The Story Of Ireland
Emily Lawless

Part 2 out of 6

It is a pity that the annalists, who tell us so many things we neither
care to hear nor much believe in, should have left us no record of any
assault of the Northmen against one of these redoubtable towers. Even at
the present day they would, without ammunition, be remarkably difficult
nuts to crack; indeed, it is hard to see how their assault could have
been successfully attempted, save by the slow process of starvation, or
possibly by fires kindled immediately below the entrance, and so by
degrees smoking out their inmates.

[Illustration: KELLS ROUND TOWER. _(From a drawing by George Petrie,

If any one ever succeeded in getting into them, we may be sure the Land
Leapers did! Before long they appear to have gathered nearly the whole
spoil of the country into the towns, which they built and fortified for
themselves at intervals along the coast. Cork, Waterford, Limerick,
Wexford, and Dublin, all owe their origin in the first instance to the
Northmen; indeed it is a curious fact that Dublin can never be said,
save for very short periods to have belonged to the Irish at all. It was
first the capital of their northern invaders, and afterwards that, of
course, of the English Government.

Three whole centuries the Danish power lasted, and internecine war
raged, a war during which almost every trace of earlier civilizing
influences, all those milder habits and ways of thought, which
Christianity had brought in and fostered, perished well-nigh utterly.
The ferocity of the invaders communicated itself to the invaded, and the
whole history is one confused and continual chronicle of horrors and

An important distinction must be made at this point between the effects
of the Northern invasion in England and in Ireland. In the former the
invaders and natives became after a while more or less assimilated, and,
under Canute, an orderly government, composed of both nationalities,
was, we know, established. In Ireland this was never the case. The
reason, doubtless, is to be found in the far closer similarity of race
in the former case than the latter. In Ireland the "Danes," as they are
popularly called, were always strangers, heathen tyrants, hated and
despised oppressors, who retorted this scorn and hatred in the fullest
possible measure upon their antagonists. From the moment of their
appearance down to the last we hear of them--as long, in fact, as the
Danes of the seaport towns retained any traces of their northern
origin--so long they continued to be the deadly foes of the rest of
the island.

Even where the Northmen accepted Christianity, it does not appear to
have had any strikingly ameliorating effect Thus we read that Godfrid,
son of Sitric, embraced Christianity in 948, and in the very next year
we discover that he plundered and burnt all the churches in East Meath,
killing over a hundred people who had taken refuge in them, and carrying
off a quantity of captives. Land-leaping, too, continued in full force.
"The godless hosts of pagans swarming o'er the Northern Sea," continued
to arrive in fresh and fresh numbers from their inexhaustible
Scandinavian breeding grounds--from Norway, from Sweden, from Denmark,
even, it is said, from Iceland. The eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries
are, in fact, the great period all over Europe for the incursions of the
Northmen--high noon, so to speak, for those fierce and roving sons of
plunder,--"People," says an old historian quaintly, "desperate in
attempting the conquest of other Realmes, being very sure to finde
warmer dwellings anywhere than in their own homes."



At last a time came for their oppression to be cut short in Ireland. Two
valiant defenders sprang almost simultaneously into note. One of these
was Malachy, or Melachlin, the Ard-Reagh and head of the O'Neills, the
same Malachy celebrated by Moore as having "worn the collar of gold
which he won from the proud invader." The other, Brian Boroimhe,
commonly known to English writers as Brian Boru, a chieftain of the
royal Dalcassian race of O'Brien, and the most important figure by far
in Irish native history, but one which, like all others, has got so
fogged and dimmed by prejudice and misstatement, that to many people his
name seems hardly to convey any sense of reality at all.

Poor Brian Boru! If he could have guessed that he would have come to be
regarded, even by some who ought to know better, as a sort of giant
Cormoran or Eat-'em-alive-oh! a being out of a fairy tale, whom nobody
is expected to take seriously; nay, as a symbol, as often as not, for
ridiculous and inflated pretension. No one in his own day doubted his
existence; no one thought of laughing at his name. Had they done so,
their laughter would have come to a remarkably summary conclusion!

