of the voyage of
St. Brendan over the great sea, and how the birds which sung vespers
for him in the groves of the Promised Land were inhabited by human
souls, as yet in a state of probation waiting for their release!

In the Ossianic legend we have the common stock of Oriental ideas—the
metamorphosis of guilty wives and haughty concubines into dogs and
birds; the speaking beasts and fishes; the enchanted swans, originally
daughters of Lir; the boar of Ben Bulben, by which the champion,
Diarmid, was slain; the Phoenix in the stork of Inniskea, of which
there never was but one, yet that one perpetually reproduced itself;
the spirits of the wood, and the spirits inhabiting springs and
streams; the fairy horse; the sacred trees; the starry influences.
Monstrous and gigantic human shapes, like the Jinns of the Arabian
tales, occasionally enter into the plot, and play a midnight part,
malignant to the hopes of good men. At their approach the earth is
troubled, the moon is overcast, gusts of storm are shaken out from the
folds of their garments, the watch dogs and the war dogs cower down, in
camp and rath, and whine piteously, as if in pain.

The variety of grace, and peculiarities of organization, with which, if
not the original, certainly the Christianized Irish imagination,
endowed and equipped the personages of the fairy world, were of almost
Grecian delicacy. There is no personage who rises to the sublime height
of Zeus, or the incomparable union of beauty and wisdom in Pallas
Athene: what forms Bel, or Crom, or Bride, the queen of Celtic song,
may have worn to the pre-Christian ages we know not, nor can know; but
the minor creations of Grecian fancy, with which they peopled their
groves and fountains, are true kindred of the brain, to the innocent,
intelligent, and generally gentle inhabitants of the Gaelic Fairyland.
The _Sidhe_, a tender, tutelary spirit, attached herself to heroes,
accompanied them in battle, shrouded them with invisibility, dressed
their wounds with more than mortal skill, and watched over them with
more than mortal love; the _Banshee_, a sad, Cassandra-like spirit,
shrieked her weird warning in advance of death, but with a prejudice
eminently Milesian, watched only over those of pure blood, whether
their fortunes abode in hovel or hall. The more modern and grotesque
personages of the Fairy world are sufficiently known to render
description unnecessary.

Two habitual sources of social enjoyment and occupation with the Irish
of those days were music and chess. The harp was the favourite
instrument, but the horn or trumpet, and the pibroch or bagpipe, were
also in common use. Not only professional performers, but men and women
of all ranks, from the humblest to the highest, prided themselves on
some knowledge of instrumental music. It seems to have formed part of
the education of every order, and to have been cherished alike in the
palace, the shieling, and the cloister. "It is a poor church that has
no music," is a Gaelic proverb, as old, perhaps, as the establishment
of Christianity in the land; and no house was considered furnished
without at least one harp. Students from other countries, as we learn
from _Giraldus_, came to Ireland for their musical education in the
twelfth century, just as our artists now visit Germany and Italy with
the same object in view.

The frequent mention of the game of chess, in ages long before those at
which we have arrived, shows how usual was that most intellectual
amusement. The chess board was called in Irish _fithcheall_, and is
described in the Glossary of Cormac, of Cashel, composed towards the
close of the ninth century, as quadrangular, having straight spots of
black and white. Some of them were inlaid with gold and silver, and
adorned with gems. Mention is made in a tale of the twelfth century of
a "man-bag of woven brass wire." No entire set of the ancient men is
now known to exist, though frequent mention is made of "the brigade or
family of chessmen," in many old manuscripts. Kings of bone, seated in
sculptured chairs, about two inches in height, have been found, and
specimens of them engraved in recent antiquarian publications.

It only remains to notice, very briefly, the means of locomotion which
bound and brought together this singular state of society. Five great
roads, radiating from Tara, as a centre, are mentioned in our earliest
record; the road _Dala_ leading to Ossory, and so on into Munster; the
road _Assail_, extending western through Mullingar towards the Shannon;
the road _Cullin_, extending towards Dublin and Bray; the exact route
of the northern road, _Midhluachra_, is undetermined; _Slighe Mor_, the
great western road, followed the course of the _esker_, or hill-range,
from Tara to Galway. Many cross-roads are also known as in common use
from the sixth century downwards. Of these, the Four Masters mention,
at various dates, not less than forty, under their different local
names, previous to the Norman invasion. These roads were kept in
repair, according to laws enacted for that purpose, and were traversed
by the chiefs and ecclesiastics in _carbads_, or chariots; a main road
was called a _slighe_ (_sleigh_), because it was made for the free
passage of two chariots—"i.e. the chariot of a King and the chariot of
a Bishop." Persons of that rank were driven by an _ara_, or charioteer,
and, no doubt, made a very imposing figure. The roads were legally to
be repaired at three seasons, namely, for the accommodation of those
going to the national games, at fair-time, and in time of war. Weeds
and brushwood were to be removed, and water to be drained off; items of
road-work which do not give us a very high idea of the comfort or
finish of those ancient highways.

Such, faintly seen from afar, and roughly sketched, was domestic life
and society among our ancestors, previous to the Anglo-Norman invasion,
in the reign of King Roderick O'Conor.


The relations of the Irish with other nations, notwithstanding the
injurious effects of their War of Succession on national unity and
reputation, present several points of interest. After the defeat of
Magnus Barefoot, we may drop the Baltic countries out of the map of the
relations of Ireland. Commencing, therefore, at the north of the
neighbouring island—which, in its entirety, they sometimes called
_Inismore_—the most intimate and friendly intercourse was always upheld
with the kingdom of Scotland. Bound together by early ecclesiastical
and bardic ties, confronting together for so many generations a common
enemy, those two countries were destined never to know an international
quarrel. About the middle of the ninth century (A.D. 843), when the
Scoto-Irish in Caledonia had completely subdued the Picts and other
ancient tribes, the first national dynasty was founded by Kenneth
McAlpine. The constitution given by this Prince to the whole country
seems to have been a close copy of the Irish—it embraced the laws of
Tanistry and succession, and the whole Brehon code, as administered in
the parent state. The line of Kenneth may be said to close with Donald
Bane, brother of Malcolm III., who died in 1094, and not only his
dynasty but his system ended with that century. Edgar, Alexander I.,
and David I., all sons of Malcolm III., were educated in England among
the victorious Normans, and in the first third of the twelfth century,
devoted themselves with the inauspicious aid of Norman allies, to the
introduction of Saxon settlers and the feudal system, first into the
lowlands, and subsequently into Moray-shire. This innovation on their
ancient system, and confiscation of their lands, was stoutly resisted
by the Scottish Gael. In Somerled, lord of the Isles, and ancestor of
the Macdonalds, they found a powerful leader, and Somerled found Irish
allies always ready to assist him, in a cause which appealed to all
their national prejudices. In the year 1134, he led a strong force of
Irish and Islesmen to the assistance of the Gaelic insurgents, but was
defeated and slain, near Renfrew, by the royal troops, under the
command of the Steward of Scotland. During the reigns of William the
Lion, Alexander II., and Alexander III., the war of systems raged with
all its fierceness, and in nearly all the great encounters Irish
auxiliaries, as was to be expected, were found on the side of the
Gaelic race and Gaelic rights. Nor did this contest ever wholly cease
in Scotland, until the last hopes of the Stuart line were extinguished
on the fatal field of Culloden, where Irish captains formed the battle,
and Irish blood flowed freely, intermingled with the kindred blood of
Highlanders and Islesmen.

The adoption of Norman usages, laws, and tactics, by the Scottish
dynasties of the twelfth and succeeding centuries, did not permanently
affect the national relations of Ireland and Scotland. It was otherwise
with regard to England. We have every reason to believe—we have the
indirect testimony of every writer from Bede to Malmsbury—that the
intercourse between the Irish and Saxons, after the first hostility
engendered by the cruel treatment of the Britons had worn away, became
of the most friendly character. The "Irish" who fought at Brunanburgh
against Saxon freedom were evidently the natural allies of the
Northmen, the Dano-Irish of Dublin, and the southern seaports. The
commerce of intelligence between the islands was long maintained; the
royalty of Saxon England had more than once, in times of domestic
revolution, found a safe and desired retreat in the western island. The
fair Elgiva and the gallant Harold had crossed the western waves in
their hour of need. The fame of Edward the Confessor took such deep
hold on the Irish mind that, three centuries after his death, his
banner was unfurled and the royal leopards laid aside to facilitate the
march of an English King, through the fastnesses of Leinster. The
Irish, therefore, were not likely to look upon the establishment of a
Norman dynasty, in lieu of the old Saxon line, as a matter of
indifference. They felt that the Norman was but a Dane disguised in
armour. It was true he carried the cross upon his banner, and claimed
the benediction of the successor of St. Peter; true also he spoke the
speech of France, and claimed a French paternity; but the lust for
dominion, the iron self-will, the wily devices of strategy, bespoke the
Norman of the twelfth, the lineal descendant of the Dane of the tenth
century. When, therefore, tidings reached Ireland of the battle of
Hastings and the death of Harold, both the apprehensions and the
sympathies of the country were deeply excited. Intelligence of the
coronation of William the Conqueror quickly followed, and emphatically
announced to the Irish the presence of new neighbours, new dangers, and
new duties.

The spirit with which our ancestors acted towards the defeated Saxons,
whatever we may think of its wisdom, was, at least, respectable for
decision and boldness. Godwin, Edmund, and Magnus, sons of Harold, had
little difficulty in raising in Ireland a numerous force to co-operate
with the Earls Edwin and Morcar, who still upheld the Saxon banner.
With this force, wafted over in sixty-six vessels, they entered the
Avon, and besieged Bristol, then the second commercial city of the
kingdom. But Bristol held out, and the Saxon Earls had fallen back into
Northumberland, so the sons of Harold ran down the coast, and tried
their luck in Somersetshire with a better prospect. Devonshire and
Dorsetshire favoured their cause; the old Britons of Cornwall swelled
their ranks, and the rising spread like flame over the west. Eadnoth, a
renegade Saxon, formerly Harold's Master of Horse, despatched by
William against Harold's sons, was defeated and slain. Doubling the
Land's End, the victorious force entered the Tamar, and overran South
Devon. The united garrisons of London, Winchester, and Salisbury, were
sent against them, under the command of the martial Bishop of
Coutances; while a second force advanced along the Tamar, under Brian,
heir of the Earl of Brittany, who routed them with a loss of 2,000 men,
English, Welsh, and Irish. The sons of Harold retreated to their
vessels with all their booty, and returned again into Ireland, where
they vanish from history. Such, in the vale of Tamar, was the first
collision of the Irish and Normans, and as the race of Rollo never
forgot an enemy, nor forewent a revenge, we may well believe that, even
thus early, the invasion of Ireland was decided upon. Meredith Hanmer
relates in his Chronicle that William Rufus, standing on a high rock,
and looking towards Ireland said: "I will bring hither my ships, and
pass over and conquer that land;" and on these words of the son of the
Conqueror being repeated to Murkertach O'Brien, he replied: "Hath the
King in his great threatening said _if it please God?_" and when
answered "No;" "Then," said the Irish monarch, "I fear him not, since
he putteth his trust in man and not in God."

Ireland, however, was destined to be reached through Wales, and along
that mountain coast we early find Norman castles and Norman ships. It
was the special ambition of William Rufus to add the principality to
the conquests of his father, and the active sympathy of the Welsh with
the Saxons on their inland border gave him pretexts enough. A bitter
feud between North and South Wales hastened an invasion, in which
Robert Fitz-Aymon and his companions played, by anticipation, the parts
of Strongbow and Fitz-Stephen, in the invasion of Ireland.

The struggle, commenced under them, was protracted through the reign of
Rufus, who led an army in person (A.D. 1095) against the Welsh, but
with little gain and less glory. As an after thought he adopted the
device of his father, (followed, too, in Ireland by Henry II.,) of
partitioning the country among the most enterprising nobles, gravely
accepting their homage in advance of possession, and authorizing them
to maintain troops at their own charges, for making good his grant of
what never belonged to him. Robert Fitz-Aymon did homage for Glamorgan,
Bernard Newmarch for Brecknock, Roger de Montgomery for Cardigan, and
Gilbert de Clare for Pembroke: the best portions of North Wales were
partitioned between the Mortimers, Latimers, De Lacys, Fitz-Alans, and
Montgomerys. Rhys, Prince of Cambria, with many of his nobles, fell in
battle defending bravely his native hills; but Griffith, son of Rhys,
escaped into Ireland, from which he returned some twenty years later,
and recovered by arms and policy a large share of his ancestral
dominions. In the reign of Henry I. (A.D. 1110), a host of Flemings,
driven from their own country by an inundation of the sea, were planted
upon the Welsh marches, from which they soon swarmed into all the
Cambrian glens and glades. The industry and economy of this new people,
in peaceful times, seemed almost inconsistent with their stubborn
bravery in battle; but they demonstrated to the Welsh, and afterwards
to the Irish, that they could handle the halbert as well as throw the
shuttle; that men of trade may on occasion prove themselves capable men
of war.

The Norman Kings of England were not insensible to the fact that the
Cymric element in Wales, the Saxon element in England, and the Gaelic
element in Scotland, were all more agreeable to the Irish than the race
of Rollo and William. They were not ignorant that Ireland was a refuge
for their victims and a recruiting ground for their enemies. They knew,
furthermore, that most of the strong points on the Irish coast, from
the Shannon to the Liffey, were possessed by Christian Northmen kindred
to themselves. They knew that the land was divided within itself,
weakened by a long war of succession; groaning under the ambition of
five competitors for the sovereignty; and suffering in reputation
abroad under the invectives of Saint Bernard, and the displeasure of
Rome. More tempting materials for intrigue, or fairer opportunities of
aggrandizement, nowhere presented themselves, and it was less want of
will than of leisure from other and nearer contests, which deferred
this new invasion for a century after the battle of Hastings.

While that century was passing over their heads, an occasional
intercourse, not without its pleasing incidents, was maintained between
the races. In the first year of the twelfth, Arnulph de Montgomery,
Earl of Chester, obtained a daughter of Murkertach O'Brien in marriage;
the proxy on the occasion being Gerald, son of the Constable of
Windsor, and ancestor of the Geraldines. Murkertach, according to
Malmsbury, maintained a close correspondence with Henry I., for whose
advice he professed great deference. He was accused of aiding the
rebellion of the Montgomerys against that Prince; and if at one time he
did so, seems to have abandoned their alliance, when threatened with
reprisals on the Irish engaged in peaceful commerce with England. The
argument used on this occasion seems to be embodied in the question of
Malmsbury—and has since become familiar—"What would Ireland do," says
the old historian, "if the merchandize of England were not carried to
her shores?"

The estimation in which the Irish Princes were held in the century
preceding the invasion, at the Norman Court, may be seen in the style
of Lanfranc and Anselm, when addressing the former King Thorlogh, and
the latter King Murkertach O'Brien. The first generation of the
conquerors had passed away before the second of these epistles was
written. In the first, the address runs—"Lanfrancus, a sinner, and the
unworthy Bishop of the Holy Church of Dover, to the illustrious
Terdelvacus, King of Ireland, blessing," &c., &c.; and the epistle of
Anselm is addressed—"To Muriardachus, by the grace of God, glorious
King of Ireland, Anselm, servant of the Church of Canterbury, greeting
health and salvation," &c., &c. This was the tone of the highest
ecclesiastics in England towards the ruler of Ireland, in the reigns of
William I. and Henry I., and equally obsequious were the replies of the
Irish Princes.

After the death of Henry I., nineteen years of civil war and anarchy
diverted the Anglo-Normans from all other objects. In the year 1154,
however, Henry of Anjou succeeded to the throne, on which he was
destined to act so important a part. He was born in Anjou in the year
1133, and married at eighteen the divorced wife of the King of France.
Uniting her vast dominions to his own patrimony, he became the lord of
a larger part of France than was possessed by the titular king. In his
twenty-first year he began to reign in England, and in his thirty-fifth
he received the fugitive Dermid of Leinster, in some camp or castle of
Aquitaine, and took that outlaw, by his own act, under his protection.
The centenary of the victory of Hastings had just gone by, and it
needed only this additional agent to induce him to put into execution a
plan which he must have formed in the first months of his reign, since
the Bull he had procured from Pope Adrian, bears the date of that
year—1154. The return from exile, and martyrdom of Beckett, disarranged
and delayed the projects of the English King; nor was he able to lead
an expedition into Ireland until four years after his reception of the
Leinster fugitive in France.

Throughout the rest of Christendom—if we except Rome—the name of
Ireland was comparatively little known. The commerce of Dublin,
Limerick, and Galway, especially in the article of wine, which was
already largely imported, may have made those ports and their merchants
somewhat known on the coasts of France and Spain. But we have no
statistics of Irish commerce at that early period. Along the Rhine and
even upon the Danube, the Irish missionary and the Irish schoolmaster
were still sometimes found. The chronicle of Ratisbon records with
gratitude the munificence of Conor O'Brien, King of Munster, whom it
considers the founder of the Abbey of St. Peter in that city. The
records of the same Abbey credit its liberal founder with having sent
large presents to the Emperor Lothaire, in aid of the second crusade
for the recovery of the Holy Land. Some Irish adventurers joined in the
general European hosting to the plains of Palestine, but though neither
numerous nor distinguished enough to occupy the page of history, their
_glibs_ and _cooluns_ did not escape the studious eye of him who sang
Jerusalem Delivered and Regained.



The result of Dermid McMurrogh's interview with Henry II., in
Aquitaine, was a royal letter, addressed to all his subjects,
authorizing such of them as would, to enlist in the service of the
Irish Prince. Armed alone with this, the expelled adulterer, chafing
for restoration and revenge, retraced his course to England. He was at
this time some years beyond three score, but the snows of age had no
effect in cooling his impetuous blood; his stature is described as
almost gigantic; his voice loud and harsh; his features stern and
terrible. His cruel and criminal character we already know. Yet it is
but just here to recall that much of the horror and odium which has
accumulated on his memory is posthumous and retrospective. Some of his
cotemporaries were no better in their private lives than he was; but
then they had no part in bringing in the Normans. Talents both for
peace and war he certainly had, and there was still a feeling of
attachment, or at least of regret, cherished towards him among the
people of his patrimony.

Dermid proceeded at once to seek the help he so sorely needed, upon the
marches of Chester, in the city of Bristol, and at the court of the
Prince of North Wales. At Bristol he caused King Henry's letter to be
publicly read, and each reading was accompanied by ample promises of
land and recompense to those disposed to join in the expedition—but all
in vain. From Bristol he proceeded to make the usual pilgrimage to the
shrine of St. David, the Apostle of Wales, and then he visited the
Court of Griffith ap Rhys, Prince of North Wales, whose family ties
formed a true Welsh triad among the Normans, the Irish, and the Welsh.
He was the nephew of the celebrated Nest or Nesta, the Helen of the
Welsh, whose blood flowed in the veins of almost all the first Norman
adventurers in Ireland, and whose story is too intimately interwoven
with the origin of many of the highest names of the Norman-Irish to be
left untold.

She was, in her day, the loveliest woman of Cambria, and perhaps of
Britain, but the fabled mantle of Tregau, which, according to her own
mythology, will fit none but the chaste, had not rested on the white
shoulders of Nesta, the daughter of Rhys ap Tudor. Her girlish beauty
had attracted the notice of Henry I., to whom she bore Robert Fitz-Roy
and Henry Fitz-Henry, the former the famous Earl of Gloucester, and the
latter the father of two of Strongbow's most noted companions.
Afterwards, by consent of her royal paramour, she married Gerald,
constable of Pembroke, by whom she had Maurice Fitzgerald, the common
ancestor of the Kildare and Desmond Geraldines. While living with
Gerald at Pembroke, Owen, son of Cadogan, Prince of Powis, hearing of
her marvellous beauty at a banquet given by his father at the Castle of
Aberteivi, came by night to Pembroke, surprised the Castle, and carried
off Nesta and her children into Powis. Gerald, however, had escaped,
and by the aid of his father-in-law, Rhys, recovered his wife and
rebuilt his castle (A.D. 1105). The lady survived this husband, and
married a second time, Stephen, constable of Cardigan, by whom she had
Robert Fitzstephen, and probably other children. One of her daughters,
Angharad, married David de Barri, the father of Giraldus and Robert de
Barri; another, named after herself, married Bernard of Newmarch, and
became the father of the Fitz-Bernard, who accompanied Henry II. In the
second and third generations this fruitful Cambrian vine, grafted on
the Norman stock, had branched out into the great families of the
Carews, Gerards, Fitzwilliams, and Fitzroys, of England and Wales, and
the Geraldines, Graces, Fitz-Henries, and Fitz-Maurices, of Ireland.
These names will show how entirely the expeditions of 1169 and 1170
were joint-stock undertakings with most of the adventurers; Cambria,
not England, sent them forth; it was a family compact; they were
brothers in blood as well as in arms, those comely and unscrupulous
sons, nephews, and grand-sons of Nesta!

When the Leinster King reached the residence of Griffith ap Rhys, near
St. David's, he found that for some personal or political cause he held
in prison his near kinsman, Robert, son of Stephen, who had the
reputation of being a brave and capable knight. Dermid obtained the
release of Robert, on condition of his embarking in the Irish
enterprise, and he found in him an active recruiting agent, alike among
Welsh, Flemings, and Normans. Through him Maurice Fitzgerald, the de
Barris, and Fitz-Henrys, and their dependents, were soon enlisted in
the adventure. The son of Griffith ap Rhys, who may be mentioned along
with these knights, his kinsmen, and whom the Irish annalists consider
the most important person of the first expedition—their pillar of
battle—also resolved to accompany them, with such forces as he could

But a still more important ally waited to treat with Dermid, on his
return to Bristol. This was Richard de Clare, called variously from his
castles or his county, Earl of Strigul and Chepstow, or Earl of
Pembroke. From the strength of his arms he was nicknamed Strongbow, and
in our Annals he is usually called Earl Richard, by which title we
prefer hereafter to distinguish him. His father, Gilbert de Clare, was
descended from Richard of Normandy, and stood no farther removed in
degree from that Duke than the reigning Prince. For nearly forty years
under Henry I. and during the stormy reign of King Stephen, he had been
Governor of Pembroke, and like all the great Barons played his game
chiefly to his own advantage. His castle at Chepstow was one of the
strongest in the west, and the power he bequeathed to his able and
ambitious son excited the apprehensions of the astute and suspicious
Henry II. Fourteen years of this King's reign had passed away, and Earl
Richard had received no great employments, no new grants of land, no
personal favours from his Sovereign. He was now a widower, past middle
age, condemned to a life of inaction such as no true Norman could long
endure. Arrived at Bristol, he read the letter of Henry, and heard from
Dermid the story of his expulsion and the grounds on which he vested
his hopes of restoration. A consultation ensued, at which it is
probable the sons of Nesta assisted, as it was there agreed that the
town of Wexford, with two cantreds of land adjoining it, should be
given to them. The pay of the archers and men-at-arms, and the duration
of their service, were also determined. Large grants of land were
guaranteed to all adventurers of knightly rank, and Earl Richard was to
marry the King's daughter and succeed him in the sovereignty of

Having by such lavish promises enlisted this powerful Earl and those
adventurous knights, Dermid resolved to pass over in person with such
followers as were already equipped, in order to rally the remnant of
his adherents. The Irish Annals enter this return under the year 1167,
within twelvemonths or thereabouts from the time of his banishment; by
their account he came back, accompanied by a fleet of strangers whom
they called Flemings, and who were probably hired soldiers of that
race, then easily to be met with in Wales. The Welsh Prince already
mentioned seems to have accompanied him personally, as he fell by his
side in a skirmish the following year. Whatever this force may have
amounted to, they landed at Glascarrig point, and wintered—probably
spent the Christmas—at Ferns. The more generally received account of
Dermid's landing alone, and disguised, and secretly preparing his
plans, under shelter of the Austin Friary at Ferns, must be rejected,
if we are still to follow those trite but trustworthy guides, whom we
have so many reasons to confide in. The details differ in many very
important particulars from those usually received, as we shall
endeavour to make clear in a few words.

Not only do they bring Dermid over with a fleet of Flemings, of whom
the natives made "small account," but dating that event before the
expiration of the year 1167, at least sixteen months must have elapsed
between the return of the outlaw and the arrival of the Normans. By
allowing two years instead of one for the duration of his banishment,
the apparent difficulty as to time would be obviated, for his return
and Fitzstephen's arrival would follow upon each other in the spring
and winter of the same year. The difficulty, however, is more apparent
than real. A year sufficed for the journey to Aquitaine and the Welsh
negotiations. Another year seems to have been devoted with equal art
and success to resuscitating a native Leinster party favourable to his
restoration. For it is evident from our Annals that when Dermid showed
himself to the people after his return, it was simply to claim his
patrimony—Hy-Kinsellagh—and not to dispute the Kingdom of Leinster with
the actual ruler, _Murrogh na Gael_. By this pretended moderation and
humility, he disarmed hostility and lulled suspicion asleep. Roderick
and O'Ruarc did indeed muster a host against him, and some of their
cavalry and Kernes skirmished with the troops in his service at
Kellistown, in Carlow, when six were killed on one side and twenty-five
on the other, including the Welsh Prince already mentioned; afterwards
Dermid emerged from his fastnesses, and entering the camp of O'Conor,
gave him seven hostages for the ten cantreds of his patrimony; and to
O'Ruarc he gave "one hundred ounces of gold for his _eineach_"—that is,
as damages for his criminal conversation with Devorgoil. During the
remainder of the year 1168, Dermid was left to enjoy unmolested the
moderate territory which he claimed, while King Roderick was engaged in
enforcing his claims on the North and South, founding lectorships at
Armagh, and partitioning Meath between his inseparable colleague,
O'Ruarc, and himself. He celebrated, in the midst of an immense
multitude, the ancient national games at Tailtin, he held an assembly
at Tara, and distributed magnificent gifts to his suffragans. Roderick
might have spent the festival of Christmas, 1168, or of Easter, 1169,
in the full assurance that his power was firmly established, and that a
long succession of peaceful days were about to dawn upon Erin. But he
was destined to be soon and sadly undeceived.

In the month of May, a little fleet of Welsh vessels, filled with armed
men, approached the Irish shore, and Robert Fitzstephen ran into a
creek of the bay of Bannow, called by the adventurers, from the names
of two of their ships, Bag-and-Bun. Fitzstephen had with him thirty
knights, sixty esquires, and three hundred footmen. The next day he was
joined by Maurice de Prendergast, a Welsh gentleman, with ten knights
and sixty archers. After landing they reconnoitred cautiously, but saw
neither ally nor enemy—the immediate coast seemed entirely deserted.
Their messenger despatched to Dermid, then probably at Ferns, in the
northern extremity of the county, must have been absent several anxious
days, when, much to their relief, he returned with Donald, the son of
Dermid, at the head of 500 horsemen. Uniting their troops, Donald and
Fitzstephen set out for Wexford, about a day's march distant, and the
principal town in that angle of the island which points towards Wales.
The tradition of the neighbourhood says they were assailed upon the way
by a party of the native population, who were defeated and dispersed.
Within ten days or a fortnight of their landing, they were drawn up
within sight of the walls of Wexford, where they were joined by Dermid,
who obviously did not come unattended to such a meeting. What
additional force he may have brought up is nowhere indicated; that he
was not without followers or mercenaries, we know from the mention of
the Flemings in his service, and the action of Kellistown in the
previous year. The force that had marched from Bannow consisted, as we
have seen, of 500 Irish horse under his son Donald, surnamed
_Kavanagh_; 30 knights, 60 esquires, and 300 men-at-arms under
Fitzstephen; 10 knights and 60 archers under Prendergast; in all,
nobles or servitors, not exceeding 1,000 men. The town, a place of
considerable strength, could muster 2,000 men capable of bearing arms,
nor is it discreditable to its Dano-Irish artizans and seamen that they
could boast no captain equal to Fitzstephen or Donald Kavanagh. What a
town multitude could do they did. They burned down an exposed suburb,
closed their gates, and manned their walls. The first assault was
repulsed with some loss on the part of the assailants, and the night
past in expectation of a similar conflict on the morrow. In the early
morning the townsmen could discern that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
was being offered in the camp of their besiegers as a preparative for
the dangers of the day. Within the walls, however, the clergy exercised
all their influence to spare the effusion of blood, and to bring about
an accommodation. Two Bishops who were in the town especially advised a
surrender on honourable terms, and their advice was taken. Four of the
principal citizens were deputed to Dermid, and Wexford was yielded on
condition of its rights and privileges, hitherto existing, being
respected. The cantreds immediately adjoining the town on the north and
east were conferred on Fitzstephen according to the treaty made at
Bristol, and he at once commenced the erection of a fortress on the
rock of Carrig, at the narrowest pass on the river Slaney. Strongbow's
uncle, Herve, was endowed with two other cantreds, to the south of the
town, now known as the baronies of Forth and Bargey, where the
descendants of the Welsh and Flemish settlers then planted are still to
be found in the industrious and sturdy population, known as Flemings,
Furlongs, Waddings, Prendergasts, Barrys, and Walshes. Side by side
with them now dwell in peace the Kavanaghs, Murphys, Conors, and
Breens, whose ancestors so long and so fiercely disputed the intrusion
of these strangers amongst them.

With some increase of force derived from the defenders of Wexford,
Dermid, at the head of 3000 men, including all the Normans, marched
into the adjoining territory of Ossory, to chastise its chief, Donogh
Fitzpatrick, one of his old enemies. This campaign appears to have
consumed the greater part of the summer of the year, and ended with the
submission of Ossory, after a brave but unskilful resistance. The
tidings of what was done at Wexford and in Ossory had, however, roused
the apprehension of the monarch Roderick, who appointed a day for a
national muster "of the Irish" at the Hill of Tara. Thither repaired
accordingly the monarch himself, the lords of Meath, Oriel, Ulidia,
Breffni, and the chiefs of the farther north. With this host they
proceeded to Dublin, which they found as yet in no immediate danger of
attack; and whether on this pretext or some other, the Ulster chiefs
returned to their homes, leaving Roderick to pursue, with the aid of
Meath and Breffni only, the footsteps of McMurrogh. The latter had
fallen back upon Ferns, and had, under the skilful directions of
Fitzstephen, strengthened the naturally difficult approaches to that
ancient capital, by digging artificial pits, by felling trees, and
other devices of Norman strategy. The season, too, must have been
drawing nearly to a close, and the same amiable desire to prevent the
shedding of Christian blood, which characterized all the clergy of this
age, again subserved the unworthy purposes of the traitor and invader.
Roderick, after a vain endeavour to detach Fitzstephen from Dermid and
to induce him to quit the country, agreed to a treaty with the Leinster
King, by which the latter acknowledged his supremacy as monarch, under
the ancient conditions, for the fulfilment of which he surrendered to
him his son Conor as hostage. By a secret and separate agreement Dermid
bound himself to admit no more of the Normans into his service—an
engagement which he kept as he did all others, whether of a public or a
private nature. After the usual exchange of stipends and tributes,
Roderick returned to his home in the west; and thus, with the treaty of
Ferns, ended the comparatively unimportant but significant campaign of
the year 1169.


This would seem to be the proper place to point out the peculiarities
in arms, equipment, and tactics, which gave the first Normans those
military advantages over the Irish and Dano-Irish, which they had
hitherto maintained over the Saxons, Welsh and Scots. In instituting
such a comparison, we do not intend to confine it strictly to the age
of Strongbow and Dermid; the description will extend to the entire
period from the arrival of Fitzstephen to the death of Richard, Earl of
Ulster—from 1169 to 1333—a period of five or six generations, which we
propose to treat of in the present book. After this Earl's decease, the
Normans and Irish approximated more closely in all their customs, and
no longer presented those marked contrasts which existed in their
earlier intercourse and conflicts with each other. The armour of the
first adventurers, both for man and horse, excited the wonder, the
sarcasms, and the fears of the Irish. No such equipments had yet been
seen in that country, nor indeed in any other, where the Normans were
still strangers. As the Knights advanced on horseback, in their metal
coating, they looked more like iron cylinders filled with flesh and
blood, than like lithe and limber human combatants. The man-at-arms,
whether Knight or Squire, was almost invariably mounted; his war-horse
was usually led, while he rode a hackney, to spare the _destrier_. The
body armour was a hauberk of netted iron or steel, to which were joined
a hood, sleeves, breeches, hose and sabatons, or shoes, of the same
material. Under the hauberk was worn a quilted gambeson of silk or
cotton, reaching to the knees; over armour, except when actually
engaged, all men of family wore costly coats of satin, velvet, cloth of
gold or cloth of silver, emblazoned with their arms. The shields of the
thirteenth century were of triangular form, pointed at the bottom; the
helmet conical, with or without bars; the beaver, vizor and plate
armour, were inventions of a later day. Earls, Dukes, and Princes, wore
small crowns upon their helmets; lovers wore the favours of their
mistresses; and victors the crests of champions they had overthrown.
The ordinary weapons of these cavaliers were sword, lance, and knife;
the demi-launce, or light horsemen, were similarly armed; and a force
of this class, common in the Irish wars, was composed of mounted
cross-bow men, and called from the swift, light _hobbies_ they rode,
Hobiler-Archers. Besides many improvements in arms and manual exercise,
the Normans perfected the old Roman machines and engines used in
sieges. The scorpion was a huge cross-bow, the catapults showered
stones to a great distance; the ballista discharged flights of darts
and arrows. There were many other varieties of stone-throwing
machinery; "the war-wolf" was long the chief of projectile machines, as
the ram was of manual forces. The power of a battering-ram of the
largest size, worked by a thousand men, has been proven to be equal to
a point-blank shot from a thirty-six pounder. There were moveable
towers of all sizes and of many names: "the sow" was a variety which
continued in use in England and Ireland till the middle of the
seventeenth century. The divisions of the cavalry were: first, the
_Constable's_ command, some twenty-five men; next, the _Banneret_ was
entitled to unfurl his own colours with consent of the Marshal, and
might unite under his pennon one or more constabularies; the _Knight_
led into the field all his retainers who held of him by feudal tenure,
and sometimes the retainers of his squires, wards, or valets, and
kinsmen. The laws of chivalry were fast shaping themselves into a code
complete and coherent in all its parts, when these iron-clad, inventive
and invincible masters of the art of war first entered on the invasion
of Ireland.

The body of their followers in this enterprise, consisting of Flemish,
Welsh, and Cornish archers, may be best described by the arms they
carried. The irresistible cross-bow was their main reliance. Its shot
was so deadly that the Lateran Council, in 1139, strictly forbade its
employment among Christian enemies. It combined with its stock, or bed,
wheel, and trigger, almost all the force of the modern musket, and
discharged square pieces of iron, leaden balls, or, in scarcity of
ammunition, flint stones. The common cross-bow would kill, point blank,
at forty or fifty yards distance, and the best improved at fully one
hundred yards. The manufacture of these weapons must have been
profitable, since their cost was equal, in the relative value of money,
to that of the rifle, in our times. In the reign of Edward II. each
cross-bow, purchased for the garrison of Sherborne Castle, cost 3
shillings and 8 pence; and every hundred of _quarrels_—the ammunition
just mentioned—1 shilling and 6 pence. Iron, steel, and wood, were the
materials used in the manufacture of this weapon.

The long-bow had been introduced into England by the Normans, who are
said to have been more indebted to that arm than any other, for their
victory at Hastings. To encourage the use of the long-bow many statutes
were passed, and so late as the time of the Stuarts, royal commissions
were issued for the promotion of this national exercise. Under the
early statutes no archer was permitted to practise at any standing mark
at less than "eleven score yards distant;" no archer under twenty-four
years of age was allowed to shoot twice from the same stand-point;
parents and masters were subject to a fine of 6 shillings and 8 pence
if they allowed their youth, under the age of seventeen, "to be without
a bow and two arrows for one month together;" the walled towns were
required to set up their butts, to keep them in repair, and to turn out
for target-practice on holidays, and at other convenient times. Aliens
residing in England were forbidden the use of this weapon—a jealous
precaution showing the great importance attached to its possession. The
usual length of the bow—which was made of yew, witch-hazel, ash, or
elm—was about six feet; and the arrow, about half that length. Arrows
were made of ash, feathered with part of a goose's wing, and barbed
with iron or steel. In the reign of Edward III., a painted bow cost 1
shilling and 6 pence, a white bow, 1 shilling; a sheaf of steel-tipped
arrows (24 to the sheaf), 1 shilling and 2 pence, and a sheaf of _non
accerata_ (the blunt sort), 1 shilling. The range of the long-bow, at
its highest perfection, was, as we have seen, "eleven score yards,"
more than double that of the ordinary cross-bow. The common sort of
both these weapons carried about the same distance—nearly 100 yards.

The natural genius of the Normans for war had been sharpened and
perfected by their campaigns in France and England, but more especially
in the first and second Crusades. All that was to be learned of
military science in other countries—all that Italian skill, Greek
subtlety, or Saracen invention could teach, they knew and combined into
one system. Their feudal discipline, moreover, in which the youth who
entered the service of a veteran as page, rose in time to the rank of
esquire and bachelor-at-arms, and finally won his spurs on some
well-contested field, was eminently favourable to the training and
proficiency of military talents. Not less remarkable was the skill they
displayed in seizing on the strong and commanding points of
communication within the country, as we see at this day, from the sites
of their old Castles, many of which must have been, before the
invention of gunpowder, all but impregnable.

The art of war, if art it could in their case be called, was in a much
less forward stage among the Irish in the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries than amongst the Normans. Of the science of fortification
they perhaps knew no more than they had learned in their long struggle
with the Danes and Norwegians. To render roads impassable, to
strengthen their islands by stockades, to hold the naturally difficult
passes which connect one province or one district with another—these
seem to have been their chief ideas of the aid that valour may derive
from artificial appliances. The fortresses of which we hear so
frequently, during and after the Danish period, and which are
erroneously called _Danes'-forts_, were more numerous than formidable
to such enemies as the Normans. Some of these earth-and-stone-works are
older than the Milesian invasion, and of Cyclopean style and strength.
Those of the Milesians are generally of larger size, contain much more
earth, and the internal chambers are of less massive masonry. They are
almost invariably of circular form, and the largest remaining specimens
are the Giant's Ring, near Belfast; the fort at Netterville, which
measures 300 paces in circumference round the top of the embankment;
the Black Rath, on the Boyne, which measures 321 paces round the outer
wall of circumvallation; and the King's Rath, at Tara, upwards of 280
in length. The height of the outer embankment in forts of this size
varied from fifteen to twenty feet; this embankment was usually
surrounded by a fosse; within the embankment there was a platform,
depressed so as to leave a circular parapet above its level. Many of
these military raths have been found to contain subterranean chambers
and circular winding passages, supposed to be used as granaries and
armories. They are accounted capable of containing garrisons of from
200 to 500 men; but many of the fortresses mentioned from age to age in
our annals were mere private residences, enclosing within their outer
and inner walls space enough for the immediate retainers and domestics
of the chief. Although coats of mail are mentioned in manuscripts long
anterior to the Norman invasion, the Irish soldiers seem seldom or
never to have been completely clothed in armour. Like the northern
_Berserkers_, they prided themselves in fighting, if not naked, in
their orange coloured shirts, dyed with saffron. The helmet and the
shield were the only defensive articles of dress; nor do they seem to
have had trappings for their horses. Their favourite missile weapon was
the dart or javelin, and in earlier ages the sling. The spear or lance,
the sword, and the sharp, short-handled battle-axe, were their
favourite manual weapons. Their power with the battle-axe was
prodigious; _Giraldus_ says they sometimes lopped off a horseman's leg
at a single blow, his body falling over on the other side. Their
bridle-bits and spurs were of bronze, as were generally their spear
heads and short swords. Of siege implements, beyond the torch and the
scaling-ladder, they seem to have had no knowledge, and to have desired
none. The Dano-Irish alone were accustomed to fortify and defend their
towns, on the general principles, which then composed the sum of what
was known in Christendom of military engineering. Quick to acquire in
almost every department of the art, the native Irish continued till the
last obstinately insensible to the absolute necessity of learning how
modern fortifications are constructed, defended, and captured; a
national infatuation, of which we find melancholy evidence in every
recurring native insurrection.

The two divisions of the Irish infantry were the _galloglass_, or
heavily armed foot soldier, called _gall_, either as a mercenary, or
from having been equipped after the Norman method, and the _kerne_, or
light infantry. The horsemen were men of the free tribes, who followed
their chief on terms almost of equality, and who, except his immediate
retainers, equipped and foraged for themselves. The highest unit of
this force was a _Cath_, or battalion of 3,000 men; but the subdivision
of command and the laws which established and maintained discipline
have yet to be recovered and explained. The old Spanish "right of
insurrection" seems to have been recognized in every chief of a free
tribe, and no Hidalgo of old Spain, for real or fancied slight, was
ever more ready to turn his horse's head homeward than were those
refractory lords, with whom Roderick O'Conor and his successors, in the
front of the national battle, had to contend or to co-operate.


The campaigns of 1168 and 1169 had ended prosperously for Dermid in the
treaty of Ferns. By that treaty he had bound himself to bring no more
Normans into the country, and to send those already in his service back
to their homes. But in the course of the same autumn or winter, in
which this agreement was solemnly entered into, he welcomed the arrival
at Wexford—of Maurice Fitzgerald—son of the fair Nesta by her first
husband—and immediately employed this fresh force, consisting of 10
knights, 30 esquires, and 100 footmen, upon a hosting which harried the
open country about Dublin, and induced the alarmed inhabitants to send
hostages into his camp, bearing proffers of allegiance and amity. As
yet he did not feel in force sufficient to attack the city, for, if he
had been, his long cherished vengeance against its inhabitants would
not have been postponed till another season.

In the meantime he had written most urgent letters to Earl Richard to
hasten his arrival, according to the terms agreed upon at Bristol. That
astute and ambitious nobleman had been as impatiently biding his time
as Dermid had been his coming. Knowing the jealous sovereign under whom
he served, he had gone over to France to obtain Henry's sanction to the
Irish enterprise, but had been answered by the monarch, in oracular
phrases, which might mean anything or nothing. Determined, however, to
interpret these doubtful words in his own sense, he despatched his
vanguard early in the spring of the year 1170, under the command of his
uncle Herve and a company of 10 knights and 70 archers, under Raymond,
son of William, lord of Carew, elder brother of Maurice Fitzgerald, and
grandson of Nesta. In the beginning of May, Raymond, nicknamed _le
gros_, or the Fat, entered Waterford harbour, and landed eight miles
below the city, under the rock of Dundonolf, on the east, or Wexford
side. Here they rapidly threw up a camp to protect themselves against
attack, and to hold the landing place for the convenience of the future
expedition. A tumultuous body of natives, amounting, according to the
Norman account, to 3,000 men, were soon seen swarming across the Suir
to attack the foreigners. They were men of Idrone and Desies, under
their chiefs, O'Ryan and O'Phelan, and citizens of Waterford, who now
rushed towards the little fortress, entirely unprepared for the long
and deadly range of the Welsh and Flemish crossbows. Thrown into
confusion by the unexpected discharge, in which every shot from behind
the ramparts of turf brought down its man, they wavered and broke;
Raymond and Herve then sallied out upon the fugitives, who were fain to
escape, as many as could, to the other side of the river, leaving 500
prisoners, including 70 chief citizens of Waterford behind them. These
were all inhumanly massacred, according to _Giraldus_, the eulogist of
all the Geraldines, by the order of Herve, contrary to the entreaties
of Raymond. Their legs were first violently broken, and they were then
hurled down the rocks into the tide. Five hundred men could not well be
so captured and put to death by less than an equal number of hands, and
we may, therefore, safely set down that number as holding the camp of
Dundonolf during the summer months of the year.

Earl Richard had not completed his arrangements until the month of
August—so that his uncle and lieutenant had to hold the post they had
seized for fully three months, awaiting his arrival in the deepest
anxiety. At last, leaving his castle in Pembroke, he marched with his
force through North Wales, by way of St. David's to Milford Haven—"and
still as he went he took up all the best chosen and picked men he could
get." At Milford, just as he was about to embark, he received an order
from King Henry forbidding the expedition. Wholly disregarding this
missive he hastened on board with 200 knights and 1,200 infantry in his
company, and on the eve of St. Bartholomew's Day (August 23rd), landed
safely under the earthwork of Dundonolf, where he was joyfully received
by Raymond at the head of 40 knights, and a corresponding number of
men-at-arms. The next day the whole force, under the Earl, "who had all
things in readiness" for such an enterprise, proceeded to lay siege to
Waterford. Malachy O'Phelan, the brave lord of Desies, forgetting all
ancient enmity against his Danish neighbours, had joined the townsmen
to assist in the defence. Twice the besieged beat back the assailants,
until Raymond perceiving at an angle of the wall the wooden props upon
which a house rested, ordered them to be cut away, on which the house
fell to the ground, and a breach was effected. The men-at-arms then
burst in, slaughtering the inhabitants without mercy. In the tower,
long known as Reginald's, or the ring tower, O'Phelan and Reginald, the
Dano-Irish chief, held out until the arrival of King Dermid, whose
intercession procured them such terms as led to their surrender. Then,
amid the ruins of the burning city, and the muttered malediction of its
surviving inhabitants, the ill-omened marriage of Eva McMurrogh with
Richard de Clare was gaily celebrated, and the compact entered into at
Bristol three years before was perfected.

The marriage revelry was hardly over when tidings came from Dublin that
Asculph MacTorcall, its Danish lord, had, either by the refusal of the
annual tribute, or in some other manner, declared his independence of
Dermid, and invoked the aid of the monarch Roderick, in defence of that
city. Other messengers brought news that Roderick had assumed the
protection of Dublin, and was already encamped at the head of a large
army at Clondalkin, with a view of intercepting the march of the
invaders from the south. The whole Leinster and Norman force, with the
exception of a troop of archers left to garrison Waterford, were now
put in motion for the siege of the chief city of the Hibernicized
descendants of the Northmen. Informed of Roderick's position, which
covered Dublin on the south and west, Dermid and Richard followed
boldly the mountain paths and difficult roads which led by the secluded
city of Glendalough, and thence along the coast road from Bray towards
the mouth of the Liffey, until they arrived unexpectedly within the
lines of Roderick, to the amazement and terror of the townsmen.

The force which now, under the command-in-chief of Dermid, sat down to
the siege of Dublin, was far from being contemptible. For a year past
he had been recognized in Leinster as fully as any of his predecessors,
and had so strengthened his military position as to propose nothing
short of the conquest of the whole country. His choice of a line of
march sufficiently shows how thoroughly he had overcome the former
hostility of the stubborn mountaineers of Wicklow. The exact numbers
which he encamped before the gates of Dublin are nowhere given, but on
the march from Waterford, the vanguard, led by Milo de Cogan, consisted
of 700 Normans and "an Irish battalion," which, taken literally, would
mean 3,000 men, under Donald _Kavanagh_; Raymond the Fat followed "with
800 British;" Dermid led on "the chief part of the Irish" (number not
given), in person; Richard commanded the rear-guard, "300 British and
1,000 Irish soldiers." Altogether, it is not exorbitant to conjecture
that the Leinster Prince led to the siege of Dublin an army of about
10,000 native troops, 1,500 Welsh and Flemish archers, and 250 knights.
Except the handful who remained with Fitzstephen to defend his fort at
Carrick, on the Slaney, and the archers left in Waterford, the entire
Norman force in Ireland, at this time, were united in the siege. Of the
foreign knights many were eminent for courage and capacity, both in
peace and war. The most distinguished among them were Maurice
Fitzgerald, the common ancestor of the Geraldines of Desmond and
Kildare; Raymond the Fat, ancestor of the Graces of Ossory; the two
Fitz-Henries, grandsons of Henry I., and the fair Nesta; Walter de
Riddlesford, first Baron of Bray; Robert de Quincy, son-in-law and
standard-bearer to Earl Richard; Herve, uncle to the Earl, and Gilbert
de Clare, his son; Milo de Cogan, the first who entered Dublin by
assault, and its first Norman governor; the de Barries, and de
Prendergast. Other founders of Norman-Irish houses, as the de Lacies,
de Courcies, le Poers, de Burgos, Butlers, Berminghams, came not over
until the landing of Henry II., or still later, with his son John.

The townsmen of Dublin had every reason, from their knowledge of
Dermid's cruel character, to expect the worst at his hands and those of
his allies. The warning of Waterford was before them, but besides this
they had a special cause of apprehension, Dermid's father having been
murdered in their midst, and his body ignominiously interred with the
carcase of a dog. Roderick having failed to intercept him, the
citizens, either to gain time or really desiring to arrive at an
accommodation, entered into negotiations. Their ambassador for this
purpose was Lorcan, or Lawrence O'Toole, the first Archbishop of the
city, and its first prelate of Milesian origin. This illustrious man,
canonized both by sanctity and patriotism, was then in the thirty-ninth
year of his age, and the ninth of his episcopate. His father was lord
of Imayle and chief of his clan; his sister had been wife of Dermid and
mother of Eva, the prize-bride of Earl Richard. He himself had been a
hostage with Dermid in his youth, and afterwards Abbot of Glendalough,
the most celebrated monastic city of Leinster. He stood, therefore, to
the besieged, being their chief pastor, in the relation of a father; to
Dermid, and strangely enough to Strongbow also, as brother-in-law and
uncle by marriage. A fitter ambassador could not be found.

Maurice Regan, the "_Latiner_," or Secretary of Dermid, had advanced to
the walls, and summoned the city to surrender, and deliver up "30
pledges" to his master, their lawful Prince. Asculph, son of Torcall,
was in favour of the surrender, but the citizens could not agree among
themselves as to hostages. No one was willing to trust himself to the
notoriously untrustworthy Dermid. The Archbishop was then sent out on
the part of the citizens to arrange the terms in detail. He was
received with all reverence in the camp, but while he was deliberating
with the commanders without, and the townsmen were anxiously awaiting
his return, Milo de Cogan and Raymond the Fat, seizing the opportunity,
broke into the city at the head of their companies, and began to put
the inhabitants ruthlessly to the sword. They were soon followed by the
whole force eager for massacre and pillage. The Archbishop hastened
back to endeavour to stay the havoc which was being made of his people.
He threw himself before the infuriated Irish and Normans, he
threatened, he denounced, he bared his own breast to the swords of the
assassins. All to little purpose; the blood fury exhausted itself
before peace settled over the city. Its Danish chief, Asculph, with
many of his followers, escaped to their ships, and fled to the Isle of
Man and the Hebrides in search of succour and revenge. Roderick,
unprepared to besiege the enemy who had thus outmarched and outwitted
him at that season of the year—it could not be earlier than
October—broke up his encampment at Clondalkin, and retired to
Connaught. Earl Richard having appointed de Cogan his governor of
Dublin, followed on the rear of the retreating _Ard-Righ_, at the
instigation of McMurrogh, burning and plundering the churches of Kells,
Clonard and Slane, and carrying off the hostages of East-Meath.

Though Dermid seemed to have forgotten altogether the conditions of the
treaty of Ferns, yet not so Roderick. When he reached Athlone he caused
Conor, son of Dermid, and the son of Donald _Kavanagh_, and the son of
Dermid's fosterer, who had been given him as hostages for the
fulfilment of that treaty, so grossly violated in every particular, to
be beheaded. Dermid indulged in impotent vows of vengeance against
Roderick, when he heard of these executions which his own perjuries had
provoked; he swore that nothing short of the conquest of Connaught in
the following spring would satisfy his revenge, and he sent the
Ard-Righ his defiance to that purport. Two other events of military
consequence marked the close of the year 1170. The foreign garrison of
Waterford was surprised and captured by Cormac McCarthy, Prince of
Desmond, and Henry II. having prohibited all intercourse between his
lieges and his disobedient subject, Earl Richard, the latter had
despatched Raymond the Fat, with the most humble submission of himself
and his new possessions to his Majesty's decision. And so with Asculph,
son of Torcall, recruiting in the isles of Insi-Gall, Lawrence, the
Archbishop, endeavouring to unite the proud and envious Irish lords
into one united phalanx, and Roderick, preparing for the new year's
campaign, the winter of 1170-'71, came, and waned, and went.

One occurrence of the succeeding spring may most appropriately be
dismissed here—the death of the wretched and odious McMurrogh. This
event happened, according to _Giraldus_, in the kalends of May. The
Irish Annals surround his death-bed with all the horrors appropriate to
such a scene. He became, they say, "putrid while living," through the
miracles of St. Columbcille and St. Finian, whose churches he had
plundered; "and he died at Fernamore, without making a will, without
penance, without the body of Christ, without unction, as his evil deeds
deserved." We have no desire to meditate over the memory of such a man.
He, far more than his predecessor, whatever that predecessor's crimes
might have been, deserved to have been buried with a dog.


The campaign of the year 1171 languished from a variety of causes. At
the very outset, the invaders lost their chief patron, who had been so
useful to them. During the siege of Dublin, in the previous autumn, the
townsmen of Wexford, who were in revolt, had, by stratagem, induced
Robert Fitzstephen to surrender his fort at Carrick, and had imprisoned
him in one of the islands of their harbour. Waterford had been
surprised and taken by Cormac McCarthy, Prince of Desmond, and
Strongbow, alarmed by the proclamation of Henry, knew hardly whether to
consider himself outlaw, subject, or independent sovereign.

Raymond the Fat had returned from his embassy to King Henry, with no
comfortable tidings. He had been kept day after day waiting the
pleasure of the King, and returned with sentences as dubious in his
mouth, as those on which Earl Richard had originally acted. It was
evidently not the policy of Henry to abandon the enterprise already so
well begun, but neither was it his interest or desire that any subject
should reap the benefit, or erect an independent power, upon his mere
permission to embark in the service of McMurrogh. Herve, the Earl's
uncle, had been despatched as ambassador in Raymond's place, but with
no better success. At length, Richard himself, by the advice of all his
counsellors, repaired to England, and waited on Henry at Newenham, in
Gloucestershire. At first he was ignominiously refused an audience, but
after repeated solicitations he was permitted to renew his homage. He
then yielded in due form the city of Dublin, and whatever other
conquests he claimed, and consented to hold his lands in Leinster, as
chief tenant from the crown: in return for which he was graciously
forgiven the success that had attended his adventure, and permitted to
accompany the King's expedition, in the ensuing autumn.

Before Strongbow's departure for England three unsuccessful attempts
had been made for the expulsion of the Norman garrison from Dublin.
They were unfortunately not undertaken in concert, but rather in
succession. The first was an attempt at surprising the city by Asculph
MacTorcall, probably relying on the active aid of the inhabitants of
his own race. He had but "a small force," chiefly from the isles of
Insi-Gall and the Orkneys. The Orcadians were under the command of a
warrior called John the Furious or Mad, the last of those wild
Berserkers of the North, whose valour was regarded in Pagan days as a
species of divine frenzy. This redoubted champion, after a momentary
success, was repulsed by Milo and Richard de Cogan, and finally fell by
the hand of Walter de Riddlesford. Asculph was taken prisoner, and,
avowing boldly his intention never to desist from attempting to recover
the place, was put to death. The second attack has been often described
as a regular investment by Roderick O'Conor, at the head of all the
forces of the Island, which was only broken up in the ninth week of its
duration, by a desperate sally on the part of the famished garrison.
Many details and episodes, proper to so long a beleaguerment, are given
by _Giraldus_, and reproduced by his copyists. We find, however, little
warrant for these passages in our native annals, any more than for the
antithetical speeches which the same partial historian places in the
mouths of his heroes. The Four Masters limit the time to "the course of
a fortnight." Roderick, according to their account, was accompanied by
the lords of Breffni and Oriel only; frequent skirmishes and conflicts
took place; an excursion was made against the Leinster Allies of the
Normans, "to cut down and burn the corn of the Saxons." The surprise by
night of the monarch's camp is also duly recorded; and that the enemy
carried off "the provisions, armour, and horses of Roderick." By which
sally, according to _Giraldus_, Dublin having obtained provisions
enough for a year, Earl Richard marched to Wexford, "taking the higher
way by Idrone," with the hope to deliver Fitzstephen. But the Wexford
men having burned their suburbs, and sent their goods and families into
the stockaded island, sent him word that at the first attack they would
put Fitzstephen and his companions to death. The Earl, therefore, held
sorrowfully on his way to Waterford, where, leaving a stronger force
than the first garrison, to which he had entrusted it, he sailed for
England to make his peace with King Henry. The third attempt on Dublin
was made by the lord of Breffni during the Earl's absence, and when the
garrison were much reduced; it was equally unsuccessful with those
already recorded. De Cogan displayed his usual courage, and the lord of
Breffni lost a son and some of his best men in the assault.