Brian Boroimhe, Boruma, or Boru--his name is written in all three
ways--was not only a real man, but he was, what was more important, a
real king, and not a mere simulacrum or walking shadow of one, like most
of those who bore the name in Ireland. For once, for the only time as
far as its native history is concerned, there was some one at the helm
who knew how to rule, and who, moreover, did rule. His proceedings were
not, it must be owned, invariably regulated upon any very strict rule of
equity. He meant to be supreme, and to do so it was necessary to wrest
the power from the O'Neills upon the one hand, and from the Danes on the
other, and this he proceeded with the shortest possible delay to do.

He had a hard struggle at first. Munster had been overrun by the Danes
of Limerick, who had defeated his brother, Mahon, king of Munster, and
forced him to pay tribute. Brian himself, scorning to submit to the
tyrants, had taken to the mountains with a small band of followers.
Issuing from this retreat, he with some difficulty induced his brother
once more to confront the aggressors. An important battle was fought at
Sulcost, near Limerick, in the year 968, in which the Danes were
defeated, and fled back in confusion to their walls, the Munster men,
under Brian, following fast at their heels, and entering at the same
time. The Danish town was seized, the fighting men were put to the
sword, the remainder fled or were enslaved.

[Illustration: BASE OF TCAM CROSS.]

Mahon being some years afterwards slain, not by the Danes, but by
certain treacherous Molloys and O'Donovans, who had joined themselves
with him, Brian succeeded to the sovereignty of Munster, and shortly
afterwards seized upon the throne of Cashel, which, upon the alternate
system then prevailing, was at that time reigned over by one of the
Euganian house of Desmond. Having avenged his brother's murder upon the
O'Donovans, he next proceeded to overrun Leinster, rapidly subdued
Ossory, and began to stretch out his hands towards the sovereignty of
the island.

In the meantime the over-king, Malachy, had defeated the Danes at the
battle of Tara, and was consequently in high honour, stronger apparently
then any of his predecessors had been. In spite of this Brian by degrees
prevailed. With doubtful patriotism he left the Danes for a while
unpursued, attacked Meath, overran and wasted Connaught, and returning
suddenly burnt the royal stronghold of Tara. After a long and wearisome
struggle, Malachy yielded, and allowed Brian to become Ard-Reagh in his
place, retaining only his own ancestral dominions of Meath. He seems to
have been a placable, easy-going many "loving," say the annalists, "to
ride a horse that had never been handled or ridden," and caring more for
this than for the cares of the State.

After this, Brian made what may be called a royal progress through the
country, receiving the submission of the chiefs and inferior kings, and
forcing them to acknowledge his authority. In speaking of him as king of
Ireland, which in a sense he undoubtedly was, we must be careful of
letting our imaginations carry us into any exaggerated idea of what is
meant by that word. His name, "Brian of the Tribute," is our safest
guide, and enables us to understand what was the position of even the
greatest and most successful king under the Celtic system. It was the
exact opposite of the feudal one, and this difference proved the source
in years to come of an enormous amount of misconception, and of fierce
accusations of falsehood and treachery flung profusely from both sides.
The position of the over-king or Ard-Reagh was more nearly allied to
that of the early French suzerain or the German emperor. He could call
upon his vassal or tributary kings to aid him in war times or in any
sudden emergency, but, as regards their internal arrangements--the
government, misgovernment, or non-government of their several
sub-kingdoms--they were free to act as they pleased, and he was not
understood to have any formal jurisdiction.

For all that Brian was an unmistakable king, and proved himself to be
one. He defeated the Danes again and again, reducing even those
inveterate disturbers of the peace to a forced quiescence; entered
Dublin, and remained there some time, taking, say the annalists,
"hostages and treasure." By the year 1002 Ireland had a master, one
whose influence made itself felt over its whole surface. For twelve
years at least out of its distracted history the country knew the
blessings of peace. Broken by defeat the Danish dwellers of the seaport
towns began to turn their energies to the milder and more pacific
activities of trade. The ruined monasteries were getting rebuilt;
prosperity was beginning to glimmer faintly upon the island; the chiefs,
cowed into submission, abstained from raiding, or confined their raids
to discreeter limits. Fortresses were being built, roads made, and
bridges repaired in three at least of the provinces. Another twenty
years of Brian's rule and the whole future history of Ireland might have
been a different one.