It was upon the marches of Wales that the Earl found King Henry busily
engaged in making preparations for his own voyage into Ireland. He had
levied on the landholders throughout his dominions an escutage or
commutation for personal service, and the Pipe roll, which contains his
disbursements for the year, has led an habitually cautious writer to
infer "that the force raised for the expedition was much more numerous
than has been represented by historians." During the muster of his
forces he visited Pembroke, and made a progress through North Wales,
severely censuring those who had enlisted under Strongbow, and placing
garrisons of his own men in their castles. At Saint David's he made the
usual offering on the shrine of the Saint and received the
hospitalities of the Bishop. All things being in readiness, he sailed
from Milford Haven, with a fleet of 400 transports, having on board
many of the Norman nobility, 500 knights, and an army usually estimated
at 4,000 men at arms. On the 18th of October, 1171, he landed safely at
Crook, in the county of Waterford, being unable, according to an old
local tradition, to sail up the river from adverse winds. As one
headland of that harbour is called _Hook_, and the other _Crook_, the
old adage, "by hook or by crook," is thought to have arisen on this

In Henry's train, beside Earl Richard, there came over Hugh de Lacy,
some time Constable of Chester; William, son of Aldelm, ancestor of the
Clanrickardes; Theobald Walter, ancestor of the Butlers; Robert le
Poer, ancestor of the Powers; Humphrey de Bohun, Robert Fitz-Barnard,
Hugh de Gundeville, Philip de Hastings, Philip de Braos, and many other
cavaliers whose names were renowned throughout France and England. As
the imposing host formed on the sea side, a white hare, according to an
English chronicler, leapt from a neighbouring hedge, and was
immediately caught and presented to the King as an omen of victory.
Prophecies, pagan and Christian—quatrains fathered on Saint Moling and
triads attributed to Merlin—were freely showered in his path. But the
true omen of his success he might read for himself, in a constitution
which had lost its force, in laws which had ceased to be sacred, and in
a chieftain race, brave indeed as mortal men could be, but envious,
arrogant, revengeful, and insubordinate. For their criminal indulgence
of these demoniacal passions a terrible chastisement was about to fall
on them, and not only on them, but also, alas! on their poor people.

The whole time passed by Henry II. in Ireland was from the 18th
October, 1171, till the 17th of April following, just seven months. For
the first politician of his age, with the command of such troops, and
so much treasure, these seven months could not possibly be barren of
consequences. Winter, the season of diplomacy, was seldom more
industriously or expertly employed. The townsmen of Wexford, aware of
his arrival as soon as it had taken place, hastened to make their
submission and to deliver up to him their prisoner, Robert Fitzstephen,
the first of the invaders. Henry, affecting the same displeasure
towards Fitzstephen he did for all those who had anticipated his own
expedition, ordered him to be fettered and imprisoned in Reginald's
tower. At Waterford he also received the friendly overtures of the
lords of Desies and Ossory, and probably some form of feudal submission
was undergone by those chiefs. Cormac, Prince of Desmond, followed
their example, and soon afterwards Donald O'Brien of Thomond met him on
the banks of the Suir, not far from Cashel, made his peace, and agreed
to receive a Norman garrison in his Hiberno-Danish city of Limerick.
Having appointed commanders over these and other southern garrisons,
Henry proceeded to Dublin, where a spacious cage-work palace, on a lawn
without the city, was prepared for winter quarters. Here he continued
those negotiations with the Irish chiefs, which we are told were so
generally successful. Amongst others whose adhesion he received,
mention is made of the lord of Breffni, the most faithful follower the
Monarch Roderick could count. The chiefs of the Northern Hy-Nial
remained deaf to all his overtures, and though Fitz-Aldelm and de Lacy,
the commissioners despatched to treat with Roderick, are said to have
procured from the deserted _Ard-Righ_ an act of submission, it is
incredible that a document of such consequence should have been allowed
to perish. Indeed, most of the confident assertions about submissions
to Henry are to be taken with great caution; it is quite certain he
himself, though he lived nearly twenty years after his Irish
expedition, never assumed any Irish title whatever. It is equally true
that his successor, Richard I., never assumed any such title, as an
incident of the English crown. And although Henry in the year 1185
created his youngest son, John _Lackland_, "lord of Ireland," it was
precisely in the same spirit and with as much ground of title as he had
for creating Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath, or John de Courcy, Earl of
Ulster. Of this question of title we shall speak more fully hereafter,
for we do not recognize any English sovereign as _King_ of Ireland,
previous to the year 1541; but it ought surely to be conclusive
evidence, that neither had Henry claimed the crown, nor had the Irish
chiefs acknowledged him as their _Ard-Righ_, that in the two authentic
documents from his hand which we possess, he neither signs himself
_Rex_ nor _Dominus Hibernioe_. These documents are the Charter of
Dublin, and the Concession of Glendalough, and their authenticity has
never been disputed.

After spending a right merry Christmas with Norman and Milesian guests
in abundance at Dublin, Henry proceeded to that work of religious
reformation, under plea of which he had obtained the Bill of Pope
Adrian, seventeen years before, declaring such an expedition undertaken
with such motives, lawful and praiseworthy. Early in the new year, by
his desire, a synod was held at Cashel, where many salutary decrees
were enacted. These related to the proper solemnization of marriage;
the catechising of children before the doors of churches; the
administration of baptism in baptismal or parish churches; the
abolition of _Erenachs_ or lay Trustees of church property, and the
imposition of tithes, both of corn and cattle. By most English writers
this synod is treated as a National Council, and inferences are thence
drawn of Henry's admitted power over the clergy of the nation. There
is, however, no evidence that the Bishops of Ulster or Connaught were
present at Cashel, but strong negative testimony to the contrary. We
read under the date of the same year in the Four Masters, that a synod
of the clergy and laity of Ireland was convened at Tuam by Roderick
O'Conor and the Archbishop Catholicus O'Duffy. It is hardly possible
that this meeting could be in continuation or in concord with the
assembly convoked at the instance of Henry.

Following quickly upon the Cashel Synod, Henry held a "Curia Regis" or
Great Court at Lismore, in which he created the offices of Marshal,
Constable, and Seneschal for Ireland. Earl Richard was created the
first Lord Marshal; de Lacy, the first Lord Constable. Theobald,
ancestor of the Ormond family, was already chief Butler, and de Vernon
was created the first high Steward or Seneschal. Such other order as
could be taken for the preservation of the places already captured, was
not neglected. The surplus population of Bristol obtained a charter of
Dublin to be held of Henry and his heirs, "with all the same liberties
and free customs which they enjoyed at Bristol." Wexford was committed
to the charge of Fitz-Aldelm, Waterford to de Bohun, and Dublin to de
Lacy. Castles were ordered to be erected in the towns and at other
points, and the politic king, having caused all those who remained
behind to renew their homage in the most solemn form, sailed on Easter
Monday from Wexford Haven, and on the same day, landed at Port-Finan in
Wales. Here he assumed the Pilgrim's staff, and proceeded humbly on
foot to St. David's, preparatory to meeting the Papal Commissioners
appointed to inquire into Beckett's murder.

It is quite apparent that had Henry landed in Ireland at any other
period of his life except in the year of the martyrdom of the renowned
Archbishop of Canterbury, while the wrath of Rome was yet hanging
poised in the air, ready to be hurled against him, he would not have
left the work he undertook but half begun. The nett result of his
expedition, of his great fleet, mighty army, and sagacious counsels,
was the infusion of a vast number of new adventurers (most of them of
higher rank and better fortunes than their precursors), into the same
old field. Except the garrisons admitted into Limerick and Cork, and
the displacing of Strongbow's commandants by his own at Waterford,
Wexford, and Dublin, there seems to have been little gained in a
military sense. The decrees of the Synod of Cashel would, no doubt,
stand him in good stead with the Papal legates as evidences of his
desire to enforce strict discipline, even on lands beyond those over
which he actually ruled. But, after all, harassed as he was with
apprehensions of the future, perhaps no other Prince could have done
more in a single winter in a strange country than Henry II. did for his
seven months' sojourn in Ireland.


The Ard-Righ Roderick, during the period of Henry the Second's stay in
Ireland, had continued west of the Shannon. Unsupported by his
suffragans, many of whom made peace with the invader, he attempted no
military operation, nor had Henry time sufficient to follow him into
his strongholds. It was reserved for this ill-fated, and, we cannot but
think, harshly judged monarch, to outlive the first generation of the
invaders of his country, and to close a reign which promised so
brightly at the beginning, in the midst of a distracted, war-spent
people, having preserved through all vicissitudes the title of
sovereign, but little else that was of value to himself or others.

Among the guests who partook of the Christmas cheer of King Henry at
Dublin, we find mention of Tiernan O'Ruarc, the lord of Breffni and
East-Meath. For the Methian addition to his possessions, Tiernan was
indebted to his early alliance with Roderick, and the success of their
joint arms. Anciently the east of Meath had been divided between the
four families called "the four tribes of Tara," whose names are now
anglicized O'Hart, O'Kelly, O'Connelly, and O'Regan. Whether to balance
the power of the great West-Meath family of O'Melaghlin, or because
these minor tribes were unable to defend themselves successfully,
Roderick, like his father, had partitioned Meath, and given the seaward
side a new master in the person of O'Ruarc. The investiture of Hugh de
Lacy by King Henry with the seignory of the same district, led to a
tragedy, the first of its kind in our annals, but destined to be the
prototype of an almost indefinite series, in which the gainers were
sometimes natives, but much oftener Normans.

O'Ruarc gave de Lacy an appointment at the hill of Ward, near Athboy,
in the year 1173, in order to adjust their conflicting claims upon
East-Meath. Both parties naturally guarded against surprise, by having
in readiness a troop of armed retainers. The principals met apart on
the summit of the hill, amid the circumvallations of its ancient fort;
a single unarmed interpreter only was present. An altercation having
arisen, between them, O'Ruarc lost his temper, and raised the
battle-axe, which all our warriors carried in those days, as the
gentlemen of the last century did their swords; this was the signal for
both troops of guards to march towards the spot. De Lacy, in attempting
to fly, had been twice felled to the earth, when his followers, under
Maurice Fitzgerald and Griffith, his nephew, came to his rescue, and
assailed the chief of Breffni. It was now Tiernan's turn to attempt
escaping, but as he mounted his horse the spear of Griffith brought him
to the earth mortally wounded, and his followers fled. His head was
carried in triumph to Dublin, where it was spiked over the northern
gate, and his body was gibbeted on the northern wall, with the feet
uppermost. Thus, a spectacle of intense pity to the Irish, did these
severed members of one of their most famous nobles remain exposed on
that side of the stronghold of the stranger which looks towards the
pleasant plains of Meath and the verdant uplands of Cavan.

The administration of de Lacy was now interrupted by a summons to join
his royal master, sore beset by his own sons in Normandy. The Kings of
France and Scotland were in alliance with those unnatural Princes, and
their mother, Queen Eleanor, might he called the author of their
rebellion. As all the force that could be spared from Ireland was
needed for the preservation of Normandy, de Lacy hastened to obey the
royal summons, and Earl Richard, by virtue of his rank of Marshal, took
for the moment the command in chief. Henry, however, who never
cordially forgave that adventurer, first required his presence in
France, and when alarmed by ill news from Ireland, he sent him back to
defend the conquests already made, he associated with him in the
supreme command—though not apparently in the civil administration—the
gallant Raymond _le gros_. And it was full time for the best head and
the bravest sword among the first invaders to return to their work—a
task not to be so easily achieved as many confident persons then
believed, and as many ill-informed writers have since described it.

During the early rule of de Lacy, Earl Richard had established himself
at Ferns, assuming, to such of the Irish as adhered to him, the
demeanour of a king. After Dermid's death, he styled himself, in utter
disregard of Irish law, "Prince of Leinster," in virtue of his wife. He
proceeded to create feudal dignitaries, placing at their head, as
Constable of Leinster, Robert de Quincy, to whom he gave his daughter,
by his first wife, in marriage. At this point the male representatives
of King Dermid came to open rupture with the Earl. Donald _Kavanagh_,
surnamed "the Handsome," and by the Normans usually spoken of as
"Prince" Donald, could scarcely be expected to submit to an
arrangement, so opposed to all ancient custom, and to his own
interests. He had borne a leading part in the restoration of his
father, but surely not to this end—the exclusion of the male
succession. He had been one of King Henry's guests during the Christmas
holidays of the year 1172, and had rendered him some sort of homage, as
Prince of Leinster. Henry, ever ready to raise up rivals to Strongbow,
seems to have received him into favour, until Eva, the Earl's wife,
proved, both in Ireland and England, that Donald and his brother Enna,
were born out of wedlock, and that there was no direct male heir of
Dermid left, after the execution of Conor, the hostage put to death by
King Roderick. To English notions this might have been conclusive
against Donald's title, but to the Irish, among whom the electoral
principle was the source of all chieftainry, it was not so. A large
proportion of the patriotic Leinstermen—what might be called the native
party—adhered to Donald _Kavanagh_, utterly rejecting the title derived
through the lady Eva.

Such conflicting interests could only be settled by a resort to force,
and the bloody feud began by the Earl executing at Ferns one of
Donald's sons, held by him as a hostage. In an expedition against
O'Dempsey, who also refused to acknowledge his title, the Earl lost, in
the campaign of 1173, his son-in-law, de Quincy, several other knights,
and the "banner of Leinster." The following year we read in the
Anglo-Irish Annals of Leinster, that King Donald's men, being moved
against the Earl's men, made a great slaughter of English. Nor was this
the worst defeat he suffered in the same year—1174. Marching into
Munster he was encountered in a pitched battle at Thurles by the troops
of the monarch Roderick, under command of his son, Conor, surnamed
_Moinmoy_, and by the troops of Thomond, under Donald More O'Brien.
With Strongbow were all who could be spared of the garrison of Dublin,
including a strong detachment of Danish origin. Four knights and seven
hundred (or, according to other accounts, seventeen hundred) men of the
Normans were left dead on the field. Strongbow retreated with the
remnant of his force to Waterford, but the news of the defeat having
reached that city before him, the townspeople ran to arms and put his
garrison of two hundred men to the sword. After encamping for a month
on an island without the city, and hearing that Kilkenny Castle was
taken and razed by O'Brien, he was feign to return to Dublin as best he

His fortunes at the close of this campaign, were at their lowest ebb.
The loss of de Quincy and the defeat of Thurles had sorely shaken his
military reputation. His jealousy of that powerful family connexion,
the Geraldines, had driven Maurice Fitzgerald and Raymond the Fat to
retire in disgust into Wales. Donald Kavanagh, O'Dempsey, and the
native party in Leinster, set him at defiance, and his own troops
refused to obey the orders of his uncle Herve, demanding to be led by
the more popular and youthful Raymond. To add to his embarrassments,
Henry summoned him to France in the very crisis of his troubles, and he
dared not disobey that jealous and exacting master. He was, however,
not long detained by the English King. Clothed with supreme authority,
and with Raymond for his lieutenant, he returned to resume the work of
conquest. To conciliate the Geraldines, he at last consented to give
his sister Basilia in marriage to the brilliant captain, on whose sword
so much depended. At the same time Alina, the widow of de Quincy, was
married to the second son of Fitzgerald, and Nesta Fitzgerald was
united to Raymond's former rival, Herve. Thus, bound together, fortune
returned in full tide to the adventurers. Limerick, which had been
taken and burned to the water's edge by Donald O'Brien after the battle
of Thurles, was recaptured and fortified anew; Waterford was more
strongly garrisoned than ever; Donald _Kavanagh_ was taken off,
apparently by treachery (A.D. 1175), and all seemed to promise the
enjoyment of uninterrupted power to the Earl. But his end was already
come. An ulcer in his foot brought on a long and loathsome illness,
which terminated in his death, in the month of May, 1176, or 1177. He
was buried in Christ Church, Dublin, which he had contributed to
enlarge, and was temporarily succeeded in the government of the Normans
by his lieutenant and brother-in-law, Raymond. By the Lady Eva he left
one daughter, Isabel, married at the age of fourteen to William
Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, who afterwards claimed the proprietary of
Leinster, by virtue of this marriage. Lady Isabel left again five
daughters, who were the ancestresses of the Mortimers, Braces, and
other historic families of England and Scotland. And so the blood of
Earl Richard and his Irish Princess descended for many generations to
enrich other houses and ennoble other names than his own.

Strongbow is described by _Giraldus_, whose personal sketches, of the
leading invaders form the most valuable part of his book, as less a
statesman than a soldier, and more a soldier than a general. His
complexion was freckled, his neck slender, his voice feminine and
shrill, and his temper equable and uniform. His career in Ireland was
limited to seven years in point of time, and his resources were never
equal to the task he undertook. Had they been so, or had he not been so
jealously counteracted by his suzerain, he might have founded a new
Norman dynasty on as solid a basis as William, or as Rollo himself had

Raymond and the Geraldines had now, for a brief moment, the supreme
power, civil and military, in their own hands. In his haste to take
advantage of the Earl's death, of which he had privately been informed
by a message from his wife, Raymond left Limerick in the hands of
Donald More O'Brien, exacting, we are told, a solemn oath from the
Prince of Thomond to protect the city, which the latter broke before
the Norman garrisons were out of sight of its walls. This story, like
many others of the same age, rests on the uncertain authority of the
vain, impetuous and passionate _Giraldus_. Whether the loss of Limerick
discredited him with the king, or the ancient jealousy of the first
adventurers prevailed in the royal councils, Henry, on hearing of
Strongbow's death, at once despatched as Lord Justice, William
Fitz-Aldelm de Burgo, first cousin to Hubert de Burgo, Chief Justiciary
of England, and, like Fitz-Aldelm, descended from Arlotta, mother of
William the Conqueror, by Harlowen de Burgo, her first husband. From
him have descended the noble family of de Burgo, or Burke, so
conspicuous in the after annals of our island. In the train of the new
Justiciary came John de Courcy, another name destined to become
historical, but before relating his achievements, we must conclude the
narrative so far as regards the first set of adventurers.

Maurice Fitzgerald, the common ancestor of the Earls of Desmond and
Kildare, the Knights of Glyn, of Kerry, and of all the Irish
Geraldines, died at Wexford in the year 1177. Raymond the Fat,
superseded by Fitz-Aldelm, and looked on coldly by the King, retired to
his lands in the same county, and appears only once more in arms—in the
year 1182—in aid of his uncle, Robert Fitzstephen. This premier invader
had been entrusted by the new ruler with the command of the garrison of
Cork, as Milo de Cogan had been with that of Waterford, and both had
been invested with equal halves of the principality of Desmond. De
Cogan, Ralph, son of Fitzstephen, and other knights had been cut off by
surprise, at the house of one McTire, near Lismore, in 1182, and all
Desmond was up in arms for the expulsion of the foreign garrisons.
Raymond sailed from Wexford to the aid of his uncle, and succeeded in
relieving the city from the sea. But Fitzstephen, afflicted with grief
for the death of his son, and worn down with many anxieties, suffered
the still greater loss of his reason. From thenceforth, we hear no more
of either uncle or nephew, and we may therefore account this the last
year of Robert Fitzstephen, Milo de Cogan, and Raymond _le gros_. Herve
de Montmorency, the ancient rival of Raymond, had three years earlier
retired from the world, to become a brother in the Monastery of the
Holy Trinity, at Canterbury. His Irish estates passed to his brother
Geoffrey, who subsequently became Justiciary of the Normans in Ireland,
the successful rival of the Marshals, and founder of the Irish title of
Mountmorres. The posterity of Raymond survived in the noble family of
Grace, Barons of Courtstown, in Ossory. It is not, therefore, strictly
true, what Geoffrey Keating and the authors he followed have
asserted—that the first Normans were punished by the loss of posterity
for the crimes and outrages they had committed, in their various

Let us be just even to these spoilers of our race. They were fair
specimens of the prevailing type of Norman character. Indomitable
bravery was not their only virtue. In patience, in policy, and in
rising superior to all obstacles and reverses, no group of conquerors
ever surpassed Strongbow and his companions. Ties of blood and
brotherhood in arms were strong between them, and whatever unfair
advantages they allowed themselves to take of their enemy, they were in
general constant and devoted in their friendships towards each other.
Rivalries and intrigues were not unknown among them, but generous
self-denial, and chivalrous self-reliance were equally as common. If it
had been the lot of our ancestors to be effectually conquered, they
could hardly have yielded to nobler foes. But as they proved themselves
able to resist successfully the prowess of this hitherto invincible
race, their honour is augmented in proportion to the energy and genius,
both for government and war, brought to bear against them.

Neither should we overstate the charge of impiety. If the invaders
broke down and burned churches in the heat of battle, they built better
and costlier temples out of the fruits of victory. Christ Church,
Dublin, Dunbrody Abbey, on the estuary of Waterford, the Grey Friars'
Abbey at Wexford, and other religious houses long stood, or still
stand, to show that although the first Norman, like the first Dane,
thirsted after spoil, and lusted after land, unlike the Dane, he
created, he enriched, he improved, wherever he conquered.


The victory of Thurles, in the year 1174, was the next important
military event, as we have seen, after the raising of the second siege
of Dublin, in the first campaign of Earl Richard. It seems
irreconcilable, with the consequences of that victory, that Ambassadors
from Roderick should be found at the Court of Henry II. before the
close of the following year: but events personal to both sovereigns
will sufficiently explain the apparent anomaly.

The campaign of 1174, so unfavourable to Henry's subjects in Ireland,
had been most fortunate for his arms in Normandy. His rebellious sons,
after severe defeats, submitted, and did him homage; the King of France
had gladly accepted his terms of peace; the King of Scotland, while in
duress, had rendered him fealty as his liege man; and Queen Eleanor,
having fallen into his power, was a prisoner for life. Tried by a
similar unnatural conspiracy in his own family, Roderick O'Conor had
been less fortunate in coercing them into obedience. His eldest son,
Murray, claimed, according to ancient custom, that his father should
resign in his favour the patrimonial Province, contenting himself with
the higher rank of King of Ireland. But Roderick well understood that
in his days, with a new and most formidable enemy established in the
old Danish strongholds, with the Constitution torn to shreds by the war
of succession, his only real power was over his patrimony; he refused,
therefore, the unreasonable request, and thus converted some of his own
children into enemies. Nor were there wanting Princes, themselves
fathers, who abetted this household treason, as the Kings of France and
Scotland had done among the sons of Henry II. Soon after the battle of
Thurles, the recovery of Limerick, and the taking of Kilkenny, Donald
More O'Brien, lending himself to this odious intrigue, was overpowered
and deposed by Roderick, but the year next succeeding having made
submission he was restored by the same hand which had cast him down. It
was, therefore, while harassed by the open rebellion of his eldest son,
and while Henry was rejoicing in his late success, that Roderick
despatched to the Court of Windsor Catholicus, Archbishop of Tuam,
Concors, Abbot of St. Brendan's, and Laurence, Archbishop of Dublin,
whose is styled in these proceedings, "Chancellor of the Irish King,"
to negotiate an alliance with Henry, which would leave him free to
combat against his domestic enemies. An extraordinary treaty, agreed
upon at Windsor, about the feast of Michaelmas, 1175, recognized
Roderick's sovereignty over Ireland, the cantreds and cities actually
possessed by the subjects of Henry excepted; it subinfeudated his
authority to that of Henry, after the manner lately adopted towards
William, King of Scotland; the payment of a merchantable hide of every
tenth hide of cattle was agreed upon as an annual tribute, while the
minor chiefs were to acknowledge their dependence by annual presents of
hawks and hounds. This treaty, which proceeded on the wild assumption
that the feudal system was of force among the free clans of Erin, was
probably the basis of Henry's grant of the Lordship of Ireland to his
son, John _Lackland_, a few years later; it was solemnly approved by a
special Council, or Parliament, and signed by the representatives of
both parties.

Among the signers we find the name of the Archbishop of Dublin, who,
while in England, narrowly escaped martyrdom from the hands of a
maniac, while celebrating Mass at the tomb of St. Thomas. Four years
afterwards, this celebrated ecclesiastic attended at Rome, with
Catholicus of Tuam, and the Prelates of Lismore, Limerick, Waterford,
and Killaloe, the third general council of Lateran, where they were
received with all honour by Pope Alexander III. From Rome he returned
with legantine powers which he used with great energy during the year
1180. In the autumn of that year, he was entrusted with the delivery to
Henry II. of the son of Roderick O'Conor, as a pledge for the
fulfilment of the treaty of Windsor, and with other diplomatic
functions. On reaching England, he found the king had gone to France,
and following him thither, he was seized with illness as he approached
the Monastery of Eu, and with a prophetic foretaste of death, he
exclaimed as he came in sight of the towers of the Convent, "Here shall
I make my resting-place." The Abbot Osbert and the monks of the Order
of St. Victor received him tenderly, and watched his couch for the few
days he yet lingered. Anxious to fulfil his mission, he despatched
David, tutor of the son of Roderick, with messages to Henry, and
awaited his return with anxiety. David brought him a satisfactory
response from the English King, and the last anxiety only remained. In
death, as in life, his thoughts were with his country. "Ah, foolish and
insensible people!" he exclaimed in his latest hours, "what will become
of you? Who will relieve your miseries? Who will heal you?" When
recommended to make his last will, he answered, with apostolic
simplicity—"God knows, out of all my revenues, I have not a single coin
to bequeath." And thus on the 11th day of November, 1180, in the 48th
year of his age, under the shelter of a Norman roof, surrounded by
Norman mourners, the Gaelic statesman-saint departed out of this life,
bequeathing—one more canonized memory to Ireland and to Rome.

The prospects of his native land were, at that moment, of a cast which
might well disturb the death-bed of the sainted Laurence. Fitz-Aldelm,
advanced to the command at Dublin in 1177, had shown no great capacity
for following up the conquest. But there was one among his followers
who, unaffected by his sluggish example, and undeterred by his jealous
interference, resolved to push the outposts of his race into the heart
of Ulster. This was John de Courcy, Baron of Stoke Courcy, in
Somersetshire, a cavalier of fabulous physical strength, romantic
courage, and royal descent. When he declared his settled purpose to be
the invasion of Ulster, he found many spirits as discontented with
Fitz-Aldelm's inaction as himself ready to follow his banner. His
inseparable brother-in-arms, Sir Almaric of St. Laurence, his relative,
Jourdain de Courcy, Sir Robert de la Poer, Sir Geoffrey and Walter de
Marisco, and other Knights to the number of twenty, and five hundred
men at arms, marched with him out of Dublin. Hardly had they got beyond
sight of the city, when they were attacked by a native force, near
Howth, where Saint Laurence laid in victory the foundation of that
title still possessed by his posterity. On the fifth day, they came by
surprise upon the famous ecclesiastical city of Downpatrick, one of the
first objects of their adventure. An ancient prophecy had foretold that
the place would be taken by a chief with birds upon his shield, the
bearings of de Courcy, mounted on a white horse, which de Courcy
happened to ride. Thus the terrors of superstition were added to the
terrors of surprise, and the town being entirely open, the Normans had
only to dash into the midst of its inhabitants. But the free clansmen
of Ulidia, though surprised, were not intimidated. Under their lord
Rory, son of Dunlevy, they rallied to expel the invader. Cardinal
Vivian, the Papal Legate, who had just arrived from Man and Scotland,
on the neighbouring coast, proffered his mediation, and besought de
Courcy to withdraw from Down. His advice was peremptorily rejected, and
then he exhorted the Ulidians to fight bravely for their rights. Five
several battles are enumerated as being fought, in this and the
following year, between de Courcy and the men of Down, Louth, and
Antrim, sometimes with success, at others without it, always with heavy
loss and obstinate resistance.

The barony of Lecale, in which Downpatrick stands, is almost a
peninsula, and the barony of the Ardes on the opposite shore of
Strangford Lough is nearly insulated by Belfast Lough, the Channel, and
the tides of Strangford. With the active co-operation from the sea of
Godred, King of Man, (whose daughter Africa he had married), de
Courcy's hold on that coast became an exceedingly strong one. A ditch
and a few towers would as effectually enclose Lecale and the Ardes from
any landward attack, as if they were a couple of well-walled cities.
Hence, long after "the Pale" ceased to extend beyond the Boyne, and
while the mountain passes from Meath into Ulster were all in native
hands, these two baronies continued to be succoured and strengthened by
sea, and retained as English possessions. Reinforced from Dublin and
from Man after their first success, de Courcy's companions stuck to
their castle-building about the shores of Strangford Lough, while he
himself made incursions into the interior, by land or by sea, fighting
a brisk succession of engagements at Newry, in Antrim, at Coleraine,
and on the eastern shore of Lough Foyle.

At the time these operations were going forward in Ulster, Milo de
Cogan quitted Dublin on a somewhat similar expedition. We have already
said that Murray, eldest son of Roderick, had claimed, according to
ancient usage, the O'Conor patrimony, his father being Ard-Righ; and
had his claim refused. He now entered into a secret engagement with de
Cogan, whose force is stated by _Giraldus_ at 500 men-at-arms, and by
the Irish annalists as "a great army." With the smaller force he left
Dublin, but marching through Meath, was joined at Trim by men from the
garrisons de Lacy had planted in East-Meath. So accompanied, de Cogan
advanced on Roscommon, where he was received by the son of Roderick
during the absence of the Ard-Righ on a visitation among the glens of
Connemara. After three days spent in Roscommon, these allies marched
across the plain of Connaught, directed their course on Tuam, burning
as they went Elphin, Roskeen, and many other churches. The western
clansmen everywhere fell back before them, driving off their herds and
destroying whatever they could not remove. At Tuam they found
themselves in the midst of a solitude without food or forage, with an
eager enemy swarming from the west and the south to surround them. They
at once decided to retreat, and no time was to be lost, as the Kern
were already at their heels. From Tuam to Athleague, and from Athleague
to their castles in East-Meath, fled the remnant of de Cogan's
inglorious expedition. Murray O'Conor being taken prisoner by his own
kinsmen, his eyes were plucked out as the punishment of his treason,
and Conor Moinmoy, the joint-victor with Donald O'Brien over Strongbow
at Thurles, became the _Roydamna_ or successor of his father.

But fresh dissensions soon broke out between the sons and grandsons of
Roderick, and the sons of his brother Thurlogh, in one of whose deadly
conflicts sixteen Princes of the Sil-Murray fell. Both sides looked
beyond Connaught for help; one drew friends from the northern O'Neills,
another relied on the aid of O'Brien. Conor Moinmoy, in the year 1186,
according to most Irish accounts, banished his father into Munster, but
at the intercession of the Sil-Murray, his own clan allowed him again
to return, and assigned him a single cantred of land for his
subsistence. From this date we may count the unhappy Roderick's
retirement from the world.

Near the junction of Lough Corrib with Lough Mask, on the boundary line
between Mayo and Galway, stands the ruins of the once populous
monastery and village of Cong. The first Christian kings of Connaught
had founded the monastery, or enabled St. Fechin to do so by their
generous donations. The father of Roderick had enriched its shrine by
the gift of a particle of the true Cross, reverently enshrined in a
reliquary, the workmanship of which still excites the admiration of the
antiquaries. Here Roderick retired in the 70th year of his age, and for
twelve years thereafter—until the 29th day of November, 1198, here he
wept and prayed, and withered away. Dead to the world, as the world to
him, the opening of a new grave in the royal corner at Clonmacnoise was
the last incident connected with his name, which reminded Connaught
that it had lost its once prosperous Prince, and Ireland, that she had
seen her last Ard-Righ, according to the ancient Milesian Constitution.
Powerful Princes of his own and other houses the land was destined to
know for many generations, before its sovereignty was merged in that of
England, but none fully entitled to claim the high-sounding, but often
fallacious title, of Monarch of all Ireland.

The public character of Roderick O'Conor has been hardly dealt with by
most modern writers. He was not, like his father, like Murkertach
O'Brien, Malachy II., Brian, Murkertach of the leathern cloaks, or
Malachy I., eminent as a lawgiver, a soldier, or a popular leader. He
does not appear to have inspired love, or awe, or reverence, into those
of his own household and patrimony, not to speak of his distant
cotemporaries. He was probably a man of secondary qualities, engulfed
in a crisis of the first importance. But that he is fairly chargeable
with the success of the invaders—or that there was any very
overwhelming success to be charged up to the time of his enforced
retirement from the world—we have failed to discover. From Dermid's
return until his retreat to Cong, seventeen years had passed away.
Seventeen campaigns, more or less energetic and systematic, the Normans
had fought. Munster was still in 1185—when John Lackland made his
memorable exit and entrance on the scene—almost wholly in the hands of
the ancient clans. Connaught was as yet without a single Norman
garrison. Hugh de Lacy returning to the government of Dublin, in 1179,
on Fitz-Aldelm's recall, was more than half _Hibernicized_ by marriage
with one of Roderick's daughters, and the Norman tide stood still in
Meath. Several strong fortresses were indeed erected in Desmond and
Leinster, by John Lackland and by de Courcy, in his newly won northern
territory. Ardfinan, Lismore, Leighlin, Carlow, Castledermot, Leix,
Delvin, Kilkay, Maynooth and Trim, were fortified; but considering who
the Anglo-Normans were, and what they had done elsewhere, even these
very considerable successes may be correctly accounted for without
overcharging the memory of Roderick with folly and incapacity. That he
was personally brave has not been questioned. That he was politic—or at
least capable of conceiving the politic views of such a statesman as
St. Laurence O'Toole, we may infer from the rank of Chancellor which he
conferred, and the other negotiations which he entrusted to that great
man. That he maintained his self-respect as a sovereign, both in
abstaining from visiting Henry II. under pretence of hospitality at
Dublin, and throughout all his difficult diplomacy with the Normans, we
are free to conclude. With the Normans for foes—with a decayed and
obsolete national constitution to patch up—with nominal subordinates
more powerful than himself—with rebellion staring him in the face out
of the eyes of his own children—Roderick O'Conor had no ordinary part
to play in history. The fierce family pride of our fathers and the
vices of their political system are to be deplored and avoided; let us
not make the last of their national kings the scape-goat for all his
cotemporaries and all his predecessors.


Hugh de Lacy, restored to the supreme authority on the recall of
Fitz-Aldelm in 1179, began to conceive hopes, as Strongbow had done, of
carving out for himself a new kingdom. After the assassination of
O'Ruarc already related, he assumed without further parley the titles
of Lord of Meath and Breffni. To these titles, he added that of Oriel
or Louth, but his real strength lay in Meath, where his power was
enhanced by a politic second marriage with Rose, daughter of O'Conor.
Among the Irish he now began to be known as King of the foreigners, and
some such assumption of royal authority caused his recall for a few
months in the year 1180, and his substitution by de Courcy and Philip
de Broasa, in 1184. But his great qualities caused his restoration a
third time to the rank of Justiciary for Henry, or Deputy for John,
whose title of "Lord of Ireland" was bestowed by his father, at a
Parliament held at Oxford, in 1177.

This founder of the Irish de Lacys is described by _Giraldus_, who knew
him personally, as a man of Gallic sobriety, ambitious, avaricious, and
lustful, of small stature, and deformed shape, with repulsive features,
and dark, deep-set eyes. By the Irish of the midland districts he was
bitterly detested as a sacrilegious spoiler of their churches and
monasteries, and the most powerful among their invaders. The murder of
O'Ruarc, whose title of Breffni he had usurped, was attributed to a
deep-laid design; he certainly shared the odium with the advantage that
ensued from it. Nor was his own end unlike that of his rival. Among
other sites for castles, he had chosen the foundations of the ancient
and much venerated monastery of Durrow, planted by Columbcille, seven
centuries before, in the midst of the fertile region watered by the
Brosna. This act of profanity was fated to be his last, for, while
personally superintending the work, O'Meyey, a young man of good birth,
and foster-brother to a neighbouring chief of Teffia, known as
_Sionnach_, or "the Fox," struck off his head with a single blow of his
axe and escaped into the neighbouring forest of Kilclare during the
confusion which ensued. De Lacy left issue—two sons, Hugh and Walter,
by his first wife, and a third, William _Gorm_, by his second—of whom,
and of their posterity, we shall have many occasions to make mention.

In one of the intervals of de Lacy's disfavour, Prince John, surnamed
_Sans-terre_, or "lack-land," was sent over by his father to strengthen
the English interest in Ireland. He arrived in Waterford, accompanied
by a fleet of sixty ships, on the last of March, 1185, and remained in
the country till the following November. If anything could excuse the
levity, folly and misconduct of the Prince on this expedition, it would
be his youth;—he was then only eighteen. But Henry had taken every
precaution to ensure success to his favourite son. He was preceded into
Ireland by Archbishop Cuming, the English successor of St. Laurence;
the learned Glanville was his legal adviser; John de Courcy was his
lieutenant, and the eloquent, but passionate and partial _Giraldus
Cambrensis_, his chaplain and tutor. He had, however, other companions
more congenial to his age and temper, young noblemen as froward and as
extravagant as himself; yet, as he surpassed them all in birth and
rank, so he did in wickedness and cruelty of disposition. For age he
had no reverence, for virtue no esteem, neither truth towards man, nor
decency towards woman. On his arrival at Waterford, the new Archbishop
of Dublin, John de Courcy, and the principal Norman nobles, hastened to
receive him. With them came also certain Leinster chiefs, desiring to
live at peace with the new Galls. When, according to the custom of the
country, the chiefs advanced to give John the kiss of peace, their
venerable age was made a mockery by the young Prince, who met their
proffered salutations by plucking at their beards. This appears to have
been as deadly an insult to the Irish as it is to the Asiatics, and the
deeply offended guests instantly quitted Waterford. Other follies and
excesses rapidly transpired, and the native nobles began to discover
that a royal army encumbered, rather than led by such a Prince, was not
likely to prove itself invincible. In an idle parade from the Suir to
the Liffey, from the Liffey to the Boyne, and in issuing orders for the
erection of castles, (some of which are still correctly and others
erroneously called King John's Castles,) the campaign months of the
year were wasted by the King of England's son. One of these castles, to
which most importance was attached, Ardfinan on the Suir, was no sooner
built than taken by Donald More O'Brien, on midsummer day, when four
knights and its other defenders were slain. Another was rising at
Lismore, on the Blackwater, under the guardianship of Robert Barry, one
of the brood of Nesta, when it was attacked and Barry slain. Other
knights and castellans were equally unfortunate; Raymond Fitz-Hugh fell
at Leighlin, another Raymond in Idrone, and Roger le Poer in Ossory. In
Desmond, Cormac McCarthy besieged Theobald, ancestor of the Butlers in
Cork, but this brave Prince—the worthy compeer of O'Brien—was cut off
"in a parlee by them of Cork." The Clan-Colman, or O'Melaghlins, had
risen in West-Meath to reclaim their own, when Henry, not an hour too
soon, recalled his reckless son, and entrusted, for the last time, the
command to Hugh de Lacy, whose fate has been already related.

In the fluctuations of the power of the invaders after the death of de
Lacy, and during the next reign in England, one steadfast name appears
foremost among the adventurers—that of the gallant giant, de Courcy,
the conqueror of the Ards of Down. Not only in prowess, but also in
piety, he was the model of all the knighthood of his time. We are told
that he always carried about his person a copy of the prophecies
attributed to Columbcille, and when, in the year 1186, the relics of
the three great saints, whose dust sanctifies Downpatrick, were
supposed to be discovered by the Bishop of Down in a dream, he caused
them to be translated to the altar-side with all suitable reverence.
Yet all his devotions and pilgrimages did not prevent him from pushing
on the work of conquest whenever occasion offered. His plantation in
Down had time to take root from the unexpected death of Donald, Prince
of Aileach, in an encounter with the garrison of one of the new
castles, near Newry. (A.D. 1188.) The same year he took up the
enterprise against Connaught, in which Milo de Cogan had so signally
failed, and from which even de Lacy had, for reasons of his own,
refrained. The feuds of the O'Conor family were again the pretext and
the ground of hope with the invaders, but Donald More O'Brien,
victorious on the Suir and the Shannon, carried his strong succours to
Conor _Moinmoy_ on the banks of the Suca, near the present Ballinasloe,
and both powers combined marched against de Courcy. Unprepared for this
junction, the Norman retreated towards Sligo, and had reached
Ballysadare, when Flaherty, Lord of Tyrconnell (Donegal), came against
them from the opposite point, and thus placed between two fires, they
were forced to fly through the rugged passes of the Curlieu mountains,
skirmishing as they went. The only incidents which signalized this
campaign on their side was the burning of Ballysadare and the plunder
of Armagh; to the Irish it was creditable for the combinations it
occasioned. It is cheering in the annals of those desultory wars to
find a national advantage gained by the joint action of a Munster, a
Connaught, and an Ulster force.

The promise of national unity held out by the alliance of O'Brien and
O'Conor, in the years 1188-'89, had been followed up by the adhesion of
the lords of Breffni, Ulidia, or Down, the chiefs of the Clan-Colman,
and McCarthy, Prince of Desmond. But the assassination of Conor
Moinmoy, by the partizans of his cousins, extinguished the hopes of the
country, and the peace of his own province. The old family feuds broke
out with new fury. In vain the aged Roderick emerged from his convent,
and sought with feeble hand to curb the fiery passions of his tribe; in
vain the Archbishops of Armagh and of Tuam interposed their spiritual
authority, A series of fratricidal contests, for which history has no
memory and no heart, were fought out between the warring branches of
the family during the last ten years of the century, until by virtue of
the strong-arm, Cathal _Crovdearg_, son of Turlogh More, and younger
brother of Roderick, assumed the sovereignty of Connaught about the
year 1200.

In the twelve years which intervened between the death of _Moinmoy_ and
the establishment of the power of Cathal _Crovdearg_ O'Conor, the
Normans had repeated opportunities for intervention in the affairs of
Connaught. William de Burgh, a powerful Baron of the family of
Fitz-Aldelm, the former Lord Justice, sided with the opponents of
Cathal, while de Courcy, and subsequently the younger de Lacy, fought
on his side. Once at least these restless Barons changed allies, and
fought as desperately against their former candidate for the succession
as they had before fought for him. In one of these engagements, the
date assigned to which is the year 1190, Sir Armoric St. Laurence,
founder of the Howth family, at the head of a numerous division, is
said to have been cut off with all his troop. But the fortune of war
frequently shifted during the contest. In the year 1199, Cathal
_Crovdearg_, with his allies de Lacy and de Courcy, was utterly
defeated at Kilmacduagh, in the present county of Galway, and were it
not that the rival O'Conor was sorely defeated, and trodden to death in
the route which ensued, three years later, Connaught might never have
known the vigorous administration of her "red-handed" hero.

The early career of this able and now triumphant Prince, as preserved
to us by history and tradition, is full of romantic incidents. He is
said to have been born out of wedlock, and that his mother, while
pregnant of him, was subject to all the cruel persecutions and magical
torments the jealous wife of his father could invent. No sooner was he
born than he became an object of hatred to the Queen, so that mother
and child, after being concealed for three years in the sanctuaries of
Connaught, had to fly for their lives into Leinster. In this exile,
though early informed of his origin, he was brought up among the
labourers in the field, and was actually engaged, sickle in hand,
cutting the harvest, when a travelling _Bollscaire_, or newsman from
the west, related the events which enabled him to return to his native
province. "Farewell sickle," he exclaimed, casting it from him—"now for
the sword." Hence "Cathal's farewell to the rye" was long a proverbial
expression for any sudden change of purpose or of condition. Fortune
seems to have favoured him in most of his undertakings. In a storm upon
Lough Ree, when a whole fleet foundered and its warrior crew perished,
he was one of seven who were saved. Though in some of his early battles
unsuccessful, he always recovered his ground, kept up his alliances,
and returned to the contest. After the death of the celebrated Donald
More O'Brien (A.D. 1194), he may certainly be considered the first
soldier and first diplomatist among the Irish. Nor was his lot cast on
more favoured days, nor was he pitted against less able men than those
with whom the brave King of Munster—the stoutest defender of his
fatherland—had so honourably striven. Fortunate it was for the renown
of the Gael, that as one star of the race set over Thomond, another of
equal brilliancy rose to guide them in the west.

With the end of the century, the career of Cathal's allies, de Courcy
and de Burgh, may be almost said to have ended. The obituary of the
latter bears the date of 1204. He had obtained large grants from King
John of lands in Connaught—if he could conquer them—which his vigorous
descendants, the Burkes of Clanrickarde, did their best to accomplish.
De Courcy, warring with the sons of de Lacy, and seeking refuge among
the clansmen of Tyrone, disappears from the stage of Irish affairs. He
is said to have passed on to England, and ended his days in prison, a
victim to the caprice or jealousy of King John. Many tales are told of
his matchless intrepidity. His indirect descendants, the Barons of
Kinsale, claim the right to wear their hats before the King in
consequence of one of these legends, which represents him as the
champion Knight of England, taken from, a dungeon to uphold her honour
against a French challenger. Other tales as ill authenticated are
founded on his career, which, however, in its literal truth, is
unexcelled for hardihood and adventure, except, perhaps, by the
cotemporaneous story of the lion-hearted Richard, whom he closely
resembled. The title of Earl of Ulster, created for de Courcy in 1181,
was transferred in 1205, by royal patent, to Walter de Lacy, whose only
daughter Maud brought it in the year 1264 to Walter de Burgh, lord of
Connaught, from whose fourth female descendant it passed in 1354, by
her marriage with Lionel, Duke of Clarence, into the royal family of


Ireland, during the first three quarters of the thirteenth century,
produced fewer important events, and fewer great men, than in the
thirty last years of the century preceding. From the side of England,
she was subjected to no imminent danger in all that interval. The reign
of John ending in 1216, and that of Henry III. extending till 1271,
were fully occupied with the insurrections of the Barons, with French,
Scotch, and Welsh wars, family feuds, the rise and fall of royal
favourites, and all those other incidents which naturally, befall in a
state of society where the King is weak, the aristocracy strong and
insolent, and the commons disunited and despised. During this period
the fusion of Norman, Saxon, and Briton went slowly on, and the next
age saw for the first time a population which could be properly called
English. "Do you take me for an Englishman?" was the last expression of
Norman arrogance in the reign of King John; but the close of the reign
of Henry III., through the action of commercial and political causes,
saw a very different state of feeling growing up between the
descendants of the races which contended for mastery under Harold and
William. The strongly marked Norman characteristics lingered in Ireland
half a century later, for it is usually the case that traits of caste
survive longest in colonies and remote provinces. In Richard de Burgo,
commonly called the Red Earl of Ulster, all the genius and the vices of
the race of Rollo blazed out over Ireland for the last time, and with
terrible effect.

During the first three quarters of the century, our history, like that
of England, is the history of a few great houses; nation there is,
strictly speaking, none. It will be necessary, therefore, to group
together the acts of two or three generations of men of the same name,
as the only method of finding our way through the shifting scenes of
this stormy period.

The power of the great Connaught family of O'Conor, so terribly shaken
by the fratricidal wars and unnatural alliances of the sons and
grandsons of Roderick, was in great part restored by the ability and
energy of Cathal _Crovdearg_. In his early struggles for power he was
greatly assisted by the anarchy which reigned among the English nobles.
Mayler Fitz-Henry, the last of Strongbow's companions, who rose to such
eminence, being Justiciary in the first six years of the century, was
aided by O'Conor to besiege William de Burgo in Limerick, and to
cripple the power of the de Lacys in Meath. In the year 1207, John
Gray, Bishop of Norwich, was sent over, as more likely to be impartial
than any ruler personally interested in the old quarrels, but during
his first term of office, the interdict with which Innocent III. had
smitten England, hung like an Egyptian darkness over the Anglo-Norman
power in Ireland. The native Irish, however, were exempt from its
enervating effects, and Cathal O'Conor, by the time King John came over
in person—in the year 1210—to endeavour to retrieve the English
interest, had warred down all his enemies, and was of power sufficient
to treat with the English sovereign as independently as Roderick had
done with Henry II. thirty-five years before. He personally conferred
with John at Dublin, as the O'Neil and other native Princes did; he
procured from the English King the condemnation of John de Burgo, who
had maintained his father's claims on a portion of Connaught, and he
was formally recognised, according to the approved forms of Norman
diplomacy, as seized of the whole of Connaught, in his own right.

The visit of King John, which lasted from the 20th of June till the
25th of August, was mainly directed to the reduction of those
intractable Anglo-Irish Barons whom Fitz-Henry and Gray had proved
themselves unable to cope with. Of these the de Lacys of Meath were the
most obnoxious. They not only assumed an independent state, but had
sheltered de Braos, Lord of Brecknock, one of the recusant Barons of
Wales, and refused to surrender him on the royal summons. To assert his
authority, and to strike terror into the nobles of other possessions,
John crossed the channel with a prodigious fleet—in the Irish annals
said to consist of 700 sail. He landed at Crook, reached Dublin, and
prepared at once to subdue the Lacys. With his own army, and the
co-operation of Cathal O'Conor, he drove out Walter de Lacy, Lord of
Meath, who fled to his brother, Hugh de Lacy, since de Courcy's
disgrace, Earl of Ulster. From Meath into Louth John pursued the
brothers, crossing the lough at Carlingford with his ships, which must
have coasted in his company. From Carlingford they retreated, and he
pursued to Carrickfergus, and from that fortress, unable to resist a
royal fleet and navy, they fled into Man or Scotland, and thence
escaped in disguise into France. With their guest de Braos, they
wrought as gardeners in the grounds of the Abbey of Saint Taurin
Evreux, until the Abbot, having discovered by their manners the key to
their real rank, negotiated successfully with John for their
restoration to their estates. Walter agreed to pay a fine of 2,500
marks for his lordship in Meath, and Hugh 4,000 marks for his
possessions in Ulster. Of de Braos we have no particulars; his
high-spirited wife and children were thought to have been starved to
death by order of the unforgiving tyrant in one of his castles. The de
Lacys, on their restoration, were accompanied to Ireland by a nephew of
the Abbot of St. Taurin, on whom they conferred an estate and the
honour of knighthood.

The only other acts of John's sojourn in Ireland was his treaty with
O'Conor, already mentioned, and the mapping out, on paper, of the
intended counties of Oriel (or Louth), Meath, Dublin, Kildare,
Kilkenny, Katherlough (or Carlow), Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Kerry,
Limerick, and Tipperary, as the only districts in which those he
claimed as his subjects had any possessions. He again installed the
Bishop of Norwich as his justiciary or lieutenant, who, three years,
later, was succeeded by Henry de Londres, the next Archbishop of
Dublin, and he again (A.D. 1215), by Geoffrey de Marisco, the last of
John's deputies. In the year 1216, Henry III., an infant ten years of
age, succeeded to the English throne, and the next dozen years the
history of the two islands is slightly connected, except by the
fortunes of the family of de Burgh, whose head, Hubert de Burgh, the
Chief Justiciary, from the accession of the new King, until the first
third of the century had closed, was in reality the Sovereign of
England. Among his other titles he held that of Lord of Connaught,
which he conveyed to his relative, Richard de Burgo, the son or
grandson of William Fitz-Aldelm de Burgo, about the year 1225. And this
brings us to relate how the house of Clanrickarde rose upon the flank
of the house of O'Conor, and after holding an almost equal front for
two generations, finally overshadowed its more ancient rival.

While Cathal _Crovdearg_ lived, the O'Conor's held their own, and
rather more than their own, by policy or arms. Not only did his own
power suffer no diminution, but he more than once assisted the Dalgais
and the Eugenians to expel their invaders from North and South Munster,
and to uphold their ancient rights and laws. During the last years of
John's reign that King and his Barons were mutually too busy to set
aside the arrangement entered into in 1210. In the first years of Henry
it was also left undisturbed by the English court. In 1221 we read that
the de Lacys, remembering, no doubt, the part he had played in their
expulsion, endeavoured to fortify Athleague against him, but the
veteran King, crossing the Shannon farther northward, took them in the
rear, compelled them to make peace, and broke down their Castle. This
was almost the last of his victories. In the year 1213 we read in the
Annals of "an awful and heavy shower which fell over Connaught," and
was held to presage the death of its heroic King. Feeling his hour had
come, this Prince, to whom are justly attributed the rare union of
virtues, ardour of mind, chastity of body, meekness in prosperity,
fortitude under defeat, prudence in civil business, undaunted bravery
in battle, and a piety of life beyond all his cotemporaries—feeling the
near approach of death, retired to the Abbey of Knockmoy, which he had
founded and endowed, and there expired in the Franciscan habit, at an
age which must have bordered on fourscore. He was succeeded by his son,
Hugh O'Conor, "the hostages of Connaught being in his house" at the
time of his illustrious father's death.

No sooner was Cathal _Crovdearg_ deceased than Hubert de Burgo procured
the grants of the whole Province, reserving only five cantreds about
Athlone for a royal garrison to be made to Richard de Burgo, his
nephew. Richard had married Hodierna, granddaughter to Cathal, and
thus, like all the Normans, though totally against the Irish custom,
claimed a part of Connaught in right of his wife. But in the sons of
Cathal he found his equal both in policy and arms, and with the fall of
his uncle at the English court (about the year 1233), Feidlim O'Conor,
the successor of Hugh, taking advantage of the event, made interest at
the Court of Henry III. sufficient to have his overgrown neighbour
stripped of some of his strongholds by royal order. The King was so
impressed with O'Conor's representations that he wrote peremptorily to
Maurice Fitzgerald, second Lord Offally, then his deputy, "to root out
that barren tree planted in Offally by Hubert de Burgh, in the madness
of his power, and not to suffer it to shoot forth." Five years later,
Feidlim, in return, carried some of his force, in conjunction with the
deputy, to Henry's aid in Wales, though, as their arrival was somewhat
tardy, Fitzgerald was soon after dismissed on that account.

Richard de Burgo died in attendance on King Henry in France (A.D.
1243), and was succeeded by his son, Walter de Burgo, who continued,
with varying fortunes, the contest for Connaught with Feidlim, until
the death of the latter, in the Black Abbey of Roscommon, in the year
1265. Hugh O'Conor, the son and successor of Feidlim, continued the
intrepid guardian of his house and province during the nine years he
survived his father. In the year 1254, by marriage with the daughter of
de Lacy, Earl of Ulster, that title had passed into the family of de
Burgh, bringing with it, for the time, much substantial, though
distant, strength. It was considered only a secondary title, and as the
eldest son of the first de Lacy remained Lord of Meath, while the
younger took de Courcy's forfeited title of Ulster, so, in the next
generation, did the sons of this Walter de Burgh, until death and time
reunited both titles in the same person. Walter de Burgh died in the
year 1271, in the Castle of Galway; his great rival, Feidlim O'Conor,
in 1274, was buried in the Abbey of Boyle. The former is styled King of
the English of Connaught by the Irish Annalists, who also speak of
Feidlim as "the most triumphant and the most feared (by the invaders)
of any King that had been in Connaught before his time." The relative
position of the Irish and English in that Province, towards the end of
this century, may be judged by the fact, that of the Anglo-Normans
summoned by Edward I. to join him in Scotland in 1299, but two, Richard
de Burgo and Piers de Bermingham, Baron of Athenry, had then
possessions in Connaught. There were Norman Castles at Athlone, at
Athenry, at Galway, and perhaps at other points; but the natives still
swayed supreme over the plains of Rathcrogan, the plains of Boyle, the
forests and lakes of Roscommon, and the whole of _Iar_, or West
Connaught, from Lough Corrib to the ocean, with the very important
exception of the castle and port of Galway. A mightier de Burgo than
any that had yet appeared was to see in his house, in the year 1286,
"the hostages of all Connaught;" but his life and death form a distinct
epoch in our story and must be treated separately.


We have already told the tragic fate of the two adventurers—Fitzstephen
and de Cogan—between whom the whole of Desmond was first partitioned by
Henry II. But there were not wanting other claimants, either by
original grant from the crown, by intermarriage with Irish, or
Norman-Irish heiresses, or new-comers, favourites of John or of Henry
III., or of their Ministers, enriched at the expense of the native
population. Thomas, third son of Maurice Fitzgerald, claimed partly
through his uncle Fitzstephen, and partly through his marriage with the
daughter of another early adventurer, Sir William Morrie, whose vast
estates on which his descendants were afterwards known as Earls of
Desmond, the White Knight, the Knight of Glyn, and the Knight of Kerry.
Robert de Carew and Patrick de Courcy claimed as heirs general to de
Cogan. The de Mariscoes, de Barris, and le Poers, were not extinct; and
finally Edward I., soon after his accession, granted the whole land of
Thomond to Thomas de Clare, son of the Earl of Gloucester, and
son-in-law of Maurice, third Baron of Offally. A contest very similar
to that which was waged in Connaught between the O'Conors and de Burghs
was consequently going on in Munster at the same time, between the old
inhabitants and the new claimants, of all the three classes just

The principality of Desmond, containing angles of Waterford and
Tipperary, with all Cork and Kerry, seemed at the beginning of the
thirteenth century in greatest danger of conquest. The O'Callaghans,
Lords of Cinel-Aedha, in the south of Cork, were driven into the
mountains of Duhallow, where they rallied and held their ground for
four centuries; the O'Sullivans, originally settled along the Suir,
about Clonmel, were forced towards the mountain seacoast of Cork and
Kerry, where they acquired new vigour in the less fertile soil of Beare
and Bantry. The native families of the Desies, from their proximity to
the port of Waterford, were harassed and overrun, and the ports of
Dungarvan, Youghal, and Cork, being also taken and garrisoned by the
founder of the earldom of Desmond, easy entrance and egress by sea
could always be obtained for his allies, auxiliaries, and supplies. It
was when these dangers were darkening and menacing on every side that
the family of McCarthy, under a succession of able and vigorous chiefs,
proved themselves worthy of the headship of the Eugenian race. Cormac
McCarthy, who had expelled the first garrison from Waterford, ere he
fell in a parley before Cork, had defeated the first enterprises of
Fitzstephen and de Cogan; he left a worthy son in Donald na Curra, who,
uniting his own co-relations, and acting in conjunction with O'Brien
and O'Conor, retarded by his many exploits the progress of the invasion
in Munster. He recovered Cork and razed King John's castle at
Knockgraffon on the Suir. He left two surviving sons, of whom the
eldest, Donald _Gott_, or the Stammerer, took the title of _More_, or
Great, and his posterity remained princes of Desmond, until that title
merged in the earldom of Glencare (A.D. 1565); the other, Cormac, after
taking his brother prisoner compelled him to acknowledge him as lord of
the four baronies of Carbury. From this Cormac the family of McCarthy
Reagh descended, and to them the O'Driscolls, O'Donovans, O'Mahonys,
and other Eugenian houses became tributary. The chief residence of
McCarthy Reagh was long fixed at Dunmanway; his castles were also at
Baltimore, Castlehaven, Lough-Fyne, and in Inis-Sherkin and Clear
Island. The power of McCarthy More extended at its greatest reach from
Tralee in Kerry to Lismore in Waterford. In the year 1229, Dermid
McCarthy had peaceable possession of Cork, and founded the Franciscan
Monastery there. Such was his power, that, according to Hamner and his
authorities, the Geraldines "dare not for twelve years put plough into
the ground in Desmond." At last, another generation rose, and fierce
family feuds broke out between the branches of the family. The Lord of
Carbury now was Fineen, or Florence, the most celebrated man of his
name, and one whose power naturally encroached upon the possession of
the elder house. John, son of Thomas Fitzgerald of Desmond, seized the
occasion to make good the enormous pretension of his family. In the
expedition which he undertook for this purpose, in the year 1260, he
was joined by the Justiciary, William Dene, by Walter de Burgo, Earl of
Ulster, by Walter de Riddlesford, Baron of Bray, by Donnel Roe, a chief
of the hostile house of McCarthy. The Lord of Carbury united under his
standard the chief Eugenian families, not only of the Coast, but even
of McCarthy More's principality, and the battle was fought with great
ferocity at Callan-Glen, near Kenmare, in Kerry. There the
Anglo-Normans received the most complete defeat they had yet
experienced on Irish ground. John Fitz-Thomas, his son Maurice, eight
barons, fifteen knights, and "countless numbers of common soldiers were
slain." The Monastery of Tralee received the dead body of its founder
and his son, while Florence McCarthy, following up his blow, captured
and broke down in swift succession all the English castles in his
neighbourhood, including those of Macroom, Dunnamark, Dunloe, and
Killorglin. In besieging one of these castles, called Ringrone, the
victorious chief, in the full tide of conquest, was cut off, and his
brother, called the _Atheleireach_ (or suspended priest), succeeded to
his possessions. The death of the victor arrested the panic of the
defeat, but Munster saw another generation before her invaders had
shaken off the depression of the battle of Callan-glen.

Before the English interest had received this severe blow in the south,
a series of events had transpired in Leinster, going to show that its
aspiring barons had been seized with the madness which precedes
destruction. William, Earl Marshal and Protector of England during the
minority of Henry III., had married Isabella, the daughter of Strongbow
and granddaughter of Dermid, through whom he assumed the title of Lord
of Leinster. He procured the office of Earl Marshal of
Ireland—originally conferred on the first de Lacy—for his own nephew,
and thus converted the de Lacys into mortal enemies. His son and
successor Richard, having made himself obnoxious, soon after his
accession to that title, to the young King, or to Hubert de Burgh, was
outlawed, and letters were despatched to the Justiciary, Fitzgerald, to
de Burgo, de Lacy, and other Anglo-Irish lords, if he landed in
Ireland, to seize his person, alive or dead, and send it to England.
Strong in his estates and alliances, the young Earl came; while his
enemies employed the wily Geoffrey de Mountmorres to entrap him into a
conference, in order to his destruction. The meeting was appointed for
the first day of April, 1234, and while the outlawed Earl was
conversing with those who had invited him, an affray began among their
servants by design, he himself was mortally wounded and carried to one
of Fitzgerald's castles, where he died. He was succeeded in his Irish
honours by three of his brothers, who all died without heirs male.
Anselme, the last Earl Marshal of his family, dying in 1245, left five
co-heiresses, Maud, Joan, Isabel, Sybil, and Eva, between whom the
Irish estates—or such portions of them in actual possession—were
divided. They married respectively the Earls of Norfolk, Suffolk,
Gloucester, Ferrers, and Braos, or Brace, Lord of Brecknock, in whose
families, for another century or more, the secondary titles were
Catherlogh, Kildare, Wexford, Kilkenny, and Leix,—those five districts
being supposed, most absurdly, to have come into the Marshal family,
from the daughter of Strongbow. The false knights and dishonoured
nobles concerned in the murder of Richard Marshal were disappointed of
the prey which had been promised them—the partition of his estates. And
such was the horror which the deed excited in England, that it hastened
the fall of Hubert de Burgh, though Maurice Fitzgerald, of
Offally—ancestor of the Kildare family—having cleared himself of all
complicity in it by oath—was continued as Justiciary for ten years
longer. In the year 1245, for his tardiness in joining the King's army
in Wales, he was succeeded by the false-hearted Geoffrey de
Mountmorres, who held the office till 1247. During the next twenty-five
years, about half as many Justices were placed and displaced, according
to the whim of the successive favourites at the English Court. In 1252,
Prince Edward, afterwards Edward I., was appointed with the title of
Lord Lieutenant, but never came over. Nor is there in the series of
rulers we have numbered, with, perhaps, two exceptions, any who have
rendered their names memorable by great exploits, or lasting
legislation. So little inherent power had the incumbents of the highest
office—unless when, they employed their own proper forces in their
sovereign's name—that we read without surprise, how the bold
mountaineers of Wicklow, at the opening of the century (A.D. 1209)
slaughtered the Bristolians of Dublin, engaged at their archery in
Cullenswood, and at the close of it, how "one of the Kavanaghs, of the
blood of McMurrogh, living at Leinster," "displayed his standards
within sight of the city." Yet this is commonly spoken of as a country
overrun by a few score Norman Knights, in a couple of campaigns!

The maintenance of the conquest was in these years less the work of the
King's Justices than of the great houses. Of these, two principally
profited, by the untimely felling of that great tree which overshadowed
all others in Leinster, the Marshals. The descendants of the eldest son
of Maurice Fitzgerald clung to their Leinster possessions, while their
equally vigorous cousins pushed their fortunes in Desmond. Maurice,
grandson of Maurice, and second Baron of Offally, from the year 1229 to
the year 1246, was three times Lord Justice. "He was a valiant Knight,
a very pleasant man, and inferior to none in the kingdom," by Matthew
Paris's account. He introduced the Franciscan and Dominican orders into
Ireland, built many castles, churches, and abbeys at Youghal, at Sligo,
at Armagh, at Maynooth, and in other places. In the year 1257, he was
wounded in single combat by O'Donnell, Lord of Tyrconnell, near Sligo,
and died soon after in the Franciscan habit in Youghal. He left his
successor so powerful, that in the year 1264, there being a feud
between the Geraldines and de Burghs, he seized the Lord Justice and
the whole de Burgh party at a conference at Castledermot, and carried
them to his own castles of Lea and Dunamase as prisoners. In 1272, on
the accidental death of the Lord Justice Audley, by a fall from his
horse, "the council" elected this the third Baron of Offally in his

The family of Butler were of slower growth, but of equal tenacity with
the Geraldines. They first seem to have attached themselves to the
Marshals, for whom they were indebted for their first holding in
Kilkenny. At the Conference of Castledermot, Theobald Butler, the
fourth in descent from the founder of the house, was numbered among the
adherents of de Burgh, but a few years later we find him the ally of
the Geraldines in the invasion of Thomond. In the year 1247, the title
of Lord of Carrick had been conferred on him, which in 1315 was
converted into Earl of Carrick, and this again into that of Ormond. The
Butlers of this house, when they had attained their growth of power,
became the hereditary rivals of the Kildare Geraldines, whose earldom
dates from 1316, as that of Ormond does from 1328, and Desmond from

The name of Maurice, the third Baron of Offally, and uncle of John, the
first Earl of Kildare, draws our attention naturally to the last
enterprise of his life—the attempt to establish his son-in-law, Thomas
de Clare, in possession of Thomond. The de Clares, Earls of Gloucester,
pretended a grant from Henry II. of the whole of Thomond, as their
title to invade that principality; but their real grant was bestowed by
Edward I., in the year 1275. The state of the renowned patrimony of
Brian had long seemed to invite such an aggression. Murtogh, son of
Donnell More, who succeeded his father in 1194, had early signalized
himself by capturing the castles of Birr, Kinnetty, Ballyroane and
Lothra, in Leix, and razing them to the ground. But these castles were
reconstructed in 1213, when the feuds between the rival
O'Briens—Murtogh and Donogh Cairbre—had paralyzed the defence force of
Thomond. It was, doubtless, in the true divide-and-conquer spirit, that
Henry the Third's advisers confirmed to Donogh the lordship of Thomond
in 1220, leaving to his elder brother the comparatively barren title of
King of Munster. Both brothers, by alternately working on their hopes
and fears, were thus for many years kept in a state of dependence on
the foreigner. One gleam of patriotic virtue illumines the annals of
the house of O'Brien, during the first forty years of the century—when,
in the year 1225, Donogh Cairbre assisted Felim O'Conor to resist the
Anglo-Norman army, then pouring over Connaught, in the quarrel of de
Burgh. Conor, the son of Donogh, who succeeded his father in the year
1242, animated by the example of his cotemporaries, made successful war
against the invaders of his Province, more especially in the year 1257,
and the next year; attended with O'Conor the meeting at Beleek, on the
Erne, where Brian O'Neil was acknowledged, by both the Munster and the
Connaught Prince, as _Ard-Righ_. The untimely end of this attempt at
national union will be hereafter related; meantime, we proceed to
mention that, in 1260, the Lord of Thomond defeated the Geraldines and
their Welsh auxiliaries, at Kilbarran, in Clare. He was succeeded the
following season by his son, Brian Roe, in whose time Thomas de Clare
again put to the test of battle his pretensions to the lordship of

It was in the year 1277, that, supported by his father-in-law, the
Kildare Fitzgerald, de Clare marched into Munster, and sought an
interview with the O'Brien. The relation of gossip, accounted sacred
among the Irish, existed between them, but Brien Roe, having placed
himself credulously in the hands of his invaders, was cruelly drawn to
pieces between two horses. All Thomond rose in arms, under Donogh, son
of Brian, to revenge this infamous murder. Near Ennis the Normans met a
terrible defeat, from which de Clare and Fitzgerald fled for safety
into the neighbouring Church of Quin. But Donogh O'Brien burned the
Church over their heads, and forced them to surrender at discretion.
Strange to say they were held to ransom, on conditions, we may suppose,
sufficiently hard. Other days of blood were yet to decide the claims of
the family of de Clare. In 1287, Turlogh, then the O'Brien, defeated an
invasion similar to the last, in which Thomas de Clare was slain,
together with Patrick Fitzmaurice of Kerry, Richard Taafe, Richard
Deriter, Nicholas Teeling, and other knights, and Gerald, the fourth
Baron of Offally, brother-in-law to de Clare, was mortally wounded.
After another interval, Gilbert de Clare, son of Thomas, renewed the
contest, which he bequeathed to his brother Richard. This Richard,
whose name figures more than his brother's in the events of his time,
made a last effort, in the year 1318, to make good the claims of his
family. On the 5th of May, in that year, he fell in battle against
McCarthy and O'Brien, and there fell with him Sir Thomas de Naas, Sir
Henry Capell, Sir James and Sir John Caunton, with four other knights,
and a proportion of men-at-arms. From thenceforth that proud offshoot
of the house of Gloucester, which, at its first settling in Munster,
flourished as bravely as the Geraldines themselves, became extinct in
the land.

Such were the varying fortunes of the two races in Leinster and
Munster, and such the men who rose and fell. We must now turn to the
contest as maintained at the same period in Meath and Ulster.


We may estimate the power of the de Lacy family in the second
generation, from the fact that their expulsion required a royal army
and navy, commanded by the King in person, to come from England.
Although pardoned by John, the brothers took care never to place
themselves in that cowardly tyrant's power, and they observed the same
precaution on the accession of his son, until well assured that he did
not share the antipathy of his father. After their restoration the
Lacys had no rivals among the Norman-Irish except the Marshal family,
and though both houses in half a century became extinct, not so those
they had planted or patronized, or who claimed from them collaterally.
In Meath the Tuites, Cusacks, Flemings, Daltons, Petits, Husseys,
Nangles, Tyrrells, Nugents, Verdons, and Gennevilles, struck deep into
the soil. The co-heiresses, Margaret and Matilda de Lacy, married Lord
Theobald de Verdon and Sir Geoffrey de Genneville, between whom the
estate of their father was divided; both these ladies dying without
male issue, the lordship was, in 1286, claimed by Richard de Burgo,
Earl of Ulster, whose mother was their cousin-germain. But we are
anticipating time.

No portion of the island, if we except, perhaps, Wexford and the shores
of Strangford Lough, was so thoroughly castellated as the ancient Meath
from the sea to the Shannon. Trim, Kells and Durrow were the strongest
holds; there were keeps or castles at Ardbraccan, Slane, Rathwyre,
Navan, Skreen, Santry, Clontarf, and Castleknock—for even these places,
almost within sight of Dublin, were included in de Lacy's original
grant. None of these fortresses could have been more than a few miles
distant from the next, and once within their thick-ribbed walls, the
Norman, Saxon, Cambrian, or Danish serf or tenant might laugh at the
Milesian arrows and battle-axes without. With these fortresses, and
their own half-Irish origin and policy, the de Lacys, father and son,
held Meath for two generations in general subjection. But the
banishment of the brothers in 1210, and the death of Walter of Meath,
presented the family of O'Melaghlin and the whole of the Methian tribes
with opportunities of insurrection not to be neglected. We read,
therefore, under the years 1211, '12 and '13, that Art O'Melaghlin and
Cormac, his son, took the castles of Killclane, Ardinurcher, Athboy,
and Smerhie, killing knights and wardens, and enriching themselves with
booty; that the whole English of Ireland turned out _en masse_ to the
rescue of their brethren in Meath; that the castles of Birr, Durrow,
and Kinnetty were strengthened against Art, and a new one erected at
Clonmacnoise. After ten years of exile, the banished de Lacys returned,
and by alliance with O'Neil, no less than their own prowess, recovered
all their former influence. Cormac, son of Art, left a son and
successor also named Art, who, we read at the year 1264, gave the
English of Meath a great defeat upon the Brosna, where he that was not
slain was drowned. Following the blow, he burned their villages and
broke the castles of the stranger throughout Devlin, Calry, and Brawny,
and replaced in power over them the McCoghlans, Magawleys, and
O'Breens, from whom he took hostages according to ancient custom. Two
years afterwards he repulsed Walter de Burgh at Shannon harbour,
driving his men into the river, where many of them perished. At his
death (A.D. 1283) he is eulogized for having destroyed seven-and-twenty
English castles in his lifetime. From these exploits he was called Art
_na Caislean_, a remarkable distinction, when we remember that the
Irish were, up to this time, wholly unskilled in besieging such
strongholds as the Norman engineers knew so well how to construct. His
only rival in Meath in such meritorious works of destruction was Conor,
son of Donnell, and O'Melaghlin of East-Meath, or _Bregia_, whose death
is recorded at the year 1277, "as one of the three men in Ireland" whom
the midland English most feared.

From the ancient mensal the transition is easy to the north. The
border-land of Breffni, whose chief was the first of the native nobles
that perished by Norman perfidy, was at the beginning of the century
swayed by Ulgarg O'Rourke. Of Ulgarg we know little, save that in the
year 1231 he "died on his way to the river Jordan"—a not uncommon
pilgrimage with the Irish of those days. Nial, son of Congal,
succeeded, and about the middle of the century we find Breffni divided
into two lordships, from the mountain of Slieve-an-eiran eastward, or
Cavan, being given to Art, son of Cathal, and from the mountain
westward, or Leitrim, to Donnell, son of Conor, son of Tiernan, de
Lacy's victim. This subdivision conduced neither to the strengthening
of its defenders nor to the satisfaction of O'Conor, under whose
auspices it was made. Family feuds and household treasons were its
natural results for two or three generations; in the midst of these
broils two neighbouring families rose into greater importance, the
O'Reillys in Cavan and the Maguires in Fermanagh. Still, strong in
their lake and mountain region, the tribes of Breffni were
comparatively unmolested by foreign enemies, while the stress of the
northern battle fell upon the men of Tyrconnell and Tyrone, of Oriel
and of the coast country, from Carlingford to the Causeway.

The borders of Tyrconnell and Tyrone, like every other tribe-land, were
frequently enlarged or contracted, according to the vigour or weakness
of their chiefs or neighbours. In the age of which we now speak,
Tyrconnell extended from the Erne to the Foyle, and Tyrone from the
Foyle to Lough Neagh, with the exception of the extreme north of Berry
and Antrim, which belonged to the O'Kanes. It was not till the
fourteenth century that the O'Neils spread their power east of Lough
Neagh, over those baronies of Antrim long known as north and south
_Clan-Hugh-Buidhe_, (Clandeboy.) North Antrim was still known as
Dalriada, and South Antrim and Down, as Ulidia. Oriel, which has been
usually spoken of in this history as Louth, included angles of Monaghan
and Armagh, and was anciently the most extensive lordship in Ulster.
The chieftain families of Tyrconnell were the O'Donnells; of Tyrone,
the O'Neils and McLaughlins; of Dalriada, O'Kanes, O'Haras, and
O'Shields; of Ulidia, the Magennis of Iveagh and the Donlevys of Down;
of Oriel, the McMahons and O'Hanlons. Among these populous tribes the
invaders dealt some of their fiercest blows, both by land and sea, in
the thirteenth century. But the north was fortunate in its chiefs; they
may fairly contest the laurel with the O'Conors, O'Briens and McCarthys
of the west and south.

In the first third of the century, Hugh O'Neil, who succeeded to the
lordship of Tyrone in 1198, and died in 1230, was cotemporary with
Donnell More O'Donnell, who, succeeding to the lordship of Tyrconnell
in 1208, died in 1241, after an equally long and almost equally
distinguished career. Melaghlin O'Donnell succeeded Donnell More from
'41 to '47, Godfrey from '48 to '57, and Donnell Oge from 1257 to 1281,
when he was slain in battle. Hugh O'Neil was succeeded in Tyrone by
Donnell McLaughlin, of the rival branch of the same stock, who in 1241
was subdued by O'Donnell, and the ascendancy of the family of O'Neil
established in the person of Brian, afterwards chosen King of Ireland,
and slain at Down. Hugh Boy, or the Swarthy, was elected O'Neil on
Brian's death, and ruled till the year 1283, when he was slain in
battle, as was his next successor, Brian, in the year 1295. These names
and dates are worthy to be borne in mind, because on these two great
houses mainly devolved the brunt of battle in their own province.

These northern chiefs had two frontiers to guard or to assail: the
north-eastern, extending from the glens of Antrim to the hills of
Mourne, and the southern stretching from sea to sea, from Newry to
Sligo. This country was very assailable by sea; to those whose castles
commanded its harbours and rivers, the fleets of Bristol, Chester, Man,
and Dublin could always carry supplies and reinforcements. By the
interior line one road threaded the Mourne mountains, and deflected
towards Armagh, while another, winding through west Breffni, led from
Sligo into Donegal by the cataract of Assaroe,—the present
Ballyshannon. Along these ancient lines of communication, by fords, in
mountain passes, and near the landing places for ships, the struggle
for the possession of that end of the Island went on, at intervals,
whenever large bodies of men could be spared from garrisons and from
districts already occupied.

In the year 1210, we find that there was an English Castle at
Cael-uisge, now Castle-Caldwell, on Lough Erne, and that it was broke
down and its defenders slain by Hugh O'Neil and Donald More O'Donnell
acting together. After this event we have no trace of a foreign force
in the interior of Ulster for several years. Hugh O'Neil, who died in
1230, is praised by the Bards for "never having given hostages,
pledges, or tributes to English or Irish," which seems a compliment
well founded. During several years following that date the war was
chiefly centred in Connaught, and the fighting men of the north who
took part in it were acting as allies to the O'Conors. Donald More
O'Donnell had married a daughter of Cathal Crovdearg, so that ties of
blood, as well as neighbouring interests, united these two great
families. In the year 1247, an army under Maurice Fitzgerald, then Lord
Justice, crossed the Erne in two divisions, one above and the other at
Ballyshannon. Melaghlin O'Donnell was defending the passage of the
river when he was taken unexpectedly in the rear by those who had
crossed higher up, and thus was defeated and slain. Fitzgerald then
ravaged Tyrconnell, set up a rival chief O'Canavan, and rebuilt the
Castle at Cael-uisge, near Beleek. Ten years afterwards Godfrey
O'Donnell, the successor of Melaghlin, avenged the defeat at
Ballyshannon, in the sanguinary battle of Credran, near Sligo, where
engaging Fitzgerald in single combat, he gave him his death-stroke.
From wounds received at Credran, Godfrey himself, after lingering
twelve months in great suffering, died. But his bodily afflictions did
not prevent him discharging all the duties of a great Captain; he razed
a second time the English Castle on Lough Erne, and stoutly protected
his own borders against the pretensions of O'Neil, being carried on his
bier in the front of the battle of Lough Swilly in 1258.

It was while Tyrconnell was under the rule of this heroic soldier that
the unfortunate feud arose between the O'Neils and O'Donnells. Both
families, sprung from a common ancestor, of equal antiquity and equal
pride, neither would yield a first place to the other. "Pay me my
tribute," was O'Neil's demand; "I owe you no tribute, and if I did—-"
was O'Donnell's reply. The O'Neil at this time—Brian—aspiring to
restore the Irish sovereignty in his own person, was compelled to begin
the work of exercising authority over his next neighbour. More than one
border battle was the consequence, not only with Godfrey, but with
Donnell Oge, his successor. In the year 1258, Brian was formally
recognized by O'Conor and O'Brien as chief of the kingdom, in the
conference of Cael-uisge, and two years later, at the battle of Down,
gallantly laid down his life, in defence of the kingdom he claimed to
govern. In this most important battle no O'Donnell is found fighting
with King Brian, though immediately afterwards we find Donnell Oge of
Tyrconnell endeavouring to subjugate Tyrone, and active afterwards in
the aid of his cousins, the grandsons of Cathal Crovdearg, in

The Norman commander in this battle was Stephen de Longespay, then Lord
Justice, Earl of Salisbury in England, and Count de Rosman in France.
His marriage with the widow of Hugh de Lacy and daughter of de
Riddlesford connected him closely with Irish affairs, and in the battle
of Down he seems to have had all the Anglo-Irish chivalry, "in gold and
iron," at his back. With King Brian O'Neil fell, on that crimson day,
the chiefs of the O'Hanlons, O'Kanes, McLaughlins, O'Gormlys, McCanns,
and other families who followed his banner. The men of Connaught
suffered hardly less than those of Ulster. McDermott, Lord of Moylurgh,
Cathal O'Conor, O'Gara, McDonogh, O'Mulrony, O'Quinn, and other chiefs
were among the slain. In Hugh _Bwee_ O'Neil the only hope of the house
of Tyrone seemed now to rest; and his energy and courage were all taxed
to the uttermost to retain the place of his family in the Province,
beating back rapacious neighbours on the one hand, and guarding against
foreign enemies on the other. For twelve years, Hugh _Bwee_ defended
his lordship against all aggressors. In 1283, he fell at the hands of
the insurgent chiefs of Oriel and Breffni, and a fierce contest for the
succession arose between his son Brian and Donald, son of King Brian
who fell at Down. A contest of twelve years saw Donald successful over
his rival (A.D. 1295), and his rule extended from that period until
1325, when he died at Leary's lake, in the present diocese of Clogher.

It was this latter Donnell or Donald O'Neil, who, towards the end of
his reign, addressed to Pope John XXII. (elected to the pontificate in
1316) that powerful indictment against the Anglo-Normans, which has
ever since remained one of the cardinal texts of our history. It was
evidently written after the unsuccessful attempt, in which Donald was
himself a main actor, to establish Edward Bruce on the throne of
Ireland. That period we have not yet reached, but the merciless
character of the warfare waged against the natives of the country could
hardly have been aggravated by Bruce's defeat. "They oblige us by open
force," says the Ulster Prince, "to give up to them our houses and our
lands, and to seek shelter like wild beasts upon the mountains, in
woods, marshes, and caves. Even there we are not secure against their
fury; they even envy us those dreary and terrible abodes; they are
incessant and unremitting in their pursuit after us, endeavouring to
chase us from among them; they lay claim to every place in which they
can discover us with unwarranted audacity and injustice; they allege
that the whole kingdom belongs to them of right, and that an Irishman
has no longer a right to remain in his own country."

After specifying in detail the proofs of these and other general
charges, the eloquent Prince concludes by uttering the memorable vow
that the Irish "will not cease to fight against and among their
invaders until the day when they themselves, for want of power, shall
have ceased to do us harm, and that a Supreme Judge shall have taken
just vengeance on their crimes, which we firmly hope will sooner or
later come to pass."


Though the victorious and protracted career of Richard de Burgh, the
"Red Earl" of Ulster, might, without overstraining, be included in the
Norman period, yet, as introductory to the memorable advent and
election of King Edward Bruce, we must leave it for the succeeding
book. Having brought down the narrative, as regards all the provinces,
to the end of the first century, from the invasion, we must now cast a
backward glance on the events of that hundred years before passing into
the presence of other times and new combinations.

"There were," says _Giraldus Cambriensis_, "three sundry sorts of
servitors which served in the realm of Ireland, Normans, Englishmen,
and the Cambrians, which were the first conquerors of the land: the
first were in most credit and estimation, the second next, but the last
were not accounted or regarded of." "The Normans," adds the author,
"were very fine in their apparel, and delicate in their diets; they
could not feed but upon dainties, neither could their meat digest
without wine at each meal; yet would they not serve in the marches or
any remote place against the enemy, neither would they lie in garrison
to keep any remote castle or fort, but, would be still about their
lord's side to serve and guard his person; they would be where they
might be full and have plenty; they could talk and brag, swear, and
stare, and, standing in their own reputation, disdain all others." This
is rather the language of a partizan than of an historian; of one who
felt and spoke for those, his own kinsmen many of them, who, he
complains, although the first to enter on the conquest, were yet held
in contempt and disdain, "and only new-comers called to council."

The Normans were certainly the captains in every campaign from Robert
Fitzstephen to Stephen de Longespay. They made the war, and they
maintained it. In the rank and file, and even among the knighthood, men
of pure Welsh, English, and Flemish and Danish blood, may be singled
out, but each host was marshalled by Norman skill, and every defeat was
borne with Norman fortitude. It may seem strange, then, that these
greatest masters of the art of war, as waged in the middle ages,
invincible in England, France, Italy, and the East, should, after a
hundred years, be no nearer to the conquest of Ireland than they were
at the end of the tenth year.

The main causes of the fluctuations of the war were, no doubt, the
divided military command, and the frequent change of their civil
authorities. They had never marched or colonized before without their
Duke or King at their head, and in their midst. One supreme chief was
necessary to keep to any common purpose the minds of so many proud,
intractable nobles. The feuds of the de Lacys with the Marshals, of the
Geraldines with the de Burghs, broke out periodically during the
thirteenth century, and were naturally seized upon, by the Irish as
opportunities for attacking either or both. The secondary nobles and
all the adventurers understood their danger and its cause, when they
petitioned Henry II. and Henry III. so often and so urgently as they
did, that a member of the royal family might reside permanently in
Ireland, to exercise the supreme authority, military and civil.

The civil administration of the colonists passing into different hands
every three or four years, suffered from the absence of permanent
authority. The law of the marches was, of necessity, the law of the
strong hand, and no other. But _Cambrensis_, whose personal prejudices
are not involved in this fact, describes the walled towns as filled
with litigation in his time. "There was," he says, "such _lawing_ and
vexation, that the veteran was more troubled in _lawing_ within the
town than he was in peril at large with the enemy." This being the
case, we must take with great caution the bold assertions so often made
of the zeal with which the natives petitioned the Henrys and Edwards
that the law of England might be extended to them. Certain Celts whose
lands lay within or upon the marches, others who compounded with their
Norman invaders, a chief or prince, hard pressed by domestic enemies,
may have wished to be in a position to quote Norman law against Norman
spoilers, but the popular petitions which went to England, beseeching
the extension of its laws to Ireland, went only from the townsmen of
Dublin, and the new settlers in Leinster or Meath, harassed and
impoverished by the arbitrary jurisdiction of manorial courts, from
which they had no appeal. The great mass of the Irish remained as
warmly attached to their Brehon code down to the seventeenth century as
they were before the invasion of Norman or Dane. It may sound barbarous
to our ears that, according to that code, murder should be compounded
by an _eric_, or fine; that putting out the eyes should be the usual
punishment of treason; that maiming should be judiciously inflicted for
sundry offences; and that the land of a whole clan should be equally
shared between the free members of that clan. We are not yet in a
position to form an intelligent opinion upon the primitive
jurisprudence of our ancestors, but the system itself could not have
been very vicious which nourished in the governed such a thirst for
justice, that, according to one of their earliest English law
reformers, they were anxious for its execution, even against

The distinction made in the courts of the adventurers against natives
of the soil, even when long domiciled within their borders, was of
itself a sufficient cause of war between the races. In the eloquent
letter of the O'Neil to Pope John XXII.—written about the year 1318—we
read, that no man of Irish origin could sue in an English court; that
no Irishman, within the marches, could make a legal will; that his
property was appropriated by his English neighbours; and that the
murder of an Irishman was not even a felony punishable by fine. This
latter charge would appear incredible, if we had not the record of more
than one case where the homicide justified his act by the plea that his
victim was a mere native, and where the plea was held good and

A very vivid picture of Hiberno-Norman town-life in those days is
presented to us in an old poem, on the "Entrenchment of the Town of
Ross," in the year 1265. We have there the various trades and
crafts-mariners, coat-makers, fullers, cloth-dyers and sellers,
butchers, cordwainers, tanners, hucksters, smiths, masons, carpenters,
arranged by guilds, and marching to the sound of flute and tabor, under
banners bearing a fish and platter, a painted ship, and other "rare
devices." On the walls, when finished, cross-bows hung, with store of
arrows ready to shoot; when the city horn sounded twice, burgess and
bachelor vied with each other in warlike haste. In time of peace the
stranger was always welcome in the streets; he was free to buy and sell
without toll or tax, and to admire the fair dames who walked the quiet
ramparts, clad in mantles of green, or russet, or scarlet. Such is the
poetic picture of the town of Ross in the thirteenth century; the poem
itself is written in Norman-French, though evidently intended for
popular use, and the author is called "Friar Michael of Kildare." It is
pretty evident from this instance, which is not singular, that a
century after the first invasion, the French language was still the
speech of part, if not the majority, of these Hiberno-Norman townsmen.

So walls, and laws, and language arose, a triple barrier between the
races. That common religion which might be expected to form a strong
bond between them had itself to adopt a twofold organization.
Distinctions of nationality were carried into the Sanctuary and into
the Cloister. The historian _Giraldus_, in preaching at Dublin against
the alleged vices of the native Clergy, sounded the first note of a
long and bitter controversy. He was promptly answered from the same
pulpit on the next occasion by Albin O'Mulloy, the patriot Abbot of
Baltinglass. In one of the early Courts or Parliaments of the
Adventurers, they decreed that no Monastery in those districts of which
they had possession, should admit any but natives of England, as
novices,—a rule which, according to O'Neil's letter, was faithfully
acted upon by English Dominicans, Franciscans, Benedictines, and
regular canons. Some of the great Cistercian houses on the marches, in
which the native religious predominated, adopted a retaliatory rule,
for which they were severely censured by the general Chapter of their
Order. But the length to which this feud was carried may be imagined by
the sweeping charge O'Neil brings against "Brother Symon, a relative of
the Bishop of Coventry," and other religious of his nation, who openly
maintained, he says, that the killing of a mere Irishman was no murder.

When this was the feeling on one side, or was believed to be the
feeling, we cannot wonder that the war should have been renewed as
regularly as the seasons. No sooner was the husbandman in the field
than the knight was upon the road. Some peculiarities of the wars of
those days gleam out at intervals through the methodic indifference to
detail of the old annals, and reveal to us curious conditions of
society. In the Irish country, where castle-building was but slowly
introduced, we see, for example, that the usual storage for provisions,
in time of war, was in churches and churchyards. Thus de Burgh, in his
expedition to Mayo, in 1236, "left neither rick nor basket of corn in
the large churchyard of Mayo, or in the yard of the Church of Saint
Michael the Archangel, and carried away eighty baskets out of the
churches themselves." When we read, therefore, as we frequently do, of
both Irish and Normans plundering churches in the land of their
enemies, we are not to suppose the plunder of the sanctuary. Popularly
this seizing the supplies of an enemy on consecrated ground was
considered next to sacrilege; and well it was for the fugitives in the
sanctuary in those iron times that it should be so considered. Yet not
the less is it necessary for us to distinguish a high-handed military
measure from actual sacrilege, for which there can be no apology, and
hardly any earthly atonement.

In their first campaigns the Irish had one great advantage over the
Normans in their familiarity with the country. This helped them to
their first victories. But when the invaders were able to set up rival
houses against each other, and to secure the co-operation of natives,
the advantage was soon equalized. Great importance was attached to the
intelligence and good faith of the guides, who accompanied every army,
and were personally consulted by the leaders in determining their
march. A country so thickly studded with the ancient forest, and so
netted with rivers (then of much greater volume than since they have
been stripped of their guardian woods), afforded constant occasion for
the display of minute local knowledge. To miss a pass or to find a ford
might determine a campaign, almost as much as the skill of the chief,
or the courage of the battalion.

The Irish depended for their knowledge of the English towns and castles
on their daring _spies_, who continually risked their necks in
acquiring for their clansmen such needful information. This perilous
duty, when undertaken by a native for the benefit of his country, was
justly accounted highly honourable. Proud poets, educated in all the
mysteries of their art, and even men of chieftain rank, did not
hesitate to assume disguises and act the patriot spy. One of the most
celebrated spies of this century was Donogh Fitzpatrick, son of the
Lord of Ossory, who was slain by the English in 1250. He was said to be
"one of the three men" most feared by the English in his day. "He was
in the habit of going about to reconnoitre their market towns," say the
Annalists, "in various disguises." An old quatrain gives us a list of
some of the parts he played when in the towns of his enemies—

"He is a carpenter, he is a turner.
My nursling is a bookman.
He is selling wine and hides
Where he sees a gathering."

An able captain, as well as an intrepid spy, he met his fate in acting
out his favourite part, "which," adds our justice-loving Four Masters,
"was a retaliation due to the English, for, up to that time, he had
killed, burned, and destroyed many of them."

Of the equipments and tactics of the belligerents we get from our
Annals but scanty details. The Norman battalion, according to the usage
of that people, led by the marshal of the field, charged, after the
archers had delivered their fire. But these wars had bred a new mounted
force, called hobiler-archers, who were found so effective that they
were adopted into all the armies of Europe. Although the bow was never
a favourite weapon with the Irish, particular tribes seem to have been
noted for its use. We hear in the campaigns of this century of the
archers of Breffni, and we may probably interpret as referring to the
same weapon, Felim O'Conor's order to his men, in his combat with the
sons of Roderick at Drumraitte (1237), "not to shoot but to come to a
close fight." It is possible, however, that this order may have
reference to the old Irish weapon, the javelin or dart. The pike, the
battle-axe, the sword, and skein, or dagger, both parties had in
common, though their construction was different. The favourite
tactique, on both sides, seems to have been the old military expedient
of outflanking an enemy, and attacking him simultaneously in front and
rear. Thus, in the year 1225, in one of the combats of the O'Conors,
when the son of Cathal _Crovdearg_ endeavoured to surround Turlogh
O'Conor, the latter ordered his recruits to the van, and Donn Oge
Magheraty, with some Tyronian and other soldiers to cover the rear, "by
which means they escaped without the loss of a man." The flank movement
by which the Lord Justice Fitzgerald carried the passage of the Erne
(A.D. 1247) against O'Donnell, according to the Annalists, was
suggested to Fitzgerald by Cormac, the grandson of Roderick O'Conor. By
that period in their intercourse the Normans and Irish had fought so
often together that their stock of tactical knowledge must have been,
from experience, very much common property. In the eyes of the Irish
chiefs and chroniclers, the foreign soldiers who served with them were
but hired mercenaries. They were sometimes repaid by the plunder of the
country attacked, but usually they received fixed wages for the length
of time they entered. "Hostages for the payment of wages" are
frequently referred to, as given by native nobles to these foreign
auxiliaries. The chief expedient for subsisting an army was driving
before them herds and flocks; free quarters for men and horses were
supplied by the tenants of allied chiefs within their territory, and
for the rest, the simple outfit was probably not very unlike that of
the Scottish borderers described by Froissart, who cooked the cattle
they captured in their skins, carrying a broad plate of metal and a
little bag of oatmeal trussed up behind the saddle.

One inveterate habit clung to the ancient race, even until long after
the times of which we now speak—their unconquerable prejudice against
defensive armour. Gilbride McNamee, the laureate to King Brian O'Neil,
gives due prominence to this fact in his poem on the death of his
patron in the battle of Down (A.D. 1260). Thus sings the northern bard—

   "The foreigners from London,
       The hosts from Port-Largy *
    Came in a bright green body,
       In gold and iron armour.

   "Unequal they engage in the battle,
       The foreigners and the Gael of Tara,
    _Fine linen shirts on the race of Conn_,
       And the strangers _one mass of iron_."

[Footnote: Port-Largy, Waterford.]

With what courage they fought, these scorners of armour, their
victories of Ennis, of Callanglen, and of Credran, as well as their
defeats at the Erne and at Down, amply testify. The first hundred years
of war for native land, with their new foes, had passed over, and
three-fourths of the _Saer Clanna_ were still as free as they had ever
been. It was not reserved even for the Norman race—the conquest of


We have already spoken of the character of the war waged by and against
the Normans on Irish soil, and as war was then almost every man's
business, we may be supposed to have described all that is known of the
time in describing its wars. What we have to add of the other pursuits
of the various orders of men into which society was divided, is neither
very full nor very satisfactory.

The rise, fall, and migrations of some of the clans have been already
alluded to. In no age did more depend on the personal character of the
chief than then. When the death of the heroic Godfrey left the free
clansmen of Tyrconnell without a lord to lead them to battle, or rule
them in peace, the Annalists represent them to us as meeting in great
perplexity, and engaged "in making speeches" as to what was to be done,
when suddenly, to their great relief, Donnell Oge, son of Donnell More,
who had been fostered in Alba (Scotland), was seen approaching them.
Not more welcome was Tuathal, the well-beloved, the restorer of the
Milesian monarchy, after the revolt of the _Tuatha_. He was immediately
elected chief, and the emissaries of O'Neil, who had been waiting for
an answer to his demand of tribute, were brought before him. He
answered their proposition by a proverb expressed in the Gaelic of
Alba, which says that "every man should possess his own country," and
Tyrconnell armed to make good this maxim.

The Bardic order still retained much of their ancient power, and all
their ancient pride. Of their most famous names in this period we may
mention Murray O'Daly of Lissadil, in Sligo, Donogh O'Daly of Finvarra,
sometimes called Abbot of Boyle, and Gilbride McNamee, laureate to King
Brian O'Neil. McNamee, in lamenting the death of Brian, describes
himself as defenceless, and a prey to every spoiler, now that his royal
protector is no more. He gave him, he tells us, for a poem on one
occasion, besides gold and raiment, a gift of twenty cows. On another,
when he presented him a poem, he gave in return twenty horned cows, and
a gift still more lasting, "the blessing of the King of Erin." Other
chiefs, who fell in the same battle, and to one of whom, named Auliffe
O'Gormley, he had often gone "on a visit of pleasure," are lamented
with equal warmth by the bard. The poetic Abbot of Boyle is himself
lamented in the Annals as the Ovid of Ireland, as "a poet who never had
and never will have an equal." But the episode which best illustrates
at once the address and the audacity of the bardic order is the story
of Murray O'Daly of Lissadil, and Donnell More O'Donnell, Lord of

In the year 1213, O'Donnell despatched Finn O'Brollaghan, his _Aes
graidh_ or Steward, to collect his tribute in Connaught, and Finn,
putting up at the house of O'Daly, near Drumcliff, and being a plebeian
who knew no better, began to wrangle with the poet. The irritable
master of song, seizing a sharp axe, slew the steward on the spot, and
then to avoid O'Donnell's vengeance fled into Clanrickarde. Here he
announced himself by a poem addressed to de Burgh, imploring his
protection, setting forth the claims of the Bardic order on all
high-descended heroes, and contending that his fault was but venial, in
killing a clown, who insulted him. O'Donnell pursued the fugitive to
Athenry, and de Burgh sent him away secretly into Thomond. Into
Thomond, the Lord of Tyrconnell marched, but O'Brien sent off the Bard
to Limerick. The enraged Ulsterman appeared at the gates of Limerick,
when O'Daly was smuggled out of the town, and "passed from hand to
hand," until he reached Dublin. The following spring O'Donnell appeared
in force before Dublin, and demanded the fugitive, who, as a last
resort, had been sent for safety into Scotland. From the place of his
exile he addressed three deprecatory poems to the offended Lord of
Tyrconnell, who finally allowed him to return to Lissadil in peace, and
even restored him to his friendship.

The introduction of the new religious orders—Dominicans, Franciscans,
and the order for the redemption of Captives into Ireland, in the first
quarter of this century gradually extinguished the old Columban and
Brigintine houses. In Leinster they made way most rapidly; but Ulster
clung with its ancient tenacity to the Columban rule. The Hierarchy of
the northern half-kingdom still exercised a protectorate over Iona
itself, for we read, in the year 1203, how Kellagh, having erected a
monastery in the middle of Iona, in despite of the religious, that the
Bishops of Derry and Raphoe, with the Abbots of Armagh and Derry and
numbers of the Clergy of the North of Ireland, passed over to Iona,
pulled down the unauthorized monastery, and assisted at the election of
a new Abbot. This is almost the last important act of the Columban
order in Ireland. By the close of the century, the Dominicans had some
thirty houses, and the Franciscans as many more, whether in the walled
towns or the open country. These monasteries became the refuge of
scholars, during the stormy period we have passed, and in other days
full as troubled, which were to come. Moreover, as the Irish student,
like all others in that age, desired to travel from school to school,
these orders admitted him to the ranks of widespread European
brotherhoods, from whom he might always claim hospitality. Nor need we
reject as anything incredible the high renown for scholarship and
ability obtained in those times by such men as Thomas Palmeran of Naas,
in the University of Paris; by Peter and Thomas Hibernicus in the
University of Naples, in the age of Aquinas; by Malachy of Ireland, a
Franciscan, Chaplain to King Edward II. of England, and Professor at
Oxford; by the Danish Dominican, Gotofrid of Waterford; and above all,
by John Scotus of Down, the subtle doctor, the luminary of the
Franciscan schools, of Paris and Cologne. The native schools of Ireland
had lost their early ascendancy, and are no longer traceable in our
annals; but Irish scholarship, when arrested in its full development at
home, transferred its efforts to foreign Universities, and there
maintained the ancient honour of the country among the studious
"nations" of Christendom. Among the "nations" involved in the college
riots at Oxford, in the year 1274, we find mention of the Irish, from
which fact it is evident there must have been a considerable number of
natives of that country, then frequenting the University.

The most distinguished native ecclesiastics of this century were
Matthew O'Heney, Archbishop of Cashel, originally a Cistercian monk,
who died in retirement at Holy Cross in 1207; Albin O'Mulloy, the
opponent of _Giraldus_, who died Bishop of Ferns in 1222; and Clarus
McMailin, Erenach of Trinity Island, Lough Key—if an _Erenach_ may be
called an ecclesiastic. It was O'Heney made the Norman who said the
Irish Church had no martyrs, the celebrated answer, that now men had
come into the country who knew so well how to make martyrs, that
reproach would soon be taken away. He is said to have written a life of
Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, and we know that he had legantine powers
at the opening of the century. The _Erenach_ of Lough Key, who
flourished in its second half, plays an important part in all the
western feuds and campaigns; his guarantee often preserved peace and
protected the vanquished. Among the church-builders of his age, he
stands conspicuous. The ordinary churches were indeed easily built,
seldom exceeding 60 or 70 feet in length, and one half that width, and
the material still most in use was, for the church proper, timber. The
towers, cashels, or surrounding walls, and the cells of the religious,
as well as the great monasteries and collegiate and cathedral churches,
were of stone, and many of them remain monuments of the skill and
munificence of their founders.

Of the consequences of the abolition of slavery by the Council of
Armagh, at the close of the twelfth century, we have no tangible
evidence. It is probable that the slave trade, rather than domestic
servitude, was abolished by that decree. The cultivators of the soil
were still divided into two orders—Biataghs and Brooees. "The former,"
says O'Donovan, "who were comparatively few in number, would appear to
have held their lands free of rent, but were obliged to entertain
travellers, and the chief's soldiers when on their march in his
direction; and the latter (the Brooees) would appear to have been
subject to a stipulated rent and service." From "the Book of Lecan," a
compilation of the fourteenth century, we learn that the Brooee was
required to keep an hundred labourers, and an hundred of each kind of
domestic animals. Of the rights or wages of the labourers, we believe,
there is no mention made.



During the half century which comprised the reigns of Edward I. and II.
in England (A.D. 1272 to 1327), Scotland saw the last of her first race
of Kings, and the elevation of the family of Bruce, under whose
brilliant star Ireland was, for a season, drawn into the mid-current of
Scottish politics. Before relating the incidents of that revolution of
short duration but long enduring consequences, we must note the rise to
greatness of the one great Norman name, which in that era mainly
represented the English interest and influence in Ireland.

Richard de Burgh, called from his ruddy complexion "the Red Earl" of
Ulster, nobly bred in the court of Henry III. of England, had attained
man's age about the period when the de Lacys, the Geraldines, de
Clares, and other great Anglo-Irish, families, either through the
fortune of war or failure of issue, were deprived of most of their
natural leaders. Uniting in his own person the blood of the O'Conors,
de Lacys, and de Burghs, his authority was great from the beginning in
Meath and Connaught. In his inroads on West-Meath he seems to have been
abetted by the junior branches of the de Lacys, who were with his host
in the year 1286, when he besieged Theobald de Verdon in Athlone, and
advanced his banner as far eastward as the strong town of Trim, upon
the Boyne. Laying claim to the possessions of the Lord of Meath, which
touched the Kildare Geraldines at so many points, he inevitably came
into contact with that powerful family. In 1288, in alliance with Manus
O'Conor, they compelled him to retreat from Roscommon into
Clanrickarde, in Mayo. De Verdon, his competitor for West-Meath,
naturally entered into alliance with the Kildare Geraldine, and in the
year 1294, after many lesser conflicts, they took the Red Earl and his
brother William prisoners, and carried them in fetters to the Castle of
Lea, in Offally. This happened on the 6th day of December; a Parliament
assembled at Kilkenny on the 12th of March following, ordered their
release; and a peace was made between these powerful houses. De Burgh
gave his two sons as hostages to Fitzgerald, and the latter surrendered
the Castle of Sligo to de Burgh. From the period of this peace the
power of the last named nobleman outgrew anything that had been known
since the Invasion. In the year 1291, he banished the O'Donnell out of
his territory, and set up another of his own choosing; he deposed one
O'Neil and raised up another; he so straitened O'Conor in his patrimony
of Roscommon, that that Prince also entered his camp at Meelick, and
gave him hostages. He was thus the first and only man of his race who
had ever had in his hand the hostages both of Ulster and Connaught.
When the King of England sent writs into Ireland, he usually addressed
the Red Earl, before the Lord Justice or Lord Deputy—a compliment
which, in that ceremonious age, could not be otherwise than flattering
to the pride of de Burgh. Such was the order of summons, in which, in
the year 1296, he was required by Edward I. to attend him into
Scotland, which was then experiencing some of the worst consequences of
a disputed succession. As Ireland's interest in this struggle becomes
in the sequel second only to that of Scotland, we must make brief
mention of its origin and progress.

By the accidental death of Alexander III., in 1286, the McAlpine, or
Scoto-Irish dynasty, was suddenly terminated. Alexander's only
surviving child, Margaret, called from her mother's country, "the Maid
of Norway," soon followed her father; and no less than eight
competitors, all claiming collateral descent from the former Kings,
appeared at the head of as many factions to contest the succession.
This number was, however, soon reduced to two men—John Baliol and
Robert Bruce—the former the grandson of the eldest, the latter the son
of the second daughter of King David I. After many bickerings these
powerful rivals were induced to refer their claims to the decision of
Edward I. of England, who, in a Great Court held at Berwick in the year
1292, decided in favour of Baliol, not in the character of an
indifferent arbitrator, but as lord paramount of Scotland. As such,
Baliol there and then rendered him feudal homage, and became, in the
language of the age, "his man." This sub-sovereignty could not but be
galling to the proud and warlike nobles of Scotland, and accordingly,
finding Edward embroiled about his French possessions, three years
after the decision, they caused Baliol to enter into an alliance,
offensive and defensive, with Philip IV. of France, against his English
suzerain. The nearer danger compelled Edward to march with 40,000 men,
which he had raised for the war in France, towards the Scottish border,
whither he summoned the Earl of Ulster, the Geraldines, Butlers, de
Verdons, de Genvilles, Berminghams, Poers, Purcells, de Cogans, de
Barrys, de Lacys, d'Exeters, and other minor nobles, to come to him in
his camp early in March, 1296. The Norman-Irish obeyed the call, but
the pride of de Burgh would not permit him to embark in the train of
the Lord Justice Wogan, who had been also summoned; he sailed with his
own forces in a separate fleet, having conferred the honour of
knighthood on thirty of his younger followers before embarking at
Dublin. Whether these forces arrived in time to take part in the bloody
siege of Berwick, and the panic-route at Dunbar, does not appear; they
were in time, however, to see the strongest places in Scotland yielded
up, and John Baliol a prisoner on his way to the Tower of London. They
were sumptuously entertained by the conqueror in the Castle of
Roxburgh, and returned to their western homes deeply impressed with the
power of England, and the puissance of her warrior-king.

But the independence of Scotland was not to be trodden out in a single
campaign. During Edward's absence in France, William Wallace and other
guerilla chiefs arose, to whom were soon united certain patriot nobles
and bishops. The English deputy de Warrane fought two unsuccessful
campaigns against these leaders, until his royal master, having
concluded peace with France, summoned his Parliament to meet him at
York, and his Norman-Irish lieges to join him in his northern camp,
with all their forces, on the 1st of March, 1299. In June the English
King found himself at Roxburgh, at the head of 8,000 horse, and 80,000
foot, "chiefly Irish and Welsh." With this immense force he routed
Wallace at Falkirk on the 22nd of July, and reduced him to his original
rank of a guerilla chief, wandering with his bands of partizans from
one fastness to another. The Scottish cause gained in Pope Boniface
VII. a powerful advocate soon after, and the unsubdued districts
continued to obey a Regency composed of the Bishop of St. Andrews,
Robert Bruce, and John Comyn. These regents exercised their authority
in the name of Baliol, carried on negotiations with France and Rome,
convoked a Parliament, and, among other military operations, captured
Stirling Castle. In the documentary remains of this great controversy,
it is curious to find Edward claiming the entire island of Britain in
virtue of the legend of Brute the Trojan, and the Scots rejecting it
with scorn, and displaying their true descent and origin from Scota,
the fabled first mother of the Milesian Irish. There is ample evidence
that the claims of kindred were at this period keenly felt by the Gael
of Ireland, for the people of Scotland, and men of our race are
mentioned among the companions of Wallace and the allies of Bruce. But
the Norman-Irish were naturally drawn to the English banner, and when,
in 1303, it was again displayed north of the Tweed, the usual noble
names are found among its followers. In 1307 Scotland lost her most
formidable foe, by the death of Edward, and at the same time began to
recognize her appointed deliverer in the person of Robert Bruce. But we
must return to "the Red Earl," the central figure in our own annals
during this half century.