[Illustration: Doorway of Killeshin Church, Co. Carlow. (_From a

It was not to be however. The king was now old, and the work that he had
begun, and which, had he been followed by a successor like himself,
might have been accomplished, was destined to crumble like a half-built
house. The Danes began to stir again. A rebellion had sprung up in
Leinster, the coast-line of which was strong-holded at several points
with Danish towns. This rebellion they not only aided with their own
strength, but further appealed for assistance to their kinsmen in
Northumbria, Man, the Orkneys, and elsewhere, who responded by sending a
large force under Brodar, a Viking, and Sigurd Earl of Orkney to
their aid.

This force Brian gathered all his energies to oppose. With his own
Munster clansmen, aided by all the fighting men of Meath and Connaught,
with his five sons and with his old rival, King Malachy of Meath,
fighting under his banner, he marched down to the strand of Clontarf,
which stretches from the north of Dublin to the out-jutting promontory
of Howth, and there, upon Good Friday, 1014, he encountered his Leinster
rebels and the Viking host of invaders, ten thousand strong it is said,
and a great battle was fought, a battle which, beginning before the
dawn, lasted till the sun was beginning to sink.

To understand the real importance of this battle, we must first fully
realize to ourselves what a very old quarrel this was. For three long
weary centuries Ireland had been lying bound and broken under the heel
of her pagan oppressors, and only with great difficulty and partially
had escaped within the last fifteen or sixteen years. Every wrong,
outrage, and ignominy that could be inflicted by one people upon another
had been inflicted and would most assuredly be inflicted again were this
battle, now about to be fought, lost.

Nor upon the other side were the motives much less strong. The Danes of
Dublin under Sitric stood fiercely at bay. Although their town was still
their own, all the rest of the island had escaped from the grasp of
their race. Whatever Christianity they may occasionally have assumed was
all thrown to the winds upon this great occasion. The far-famed pagan
battle flag, the Raven Standard, was unfurled, and floated freely over
the host. The War-arrow had been industriously sent round to all the
neighbouring shores, peopled largely at that time with men of Norse
blood. As the fleet swept south it had gathered in contingents from
every island along the Scotch coast, upon which Viking settlements had
been established. Manx men, too, and men from the Scandinavian
settlements of Angelsea, Danes under Carle Canuteson, representatives,
in fact, of all the old fighting pagan blood were there, and all
gathered together to a battle at once of races and of creeds.

On the Irish side the command had been given by Brian to Morrogh, his
eldest son, who fifteen years before had aided his father in gaining a
great victory over these same Dublin Danes at a place called Glenmama,
not far from Dunlaven. The old king himself abstained from taking any
part in the battle. Perhaps because he wished his son--who already had
been appointed his successor--to have all the glory and so to fix
himself yet more deeply in the hearts of his future subjects; perhaps
because he felt that his strength might not have carried him through the
day; perhaps--the annalists say this is the reason--because the day
being Good Friday he preferred praying for his cause rather than
fighting for it. Whatever the reason it is certain that he remained in
his tent, which was pitched on this occasion not far from the edge of
the great woods which then covered all the rising ground to the
north-west of Dublin, beginning at the bank of the river Liffy.

The onset was not long delayed. The Vikings under Sigurd and Brodar
fought as only Vikings could fight. Like all battles of that period it
resolved itself chiefly into a succession of single combats, which raged
all over the field, extending, it is said, for over two miles along the
strand. The Danish women, and the men left to guard the town, crowded
the roofs, remaining all day to watch the fight. Sigurd of Orkney was
killed in single combat by Thorlogh, the son of Morrogh, and grandson of
Brian; Armud and several of the other Vikings fell by the hand of
Morrogh, but in the end the father and son were both slain, although the
latter survived long enough to witness the triumph of his own side.

Late in the afternoon the Northmen broke and fled; some to their ships,
some into the town, some into the open country beyond. Amongst the
latter Brodar, the Viking, made for the great woods, and in so doing
passed close to where the tent of the king had been fixed. The
attendants left to guard Brian had by this time one by one slipped away
to join the fight, and the old man was almost alone, and kneeling, it is
said, at the moment on a rug in the front of his tent. The sun was low,
but the slanting beams fell upon his bent head and long white beard. One
of Brodar's followers perceived him and pointed him out to his leader,
saying that it was the king. "King, that is no king, that is a monk, a
shaveling!" retorted the Viking. "It is not, it is Brian himself," was
the answer.