The new King, Edward II., compelled by his English barons to banish his
minion, Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, had created him his lieutenant of
Ireland, endowed him with a grant of the royalties of the whole island,
to the prejudice of the Earl and other noblemen. The sojourn of this
brilliant parasite in Ireland lasted but a year—from June, 1308, till
the June following. He displayed both vigour and munificence, and
acquired friends. But the Red Earl, sharing to the full the antipathy
of the great barons of England, kept apart from his court, maintained a
rival state at Trim, as Commander-in-Chief, conferring knighthood,
levying men, and imposing taxes at his own discretion. A challenge of
battle is said to have passed between him and the Lieutenant, when the
latter was recalled into England by the King, where he was three years
later put to death by the barons, into whose hands he had fallen. Sir
John Wogan and Sir Edmund Butler succeeded him in the Irish
administration; but the real power long remained with Richard de Burgh.
He was appointed plenipotentiary to treat with Robert Bruce, on behalf
of the King of England, "upon which occasion the Scottish deputies
waited on him in Ireland." In the year 1302 Bruce had married his
daughter, the Lady Ellen, while of his other daughters one was Countess
of Desmond, and another became Countess of Kildare in 1312. A thousand
marks—the same sum at which the town and castle of Sligo were then
valued—was allowed by the Earl for the marriage portion of his
last-mentioned daughter. His power and reputation, about the period of
her marriage, were at the full. He had long held the title of Commander
of the Irish forces, "in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Gascony;" he had
successfully resisted Gaveston in the meridian of his court favour; the
father-in-law of a King, and of Earls of almost royal power, lord
paramount of half the island—such a subject England had not seen on
Irish ground since the Invasion. This prodigious power he retained, not
less by his energy than his munificence. He erected castles at
Carlingford, at Sligo, on the upper Shannon, and on Lough Foyle. He was
a generous patron of the Carmelite Order, for whom he built the Convent
of Loughrea. He was famed as a princely entertainer, and before
retiring from public affairs, characteristically closed his career with
a magnificent banquet at Kilkenny, where the whole Parliament were his
guests. Having reached an age bordering upon fourscore he retired to
the Monastery of Athassil, and there expired within sight of his family
vault, after half a century of such sway as was rarely enjoyed in that
age, even by Kings. But before that peaceful close he was destined to
confront a storm the like of which had not blown over Ireland during
the long period since he first began to perform his part in the affairs
of that kingdom.


No facts of the ages over which we have already passed are better
authenticated than the identity of origin and feeling which existed
between the Celts of Erin and of Albyn. Nor was this sympathy of race
diminished by their common dangers from a common enemy. On the eve of
the Norman invasion we saw how heartily the Irish were with Somerled
and the men of Moray in resisting the feudal polity of the successors
of Malcolm _Caen-More_. As the Plantagenet Princes in person led their
forces against Scotland, the interest of the Irish, especially those of
the North, increased, year by year, in the struggles of the Scots.
Irish adherents followed the fortunes of Wallace to the close; and when
Robert Bruce, after being crowned and seated in the chair of the
McAlpin line, on the summit of the hill of Scone, had to flee into
exile, he naturally sought refuge where he knew he would find friends.
Accompanied by three of his brothers, several adherents, and even by
some of the females of his family, he steered, in the autumn of 1306,
for the little island of Rathlin—seven miles long by a mile wide—one
point of which is within three miles of the Antrim beach. In its most
populous modern day Rathlin contained not above 1,000 souls, and little
wonder if its still smaller population, five centuries ago, fled in
terror at the approach of Bruce. They were, however, soon disarmed of
their fears, and agreed to supply the fugitive King daily with
provisions for 300 persons, the whole number who accompanied or
followed him into exile. His faithful adherents soon erected for him a
castle, commanding one of the few landing places on the island, the
ruins of which are still shown to strangers as "Bruce's Castle." Here
he passed in perfect safety the winter of 1306, while his emissaries
were recruiting in Ulster, or passing to and fro, in the intervals of
storm, among the western islands. Without waiting for the spring to
come round again, they issued from their retreat in different
directions; one body of 700 Irish sailed under Thomas and Alexander,
the King's brothers, for the Clyde, while Robert and Edward took the
more direct passage towards the coast of Argyle, and, after many
adventures, found themselves strong enough to attack the foreign forces
in Perth and Ayrshire. The opportune death of Edward of England the
same summer, and the civil strife bred by his successor's inordinate
favour towards Gaveston, enabled the Bruces gradually to root out the
internal garrisons of their enemies; but the party that had sailed,
under the younger brothers, from Rathlin, were attacked and captured in
Loch Ryan by McDowell, and the survivors of the engagement, with Thomas
and Alexander Bruce, were carried prisoners to Carlisle and there put
to death.

The seven years' war of Scottish independence was drawn to a close by
the decisive campaign of 1314. The second Edward prepared an
overwhelming force for this expedition, summoning, as usual, the
Norman-Irish Earls, and inviting in different language his "beloved"
cousins, the native Irish Chiefs, not only such as had entered into
English alliances at any time, but also notorious allies of Bruce, like
O'Neil, O'Donnell, and O'Kane. These writs were generally unheeded; we
have no record of either Norman-Irish or native-Irish Chief having
responded to Edward's summons, nor could nobles so summoned have been
present without some record remaining of the fact. On the contrary all
the wishes of the old Irish went with the Scots, and the Normans were
more than suspected of leaning the same way. Twenty-one clans,
Highlanders and Islemen, and many Ulstermen, fought on the side of
Bruce, on the field of Bannockburn; the grant of "Kincardine-O'Neil,"
made by the victor-King to his Irish followers, remains a striking
evidence of their fidelity to his person, and their sacrifices in his
cause. The result of that glorious day was, by the testimony of all
historians, English as well as Scottish, received with enthusiasm on
the Irish side of the channel.

Whether any understanding had been come to between the northern Irish
and Bruce, during his sojourn in Rathlin, or whether the victory of
Bannockburn suggested the design, Edward Bruce, the gallant companion
of all his brother's fortunes and misfortunes, was now invited to place
himself at the head of the men of Ulster, in a war for Irish
independence. He was a soldier of not inferior fame to his brother for
courage and fortitude, though he had never exhibited the higher
qualities of general and statesman which crowned the glory of King
Robert. Yet as he had never held a separate command of consequence, his
rashness and obstinacy, though well known to his intimates, were lost
sight of, at a distance, by those who gazed with admiration on the
brilliant achievements, in which he had certainly borne the second
part. The chief mover in the negotiation by which this gallant soldier
was brought to embark his fortunes in an Irish war, was Donald, Prince
of Ulster. This Prince, whose name is so familiar from his celebrated
remonstrance addressed to Pope John XXII., was son of King Brian of the
battle of Down, who, half a century before, at the Conference of
Caeluisge, was formally chosen Ard-Righ, by the nobles of three
Provinces. He had succeeded to the principality—not without a
protracted struggle with the Red Earl—some twenty years before the date
of the battle of Bannockburn. Endued with an intensely national spirit,
he seems to have fully adopted the views of Nicholas McMaelisa, the
Primate of Armagh, his early cotemporary. This Prelate—one of the most
resolute opponents of the Norman conquest—had constantly refused to
instal any foreigner in a northern diocese. When the Chapter of Ardagh
delayed their election, he nominated a suitable person to the Holy See;
when the See of Meath was distracted between two national parties he
installed his nominee; when the Countess of Ulster caused Edward I. to
issue his writ for the installation of John, Bishop of Conor, he
refused his acquiescence. He left nearly every See in his Province, at
the time of his decease (the year 1303), under the administration of a
native ecclesiastic; a dozen years before he had established a formal
"association" among the Prelates at large, by which they bound
themselves to resist the interference of the Kings of England in the
nomination of Bishops, and to be subject only to the sanction of the
See of Rome. In the Provinces of Cashel and Tuam, in the fourteenth
century, we do not often find a foreign born Bishop; even in Leinster
double elections and double delegations to Rome, show how deeply the
views of the patriotic Nicholas McMaelisa had seized upon the clergy of
the next age. It was Donald O'Neil's darling project to establish a
unity of action against the common enemy among the chiefs, similar to
that which the Primate had brought about among the Bishops. His own
pretensions to the sovereignty were greater than that of any Prince of
his age; his house had given more monarchs to the island than any
other; his father had been acknowledged by the requisite majority; his
courage, patriotism, and talents, were admittedly equal to the task.
But he felt the utter impossibility of conciliating that fatal family
pride, fed into extravagance by Bards and Senachies, which we have so
often pointed out as the worst consequence of the Celtic system. He saw
chiefs, proud of their lineage and their name, submit to serve a
foreign Earl of Ulster, who refused homage to the native Prince of
Ulster; he saw the seedlings of a vice of which we have seen the
fruit—that his countrymen would submit to a stranger rather than to one
of themselves, and he reasoned, not unnaturally, that, by the hand of
some friendly stranger, they might be united and liberated. The attempt
of Edward Bruce was a failure, and was followed by many disasters; but
a more patriotic design, or one with fairer omens of success, could not
have entered the mind or heart of a native Prince, after the event of
the battle at Bannockburn. Edward of England, having intelligence of
the negotiations on foot between the Irish and Scots, after his great
defeat, summoned over to Windsor during the winter, de Burgh,
Fitzgerald, de Verdon, and Edmund Butler, the Lord Deputy. After
conferring with them, and confirming Butler in his office, they were
despatched back in all haste to defend their country. Nor was there
time to lose. Edward Bruce, with his usual impetuosity, without waiting
for his full armament, had sailed from Ayr with 6,000 men in 300
galleys, accompanied by Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, Sir John
Stuart, Sir Philip Moubray, Sir Fergus of Ardrossan, and other
distinguished knights. He landed on the 25th day of May, 1315, in the
Glendun river, near Glenarm, and was promptly joined by Donald O'Neil,
and twelve other chiefs. Their first advance was from the coast towards
that angle of Lough Neagh, near which stands the town of Antrim. Here,
at Rathmore, in the plain of Moylinny, they were attacked by the
Mandevilles and Savages of the Ards of Down, whom they defeated. From
Antrim they continued their route evidently towards Dublin, taking
Dundalk and Ardee, after a sharp resistance. At Ardee they were but 35
miles north of Dublin, easy of conquest, if they had been provided with
siege trains—which it seemed they were not.

While Bruce and O'Neil were coming up from the north, Hugh O'Donnell,
lord of Tyrconnell, as if to provide occupation for the Earl of Ulster,
attacked and sacked the castle and town of Sligo, and wasted the
adjacent country. The Earl, on hearing of the landing of the Scots, had
mustered his forces at Athlone, and compelled the unwilling attendance
of Felim O'Conor, with his clansmen. From Athlone he directed his march
towards Drogheda, where he arrived with "20 cohorts," about the same
time that the Lord Deputy Butler came up with "30 cohorts." Bruce,
unprepared to meet so vast a force—taken together some 25,000 or 30,000
men—retreated slowly towards his point of debarkation. De Burgh, who,
as Commander-in-Chief, took precedence in the field of the Lord Deputy,
ordered the latter to protect Meath and Leinster, while he pursued the
enemy. Bruce, having despatched the Earl of Moray to his brother, was
now anxious to hold some northern position where they could most easily
join him. He led de Burgh, therefore, into the North of Antrim, thence
across the Bann at Coleraine, breaking down the bridge at that point.
Here the armies encamped for some days, separated by the river, the
outposts occasionally indulging in a "shooting of arrows." By
negotiation, Bruce and O'Neil succeeded in detaching O'Conor from de
Burgh. Under the plea—which really had sufficient foundation—of
suppressing an insurrection headed by one of his rivals, O'Conor
returned to his own country. No sooner had he left than Bruce assumed
the offensive, and it was now the Red Earl's turn to fall back. They
retreated towards the castle of Conyre (probably Conor, near Ballymena,
in Antrim), where an engagement was fought, in which de Burgh was
defeated, his brother William, Sir John Mandeville, and several other
knights being taken prisoners. The Earl continued his retreat through
Meath towards his own possession; Bruce followed, capturing in
succession Granard, Fenagh, and Kells, celebrating his Christmas at
Loughsweedy, in West-Meath, in the midst of the most considerable
chiefs of Ulster, Meath, and Connaught. It was probably at this stage
of his progress that he received the adhesion of the junior branches of
the Lacys—the chief Norman family that openly joined his standard.

This termination of his first campaign on Irish soil might be
considered highly favourable to Bruce. More than half the clans had
risen, and others were certain to follow their example; the clergy were
almost wholly with him; and his heroic brother had promised to lead an
army to his aid in the ensuing spring.


From Loughsweedy, Bruce broke up his quarters, and marched into
Kildare, encamping successively at Naas, Kildare, and Rathangan.
Advancing in a southerly direction, he found an immense, but disorderly
Anglo-Irish host drawn out, at the moat of Ardscull, near Athy, to
dispute his march. They were commanded by the Lord Justice Butler, the
Baron of Offally, the Lord Arnold Poer, and other magnates; but so
divided were these proud Peers, in authority and in feeling, that,
after a severe skirmish with Bruce's vanguard, in which some knights
were killed on both sides, they retreated before the Hiberno-Scottish
army, which continued its march unmolested, and took possession of

Animated by these successes, won in their midst, the clans of Leinster
began in succession to raise their heads. The tribes of Wicklow, once
possessors of the fertile plains to the east and west, rallied in the
mountain glens to which they had been driven, and commenced that long
guerilla war, which centuries only were to extinguish. The McMurroghs
along the ridge of Leinster, and all their kindred upon the Barrow and
the Slaney, mustered under a chief, against whom the Lord Justice was
compelled to march in person, later in the campaign of 1316. The Lord
of Dunamase was equally sanguine, but 800 men of the name of O'Moore,
slain in one disastrous encounter, crippled for the time the military
strength of that great house. Having thus kindled the war, in the very
heart of Leinster, Bruce retraced his march through Meath and Louth,
and held at Dundalk that great assembly in which he was solemnly
elected King of Ireland. Donald O'Neil, by letters patent, as son of
Brian "of the battle of Down," the last acknowledged native king,
formally resigned his right, in favour of Bruce, a proceeding which he
defends in his celebrated letter to Pope John XXII., where he speaks of
the new sovereign as the illustrious Earl of Carrick, Edward de Bruce,
a nobleman descended from the same ancestors with themselves, whom they
had called to their aid, and freely chosen as their king and lord. The
ceremony of inauguration seems to have been performed in the Gaelic
fashion, on the hill of Knocknemelan, within a mile of Dundalk, while
the solemn consecration took place in one of the churches of the town.
Surrounded by all the external marks of royalty, Bruce established his
court in the castle of Northburgh (one of de Courcy's or de Verdon's
fortresses), adjoining Dundalk, where he took cognizance of all pleas
that were brought before him. At that moment his prospects compared
favourably with those of his illustrious brother a few years earlier.
The Anglo-Irish were bitterly divided against each other; while,
according to their joint declaration of loyalty, signed before de
Hothun, King Edward's special agent, "all the Irish of Ireland, several
great lords, and many English people," had given in their adhesion to
Bruce. In Ulster, except Carrickfergus, no place of strength remained
in the hands of any subject of Edward of England. The arrival of
supplies from Scotland enabled Bruce to resume that siege in the autumn
of 1316, and the castle, after a heroic defence by Sir Thomas de
Mandeville, was surrendered in mid-winter. Here, in the month of
February, 1317, the new King of Ireland had the gratification of
welcoming his brother of Scotland, at the head of a powerful auxiliary
force, and here, according to Barbour's _Chronicle_, they feasted for
three days, in mirth and jollity, before entering on the third campaign
of this war.

We have before mentioned that one of the first successes obtained by
Bruce was through the withdrawal of Felim O'Conor from the Red Earl's
alliance. The Prince thus won over to what may be fairly called the
national cause, had just then attained his majority, and his martial
accomplishments reflected honour on his fosterer, McDermott of Moylurg,
while they filled with confidence the hearts of his own clansmen. After
his secession from de Burgh at Coleraine, he had spent a whole year in
suppressing the formidable rival who had risen to dispute his title.
Several combats ensued between their respective adherents, but at
length Roderick, the pretender, was defeated and slain, and Felim
turned all his energies to co-operate with Bruce, by driving the
foreigner out of his own province. Having secured the assistance of all
the chief tribes of the west, and established the ancient supremacy of
his house over Breffni, he first attacked the town of Ballylahen, in
Mayo, the seat of the family of de Exeter, slew Slevin de Exeter, the
lord de Cogan, and other knights and barons, and plundered the town. At
the beginning of August in the same year, in pursuance of his plan,
Felim mustered the most numerous force which Connaught had sent forth,
since the days of Cathal More. Under his leadership marched the Prince
of Meath, the lords of Breffni, Leyny, Annally, Teffia, Hy-Many, and
Hy-Fiachra, with their men. The point of attack was the town of
Athenry, the chief fortified stronghold of the de Burghs and
Berminghams in that region. Its importance dated from the reign of King
John; it had been enriched with convents and strengthened by towers; it
was besides the burial place of the two great Norman families just
mentioned, and their descendants felt that before the walls of Athenry
their possessions were to be confirmed to them by their own valour, or
lost for ever. A decisive battle was fought on St. Laurence's day—the
10th of August—in which the steel-clad Norman battalion once more
triumphed over the linen-shirted clansmen of the west. The field was
contested with heroic obstinacy; no man gave way; none thought of
asking or giving quarter. The standard bearer, the personal guard, and
the Brehon of O'Conor fell around him. The lords of Hy-Many, Teffia,
and Leyny, the heir of the house of Moylurg, with many other chiefs,
and, according to the usual computation, 8,000 men were slain. Felim
O'Conor himself, in the twenty-third year of his age, and the very
morning of his fame, fell with the rest, and his kindred, the
Sil-Murray, were left for a season an easy prey to William de Burgh and
John de Bermingham, the joint commanders in the battle. The spirit of
exaggeration common in most accounts of killed and wounded, has
described this day as fatal to the name and race of O'Conor, who are
represented as cut off to a man in the conflict; the direct line which
Felim represented was indeed left without an immediate adult
representative; but the offshoots of that great house had spread too
far and flourished too vigorously to be shorn away, even by so terrible
a blow as that dealt at Athenry. The very next year we find chiefs of
the name making some figure in the wars of their own province, but it
is observable that what may be called the national party in Connaught
for some time after Athenry, looked to McDermott of Moylurg as their
most powerful leader.

The moral effect of the victory of Athenry was hardly to be compensated
for by the capture of Carrickfergus the next winter. It inspired the
Anglo-Irish with new courage. De Bermingham was created
commander-in-chief. The citizens of Dublin burned their suburbs to
strengthen their means of defence. Suspecting the zeal of the Red Earl,
so nearly connected with the Bruces by marriage, their Mayor proceeded
to Saint Mary's abbey, where he lodged, arrested and confined him to
the castle. To that building the Bermingham tower was added about this
time, and the strength of the whole must have been great when the
skilful leaders, who had carried Stirling and Berwick, abandoned the
siege of Dublin as hopeless. In Easter week, 1317, Roger Mortimer,
afterwards Earl of March, nearly allied to the English King on the one
hand, and maternally descended from the Marshals and McMurroghs on the
other, arrived at Youghal, as Lord Justice, released the Earl of Ulster
on reaching Dublin, and prepared to dispute the progress of the Bruces
towards the South.

The royal brothers had determined, according to their national Bard, to
take their way with all their host, from one end of Ireland to the
other. Their destination was Munster, which populous province had not
yet ratified the recent election. Ulster and Meath were with them;
Connaught, by the battle of Athenry, was rendered incapable of any
immediate effort, and therefore Edward Bruce, in true Gaelic fashion,
decided to proceed on his royal visitation, and so secure the hostages
of the southern half-kingdom. At the head of 20,000 men, in two
divisions, the brothers marched from Carrickfergus; meeting, with the
exception of a severe skirmish in a wood near Slane, with no other
molestation till they approached the very walls of Dublin. Finding the
place stronger than they expected, or unwilling to waste time at that
season of the year, the Hiberno-Scottish army, after occupying
Castleknock, turned up the valley of the Liffey, and encamped for four
days by the pleasant waterfall of Leixlip. From Leixlip to Naas they
traversed the estates of one of their active foes, the new made Earl of
Kildare, and from Naas they directed their march to Callan in Ossory,
taking special pleasure, according to Anglo-Irish Annals, in harrying
the lands of another enemy, the Lord Butler, afterwards Earl of Ormond.
From Callan their route lay to Cashel and Limerick, at each of which
they encamped two or three days without seeing the face of an enemy.
But if they encountered no enemies in Munster, neither did they make
many friends by their expedition. It seems that on further acquaintance
rivalries and enmities sprung up between the two nations who composed
the army; that Edward Bruce, while styling himself King of Ireland,
acted more like a vigorous conqueror exhausting his enemies, than a
prudent Prince careful for his friends and adherents. His army is
accused, in terms of greater vehemence than are usually employed in our
cautious chronicles, of plundering churches and monasteries, and even
violating the tombs of the dead in search of buried treasure. The
failure of the harvest, added to the effect of a threefold war, had so
diminished the stock of food that numbers perished of famine, and this
dark, indelible remembrance was, by an arbitrary notion of cause and
effect, inseparably associated in the popular mind, both English and
Irish, with the Scottish invasion. One fact is clear, that the election
of Dundalk was not popular in Munster, and that the chiefs of Thomond
and Desmond were uncommitted, if not hostile towards Bruce's
sovereignty. McCarthy and O'Brien seized the occasion, indeed, while he
was campaigning in the North, to root out the last representative of
the family of de Clare, as we have already related, when tracing the
fortunes of the Normans in Munster. But of the twelve reguli, or
Princes in Bruce's train, none are mentioned as having come from the
Southern provinces.

This visitation of Munster occupied the months of February and March.
In April, the Lord Justice Mortimer summoned a Parliament at Kilkenny,
and there, also, the whole Anglo-Irish forces, to the number of 30,000
men, were assembled. The Bruces on their return northward might easily
have been intercepted, or the genius which triumphed at Bannockburn
might have been as conspicuously signalized on Irish ground. But the
military authorities were waiting orders from the Parliament, and the
Parliament were at issue with the new Justice, and so the opportunity
was lost. Early in May, the Hiberno-Scottish army re-entered Ulster, by
nearly the same route as they had taken going southwards, and King
Robert soon after returned into Scotland, promising faithfully to
rejoin his brother, as soon as he disposed of his own pressing affairs.
The King of England in the meantime, in consternation at the news from
Ireland, applied to the Pope, then at Avignon, to exercise his
influence with the Clergy and Chiefs of Ireland, for the preservation
of the English interest in that country. It was in answer to the Papal
rescripts so procured that Donald O'Neil despatched his celebrated
Remonstrance, which the Pontiff enclosed to Edward II., with an urgent
recommendation that the wrongs therein recited might be atoned for, and
avoided in the future.


It is too commonly the fashion, as well with historians as with others,
to glorify the successful and censure severely the unfortunate. No such
feeling actuates us in speaking of the character of Edward Bruce, King
of Ireland. That he was as gallant a knight as any in that age of
gallantry, we know; that he could confront the gloomiest aspect of
adversity with cheerfulness, we also know. But the united testimony,
both of history and tradition, in his own country, so tenacious of its
anecdotical treasures, describes him as rash, headstrong, and
intractable, beyond all the captains of his time. And in strict
conformity with this character is the closing scene of his Irish

The harvest had again failed in 1317, and enforced a melancholy sort of
truce between all the belligerents. The scarcity was not confined to
Ireland, but had severely afflicted England and Scotland, compelling
their rulers to bestow a momentary attention on the then abject class,
the tillers of the soil. But the summer of 1318 brightened above more
prosperous fields, from which no sooner had each party snatched or
purchased his share of the produce, than the war-note again resounded
through all the four Provinces. On the part of the Anglo-Irish, John de
Bermingham was confirmed as Commander-in-Chief, and departed from
Dublin with, according to the chronicles of the Pale, but 2,000 chosen
troops, while the Scottish biographer of the Bruces gives him "20,000
trapped horse." The latter may certainly be considered an exaggerated
account, and the former must be equally incorrect. Judged by the other
armaments of that period, from the fact that the Normans of Meath,
under Sir Miles de Verdon and Sir Richard Tuit, were in his ranks, and
that he then held the rank of Commander-in-Chief of all the English
forces in Ireland, it is incredible that de Bermingham should have
crossed the Boyne with less than eight or ten thousand men. Whatever
the number may have been, Bruce resolved to risk the issue of battle
contrary to the advice of all his officers, and without awaiting the
reinforcements hourly expected from Scotland, and which shortly after
the engagement did arrive. The native chiefs of Ulster, whose counsel
was also to avoid a pitched battle, seeing their opinions so lightly
valued, are said to have withdrawn from Dundalk. There remained with
the iron-headed King the Lords Moubray, de Soulis, and Stewart, with
the three brothers of the latter; MacRory, lord of the Isles, and
McDonald, chief of his clan. The neighbourhood of Dundalk, the scene of
his triumphs and coronation, was to be the scene of this last act of
Bruce's chivalrous and stormy career.

On the 14th of October, 1318, at the hill of Faughard, within a couple
of miles of Dundalk, the advance guard of the hostile armies came into
the presence of each other, and made ready for battle. Roland de Jorse,
the foreign Archbishop of Armagh—who had not been able to take
possession of his see, though appointed to it seven years
before—accompanied the Anglo-Irish, and moving through their ranks,
gave his benediction to their banners. But the impetuosity of Bruce
gave little time for preparation. At the head of the vanguard, without
waiting for the whole of his company to come up, he charged the enemy
with impetuosity. The action became general, and the skill of de
Bermingham as a leader was again demonstrated. An incident common to
the warfare of that age was, however, the immediate cause of the
victory. Master John de Maupas, a burgher of Dundalk, believing that
the death of the Scottish leader would be the signal for the retreat of
his followers, disguised as a jester or fool, sought him throughout the
field. One of the royal esquires, named Gilbert Harper, wearing the
surcoat of his master, was mistaken for him, and slain; but the true
leader was at length found by de Maupas, and struck down with the blow
of a leaden plummet or slung-shot. After the battle, when the field was
searched for his body, it was found under that of de Maupas, who had
bravely yielded up life for life. The Hiberno-Scottish forces dispersed
in dismay, and when King Robert of Scotland landed a day or two
afterwards, he was met by the fugitive men of Carrick, under their
leader Thompson, who informed him of his brother's fate. He returned at
once into his own country, carrying off the few Scottish survivors. The
head of the impetuous Edward was sent to London; but the body was
interred in the churchyard of Faughard, where, within living memory, a
tall pillar stone was pointed out by every peasant of the neighbourhood
as marking the grave of "King Bruce."

The fortunes of the principal actors, native and Norman, in the
invasion of Edward Bruce, may be briefly recounted before closing this
book of our history, John de Bermingham, created for his former victory
Baron of Athenry, had now the Earldom of Louth conferred on him with a
royal pension. He promptly followed up his blow at Faughard by
expelling Donald O'Neil, the mainspring of the invasion, from Tyrone;
but Donald, after a short sojourn among the mountains of Fermanagh,
returned during the winter and resumed his lordship, though he never
wholly recovered from the losses he had sustained. The new Earl of
Louth continued to hold the rank of Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, to
which he added in 1322 that of Lord Justice. He was slain in 1329, with
some 200 of his personal adherents, in an affair with the natives of
his new earldom, at a place called Ballybeagan. He left by a daughter
of the Earl of Ulster three daughters; the title was perpetuated in the
family of his brothers.

In 1319, the Earls of Kildare and Louth, and the Lord Arnold le Poer,
were appointed a commission to inquire into all treasons committed in
Ireland during Bruce's invasion. Among other outlawries they decreed
those of the three de Lacys, the chiefs of their name, in Meath and
Ulster. That illustrious family, however, survived even this last
confiscation, and their descendants, several centuries later, were
large proprietors in the midland counties.

Three years after the battle of Faughard, died Roland de Jorse,
Archbishop of Armagh, it was said, of vexations arising out of Bruce's
war, and other difficulties which beset him in taking possession of his
see. Adam, Bishop of Ferns, was deprived of his revenues for taking
part with Bruce, and the Friars Minor of the Franciscan order, were
severely censured in a Papal rescript for their zeal on the same side.

The great families of Fitzgerald and Butler obtained their earldoms of
Kildare, Desmond, and Ormond, out of this dangerous crisis, but the
premier earldom of Ulster disappeared from our history soon afterwards.
Richard, the Red Earl, having died in the Monastery of Athassil, in
1326, was succeeded by his son, William, who, seven years later, in
consequence of a family feud, instigated by one of his own female
relatives, Gilla de Burgh, wife of Walter de Mandeville, was murdered
at the Fords, near Carrickfergus, in the 21st year of his age. His
wife, Maud, daughter of Henry Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster, fled into
England with her infant, afterwards married to Lionel, Duke of
Clarence, son of King Edward III., who thus became personally
interested in the system which he initiated by the odious Statute of
Kilkenny. But the misfortunes of the Red Earl's posterity did not end
with the murder of his immediate successor. Edmond, his surviving son,
five years subsequently, was seized by his cousin, Edmond, the son of
William, and drowned in Lough Mask, with a stone about his neck. The
posterity of William de Burgh then assumed the name of McWilliam, and
renounced the laws, language, and allegiance of England. Profiting by
their dissensions, Turlogh O'Conor, towards the middle of the century,
asserted supremacy over them, thus practising against the descendants
the same policy which the first de Burghs had successfully employed
among the sons of Roderick.

We must mention here a final consequence of Edward Bruce's invasion
seldom referred to,—namely, the character of the treaty between
Scotland and England, concluded and signed at Edinburgh, on St.
Patrick's Day, 1328. By this treaty, after arranging an intermarriage
between the royal families, it was stipulated in the event of a
rebellion against Scotland, in Skye, Man, or the Islands, or against
England, in Ireland, that the several Kings would not abet or assist
each other's rebel subjects. Remembering this article, we know not what
to make of the entry in our own Annals, which states that Robert Bruce
landed at Carrickfergus in the same year, 1328, "and sent word to the
Justiciary and Council, that he came to make peace between Ireland and
Scotland, and that he would meet them at Green Castle; but that the
latter failing to meet him, he returned to Scotland." This, however, we
know: high hopes were entertained, and immense sacrifices were made,
for Edward Bruce, but were made in vain. His proverbial rashness in
battle, with his total disregard of the opinion of the country into
which he came, alienated from him those who were at first disposed to
receive him with enthusiasm. It may be an instructive lesson to such as
look to foreign leaders and foreign forces for the means of national
deliverance to read the terms in which the native Annalists record the
defeat and death of Edward Bruce: "No achievement had been performed in
Ireland, for a long time," say the Four Masters, "from which greater
benefit had accrued to the country than from this." "There was not a
better deed done in Ireland since the banishment of the Formorians,"
says the Annalist of Clonmacnoise! So detested may a foreign liberating
chief become, who outrages the feelings and usages of the people he
pretends, or really means to emancipate!



The closing years of the reign of Edward II. of England were endangered
by the same partiality for favourites which, had disturbed its
beginning. The de Spensers, father and son, played at this period the
part which Gaveston had performed twenty years earlier. The Barons, who
undertook to rid their country of this pampered family, had, however,
at their head Queen Isabella, sister of the King of France, who had
separated from her husband under a pretended fear of violence at his
hands, but in reality to enjoy more freely her criminal intercourse
with her favourite, Mortimer. With the aid of French and Flemish
mercenaries, they compelled the unhappy Edward to fly from London to
Bristol, whence he was pursued, captured, and after being confined for
several months in different fortresses, was secretly murdered in the
autumn of 1327, by thrusting a red hot iron into his bowels. His son,
Edward, a lad of fifteen years of age, afterwards the celebrated Edward
III., was proclaimed King, though the substantial power remained for
some years longer with Queen Isabella, and her paramour, now elevated
to the rank of Earl of March. In the year 1330, however, their guilty
prosperity was brought to a sudden close; Mortimer was seized by
surprise, tried by his peers, and executed at Tyburn; Isabella was
imprisoned for life, and the young King, at the age of eighteen, began
in reality that reign, which, through half a century's continuance,
proved so glorious and advantageous for England.

It will be apparent that during the last few years of the second, and
under the minority of the third Edward, the Anglo-Irish Barons would be
left to pursue undisturbed their own particular interests and enmities.
The renewal of war with Scotland, on the death of King Robert Bruce,
and the subsequent protracted wars with France, which occupied, with
some intervals of truce, nearly thirty years of the third Edward's
reign, left ample time for the growth of abuses of every description
among the descendants of those who had invaded Ireland, under the
pretext of its reformation, both in morals and government. The
contribution of an auxiliary force to aid him in his foreign wars was
all the warlike King expected from his lords of Ireland, and at so
cheap a price they were well pleased to hold their possessions under
his guarantee. At Halidon hill the Anglo-Irish, led by Sir John Darcy,
distinguished themselves against the Scots in 1333; and at the siege of
Calais, under the Earls of Kildare and Desmond, they acquired
additional reputation in 1347. From this time forward it became a
settled maxim of English policy to draft native troops out of Ireland
for foreign service, and to send English soldiers into it in times of

In the very year when the tragedy of Edward the Second's deposition and
death was enacted in England, a drama of a lighter kind was performed
among his new made earls in Ireland. The Lord Arnold le Poer gave
mortal offence to Maurice, first Earl of Desmond, by calling him "a
Rhymer," a term synonymous with poetaster. To make good his reputation
as a Bard, the Earl summoned his allies, the Butlers and Berminghams,
while le Poer obtained the aid of his maternal relatives, the de
Burghs, and several desperate conflicts took place between them. The
Earl of Kildare, then deputy, summoned both parties to meet him at
Kilkenny, but le Poer and William de Burgh fled into England, while the
victors, instead of obeying the deputy's summons, enjoyed themselves in
ravaging his estate. The following year (A.D. 1328), le Poer and de
Burgh returned from England, and were reconciled with Desmond and
Ormond by the mediation of the new deputy, Roger Outlaw, Prior of the
Knights of the Hospital at Kilmainham. In honour of this reconciliation
de Burgh gave a banquet at the castle, and Maurice of Desmond
reciprocated by another the next day, in St. Patrick's Church, though
it was then, as the Anglo-Irish Annalist remarks, the penitential
season of Lent. A work of peace and reconciliation, calculated to spare
the effusion of Christian blood, may have been thought some
justification for this irreverent use of a consecrated edifice.

The mention of the Lord Deputy, Sir Roger Outlaw, the second Prior of
his order though not the last, who wielded the highest political power
over the English settlements, naturally leads to the mention of the
establishment in Ireland, of the illustrious orders of the Temple and
the Hospital. The first foundation of the elder order is attributed to
Strongbow, who erected for them a castle at Kilmainham, on the high
ground to the south of the Liffey, about a mile distant from the Danish
wall of old Dublin. Here, the Templars flourished, for nearly a century
and a half, until the process for their suppression was instituted
under Edward II., in 1308. Thirty members of the order were imprisoned
and examined in Dublin, before three Dominican inquisitors—Father
Richard Balbyn, Minister of the Order of St. Dominick in Ireland,
Fathers Philip de Slane and Hugh de St. Leger. The decision arrived at
was the same as in France and England; the order was condemned and
suppressed; and their Priory of Kilmainham, with sixteen benefices in
the diocese of Dublin, and several others, in Ferns, Meath, and
Dromore, passed to the succeeding order, in 1311. The state maintained
by the Priors of Kilmainham, in their capacious residence, often
rivalled that of the Lords Justices. But though their rents were ample,
they did not collect them without service. Their house might justly be
regarded as an advanced fortress on the south side of the city,
constantly open to attacks from the mountain tribes of Wicklow.
Although their vows were for the Holy Land, they were ever ready to
march at the call of the English Deputies, and their banner, blazoned
with the _Agnus Dei_, waved over the bloodiest border frays of the
fourteenth century. The Priors of Kilmainham sat as Barons in the
Parliaments of "the Pale," and the office was considered the first in
ecclesiastical rank among the regular orders.

During the second quarter of this century, an extraordinary change
became apparent in the manners and customs of the descendants of the
Normans, Flemings, and Cambrians, whose ancestors an hundred years
earlier were strangers in the land. Instead of intermarrying
exclusively among themselves, the prevailing fashion became to seek for
Irish wives, and to bestow their daughters on Irish husbands. Instead
of clinging to the language of Normandy or England, they began to
cultivate the native speech of the country. Instead of despising Irish
law, every nobleman was now anxious to have his Brehon, his Bard, and
his Senachie. The children of the Barons were given to be fostered by
Milesian mothers, and trained in the early exercises so minutely
prescribed by Milesian education. Kildare, Ormond, and Desmond, adopted
the old military usages of exacting "coyne and livery"—horse meat and
man's meat—from their feudal tenants. The tie of Gossipred, one of the
most fondly cherished by the native population, was multiplied between
the two races, and under the wise encouragement of a domestic dynasty
might have become a powerful bond of social union. In Connaught and
Munster where the proportion of native to naturalized was largest, the
change was completed almost in a generation, and could never afterwards
be wholly undone. In Ulster the English element in the population
towards the end of this century was almost extinct, but in Meath and
Leinster, and that portion of Munster immediately bordering on Meath
and Leinster, the process of amalgamation required more time than the
policy of the Kings of England allowed it to obtain.

The first step taken to counteract their tendency to _Hibernicize_
themselves, was to bestow additional honours on the great families. The
baronry of Offally was enlarged into the earldom of Kildare; the
lordship of Carrick into the earldom of Ormond; the title of Desmond
was conferred on Maurice Fitz-Thomas Fitzgerald, and that of Louth on
the Baron de Bermingham. Nor were they empty honours; they were
accompanied with something better. The "royal liberties" were formally
conceded, in no less than nine great districts, to their several lords.
Those of Carlow, Wexford, Kilkenny, Kildare, and Leix, had been
inherited by the heirs of the Earl Marshal's five daughters; four other
counties Palatine were now added—Ulster, Meath, Ormond, and Desmond.
"The absolute lords of those palatinates," says Sir John Davis, "made
barons and knights, exercised high justice within all their
territories; erected courts for civil and criminal causes, and for
their own revenues, in the same form in which the king's courts were
established at Dublin; they constituted their own judges, seneschals,
sheriffs, coroners, and escheators." So that the king's writs did not
run in their counties, which took up more than two parts of the English
colony; but ran only in the church-lands lying within the same, which
was therefore called THE CROSSE, wherein the Sheriff was nominated by
the King. By "high justice" is meant the power of life and death, which
was hardly consistent with even a semblance of subjection. No wonder
such absolute lords should be found little disposed to obey the summons
of deputies, like Sir Ralph Ufford and Sir John Morris, men of merely
knightly rank, whose equals they had the power to create, by the touch
of their swords.

For a season their new honours quickened the dormant loyalty of the
recipients. Desmond, at the head of 10,000 men, joined the lord deputy,
Sir John Darcy, to suppress the insurgent tribes of South Leinster; the
Earls of Ulster and Ormond united their forces for an expedition into
West-Meath against the brave McGeoghegans and their allies; but even
these services—so complicated were public and private motives in the
breasts of the actors—did not allay the growing suspicion of what were
commonly called "the old English," in the minds of the English King and
his council. Their resolution seems to have been fixed to entrust no
native of Ireland with the highest office in his own country; in
accordance with which decision Sir Anthony Lucy was appointed, (1331;)
Sir John Darcy, (1332-34; again in 1341;) and Sir Ralph Ufford,
(1343-1346.) During the incumbency of these English knights, whether
acting as justiciaries or as deputies, the first systematic attempts
were made to prevent, both by the exercise of patronage or by penal
legislation, the fusion of races, which was so universal a tendency of
that age. And although these attempts were discontinued on the
recommencement of war with France in 1345, the conviction of their
utility had seized too strongly on the tenacious will of Edward III. to
be wholly abandoned. The peace of Bretigni in 1360 gave him leisure to
turn again his thoughts in that direction. The following year he sent
over his third son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence and Earl of Ulster, (in
right of his wife,) who boldly announced his object to be the total
separation, into hostile camps, of the two populations.

This first attempt to enforce non-intercourse between the natives and
the naturalized deserves more particular mention. It appears to have
begun in the time of Sir Anthony Lucy, when the King's Council sent
over certain "Articles of Reform," in which it was threatened that if
the native nobility were not more attentive in discharging their duties
to the King, his Majesty would resume into his own hands all the grants
made to them by his royal ancestors or himself, as well as enforce
payment of debts due to the Crown which had been formerly remitted.
From some motive, these articles were allowed, after being made public,
to remain a dead letter, until the administration of Darcy, Edward's
confidential agent in many important transactions, English and Irish.
They were proclaimed with additional emphasis by this deputy, who
convoked a Parliament or Council, at Dublin, to enforce them as law.
The same year, 1342, a new ordinance came from England, prohibiting the
public employment of men born or married, or possessing estates in
Ireland, and declaring that all offices of state should be filled in
that country by "fit Englishmen, having lands, tenements, and benefices
in England." To this sweeping proscription the Anglo-Irish, as well
townsmen as nobles, resolved to offer every resistance, and by the
convocation of the Earls of Desmond, Ormond, and Kildare, they agreed
to meet for that purpose at Kilkenny. Accordingly, what is called
Darcy's Parliament, met at Dublin in October, while Desmond's rival
assembly gathered at Kilkenny in November. The proceedings of the
former, if it agreed to any, are unrecorded, but the latter despatched
to the King, by the hands of the Prior of Kilmainham, a Remonstrance
couched in Norman-French, the court language, in which they reviewed
the state of the country; deplored the recovery of so large a portion
of the former conquest by the old Irish; accused, in round terms, the
successive English officials sent into the land, with a desire suddenly
to enrich themselves at the expense both of sovereign and subject;
pleaded boldly their own loyal services, not only in Ireland, but in
the French and Scottish wars; and finally, claimed the protection of
the Great Charter, that they might not be ousted of their estates,
without being called in judgment. Edward, sorely in need of men and
subsidies for another expedition to France, returned them a
conciliatory answer, summoning them to join him in arms, with their
followers, at an early day; and although a vigorous effort was made by
Sir Ralph Ufford to enforce the articles of 1331, and the ordinance of
1341, by the capture of the Earls of Desmond and Kildare, and by
military execution on some of their followers, the policy of
non-intercourse was tacitly abandoned for some years after the
Remonstrance of Kilkenny. In 1353, under the lord deputy, Rokeby, an
attempt was made to revive it, but it was quickly abandoned; and two
years later, Maurice, Earl of Desmond, the leader of the opposition,
was appointed to the office of Lord Justice for life! Unfortunately
that high-spirited nobleman died the year of his appointment, before
its effects could begin to be felt. The only legal concession which
marked his period was a royal writ constituting the "Parliament" of the
Pale the court of last resort for appeals from the decisions of the
King's courts in that province. A recurrence to the former favourite
policy signalized the year 1357, when a new set of ordinances were
received from London, denouncing the penalties of treason against all
who intermarried, or had relations of fosterage with the Irish; and
proclaiming war upon all kernes and idle men found within the English
districts. Still severer measures, in the same direction, were soon
afterwards decided upon, by the English King and his council.

Before relating the farther history of this penal code as applied to
race, we must recall the reader's attention to the important date of
the Kilkenny Remonstrance, 1342. From that year may be distinctly
traced the growth of two parties among the subjects of the English
Kings in Ireland. At one time they are distinguished as "the old
English" and "the new English," at another, as "English by birth" and
"English by blood." The new English, fresh from the Imperial island,
seem to have usually conducted themselves with a haughty sense of
superiority; the old English, more than half _Hibernicized_, confronted
these strangers with all the self-complacency of natives of the soil on
which they stood. In their frequent visits to the Imperial capital, the
old English were made sensibly to feel that their country was not
there; and as often as they went, they returned with renewed ardour to
the land of their possessions and their birth. Time, also, had thrown
its reverent glory round the names of the first invaders, and to be
descended from the companions of Earl Richard, or the captains who
accompanied King John, was a source of family pride, second only to
that which the native princes cherished, in tracing up their lineage to
Milesius of Spain. There were many reasons, good, bad, and indifferent,
for the descendants of the Norman adventurers adopting Celtic names,
laws, and customs, but not the least potent, perhaps, was the fostering
of family pride and family dependence, which, judged from our present
stand-points, were two of the worst possible preparations for our
national success in modern times.


While the grand experiment for the separation of the population of
Ireland into two hostile camps was being matured in England, the Earls
of Kildare and Ormond were, for four or five years, alternately
entrusted with the supreme power. Fresh ordinances, in the spirit of
those despatched to Darcy, in 1342, continued annually to arrive. One
commanded all lieges of the English King, having grants upon the
marches of the Irish enemy, to reside upon and defend them, under pain
of revocation. By another entrusted to the Earl of Ormond for
promulgation, "no mere Irishman" was to be made a Mayor or bailiff, or
other officer of any town within the English districts; nor was any
mere Irishman "thereafter, under any pretence of kindred, or from any
other cause, to be received into holy orders, or advanced to any
ecclesiastical benefice." A modification of this last edict was made
the succeeding year, when a royal writ explained that exception was
intended to be made of such Irish clerks as had given individual proofs
of their loyalty.

Soon after the peace of Bretigni had been solemnly ratified at Calais,
in 1360, by the Kings of France and England, and the latter had
returned to London, it was reported that one of the Princes would be
sent over to exercise the supreme power at Dublin. As no member of the
royal family had visited Ireland since the reign of John—though Edward
I., when Prince, had been appointed his father's lieutenant—this
announcement naturally excited unusual expectations. The Prince chosen
was the King's third son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence; and every
preparation was made to give _eclat_ and effect to his administration.
This Prince had married, a few years before, Elizabeth de Burgh, who
brought him the titles of Earl of Ulster and Lord of Connaught, with
the claims which they covered. By a proclamation, issued in England,
all who held possessions in Ireland were commanded to appear before the
King, either by proxy or in person, to take measures for resisting the
continued encroachments of the Irish enemy. Among the absentees
compelled to contribute to the expedition accompanying the Prince, are
mentioned Maria, Countess of Norfolk, Agnes, Countess of Pembroke,
Margery de Boos, Anna le Despenser, and other noble ladies, who, by a
strange recurrence, represented in this age the five co-heiresses of
the first Earl Marshal, granddaughters of Eva McMurrogh. What exact
force was equipped from all these contributions is not mentioned; but
the Prince arrived in Ireland with no more than 1,500 men, under the
command of Ralph, Earl of Strafford, James, Earl of Ormond, Sir William
Windsor, Sir John Carew, and other knights. He landed at Dublin on the
15th of September, 1361, and remained in office for three years. On
landing he issued a proclamation, prohibiting natives of the country,
of all origins, from approaching his camp or court, and having made
this hopeful beginning he marched with his troops into Munster, where
he was defeated by O'Brien, and compelled to retreat. Yet by the
flattery of courtiers he was saluted as the conqueror of Clare, and
took from the supposed fact, his title of _Clarence_. But no adulation
could blind him to the real weakness of his position: he keenly felt
the injurious consequences of his proclamation, revoked it, and
endeavoured to remove the impression he had made, by conferring
knighthood on the Prestons, Talbots, Cusacks, De la Hydes, and members
of other families, not immediately connected with the Palatine Earls.
He removed the Exchequer from Dublin to Carlow, and expended 500
pounds—a large sum for that age—in fortifying the town. The barrier of
Leinster was established at Carlow, from which it was removed, by an
act of the English Parliament ten years afterwards; the town and castle
were retaken in 1397, by the celebrated Art McMurrogh, and long
remained in the hands of his posterity.

In 1364, Duke Lionel went to England, leaving de Windsor as his deputy,
but in 1365, and again in 1367, he twice returned to his government.
This latter year is memorable as the date of the second great stride
towards the establishment of a Penal Code of race, by the enactment of
the "Statute of Kilkenny." This memorable Statute was drawn with
elaborate care, being intended to serve as the corner stone of all
future legislation, and its provisions are deserving of enumeration.
The Act sets out with this preamble: "Whereas, at the conquest of the
land of Ireland, and for a long time after, the English of the said
land used the English language, mode of riding, and apparel, and were
governed and ruled, both they and their subjects, called Betaghese
(villeins), according to English law, &c., &c.,—but now many English of
the said land, forsaking the English language, manners, mode of riding,
laws, and usages, live, and govern themselves according to the manners,
fashion, and language of the Irish enemies, and also have made divers
marriages and alliances between themselves and the Irish enemies
aforesaid—it is therefore enacted, among other provisions, that all
intermarriages, fosterings, gossipred, and buying or selling with the
'enemie,' shall be accounted treason—that English names, fashions, and
manners shall be resumed under penalty of the confiscation of the
delinquent's lands—that March-law and Brehon-law are illegal, and that
there shall be no law but English law—that the Irish shall not pasture
their cattle on English lands—that the English shall not entertain
Irish rhymers, minstrels, or newsmen; and, moreover, that no 'mere
Irishmen' shall be admitted to any ecclesiastical benefice, or
religious house, situated within the English districts."

All the names of those who attended at this Parliament of Kilkenny are
not accessible to us; but that the Earls of Kildare, Ormond, and
Desmond, were of the number need hardly surprise us, alarmed as they
all were by the late successes of the native princes, and overawed by
the recent prodigious victories of Edward III. at Cressy and Poictiers.
What does at first seem incomprehensible is that the Archbishop not
only of Dublin, but of Cashel and Tuam—in the heart of the Irish
country—and the Bishops of Leighlin, Ossory, Lismore, Cloyne, and
Killala, should be parties to this statute. But on closer inspection
our surprise at their presence disappears. Most of these prelates were
at that day nominees of the English King, and many of them were English
by birth. Some of them never had possession of their sees, but dwelt
within the nearest strong town, as pensioners on the bounty of the
Crown, while the dioceses were administered by native rivals, or
tolerated vicars. Le Reve, Bishop of Lismore, was Chancellor to the
Duke in 1367; Young, Bishop of Leighlin, was Vice-Treasurer; the Bishop
of Ossory, John of Tatendale, was an English Augustinian, whose
appointment was disputed by Milo Sweetman, the native Bishop elect; the
Bishop of Cloyne, John de Swasham, was a Carmelite of Lyn, in the
county of Norfolk, afterwards Bishop of Bangor, in Wales, where he
distinguished himself in the controversy against Wycliffe; the Bishop
of Killala we only know by the name of Robert—at that time very unusual
among the Irish. The two native names are those of the Archbishops of
Cashel and Tuam, Thomas O'Carrol and John O'Grady. The former was
probably, and the latter certainly, a nominee of the Crown. We know
that Dr. O'Grady died an exile from his see—if he ever was permitted to
enter it—in the city of Limerick, four years after the sitting of the
Parliament of Kilkenny. Shortly after the enactment of this law, by
which he is best remembered, the Duke of Clarence returned to England,
leaving to Gerald, fourth Earl of Desmond, the task of carrying it into
effect. In the remaining years of this reign the office of Lord
Lieutenant was held by Sir William de Windsor, during the intervals of
whose absence in England the Prior of Kilmainham, or the Earl of
Kildare or of Ormond, discharged the duties with the title of Lord
Deputy or Lord Justice.

It is now time that we should turn to the native annals of the country
to show how the Irish princes had carried on the contest during the
eventful half century which the reign of Edward III. occupies in the
history of England.

In the generation which elapsed from the death of the Earl of Ulster,
or rather from the first avowal of the policy of proscription in 1342,
the native tribes had on all sides and continuously gained on the
descendants of their invaders. In Connaught, the McWilliams, McWattins,
and McFeoriss retained part of their estates only by becoming as Irish
as the Irish. The lordships of Leyny and Corran, in Sligo and Mayo,
were recovered by the heirs of their former chiefs, while the powerful
family of O'Conor Sligo converted that strong town into a formidable
centre of operations. Rindown, Athlone, Roscommon, and Bunratty, all
frontier posts fortified by the Normans, were in 1342, as we learn from
the Remonstrance of Kilkenny, in the hands of the elder race.

The war, in all the Provinces, was in many respects a war of posts.
Towards the north Carrickfergus continued the outwork till captured by
Neil O'Neil, when Downpatrick and Dundalk became the northern barriers.
The latter town, which seems to have been strengthened after Bruce's
defeat, was repeatedly attacked by Neil O'Neil, and at last entered
into conditions, by which it procured his protection. At Downpatrick
also, in the year 1375, he gained a signal victory over the English of
the town and their allies, under Sir James Talbot of Malahide, and
Burke of Camline, in which both these commanders were slain. This
O'Neil, called from his many successes Neil _More_, or the Great, dying
in 1397, left the borders of Ulster more effectually cleared of foreign
garrisons than they had been for a century and a half before. He
enriched the churches of Armagh and Derry, and built a habitation for
students resorting to the primatial city, on the site of the ancient
palace of Emania, which had been deserted before the coming of St.

The northern and western chiefs seem in this age to have made some
improvements in military equipments, and tactics. _Cooey-na-gall_, a
celebrated captain of the O'Kanes, is represented on his tomb at
Dungiven as clad in complete armour—though that may be the fancy of the
sculptor. Scottish gallowglasses—heavy-armed infantry, trained in
Bruce's campaigns, were permanently enlisted in their service. Of their
leaders the most distinguished were McNeil _Cam_, or the Crooked, and
McRory, in the service of O'Conor, and McDonnell, McSorley, and
McSweeney, in the service of O'Neil, O'Donnell, and O'Conor Sligo. The
leaders of these warlike bands are called the Constables of Tyr-Owen,
of North Connaught, or of Connaught, and are distinguished in all the
warlike encounters in the north and west.

The midland country—the counties now of Longford, West-Meath, Meath,
Dublin, Kildare, King's and Queen's, were almost constantly in arms,
during the latter half of this century. The lords of Annally,
Moy-Cashel, Carbry, Offally, Ely, and Leix, rivalled each other in
enterprise and endurance. In 1329, McGeoghegan of West-Meath defeated
and slew Lord Thomas Butler, with the loss of 120 men at Mullingar; but
the next year suffered an equal loss from the combined forces of the
Earls of Ormond and Ulster; his neighbour, O'Farrell, contended with
even better fortune, especially towards the close of Edward's reign
(1372), when in one successful foray he not only swept their garrisons
out of Annally, but rendered important assistance to the insurgent
tribes of Meath. In Leinster, the house of O'Moore, under Lysaght their
Chief, by a well concerted conspiracy, seized in one night (in 1327) no
less than eight castles, and razed the fort of Dunamase, which they
despaired of defending. In 1346, under Conal O'Moore, they destroyed
the foreign strongholds of Ley and Kilmehedie; and though Conal was
slain by the English, and Rory, one of their creatures, placed in his
stead, the tribe put Rory to death as a traitor in 1354, and for two
centuries thereafter upheld their independence. Simultaneously, the
O'Conors of Offally, and the O'Carrolls of Ely, adjoining and kindred
tribes, so straightened the Earl of Kildare on the one hand, and the
Earl of Ormond on the other, that a cess of 40 pence on every carucate
(140 acres) of tilled land, and of 40 pence on chattels of the value of
six pounds, was imposed on all the English settlements, for the defence
of Kildare, Carlow, and the marches generally. Out of the amount
collected in Carlow, a portion was paid to the Earl of Kildare, "for
preventing the O'Moores from burning the town of Killahan." The same
nobleman was commanded, by an order in Council, to strengthen his
Castles of Rathmore, Kilkea, and Ballymore, under pain of forfeiture.
These events occurred in 1356, '7, and '8.

In the south the same struggle for supremacy proceeded with much the
same results. The Earl of Desmond, fresh from his Justiceship in
Dublin, and the penal legislation of Kilkenny, was, in 1370, defeated
and slain near Adare, by Brian O'Brien, Prince of Thomond, with several
knights of his name, and "an indescribable number of others." Limerick
was next assailed, and capitulated to O'Brien, who created Sheedy
McNamara, Warden of the City. The English burghers, however, after the
retirement of O'Brien, rose, murdered the new Warden, and opened the
gates to Sir William de Windsor, the Lord Lieutenant, who had hastened
to their relief. Two years later the whole Anglo-Irish force, under the
fourth Earl of Kildare, was, summoned to Limerick, in order to defend
it against O'Brien. So desperate now became the contest, that William
de Windsor only consented to return a second time as Lord Lieutenant in
1374, on condition that he was to act strictly on the defensive, and to
receive annually the sum of 11,213 pounds 6 shillings 8 pence—a sum
exceeding the whole revenue which the English King derived from Ireland
at that period; which, according to Sir John Davies, fell short of
11,000 pounds. Although such was the critical state of the English
interest, this lieutenant obtained from the fears of successive
Parliaments annual subsidies of 2,000 pounds and 3,000 pounds. The
deputies from Louth having voted against his demand, were thrown into
prison; but a direct petition from the Anglo-Irish to the King brought
an order to de Windsor not to enforce the collection of these grants,
and to remit in favour of the petitioners the scutage "on all those
lands of which the Irish enemy had deprived them."

In the last year of Edward III. (1376), he summoned the magnates and
the burghers of towns to send representatives to 'London to consult
with him on the state of the English settlements in Ireland. But those
so addressed having assembled together, drew up a protest, setting
forth that the great Council of Ireland had never been accustomed to
meet out of that kingdom, though, saving the rights of their heirs and
successors, they expressed their willingness to do so, for the King's
convenience on that occasion. Richard Dene and William Stapolyn were
first sent over to England to exhibit the evils of the Irish
administration; the proposed general assembly of representatives seems
to have dropped. The King ordered the two delegates just mentioned to
be paid ten pounds out of the Exchequer for their expenses.

The series of events, however, which most clearly exhibits the decay of
the English interest, transpired within the limits of Leinster, almost
within sight of Dublin. Of the actors in these events, the most
distinguished for energy, ability, and good fortune, was Art McMurrogh,
whose exploits are entitled to a separate and detailed account.


Whether Donald Kavanagh McMurrogh, son of Dermid, was born out of
wedlock, as the Lady Eva was made to depose, in order to create a claim
of inheritance for herself as sole heiress, this, at least, is certain,
that his descendants continued to be looked upon by the kindred clans
of Leinster as the natural lords of that principality. Towards the
close of the thirteenth century, in the third or fourth generation,
after the death of their immediate ancestor, the Kavanaghs of Leighlin
and Ballyloughlin begin to act prominently in the affairs of their
Province, and their chief is styled both by Irish and English "the
McMurrogh." In the era of King Edward Bruce, they were sufficiently
formidable to call for an expedition of the Lord Justice into their
patrimony, by which they are said to have been defeated. In the next
age, in 1335, Maurice, "the McMurrogh," was granted by the Anglo-Irish
Parliament or Council, the sum of 80 marks annually, for keeping open
certain roads and preserving the peace within its jurisdiction. In
1358, Art, the successor of Maurice, and Donald Revagh, were proclaimed
"rebels" in a Parliament held at Castledermot, by the Lord Deputy
Sancto Amando, the said Art being further branded with deep ingratitude
to Edward III., who had acknowledged him as "the Mac-Murch." To carry
on a war against him the whole English interest was assessed with a
special tax. Louth contributed 20 pounds; Meath and Waterford, 2
shillings on every carucate (140 acres) of tilled land; Kilkenny the
same sum, with the addition of 6 pence in the pound on chattels. This
Art captured the strong castles of Kilbelle, Galbarstown, Rathville,
and although his career was not one of invariable success, he
bequeathed to his son, also called Art, in 1375, an inheritance,
extending over a large portion—perhaps one-half—of the territory ruled
by his ancestors before the invasion.

Art McMurrogh, or Art Kavanagh, as he is more commonly called, was born
in the year 1357, and from the age of sixteen and upwards was
distinguished by his hospitality, knowledge, and feats of arms. Like
the great Brian, he was a younger son, but the fortune of war removed
one by one those who would otherwise have preceded him in the captaincy
of his clan and connections. About the year 1375—while he was still
under age—he was elected successor to his father, according to the
Annalists, who record his death in 1417, "after being forty-two years
in the government of Leinster." Fortunately he attained command at a
period favourable to his genius and enterprise. His own and the
adjoining tribes were aroused by tidings of success from other
Provinces, and the partial victories of their immediate predecessors,
to entertain bolder schemes, and they only waited for a chief of
distinguished ability to concentrate their efforts. This chief they
found, where they naturally looked for him, among the old ruling family
of the Province. Nor were the English settlers ignorant of his promise.
In the Parliament held at Castledermot in 1377, they granted to him the
customary annual tribute paid to his house, the nature of which calls
for a word of explanation. This tribute was granted, "as the late King
had done to his ancestors;" it was again voted in a Parliament held in
1380, and continued to be paid so late as the opening of the
seventeenth century (A.D. 1603). Not only was a fixed sum paid out of
the Exchequer for this purpose—inducing the native chiefs to grant a
right of way through their territories—but a direct tax was levied on
the inhabitants of English origin for the same privilege. This tax,
called "black mail," or "black rent," was sometimes differently
regarded by those who paid and those who received it. The former looked
on it as a stipend, the latter as a tribute; but that it implied a
formal acknowledgment of the local jurisdiction of the chief cannot be
doubted. Two centuries after the time of which we speak, Baron Finglas,
in his suggestions to King Henry VIII. for extending his power in
Ireland, recommends that "no black rent be paid to any Irishman _for
the four shires_"—of the Pale—"and any black rent they had afore this
time be paid to them for ever." At that late period "the McMurrogh" had
still his 80 marks annually from the Exchequer, and 40 pounds from the
English settled in Wexford; O'Carroll of Ely had 40 pounds from the
English in Kilkenny, and O'Conor of Offally 20 pounds from those of
Kildare, and 300 pounds from Meath. It was to meet these and other
annuities to more distant chiefs, that William of Windsor, in 1369,
covenanted for a larger revenue than the whole of the Anglo-Irish
districts then yielded, and which led him besides to stipulate that he
was to undertake no new expeditions, but to act entirely on the
defensive. We find a little later, that the necessity of sustaining the
Dublin authorities at an annual loss was one of the main motives which
induced Richard II. of England to transport two royal armies across the
channel, in 1394 and 1399.

Art McMurrogh, the younger, not only extended the bounds of his own
inheritance and imposed tribute on the English settlers in adjoining
districts, during the first years of his rule, but having married a
noble lady of the "Pale," Elizabeth, heiress to the barony of Norragh,
in Kildare, which included Naas and its neighbourhood, he claimed her
inheritance in full, though forfeited under "the statute of Kilkenny,"
according to English notions. So necessary did it seem to the Deputy
and Council of the day to conciliate their formidable neighbour, that
they addressed a special representation to King Richard, setting forth
the facts of the case, and adding that McMurrogh threatened, until this
lady's estates were restored and the arrears of tribute due to him
fully discharged, he should never cease from war, "but would join with
the Earl of Desmond against the Earl of Ormond, and afterwards return
with a great force out of Munster to ravage the country." This allusion
most probably refers to James, second Earl of Ormond, who, from being
the maternal grandson of Edward I., was called the noble Earl, and was
considered in his day the peculiar representative of the English
interest. In the last years of Edward III., and the first of his
successor, he was constable of the Castle of Dublin, with a fee of 18
pounds 5 shillings per annum. In 1381—the probable date of the address
just quoted—he had a commission to treat with certain rebels, in order
to reform them and promote peace. Three years later he died, and was
buried in the Cathedral of St. Canice, Kilkenny, the place of sepulture
of his family.

When, in the year 1389, Richard II., having attained his majority,
demanded to reign alone, the condition of the English interest was most
critical. During the twelve years of his minority the Anglo-Irish
policy of the Council of Regency had shifted and changed, according to
the predominance of particular influences. The Lord Lieutenancy was
conferred on the King's relatives, Edward Mortimer, Earl of March
(1379), and continued to his son, Roger Mortimer, a minor (1381); in
1383, it was transferred to Philip de Courtenay, the King's cousin. The
following year, de Courtenay having been arrested and fined for
mal-administration, Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the special
favourite of Richard, was created Marquis of Dublin and Duke of
Ireland, with a grant of all the powers and authority exercised at any
period in Ireland by that King or his predecessors. This extraordinary
grant was solemnly confirmed by the English Parliament, who, perhaps
willing to get rid of the favourite at any cost, allotted the sum of
30,000 marks due from the King of France, with a guard of 500
men-at-arms and 1,000 archers for de Vere's expedition. But that
favoured nobleman never entered into possession of the principality
assigned him; he experienced the fate of the Gavestons and de Spencers
of a former reign; fleeing, for his life, from the Barons, he died in
exile in the Netherlands. The only real rulers of the Anglo-Irish in
the years of the King's minority, or previous to his first expedition
in 1394, (if we except Sir John Stanley's short terms of office in 1385
and 1389,) were the Earls of Ormond, second and third, Colton, Dean of
Saint Patrick's, Petit, Bishop of Meath, and White, Prior of
Kilmainham. For thirty years after the death of Edward III., no
Geraldine was entrusted with the highest office, and no Anglo-Irish
layman of any other family but the Butlers. In 1393, Thomas of
Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, uncle to Richard, was appointed Lord
Lieutenant, and was on the point of embarking, when a royal order
reached him announcing the determination of the King to take command of
the forces in person.

The immediate motives for Richard's expedition are variously stated by
different authors. That usually assigned by the English—a desire to
divert his mind from brooding over the loss of his wife, "the good
Queen Anne," seems wholly insufficient. He had announced his intention
a year before her death; he had called together, before the Queen fell
ill, the Parliament at Westminster, which readily voted him "a tenth"
of the revenues of all their estates for the expedition. Anne's
sickness was sudden, and her death took place in the last week of July.
Richard's preparations at that date were far advanced towards
completion, and Sir Thomas Scroope had been already some months in
Dublin to prepare for his reception. The reason assigned by Anglo-Irish
writers is more plausible: he had been a candidate for the Imperial
Crown of Germany, and was tauntingly told by his competitors to conquer
Ireland before he entered the lists for the highest political honour of
that age. This rebuke, and the ill-success of his arms against France
and Scotland, probably made him desirous to achieve in a new field some
share of that military glory which was always so highly prized by his

Some events which immediately preceded Richard's expedition may help us
to understand the relative positions of the natives and the naturalized
to the English interest in the districts through which he was to march.
By this time the banner of Art McMurrogh floated over all the castles
and raths, on the slope of the Ridge of Leinster, or the steps of the
Blackstair hills; while the forests along the Barrow and the Upper
Slaney, as well as in the plain of Carlow and in the South-western
angle of Wicklow (now the barony of Shillelagh), served still better
his purposes of defensive warfare; So entirely was the range of country
thus vaguely defined under native sway that John Griffin, the English
Bishop of Leighlin, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, obtained a grant
in 1389 of the town of Gulroestown, in the county of Dublin, "near the
marches of O'Toole, seeing he could not live within his own see for the
rebels." In 1390, Peter Creagh, Bishop of Limerick, on his way to
attend an Anglo-Irish Parliament, was taken prisoner in that region,
and in consequence the usual fine was remitted in his favour. In 1392,
James, the third Earl of Ormond, gave McMurrogh a severe check at
Tiscoffin, near Shankill, where 600 of his clansmen were left dead
among the hills.

This defeat, however, was thrown into the shade by the capture of New
Ross, on the very eve of Richard's arrival at Waterford. In a previous
chapter we have described the fortifications erected round this
important seaport towards the end of the thirteenth century. Since that
period its progress had been steadily onward. In the reign of Edward
III. the controversy which had long subsisted between the merchants of
Ross and those of Waterford, concerning the trade monopolies claimed by
the latter, had been decided in favour of Ross. At this period it could
muster in its own defence 363 cross-bowmen, 1,200 long-bowmen, 1,200
pikemen, and 104 horsemen—a force which would seem to place it second
to Dublin in point of military strength. The capture of so important a
place by McMurrogh was a cheering omen to his followers. He razed the
walls and towers, and carried off gold, silver, and hostages.

On the 2nd of October, 1394, the royal fleet of Richard arrived from
Milford Haven, at Waterford. To those who saw Ireland for the first
time, the rock of Dundonolf, famed for Raymond's camp, the abbey of
Dunbrody, looking calmly down on the confluence of the three rivers,
and the half-Danish, half-Norman port before them, must have presented
scenes full of interest. To the townsmen the fleet was something
wonderful. The endless succession of ships of all sizes and models,
which had wafted over 30,000 archers and 4,000 men-at-arms; the royal
galley leading on the fluttering pennons of so many great nobles, was a
novel sight to that generation. Attendant on the King were his uncle,
the Duke of Gloucester, the young Earl of March, heir apparent, Thomas
Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, the Earl of Rutland, the Lord Thomas
Percy, afterwards Earl of Westmoreland, and father of Hotspur, and Sir
Thomas Moreley, heir to the last Lord Marshal of the "Pale." Several
dignitaries of the English Church, as well Bishops as Abbots, were also
with the fleet. Immediately after landing, a _Te Deum_ was sung in the
Cathedral, where Earl Richard had wedded the Princess Eva, where Henry
II. and John had offered up similar thanksgivings.

Richard remained a week at Waterford; gave splendid _fetes_, and
received some lords of the neighbouring country, Le Poers, Graces, and
Butlers. He made gifts to churches, and ratified the charter given by
John to the abbey of Holy Cross in Munster. He issued a summons to
Gerald, Earl of Desmond, to appear before him by the feast of the
Purification "in whatever part of Ireland he should then be," to answer
to the charge of having usurped the manor, revenues, and honour of
Dungarvan. Although it was then near the middle of October, he took the
resolution of marching to Dublin, through the country of McMurrogh, and
knowing the memory of Edward the Confessor to be popular in Leinster,
he furled the royal banner, and hoisted that of the saintly Saxon king,
which bore "a cross patence, or, on a field gules, with four doves
argent on the shield." His own proper banner bore lioncels and
fleur-de-lis. His route was by Thomastown to Kilkenny, a city which had
risen into importance with the Butlers. Nearly half a century before,
this family had brought artizans from Flanders, who established the
manufacture of woollens, for which the town was ever after famous. Its
military importance was early felt and long maintained. At this city
Richard was joined by Sir William de Wellesley, who claimed to be
hereditary standard-bearer for Ireland, and by other Anglo-Irish
nobles. From thence he despatched his Earl Marshal into "Catherlough"
to treat with McMurrogh. On the plain of Ballygorry, near Carlow, Art,
with his uncle, Malachy, O'Moore, O'Nolan, O'Byrne, MacDavid, and other
chiefs, met the Earl Marshal. The terms proposed were almost equivalent
to extermination. They were, in effect, that the Leinster chieftains,
under fines of enormous amount, payable into the Apostolic chamber,
should, before the first Sunday of Lent, surrender to the English King
"the full possession of all their lands, tenements, castles, woods, and
forts, which by them and all other of the Kenseologhes, their
companions, men, or adherents, late were occupied within the province
of Leinster." And the condition of this surrender was to be, that they
should have unmolested possession of any and all lands they could
conquer from the King's other Irish enemies elsewhere in the kingdom.
To these hard conditions some of the minor chiefs, overawed by the
immense force brought against them, would, it seems, have submitted,
but Art sternly refused to treat, declaring that if he made terms at
all, it should be with the King and not with the Earl Marshal; and that
instead of yielding his own lands, his wife's patrimony in Kildare
should be restored. This broke up the conference, and Mowbray returned
discomfitted to Kilkenny.

King Richard, full of indignation, put himself at the head of his army
and advanced against the Leinster clans. But his march was slow and
painful: the season and the forest fought against him; he was unable to
collect by the way sufficient fodder for the horses or provisions for
the men. McMurrogh swept off everything of the nature of food—took
advantage of his knowledge of the country to burst upon the enemy by
night, to entrap them into ambuscades, to separate the cavalry from the
foot, and by many other stratagems to thin their ranks and harass the
stragglers. At length Richard, despairing of dislodging him from his
fastnesses in Idrone, or fighting a way out of them, sent to him
another deputation of "the English and Irish of Leinster," inviting him
to Dublin to a personal interview. This proposal was accepted, and the
English king continued his way to Dublin, probably along the sea coast
by Bray and the white strand, over Killiney and Dunleary. Soon after
his arrival at Dublin, care was taken to repair the highway which ran
by the sea, towards Wicklow and Wexford.


At Dublin, Richard prepared to celebrate the festival of Christmas,
with all the splendour of which he was so fond. He had received letters
from his council in England warmly congratulating him on the results of
his "noble voyage" and his successes against "his rebel Make Murgh."
Several lords and chiefs were hospitably entertained by him during the
holidays—but the greater magnates did not yet present themselves—unless
we suppose them to have continued his guests at Dublin, from Christmas
till Easter, which is hardly credible.

The supplies which he had provided were soon devoured by so vast a
following. His army, however, were paid their wages weekly, and were
well satisfied. But whatever the King or his flatterers might pretend,
the real object of all the mighty preparations made was still in the
distance, and fresh supplies were needed for the projected campaign of
1395. To raise the requisite funds, he determined to send to England
his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. Gloucester carried a letter to the
regent, the Duke of York, countersigned "Lincolne," and dated from
Dublin, "Feb. 1, 1395." The council, consisting of the Earls of Derby,
Arundel, de Ware, Salisbury, Northumberland, and others, was convened,
and they "readily voted a tenth off the clergy, and a fifteenth off the
laity, for the King's supply." This they sent with a document, signed
by them all, exhorting him to a vigorous prosecution of the war, and
the demolition of all forts belonging to "MacMourgh [or] le grand
O'Nel." They also addressed him another letter, complimentary of his
valour and discretion in all things.

While awaiting supplies from England, Richard made a progress as far
northward as Drogheda, where he took up his abode in the Dominican
Convent of St. Mary Magdalen. On the eve of St. Patrick's Day, O'Neil,
O'Donnell, O'Reilly, O'Hanlon, and MacMahon, visited and exchanged
professions of friendship with him. It is said they made "submission"
to him as their sovereign lord, but until the Indentures, which have
been spoken of, but never published, are exhibited, it will be
impossible to determine what, in their minds and in his, were the exact
relations subsisting between the native Irish princes and the King of
England at that time. O'Neil, and other lords of Ulster, accompanied
him back to Dublin, where they found O'Brien, O'Conor, and McMurrogh,
lately arrived. They were all lodged in a fair mansion, according to
the notion of Master Castide, Froissart's informant, and were under the
care of the Earl of Ormond and Castide himself, both of whom spoke
familiarly the Irish language.

The glimpse we get through Norman spectacles of the manners and customs
of these chieftains is eminently instructive, both as regards the
observers and the observed. They would have, it seems, very much to the
disedification of the English esquire, "their minstrels and principal
servants sit at the same table and eat from the same dish." The
interpreters employed all their eloquence in vain to dissuade them from
this lewd habit, which they perversely called "a praiseworthy custom,"
till at last, to get rid of importunities, they consented to have it
ordered otherwise, during their stay as King Richard's guests.

On the 24th of March the Cathedral of Christ's Church beheld the four
kings devoutly keeping the vigil preparatory to knighthood. They had
been induced to accept that honour from Richard's hand. They had
apologized at first, saying they were all knighted at the age of seven.
But the ceremony, as performed in the rest of Christendom, was
represented to them as a great and religious custom, which made the
simplest knight the equal of his sovereign, which added new lustre to
the crowned head, and fresh honour to the victorious sword. On the
Feast of the Annunciation they went through the imposing ceremony,
according to the custom obtaining among their entertainers.

While the native Princes of the four Provinces were thus lodged
together in one house, it was inevitable that plans of co-operation for
the future should be discussed between them. Soon after the Earl of
Ormond, who knew their language, appeared before Richard as the accuser
of McMurrogh, who was, on his statement, committed to close confinement
in the Castle. He was, however, soon after set at liberty, though
O'Moore, O'Byrne, and John O'Mullain were retained in custody, probably
as hostages, for the fulfilment of the terms of his release. By this
time the expected supplies had arrived from England, and the festival
of Easter was happily passed. Before breaking up from his winter
quarters Richard celebrated with great pomp the festival of his
namesake, St. Richard, Bishop of Chichester, and then summoned a
parliament to meet him at Kilkenny on the 12th of the month. The acts
of this parliament have not seen the light; an obscurity which they
share in common with all the documents of this Prince's progress in
Ireland. The same remark was made three centuries ago by the English
chronicler, Grafton, who adds with much simplicity, that as Richard's
voyage into Ireland "was nothing profitable nor honourable to him,
therefore the writers think it scant worth the noting."

Early in May a deputation, at the head of which was the celebrated
William of Wyckham, arrived from England, invoking the personal
presence of the King to quiet the disturbances caused by the progress
of Lollardism. With this invitation he decided at once to comply, but
first he appointed the youthful Earl of March his lieutenant in
Ireland, and confirmed the ordinance of Edward III., empowering the
chief governor in council to convene parliament by writ, which writ
should be of equal obligation with the King's writ in England. He
ordained that a fine of not less than fifty marks, and not more than
one hundred, should be exacted of every representative of a town or
shire, who, being elected as such, neglected or refused to attend. He
reformed the royal courts, and appointed Walter de Hankerford and
William Sturmey, two Englishmen, "well learned in the law" as judges,
whose annual salaries were to be forty pounds each. Having made these
arrangements, he took an affectionate leave of his heir and cousin, and
sailed for England, whither he was accompanied by most of the great
nobles who had passed over with him to the Irish wars. Little dreamt
they of the fate which impended over many of their heads. Three short
years and Gloucester would die by the assassin's hand, Arundel by the
executioner's axe, and Mowbray, Earl Marshal, the ambassador at
Ballygorry, would pine to death in Italian banishment. Even a greater
change than any of these—a change of dynasty—was soon to come over

The young Earl of March, now left in the supreme direction of affairs,
so far as we know, had no better title to govern than that he was heir
to the English throne, unless it may have been considered an additional
recommendation that he was sixth in descent from the Lady Eva
McMurrogh. To his English title, he added that of Earl of Ulster and
Lord of Connaught, derived from his mother, the daughter of Lionel,
Duke of Clarence, and those of Lord of Trim and Clare, from other
relations. The counsellors with whom he was surrounded included the
wisest statesmen and most experienced soldiers of "the Pale." Among
them were Almaric, Baron Grace, who, contrary to the statute of
Kilkenny, had married an O'Meagher of Ikerrin, and whose family had
intermarried with the McMurroghs; the third Earl of Ormond, an
indomitable soldier, who had acted as Lord Deputy, in former years of
this reign; Cranley, Archbishop of Dublin, and Roche, the Cistercian
Abbot of St. Mary's, lately created Lord Treasurer of Ireland; Stephen
Bray, Chief Justice; and Gerald, fifth Earl of Kildare. Among his
advisers of English birth were Roger Grey, his successor; the new
Judges Hankerford and Sturmey, and others of less pacific reputation.
With the dignitaries of the Church, and the innumerable priors and
abbots, in and about Dublin, the court of the Heir-Presumptive must
have been a crowded and imposing one for those times, and had its
external prospects been peaceful, much ease and pleasure might have
been enjoyed within its walls.

In the three years of this administration, the struggle between the
natives, the naturalized, and the English interest knew no cessation in
Leinster. Some form of submission had been wrung from McMurrogh before
his release from Dublin Castle, in the spring of 1395, but this
engagement extorted under duress, from a guest towards whom every rite
of hospitality had been violated, he did not feel bound by after his
enlargement. In the same year an attempt was made to entrap him at a
banquet given in one of the castles of the frontier, but warned by his
bard, he made good his escape "by the strength of his arm, and by
bravery." After this double violation of what among his countrymen,
even of the fiercest tribes, was always held sacred, the privileged
character of a guest, he never again placed himself at the mercy of
prince or peer, but prosecuted the war with unfaltering determination.
In 1396, his neighbour, the chief of Imayle, carried off from an
engagement near Dublin, six score heads of the foreigners: and the next
year—an exploit hardly second in its kind to the taking of Ross—the
strong castle and town of Carlow were captured by McMurrogh himself. In
the campaign of 1398, on the 20th of July, was fought the eventful
battle of Kenlis, or Kells, on the banks of the stream called "the
King's river," in the barony of Kells, and county of Kilkenny. Here
fell the Heir-Presumptive to the English crown, whose premature removal
was one of the causes which contributed to the revolution in England, a
year or two later. The tidings of this event filled "the Pale" with
consternation, and thoroughly aroused the vindictive temper of Richard.
He at once despatched to Dublin his half-brother, Thomas Holland, Earl
of Kent, recently created Duke of Surrey. To this duke he made a gift
of Carlow castle and town, to be held (if taken) by knights' service.
He then, as much, perhaps, to give occupation to the minds of his
people, as to prosecute his old project of subduing Ireland, began to
make preparations for his second expedition thither. Death again
delayed him. John of Ghent, Duke of Lancaster, his uncle, and one of
the most famous soldiers of the time, suddenly sickened, and died. As
Henry, his son, was in banishment, the King, under pretence of
appropriating his vast wealth to the service of the nation, seized it
into his own hands, and despite the warnings of his wisest counsellors
as to the disturbed state of the kingdom, again took up his march for
Milford Haven.

A French knight, named Creton, had obtained leave with a
brother-in-arms to accompany this expedition, and has left us a very
vivid account of its progress. Quitting Paris they reached London just
as King Richard was about "to cross the sea on account of the injuries
and grievances that his mortal enemies had committed against him in
Ireland, where they had put to death many of his faithful friends."
Wherefore they were further told, "he would take no rest until he had
avenged himself upon MacMore, who called himself most excellent King
and Lord of great Ireland; where he had but little territory of any

They at once set out for Milford, where, "waiting for the north wind,"
they remained "ten whole days." Here they found King Richard with a
great army, and a corresponding fleet. The clergy were taxed to supply
horses, waggons, and money—the nobles, shires, and towns, their
knights, men-at-arms, and archers—the seaports, from Whitehaven to
Penzance, were obliged, by an order in council, dated February 7th, to
send vessels rated at twenty-five tons and upwards to Milford, by the
octave of Easter. King's letters were issued whenever the usual
ordinances failed, and even the press-gang was resorted to, to raise
the required number of mariners. Minstrels of all kinds crowded to the
camp, enlivening it by their strains, and enriching themselves the
while. The wind coming fair, the vessels "took in their lading of
bread, wine, cows and calves, salt meat and plenty of water," and the
King taking leave of his ladies, they set sail.

In two days they saw "the tower of Waterford." The condition to which
the people of this English stronghold had been reduced by the war was
pitiable in the extreme. Some were in rags, others girt with ropes, and
their dwellings seemed to the voyagers but huts and holes. They rushed
into the tide up to their waists, for the speedy unloading of the
ships, especially attending to those that bore the supplies of the
army. Little did the proud cavaliers and well-fed yeomen, who then
looked on, imagine, as they pitied the poor wretches of Waterford, that
before many weeks were over, they would themselves be reduced to the
like necessity—even to rushing into the sea to contend for a morsel of

Six days after his arrival, which was on the 1st of June, King Richard
marched from Waterford "in close order to Kilkenny." He had now the
advantage of long days and warm nights, which in his first expedition
he had not. His forces were rather less than in 1394; some say twenty,
some twenty-four thousand in all. The Earl of Rutland, with a
reinforcement in one hundred ships, was to have followed him, but this
unfaithful courtier did not greatly hasten his preparations to overtake
his master. With the King were the Lord Steward of England, Sir Thomas
Percy; the Duke of Exeter; De Spencer, Earl of Gloucester; the Lord
Henry of Lancaster, afterwards King Henry V.; the son of the late Duke
of Gloucester; the son of the Countess of Salisbury; the Bishop of
Exeter and London; the Abbot of Westminster, and a gallant Welsh
gentleman, afterwards known to fame as Owen Glendower. He dropped the
subterfuge of bearing Edward the Confessor's banner, and advanced his
own standard, which bore leopards and flower de luces. In this order,
"riding boldly," they reached Kilkenny, where Richard remained a
fortnight awaiting news of the Earl of Rutland from Waterford. No news,
however, came. But while he waited, he received intelligence from
Kildare which gratified his thirst for vengeance. Jenico d'Artois, a
Gascon knight of great discretion and valour, who had come over the
preceding year with the Duke of Surrey, marching towards Kilkenny, had
encountered some bands of the Irish in Kildare (bound on a like errand
to their prince), whom he fought and put to flight, leaving two hundred
of them dead upon the field. This Jenico, relishing Irish warfare more
than most foreign soldiers of his age, continued long after to serve in
Ireland—married one of his daughters to Preston, Baron of Naas, and
another to the first Lord Portlester.

On the 23rd of June, "the very vigil of St. John," a saint to whom the
King was very much devoted, Richard, resolving to delay no longer, left
Kilkenny, and marched directly towards Catherlough. He sent a message
in advance to McMurrogh, "who would neither submit nor obey him in
anyway; but affirmed that he was the rightful King of Ireland, and that
he would never cease from war and the defence of his country until his
death; and said that the wish to deprive him of it by conquest was

Art McMurrogh, now some years beyond middle age, had with him in arms
"three thousand hardy men," "who did not appear," says our French
knight, "to be much afraid of the English." The cattle and corn, the
women and the helpless, he had removed into the interior of the
fastnesses, while he himself awaited, in Idrone, the approach of the

This district, which lies north and south between the rivers Slaney and
Barrow, is of a diversified and broken soil, watered with several small
streams, and patched with tracts of morass and marsh. It was then half
covered with wood, except in the neighbourhood of Old Leighlin, and a
few other places where villages had grown up around the castles, raths,
and monasteries of earlier days. On reaching the border of the forest,
King Richard ordered all the habitations in sight to be set on fire;
and then "two thousand five hundred of the well affected people," or,
as others say, prisoners, "began to hew a highway into the woods."

When the first space was cleared, Richard, ever fond of pageantry,
ordered his standard to be planted on the new ground, and pennons and
banners arrayed on every side. Then he sent for the sons of the Dukes
of Gloucester and Lancaster, his cousins, and the son of the Countess
of Salisbury and other bachelors-in-arms, and there knighted them with
all due solemnity. To young Lancaster, he said, "My fair cousin,
henceforth, be preux and valiant, for you have some valiant blood to
conquer." The youth to whom he made this address was little more than a
boy, but tall of his age, and very vigorous. He had been a hard student
at Oxford, and was now as unbridled as a colt new loosed into a meadow.
He was fond of music, and afterwards became illustrious as the Fifth
Henry of English history. Who could have foreseen, when first he put on
his spurs by the wood's side, in Catherlough, that he would one day
inherit the throne of England and make good the pretensions of all his
predecessors to the throne of France?

Richard's advance was slow and wearisome in the forests of Idrone. His
route was towards the eastern coast. McMurrogh retreated before him,
harassing him dreadfully, carrying off everything fit for food for man
or beast, surprising and slaying his foragers, and filling his camp
nightly with alarm and blood. The English archers got occasional shots
at his men, "so that they did not all escape;" and they in turn often
attacked the rear-guard, "and threw their darts with such force that
they pierced haubergeon and plates through and through." The Leinster
King would risk no open battle so long as he could thus cut off the
enemy in detail. Many brave knights fell, many men-at-arms and archers;
and a deep disrelish for the service began to manifest itself in the
English camp.

A party of Wexford settlers, however, brought one day to his camp
Malachy McMurrogh, uncle to Art, a timid, treaty-making man. According
to the custom of that century—observed by the defenders of Stirling and
the burgesses of Calais—he submitted with a _wythe_ about his neck,
rendering up a naked sword. His retinue, bareheaded and barefoot,
followed him into the presence of Richard, who received them
graciously. "Friends," said he to them, "as to the evils and wrongs
that you have committed against me, I pardon you on condition that each
of you will swear to be faithful to me for the time to come." Of this
circumstance he made the most, as our guide goes on to tell in these
words: "Then every one readily complied with his demand; and took the
oath. When this was done he sent word to MacMore, who called himself
Lord and King of Ireland, (_that country_,) where he has many a wood
but little cultivated land, that if he would come straightways to him
with a rope about _his_ neck, as his uncle had done, he would admit him
to mercy, and elsewhere give him castles and lands in abundance." The
answer of King Art is thus reported: "MacMore told the King's people he
would do no such thing for all the treasures of the sea or on this
side, (the sea,) but would continue to fight and harass him."

For eleven days longer Richard continued his route in the direction of
Dublin, McMurrogh and his allies falling back towards the hills and
glens of Wicklow. The English could find nothing by the way but "a few
green oats" for the horses, which being exposed night and day, and so
badly fed, perished in great numbers. The general discontent now made
itself audible even to the ears of the King. For many days five or six
men had but a "single loaf." Even gentlemen, knights and squires,
fasted in succession; and our chivalrous guide, for his part, "would
have been heartily glad to have been penniless at Poitiers or Paris."
Daily deaths made the camp a scene of continued mourning, and all the
minstrels that had come across the sea to amuse their victor
countrymen, like the poet who went with Edward II. to Bannockburn to
celebrate the conquest of the Scots, found their gay imaginings turned
to a sorrowful reverse.

At last, however, they came in sight of the sea-coast, where vessels
laden with provisions, sent from Dublin, were awaiting them. So eager
were the famished men for food, that "they rushed into the sea as
eagerly as they would into their straw." All their money was poured
into the hands of the merchants; some of them even fought in the water
about a morsel of food, while in their thirst they drank all the wine
they could lay hands on. Our guide saw full a thousand men drunk that
day on "the wine of Ossey and Spain." The scene of this extraordinary
incident is conjectured to have been at or near Arklow, where the beach
is sandy and flat, such as it is not at any point of Wicklow north of
that place.

The morning after the arrival of these stores, King Richard again set
forward for Dublin, determining to penetrate Wicklow by the valleys
that lead from the Meeting of the Waters to Bray. He had not proceeded
far on his march, when a Franciscan friar reached his camp as
Ambassador from the Leinster King. This unnamed messenger, whose cowl
history cannot raise, expressed the willingness of his lord to treat
with the King, through some accredited agent—"some lord who might be
relied upon"—"so that _their_ anger (Richard's and his own), that had
long been cruel, might now be extinguished." The announcement spread
"great joy" in the English camp. A halt was ordered, and a council
called. After a consultation, it was resolved that de Spencer, Earl of
Gloucester, should be empowered to confer with Art. This nobleman, now
but 26 years of age, had served in the campaign of 1394. He was one of
the most powerful peers of England, and had married Constance, daughter
of the Duke of York, Richard's cousin. From his possessions in Wales,
he probably knew something of the Gaelic customs and speech. He was
captain of the rearguard on this expedition, and now, with 200 lances,
and 1,000 archers, all of whom were chosen men, he set out for the
conference. The French knight also went with him, as he himself relates
in these words:

"Between two woods, at some distance from the sea, I beheld MacMore and
a body of the Irish, more than I can number, descend the mountain. He
had a horse, without housing or saddle, which was so fine and good,
that it had cost him, they said, four hundred cows; for there is little
money in the country, wherefore their usual traffic is only with
cattle. In coming down, it galloped so hard, that, in my opinion, I
never saw hare, deer, sheep, or any other animal, I declare to you for
a certainty, run with such speed as it did. In his right hand he bore a
great long dart, which he cast with much skill. * * * * His people drew
up in front of the wood. These two (Gloucester and the King), like an
out-post, met near a little brook. There MacMore stopped. He was a fine
large man—wondrously active. To look at him, he seemed very stern and
savage, and an able man. He and the Earl spake of their doings,
recounting the evil and injury that MacMore had done towards the King
at sundry times; and how they all foreswore their fidelity when
wrongfully, without judgment or law, they most mischievously put to
death the courteous Earl of March. Then they exchanged much discourse,
but did not come to agreement; they took short leave, and hastily
parted. Each took his way apart, and the Earl returned towards King

This interview seems to have taken place in the lower vale of Ovoca,
locally called Glen-Art, both from the description of the scenery, and
the stage of his march at which Richard halted. The two woods, the
hills on either hand, the summer-shrunken river, which, to one
accustomed to the Seine and the Thames naturally looked no bigger than
a brook, form a picture, the original of which can only be found in
that locality. The name itself, a name not to be found among the
immediate chiefs of Wicklow, would seem to confirm this hypothesis.

The Earl on his return declared, "he could find nothing in him, (Art,)
save only that he would ask for _pardon_, truly, upon condition of
having _peace without reserve_, free from any molestation or
imprisonment; otherwise, he will never come to agreement as long as he
lives; and, (he said,) 'nothing venture, nothing have.' This speech,"
says the French knight, "was not agreeable to the King; it appeared to
me that his face grew pale with anger; he swore in great wrath by St.
Edward, that, no, never would he depart from Ireland, till, alive or
dead, he had him in his power."

The King, notwithstanding, was most anxious to reach Dublin. He at once
broke up his camp, and marched on through Wicklow, "for all the
shoutings of the enemie." What other losses he met in those deep
valleys our guide deigns not to tell, but only that they arrived at
last in Dublin "more than 30,000" strong, which includes, of course,
the forces of the Anglo-Irish lords that joined them on the way. There
"the whole of their ills were soon forgotten, and their sorrow
removed." The provost and sheriffs feasted them sumptuously, and they
were all well-housed and clad. After the dangers they had undergone,
these attentions were doubly grateful to them. But for long years the
memory of this doleful march lived in the recollection of the English
on both sides the Irish sea, and but once more for above a century did
a hostile army venture into the fastnesses of Idrone and Hy-Kinsellah.

When Richard arrived in Dublin, still galled by the memory of his
disasters, he divided his force into three divisions, and sent them out
in quest of McMurrogh, promising to whosoever should bring him to
Dublin, alive or dead, "100 marks, in pure gold." "Every one took care
to remember these words," says Creton, "for it was a good hearing." And
Richard, moreover, declared that if they did not capture him when the
autumn came, and the trees were leafless and dry, he would burn "all
the woods great and small," or find out that troublous rebel. The same
day he sent out his three troops, the Earl of Rutland, his laggard
cousin, arrived at Dublin with 100 barges. His unaccountable delay he
submissively apologized for, and was readily pardoned. "Joy and
delight" now reigned in Dublin. The crown jewels shone at daily
banquets, tournaments, and mysteries. Every day some new pastime was
invented, and thus six weeks passed, and August drew to an end.
Richard's happiness would have been complete had any of his soldiers
brought in McMurrogh's head: but far other news was on the way to him.
Though there was such merriment in Dublin, a long-continued storm swept
the channel. When good weather returned, a barge arrived from Chester,
bearing Sir William Bagot, who brought intelligence that Henry of
Lancaster, the banished Duke, had landed at Ravenspur, and raised a
formidable insurrection amongst the people, winning over the Archbishop
of Canterbury, the Duke of York, and other great nobles. Richard was
struck with dismay. He at once sent the Earl of Salisbury into Wales to
announce his return, and then, taking the evil counsel of Rutland,
marched himself to Waterford, with most part of his force, and
collected the remainder on the way. Eighteen days after the news
arrived he embarked for England, leaving Sir John Stanley as Lord
Lieutenant in Ireland. Before quitting Dublin, he confined the sons of
the Dukes of Lancaster and Gloucester, in the strong fortress of Trim,
from which they were liberated to share the triumph of the successful
usurper, Henry IV.

It is beyond our province to follow the after-fate of the monarch,
whose Irish campaigns we have endeavoured to restore to their relative
importance. His deposition and cruel death, in the prison of
Pontefract, are familiar to readers of English history. The
unsuccessful insurrections suppressed during his rival's reign, and the
glory won by the son of that rival, as Henry V., seem to have
established the house of Lancaster firmly on the throne; but the long
minority of Henry VI.—who inherited the royal dignity at nine months
old—and the factions among the other members of that family, opened
opportunities, too tempting to be resisted, to the rival dynasty of
York. During the first sixty years of the century on which we are next
to enter, we shall find the English interest in Ireland controlled by
the house of Lancaster; in the succeeding twenty-five years the
partizans of the house of York are in the ascendant; until at length,
after the victory of Bosworth field (A.D. 1485), the wars of the roses
are terminated by the coronation of the Earl of Richmond as Henry VII.,
and his politic marriage with the Princess Elizabeth—the representative
of the Yorkist dynasty. It will be seen how these rival houses had
their respective factions among the Anglo-Irish; how these factions
retarded two centuries the establishment of English power in Ireland;
how the native lords and chiefs took advantage of the disunion among
the foreigners to circumscribe more and more the narrow limits of the
Pale; and lastly, how the absence of national unity alone preserved the
power so reduced from utter extinction. In considering all these far
extending consequences of the deposition of Richard II., and the
substitution of Henry of Lancaster in his stead, we must give due
weight to his unsuccessful Irish wars as proximate causes of that
revolution. The death of the Heir-Presumptive in the battle of Kells;
the exactions and ill-success of Richard in his wars; the seizure of
John of Ghent's estates and treasures; the absence of the sovereign at
the critical moment: all these are causes which operated powerfully to
that end. And of these all that relate to Irish affairs were mainly
brought about by the heroic constancy, in the face of enormous odds,
the unwearied energy, and high military skill exhibited by one man—Art


One leading fact, which we have to follow in all its consequences
through the whole of the fifteenth century, is the division of the
English and of the Anglo-Irish interest into two parties, Lancasterians
and Yorkists. This division of the foreign power will be found to have
produced a corresponding sense of security in the minds of the native
population, and thus deprived them of that next best thing to a united
national action, the combining effects of a common external danger.

The new party lines were not drawn immediately upon the English
revolution of 1399, but a very few years sufficed to infuse among
settlers of English birth or descent the partizan passions which
distracted the minds of men in their original country. The third Earl
of Ormond, although he had received so many favours from the late King
and his grandfather, yet by a common descent of five generations from
Edward I., stood in relation of cousinship to the Usurper. On the
arrival of the young Duke of Lancaster as Lord Lieutenant, in 1402,
Ormond became one of his first courtiers, and dying soon after, he
chose the Duke guardian to his heir, afterwards the fourth Earl. This
heir, while yet a minor (1407), was elected or appointed deputy to his
guardian, the Lord Lieutenant; during almost the whole of the short
reign of Henry V. (1413-1421) he resided at the English Court, or
accompanied the King in his French campaigns, thus laying the
foundations of that influence which, six several times during the reign
of Henry VI., procured his appointment to office as Lord Deputy, Lord
Justice, or Lord Lieutenant. At length, in the mid-year of the century,
his successor was created Earl of Wiltshire, and entrusted with the
important duties of one of the Commissioners for the fleet, and Lord
Treasurer of England; favours and employments which sufficiently
account for how the Ormond family became the leaders of the Lancaster
party among the Anglo-Irish.

The bestowal of the first place on another house tended to estrange the
Geraldines, who, with some reason, regarded themselves as better
entitled to such honours. During the first official term of the Duke of
Lancaster, no great feeling was exhibited, and on his departure in
1405, the fifth Earl of Kildare was, for a year, entrusted with the
office of Deputy. On the return of the Duke, in August, 1408, the Earl
rode out to meet him, but was suddenly arrested with three other
members of his family, and imprisoned in the Castle, His house in
Dublin was plundered by the servants of the Lord Lieutenant, and the
sum of 300 marks was exacted for his ransom. Such injustice and
indignity, as well as the subsequent arrest of the sixth Earl, in 1418,
"for having communicated with the Prior of Kilmainham"—still more than
their rivalry with the Ormonds, drove the Kildare family into the ranks
of the adherents of the Dukes of York. We shall see in the sequel the
important reacting influence of these Anglo-Irish combinations upon the
fortunes of the white rose and the red.

To signalize his accession and remove the reproach of inaction which
had been so often urged against his predecessor, Henry IV, was no
sooner seated on the throne than he summoned the military tenants of
the Crown to meet him in arms upon the Tyne, for the invasion of
Scotland. It seems probable that he summoned those of Ireland with the
rest, as we find in that year (1400) that an Anglo-Irish fleet,
proceeding northwards from Dublin, encountered a Scottish, fleet in
Strangford Lough, where a fierce engagement was fought, both sides
claiming the victory. Three years later the Dubliners landed at Saint
Ninians, and behaved valiantly, as their train bands did the same
summer against the mountain tribes of Wicklow. Notwithstanding the
personal sojourn of the unfortunate Richard, and his lavish expenditure
among them, these warlike burghers cordially supported the new dynasty.
Some privileges of trade were judiciously extended to them, and, in
1407, Henry granted to the Mayors of the city the privilege of having a
gilded sword carried before them, in the same manner as the Mayors of

At the period when these politic favours were bestowed on the citizens
of Dublin, Henry was contending with a formidable insurrection in
Wales, under the leadership of Owen Glendower, who had learned in the
fastnesses of Idrone, serving under King Richard, how brave men, though
not formed to war in the best schools, can defend their country against
invasion. In the struggle which he maintained so gallantly during this
and the next reign, though the fleet of Dublin at first assisted his
enemies, he was materially aided afterwards by the constant occupation
furnished them by the clans of Leinster. The early years of the
Lancasterian dynasty were marked by a series of almost invariable
defeats in the Leinster counties. Art McMurrogh, whose activity defied
the chilling effects of age, poured his cohorts through Sculloge gap,
on the garrisons of Wexford, taking in rapid possession in one campaign
(1406) the castles of Camolin, Ferns, and Enniscorthy. Returning
northward he retook Castledermot, and inflicted chastisement on the
warlike Abbot of Conal, near Naas, who shortly before attacked some
Irish forces on the Curragh of Kildare, slaying two hundred men.
Castledermot was retaken by the Lord Deputy Scrope the next year, with
the aid of the Earls of Ormond and Desmond, and the Prior of
Kilmainham, at the head of his Knights. These allies were fresh from a
Parliament in Dublin, where the Statute of Kilkenny had been, according
to custom, solemnly re-enacted as the only hope of the English
interest, and they naturally drew the sword in maintenance of their
palladium. Within six miles of Callan, in "McMurrogh's country," they
encountered that chieftain and his clansmen. In the early part of the
day the Irish are stated to have had the advantage, but some Methian
captains coming up in the afternoon turned the tide in favour of the
English. According to the chronicles of the Pale, they won a second
victory before nightfall at the town of Callan, over O'Carroll of Ely,
who was marching to the aid of McMurrogh. But so confused and
unsatisfactory are the accounts of this twofold engagement on the same
day, in which the Deputy in person, and such important persons as the
Earls of Desmond, of Ormond, and the Prior of Kilmainham commanded,
that we cannot reconcile it with probability. The Irish Annals simply
record the fact that a battle was gained at Callan over the Irish of
Munster, in which O'Carroll was slain. Other native authorities add
that 800 of his followers fell with O'Carroll, but no mention whatever
is made of the battle with McMurrogh. The English accounts gravely add,
that the evening sun stood still, while the Lord Deputy rode six miles,
from the place of the first engagement to that of the second. This was
the last campaign of Sir Stephen Scrope; he died soon after by the
pestilence which swept over the island, sparing neither rich nor poor.

The Duke of Lancaster resumed the Lieutenancy, arrested the Earl of
Kildare as before related, convoked a Parliament at Dublin, and with
all the forces he could muster, determined on an expedition southwards.
But McMurrogh and the mountaineers of Wicklow now felt themselves
strong enough to take the initiative. They crossed the plain which lies
to the north of Dublin, and encamped at Kilmainham, where Roderick when
he besieged the city, and Brien before the battle of Clontarf, had
pitched their tents of old. The English and Anglo-Irish forces, under
the eye of their Prince, marched out to dislodge them, in four
divisions. The first was led by the Duke in person; the second by the
veteran knight, Jenico d'Artois, the third by Sir Edward Perrers, an
English knight, and the fourth by Sir Thomas Butler, Prior of the Order
of Saint John, afterwards created by Henry V., for his distinguished
service, Earl of Kilmain. With McMurrogh were O'Byrne, O'Nolan, and
other chiefs, besides his sons, nephews, and relatives. The numbers on
each side could hardly fall short of ten thousand men, and the action
may be fairly considered one of the most decisive of those times. The
Duke was carried back wounded into Dublin; the slopes of Inchicore and
the valley of the Liffey were strewn with the dying and the dead; the
river at that point obtained from the Leinster Irish the name of
_Athcroe_, or the ford of slaughter; the widowed city was filled with
lamentation and dismay. In a petition addressed to King Henry by the
Council, apparently during his son's confinement from the effects of
his wound, they thus describe the Lord Lieutenant's condition: "His
soldiers have deserted him; the people of his household are on the
point of leaving him; and though they were willing to remain, our lord
is not able to keep them together; our said lord, your son, is so
destitute of money, that he hath not a penny in the world, nor a penny
can he get credit for."

One consequence of this battle of Kilmainham was, that while Art
McMurrogh lived, no further attacks were made upon his kindred or
country. He died at Ross, on the first day of January, 1417, in the
60th year of his age. His Brehon, O'Doran, having also died suddenly on
the same day, it was supposed they were both poisoned by a drink
prepared for them by a woman of the town. "He was," say our impartial
_Four Masters_, who seldom speak so warmly of any Leinster Prince, "a
man distinguished for his hospitality, knowledge, and feats of arms; a
man full of prosperity and royalty; a founder of churches and
monasteries by his bounty and contributions," and one who had defended
his Province from the age of sixteen to sixty.

On his recovery from the effects of his wound, the Duke of Lancaster
returned finally to England, appointing Prior Butler his Deputy, who
filled that office for five consecutive years. Butler was an
illegitimate son of the late Earl of Ormond, and naturally a
Lancasterian: among the Irish he was called Thomas _Baccagh_, on
account of his lameness. He at once abandoned South Leinster as a field
of operations, and directed all his efforts to maintain the Pale in
Kildare, Meath, and Louth. His chief antagonist in this line of action
was Murrogh or Maurice O'Conor, of Offally. This powerful chief had
lost two or three sons, but had gamed as many battles over former
deputies. He was invariably aided by his connexions and neighbours, the
MacGeoghegans of West-Heath. Conjointly they captured the castles and
plundered the towns of their enemies, holding their prisoners to ransom
or carrying off their flocks. In 1411 O'Conor held to ransom the
English Sheriff of Meath, and somewhat later defeated Prior Butler in a
pitched battle. His greatest victory was the battle of Killucan, fought
on the 10th day of May, 1414. In this engagement MacGeoghegan was, as
usual, his comrade. All the power of the English Pale was arrayed
against them. Sir Thomas Mereward, Baron of Screen, "and a great many
officers and common soldiers were slain," and among the prisoners were
Christopher Fleming, son of the Baron of Slane, for whom a ransom of
1,400 marks was paid, and the ubiquitous Sir Jenico d'Artois, who, with
some others, paid "twelve hundred marks, beside a reward and fine for
intercession." A Parliament which sat at Dublin for thirteen weeks, in
1413, and a foray into Wicklow, complete the notable acts of Thomas
_Baccagh's_ viceroyalty. Soon after the accession of Henry V. (1413),
he was summoned to accompany that warlike monarch into France, and for
a short interval the government was exercised by Sir John Stanley, who
died shortly after his arrival, and by the Archbishop of Dublin, as
Commissioner. On the eve of St. Martin's Day, 1414, Sir John Talbot,
afterwards so celebrated as first Earl of Shrewsbury, landed at Dalkey,
with the title of Lord Lieutenant.

The appointment of this celebrated Captain, on the brink of a war with
France, was an admission of the desperate strait to which the English
interest had been reduced. And if the end could ever justify the means,
Henry V., from his point of view, might have defended on that ground
the appointment of this inexorable soldier. Adopting the system of Sir
Thomas Butler, Talbot paid little or no attention to South Leinster,
but aimed in the first place to preserve to his sovereign, Louth and
Meath. His most southern point of operation, in his first Lieutenancy,
was Leix, but his continuous efforts were directed against the O'Conors
of Offally and the O'Hanlons and McMahons of Oriel. For three
succeeding years he made circuits through these tribes, generally by
the same route, west and north, plundering chiefs and churches, sparing
"neither saint nor sanctuary." On his return to Dublin after these
forays, he exacted with a high hand whatever he wanted for his
household. When he returned to England, 1419, he carried along with
him, according to the chronicles of the Pale—"the curses of many,
because he, being run much in debt for victuals, and divers other
things, would pay little or nothing at all." Among the natives he left
a still worse reputation. The plunder of a bard was regarded by them as
worse, if possible, than the spoliation of a sanctuary. One of Talbot's
immediate predecessors was reputed to have died of the malediction of a
bard of West-Meath, whose property he had appropriated; but as if to
show his contempt of such superstition, Talbot suffered no son of song
to escape him. Their satires fell powerless on his path. Not only did
he enrich himself, by means lawful and unlawful, but he created
interest, which, a few years afterwards, was able to checkmate the
Desmonds and Ormonds. The see of Dublin falling vacant during his
administration, he procured the appointment of his brother Richard as
Archbishop, and left him, at his departure, in temporary possession of
the office of Lord Deputy. Branches of his family were planted at
Malahide, Belgarde, and Talbotstown, in Wicklow, the representatives of
which survive till this day.

One of this Lieutenant's most acceptable offices to the State was the
result of stratagem rather than of arms. The celebrated Art McMurrogh
was succeeded, in 1417, by his son, Donogh, who seems to have inherited
his valour, without his prudence. In 1419, in common with the O'Conor
of Offally, his father's friend, he was entrapped into the custody of
Talbot. O'Conor, the night of his capture, escaped with his companions,
and kept up the war until his death: McMurrogh was carried to London
and confined in the Tower. Here he languished for nine weary years. At
length, in 1428, Talbot, having "got license to make the best of him,"
held him to ransom. The people of his own province released him, "which
was joyful news to the Irish."

But neither the aggrandizement of new nor the depression of old
families effected any cardinal change in the direction of events. We
have traced for half a century, and are still farther to follow out,
the natural consequences of the odious _Statute of Kilkenny_. Although
every successive Parliament of the Pale recited and re-enacted that
statute, every year saw it dispensed in particular cases, both as to
trading, intermarriage, and fostering with the natives. Yet the virus
of national proscription outlived all the experience of its futility.
In 1417, an English petition was presented to the English Parliament,
praying that the law, excluding Irish ecclesiastics from Irish
benefices, should be strictly enforced; and the same year they
prohibited the influx of fugitives from Ireland, while the Pale
Parliament passed a corresponding act against allowing any one to
emigrate without special license. At a Parliament held at Dublin in
1421, O'Hedian, Archbishop of Cashel, was impeached by Gese, Bishop of
Waterford, the main charges being that he loved none of the English
nation; that he presented no Englishman to a living; and that he
designed to make himself King of Munster. This zealous assembly also
adopted a petition of grievances to the King, praying that as the
Irish, who had done homage to King Richard, "had long since taken arms
against the government notwithstanding their recognizances payable in
the Apostolic chamber, his Highness the King would lay their conduct
before the Pope, and prevail on the Holy Father to publish _a crusade
against them_, to follow up the intention of his predecessor's grant to
Henry II.!"

In the temporal order, as we have seen, the policy of hatred brought
its own punishment. "The Pale," which may be said to date from the
passing of the _Statute of Kilkenny_ (1367), was already abridged more
than one-half. The Parliament of Kilkenny had defined it as embracing
"Louth, Meath, Dublin, Kildare, Catherlough, Kilkenny, Wexford,
Waterford, and Tipperary," each governed by Seneschals or Sheriffs. In
1422 Dunlavan and Ballymore are mentioned as the chief keys of Dublin
and Kildare—and in the succeeding reign Callan in Oriel is set down as
the chief key of that part. Dikes to keep out the enemy were made from
Tallaght to Tassagard, at Rathconnell in Meath, and at other places in
Meath and Kildare. These narrower limits it long retained, and the
usual phrase in all future legislation by which the assemblies of the
Anglo-Irish define their jurisdiction is "the four shires." So
completely was this enclosure isolated from the rest of the country
that, in the reign at which we have now arrived, both the Earls of
Desmond and Ormond were exempted from attending certain sittings of
Parliament, and the Privy Council, on the ground that they could not do
so without marching through the enemy's country at great risk and
inconvenience. It is true occasional successes attended the military
enterprises of the Anglo-Irish, even in these days of their lowest
fortunes. But they had chosen to adopt a narrow, bigoted, unsocial
policy; a policy of exclusive dealing and perpetual estrangement from
their neighbours dwelling on the same soil, and they had their reward.
Their borders were narrowed upon them; they were penned up in one
corner of the kingdom, out of which they could not venture a league
without license and protection, from the free clansmen they insincerely
affected to despise.


The history of "the Pale" being recounted down to the period of its
complete isolation, we have now to pass beyond its entrenched and
castellated limits, in order to follow the course of events in other
parts of the kingdom.