Then Brodar caught his axe and rushed upon Brian. Taken unawares the
king nevertheless rallied his strength which in his day had been greater
than that of any man of his time, and still only half risen from his
knees he smote the Viking a blow across the legs with his sword. The
other thereupon lifted his battle-axe, and smote the king upon his head,
cleaving it down to the chin, then fled to the woods, but was caught the
next day and hacked into pieces by some of the infuriated Irish.

So fell Brian in the very moment of victory, and when the combined
league of all his foes had fallen before him. When the news reached
Armagh, the bishop and his clergy came south as far as Swords, in Meath,
where they met the corpse of the king and carried it back to Armagh,
where he was buried, say the annalists, "in a new tomb" with much
weeping and lamentation.




Whatever lamentations were uttered on this occasion were certainly not
uncalled for, for a greater disaster has rarely befallen any country or
people. Were proof wanted--which it hardly is--of that notorious
ill-luck which has dogged the history of Ireland from the very
beginning, it would be difficult to find a better one than the result of
this same famous battle of Clontarf. Here was a really great victory, a
victory the reverberation of which rang through the whole Scandinavian
world, rejoicing Malcolm of Scotland, who without himself striking a
blow, saw his enemies lying scotched at his feet, so scotched in fact,
that after the defeat of Clontarf they never again became a serious
peril. Yet as regards Ireland itself what was the result? The result was
that all those ligaments of order which were beginning slowly to wind
themselves round it, were violently snapped and scattered to the four
winds. As long as Brian's grasp was over it Ireland was a real kingdom,
with limitations it is true, but still with a recognized centre, and
steadily growing power of combined and concerted action. At his death
the whole body politic was once more broken up, and resolved itself into
its old anarchic elements again.

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF CORMAC'S CHAPEL, CASHEL. (_From a Drawing by
Miss M. Stokes_.)]

It would have been better far for the country had Brian been defeated,
so that he, his son Morrogh, or any capable heir had survived, better
for it indeed had he never ruled at all if this was to be end. By his
successful usurpation the hereditary principle--always a weak one in
Ireland--was broken down. The one chance of a settled central government
was thus at an end. Every petty chief and princeling all over the island
felt himself capable of emulating the achievements of Brian. It was one
of those cases which success and only success justifies. Ireland was
pining, as it had always pined, as it continued ever afterwards to pine,
for a settled government; for a strong central rule of some sort. The
race of Hy-Nial had been titular kings for centuries, but they had never
held the sovereignty in anything but name. Pushing their claims aside,
and gathering all power into his own hands Brian had acted upon a small
stage the part of Charlemagne centuries earlier upon a large one. He had
succeeded, and in his success lay his justification. With his death,
however, the whole edifice which he had raised crumbled away, and
anarchy poured in after it like a torrent. A struggle set in at once for
the sovereignty, which ended by not one of Brian's sons but the deposed
King Malachy being set upon the throne. Like his greater rival he was
however by this time a very old man. His spirit had been broken, and
though the Danes had been too thoroughly beaten to stir, other elements
of disorder abounded. Risings broke out in two of the provinces at once,
and at his death the confusion became confounded. As a native
rhyme runs:

"After Malachy, son of Donald,
Each man ruled his own tribe,
But no man ruled Erin."

Henceforward throughout the rather more than a century and a half which
intervened between the battle of Clontarf and the Norman invasion,
Ireland remained a helpless waterlogged vessel, with an unruly crew,
without rudder or compass, above all, without a captain. The house of
O'Brien again pushed its way to the front, but none of Brian's
descendants who survived the day of Clontarf seem to have shown a trace
even of his capacity. A fierce feud broke out shortly after between
Donchad, his son, and Turlough, one of his grandsons, and each
successively caught at the helm, but neither succeeding in obtaining the
sovereignty of the entire island. After the last-named followed
Murhertach also of the Dalcassian house, at whose death the rule once
more swung round to the house of Hy-Nial and Donald O'Lochlin reigned
nominally until his death in 1121. Next the O'Connors, of Connaught,
took a turn at the sovereignty, and seized possession of Cashel which
since its capture by Brian Boroimhe had been the exclusive appanage of
the Dalcassians. Another O'Lochlin, of the house of O'Neill, then
appears prominently in the fray, and by 1156, seems to have succeeded in
seizing the over-lordship of the island, and so the tale goes on--a
wearisome one, unrelieved by even a transitory gleam of order or
prosperity. At last it becomes almost a relief when we reach the name of
Roderick O'Connor, and know that before his death fresh actors will have
entered upon the scene, and that the confused and baffling history of
Ireland will, at all events, have entered upon a perfectly new stage.