While the highest courage was everywhere exhibited by chiefs and
clansmen, no attempt was made to bring about another National
Confederacy, after the fall of Edward Bruce. One result of that
striking _denouement_ of a stormy career—in addition to those before
mentioned—was to give new life to the jealousy which had never wholly
subsided, between the two primitive divisions of the Island. Bruce,
welcomed, sustained, and lamented by the Northern Irish, was
distrusted, avoided, and execrated by those of the South. There may
have been exceptions, but this was the rule. The Bards and Newsmen of
subsequent times, according to their Provincial bias, charged the
failure of Bruce upon the Eugenian race, or justified his fate by
aspersing his memory and his adherents of the race of Conn. This
feeling of irritation, always most deep-seated when driven in by a
consciousness of mismanagement or of self-reproach, goes a great way to
account for the fact, that more than one generation was to pass away,
before any closer union could be brought about between the Northern and
Southern Milesian Irish.

We cannot, therefore, in the period embraced in our present book, treat
the Provinces otherwise than as estranged communities, departing
farther and farther from the ancient traditions of one central
legislative council and one supreme elective chief. Special,
short-lived alliances between lords of different Provinces are indeed
frequent; but they were brought about mostly by ties of relationship or
gossipred, and dissolved with the disappearance of the immediate
danger. The very idea of national unity, once so cherished by all the
children of _Miledh Espaigne_, seems to have been as wholly lost as any
of those secrets of ancient handiwork, over which modern ingenuity
puzzles itself in vain. In the times to which we have descended, it was
every principality and every lordship for itself. As was said of old in
Rome, "Antony had his party, Octavius had his party, but the
Commonwealth had none."

Not alone was the greater unity wholly forgotten, but no sooner were
the descendants of the Anglo-Normans driven into their eastern
enclosure, or thoroughly amalgamated in language, laws and costume with
themselves, than the ties of particular clans began to loose their
binding force, and the tendency to subdivide showed itself on every
opportunity. We have already, in the book of the "War of Succession,"
described the subdivisions of Breffni and of Meath as measures of
policy, taken by the O'Conor Kings, to weaken their too powerful
suffragans. But that step, which might have strengthened the hands of a
native dynasty, almost inevitably weakened the tribes themselves in
combating the attacks of a highly organized foreign power. Of this the
O'Conors themselves became afterwards the most striking example. For
half a century following the Red Earl's death, they had gained steadily
on the foreigners settled in Connaught. The terrible defeat of Athenry
was more than atoned for by both other victories. At length the
descendants of the vanquished on that day ruled as proudly as ever did
their ancestors in their native Province. The posterity of the victors
were merely tolerated on its soil, or anxiously building up new houses
in Meath and Louth. But in an evil hour, on the death of their last
King (1384), the O'Conors agreed to settle the conflicting claims of
rival candidates for the succession by dividing the common inheritance.
From this date downwards we have an O'Conor Don and an O'Conor Roe in
the Annals of that Province, each rallying a separate band of
partizans; and according to the accidents of age, minority, alliance,
or personal reputation, infringing, harassing, or domineering over the
other. Powerful lords they long continued, but as Provincial Princes we
meet them no more.

This fatal example—of which there had been a faint foreshadowing in the
division of the McCarthys in the preceding century—in the course of a
generation or two, was copied by almost every great connection, north
and south. The descendants of yellow Hugh O'Neil in Clandeboy claimed
exemption from the supremacy of the elder family in Tyrone; the
O'Farells, acknowledged two lords of Annally; the McDonoghs, two lords
of Tirerril; there was McDermott of the Wood claiming independence of
McDermott of the Rock; O'Brien of Ara asserted equality with O'Brien of
Thomond; the nephews of Art McMurrogh contested the superiority of his
sons; and thus slowly but surely the most powerful clans were hastening
the day of their own dissolution.

A consequence of these subdivisions was the necessity which arose for
new and opposite alliances, among those who had formerly looked on
themselves as members of one family, with common dangers and common
enemies. The pivot of policy now rested on neighbourhood rather than on
pedigree; a change in its first stages apparently unnatural and
deplorable, but in the long run not without its compensating
advantages. As an instance of these new necessities, we may adduce the
protection and succour steadily extended by the O'Neils of Clandeboy,
to the McQuillans, Bissets, of the Antrim coast, and the McDonnells of
the Glens, against the frequent attacks of the O'Neils of Tyrone. The
latter laid claim to all Ulster, and long refused to acknowledge these
foreigners, though men of kindred race and speech. Had it not been that
the interest of Clandeboy pointed the other way, it is very doubtful if
either the Welsh or Scottish settlers by the bays of Antrim could have
made a successful stand against the overruling power of the house of
Dungannon. The same policy, adopted by native chiefs under similar
circumstances, protected the minor groups of settlers of foreign origin
in the most remote districts—like the Barretts and other Welsh people
of Tyrawley—long after the Deputies of the Kings of England had ceased
to consider them as fellow-subjects, or to be concerned for their

In like manner the detached towns, built by foreigners, of Welsh,
Flemish, Saxon, or Scottish origin, were now taken "under the
protection" of the neighbouring chief, or Prince, and paid to him or to
his bailiff an annual tax for such protection. In this manner Wexford
purchased protection of McMurrogh, Limerick from O'Brien, and Dundalk
from O'Neil. But the yoke was not always borne with patience, nor did
the bare relation of tax-gatherer and tax-payer generate any very
cordial feeling between the parties. Emboldened by the arrival of a
powerful Deputy, or a considerable accession to the Colony, or taking
advantage of contested elections for the chieftaincy among their
protectors, these sturdy communities sometimes sought by force to get
rid of their native masters. Yet in no case at this period were such
town risings ultimately successful. The appearance of a menacing force,
and the threat of the torch, soon brought the refractory burgesses to
terms. On such an occasion (1444) Dundalk paid Owen O'Neil the sum of
60 marks and two tuns of wine to avert his indignation. On another, the
townsmen of Limerick agreed about the same period to pay annually for
ever to O'Brien the sum of 60 marks. Notwithstanding the precarious
tenure of their existence, they all continued jealously to guard their
exclusive privileges. In the oath of office taken by the Mayor of
Dublin (1388) he is sworn to guard the city's franchises, so that no
Irish rebel shall intrude upon the limits. Nicholas O'Grady, Abbot of a
Monastery in Clare, is mentioned in 1485 as "the twelfth Irishman that
ever possessed the freedom of the city of Limerick" up to that time. A
special bye-law, at a still later period, was necessary to admit
Colonel William O'Shaughnessy, of one of the first families in that
county, to the freedom of the Corporation of the town of Galway.
Exclusiveness on the one side, and arbitrary taxation on the other,
were ill means of ensuring the prosperity of these new trading
communities; Freedom and Peace have ever been as essential to commerce
as the winds and waves are to navigation.

The dissolution and reorganization of the greater clans necessarily
included the removal of old, and the formation of new boundaries, and
these changes frequently led to border battles between the contestants.
The most striking illustration of the struggles of this description,
which occurs in our Annals in the fifteenth century, is that which was
waged for three generations between a branch of the O'Conors
established at Sligo, calling themselves "lords of Lower Connaught,"
and the O'Donnells of Donegal. The country about Sligo had anciently
been subject to the Donegal chiefs, but the new masters of Sligo, after
the era of Edward Bruce, not only refused any longer to pay tribute,
but endeavoured by the strong hand to extend their sway to the banks of
the Drowse and the Erne. The pride not less than the power of the
O'Donnells was interested in resisting this innovation, for, in the
midst of the debateable land rose the famous mountain of Ben Gulban
(now Benbulben), which bore the name of the first father of their
tribe. The contest was, therefore, bequeathed from father to son, but
the family of Sligo, under the lead of their vigorous chiefs, and with
the advantage of actual possession, prevailed in establishing the
exemption of their territory from the ancient tribute. The Drowse,
which carries the surplus waters of the beautiful Lough Melvin into the
bay of Donegal, finally became the boundary between Lower Connaught and

We have already alluded to the loss of the arts of political
combination among the Irish in the Middle Ages. This loss was
occasionally felt by the superior minds both in church and state. It
was felt by Donald More O'Brien and those who went with him into the
house of Conor Moinmoy O'Conor, in 1188; it was felt by the nobles who,
at Cael-uisge, elected Brian O'Neil in 1258; it was felt by the twelve
reguli who, in 1315, invited Edward Bruce, "a man of kindred blood," to
rule over them; it was imputed as a crime to Art McMurrogh in 1397,
that he designed to claim the general sovereignty; and now in this
century, Thaddeus O'Brien, Prince of Thomond, with the aid of the Irish
of the southern half-kingdom, began (to use the phrase of the last
Antiquary of Lecan) "working his way to Tara." This Prince united all
the tribes of Munster in his favour, and needing, according to ancient
usage, the suffrages of two other Provinces to ensure his election, he
crossed the Shannon in the summer of 1466 at the head of the largest
army which had followed any of his ancestors since the days of King
Brian. He renewed his protection to the town of Limerick, entered into
an alliance with the Earl of Desmond—which alliance seems to have cost
Desmond his head—received in his camp the hostages of Ormond and
Ossory, and gave gifts to the lords of Leinster. Simultaneously,
O'Conor of Offally had achieved a great success over the Palesmen,
taking prisoner the Earl of Desmond, the Prior of Trim, the Lords
Barnwall, Plunkett, Nugent, and other Methian magnates—a circumstance
which also seems to have some connection with the fate of Desmond and
Plunkett, who were the next year tried for treason and executed at
Drogheda, by order of the Earl of Worcester, then Deputy. The usual
Anglo-Irish tales, as to the causes of Desmond's losing the favour of
Edward IV., seem very like after-inventions. It is much more natural to
attribute that sudden change to some connection with the attempt of
O'Brien the previous year—since this only makes intelligible the
accusation against him of "_alliance_, fosterage, and alterage with the
King's Irish enemies."

From Leinster O'Brien recrossed the Shannon, and overran the country of
the Clan-William Burke. But the ancient jealousy of Leath-Conn would
not permit its proud chiefs to render hostage or homage to a Munster
Prince, of no higher rank than themselves. Disappointed in his hopes of
that union which could alone restore the monarchy in the person of a
native ruler, the descendant of Brian returned to Kinkora, where he
shortly afterwards fell ill of fever and died. "It was commonly
reported," says the Antiquary of Lecan, "that the multitudes' envious
eyes and hearts shortened his days."

The naturalized Norman noble spoke the language of the Gael, and
retained his Brehons and Bards like his Milesian compeer. For
generations the daughters of the elder race had been the mothers of his
house; and the milk of Irish foster-mothers had nourished the infancy
of its heirs. The Geraldines, the McWilliams, even the Butlers, among
their tenants and soldiers, were now as Irish as the Irish. Whether
allies or enemies, rivals or as relatives, they stood as near to their
neighbours of Celtic origin as they did to the descendants of those who
first landed at Bannow and at Waterford. The "Statute of Kilkenny" had
proclaimed the eternal separation of the races, but up to this period
it had failed, and the men of both origins were left free to develop
whatever characteristics were most natural to them. What we mean by
being left free is, that there was no general or long-sustained
combination of one race for the suppression of the other from the
period of Richard the Second's last reverses (A.D. 1399) till the
period of the Reformation. Native Irish life, therefore, throughout the
whole of the fifteenth, and during the first half of the sixteenth
century, was as free to shape and direct itself, to ends of its own
choosing, as it had been at almost any former period in our history.
Private wars and hereditary blood-feuds, next after the loss of
national unity, were the worst vices of the nation. Deeds of violence
and acts of retaliation were as common as the succession of day and
night. Every free clansman carried his battle-axe to church and chase,
to festival and fairgreen. The strong arm was prompt to obey the fiery
impulse, and it must be admitted in solemn sadness, that almost every
page of our records at this period is stained with human blood. But
though crimes of violence are common, crimes of treachery are rare. The
memory of a McMahon, who betrayed and slew his guest, is execrated by
the same stoical scribes, who set down, without a single expression of
horror, the open murder of chief after chief. Taking off by poison, so
common among their cotemporaries, seems to have been altogether
unknown, and the cruelties of the State Prisons of the Middle Ages
undreamt of by our fierce, impetuous, but not implacable ancestors. The
facts which go to affix the imputation of cruelty on those ages are,
the frequent entries which we find of deposed chiefs, or conspicuous
criminals, having their eyes put out, or being maimed in their members.
By these barbarous punishments they lost caste, if not life; but that
indeed must have been a wretched remnant of existence which remained to
the blinded lover, or the maimed warrior, or the crippled tiller of the
soil. Of the social and religious relations existing between the races,
we shall have occasion to speak more fully before closing the present


We have already described the limits to which "the Pale" was
circumscribed at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The fortunes
of that inconsiderable settlement during the following century hardly
rise to the level of historical importance, nor would the recital of
them be at all readable but for the ultimate consequences which ensued
from the preservation of those last remains of foreign power in the
island. On that account, however, we have to consult the barren annals
of "the Pale" through the intermediate period, that we may make clear
the accidents by which it was preserved from destruction, and enabled
to play a part in after-times, undreamt of and inconceivable, to those
who tolerated its existence in the ages of which we speak.

On the northern coasts of Ireland the co-operation of the friendly
Scots with the native Irish had long been a source of anxiety to the
Palesmen. In the year 1404, Dongan, Bishop of Derry, and Sir Jenico
d'Artois, were appointed Commissioners by Henry IV., to conclude a
permanent peace with McDonald, Lord of the Isles, but, notwithstanding
that form was then gone through during the reigns of all the
Lancasterian Kings, evidence of the Hiberno-Scotch alliance being still
in existence, constantly recurs. In the year 1430 an address or
petition of the Dublin Council to the King sets forth "that the enemies
and rebels, _aided by the Scots_, had conquered or rendered tributary
almost every part of the country, _except the county of Dublin_." The
presence of Henry V. in Ireland had been urgently solicited by his
lieges in that kingdom, but without effect. The hero of Agincourt
having set his heart upon the conquest of France, left Ireland to his
lieutenants and their deputies. Nor could his attention be aroused to
the English interest in that country, even by the formal declaration of
the Speaker of the English Parliament, that "the greater part of the
lordship of Ireland" had been "conquered" by the natives.

The comparatively new family of Talbot, sustained by the influence of
the great Earl of Shrewsbury, now Seneschal of France, had risen to the
highest pitch of influence. When on the accession of Henry VI., Edward
Mortimer, Earl of March, was appointed Lord Lieutenant, and Dantsey,
Bishop of Meath, his deputy, Talbot, Archbishop of Dublin, and Lord
Chancellor, refused to acknowledge Dantsey's pretensions because his
commission was given under the private seal of Lord Mortimer. Having
effected his object in this instance, the Archbishop directed his
subsequent attacks against the House of Ormond, the chief favourites of
the King, or rather of the Council, in that reign. In 1441, at a Dublin
Parliament, messengers were appointed to convey certain articles to the
King, the purport of which was to prevent the Earl of Ormond from being
made Lord Lieutenant, alleging against him many misdemeanours in his
former administration, and praying that some "mighty lord of England"
might be named to that office to execute the laws more effectually
"than any Irishman ever did or ever will do."

This attempt to destroy the influence of Ormond led to an alliance
between that Earl and Sir James, afterwards seventh Earl of Desmond.
Sir James was son of Gerald, fourth Earl (distinguished as "the
Rhymer," or Magician), by the lady Eleanor Butler, daughter of the
second Earl of Ormond. He stood, therefore, in the relation of cousin
to the cotemporary head of the Butler family. When his nephew Thomas
openly violated the Statute of Kilkenny, by marrying the beautiful
Catherine McCormac, the ambitious and intriguing Sir James, anxious to
enforce that statute, found a ready seconder in Ormond. Earl Thomas,
forced to quit the country, died an exile at Rouen, in France, and Sir
James, after many intrigues and negotiations, obtained the title and
estates. For once the necessities of Desmond and Ormond united these
houses, but the money of the English Archbishop of Dublin, backed by
the influence of his illustrious brother, proved equal to them both. In
the first twenty-five years of the reign of Henry VI. (1422-1447,)
Ormond was five times Lieutenant or Deputy, and Talbot five times
Deputy, Lord Justice, or Lord Commissioner. Their factious controversy
culminated with "the articles" adopted in 1441, which altogether failed
of the intended effect; Ormond was reappointed two years afterwards to
his old office; nor was it till 1446, when the Earl of Shrewsbury was a
third time sent over, that the Talbots had any substantial advantage
over their rivals. The recall of the Earl for service in France, and
the death of the Archbishop two years later, though it deprived the
party they had formed of a resident leader, did not lead to its
dissolution. Bound together by common interests and dangers, their
action may be traced in opposition to the Geraldines, through the
remaining years of Henry VI., and perhaps so late as the earlier years
of Henry VII. (1485-1500).

In the struggle of dynasties from which England suffered so severely
during the fifteenth century, the drama of ambition shifted its scenes
from London and York to Calais and Dublin. The appointment of Richard,
Duke of York, as Lord Lieutenant, in 1449, presented him an opportunity
of creating a Yorkist party among the nobles and people of "the Pale."
This able and ambitious Prince possessed in his hereditary estate
resources equal to great enterprises. He was in the first place the
representative of the third son of Edward III.; on the death of his
cousin the Earl of March, in 1424, he became heir to that property and
title. He was Duke of York, Earl of March, and Earl of Rutland, in
England; Earl of Ulster and Earl of Cork, Lord of Connaught, Clare,
Meath, and Trim, in Ireland. He had been twice Regent of France, during
the minority of Henry, where he upheld the cause of the Plantagenet
King with signal ability. By the peace concluded at Tours, between
England, France, and Burgundy, in 1444, he was enabled to return to
England, where the King had lately come of age, and begun to exhibit
the weak though amiable disposition which led to his ruin. The events
of the succeeding two or three years were calculated to expose Henry to
the odium of his subjects and the machinations of his enemies. Town
after town and province after province were lost in France; the Regent
Somerset returned to experience the full force of this unpopularity;
the royal favourite, Suffolk, was banished, pursued, and murdered at
sea; the King's uncles, Cardinal Beaufort and the Duke of Gloucester,
were removed by death—so that every sign and circumstance of the time
whispered encouragement to the ambitious Duke. When, therefore, the
Irish lieutenancy was offered, in order to separate him from his
partizans, he at first refused it; subsequently, however, he accepted,
on conditions dictated by himself, calculated to leave him wholly his
own master. These conditions, reduced to writing in the form of an
Indenture between the King and the Duke, extended his lieutenancy to a
period of ten years; allowed him, besides the entire revenue of
Ireland, an annual subsidy from England; full power to let the King's
land, to levy and maintain soldiers, to place or displace all officers,
to appoint a Deputy, and to return to England at his pleasure. On these
terms the ex-Regent of France undertook the government of the English
settlement in Ireland.

Arrived at Dublin, _the_ Duke (as in his day he was always called,)
employed himself rather to strengthen his party than to extend the
limits of his government. Soon after his arrival a son was born to him,
and baptized with great pomp in the Castle. James, fifth Earl of
Ormond, and Thomas, eighth Earl of Desmond, were invited to stand as
sponsors. In the line of policy indicated by this choice, he steadily
persevered during his whole connection with Ireland—which lasted till
his death, in 1460. Alternately he named a Butler and a Geraldine as
his deputy, and although he failed ultimately to win the Earl of Ormond
from the traditional party of his family, he secured the attachment of
several of his kinsmen. Stirring events in England, the year after his
appointment, made it necessary for him to return immediately. The
unpopularity of the administration which had banished him had rapidly
augmented. The French King had recovered the whole of Normandy, for
four centuries annexed to the English Crown. Nothing but Calais
remained of all the Continental possessions which the Plantagenets had
inherited, and which Henry V. had done so much to strengthen and
extend. Domestic abuses aggravated the discontent arising from foreign
defeats. The Bishop of Chichester, one of the ministers, was set upon
and slain by a mob at Portsmouth. Twenty thousand men of Kent, under
the command of Jack Cade, an Anglo-Irishman, who had given himself out
as a son of the last Earl of March, who died in the Irish government
twenty-five years before, marched upon London. They defeated a royal
force at Sevenoaks, and the city opened its gate at the summons of
Cade. The Kentish men took possession of Southwark, while their Irish
leader for three days, entering the city every morning, compelled the
mayor and the judges to sit in the Guildhall, tried and sentenced Lord
Say to death, who, with his son-in-law, Cromer, Sheriff of Kent, was
accordingly executed. Every evening, as he had promised the citizens,
he retired with his guards across the river, preserving the strictest
order among them. But the royalists were not idle, and when, on the
fourth morning Cade attempted as usual to enter London proper, he found
the bridge of Southwark barricaded and defended by a strong force under
the Lord Scales. After six hours' hard fighting his raw levies were
repulsed, and many of them accepted a free pardon tendered to them in
the moment of defeat. Cade retired with the remainder on Deptford and
Rochester, but gradually abandoned by them, he was surprised, half
famished in a garden at Heyfield, and put to death. His captor claimed
and received the large reward of a thousand marks offered for his head.
This was in the second week of July; on the 1st of September, news was
brought to London that the Duke of York had suddenly landed from
Ireland. His partizans eagerly gathered round him at his castle of
Fotheringay, but for five years longer, by the repeated concessions of
the gentle-minded Henry, and the interposition of powerful mediators,
the actual war of the roses was postponed.

It is beyond our province to follow the details of that ferocious
struggle, which was waged almost incessantly from 1455 till 1471—from
the first battle of St. Albans till the final battle at Tewksbury. We
are interested in it mainly as it connects the fortunes of the
Anglo-Irish Earls with one or other of the dynasties; and their
fortunes again, with the benefit or disadvantage of their allies and
relatives among our native Princes. Of the transactions in England, it
may be sufficient to say that the Duke of York, after his victory at
St. Albans in '55, was declared Lord Protector of the realm during
Henry's imbecility; that the next year the King recovered and the
Protector's office was abolished; that in '57 both parties stood at
bay; in '58 an insecure peace was patched up between them; in '59 they
appealed to arms, the Yorkists gained a victory at Bloreheath, but
being defeated at Ludiford, Duke Richard, with one of his sons, fled
for safety into Ireland.

It was the month of November when the fugitive Duke arrived to resume
the Lord Lieutenancy which he had formerly exercised. Legally, his
commission, for those who recognized the authority of King Henry, had
expired four months before—as it bore date from July 5th, 1449; but it
is evident the majority of the Anglo-Irish received him as a Prince of
their own election rather than as an ordinary Viceroy. He held, soon
after his arrival, a Parliament at Dublin, which met by adjournment at
Drogheda the following spring. The English Parliament having declared
him, his duchess, sons, and principal adherents traitors, and writs to
that effect having been sent over, the Irish Parliament passed a
declaratory Act (1460) making the service of all such writs treason
against _their_ authority—"it having been ever customary in their land
to receive and entertain strangers with due respect and hospitality."
Under this law, an emissary of the Earl of Ormond, upon whom English
writs against the fugitives were found, was executed as a traitor. This
independent Parliament confirmed the Duke in his office; made it high
treason to imagine his death, and—taking advantage of the favourable
conjuncture of affairs—they further declared that the inhabitants of
Ireland could only be bound by laws made in Ireland; that no writs were
of force unless issued under the great seal of Ireland; that the realm
had of ancient right its own Lord Constable and Earl Marshal, by whom
alone trials for treason alleged to have been committed in Ireland
could be conducted. In the same busy spring, the Earl of Warwick (so
celebrated as "the Kingmaker" of English history) sailed from Calais,
of which he was Constable, with the Channel-fleet, of which he was also
in command, and doubling the Land's End of England, arrived at Dublin
to concert measures for another rising in England. He found the Duke at
Dublin "surrounded by his Earls and homagers," and measures were soon
concerted between them.

An appeal to the English nation was prepared at this Conference,
charging upon Henry's advisers that they had written to the French King
to besiege Calais, and to the Irish Princes to expel the English
settlers. The loyalty of the fugitive lords, and their readiness to
prove their innocence before their sovereign, were stoutly asserted.
Emissaries were despatched in every direction; troops were raised;
Warwick soon after landed in Kent-always strongly pro-Yorkist-defeated
the royalists at Northampton in July, and the Duke reaching London in
October, a compromise was agreed to, after much discussion, in which
Henry was to have the crown for life, while the Duke was acknowledged
as his successor, and created president of his council.

We have frequently remarked in our history the recurrence of conflicts
between the north and south of the island. The same thing is distinctly
traceable through the annals of England down to a quite recent period.
Whether difference of race, or of admixture of race may not lie at the
foundation of such long-living enmities, we will not here attempt to
discuss; such, however, is the fact. Queen Margaret had fled northward
after the defeat of Northampton towards the Scottish border, from which
she now returned at the head of 20,000 men. The Duke advanced rapidly
to meet her, and engaging with a far inferior force at Wakefield, was
slain in the field, or beheaded after the battle. All now seemed lost
to the Yorkist party, when young Edward, son of Duke Richard, advancing
from the marches of Wales at the head of an army equal in numbers to
the royalists, won, in the month of February, 1461, the battles of
Mortimers-cross and Barnet, and was crowned at Westminster in March, by
the title of Edward IV. The sanguinary battle of Towton, soon after his
coronation, where 38,000 dead were reckoned by the heralds, confirmed
his title and established his throne. Even the subsequent hostility of
Warwick—though it compelled him once to surrender himself a prisoner,
and once to fly the country—did not finally transfer the sceptre to his
rival. Warwick was slain in the battle of Tewkesbury (1471), the
Lancasterian Prince Edward was put to death on the field, and his
unhappy father was murdered in prison. Two years later, Henry, Earl of
Richmond, grandson of Catherine, Queen of Henry V. and Owen Ap Tudor,
the only remaining leader capable of rallying the beaten party, was
driven into exile in France, from which he returned fourteen years
afterwards to contest the crown with Richard III.

In these English wars, the only Irish nobleman who sustained the
Lancasterian cause was James, fifth Earl of Ormond. He had been created
by Henry, Earl of Wiltshire, during his father's lifetime, in the same
year in which his father stood sponsor in Dublin for the son of the
Duke. He succeeded to the Irish title and estates in 1451: held a
foremost rank in almost all the engagements from the battle of Saint
Albans to that of Towton, in which he was taken prisoner and executed
by order of Edward IV. His blood was declared attainted, and his
estates forfeited; but a few years later both the title and property
were restored to Sir John Butler, the sixth Earl. On the eve of the
open rupture between the Roses, another name intimately associated with
Ireland disappeared from the roll of the English nobility. The veteran
Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, in the eightieth year of his age, accepted
the command of the English forces in France, retook the city of
Bordeaux, but fell in attack on the French camp at Chatillon, in the
subsequent campaign—1453. His son, Lord Lisle, was slain at the same
time, defending his father's body. Among other consequences which
ensued, the Talbot interest in Ireland suffered from the loss of so
powerful a patron at the English court. We have only to add that at
Wakefield, and in most of the other engagements, there was a strong
Anglo-Irish contingent in the Yorkist ranks, and a smaller one—chiefly
tenants of Ormond—on the opposite side. Many writers complain that the
House of York drained "the Pale" of its defenders, and thus still
further diminished the resources of the English interest in Ireland.

In the last forty years of the fifteenth century, the history of "the
Pale" is the biography of the family of the Geraldines. We must make
some brief mention of the remarkable men to whom we refer.

Thomas, eighth Earl of Desmond, for his services to the House of York,
was appointed Lord Deputy in the first years of Edward IV. He had
naturally made himself obnoxious to the Ormond interest, but still more
so to the Talbots, whose leader in civil contests was Sherwood, Bishop
of Meath—for some years, in despite of the Geraldines, Lord Chancellor.
Between him and Desmond there existed the bitterest animosity. In 1464,
nine of the Deputy's men were slain in a broil in Fingall, by tenants
or servants of the Bishop. The next year each party repaired to London
to vindicate himself and criminate his antagonist. The Bishop seems to
have triumphed, for in 1466, John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, called in
England, for his barbarity to Lancasterian prisoners, "the Butcher,"
superseded Desmond. The movement of Thaddeus O'Brien, already related,
the same year, gave Tiptoft grounds for accusing Desmond, Kildare, Sir
Edward Plunkett, and others, of treason. On this charge he summoned
them before him at Drogheda in the following February. Kildare wisely
fled to England, where he pleaded his innocence successfully with the
King. But Desmond and Plunkett, over-confident of their own influence,
repaired to Drogheda, were tried, condemned, and beheaded. Their
execution took place on the 15th day of February, 1467. It is
instructive to add that Tiptoft, a few years later, underwent the fate
in England, without exciting a particle of the sympathy felt for

Thomas, seventh Earl of Kildare, succeeded on his safe return from
England to more than the power of his late relative. The office of
Chancellor, after a sharp struggle, was taken from Bishop Sherwood, and
confirmed to him for life by an act of the twelfth, Edward III. He had
been named Lord Justice after Tiptoft's recall, in 1467, and four years
later exchanged the title for that of Lord Deputy to the young Duke of
Clarence—the nominal Lieutenant. In 1475, on some change of Court
favour, the supreme power was taken from him, and conferred on the old
enemy of his House, the Bishop of Meath. Kildare died two years later,
having signalized his latter days by founding an Anglo-Irish order of
chivalry, called "the Brothers of St. George." This order was to
consist of 13 persons of the highest rank within the Pale, 120 mounted
archers, and 40 horsemen, attended by 40 pages. The officers were to
assemble annually in Dublin, on St. George's Day, to elect their
Captain from their own number. After having existed twenty years the
Brotherhood was suppressed by the jealousy of Henry VII., in 1494.

Gerald, eighth Earl of Kildare (called in the Irish Annals Geroit More,
or "the Great"), succeeded his father in 1477. He had the gratification
of ousting Sherwood from the government the following year, and having
it transferred to himself. For nearly forty years he continued the
central figure among the Anglo-Irish, and as his family were closely
connected by marriage with the McCarthys, O'Carrolls of Ely, the
O'Conors of Offally, O'Neils and O'Donnells, he exercised immense
influence over the affairs of all the Provinces. In his time, moreover,
the English interest, under the auspices of an undisturbed dynasty, and
a cautious, politic Prince (Henry VII.), began by slow and almost
imperceptible degrees to recover the unity and compactness it had lost
ever since the Red Earl's death.


Perhaps no preface could better introduce to the reader the singular
events which marked the times of Gerald, eighth Earl of Kildare, than a
brief account of one of his principal partizans—Sir James Keating,
Prior of the Knights of St. John. The family of Keating, of
Norman-Irish origin, were most numerous in the fifteenth century in
Kildare, from which they afterwards spread into Tipperary and Limerick.
Sir James Keating, "a mere Irishman," became Prior of Kilmainham about
the year 1461, at which time Sir Robert Dowdal, deputy to the Lord
Treasurer, complained in Parliament, that being on a pilgrimage to one
of the shrines of the Pale, he was assaulted near Cloniff, by the
Prior, with a drawn sword, and thereby put in danger of his life. It
was accordingly decreed that Keating should pay to the King a hundred
pounds fine, and to Sir Robert a hundred marks; but, from certain
technical errors in the proceedings, he successfully evaded both these
penalties. When in the year 1478 the Lord Grey of Codner was sent over
to supersede Kildare, he took the decided step of refusing to surrender
to that nobleman the Castle of Dublin, of which he was Constable. Being
threatened with an assault, he broke down the bridge and prepared his
defence, while his friend, the Earl of Kildare, called a Parliament at
Naas, in opposition to Lord Grey's Assembly at Dublin. In 1480, after
two years of rival parties and viceroys, Lord Grey was feign to resign
his office, and Kildare was regularly appointed Deputy to Richard, Duke
of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III. Two years later, Keating was
deprived of his rank by Peter d'Aubusson, Grand Master of Rhodes, who
appointed Sir Marmaduke Lumley, an English knight, in his stead. Sir
Marmaduke landed soon after at Clontarf, where he was taken prisoner by
Keating, and kept in close confinement until he had surrendered all the
instruments of his election and confirmation. He was then enlarged, and
appointed to the commandery of Kilseran, near Castlebellingham, in
Louth. In the year 1488, Keating was one of those who took an active
part in favour of the pretender Lambert Simnel, and although his pardon
had been sternly refused by Henry VII., he retained possession of the
Hospital until 1491, when he was ejected by force, "and ended his
turbulent life," as we are told, "in the most abject poverty and
disgrace." All whom he had appointed to office were removed; an Act of
Parliament was passed, prohibiting the reception of any "mere Irishman"
into the Order for the future, and enacting that whoever was recognized
as Prior by the Grand Master should be of English birth, and one having
such a connection with the Order there as might strengthen the force
and interest of the Kings of England in Ireland.

The fact most indicative of the spirit of the times is, that a man of
Prior Keating's disposition could, for thirty years, have played such a
daring part as we have described in the city of Dublin. During the
greater part of that period, he held the office of Constable of the
Castle and Prior of Kilmainham, in defiance of English Deputies and
English Kings; than which no farther evidence may be adduced to show
how completely the English, interest was extinguished, even within the
walls of Dublin, during the reign of the last of the Plantagenet
Princes, and the first years of Henry VII.

In 1485, Henry, Earl of Richmond, grandson of Queen Catherine and Owen
ap Tudor, returned from his fourteen years' exile in France, and, by
the victory of Bosworth, took possession of the throne. The Earl of
Kildare, undisputed Deputy during the last years of Edward IV., had
been continued by Richard, and was not removed by Henry VII. Though a
staunch Yorkist, he showed no outward opposition to the change of
dynasty, for which he found a graceful apology soon afterwards. Being
at Mass, in Christ's Church Cathedral, on the 2nd of February, 1486, he
received intelligence of Henry's marriage with Elizabeth of York, which
he at once communicated to the Archbishop of Dublin, and ordered an
additional Mass for the King and Queen. Yet, from the hour of that
union of the houses of York and Lancaster, it needed no extraordinary
wisdom to foresee that the exemption of the Anglo-Irish nobles from the
supremacy of their nominal King must come to an end, and the freedom of
the old Irish from any formidable external danger must also close. The
union of the Roses, so full of the promise of peace for England, was to
form the date of a new era in her relations with Ireland. The tide of
English power was at that hour at its lowest ebb; it had left far in
the interior the landmarks of its first irresistible rush; it might be
said, without exaggeration, that Gaelic children now gathered shells
and pebbles where that tide once rolled, charged with all its thunders;
it was now about to turn; the first murmuring menace of new
encroachments began to be heard under Henry VII.; as we listen they
grow louder on the ear; the waves advance with a steady, deliberate
march, unlike the first impetuous onslaught of the Normans; they
advance and do not recede, till they recover all the ground they had
abandoned. The era which we dated from the Red Earl's death, in 1333,
has exhausted its resources of aggression and assimilation; a new era
opens with the reign of Henry VII.—or more distinctly still, with that
of his successor, Henry VIII. We must close our account with the old
era, before entering upon the new.

The contest between the Earl of Kildare and Lord Grey for the
government (1478-1480) marks the lowest ebb of the English power. We
have already related how Prior Keating shut the Castle gates on the
English deputy, and threatened to fire on his guard if he attempted to
force them. Lord Portlester also, the Chancellor, and father-in-law to
Kildare, joined that Earl in his Parliament at Naas with the great
seal. Lord Grey, in his Dublin Assembly, declared the great seal
cancelled, and ordered a new one to be struck, but after a two years'
contest he was obliged to succumb to the greater influence of the
Geraldines. Kildare was regularly acknowledged Lord Deputy, under the
King's privy seal. It was ordained that thereafter there should be but
one Parliament convoked during the year; that but one subsidy should be
demanded, annually, the sum "not to exceed a thousand marks." Certain
Acts of both Parliaments—Grey's and Kildare's—were by compromise
confirmed. Of these were two which do not seem to collate very well
with each other; one prohibiting the inhabitants of the Pale from
holding any intercourse whatsoever with the mere Irish; the other
extending to Con O'Neil, Prince of Tyrone, and brother-in-law of
Kildare, the rights of a naturalized subject within the Pale. The
former was probably Lord Grey's; the latter was Lord Kildare's

Although Henry VII. had neither disturbed the Earl in his governments,
nor his brother, Lord Thomas, as Chancellor, it was not to be expected
that he could place entire confidence in the leading Yorkist family
among the Anglo-Irish. The restoration of the Ormond estates, in favour
of Thomas, seventh Earl, was both politic and just, and could hardly be
objectionable to Kildare, who had just married one of his daughters to
Pierce Butler, nephew and heir to Thomas. The want of confidence
between the new King and his Deputy was first exhibited in 1486, when
the Earl, being summoned to attend on his Majesty, called a Parliament
at Trim, which voted him an address, representing that in the affairs
about to be discussed, his presence was absolutely necessary. Henry
affected to accept the excuse as valid, but every arrival of Court news
contained some fresh indication of his deep-seated mistrust of the Lord
Deputy, who, however, he dared not yet dismiss.

The only surviving Yorkists who could put forward pretensions to the
throne were the Earl of Lincoln, Richard's declared heir, and the young
Earl of Warwick, son of that Duke of Clarence who was born in Dublin
Castle in 1449. Lincoln, with Lord Lovell and others of his friends,
was in exile at the court of the dowager Duchess of Burgundy, sister to
Edward IV.; and the son of Clarence—a lad of fifteen years of age—was a
prisoner in the Tower. In the year 1486, a report spread of the escape
of this Prince, and soon afterwards Richard Symon, a Priest of Oxford,
landed in Dublin with a youth of the same age, of prepossessing
appearance and address, who could relate with the minutest detail the
incidents of his previous imprisonment. He was at once recognized as
the son of Clarence by the Earl of Kildare and his party, and
preparations were made for his coronation by the title of Edward VI.
Henry, alarmed, produced from the Tower the genuine Warwick, whom he
publicly paraded through London, in order to prove that the pretender
in Dublin was an impostor. The Duchess of Burgundy, however, fitted out
a fleet, containing 2,000 veteran troops, under the command of Martin
Swart, who, sailing up the channel, reached Dublin without
interruption. With this fleet came the Earl of Lincoln, Lord Lovell,
and the other English refugees, who all recognized the _protege_ of
Father Symon as the true Prince. Octavius, the Italian Archbishop of
Armagh, then residing at Dublin, the Bishop of Clogher, the Butlers,
and the Baron of Howth, were incredulous or hostile. The great majority
of the Anglo-Irish lords, spiritual and temporal, favoured his cause,
and he was accordingly crowned in Christ Church Cathedral, with a
diadem taken from an image of our Lady, on the 24th of May, 1487; the
Deputy, Chancellor, and Treasurer were present; the sermon was preached
by Pain, Bishop of Meath. A Parliament was next convoked in his name,
in which the Butlers and citizens of Waterford were proscribed as
traitors. A herald from the latter city, who had spoken over boldly,
was hanged by the Dubliners as a proof of their loyalty. The Council
ordered a force to be equipped for the service of his new Majesty in
England, and Lord Thomas Fitzgerald resigned the Chancellorship to take
the command. This expedition—the last which invaded England from the
side of Ireland—sailed from Dublin about the first of June, and landing
on the Lancashire shore, at the pile of Foudray, marched to Ulverstone,
where they were joined by Sir Thomas Broughton and other devoted
Yorkists. From Ulverstone the whole force, about 8,000 strong, marched
into Yorkshire, and from Yorkshire southwards into Nottingham. Henry,
who had been engaged in making a progress through the southern
counties, hastened to meet him, and both armies met at
Stoke-upon-Trent, near Newark, on the 16th day of June, 1487. The
battle was contested with the utmost obstinacy, but the English
prevailed. The Earl of Lincoln, the Lords Thomas and Maurice
Fitzgerald, Plunkett, son of Lord Killeen, Martin Swart, and Sir Thomas
Broughton were slain; Lord Lovell escaped, but was never heard of
afterwards; the pretended Edward VI. was captured, and spared by Henry
only to be made a scullion in his kitchen. Father Symon was cast into
prison, where he died, after having confessed that his _protege_ was
Lambert Simnel, the son of a joiner at Oxford.

Nothing shows the strength of the Kildare party, and the weakness of
the English interest, more than that the deputy and his partizans were
still continued in office. They despatched a joint letter to the King,
deprecating his anger, which he was prudent enough to conceal. He sent
over, the following spring, Sir Richard Edgecombe, Comptroller of his
household, accompanied by a guard of 500 men. Sir Richard first touched
at Kinsale, where he received the homage of the Lords Barry and de
Courcy; he then sailed to Waterford, where he delivered to the Mayor
royal letters confirming the city in its privileges, and authorizing
its merchants to seize and distress those of Dublin, unless they made
their submission. After leaving Waterford, he landed at Malahide,
passing by Dublin, to which he proceeded by land, accompanied with his
guard. The Earl of Kildare was absent on a pilgrimage, from which he
did not return for several days. His first interviews with Edgecombe
were cold and formal, but finally on the 21st of July, after eight or
ten days' disputation, the Earl and the other lords of his party did
homage to King Henry, in the great chamber of his town-house in Thomas
Court, and thence proceeding to the chapel, took the oath of allegiance
on the consecrated host. With this submission Henry was fain to be
content; Kildare, Portlester, and Plunkett were continued in office.
The only one to whom the King's pardon was persistently refused was Sir
James Keating, Prior of Kilmainham.

In the subsequent attempts of Perkin Warbeck (1492-1499), in the
character of Richard, Duke of York, one of the Princes murdered in the
tower by Richard III., the Anglo-Irish took a less active part. Warbeck
landed at Cork from Lisbon, and despatched letters to the Earls of
Kildare and Desmond, to which they returned civil but evasive replies.
At Cork he received an invitation from the King of France to visit that
country, where he remained till the conclusion of peace between France
and England. He then retired to Burgundy, where he was cordially
received by the Duchess; after an unsuccessful descent on the coast of
Kent, he took refuge in Scotland, where he married a lady closely
allied to the crown. In 1497 he again tried his fortune in the South of
Ireland, was joined by Maurice, tenth Earl of Desmond, the Lord Barry,
and the citizens of Cork. Having laid siege to Waterford, he was
compelled to retire with loss, and Desmond having made his peace with
Henry, Warbeck was forced again to fly into Scotland. In 1497 and '8,
he made new attempts to excite insurrection in his favour in the north
of England and in Cornwall. He was finally taken and put to death on
the 16th of November, 1499. With him suffered his first and most
faithful adherent, John Waters, who had been Mayor of Cork at his first
landing from Lisbon, in 1492, and who is ignorantly or designedly
called by Henry's partizan "O'Water." History has not yet positively
established the fraudulency of this pretender. A late eminently
cautious writer, with all the evidence which modern research has
accumulated, speaks of him as "one of the most mysterious persons in
English history;" and in mystery we must leave him.

We have somewhat anticipated events, in other quarters, in order to
dispose of both the Yorkist pretenders at the same time. The situation
of the Earls of Kildare in this and the next reign, though full of
grandeur, was also full of peril. Within the Pale they had one part to
play, without the Pale another. Within the Pale they held one language,
without it another. At Dublin they were English Earls, beyond the Boyne
or the Barrow, they were Irish chiefs. They had to tread their
cautious, and not always consistent way, through the endless
complications which must arise between two nations occupying the same
soil, with conflicting allegiance, language, laws, customs, and
interests. While we frequently feel indignant at the tone they take
towards the "Irish enemy" in their despatches to London—the pretended
enemies being at that very time their confidants and allies—on farther
reflection we feel disposed to make some allowance on the score of
circumstance and necessity, for a duplicity which, in the end, brought
about, as duplicity in public affairs ever does, its own punishment.

In Ulster as well as in Leinster, the ascendency of the Earl of Kildare
over the native population was widespread and long sustained. Con
O'Neil, Lord of Tyrone, from 1483 to 1491, and Turlogh, Con and Art,
his sons and successors (from 1498 to 1548), maintained the most
intimate relations with this Earl and his successors. To the former he
was brother-in-law, and to the latter, of course, uncle; to all he
seems to have been strongly attached. Hugh Roe O'Donnell, Lord of
Tyrconnell (1450-1505), and his son and successor, Hugh Dhu O'Donnell,
(1505-1530), were also closely connected with Kildare both by
friendship and intermarriage. In 1491, O'Neil and O'Donnell mutually
submitted their disputes to his decision, at his Castle of Maynooth,
and though he found it impossible to reconcile them at the moment, we
find both of these houses cordially united with him afterwards. In
1498, he took Dungannon and Omagh, "with great guns," from the
insurgents against the authority of his grandson, Turlogh O'Neil, and
restored them to Turlogh; the next year he visited O'Donnell, and
brought his son Henry to be fostered among the kindly Irish of
Tyrconnell. In the year 1500 he also placed the Castle of Kinnaird in
the custody of Turlogh O'Neil. In Leinster, the Geraldine interest was
still more entirely bound up with that of the native population. His
son, Sir Oliver of Killeigh, married an O'Conor of Offally; the
daughter of another son, Sir James of Leixlip, (sometimes called the
Knight of the Valley) became the wife of the chief of Imayle. The Earl
of Ormond, and Ulick Burke of Clanrickarde, were also sons-in-law of
the eighth Earl, but in both these cases the old family feuds survived
in despite of the new family alliances.

In the fourth year after his accession, Henry VII., proceeding by slow
degrees to undermine Kildare's enormous power, summoned the chief
Anglo-Irish nobles to his Court at Greenwich, where he reproached them
with their support of Simnel, who, to their extreme confusion, he
caused to wait on them as butler, at dinner. A year or two afterwards,
he removed Lord Portlester, from the Treasurership, which he conferred
on Sir James Butler, the bastard of Ormond. Plunkett, the
Chief-Justice, was promoted to the Chancellorship, and Kildare himself
was removed to make way for Fitzsymons, Archbishop of Dublin. This,
however, was but a government _ad interim_, for in the year 1494, a
wholly English administration was appointed. Sir Edward Poynings, with
a picked force of 1,000 men, was appointed Lord Deputy; the Bishop of
Bangor was appointed Chancellor, Sir Hugh Conway, an Englishman, was to
be Treasurer; and these officials were accompanied by an entirely new
bench of judges, all English, whom they were instructed to instal
immediately on their arrival. Kildare had resisted the first changes
with vigour, and a bloody feud had taken place between his retainers
and those of Sir James of Ormond, on the green of Oxmantown—now
Smithfield, in Dublin. On the arrival of Poynings, however, he
submitted with the best possible grace, and accompanied that deputy to
Drogheda, where he had summoned a Parliament to meet him. From
Drogheda, they made an incursion into O'Hanlon's country (Orior in
Armagh). On returning from Drogheda, Poynings, on a real or pretended
discovery of a secret understanding between O'Hanlon and Kildare,
arrested the latter, in Dublin, and at once placed him on board a
barque "kept waiting for that purpose," and despatched him to England.
On reaching London, he was imprisoned in the Tower, for two years,
during which time his party in Ireland were left headless and

The government of Sir Edward Poynings, which lasted from 1494 till
Kildare's restoration, in August, 1496, is most memorable for the
character of its legislation. He assembled a Parliament at Drogheda, in
November, 1495, at which were passed the statutes so celebrated in our
Parliamentary history as the "10th Henry VII." These statutes were the
first enacted in Ireland in which the English language was employed.
They confirmed the Provisions of the Statute of Kilkenny, except that
prohibiting the use of the Irish language, which had now become so
deeply rooted, even within the Pale, as to make its immediate abolition
impracticable. The hospitable law passed in the time of Richard, Duke
of York, against the arrest of refugees by virtue of writs issued in
England, was repealed. The English acts, against provisors to
Rome—ecclesiastics who applied for or accepted preferment directly from
Rome—were adopted. It was also enacted that all offices should be held
at the King's pleasure; that the Lords of Parliament should appear in
their robes as the Lords did in England; that no one should presume to
make peace or war except with license of the Governor; that no great
guns should be kept in the fortresses except by similar license; and
that men of English _birth_ only should be appointed Constables of the
Castles of Dublin, Trim, Leixlip, Athlone, Wicklow, Greencastle,
Carlingford, and Carrickfergus. But the most important measure of all
was one which provided that thereafter no legislation whatever should
be proceeded with in Ireland, unless the bills to be proposed were
first submitted to the King and Council in England, and were returned,
certified under the great seal of the realm. This is what is usually
and specially called in our Parliamentary history "Poyning's Act," and
next to the Statute of Kilkenny, it may be considered the most
important enactment ever passed at any Parliament of the English

The liberation of the Earl of Kildare from the Tower, and his
restoration as Deputy, seems to have been hastened by the movements of
Perkin Warbeck, and by the visit of Hugh Roe O'Donnell to James IV.,
King of Scotland. O'Donnell had arrived at Ayr in the month of August,
1495, a few weeks after Warbeck had reached that court. He was received
with great splendour and cordiality by the accomplished Prince, then
lately come of age, and filled with projects natural to his youth and
temperament. With O'Donnell, according to the Four Masters, he formed a
league, by which they bound themselves "mutually to assist each other
in all their exigencies." The knowledge of this alliance, and of
Warbeck's favour at the Scottish Court, no doubt decided Henry to avail
himself, if possible, of the assistance of his most powerful Irish
subject. There was, moreover, another influence at work. The first
countess had died soon after her husband's arrest, and he now married,
in England, Elizabeth St. John, cousin to the King. Fortified in his
allegiance and court favour by this alliance, he returned in triumph to
Dublin, where he was welcomed with enthusiasm.

In his subsequent conduct as Lord Deputy, an office which he continued
to hold till his death in 1513, this powerful nobleman seems to have
steadily upheld the English interest, which was now in harmony with his
own. Having driven off Warbeck in his last visit to Ireland (1497), he
received extensive estates in England, as a reward for his zeal, and
after the victory of Knock-doe (1505), he was installed by proxy at
Windsor as Knight of the Garter. This long-continued reign—for such in
truth it may be called—left him without a rival in his latter years. He
marched to whatever end of the island he would, pulling down and
setting up chiefs and castles; his garrisons were to be found from
Belfast to Cork, and along the valley of the Shannon, from Athleague to

The last event of national importance connected with the name of Geroit
More arose out of the battle of KNOCK-DOE, ("battle-axe hill"), fought
within seven or eight miles of Galway town, on the 19th of August,
1504. Few of the cardinal facts in our history have been more entirely
misapprehended and misrepresented than this. It is usually described as
a pitched battle between English and Irish—the turning point in the war
of races—and the second foundation of English power. The simple
circumstances are these: Ulick III., Lord of Clanrickarde, had married
and misused the lady Eustacia Fitzgerald, who seems to have fled to her
father, leaving her children behind. This led to an embittered family
dispute, which was expanded into a public quarrel by the complaint of
William O'Kelly, whose Castles of Garbally, Monivea, and Gallagh, Burke
had seized and demolished. In reinstating O'Kelly, Kildare found the
opportunity which he sought to punish his son-in-law, and both parties
prepared for a trial of strength. It so happened that Clanrickarde's
alliances at that day were chiefly with O'Brien and the southern Irish,
while Kildare's were with those of Ulster. From these causes, what was
at first a family quarrel, and at most a local feud, swelled into the
dimensions of a national contest between North and South—Leath-Moghda
and Leath-Conn. Under these terms, the native Annalists accurately
describe the belligerents on either side. With Kildare were the Lords
of Tyrconnell, Sligo, Moylurg, Breffni, Oriel, and Orior; O'Farrell,
Bishop of Ardagh, the Tanist of Tyrowen, the heir of Iveagh, O'Kelly of
Hy-Many, McWilliam of Mayo, the Barons of Slane, Delvin, Howth,
Dunsany, Gormanstown, Trimblestown, and John Blake, Mayor of Dublin,
with the city militia. With Clanrickarde were Turlogh O'Brien, son of
the Lord of Thomond, McNamara of Clare, O'Carroll of Ely, O'Brien of
Ara, and O'Kennedy of Ormond. The battle was obstinate and bloody.
Artillery and musketry, first introduced from Germany some twenty years
before (1487), were freely used, and the ploughshare of the peasant has
often turned up bullets, large and small, upon the hillside where the
battle was fought. The most credible account sets down the number of
the slain at 2,000 men—the most exaggerated at 9,000. The victory was
with Kildare, who, after encamping on the field for twenty-four hours,
by the advice of O'Donnell, marched next day to Galway, where he found
the children of Clanrickarde, whom he restored to their injured mother.
Athenry opened its gates to receive the conquerors, and after
celebrating their victory in the stronghold of the vanquished, the
Ulster chiefs returned to the North, and Kildare to Dublin.

Less known is the battle of Monabraher, which may be considered the
offset of Knock-doe. It was fought in 1510—the first year of Henry
VIII., who had just confirmed Lord Kildare in the government. The
younger O'Donnell joined him in Munster, and after taking the Castles
of Kanturk, Pallis, and Castelmaine, they marched to Limerick, where
the Earl of Desmond, the McCarthys of both branches, and "the Irish of
Meath and Leinster," in alliance with Kildare, joined them with their
forces. The old allies, Turlogh O'Brien, Clanrickarde, and the
McNamaras, attacked them at the bridge of Portrush, near Castleconnell,
and drove them through Monabraher ("the friar's bog"), with the loss of
the Barons Barnwall and Kent, and many of their forces; the survivors
were feign to take refuge within the walls of Limerick.

Three years later, Earl Gerald set out to besiege Leap Castle, in
O'Moore's country; but it happened that as he was watering his horse in
the little river Greese, at Kilkea, he was shot by one of the O'Moores:
he was immediately carried to Athy, where shortly afterwards he
expired. If we except the first Hugh de Lacy and the Red Earl of
Ulster, the Normans in Ireland had not produced a more illustrious man
than Gerald, eighth Earl of Kildare. He was, says Stainhurst, "of tall
stature and goodly presence; very liberal and merciful; of strict
piety; mild in his government; passionate, but easily appeased." And
our justice-loving _Four Masters_ have described him as "a knight in
valour, and princely and religious in his words and judgments."


The main peculiarities of social life among the Irish and Anglo-Irish
during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are still visible to us.
Of the drudges of the earth, as in all other histories, we see or hear
little or nothing, but of those orders of men of whom the historic muse
takes count, such as bards, rulers, builders, and religious, there is
much information to be found scattered up and down our annals, which,
if properly put together and clearly interpreted, may afford us a
tolerably clear view of the men and their times.

The love of learning, always strong in this race of men and women,
revived in full force with their exemption from the immediate pressure
of foreign invasion. The person of Bard and Brehon was still held
inviolable; to the malediction of the Bard of Usnagh was attributed the
sudden death of the Deputy, Sir John Stanley; to the murder of the
Brehon McEgan is traced all the misfortunes which befell the sons of
Irial O'Farrell. To receive the poet graciously, to seat him in the
place of honour at the feast, to listen to him with reverence, and to
reward him munificently, were considered duties incumbent on the
princes of the land. And these duties, to do them justice, they never
neglected. One of the O'Neils is specially praised for having given
more gifts to poets, and having "a larger collection of poems" than any
other man of his age. In the struggle between O'Donnell and O'Conor for
the northern corner of Sligo, we find mention made of books
accidentally burned in "the house of the manuscripts," in Lough Gill.
Among the spoils carried off by O'Donnell, on another occasion, were
two famous books—one of which, the Leahar Gear (Short Book), he
afterwards paid back, as part of the ransom for the release of his
friend, O'Doherty.

The Bards and Ollams, though more dependent on their Princes than we
have seen them in their early palmy days, had yet ample hereditary
estates in every principality and lordship. If natural posterity
failed, the incumbent was free to adopt some capable person as his
heir. It was in this way the family of O'Clery, originally of Tyrawley,
came to settle in Tyrconnell, towards the end of the fourteenth
century. At that time O'Sgingin, chief Ollam to O'Donnell, offered his
daughter in marriage to Cormac O'Clery, a young professor of both laws,
in the monastery near Ballyshannon, on condition that the first male
child born of the marriage should be brought up to his own profession.
This was readily agreed to, and from this auspicious marriage descended
the famous family, which produced three of the Four Masters of Donegal.

The virtue of hospitality was, of all others, that which the old Irish
of every degree in rank and wealth most cheerfully practised. In many
cases it degenerated into extravagance and prodigality. But in general
it is presented to us in so winning a garb that our objections on the
score of prudence vanish before it. When we read of the freeness of
heart of Henry Avery O'Neil, who granted all manner of things "that
came into his hands," to all manner of men, we pause and doubt whether
such a virtue in such excess may not lean towards vice. But when we
hear of a powerful lord, like William O'Kelly of Galway, entertaining
throughout the Christmas holydays all the poets, musicians, and poor
persons who choose to flock to him, or of the pious and splendid
Margaret O'Carroll, receiving twice a year in Offally all the Bards of
Albyn and Erin, we cannot but envy the professors of the gentle art
their good fortune in having lived in such times, and shared in such
assemblies. As hospitality was the first of social virtues, so
inhospitality was the worst of vices; the unpopularity of a churl
descended to his posterity through successive generations.

The high estimation in which women were held among the tribes is
evident from the particularity with which the historians record their
obits and marriages. The maiden name of the wife was never wholly lost
in that of her husband, and if her family were of equal standing with
his before marriage, she generally retained her full share of authority
afterwards. The Margaret O'Carroll already mentioned, a descendant and
progenitress of illustrious women, rode privately to Trim, as we are
told, with some English prisoners, taken by her husband, O'Conor of
Offally, and exchanged them for others of equal worth lying in that
fortress; and "this she did," it is added, "without the knowledge of"
her husband. This lady was famed not only for her exceeding hospitality
and her extreme piety, but for other more unexpected works. Her name is
remembered in connection with the erection of bridges and the making of
highways, as well as the building of churches, and the presentation of
missals and mass-books. And the grace she thus acquired long brought
blessings upon her posterity, among whom there never were wanting able
men and heroic women while they kept their place in the land. An
equally celebrated but less amiable woman was Margaret Fitzgerald,
daughter of the eighth Earl of Kildare, and wife of Pierce, eighth Earl
of Ormond. "She was," says the Dublin Annalist, "a lady of such port
that all the estates of the realm couched to her, so politique that
nothing was thought substantially debated without her advice." Her
decision of character is preserved in numerous traditions in and around
Kilkenny, where she lies buried. Of her is told the story that when
exhorted on her death-bed to make restitution of some ill-got lands,
and being told the penalty that awaited her if she died impenitent, she
answered, "it was better one old woman should burn for eternity than
that the Butlers should be curtailed of their estates."

The fame of virtuous deeds, of generosity, of peace-making, of
fidelity, was in that state of society as easily attainable by women as
by men. The Unas, Finolas, Sabias, Lasarinas, were as certain of
immortality as the Hughs, Cathals, Donalds and Conors, their sons,
brothers, or lovers. Perhaps it would be impossible to find any history
of those or of later ages in which women are treated upon a more
perfect equality with men, where their virtues and talents entitled
them to such consideration.

The piety of the age, though it had lost something of the simplicity
and fervour of older times, was still conspicuous and edifying. Within
the island, the pilgrimage of Saint Patrick's purgatory, the shrine of
our Lady of Trim, the virtues of the holy cross of Raphoe, the miracles
wrought by the _Baculum Christi_, and other relics of Christ Church,
Dublin, were implicitly believed and piously frequented. The long and
dangerous journeys to Rome and Jerusalem were frequently taken, but the
favourite foreign vow was to Compostella, in Spain. Chiefs, Ladies, and
Bards, are almost annually mentioned as having sailed or returned from
the city of St. James; generally these pilgrims left in companies, and
returned in the same way. The great Jubilee of 1450, so
enthusiastically attended from every corner of Christendom, drew vast
multitudes from our island to Rome. By those who returned tidings were
first brought to Ireland of the capture of Constantinople by the Turks.
On receipt of this intelligence, which sent a thrill through the heart
of Europe, Tregury, Archbishop of Dublin, proclaimed a fast of three
days, and on each day walked in sackcloth, with his clergy, through the
streets of the city, to the Cathedral. By many in that age the event
was connected with the mystic utterances of the Apocalypse, and the
often-apprehended consummation of all Time.

Although the Irish were then, as they still are, firm believers in
supernatural influence working visibly among men, they do not appear to
have ever been slaves to the terrible delusion of witchcraft. Among the
Anglo-Irish we find the first instance of that mania which appears in
our history, and we believe the only one, if we except the Presbyterian
witches of Carrickfergus, in the early part of the eighteenth century.
The scene of the ancient delusion was Kilkenny, where Bishop Ledred
accused the Lady Alice Kettel, and William her son, of practising black
magic, in the year 1327. Sir Roger Outlaw, Prior of Kilmainham, and
stepson to Lady Alice, undertook to protect her; but the fearful charge
was extended to him also, and he was compelled to enter on his defence.
The tribunal appointed to try the charge—one of the main grounds on
which the Templars had been suppressed twenty-five years before—was
composed of the Dean of St. Patrick's, the Prior of Christ Church, the
Abbots of St. Mary's and St. Thomas's, Dublin, Mr. Elias Lawless, and
Mr. Peter Willeby, lawyers. Outlaw was acquitted, and Ledred forced to
fly for safety to England, of which he was a native. It is pleasant to
remember that, although Irish credulity sometimes took shapes absurd
and grotesque enough, it never was perverted into diabolical channels,
or directed to the barbarities of witch-finding.

About the beginning of the fifteenth century we meet with the first
mention of the use of Usquebagh, or _Aqua Vitae_, in our Annals. Under
the date of 1405 we read that McRannal, or Reynolds, chief of
Muntireolais, died of a surfeit of it, about Christmas. A quaint
Elizabethan writer thus descants on the properties of that liquor, as
he found them, by personal experience: "For the rawness (of the air)
they (the Irish) have an excellent remedy by their _Aqua Vitae_,
vulgarly called _Usquebagh_, which binds up the belly and drieth up
moisture more than our _Aqua Vitae_, yet inflameth not so much."

And as the opening of the century may be considered notable for the
first mention of _Usquebagh_, so its close is memorable for the first
employment of fire-arms. In the year 1489, according to Anglo-Irish
Annals, "six hand guns or musquets were sent to the Earl of Kildare out
of Germany," which his guard bore while on sentry at Thomas Court—his
Dublin residence. But two years earlier (1487) we have positive mention
of the employment of guns at the siege of Castlecar, in Leitrim, by
Hugh Roe O'Donnell. Great guns were freely used ten years later in the
taking of Dungannon and Omagh, and contributed, not a little to the
victory of Knock-doe—in 1505. About the same time we begin to hear of
their employment by sea in rather a curious connection. A certain
French Knight, returning from the pilgrimage of Lough Derg, visiting
O'Donnell at Donegal, heard of the anxiety of his entertainer to take a
certain Castle which stood by the sea, in Sligo. This Knight promised
to send him, on his return to France, "a vessel carrying great guns,"
which he accordingly did, and the Castle was in consequence taken.
Nevertheless the old Irish, according to their habit, took but slowly
to this wonderful invention, though destined to revolutionize the art
to which they were naturally predisposed—the art of war.

The dwellings of the chiefs, and of the wealthy among the proprietors,
near the marches, were chiefly situated amid pallisaded islands, or on
promontories naturally moated by lakes. The houses, in those
circumstances, were mostly of framework, though the Milesian nobles, in
less exposed districts, had castles of stone, after the Norman fashion.
The Castle "bawn" was usually enclosed by one or more strong walls, the
inner sides of which were lined with barns, stables, and the houses of
the retainers. Not unfrequently the thatched roofs of these
outbuildings taking fire, compelled the castle to surrender. The Castle
"green," whether within or without the walls, was the usual scene of
rural sports and athletic games, of which, at all periods, our
ancestors were so fond. Of the interior economy of the Milesian rath,
or dun, we know less than of the Norman tower, where, before the huge
kitchen chimney, the heavy-laden spit was turned by hand, while the
dining-hall was adorned with the glitter of the dresser, or by tapestry
hangings;—the floors of hall and chambers being strewn with rushes and
odorous herbs. We have spoken of the zeal of the Milesian Chiefs in
accumulating MSS. and in rewarding Bards and Scribes. We are enabled to
form some idea of the mental resources of an Anglo-Irish nobleman of
the fifteenth century, from the catalogue of the library remaining in
Maynooth Castle, in the reign of Henry VIII. Of Latin books, there were
the works of several of the schoolmen, the dialogues of St. Gregory,
Virgil, Juvenal, and Terence; the Holy Bible; Boethius' Consolations of
Philosophy, and Saint Thomas's Summa; of French works, Froissart,
Mandeville, two French Bibles, a French Livy and Caesar, with the most
popular romances; in English, there were the Polychronicon, Cambrensis,
Lyttleton's Tenures, Sir Thomas More's book on Pilgrimages, and several
romances. Moreover, there were copies of the Psalter of Cashel, a book
of Irish chronicles, lives of St. Beraghan, St. Fiech and St. Finian,
with various religious tracts, and romantic tales. This was, perhaps,
the most extensive private collection to be found within the Pale; we
have every reason to infer, that, at least in Irish and Latin works,
the Castles of the older race—lovers of learning and entertainers of
learned men—were not worse furnished than Maynooth.


Although the English and Irish professed the same religion during these
ages, yet in the appointment of Bishops, the administration of
ecclesiastical property, and in all their views of the relation of the
Church to the State, the two nations differed almost as widely as in
their laws, language, and customs. The Plantagenet princes and their
Parliaments had always exhibited a jealousy of the See of Rome, and
statute upon, statute was passed, from the reign of Henry II. to that
of Richard II., in order to diminish the power of the Supreme Pontiffs
in nominating to English benefices. In the second Richard's reign, so
eventful for the English interest in Ireland, it had been enacted that
any of the clergy procuring appointments directly from Rome, or
exercising powers so conferred, should incur the penalty of a
praemunire—that is, the forfeiture of their lands and chattels, beside
being liable to imprisonment during the King's pleasure. This statute
was held to apply equally to Ireland, being confirmed by some of those
petty conventions of "the Pale," which the Dublin Governors of the
fourteenth century dignified with the name of Parliaments.

The ancient Irish method of promotion to a vacant see, or abbacy,
though modelled on the electoral principle which penetrated all Celtic
usages, was undoubtedly open to the charge of favouring nepotism, down
to the time of Saint Malachy, the restorer of the Irish Church. After
that period, the Prelates elect were ever careful to obtain the
sanction of the Holy See, before consecration. Such habitual submission
to Rome was seldom found, except in cases of disputed election, to
interfere with the choice of the clergy, and the custom grew more and
more into favour, as the English method of nomination by the crown was
attempted to be enforced, not only throughout "the Pale," but, by means
of English agents at Rome and Avignon, in the appointment to sees,
within the provinces of Armagh, Cashel, and Tuam. The ancient usage of
farming the church lands, under the charge of a lay steward, or
_Erenach_, elected by the clan, and the division of all the revenues
into four parts—for the Bishop, the Vicar and his priests, for the
poor, and for repairs of the sacred edifice, was equally opposed to the
pretensions of Princes, who looked on their Bishops as Barons, and
Church temporalities, like all other fiefs, as held originally of the
crown. Even if there had not been those differences of origin,
interest, and government which necessarily brought the two populations
into collision, these distinct systems of ecclesiastical polity could
not well have existed on the same soil without frequently clashing, one
with the other.

In our notice of the association promoted among the clergy, at the end
of the thirteenth century, by the patriotic McMaelisa, ("follower of
Jesus"), and in our own comments on the memorable letter of Prince
Donald O'Neil to Pope John XXII., written in the year 1317 or '18, we
have seen how wide and deep was the gulf then existing between the
English and Irish churchmen. In the year 1324, an attempt to heal this
unchristian breach was made by Philip of Slane, the Dominican who
presided at the trial of the Knights Templars, who afterwards became
Bishop of Cork, and rose into high favour with the Queen-Mother,
Isabella. As her Ambassador, or in the name of King Edward III., still
a minor, he is reported to have submitted to Pope John certain
propositions for the promotion of peace in the Irish Church, some of
which were certainly well calculated to promote that end. He suggested
that the smaller Bishoprics, yielding under sixty pounds per annum,
should be united to more eminent sees, and that Irish Abbots and Priors
should admit English lay brothers to their houses, and English
Superiors Irish brothers, in like manner. The third proposition,
however, savours more of the politician than of the peacemaker; it was
to bring under the bann of excommunication, with all its rigorous
consequences in that age, those "disturbers of the peace" who invaded
the authority of the English King in Ireland. As a consequence of this
mission, a Concordat for Ireland seems to have been concluded at
Avignon, embracing the two first points, but omitting the third, which
was, no doubt, with the English Court, the main object of Friar
Philip's embassy.

During the fourteenth century, and down to the election of Martin V.
(A.D. 1417), the Popes sat mainly at Avignon, in France. In the last
forty years of that melancholy period, other Prelates sitting at Rome,
or elsewhere in Italy, claimed the Apostolic primacy. It was in the
midst of these troubles and trials of the Church that the powerful
Kings of England, who were also sovereigns of a great part of France,
contrived to extort from the embarrassed pontiffs concessions which,
however gratifying to royal pride, were abhorrent to the more Catholic
spirit of the Irish people. A constant struggle was maintained during
the entire period of the captivity of the Popes in France between Roman
and English influence in Ireland. There were often two sets of Bishops
elected in such border sees as Meath and Louth, which were districts
under a divided influence. The Bishops of Limerick, Cork, and
Waterford, liable to have their revenues cut off, and their personal
liberty endangered by sea, were almost invariably nominees of the
English Court; those of the Province of Dublin were necessarily so; but
the prelates of Ulster, of Connaught, and of Munster—the southern
seaports excepted—were almost invariably native ecclesiastics, elected
in the old mode, by the assembled clergy, and receiving letters of
confirmation direct from Avignon or Italy.

A few incidents in the history of the Church of Cashel will better
illustrate the character of the contest between the native episcopacy
and the foreign power. Towards the end of the thirteenth century,
Archbishop McCarwill maintained with great courage the independence of
his jurisdiction against Henry III. and Edward I. Having inducted
certain Bishops into their sees without waiting for the royal letters,
he sustained a long litigation in the Anglo-Irish courts, and was much
harassed in his goods and person. Seizing from a usurer 400 pounds, he
successfully resisted the feudal claim of Edward I., as lord paramount,
to pay over the money to the royal exchequer. Edward having undertaken
to erect a prison—or fortress in disguise—in his episcopal city, the
bold Prelate publicly excommunicated the Lord Justice who undertook the
work, the escheator who supplied the funds, and all those engaged in
its construction, nor did he desist from his opposition until the
obnoxious building was demolished. Ralph O'Kelly, who filled the same
see from 1345 to 1361, exhibited an equally dauntless spirit. An
Anglo-Irish Parliament having levied a subsidy on all property, lay and
ecclesiastical, within their jurisdiction, to carry on the war of races
before described, he not only opposed its collection within the
Province of Cashel, but publicly excommunicated Epworth, Clerk of the
Council, who had undertaken that task. For this offence an information
was exhibited against him, laying the King's damages at a thousand
pounds; but he pleaded the liberties of the Church, and successfully
traversed the indictment. Richard O'Hedian, Archbishop from 1406 to
1440, was a Prelate of similar spirit to his predecessors. At a
Parliament held in Dublin in 1421, it was formally alleged, among other
enormities, that he made very much of the Irish and loved none of the
English; that he presented no Englishman to a benefice, and advised
other Prelates to do likewise; and that he made himself King of
Munster—alluding, probably, to some revival at this time of the old
title of Prince-Bishop, which had anciently belonged to the Prelates of
Cashel. O'Hedian retained his authority, however, till his death, after
which the see remained twelve years vacant, the temporalities being
farmed by the Earl of Ormond.

From this conflict of interests, frequently resulting in disputed
possession and intrusive jurisdiction, religion must have suffered
much, at least in its discipline and decorum. The English Archbishops
of Dublin would not yield in public processions to the Irish
Archbishops of Armagh, nor permit the crozier of St. Patrick to be
borne publicly through their city; the English Bishop of Waterford was
the public accuser of the Irish Archbishop of Cashel, last mentioned,
before a lay tribunal—the knights and burgesses of "the Pale." The
annual expeditions sent out from Dublin, to harass the nearest native
clans, were seldom without a Bishop or Abbot, or Prior of the Temple or
Hospital, in their midst. Scandals must have ensued; hatreds must have
sprung up; prejudices, fatal to charity and unity, must have been
engendered, both on the one side and the other. The spirit of party
carried into the Church can be cherished in the presence of the Altar
and Cross only by doing violence to the teachings of the Cross and the
sanctity of the Altar.

While such was the troubled state of the Church, as exemplified in its
twofold hierarchy, the religious orders continued to spread, with
amazing energy, among both races. The orders of Saint Francis and Saint
Dominick, those twin giants of the thirteenth century, already rivalled
the mighty brotherhood which Saint Bernard had consecrated, and Saint
Malachy had introduced into the Irish Church. It is observable that the
Dominicans, at least at first, were most favoured by the English and
the Anglo-Irish; while the Franciscans were more popular with the
native population. Exceptions may be found on both sides: but as a
general rule this distinction can be traced in the strongholds of
either order, and in the names of their most conspicuous members, down
to that dark and trying hour when the tempest of "the Reformation"
involved both in a common danger, and demonstrated their equal heroism.
As elsewhere in Christendom, the sudden aggrandizement of these
mendicant institutes excited jealousy and hostility among certain of
the secular clergy and Bishops. This feeling was even stronger in
England during the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II., when,
according to the popular superstition, the Devil appeared at various
places "in the form of a grey friar." The great champion of the secular
clergy, in the controversy which ensued, was Richard, son of Ralph, a
native of Dundalk, the Erasmus of his age. Having graduated at Oxford,
where the Irish were then classed as one of "the four nations" of
students, Fitz-Ralph achieved distinction after distinction, till he
rose to the rank of Chancellor of the University, in 1333. Fourteen
years afterwards he was consecrated, by provision of Pope Clement VI.,
Archbishop of Armagh, and is by some writers styled "Cardinal of
Armagh." Inducted into the chief see of his native Province and
country, he soon commenced those sermons and writings against the
mendicant orders which rendered him so conspicuous in the Church
history of the fourteenth century. Summoned to Avignon, in 1350, to be
examined on his doctrine, he maintained before the Consistory the
following propositions: 1st, that our Lord Jesus Christ, as a man, was
very poor, not that He loved poverty for itself; 2nd, that our Lord had
never begged; 3rd, that He never taught men to beg; 4th, that, on the
contrary, He taught men not to beg; 5th, that man cannot, with prudence
and holiness, confine himself by vow to a life of constant mendicity;
6th, that minor brothers are not obliged by their rule to beg; 7th,
that the bull of Alexander IV., which condemns the Book of Masters,
does not invalidate any of the aforesaid conclusions; 8th, that by
those who, wishing to confess, exclude certain churches, their parish
one should be preferred to the oratories of monks; and 9th, that, for
auricular confession, the diocesan, bishop should be chosen in
preference to friars.

In a "defence of Parish Priests," and many other tracts, in several
sermons, preached at London, Litchfield, Drogheda, Dundalk, and Armagh,
he maintained the thesis until the year 1357, when the Superior of the
Franciscans at Armagh, seconded by the influence of his own and the
Dominican order, caused him to be summoned a second time before the
Pope. Fitz-Ralph promptly obeyed the summons, but before the cause
could be finally decided he died at Avignon in 1361. His body was
removed from thence to Dundalk in 1370 by Stephen de Valle, Bishop of
Meath. Miracles were said to have been wrought at his tomb; a process
of inquiry into their validity was instituted by order of Boniface IX.,
but abandoned without any result being arrived at. The bitter
controversy between the mendicant and other orders was revived towards
the end of the century by Henry, a Cistercian monk of Baltinglass, who
maintained opinions still more extreme than those of Fitz-Ralph; but he
was compelled publicly and solemnly to retract them before
Commissioners appointed for that purpose in the year 1382.

The range of mental culture in Europe during the fourteenth century
included only the scholastic philosophy and theology with the physics,
taught in the schools of the Spanish Arabs. The fifteenth century saw
the revival of Greek literature in Italy, and the general restoration
of classical learning. The former century is especially barren of
original _belles lettres_ writings; but the next succeeding ages
produced Italian poetry, French chronicles, Spanish ballads, and all
that wonderful efflorescence of popular literature, which, in our far
advanced cultivation, we still so much envy and admire. In the last
days of Scholasticism, Irish intelligence asserted its ancient equality
with the best minds of Europe; but in the new era of national
literature, unless there are buried treasures yet to be dug out of
their Gaelic tombs, the country fell altogether behind England, and
even Scotland, not to speak of Italy or France. Archbishop Fitz-Ralph,
John Scotus of Down, William of Drogheda, Professor of both laws at
Oxford, are respectable representatives among the last and greatest
group of the School-men. Another illustrious name remains to be added
to the roll of Irish Scholastics, that of Maurice O'Fihely, Archbishop
of Tuam. He was a thorough Scotist in philosophy, which he taught at
Padua, in discourses long afterwards printed at Venice. His
Commentaries on _Scotus_, his Dictionary of the Sacred Scriptures, and
other numerous writings, go far to justify the compliments of his
cotemporaries, though the fond appellation of the "flower of the earth"
given him by some of them sounds extravagant and absurd. Soon after
arriving from Rome to take possession of his see he died at Tuam in
1513, in the fiftieth year of his age—an early age to have won so
colossal a reputation.

Beyond some meagre annals, compiled in monastic houses, and a few
rhymed panegyrics, the muses of history and of poetry seem to have
abandoned the island to the theologians, jurists, and men of science.
The Bardic order was still one of the recognized estates, and found
patrons worthy of their harps in the lady Margaret O'Carroll of
Offally, William O'Kelley of Galway, and Henry Avery O'Neil. Full
collections of the original Irish poetry of the Middle Ages are yet to
be made public, but it is scarcely possible that if any composition of
eminent merit existed, we should not have had editions and translations
of it before now.



Henry the Eighth of England succeeded his father on the throne, early
in the year 1509. He was in the eighteenth year of his age, when he
thus found himself master of a well-filled treasury and an united
kingdom. Fortune, as if to complete his felicity, had furnished him
from the outset of his reign with a minister of unrivalled talent for
public business. This was Thomas Wolsey, successively royal Chaplain,
Almoner, Archbishop of York, Papal Legate, Lord Chancellor, and Lord
Cardinal. From the fifth to the twentieth year of King Henry, he was,
in effect, sovereign in the state, and it is wonderful to find how much
time he contrived to borrow from the momentous foreign affairs of that
eventful age for the obscurer intrigues of Irish politics.

Wolsey kept before his mind, more prominently than any previous English
statesman, the design of making his royal master as absolute in Ireland
as any King in Christendom. He determined to abolish every pretence to
sovereignty but that of the King of England, and to this end he
resolved to circumscribe the power of the Anglo-Irish Barons, and to
win over by "dulce ways" and "politic drifts," as he expressed it, the
Milesian-Irish Chiefs. This policy, continued by all the Tudor
sovereigns till the latter years of Elizabeth, so far as it
distinguished between the Barons and Chiefs always favoured the latter.
The Kildares and Desmonds were hunted to the death, in the same age,
and by the same authority, which carefully fostered every symptom of
adhesion or attachment on the part of the O'Neils and O'Briens. Neither
were these last loved or trusted for their own sakes, but the natural
enemy fares better in all histories than the unnatural rebel.

We must enumerate some of the more remarkable instances of Wolsey's
twofold policy of concession and intimidation. In the third and fourth
years of Henry, Hugh O'Donnell, lord of Tyrconnell, passing through
England, on a pilgrimage to Rome, was entertained with great honour at
Windsor and Greenwich for four months each time. He returned to Ulster
deeply impressed with the magnificence of the young monarch and the
resources of his kingdom. During the remainder of his life he cherished
a strong predilection for England; he dissuaded James IV. of Scotland
from leading a liberating expedition to Ireland in 1513—previous to the
ill-fated campaign which ended on Flodden field, and he steadily
resisted the influx of the Islesmen into Down and Antrim. In 1521 we
find him described by the Lord Lieutenant, Surrey, as being of all the
Irish chiefs the best disposed "to fall into English order." He
maintained a direct correspondence with Henry until his death, 1537,
when the policy he had so materially assisted had progressed beyond the
possibility of defeat. Simultaneously with O'Donnell's adhesion, the
same views found favour with the powerful chief of Tyrone. The O'Neils
were now divided into two great septs, those of Tyrone, whose seat was
at Dungannon, and those of Clandeboy, whose strongholds studded the
eastern shores of Lough Neagh. In the year 1480, Con O'Neil, lord of
Tyrone, married his cousin-germain, Lady Alice Fitzgerald, daughter of
the Earl of Kildare. This alliance tended to establish an intimacy
between Maynooth and Dungannon, which subserved many of the ends of
Wolsey's policy. Turlogh, Art, and Con, sons of Lady Alice, and
successively chiefs of Tyrone, adhered to the fortunes of the Kildare
family, who were, however unwillingly, controlled by the superior power
of Henry. The Clandeboy O'Neils, on the contrary, regarded this
alliance as nothing short of apostasy, and pursued the exactly opposite
course, repudiating English and cultivating Scottish alliances. Open
ruptures and frequent collisions took place between the estranged and
exasperated kinsmen; in the sequel we will find how the last surviving
son of Lady Alice became in his old age the first Earl of Tyrone, while
the House of Clandeboy took up the title of "the O'Neil." The example
of the elder branch of this ancient royal race, and of the hardly less
illustrious family of Tyrconnell, exercised a potent influence on the
other chieftains of Ulster.

An elaborate report on "the State of Ireland," with "a plan for its
Reformation"—submitted to Henry in the year 1515—gives us a tolerably
clear view of the political and military condition of the several
provinces. The only portions of the country in any sense subject to
English law, were half the counties of Louth, Meath, Dublin, Kildare,
and Wexford. The residents within these districts paid "black rent" to
the nearest native chiefs. Sheriffs were not permitted to execute
writs, beyond the bounds thus described, and even within thirty miles
of Dublin, March-law and Brehon-law were in full force. Ten native
magnates are enumerated in Leinster as "chief captains" of their
"nations"—not one of whom regarded the English King as his Sovereign.
Twenty chiefs in Munster, fifteen in Connaught, and three in
West-Meath, maintained their ancient state, administered their own
laws, and recognized no superiority, except in one another, as policy
or custom compelled them. Thirty chief English captains, of whom
eighteen resided in Munster, seven in Connaught, and the remainder in
Meath, Down, and Antrim, are set down as "rebels" and followers of "the
Irish order." Of these, the principal in the midland counties were the
Dillons and Tyrrells, in the West the Burkes and Berminghams, in the
South the Powers, Barrys, Roches—the Earl of Desmond and his relatives.
The enormous growth of these Munster Geraldines, and their not less
insatiable greed, produced many strange complications in the politics
of the South. Not content with the moiety of Kerry, Cork, and
Waterford, they had planted their landless cadets along the Suir and
the Shannon, in Ormond and Thomond. They narrowed the dominions of the
O'Briens on the one hand and the McCarthys on the other. Concluding
peace or war with their neighbours, as suited their own convenience,
they sometimes condescended to accept further feudal privileges from
the Kings of England. To Maurice, tenth Earl, Henry VII. had granted
"all the customs, cockets, poundage, prize wines of Limerick, Cork,
Kinsale, Baltimore and Youghal, with other privileges and advantages."
Yet Earl James, in the next reign, did not hesitate to treat with
Francis of France and the Emperor of Germany, as an independent Prince,
long before the pretence of resisting the Reformation could be alleged
in his justification. What we have here to observe is, that this
predominance of the Munster Geraldines drove first one and then another
branch of the McCarthys, and O'Briens, into the meshes of Wolsey's
policy. Cormac Oge, lord of Muskerry, and his cousin, the lord of
Carbery, defeated the eleventh Earl (James), at Moore Abbey, in 1521,
with a loss of 1,500 foot and 500 or 600 horsemen. To strengthen
himself against the powerful adversary so deeply wounded, Cormac sought
the protection of the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Surrey, and of
Pierce Roe, the eighth Earl of Ormond, who had common wrongs to avenge.
In this way McCarthy became identified with the English interest, which
he steadily adhered to till his death—in 1536. Driven by the same
necessity to adopt the same expedient, Murrogh O'Brien, lord of
Thomond, a few years later visited Henry at London, where he resigned
his principality, received back his lands, under a royal patent
conveying them to him as "Earl of Thomond, and Baron of Inchiquin."
Henry was but too happy to have raised up such a counterpoise to the
power of Desmond, at his own door, while O'Brien was equally anxious to
secure foreign aid against such intolerable encroachments. The policy
worked effectually; it brought the succeeding Earl of Desmond to
London, an humble suitor for the King's mercy and favour, which were
after some demur granted.

The event, however, which most directly tended to the establishment of
an English royalty in Ireland, was the depression of the family of
Kildare in the beginning of this reign, and its all but extinction a
few years later. Gerald, the ninth Earl of that title, succeeded his
father in the office of Lord Deputy in the first years of Henry. He had
been a ward at the court of the preceding King, and by both his first
and second marriages was closely connected with the royal family. Yet
he stood in the way of the settled plans of Wolsey, before whom the
highest heads in the realm trembled. His father, as if to secure him
against the hereditary enmity of the Butlers, had married his daughter
Margaret to Pierce Roe, Earl of Ossory, afterwards eighth Earl of
Ormond—the restorer of that house. This lady, however, entered heartily
into the antipathies of her husband's family, and being of masculine
spirit, with an uncommon genius for public affairs, helped more than
any Butler had ever done to humble the overshadowing house of which she
was born. The weight of Wolsey's influence was constantly exercised in
favour of Ormond, who had the skill to recommend himself quite as
effectually to Secretary Cromwell, after the Cardinal's disgrace and
death. But the struggles of the house of Kildare were bold and


The ninth and last _Catholic_ Earl of Kildare, in the ninth year of
Henry VIII., had been summoned to London to answer two charges
preferred against him by his political enemies: "1st, That he had
enriched himself and his followers out of the crown lands and revenues.
2nd, That he had formed alliances and corresponded with divers Irish
enemies of the State." Pending these charges the Earl of Surrey, the
joint-victor with his father at Flodden field, was despatched to Dublin
in his stead, with the title of Lord Lieutenant.

Kildare, by the advice of Wolsey, was retained in a sort of honourable
attendance on the person of the King for nearly four years. During this
interval he accompanied Henry to "the field of the cloth of Gold," so
celebrated in French and English chronicles. On his return to Dublin,
in 1523, he found his enemy, the Earl of Ormond, in his old office, but
had the pleasure of supplanting him one year afterwards. In 1525, on
the discovery of Desmond's correspondence with Francis of France, he
was ordered to march into Munster and arrest that nobleman. But, though
he obeyed the royal order, Desmond successfully evaded him, not, as was
alleged, without his friendly connivance. The next year this evasion
was made the ground of a fresh impeachment by the implacable Earl of
Ormond; he was again summoned to London, and committed to the Tower. In
1530 he was liberated, and sent over with Sir William Skeffington,
whose authority to some extent he shared. The English Knight had the
title of Deputy, but Kildare was, in effect, Captain General, as the
Red Earl had formerly been. Skeffington was instructed to obey him in
the field, while it was expected that the Earl, in return, would
sustain his colleague in the Council. A year had not passed before they
were declared enemies, and Skeffington was recalled to England, where
he added another to the number of Kildare's enemies. After a short term
of undisputed power, the latter found himself, in 1533, for the third
time, an inmate of the Tower. It is clear that the impetuous Earl,
after his second escape, had not conducted himself as prudently as one
so well forewarned ought to have done. He played more openly than ever
the twofold part of Irish Chief among the Irish, and English Baron
within the Pale. His daughters were married to the native lords of
Offally and Ely, and he frequently took part as arbitrator in the
affairs of those clans. The anti-Geraldine faction were not slow to
torture these facts to suit themselves. They had been strengthened at
Dublin by three English officials, Archbishop Allan, his relative John
Allan, afterwards Master of the Rolls, and Robert Cowley, the Chief
Solicitor, Lord Ormond's confidential agent. The reiterated
representations of these personages induced the suspicious and
irascible King to order the Earl's attendance at London, authorizing
him at the same time to appoint a substitute, for whose conduct he
would be answerable. Kildare nominated his son, Lord Thomas, though not
yet of man's age; after giving him many sage advices, he sailed for
England, no more to return.

The English interest at that moment had apparently reached the lowest
point. The O'Briens had bridged the Shannon, and enforced their ancient
claims over Limerick. So defenceless, at certain periods, was Dublin
itself that Edmond Oge O'Byrne surprised the Castle by night, liberated
the prisoners, and carried off the stores. This daring achievement,
unprecedented even in the records of the fearless mountaineers of
Wicklow, was thrown in to aggravate the alleged offences of Kildare. He
was accused, moreover, of having employed the King's great guns and
other munitions of war to strengthen his own Castles of Maynooth and
Ley—a charge more direct and explicit than had been alleged against him
at any former period.

While the Earl lay in London Tower, an expedient very common afterwards
in our history—the forging of letters and despatches—was resorted to by
his enemies in Dublin, to drive the young Lord Thomas into some rash
act which might prove fatal to his father and himself. Accordingly the
packets brought from Chester, in the spring of 1534, repeated reports,
one confirming the other, of the execution of the Earl in the Tower.
Nor was there anything very improbable in such an occurrence. The cruel
character of Henry had, in these same spring months, been fully
developed in the execution of the reputed prophetess, Elizabeth Barton,
and all her abettors. The most eminent layman in England, Sir Thomas
More, and the most illustrious ecclesiastic, Bishop Fisher, had at the
same time been found guilty of misprision of treason for having known
of the pretended prophecies of Elizabeth without communicating their
knowledge to the King. That an Anglo-Irish Earl, even of the first
rank, could hope to fare better at the hands of the tyrant than his
aged tutor and his trusted Chancellor, was not to be expected. When,
therefore, Lord Thomas Fitzgerald flung down the sword of State on the
Council table, in the hall of St. Mary's Abbey, on the 11th day of
June, 1534, and formally renounced his allegiance to King Henry as the
murderer of his father, although he betrayed an impetuous and impolitic
temper, there was much in the events of the times to justify his belief
in the rumours of his father's execution.

This renunciation of allegiance was a declaration of open war. The
chapter thus opened in the memoirs of the Leinster Geraldines closed at
Tyburn on the 3rd of February, 1537. Within these three years, the
policy of annexation was hastened by several events—but by none more
than this unconcerted, unprepared, reckless revolt. The advice of the
imprisoned Earl to his son had been "to play the gentlest part," but
youth and rash counsels overcame the suggestions of age and experience.
One great excess stained the cause of "Silken Thomas," while it was but
six weeks old. Towards the end of July, Archbishop Allan, his father's
deadly enemy, left his retreat in the Castle, and put to sea by night,
hoping to escape into England. The vessel, whether by design or
accident, ran ashore at Clontarf, and the neighbourhood being overrun
by the insurgents, the Archbishop concealed himself at Artane. Here he
was discovered, dragged from his bed, and murdered, if not in the
actual presence, under the same roof with Lord Thomas. King Henry's
Bishops hurled against the assassins the greater excommunication, with
all its penalties; a terrific malediction, which was, perhaps, more
than counterbalanced by the Papal Bull issued against Henry and Anne
Boleyn on the last day of August—the knowledge of which must have
reached Ireland before the end of the year. This Bull cited Henry to
appear within ninety days in person, or by attorney, at Rome, to answer
for his offences against the Apostolic See; failing which, he was
declared excommunicated, his subjects were absolved from their
allegiance, and commanded to take up arms against their former
sovereign. The ninety days expired with the month of November, 1534.

Lord Thomas, as he acted without consultation with others, so he was
followed but by few persons of influence. His brothers-in-law, the
chiefs of Ely and Offally, O'Moore of Leix, two of his five uncles, his
relatives, the Delahides, mustered their adherents, and rallied to his
standard. He held the castles of Carlow, Maynooth, Athy, and other
strongholds in Kildare. He besieged Dublin, and came to a composition
with the citizens, by which they agreed to allow him free ingress to
assail the Castle, into which his enemies had withdrawn. He despatched
agents to the Emperor, Charles V., and the Pope, but before those
agents could well have returned—March, 1535—Maynooth had been assaulted
and taken by Sir William Skeffington—and the bands collected by the
young lord had melted away. Lord Leonard Gray, his maternal uncle,
assumed the command for the King of England, instead of Skeffington,
disabled by sickness, and the abortive insurrection was extinguished in
one campaign. Towards the end of August, 1535, the unfortunate Lord
Thomas surrendered on the guarantee of Lord Leonard and Lord Butler; in
the following year his five uncles—three of whom had never joined in
the rising—were treacherously seized at a banquet given to them by
Gray, and were all, with their nephew, executed at Tyburn, on the 3rd
of February, 1537. The imprisoned Earl having died in the Tower on the
12th of December, 1534, the sole survivor of this historic house was
now a child of twelve years of age, whose life was sought with an
avidity equal to Herod's, but who was protected with a fidelity which
defeated every attempt to capture him. Alternately the guest of his
aunts married to the chiefs of Offally and Donegal, the sympathy
everywhere felt for him led to a confederacy between the Northern and
Southern Chiefs, which had long been wanting. A loose league was
formed, including the O'Neils of both branches, O'Donnell, O'Brien, the
Earl of Desmond, and the chiefs of Moylurg and Breffni. The lad, the
object of so much natural and chivalrous affection, was harboured for a
time in Munster, thence transported through Connaught into Donegal, and
finally, after four years, in which he engaged more of the minds of
statesmen than any other individual under the rank of royalty, was
safely landed in France. We shall meet him again in another reign,
under more fortunate auspices.

Lord Leonard Gray continued in office as Deputy for nearly five years
(1535-40). This interval was marked by several successes against
detached clans and the parties to the Geraldine league, whom he was
careful to attack only in succession. In his second campaign, O'Brien's
bridge was carried and demolished, one O'Brien was set up against
another, and one O'Conor against another; the next year the Castle of
Dungannon was taken from O'Neil, and Dundrum from Magennis. In 1539, he
defeated O'Neil and O'Donnell, at Bolahoe, on the borders of Farney, in
Monaghan, with a loss of 400 men, and the spoils they had taken from
the English of Navan and Ardee. The Mayors of Dublin and Drogheda were
knighted on the field for the valour they had shown at the head of
their train-bands. The same year, he made a successful incursion into
the territory of the Earl of Desmond, receiving the homage of many of
the inferior lords, and exonerating them from the exactions of those
haughty Palatines. Recalled to England in 1540, he, too, in turn, fell
a victim to the sanguinary spirit of King Henry, and perished on the


Upon the disgrace of Lord Leonard Gray in 1540, Sir Anthony St. Leger
was appointed Deputy. He had previously been employed as chief of the
commission issued in 1537, to survey land subject to the King, to
inquire into, confirm, or cancel titles, and abolish abuses which might
have crept in among the Englishry, whether upon the marches or within
the Pale. In this employment he had at his disposal a guard of 340 men,
while the Deputy and Council were ordered to obey his mandates as if
given by the King in person. The commissioners were further empowered
to reform the Courts of Law; to enter as King's Counsel into both
Houses of Parliament, there to urge the adoption of measures upholding
English laws and customs, establishing the King's supremacy, in
spirituals as in temporals, to provide for the defence of the marches,
and the better collection of the revenues. In the three years which he
spent at the head of this commission, St. Leger, an eminently able and
politic person, made himself intimately acquainted with Irish affairs;
as a natural consequence of which knowledge he was entrusted, upon the
first vacancy, with their supreme directions. In this situation he had
to contend, not only with the complications long existing in the system
itself, but with the formidable disturbing influence exercised by the
Court of Scotland, chiefly upon and by means of the Ulster Princes.

Up to this period, the old political intimacy of Scotland and Ireland
had known no diminution. The Scots in Antrim could reckon, soon after
Henry's accession to the throne, 2,000 fighting men. In 1513, in order
to co-operate with the warlike movement of O'Donnell, the Scottish
fleet, under the Earl of Arran, in his famous flagship, "the great
Michael," captured Carrickfergus, putting its Anglo-Irish garrison to
the sword. In the same Scottish reign (that of James IV.), one of the
O'Donnells had a munificent grant of lands in Kirkcudbright, as other
adventurers from Ulster had from the same monarch, in Galloway and
Kincardine. In 1523, while hostilities raged between Scotland and
England, the Irish Chiefs entered into treaty with Francis the First of
France, who bound himself to land in Ireland 15,000 men, to expel the
English from "the Pale," and to carry his arms across the channel in
the quarrel of Richard de la Pole, father of the famous Cardinal, and
at this time a formidable pretender to the English throne. The imbecile
conduct of the Scottish Regent, the Duke of Albany, destroyed this
enterprise, which, however, was but the forerunner, if it was not the
model, of several similar combinations. When the Earl of Bothwell took
refuge at the English Court, in 1531, he suggested to Henry VIII.,
among other motives for renewing the war with James V., that the latter
was in league "with the Emperor, the Danish King, and O'Donnell." The
following year, a Scottish force of 4,000 men, under John, son of
Alexander McDonald, Lord of the Isles, served, by permission of their
King, under the banner of the Chieftain of Tyrconnell. An uninterrupted
correspondence between the Ulster Chiefs and the Scottish Court may be
traced through this reign, forming a curious chapter of Irish
diplomacy. In 1535, we have a letter from O'Neil to James V., from
which it appears that O'Neil's Secretary was then residing at the
Scottish Court; and as the crisis of the contest for the Crown drew
near, we find the messages and overtures from Ulster multiplying in
number and earnestness. In that critical period, James V. was between
twenty and thirty years old, and his powerful minister, Cardinal
Beaton, was acting by him the part that Wolsey had played by Henry at a
like age. The Cardinal, favouring the French and Irish alliances, had
drawn a line of Scottish policy, in relation to both those countries,
precisely parallel to Wolsey's. During the Geraldine insurrection,
Henry was obliged to remonstrate with James on favours shown to his
rebels of Ireland. This charge James' ministers, in their
correspondence of the year 1535, strenuously denied, while admitting
that some insignificant Islesmen, over whom he could exercise no
control, might have gone privily thither. In the spring of 1540, Bryan
Layton, one of the English agents at the Scottish Court, communicated
to Secretary Cromwell that James had fitted out a fleet of 15 ships,
manned by 2,000 men, and armed with all the ordinance that he could
muster; that his destination was Ireland, the Crown of which had been
offered to him, the previous Lent, by "eight gentlemen," who brought
him written tenders of submission "from all the great men of Ireland,"
with their seals attached; and, furthermore, that the King had declared
to Lord Maxwell his determination to win such a prize as "never King of
Scotland had before," or to lose his life in the attempt. It is
remarkable that in this same spring of 1540—while such was understood
to be the destination of the Scottish fleet—a congress of the Chiefs of
all Ireland was appointed to be held at the Abbey of Fore, in
West-Meath. To prevent this meeting taking place, the whole force of
the Pale, with the judges, clergy, townsmen and husbandmen, marched out
under the direction of the Lords of the Council (St. Leger not having
yet arrived to replace Lord Gray), but finding no such assembly as they
had been led to expect, they made a predatory incursion into Roscommon,
and dispersed some armed bands belonging to O'Conor. The commander in
this expedition was the Marshal Sir William Brereton, for the moment
one of the Lords Justices. He was followed to the field by the last
Prior of Kilmainham, Sir John Rawson, the Master of the Rolls, the
Archbishop of Dublin, the Bishop of Meath, Mr. Justice Luttrell, and
the Barons of the Exchequer-a strange medley of civil and military

The prevention or postponement of the Congress at Fore must have
exercised a decided influence on the expedition of James V. His great
armada having put to sea, after coasting among the out-islands, and
putting into a northern English port from stress of weather, returned
home without achievement of any kind. Diplomatic intercourse was
shortly renewed between him and Henry, but, in the following year, to
the extreme displeasure of his royal kinsman, he assumed the
much-prized title of "Defender of the Faith." Another rupture took
place, when the Irish card was played over again with the customary
effect. In a letter of July, 1541, introducing to the Irish Chiefs the
Jesuit Fathers, Salmeron, Broet, and Capata, who passed through
Scotland on their way to Ireland, James styles himself "Lord of
Ireland"—another insult and defiance to Henry, whose newly-acquired
kingly style was then but a few weeks old. By way of retaliation, Henry
ordered the Archbishop of York to search the registers of that see for
evidence of _his_ claim to the Crown of Scotland, and industriously
cultivated the disaffected party amongst the Scottish nobility. At
length these bickerings broke out into open war, and the short, but
fatal campaign of 1542, removed another rival for the English King. The
double defeat of Fala and of Solway Moss, the treason of his nobles,
and the failure of his hopes, broke the heart of the high-spirited
James V. He died in December, 1542, in the 33rd year of his age, a few
hours after learning the birth of his daughter, so celebrated as Mary,
Queen of Scots. In his last moments he pronounced the doom of the
Stuart dynasty—"It came with a lass," he exclaimed, "and it will go
with a lass," And thus it happened that the image of Ireland, which
unfolds the first scene of the War of the Roses, which is inseparable
from the story of the two Bruces, and which occupies so much of the
first and last years of the Tudor dynasty, stands mournfully by the
deathbed of the last Stuart King who reigned in Scotland—the only
Prince of his race that had ever written under his name the title of
"_Dominus Hiberniae_."

The premature death of James was hardly more regretted by his immediate
subjects than by his Irish allies. All external events now conspired to
show the hopelessness of resistance to the power of King Henry. From
Scotland, destined to half a century of anarchy, no help could be
expected. Wales, another ancient ally of the Irish, had been
incorporated with England, in 1536, and was fast becoming reconciled to
the rule of a Prince, sprung from a Welsh ancestry. Francis of France
and Charles V., rivals for the leadership of the Continent, were too
busy with their own projects to enter into any Irish alliance. The
Geraldines had suffered terrible defeats; the family of Kildare was
without an adult representative; the O'Neils and O'Donnells had lost
ground at Bellahoe, and were dismayed by the unlooked-for death of the
King of Scotland. The arguments, therefore, by which many of the chiefs
might have justified themselves to their clans in 1541, '2 and '3, for
submitting to the inevitable laws of necessity in rendering homage to
Henry VIII., were neither few nor weak. Abroad there was no hope of an
alliance sufficient to counterbalance the immense resources of England;
at home life-wasting private wars, the conflict of laws, of languages,
and of titles to property, had become unbearable. That fatal family
pride, which would not permit an O'Brien to obey an O'Neil, nor an
O'Conor to follow either, rendered the establishment of a native
monarchy—even if there had been no other obstacle—wholly impracticable.
Among the clergy alone did the growing supremacy of Henry meet with any
effective opposition.

At its first presentation in Ireland, and during the whole of Henry's
lifetime, the "Reformation" wore the guise of schism, as distinguished
from heresy. To deny the supremacy of the Pope and admit the supremacy
of the King were almost its sole tests of doctrine. All the ancient
teaching in relation to the Seven Sacraments, the Holy Sacrifice of the
Mass, the Real Presence, Purgatory, and Prayers for the Dead, were
scrupulously retained. Subsequently, the necessity of auricular
confession, the invocation of Saints, and the celibacy of the clergy
came to be questioned, but they were not dogmatically assailed during
this reign. The common people, where English was understood, were slow
in taking alarm at these masked innovations; in the Irish-speaking
districts—three-fourths of the whole country—they were only heard of as
rumours from afar, but the clergy, secular and regular, were not long
left in doubt as to where such steps must necessarily lead.

From 1534, the year of his divorce, until 1541, the year of his
election, Henry attempted, by fits and starts, to assert his supremacy
in Ireland. He appointed George Browne, a strenuous advocate of the
divorce, some time Provincial of the order of St. Augustine in England,
Archbishop of Dublin, vacant by the murder of Archbishop Allan. On the
12th of March, 1535, Browne was consecrated by Cranmer, whose opinions,
as well as those of Secretary Cromwell, he echoed through life. He may
be considered the first agent employed to introduce the Reformation
into Ireland, and his zeal in that work seems to have been unwearied.
He was destined, however, to find many opponents, and but few converts.
Not only the Primate of Armagh, George Cromer, and almost all the
episcopal order, resolutely resisted his measures, but the clergy and
laity of Dublin refused to accept his new forms of prayer, or to listen
to his strange teaching. He inveighs in his correspondence with
Cromwell against Bassenet, Dean of St. Patrick's, Castele, Prior of
Christ's Church, and generally against all the clergy. Of the
twenty-eight secular priests in Dublin, but three could be induced to
act with him; the regular orders he found equally intractable—more
especially the Observantins, whose name he endeavoured to change to
Conventuals. "The spirituality," as he calls them, refused to take the
oaths of abjuration and supremacy; refused to strike the name of the
Bishop of Rome from their primers and mass-books, and seduced the rest
into like contumacy. Finding persuasion of little avail, he sometimes
resorted to harsher measures.

Dr. Sall, a grey friar of Waterford, was brought to Dublin and
imprisoned for preaching the new doctrines in the Spring of 1538;
Thaddeus Byrne, another friar, was put in the pillory, and was reported
to have committed suicide in the Castle, on the 14th of July of the
same year; Sir Humfrey, parson of Saint Owens, and the suffragan Bishop
of Meath, were "clapped in ward," for publicly praying for the Pope's
weal and the King's conversion; another Bishop and friar were arrested
and carried to Trim, for similar offences, but were liberated without
trial, by Lord Deputy Gray; a friar of Waterford, in 1539, by order of
the St. Leger Commission, was executed in the habit of his order, on a
charge of "felony," and so left hanging "as a mirror for all his
brethren." Yet, with all this severity, and all the temptations held
out by the wealth of confiscated monasteries, none would abide the
preaching of the new religion except the "Lord Butler, the Master of
the Rolls (Allan), Mr. Treasurer (Brabazon), and one or two more of
small reputation."

The first test to which the firmness of the clergy had been put was in
the Parliament convoked at Dublin by Lord Deputy Gray, in May, 1537.
Anciently in such assemblies two proctors of each diocese, within the
Pale, had been accustomed to sit and vote in the Upper House as
representing their order, but the proposed tests of supremacy and
abjuration were so boldly resisted by the proctors and spiritual peers
on this occasion that the Lord Deputy was compelled to prorogue the
Parliament without attaining its assent to those measures. During the
recess a question was raised by the Crown lawyers as to the competency
of the proctors to vote, while admitting their right to be present as
councillors and assistants; this question, on an appeal to England, was
declared in the negative, whereupon that learned body were excluded
from all share in the future Irish legislation of this reign. Hence,
whoever else are answerable for the election of 1541 the proctors of
the clergy are not.

Having thus reduced the clerical opposition in the Upper House, the
work of monastic spoliation, covertly commenced two years before, under
the pretence of reforming abuses, was more confidently resumed. In
1536, an act had been passed vesting the property of all religious
houses in the Crown; at which time the value of their moveables was
estimated at 100,000 pounds and their yearly value at 32,000 pounds. In
1537, eight abbeys were suppressed during the King's pleasure; in 1538,
a commission issued for the suppression of monasteries; and in 1539,
twenty-four great Houses, whose Abbots and Priors had been lords of
Parliament, were declared "surrendered" to the King, and their late
superiors were granted pensions for life. How these "surrenders" were
procured we may judge from the case of Manus, Abbot of St. Mary's,
Thurles, who was carried prisoner to Dublin, and suffered a long
confinement for refusing to yield up his trust according to the desired
formula. The work of confiscation was in these first years confined to
the walled towns in English hands, the district of the Pale, and such
points of the Irish country as could be conveniently reached. The great
order of the Cistercians, established for more than four centuries at
Mellifont, at Monastereven, at Bective, at Jerpoint, at Tintern, and at
Dunbrody, were the first expelled from their cloisters and gardens. The
Canons regular of St. Augustine at Trim, at Conal, at Athassel and at
Kells, were next assailed by the degenerate Augustinian, who presided
over the commission. The orders of St. Victor, of Aroacia, of St. John
of Jerusalem, were extinguished wherever the arm of the Reformation
could reach. The mendicant orders, spread into every district of the
island, were not so easily erased from the soil; very many of the
Dominican and Franciscan houses standing and flourishing far into the
succeeding century.

If the influence of the clergy counterbalanced the policy of the
chiefs, the condition of the mass of the population—more especially of
the inhabitants of the Pale and the marches—was such as to make them
cherish the expectation that any governmental change whatever should be
for the better. It was, under these circumstances, a far-reaching
policy, which combined the causes and the remedy for social wrongs,
with invectives against the old, and arguments in favour of the new
religion. In order to understand what elements of discontent there were
to be wrought to such conclusions, it is enough to give the merest
glance at the social state of the lower classes under English
authority. The St. Leger Commission represents the mixed population of
the marches, and the Englishry of "the Pale" as burthened by
accumulated exactions. Their lords quartered upon them at pleasure
their horses, servants, and guests. They were charged with coin and
livery—that is, horse-meat and man's-meat —when their lords travelled
from place to place—with summer-oats, with providing for their
cosherings, or feasts, at Christmas and Easter, with "black men and
black money," for border defence, and with workmen and axemen from
every ploughland, to work in the ditches, or to hew passages for the
soldiery through the woods. Every aggravation of feudal wrong was
inflicted on this harassed population. When a le Poer or a Butler
married a daughter he exacted a sheep from every flock, and a cow from
every village. When one of his sons went to England, a special tribute
was levied on every village and ploughland to bear the young
gentleman's travelling expenses. When the heads of any of the great
houses hunted, their dogs were to be supplied by the tenants "with
bread and milk, or butter." In the towns tailors, masons, and
carpenters, were taxed for coin and livery; "mustrons" were employed in
building halls, castles, stables, and barns, at the expense of the
tenantry, for the sole use of the lord. The only effective law was an
undigested jumble of the Brehon, the Civil, and the Common law; with
the arbitrary ordinances of the marches, known as "the Statutes of
Kilcash"—so called from a border stronghold near the foot of
Slievenamon—a species of wild justice, resembling too often that
administered by Robin Hood, or Rob Roy.

Many circumstances concurring to promote plans so long cherished by
Henry, St. Leger summoned a Parliament for the morrow after Trinity
Sunday, being the 13th of the month of June, 1541. The attendance on
the day named was not so full as was expected, so the opening was
deferred till the following Thursday—being the feast of Corpus Christi.
On that festival the Mass of the Holy Ghost was solemnly celebrated in
St. Patrick's Cathedral, in which "two thousand persons" had assembled.
The Lords of Parliament rode in cavalcade to the Church doors, headed
by the Deputy. There were seen side by side in this procession the
Earls of Desmond and Ormond, the Lords Barry, Roche and Bermingham;
thirteen Barons of "the Pale," and a long train of Knights; Donogh
O'Brien, Tanist of Thomond, the O'Reilly, O'Moore and McWilliam;
Charles, son of Art Kavanagh, lord of Leinster, and Fitzpatrick, lord
of Ossory. Never before had so many Milesian chiefs and Norman barons
been seen together, except on the field of battle; never before had
Dublin beheld marshalled in her streets what could by any stretch of
imagination be considered a national representation. For this
singularity, not less than for the business it transacted, the
Parliament of 1541 will be held in lasting remembrance.