The invasion of Ireland by the Anglo-Normans differs in several respects
from other invasions and conquests, not the least singular feature about
it being that nearly the whole of that famous band of knightly
adventurers who took part in it, and to whose audacity it was in the
first instance due, were more or less closely related to one another,
either as brothers, nephews, uncles, or cousins. The connecting link
between these variously-named relations was one Nesta, princess of South
Wales, daughter of a Welsh king, Rice ap Tudor, a heroine whose
adventures are of a sufficiently striking, not to say startling,
character. By dint of a succession of alliances, some regular, others
highly irregular, she became the ancestress of nearly all the great
Anglo-Norman families in Ireland. Of these the Fitzgeralds, Carews,
Barrys, and Cogans, are descended from her first husband, Gerald of
Windsor. Robert FitzStephen, who plays, as will presently be seen, a
prominent part in the conquest, was the son of her second husband,
Stephen, the Castlelan of Abertivy, while Robert and Meiler FitzHenry,
of whom we shall also hear, are said to have been the sons of no less a
person than King Henry I. of England.


Conspicuous amongst this band of knights and adventurers was one who was
himself no knight, but a priest and the self-appointed chronicler of the
rest, Gerald de Barri--better known as Gerald of Wales, or Giraldus
Cambrensis, who was the grandson of Nesta, through her daughter

Giraldus is one of those writers whom, to tell the truth, we like a
great deal better than they deserve. He is prejudiced to the point of
perversity, and gullible almost to sublimity, uncritical even for an
eminently uncritical age, accepting and retailing any and every
monstrous invention, the more readily apparently in proportion to its
monstrosity. For all that--despite his prejudices, despite even his
often deliberate perversion of the truth, it is difficult to avoid a
certain kindliness for him. To the literary student he is indeed a
captivating figure. With his half-Welsh, half-Norman blood; with the
nimble, excitable, distinctly Celtic vein constantly discernible in him;
with a love of fighting which could hardly have been exceeded by the
doughtiest of the knights, his cousins and brothers; with a pen that
seems to fly like an arrow across the page; with a conceit which knows
neither stint nor limit, he is the most entertaining, the most vividly
alive of chroniclers; no historian certainly in any rigid sense of the
word, but the first, as he was also unquestionably the chief and prince
of war correspondents.

Whether we like him or not, we at any rate cannot dispense with him,
seeing that nearly everything we know of the Ireland of the Conquest, we
know from those marvellous pages of his, which, if often exasperating,
are at any rate never dull. In them, as in a mirror, we see how, when,
and where the whole plan of the campaign was laid; who took part in it;
what they said, did, projected; their very motives and thoughts--the
whole thing stands out fresh and alive as if it had happened yesterday.

There were no lack of motives, any of which would have been temptation
enough for invasion. To the pious it took on the alluring guise of a
Crusade. The Irish Church, which had obtained such glowing fame in its
early days, had long since, as we have seen, grown into very bad repute
with Rome. Despite that halo of early sanctity, she was held to be
seriously tainted with heresy. She allowed bishops to be irregularly
multiplied, and consecrated contrary to the Roman rule by one bishop
only; tithes and firstfruits were not collected with any regularity;
above all, the collection of Peter's pence, being the sum of one penny
due from every household, was always scandalously in arrears, nay, often
no attempt was made to collect it at all. She did many wrong things, but
it may shrewdly be suspected that this was one of the very worst
of them.