In the sanctuary of St. Patrick's, two Archbishops and twelve Bishops
assisted at the solemn mass, and the whole ceremony was highly
imposing. "The like thereof," wrote St. Leger to Henry, "has not been
seen here these many years." On the next day, Friday, the Commons
elected Sir Thomas Cusack speaker, who, in "a right solemn
proposition," opened at the bar of the Lords' House the main business
of the session—the establishment of King Henry's supremacy. To this
address Lord Chancellor Allen—"well and prudentlie answered;" and the
Commons withdrew to their own chamber. The substance of both speeches
was "briefly and prudentlie" declared in the Irish language to the
Gaelic Lords, by the Earl of Ormond, "greatly to their contentation."
Then St. Leger proposed that Henry and his heirs should have the title
of King, and caused the "bill devised for the same to be read." This
bill having been put to the Lords' House, both in Irish and English,
passed its three readings at the same sitting. In the Commons it was
adopted with equal unanimity the next day, when the Lord Deputy most
joyfully gave his consent. Thus on Saturday, June 19th, 1541, the
royalty of Ireland was first formally transferred to an English
dynasty. On that day the triumphant St. Leger was enabled to write his
royal master his congratulations on having added to his dignities
"another imperial crown." On Sunday bonfires were made in honour of the
event, guns fired, and wine on stoop was set in the streets. All
prisoners, except those for capital offences, were liberated; _Te Deum_
was sung in St. Patrick's, and King Henry issued his proclamation, on
receipt of the intelligence, for a general pardon throughout _all_ his
dominions. The new title was confirmed with great formality by the
English Parliament in their session of 1542. Proclamation was formally
made of it in London, on the 1st of July of that year, when it was
moreover declared that after that date all persons being lawfully
convicted of opposing the new dignity should "be adjudged high
traitors"—"and suffer the pains of death."

Thus was consummated the first political union of Ireland with England.
The strangely-constituted Assembly, which had given its sanction to the
arrangement, in the language of the Celt, the Norman, and the Saxon,
continued in session till the end of July, when they were prorogued
till November. They enacted several statutes, in completion of the
great change they had decreed; and while some prepared for a journey to
the court of their new sovereign, others returned to their homes, to
account as best they could for the part they had played at Dublin.


The Act of Election could hardly be considered as the Act of the Irish
nation, so long as several of the most distinguished chiefs withheld
their concurrence. With these, therefore, Saint Leger entered into
separate treaties, by separate instruments, agreed upon, at various
dates, during the years 1542 and 1543. Manus O'Donnell, lord of
Tyrconnell, gave in his adhesion in August, 1541, Con O'Neil, lord of
Tyrowen, Murrogh O'Brien, lord of Thomond, Art O'Moore, lord of Leix,
and Ulick Burke, lord of Clanrickarde, 1542 and 1543; but, during the
reign of Henry, no chief of the McCarthys, the O'Conors of Roscommon or
of Offally, entered into any such engagement. The election, therefore,
was far from unanimous, and Henry VIII. would perhaps be classed by our
ancient Senachies among the "Kings with opposition," who figure so
often in our Annals during the Middle Ages.

Assuming, however, the title conferred upon him with no little
complacency, Henry proceeded to exercise the first privilege of a
sovereign, the creation of honours. Murrogh O'Brien, chief of his name,
became Earl of Thomond, and Donogh, his nephew, Baron of Ibrackan;
Ulick McWilliam Burke became Earl of Clanrickarde and Baron of
Dunkellin; Hugh O'Donnell was made Earl of Tyrconnell; Fitzpatrick,
became Baron of Ossory, and Kavanagh, Baron of Ballyan; Con O'Neil was
made Earl of Tyrone, having asked, and been refused, the higher title
of Earl of Ulster. The order of Knighthood was conferred on several of
the principal attendants, and to each of the new peers the King granted
a house in or near Dublin, for their accommodation, when attending the
sittings of Parliament.

The imposing ceremonial of the transformation of these Celtic chiefs
into English Earls has been very minutely described by an eye-witness.
One batch were made at Greenwich Palace, after High Mass on Sunday, the
1st of July, 1543. The Queen's closet "was richly hanged with cloth of
arras and well strawed with rushes," for their robing room. The King
received them under a canopy of state, surrounded by his Privy Council,
the peers, spiritual and temporal, the Earl of Glencairn, Sir George
Douglas, and the other Scottish Commissioners. The Earls of Derby and
Ormond led in the new Earl of Thomond, Viscount Lisle carrying before
them the sword. The Chamberlain handed his letters patent to the
Secretary who read them down to the words _Cincturam gladii_, when the
King girt the kneeling Earl, baldric-wise, with the sword, all the
company standing. A similar ceremony was gone through with the others,
the King throwing a gold chain having a cross hanging to it round each
of their necks. Then, preceded by the trumpeters blowing, and the
officers at arms, they entered the dining hall, where, after the second
course, their titles were proclaimed aloud in Norman-French by Garter,
King at Arms. Nor did Henry, who prided himself on his munificence,
omit even more substantial tokens of his favour to the new Peers.
Besides the town houses near Dublin, before mentioned, he granted to
O'Brien all the abbeys and benefices of Thomond, bishoprics excepted;
to McWilliam Burke, all the parsonages and vicarages of Clanrickarde,
with one-third of the first-fruits, the Abbey of _Via Nova_ and 30
pounds a year compensation for the loss of the customs of Galway; to
Donogh O'Brien, the Abbey of Ellenegrane, the moiety of the Abbey of
Clare, and an annuity of 20 pounds a year. To the new lord of Ossory he
granted the monasteries of Aghadoe and Aghmacarte, with the right of
holding court lete and market, every Thursday, at his town of Aghadoe.
For these and other favours the recipients had been instructed to
petition the King, and drafts of such petitions had been drawn up in
anticipation of their arrival in England, by some official hand. The
petitions are quoted by most of our late historians as their own proper
act, but it is quite clear, though willing enough to present them and
to accept such gifts, they had never dictated them.

In the creation of this Peerage Henry proclaimed, in the most practical
manner possible, his determination to assimilate the laws and
institutions of Ireland to those of England. And the new made Earls,
forgetting their ancient relations to their clans—forgetting, as
O'Brien had answered St. Leger's first overtures three years before,
"that though he was captain of his nation he was still but one man," by
suing out royal patents for their lands, certainly consented to carry
out the King's plans. The Brehon law was doomed from the date of the
creation of the new Peers at Greenwich, for such a change entailed
among its first consequences a complete abrogation of the Gaelic
relations of clansman and chief.

By the Brehon law every member of a free clan was as truly a proprietor
of the tribe-land as the chief himself. He could sell his share, or the
interest in it, to any other member of the tribe—the origin, perhaps,
of what is now called tenant-right; he could not, however, sell to a
stranger without the consent of the tribe and the chief. The stranger
coming in under such an arrangement, held by a special tenure, yet if
he remained during the time of three lords he became thereby
naturalized. If the unnaturalized tenant withdrew of his own will from
the land he was obliged to leave all his improvements behind; but if he
was ejected he was entitled to get their full value. Those who were
immediate tenants of the chief, or of the church, were debarred this
privilege of tenant-right, and if unable to keep their holdings were
obliged to surrender them unreservedly to the church or the chief. All
the tribesmen, according to the extent of their possessions, were bound
to maintain the chief's household, and to sustain him, with men and
means, in his offensive and defensive wars. Such were, in brief, the
land laws in force over three-fourths of the country in the sixteenth
century; laws which partook largely of the spirit of an ancient
patriarchal justice, but which, in ages of movement, exchange, and
enterprise, would have been found the reverse of favourable to
individual freedom and national strength. There were not wanting, we
may be assured, many minds to whom this truth was apparent so early as
the age of Henry VIII. And it may not be unreasonable to suppose that
one of the advantages which the chief found in exchanging this
patriarchal position for a feudal Earldom would be the greater degree
of independence on the will of the tribe, which the new system
conferred on him. With the mass of the clansmen, however, for the very
same reason, the change was certain to be unpopular, if not odious. But
a still more serious change—a change of religion—was evidently
contemplated by those Earls who accepted the property of the
confiscated religious houses. The receiver of such estates could hardly
pretend to belong to the ancient religion of the country.

It is impossible to understand Irish history from the reign of Henry
VIII. till the fall of James II.—nearly two hundred years—without
constantly keeping in mind the dilemma of the chiefs and lords between
the requirements of the English Court on the one hand and of the native
clans on the other. Expected to obey and to administer conflicting
laws, to personate two characters, to speak two languages, to uphold
the old, yet to patronize the new order of things; distrusted at Court
if they inclined to the people, detested by the people if they leaned
towards the Court—a more difficult situation can hardly be conceived.
Their perilous circumstances brought forth a new species of Irish
character in the Chieftain-Earls of the Tudor and Stuart times. Not
less given to war than their forefathers, they were now compelled to
study the politician's part, even more than the soldier's. Brought
personally in contact with powerful Sovereigns, or pitted at home
against the Sydneys, Mountjoys, Chichesters, and Straffords, the
lessons of Bacon and Machiavelli found apt scholars in the halls of
Dunmanway and Dungannon. The multitude, in the meanwhile, saw only the
broad fact that the Chief had bowed his neck to the hated Saxon yoke,
and had promised, or would be by and by compelled, to introduce foreign
garrisons, foreign judges, and foreign laws, amongst the sons of the
Gael. Very early they perceived this; on the adhesion of O'Donnell to
the Act of Election, a part of his clansmen, under the lead of his own
son, rose up against his authority. A rival McWilliam was at once
chosen to the new Earl of Clanrickarde, in the West. Con O'Neil, the
first of his race who had accepted an English title, was imprisoned by
his son, John the Proud, and died of grief during his confinement.
O'Brien found, on his return from Greenwich, half his territory in
revolt; and this was the general experience of all Henry's electors.
Yet such was the power of the new Sovereign that, we are told in our
Annals, at the year 1547—the year of Henry's death—"no one dared give
food or protection" to those few patriotic chiefs who still held
obstinately out against the election of 1541.

The creation of a new peerage coincided in point of time with the first
unconditional nomination of new Bishops by the Crown. The Plantagenet
Kings, in common with all feudal Princes, had always claimed the right
of investing Bishops with their temporalities and legal dignities;
while, at the same time, they recognized in the See of Rome the seat
and centre of Apostolic authority. But Henry, excommunicated and
incorrigible, had procured from the Parliament of "the Pale," three
years before the Act of Election, the formal recognition of his
spiritual supremacy, under which he proceeded, as often as he had an
opportunity, to promote candidates for the episcopacy to vacant sees.
Between 1537 and 1547, thirteen or fourteen such vacancies having
occurred, he nominated to the succession whenever the diocese was
actually within his power. In this way the Sees of Dublin, Kildare,
Ferns, Ardagh, Emly, Tuam and Killaloe were filled up; while the
vacancies which occurred about the same period in Armagh, Clogher,
Clonmacnoise, Clonfert, Kilmore, and Down and Conor were supplied from
Rome. Many of the latter were allowed to take possession of their
temporalities—so far as they were within English power—by taking an
oath of allegiance, specially drawn for them. Others, when prevented
from so doing by the penalties of _praemunire_, delegated their
authority to Vicars General, who contrived to elude the provisions of
the statute. On the other hand, several of the King's Bishops, excluded
by popular hostility from the nominal sees, never resided upon them;
some of them spent their lives in Dublin, and others were entertained
as suffragans by Bishops in England.

In March, 1543, Primate Cromer, who had so resolutely led the early
opposition to Archbishop Browne, died, whereupon Pope Paul III.
appointed Robert Waucop, a Scotsman (by some writers called
_Venantius_), to the See of Armagh. This remarkable man, though
afflicted with blindness from his youth upwards, was a doctor of the
Sorbonne, and one of the most distinguished Prelates of his age. He
introduced the first Jesuit Fathers into Ireland, and to him is
attributed the establishment of that intimate intercourse between the
Ulster Princes and the See of Rome, which characterized the latter half
of the century. He assisted at the Council of Trent from 1545 to 1547,
was subsequently employed as Legate in Germany, and died abroad during
the reign of Edward VI. Simultaneously with the appointment of Primate
Waucop, Henry VIII. had nominated to the same dignity George Dowdal, a
native of Louth, formerly Prior of the crutched friars at Ardee, in
that county. Though Dowdal accepted the nomination, he did so without
acknowledging the King's supremacy in spirituals. On the contrary he
remained attached to the Holy See, and held his claims in abeyance,
during the lifetime of Waucop. On the death of the latter, he assumed
his rank, but was obliged to fly into exile, during the reign of
Edward. On the accession of Mary he was recalled from his place of
banishment in Brabant, and his first official act on returning home was
to proclaim a Jubilee for the public restoration of the Catholic

The King's Bishops during the last years of Henry, and the brief reign
of Edward, were, besides Browne of Dublin, Edward Staples, Bishop of
Meath, Matthew Saunders and Robert Travers, successively Bishops of
Leighlin, William Miagh and Thomas Lancaster, successively Bishops of
Kildare, and John Bale, Bishop of Ossory—all Englishmen. The only
native names, before the reign of Elizabeth, which we find associated
in any sense with the "reformation," are John Coyn, or Quin, Bishop of
Limerick, and Dominick Tirrey, Bishop of Cork and Cloyne. Dr. Quin was
promoted to the See in 1522, and resigned his charge in the year 1551.
He is called a "favourer" of the new doctrines, but it is not stated
how far he went in their support. His successor, Dr. William Casey, was
one of the six Bishops deprived by Queen Mary on her accession to the
throne. As Bishop Tirrey is not of the number—although he lived till
the third year of Mary's reign—we may conclude that he became
reconciled to the Holy See.

The native population became, before Henry's death, fully aroused to
the nature of the new doctrines, to which at first they had paid so
little attention. The Commission issued in 1539 to Archbishop Browne
and others for the destruction of images and relics, and the prevention
of pilgrimages, as well as the ordering of English prayers as a
substitute for the Mass, brought home to all minds the sweeping
character of the change. Our native Annals record the breaking out of
the English schism from the year 1537, though its formal introduction
into Ireland may, perhaps, be more accurately dated from the issuing of
the Ecclesiastical Commission of 1539. In their eyes it was the
offspring of "pride, vain-glory, avarice, and lust," and its first
manifestations were well calculated to make it for ever odious on Irish
soil. "They destroyed the religious orders," exclaimed the Four
Masters! "They broke down the monasteries, and sold their roofs and
bells, from Aran of the Saints to the Iccian Sea!" "They burned the
images, shrines, and relics of the Saints; they destroyed the Statue of
our Lady of Trim, and the Staff of Jesus, which had been in the hand of
St. Patrick!" Such were the works of that Commission as seen by the
eyes of Catholics, natives of the soil. The Commissioners themselves,
however, gloried in their work, and pointed with complacency to their
success. The "innumerable images" which adorned the churches were
dashed to pieces; the ornaments of shrines and altars, when not
secreted in time, were torn from their places, and beaten into
shapeless masses of metal. This harvest yielded in the first year
nearly 3,000 pounds, on an inventory, wherein we find 1,000 lbs. weight
of wax, manufactured into candles and tapers, valued at 20 pounds. Such
was the return made to the revenue; what share of the spoil was
appropriated by the agents employed may never be known. It would be
absurd, however, to expect a scrupulous regard to honesty in men
engaged in the work of sacrilege! And this work, it must be added, was
carried on in the face of the stipulation entered into with the
Parliament of 1541, that "the Church of Ireland shall be free, and
enjoy all its accustomed privileges."

The death of Henry, in January, 1547, found the Reformation in Ireland
at the stage just described. But though all attempts to diffuse a
general recognition of his spiritual power had failed, his reign will
ever be memorable as the epoch of the union of the English and Irish
Crowns. Before closing the present Book of our History, in which we
have endeavoured to account for that great fact, and to trace the
progress of the negotiations which led to its accomplishment, we must
briefly review the relations existing between the Kings of England and
the Irish nation, from Henry II. to Henry VIII.

If we are to receive a statement of considerable antiquity, a memorable
compromise effected at the Council of Constance, between the
ambassadors of France and England, as to who should take precedence,
turned mainly on this very point. The French monarchy was then at its
lowest, the English at its highest pitch, for Charles VI. was but a
nominal sovereign of France, while the conqueror of Agincourt sat on
the throne of England. Yet in the first assembly of the Prelates and
Princes of Europe, we are told that the ambassadors of France raised a
question of the right of the English envoys to be received as
representing a nation, seeing that they had been conquered not only by
the Romans, but by the Saxons. Their argument further was, that, "as
the Saxons were tributaries to the German Empire, and never governed by
native sovereigns, they [the English] should take place as a branch
only of the German empire, and not as a free nation. For," argued the
French, "it is evident from Albertus Magnus and Bartholomew Glanville,
that the world is divided into three parts, Europe, Asia, and
Africa;—that Europe is divided into four empires, the Roman,
Constantinopolitan, the Irish, and the Spanish." "The English
advocates," we are told, "admitting the force of these allegations,
claimed their precedency and rank from Henry's being monarch of
Ireland, and it was accordingly granted."

If this often-told anecdote is of any historical value, it only shows
the ignorance of the representatives of France in yielding their
pretensions on so poor a quibble. Neither Henry V., nor any other
English sovereign before him, had laid claim to the title of "Monarch
of Ireland." The indolence or ignorance of modern writers has led them,
it is true, to adopt the whole series of the Plantagenet Kings as
sovereigns of Ireland—to set up in history a dynasty which never
existed for us; to leave out of their accounts of a monarchical people
all question of their crown; and to pass over the election of 1541
without adequate, or any inquiry.

It is certain that neither Henry II., nor Richard I., ever used in any
written instrument, or graven sign, the style of king, or even lord of
Ireland; though in the Parliament held at Oxford in the year 1185,
Henry conferred on his youngest son, John _lack-land_, a title which he
did not himself possess, and John is thenceforth known in English
history as "Lord of Ireland." This honour was not, however, of the
exclusive nature of sovereignty, else John could hardly have borne it
during the lifetime of his father and brother. And although we read
that Cardinal Octavian was sent into England by Pope Urban III.,
authorized to consecrate John, _King_ of Ireland, no such consecration
took place, nor was the lordship looked upon, at any period, as other
than a creation of the royal power of England existing in Ireland,
which could be recalled, transferred, or alienated, without detriment
to the prerogative of the King.

Neither had this original view of the relations existing between
England and Ireland undergone any change at the time of the Council of
Constance. Of this we have a curious illustration in the style employed
by the Queen Dowager of Henry V., who, during the minority of her son,
granted charters, as "Queen of England and France, and lady of
Ireland." The use of different crowns in the coronations of all the
Tudors subsequent to Henry VIII. shows plainly how the recent origin of
their secondary title was understood and acknowledged during the
remainder of the sixteenth century. Nothing of the kind was practised
at the coronation of the Plantagenet Princes, nor were the arms of
Ireland quartered with those of England previous to the period we have
described—the memorable year, 1541.



On the last day of January, 1547, Edward, son of Henry, by Lady Jane
Seymour, was crowned by the title of Edward VI. He was then only nine
years old, and was destined to wear the crown but for six years and a
few months. No Irish Parliament was convened during his reign, but the
Reformation was pushed on with great vigour, at first under the
patronage of the Protector, his uncle, and subsequently of that uncle's
rival, the Duke of Northumberland. Archbishop Cranmer suffered the zeal
of neither of these statesmen to flag for want of stimulus, and the
Lord Deputy Saint Leger, judging from the cause of his disgrace in the
next reign, approved himself a willing assistant in the work.

The Irish Privy Council, which exercised all the powers of government
during this short reign, was composed exclusively of partizans of the
Reformation. Besides Archbishop Browne and Staples, Bishop of Meath,
its members were the Chancellor, Read, and the Treasurer, Brabazon,
both English, with the Judges Aylmer, Luttrel, Bath, Cusack, and
Howth—all proselytes, at least in form, to the new opinions. The Earl
of Ormond, with sixteen of his household, having been poisoned at a
banquet in Ely House, London, in October before Henry's death, the
influence of that great house was wielded during the minority of his
successor by Sir Francis Bryan, an English adventurer, who married the
widowed countess. This lady being, moreover, daughter and heir general
to James, Earl of Desmond, brought Bryan powerful connections in the
South, which he was not slow to turn to a politic account. His ambition
aimed at nothing less than the supreme authority, military and civil;
but when at length he attained the summit of his hopes, he only lived
to enjoy them a few months.

To enable the Deputy and Council to carry out the work they had begun,
an additional military force was felt to be necessary, and Sir Edward
Bellingham was sent over, soon after Edward's accession, with a
detachment of six hundred horse, four hundred foot, and the title of
Captain General. This able officer, in conjunction with Sir Francis
Bryan, who appears to have been everywhere, overran Offally, Leix, Ely
and West-Meath, sending the chiefs of the two former districts as
prisoners to London, and making advantageous terms with those of the
latter. He was, however, supplanted in the third year of Edward by
Bryan, who held successively the rank of Marshal of Ireland and Lord
Deputy. To the latter office he was chosen on an emergency, by the
Council, in December, 1549, but died at Clonmel, on an expedition
against the O'Carrolls, in the following February. His successes and
those of Bellingham hastened the reduction of Leix and Offally into
shire ground in the following reign.

The total military force at the disposal of Edward's commanders was
probably never less than 10,000 effective men. By the aid of their
abundant artillery, they were enabled to take many strong places
hitherto deemed impregnable to assault. The mounted men and infantry,
were, as yet, but partially armed with musquetons, or firelocks—for the
spear and the bow still found advocates among military men. The
spearmen or lancers were chiefly recruited on the marches of
Northumberland from the hardy race of border warriors; the mounted
bowmen or hobilers were generally natives of Chester or North Wales.
Between these new comers and the native Anglo-Irish troops many
contentions arose from time to time, but in the presence of the common
foe these bickerings were completely forgotten. The townsmen of
Waterford marched promptly at a call, under their standard of the three
galleys, and those of Dublin as cheerfully turned out under the
well-known banner, decorated with three flaming towers.

The _personnel_ of the administration, in the six years of Edward, was
continually undergoing change. Bellingham, who succeeded St. Leger, was
supplanted by Bryan, on whose death, St. Leger was reappointed. After
another year Sir James Croft was sent over to replace St. Leger, and
continued to fill the office until the accession of Queen Mary. But
whoever rose or fell to the first rank in civil affairs, the Privy
Council remained exclusively Protestant, and the work of innovation was
not suffered to languish. A manuscript account, attributed to Adam
Loftus, Browne's successor, assigns the year 1549 as the date when "the
Mass was put down," in Dublin, "and divine service was celebrated in
English." Bishop Mant, the historian of the Established Church in
Ireland, does not find any account of such an alteration, nor does the
statement appear to him consistent with subsequent facts of this reign.
We observe, also, that in 1550, Arthur Magennis, the Pope's Bishop of
Dromore, was allowed by the government to enter on possession of his
temporalities after taking an oath of allegiance, while King's Bishops
were appointed in that and the next two years to the vacant Sees of
Kildare, Leighlin, Ossory, and Limerick. A vacancy having occurred in
the See of Cashel, in 1551, it was unaccountably left vacant, as far as
the Crown was concerned, during the remainder of this reign, while a
similar vacancy in Armagh was filled, at least in name, by the
appointment of Dr. Hugh Goodacre, chaplain to the Bishop of Winchester,
and a favourite preacher with the Princess Elizabeth. This Prelate was
consecrated, according to a new form, in Christ Church, Dublin, on 2nd
of February, 1523, together with his countryman, John Bale, Bishop of
Ossory. The officiating Prelates were Browne, Staples, and Lancaster of
Kildare—all English. The Irish Establishment, however, does not at all
times rest its argument for the validity of its episcopal Order upon
these consecrations. Most of their writers lay claim to the Apostolic
succession, through Adam Loftus, consecrated in England, according to
the ancient rite, by Hugh Curwen, an Archbishop in communion with the
See of Rome, at the time of his elevation to the episcopacy.

In February, 1551, Sir Anthony St. Leger received the King's commands
to cause the Scriptures translated into the English tongue, and the
Liturgy and Prayers of the Church, also translated into English, to be
read in all the churches of Ireland. To render these instructions
effective, the Deputy summoned a convocation of the Archbishops,
Bishops, and Clergy, to meet in Dublin on the 1st of March, 1551. In
this meeting—the first of two in which the defenders of the old and of
the new religion met face to face—the Catholic party was led by the
intrepid Dowdal, Archbishop of Armagh, and the Reformers by Archbishop
Browne. The Deputy, who, like most laymen of that age, had a strong
theological turn, also took an active part in the discussion. Finally
delivering the royal order to Browne, the latter accepted it in a set
form of words, without reservation; the Anglican Bishops of Meath,
Kildare, and Leighlin, and Coyne, Bishop of Limerick, adhering to his
act; Primate Dowdal, with the other Bishops, having previously retired
from the Conference. On Easter day following, the English service was
celebrated for the first time in Christ Church, Dublin, the Deputy, the
Archbishop, and the Mayor of the city assisting. Browne preached from
the text: "Open mine eyes that I may see the wonders of the law"—a
sermon chiefly remarkable for its fierce invective against the new
Order of Jesuits.

Primate Dowdal retired from the Castle Conference to Saint Mary's
Abbey, on the north side of the Liffey, where he continued while these
things were taking place in the city proper. The new Lord Deputy, Sir
James Crofts, on his arrival in May, addressed himself to the Primate,
to bring about, if possible, an accommodation between the Prelates.
Fearing, as he said, an "order ere long to alter church matters, as
well in offices as in ceremonies," the new Deputy urged another
Conference, which was accordingly held at the Primate's lodgings, on
the 16th of June. At this meeting Browne does not seem to have been
present, the argument on the side of the Reformers being maintained by
Staples. The points discussed were chiefly the essential character of
the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the invocation of Saints. The tone
observed on both sides was full of high-bred courtesy. The letter of
the Sacred Scriptures and the authority of Erasmus in Church History
were chiefly relied upon by Staples; the common consent and usage of
all Christendom, the primacy of Saint Peter, and the binding nature of
the oath taken by Bishops at their consecration, were pointed out by
the Primate. The disputants parted, with expressions of deep regret
that they could come to no agreement; but the Primacy was soon
afterwards transferred to Dublin, by order of the Privy Council, and
Dowdal fled for refuge into Brabant. The Roman Catholic and the
Anglican Episcopacy have never since met in oral controversy on Irish
ground, though many of the second order of the clergy in both
communions have, from time to time, been permitted by their superiors
to engage in such discussions.

Whatever obstacles they encountered within the Church itself, the
propagation of the new religion was not confined to moral means, nor
was the spirit of opposition at all tunes restricted to mere argument.
Bishop Bale having begun at Kilkenny to pull down the revered images of
the Saints, and to overturn the Market Cross, was set upon by the mob,
five of his servants, or guard, were slain, and himself narrowly
escaped with his life by barricading himself in his palace. The
garrisons in the neighbourhood of the ancient seats of ecclesiastical
power and munificence were authorized to plunder their sanctuaries and
storehouses. The garrison of Down sacked the celebrated shrines and
tomb of Patrick, Bridget, and Columbkill; the garrison of Carrickfergus
ravaged Rathlin Island and attacked Derry, from which, however, they
were repulsed with severe loss by John the Proud. But the most
lamentable scene of spoliation, and that which excited the profoundest
emotions of pity and anger in the public mind, was the violation of the
churches of St. Kieran—the renowned Clonmacnoise. This city of schools
had cast its cross-crowned shade upon the gentle current of the Upper
Shannon for a thousand years. Danish fury, civil storm, and Norman
hostility had passed over it, leaving traces of their power in the
midst of the evidences of its recuperation. The great Church to which
pilgrims flocked from every tribe of Erin, on the 9th of September—St.
Kieran's Day; the numerous chapels erected by the chiefs of all the
neighbouring clans; the halls, hospitals, book-houses, nunneries,
cemeteries, granaries—all still stood, awaiting from Christian hands
the last fatal blow. In the neighbouring town of Athlone—seven or eight
miles distant—the Treasurer, Brabazon, had lately erected a strong
"Court" or Castle, from which, in the year 1552, the garrison sallied
forth to attack "the place of the sons of the nobles,"—which is the
meaning of the name. In executing this task they exhibited a fury
surpassing that of Turgesius and his Danes. The pictured glass was torn
from the window frames, and the revered images from their niches;
altars were overthrown; sacred vessels polluted. "They left not," say
the Four Masters, "a book or a gem," nor anything to show what
Clonmacnoise had been, save the bare walls of the temples, the mighty
shaft of the round tower, and the monuments in the cemeteries, with
their inscriptions in Irish, in Hebrew, and in Latin. The Shannon
re-echoed with their profane songs and laughter, as laden with chalices
and crucifixes, brandishing croziers, and flaunting vestments in the
air, their barges returned to the walls of Athlone.

In all the Gaelic speaking regions of Ireland, the new religion now
began to be known by those fruits which it had so abundantly produced.
Though the southern and midland districts had not yet recovered from
the exhaustion consequent upon the suppression of the Geraldine league
and the abortive insurrection of Silken Thomas, the northern tribes
were still unbroken and undismayed. They had deputed George Paris, a
kinsman of the Kildare Fitzgeralds, as their agent to the French King,
in the latter days of Henry VIII., and had received two ambassadors on
his behalf at Donegal and Dungannon. These ambassadors, the Baron de
Forquevaux, and the Sieur de Montluc, who subsequently became Bishop of
Valence, crossing over from the west of Scotland, entered into a
league, offensive and defensive, with "the princes" of Tyrconnell and
Tyrowen, by which the latter bound themselves to recognize, on certain
conditions, "whoever was King of France as King of Ireland likewise."
This alliance, though prolonged into the reign of Edward, led to
nothing definitive, and we shall see in the next reign how the hopes
then turned towards France were naturally transferred to Spain.

The only native name which rises into historic importance at this
period is that of Shane, or John O'Neil, "the Proud." He was the
legitimate son of that Con O'Neil who had been girt with the Earl's
baldric by the hands of Henry VIII. His father had procured at the same
time for an illegitimate son, Ferodach, or Mathew, of Dundalk, the
title of Baron of Dungannon, with the reversion of the Earldom. When,
however, John the Proud came of age, he centred upon himself the hopes
of his clansmen, deposed his father, subdued the Baron, and assumed the
title of O'Neil. In 1552 he defeated the efforts of Sir William
Brabazon to fortify Belfast, and delivered Derry from its plunderers.
From that time till his tragical death, in the ninth year of Queen
Elizabeth, he stood unquestionably the first man of his race, both in
lineage and action.


The death of Edward VI. and the accession of the lady Mary were known
in Dublin by the middle of July, 1553, and soon spread all over the
kingdom. On the 20th of that month, the form of proclamation was
received from London, in which the new Queen was forbidden to be styled
"head of the church," and this was quickly followed by another
ordinance, authorizing all who would to publicly attend Mass, but not
compelling thereto any who were unwilling. A curious legal difficulty
existed in relation to Mary's title to the Crown of Ireland. By the
Irish Statute, 38. Hen. VIII., the Irish crown was entailed by name on
the Lady Elizabeth, and that act had not been repealed. It was,
however, held to have been superseded by the English Statute, 35. Hen.
VIII., which followed the election of 1541, and declared the Crown of
Ireland "united and knit to the Imperial Crown of the Realm of
England." Read in the light of the latter statute, the Irish
sovereignty might be regarded a mere appurtenance of that of England,
but Mary did not so consider it. At her coronation, a separate crown
was used for Ireland, nor did she feel assured of the validity of her
claim to wear it till she had obtained a formal dispensation to that
effect from the Pope.

The intelligence of the new Queen's accession, and the public
restoration of the old religion, diffused a general joy throughout
Ireland. Festivals and pageants were held in the streets, and eloquent
sermons poured from all the pulpits. Archbishop Dowdal was called from
exile, and the Primacy was restored to Armagh. Sir Anthony St. Leger,
his ancient antagonist, had now conformed to the Court fashion, and was
sent over to direct the establishment of that religion which he had
been so many years engaged in pulling down. In 1554, Browne, Staples,
Lancaster, and Travers, were formally deprived of their sees; Bale and
Casey of Limerick fled beyond seas, without awaiting judgment. Married
clergymen were invariably silenced, and the children of Browne were
declared by statute illegitimate.

What, however, gratified the public even more than these retributions
was the liberation of the aged Chief of Offally from the Tower of
London, at the earnest supplication of his heroic daughter, Margaret,
who found her way to the Queen's presence to beg that boon; and the
simultaneous restoration of the Earldom of Kildare, in the person of
that Gerald, who had been so young a fugitive among the glens of
Muskerry and Donegal, and had since undergone so many continental
adventures. With O'Conor and young Gerald, the heirs of the houses of
Ormond and of Upper Ossory were also allowed to return to their homes,
to the great delight of the southern half of the kingdom. The
subsequent marriage of Mary with Philip II. of Spain gave an additional
security to the Irish Catholics for the future freedom of their

Great as was the change in this respect, it is not to be inferred that
the national relations of Ireland and England were materially affected
by such a change of sovereign. The maxims of conquest were not to be
abandoned at the dictates of religion. The supreme power continued to
be entrusted only to Englishmen; while the same Parliament (3rd and 4th
Philip and Mary) which abolished the title of head of the Church, and
restored the Roman jurisdiction in matters spiritual, divided Leix and
Offally, Glenmalier and Slewmargy, into shire ground, subject to
English law, under the name of King's and Queen's County. The new forts
of Maryborough and Philipstown, as well as the county names, served to
teach the people of Leinster that the work of conquest could be as
industriously prosecuted by Catholic as by Protestant rulers. Nor were
these forts established and maintained without many a struggle. St.
Leger, and his still abler successor, the Earl of Sussex, and the new
Lord Treasurer, Sir Henry Sidney, were forced to lead many an
expedition to the relief of those garrisons, and the dispersion of
their assailants. It was not in Irish human nature to submit to the
constant pressure of a foreign power without seizing every possible
opportunity for its expulsion.

The new principle of primogeniture introduced at the commutation of
chieftainries into earldoms was productive in this reign of much
commotion and bloodshed. The seniors of the O'Briens resisted its
establishment in Thomond, on the death of the first Earl; Calvagh
O'Donnell took arms against his father, to defeat its introduction into
Tyrconnell; John the Proud, as we have seen in the reign of Edward, had
been one of its earliest opponents in Ulster. Being accused in the last
year of Queen Mary of procuring the death of his illegitimate brother,
the Baron of Dungannon, in order to remove him from his path, he was
summoned to account for those circumstances before Sir Henry Sidney,
then acting as Lord Justice. His plea has been preserved to us, and no
doubt represents the prevailing opinion of the Gaelic-speaking
population towards the new system. He answered, "that the surrender
which his father had made to Henry VIII., and the restoration which
Henry made to his father again were of no force; inasmuch as his father
had no right to the lands which he surrendered to the King, except
during his own life; that he (John) himself was the O'Neil by the law
of Tanistry, and by popular election; and that he assumed no
superiority over the chieftains of the North except what belonged to
his ancestors." To these views he adhered to the last, accepting no
English honours, though quite willing to live at peace with English
sovereigns. When the title of Earl of Tyrone was revived, it was in
favour of the son of the Baron, the celebrated Hugh O'Neil, the ally of
Spain, and the most formidable antagonist of Queen Elizabeth.

In the Irish Parliament already referred to (3rd and 4th Philip and
Mary) an Act was passed declaring it a felony to introduce armed
Scotchmen into Ireland, or to intermarry with them without a license
under the great seal. This statute was directed against those
multitudes of Islesmen and Highlanders who annually crossed the narrow
strait which separates Antrim from Argyle to harass the English
garrisons alongshore, or to enlist as auxiliaries in Irish quarrels. In
1556, under one of their principal leaders, James, son of Conal, they
laid siege to Carrickfergus and occupied Lord Sussex some six weeks in
the glens of Antrim. Their leader finally entered into conditions, the
nature of which may be inferred from the fact that he received the
honour of knighthood on their acceptance. John O'Neil had usually in
his service a number of these mercenary troops, from among whom he
selected sixty body-guards, the same number supplied by his own clan.
In his first attempt to subject Tyrconnell to his supremacy in 1557,
his camp near Raphoe was surprised at night by Calvagh O'Donnell, and
his native and foreign guards were put to the sword, while he himself
barely escaped by swimming the Mourne and the Finn. O'Donnell had
frequently employed a similar force, in his own defence; and we read of
the Lord of Clanrickarde driving back a host of them engaged in the
service of his rivals, from the banks of the Moy, in 1558.

Although the memory of Queen Mary has been held up to execration during
three centuries as a bloody-minded and malignant persecutor of all who
differed from her in religion, it is certain that in Ireland, where, if
anywhere, the Protestant. minority might have been extinguished by such
severities as are imputed to her, no persecution for conscience' sake
took place. Married Bishops were deprived, and married priests were
silenced, but beyond this no coercion was employed. It has been said
there was not time to bring the machinery to bear; but surely if there
was time to do so in England, within the space of five years, there was
time in Ireland also. The consoling truth—honourable to human nature
and to Christian charity, is—that many families out of England,
apprehending danger in their own country, sought and found a refuge
from their fears in the western island. The families of Agar, Ellis,
and Harvey, are descended from emigrants, who were accompanied from
Cheshire by a clergyman of their own choice, whose ministrations they
freely enjoyed during the remainder of this reign at Dublin. The story
about Dr. Cole having been despatched to Ireland with a commission to
punish heretics, and, losing it on the way, is unworthy of serious
notice. If there had been any such determination formed there was ample
time to put it into execution between 1553 and 1558.


The daughter of Anna Boleyn was promptly proclaimed Queen the same day
on which Mary died—the 17th of November, 1558. Elizabeth was then in
her 26th year, proud of her beauty, and confident in her abilities. Her
great capacity had been cultivated by the best masters of the age, and
the best of all ages, early adversity. Her vices were hereditary in her
blood, but her genius for government so far surpassed any of her
immediate predecessors as to throw her vices into the shade. During the
forty-four years in which she wielded the English sceptre, many of the
most stirring occurrences of our history took place; it could hardly
have fallen out otherwise, under a sovereign of so much vigour, having
the command of such immense resources.

On the news of Mary's death reaching Ireland, the Lord Deputy Sussex
returned to England, and Sir Henry Sidney, the Treasurer, was appointed
his successor _ad interim_. As in England, so in Ireland, though for
somewhat different reasons, the first months of the new reign were
marked by a conciliating and temporizing policy. Elizabeth, who had not
assumed the title of "Head of the Church," continued to hear Mass for
several months after her accession. At her coronation she had a High
Mass sung, accompanied, it is true, by a Calvinistic sermon. Before
proceeding with the work of "reformation," inaugurated by her father,
and arrested by her sister, she proceeded cautiously to establish
herself, and her Irish deputy followed in the same careful line of
conduct. Having first made a menacing demonstration against John the
Proud, he entered into friendly correspondence with him, and finally
ended the campaign by standing godfather to one of his children. This
relation of gossip among the old Irish was no mere matter of ceremony,
but involved obligations lasting as life, and sacred as the ties of
kindred blood. By seeking such a sponsor, O'Neil placed himself in
Sidney's power, rather than Sidney in his, since the two men must have
felt very differently bound by the connection into which they had
entered. As an evidence of the Imperial policy of the moment, the
incident is instructive.

Round the personal history of this splendid, but by no means stainless
Ulster Prince, the events of the first nine years of Elizabeth's reign
over Ireland naturally group themselves. Whether at her Majesty's
council-board, or among the Scottish islands, or in hall or hut at
home, the attention of all manner of men interested in Ireland was
fixed upon the movements of John the Proud. In tracing his career, we
therefore naturally gather all, or nearly all, the threads of the
national story, during the first ten years of Queen Mary's successor.

In the second year of Elizabeth, Lord Deputy Sussex, who returned fully
possessed of her Majesty's views, summoned the Parliament to meet in
Dublin on the 12th day of January, 1560. It is to be observed, however,
that though the union of the crowns was now of twenty years' standing,
the writs were not issued to the nation at large, but only to the ten
counties of Dublin, Meath, Louth, West-Meath, Kildare, Carlow,
Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford, and Tipperary, with their boroughs. The
published instructions of Lord Sussex were "to make such statutes
(concerning religion) as were made in England, _mutatis mutandis_." As
a preparation for the legislature, St. Patrick's Cathedral and Christ
Church were purified by paint; the niches of the Saints were for the
second time emptied of their images; texts of Scripture were blazoned
upon the walls, and the Litany was chanted in English. After these
preparatory demonstrations, the Deputy opened the new Parliament, which
sat for one short but busy month. The Acts of Mary's Parliament,
re-establishing ecclesiastical relations with Rome, were the first
thing repealed; then so much of the Act 33, Henry VIII., as related to
the succession, was revived; all ecclesiastical jurisdiction was next
declared vested in the Crown, and all "judges, justices, mayors, and
temporal officers were declared bound to take tie oath of supremacy;"
the penalty attached to the refusal of the oath, by this statute, being
"forfeiture of office and promotion during life." Proceeding rapidly in
the same direction, it was declared that commissioners in
ecclesiastical causes should adjudge nothing as heresy which was not
expressly so condemned by the Canonical Scriptures, the received
General Councils, or by Parliament. The penalty of _praemunire_ was
declared in force, and, to crown the work, the celebrated "Act of
Uniformity" was passed. This was followed by other statutes for the
restoration of first fruits and twentieths, and for the appointment of
Bishops by the royal prerogative, or _conge d'elire_—elections by the
chapter being declared mere "shadows of election, and derogatory to the
prerogative." Such was, in brief, the legislation of that famous
Parliament of ten counties—the often quoted statutes of the "2nd of
Elizabeth." In the Act of Uniformity, the best known of all its
statutes, there was this curious saving clause inserted: that whenever
the "priest or common minister" could not speak English, he might still
continue "to celebrate the service in the Latin tongue." Such other
observances were to be had as were prescribed by the 2nd Edward VI.,
until her Majesty should "publish further ceremonies or rites." We have
no history of the debates of this Parliament of a month, but there is
ample reason to believe that some of these statutes were resisted
throughout by a majority of the Upper House, still chiefly composed of
Catholic Peers; that the clause saving the Latin ritual was inserted as
a compromise with this opposition; that some of the other Acts were
passed by stealth in the absence of many members, and that the Lord
Deputy gave his solemn pledge the statute of Uniformity should be
enforced, if passed. So severe was the struggle, and so little
satisfied was Sussex with his success, that he hastily dissolved the
Houses and went over personally to England to represent the state of
feeling he had encountered. Finally, it is remarkable that no other
Parliament was called in Ireland till nine years afterwards—a
convincing proof of how unmanageable that body, even constituted as it
was, had shown itself to be in matters affecting religion.

The non-invitation of the Irish chiefs to this Parliament, contrary to
the precedent set in Mary's reign and in 1541, the laws enacted, and
the commotion they excited in the minds of the clergy, were
circumstances which could not fail to attract the attention of John
O'Neil. Even if insensible to what transpired at Dublin, the
indefatigable Sussex—one of the ablest of Elizabeth's able Court—did
not suffer him long to misunderstand his relations to the new Queen. He
might be Sidney's gossip, but he was not the less Elizabeth's enemy. He
had been proclaimed "O'Neil" on the rath of Tullahoge, and had reigned
at Dungannon, adjudging life and death. It was clear that two such
jurisdictions as the Celtic and the Norman kingship could not stand
long on the same soil, and the Ulster Prince soon perceived that he
must establish his authority, by arms, or perish with it. We must also
read all Irish events of the time of Elizabeth by the light of foreign
politics; during the long reign of that sovereign, England was never
wholly free from fears of invasion, and many movements which now seem
inexplicable will be readily understood when we recollect that they
took place under the menaces of foreign powers.

The O'Neils had anciently exercised a high-handed superiority over all
Ulster, and John the Proud was not the man to let his claim lie idle in
any district of that wide-spread Province. But authority which has
fallen into decay must be asserted only at a propitious time, and with
the utmost tact; and here it was that Elizabeth's statesmen found their
most effective means of attacking O'Neil. O'Donnell, who was his
father-in-law, was studiously conciliated; his second wife, a lady of
the Argyle family, received costly presents from the Queen; O'Reilly
was created Earl of Breffni, and encouraged to resist the superiority
to which the house of Dungannon laid claim. The natural consequences
followed; John the Proud swept like a storm over the fertile hills of
Cavan, and compelled the new-made Earl to deliver him tribute and
hostages. O'Donnell, attended only by a few of his household, was
seized in a religious house upon Lough Swilly, and subjected to every
indignity which an insolent enemy could devise. His Countess, already
alluded to, supposed to have been privy to this surprise of her
husband, became the mistress of his captor and jailer, to whom she bore
several children. What deepens the horror of this odious domestic
tragedy is the fact that the wife of O'Neil, the daughter of O'Donnell,
thus supplanted by her shameless stepmother, under her own roof, died
soon afterwards of "horror, loathing, grief, and deep anguish," at the
spectacle afforded by the private life of O'Neil, and the severities
inflicted upon her wretched father. All the patriotic designs, and all
the shining abilities of John the Proud, cannot abate a jot of our
detestation of such a private life; though slandered in other respects
as he was, by hostile pens, no evidence has been adduced to clear his
memory of these indelible stains; nor after becoming acquainted with
their existence can we follow his after career with that heartfelt
sympathy with which the lives of purer patriots must always inspire us.

The pledge given by Sussex, that the penal legislation of 1560 should
lie a dead letter, was not long observed. In May of the year following
its enactment, a commission was appointed to enforce the 2nd Elizabeth,
in West-Meath; and in 1562 a similar commission was appointed for Meath
and Armagh. By these commissioners Dr. William Walsh, Catholic Bishop
of Meath, was arraigned and imprisoned for preaching against the new
liturgy; a Prelate who afterwards died an exile in Spain. The primatial
see was for the moment vacant, Archbishop Dowdal having died at London
three months before Queen Mary—on the Feast of the Assumption, 1558.
Terence, Dean of Armagh, who acted as administrator, convened a Synod
of the English-speaking clergy of the Province in July, 1559, at
Drogheda, but as this dignitary followed in the steps of his faithful
predecessors, his deanery was conferred upon Dr. Adam Loftus, Chaplain
of the Lord Lieutenant; two years subsequently the dignity of
Archbishop of Armagh was conferred upon the same person. Dr. Loftus, a
native of Yorkshire, had found favour in the eyes of the Queen at a
public exhibition at Cambridge University; he was but 28 years old,
according to Sir James Ware, when consecrated Primate—but Dr. Mant
thinks he must have attained at least the canonical age of 30. During
the whole of this reign he continued to reside at Dublin, which see was
early placed under his jurisdiction in lieu of the inaccessible Armagh.
For forty years he continued one of the ruling spirits at Dublin,
whether acting as Lord Chancellor, Lord Justice, Privy Councillor, or
First Provost of Trinity College. He was a pluralist in Church and
State, insatiable of money and honours; if he did not greatly assist in
establishing his religion, he was eminently successful in enriching his

Having subdued every hostile neighbour and openly assumed the high
prerogative of Prince of Ulster, John the Proud looked around him for
allies in the greater struggle which he foresaw could not be long
postponed. Calvagh O'Donnell was yielded up on receiving a munificent
ransom, but his infamous wife remained with her paramour. A negotiation
was set on foot with the chiefs of the Highland and Island Scots, large
numbers of whom entered into O'Neil's service. Emissaries were
despatched to the French Court, where they found a favourable
reception, as Elizabeth was known to be in league with the King of
Navarre and the Huguenot leaders against Francis II. The unexpected
death of the King at the close of 1560; the return of his youthful
widow, Queen Mary, to Scotland; the vigorous regency of Catherine de
Medicis during the minority of her second son; the ill-success of
Elizabeth's arms during the campaigns of 1561-2-3, followed by the
humiliating peace of April, 1564—these events are all to be borne in
memory when considering the extraordinary relations which were
maintained during the same years by the proud Prince of Ulster, with
the still prouder Queen of England. The apparently contradictory
tactics pursued by the Lord Deputy Sussex, between his return to Dublin
in the spring of 1561, and his final recall in 1564, when read by the
light of events which transpired at Paris, London, and Edinburgh,
become easily intelligible. In the spring of the first mentioned year,
it was thought possible to intimidate O'Neil, so Lord Sussex, with the
Earl of Ormond as second in command, marched northwards, entered
Armagh, and began to fortify the city, with a view to placing in it a
powerful garrison. O'Neil, to remove the seat of hostilities, made an
irruption into the plain of Meath, and menaced Dublin. The utmost
consternation prevailed at his approach, and the Deputy, while
continuing the fortification of Armagh, despatched the main body of his
troops to press on the rear of the aggressor. By a rapid countermarch,
O'Neil came up with this force, laden with spoils, in Louth, and after
an obstinate engagement routed them with immense loss. On receipt of
this intelligence, Sussex promptly abandoned Armagh, and returned to
Dublin, while O'Neil erected his standard, as far South as Drogheda,
within twenty miles of the capital. So critical at this moment was the
aspect of affairs, that all the energies of the English interest were
taxed to the utmost. In the autumn of the year, Sussex marched again
from Dublin northward, having at his side the five powerful Earls of
Kildare, Ormond, Desmond, Thomond, and Clanrickarde—whose mutual feuds
had been healed or dissembled for the day. O'Neil prudently fell back
before this powerful expedition, which found its way to the shores of
Lough Foyle, without bringing him to an engagement, and without any
military advantage. As the shortest way of getting rid of such an
enemy, the Lord Deputy, though one of the wisest and most justly
celebrated of Elizabeth's Counsellors, did not hesitate to communicate
to his royal mistress the project of hiring an assassin, named Nele
Gray, to take off the Prince of Ulster, but the plot, though carefully
elaborated, miscarried. Foreign news, which probably reached him only
on reaching the Foyle, led to a sudden change of tactics on the part of
Sussex, and the young Lord Kildare—O'Neil's cousin-germain, was
employed to negotiate a peace with the enemy they had set out to

This Lord Kildare was Gerald, the eleventh Earl, the same whom we have
spoken of as a fugitive lad, in the last years of Henry VIII., and as
restored to his estates and rank by Queen Mary. Although largely
indebted to his Catholicity for the protection he had received while
abroad from Francis I., Charles V., the Duke of Tuscany and the Roman
See—especially the Cardinals Pole and Farnese—and still more indebted
to the late Catholic Queen for the restoration of his family honours,
this finished courtier, now in the very midsummer of life, one of the
handsomest and most accomplished persons of his time, did not hesitate
to conform himself, at least outwardly, to the religion of the State.
Shortly before the campaign of which we have spoken, he had been
suspected of treasonable designs, but had pleaded his cause
successfully with the Queen in person. From Lough Foyle, accompanied by
the Lord Slane, the Viscount Baltinglass, and a suitable guard, Lord
Kildare set out for John O'Neil's camp, where a truce was concluded
between the parties, Lord Sussex undertaking to withdraw his wardens
from Armagh, and O'Neil engaging himself to live in peace with her
Majesty, and to serve "when necessary against her enemies." The cousins
also agreed personally to visit the English Court the following year,
and accordingly in January ensuing they went to England, from which
they returned home in the latter end of May.

The reception of John the Proud, at the Court of Elizabeth, was
flattering in the extreme. The courtiers stared and smiled at his
bareheaded body-guard, with their crocus-dyed vests, short jackets, and
shaggy cloaks. But the broad-bladed battle-axe, and the sinewy arm
which wielded it, inspired admiration for all the uncouth costume. The
haughty indifference with which the Prince of Ulster treated every one
about the Court, except the Queen, gave a keener edge to the satirical
comments which were so freely indulged in at the expense of his style
of dress. The wits proclaimed him "O'Neil the Great, cousin to Saint
Patrick, friend to the Queen of England, and enemy to all the world
besides!" O'Neil was well pleased with his reception by Elizabeth. When
taxed upon his return with having made peace with her Majesty, he
answered—"Yes, in her own bed-chamber." There were, indeed, many points
in common in both their characters.

Her Majesty, by letters patent dated at Windsor, on the 15th of
January, 1563, recognized in John the Proud "the name and title of
O'Neil, with the like authority, jurisdiction, and pre-eminence, as any
of his ancestors." And O'Neil, by articles, dated at Benburb, the 18th
of November of the same year, reciting the letters patent aforesaid,
bound himself and his suffragans to behave as "the Queen's good and
faithful subjects against all persons whatever." Thus, so far as an
English alliance could guarantee it, was the supremacy of this daring
chief guaranteed in Ulster from the Boyne to the North Sea.

In performing his part of the engagements thus entered into, O'Neil is
placed in a less invidious light by English writers than formerly. They
now describe him as scrupulously faithful to his word; as charitable to
the poor, always carving and sending meat from his own table to the
beggar at the gate before eating himself. Of the sincerity with which
he carried out the expulsion of the Islesmen and Highlanders from
Ulster, the result afforded the most conclusive evidence. It is true he
had himself invited those bands into the Province to aid him against
the very power with which he was now at peace, and, therefore, they
might in their view allege duplicity and desertion against him. Yet
enlisted as they usually were but for a single campaign, O'Neil
expected them to depart as readily as they had come. But in this
expectation he was disappointed. Their leaders, Angus, James, and
Sorley McDonald, refused to recognize the new relations which had
arisen, and O'Neil was, therefore, compelled to resort to force. He
defeated the Scottish troops at Glenfesk, near Ballycastle, in 1564, in
an action wherein Angus McDonald was slain, James died of his wounds,
and Sorley was carried prisoner to Benburb. An English auxiliary force,
under Colonel Randolph, sent round by sea, under pretence of
co-operating against the Scots, took possession of Derry and began to
fortify it. But their leader was slain in a skirmish with a party of
O'Neil's people who disliked the fortress, and whether by accident or
otherwise their magazine exploded, killing a great part of the garrison
and destroying their works. The remnant took to their shipping and
returned to Dublin.

In the years 1565, '6 and '7, the internal dissensions of both Scotland
and France, and the perturbations in the Netherlands giving full
occupation to her foreign foes, Elizabeth had an interval of leisure to
attend to this dangerous ally in Ulster. A second unsuccessful attempt
on his life, by an assassin named Smith, was traced to the Lord Deputy,
and a formal commission issued by the Queen to investigate the case.
The result we know only by the event; Sussex was recalled, and Sir
Henry Sidney substituted in his place! Death had lately made way in
Tyrconnell and Fermanagh for new chiefs, and these leaders, more
vigorous than their predecessors, were resolved to shake off the
recently imposed and sternly exercised supremacy of Benburb. With these
chiefs, Sidney, at the head of a veteran armament, cordially
co-operated, and O'Neil's territory was now attacked simultaneously at
three different points—in the year 1566. No considerable success was,
however, obtained over him till the following year, when, at the very
opening of the campaign, the brave O'Donnell arrested his march along
the strand of the Lough Swilly, and the tide rising impetuously, as it
does on that coast, on the rear of the men of Tyrone, struck them with
terror, and completed their defeat. From 1,500 to 3,000 men perished by
the sword or by the tide; John the Proud fled alone, along the river
Swilly, and narrowly escaped by the fords of rivers and by solitary
ways to his Castle on Lough Neagh. The Annalists of Donegal, who were
old enough to have conversed with survivors of the battle, say that his
mind became deranged by this sudden fall from the summit of prosperity
to the depths of defeat. His next step would seem to establish the
fact, for he at once despatched Sorley McDonald, the survivor of the
battle of Glenfesk, to recruit a new auxiliary force for him amongst
the Islesmen, whom he had so mortally offended. Then, abandoning his
fortress upon the Blackwater, he set out with 50 guards, his secretary,
and his mistress, the wife of the late O'Donnell, to meet these
expected allies whom he had so fiercely driven off but two short years
before. At Cushendun, on the Antrim coast, they met with all apparent
cordiality, but an English agent, Captain Piers, or Pierce, seized an
opportunity during the carouse which ensued to recall the bitter
memories of Glenfesk. A dispute and a quarrel ensued; O'Neil fell
covered with wounds, amid the exulting shouts of the avenging Islesmen.
His gory head was presented to Captain Piers, who hastened with it to
Dublin, where he received a reward of a thousand marks for his success.
High spiked upon the towers of the Castle, that proud head remained and
rotted; the body, wrapped in a Kerns saffron shirt, was interred where
he fell, a spot familiar to all the inhabitants of the Antrim glens as
"the grave of Shane O'Neil." And so may be said to close the first
decade of Elizabeth's reign over Ireland!

End of Volume 1 of 2

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Popular History of Ireland : from the Earliest Period to the Emancipation of the Catholics — Volume 1" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.