It is not a little edifying at this juncture to find the Danes of Dublin
amongst those who were enlisted upon the orthodox side. Cut off by
mutual hatred rather than theological differences from the Church of
Ireland, they had for some time back been regularly applying to
Canterbury for their supply of priests. These priests upon being sent
over painted the condition of Irish heterodoxy in tints of the deepest
black for their own countrymen. Even before this there had been grave
complaints. Lanfranc, Anselm, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, all had had
their theological ire aroused against the Irish recusants. Many of the
Irish ecclesiastics themselves seem to have desired that closer union
with Rome, which could only be brought about by bringing Ireland under
the power of a sworn son of the Church. Henry I--little as that most
secular-minded of monarchs cared probably for the more purely
theological question--was fully alive to its value as supporting his own
claims. He obtained from Pope Hadrian IV. (the Englishman Brakespeare),
a Bull sanctioning and approving of the conquest of Ireland as prompted
by "the ardour of faith and love of religion," in which Bull he is
desired to enter the island and therein execute "whatever shall pertain
to the honour of God, and the welfare of the land."

Fourteen years elapsed before the enterprise thus warmly commended was
carried into effect. The story of Dermot McMurrough, king of Leinster,
and his part in the invasion, has often been told, and does not, I
think, need dwelling upon at any great length. He was a brutal,
violent-tempered savage, detested in his own country, and especially by
his unfortunate subjects in Leinster. How he foully wronged the honour
of O'Rorke, a chieftain of Connaught; how, for this and other offences,
he was upon the accession of Roderick O'Connor driven away from Ireland;
how he fled to England to do homage to Henry, and seek his protection;
how, finding him gone to Aquitaine, he followed him there, and in return
for his vows of allegiance received letters authorizing the king's
subjects to enlist if they choose for the Irish service; how armed with
these he went to Wales, and there succeeded in recruiting a band of
mixed Norman and Norman-Welsh adventurers--all this is recorded at large
in the histories.

Of the recruits thus enlisted, the most important was Robert de Clair,
Earl of Pembroke and Chepstow, nicknamed by his contemporaries,
Strongbow, whom Dermot met at Bristol, and won over by a double
bribe--the hand, namely, of his daughter Eva, and the succession to the
sovereignty of Leinster--a succession which, upon the Irish mode of
election, he had, it may be observed, no shadow of right to dispose of.

Giraldus, who seems to have been himself in Wales at the time, speaks
sentimentally of the unfortunate exile, and describes him inhaling the
scent of his beloved country from the Welsh coast, and feasting his eyes
tenderly upon his own land: "Although the distance," he more prosaically
adds, "being very great, it was difficult to distinguish mountains from
clouds." As a matter of fact, Dermot McMurrough, we may be sure, was not
the person to do anything of the sort. He was simply hungry--as a wild
beast or a savage is hungry--for revenge, and would have plunged into
any number of perjuries, or have bound himself to give away any amount
of property he had no right to dispose of in order to get it. He could
safely trust, too, he knew, to the ignorance of his new allies as to
what was or was not a legal transfer in Ireland.

His purpose achieved, "inflamed," says Giraldus, "with the desire to see
his native land," but really the better to concoct his plans, he
returned home, landing a little south of Arklow Head, and arriving at
Ferns, where he was hospitably entertained during the winter by its
bishop. The following spring, in the month of May, the first instalment
of the invaders arrived under Robert FitzStephen, a small fleet of Welsh
boats landing them in a creek of the bay of Bannow, where a chasm
between the rocks was long known as "FitzStephen's stride."

Here they were met by Donald McMurrough, son of Dermot, and ten days
later drew up under the walls of Wexford, having so far encountered no

In this old Danish town a stout fight was made. The townsfolk, no longer
Vikings but simple traders, did what they could in their own defence.
They burnt their suburbs, consisting doubtless of rude wooden huts; shut
the gates, and upon the first two assaults drove back the assailants. So
violently were they repelled, "that they withdrew," Giraldus tells us,
"in all great haste from the walls." His own younger brother, Robert de
Barri, was amongst the wounded, a great stone falling upon his helmet
and tumbling him headlong into one of the ditches, from the effects of
which blow, that careful historian informs us incidentally, "Sixteen
years later all his jaw teeth fell out!"

Next morning, after mass, they renewed the assault; this time with more
circumspection. Now there were at that time, as it happened, two bishops
in the town, who devoted their energies to endeavouring to induce the
citizens to make peace. In this attempt they were successful, more
successful than might have been expected with men descended from the old
Land Leapers. Wexford opened its gates, its townsmen submitting to
Dermot, who thereupon presented the town to his allies, FitzStephen,
true to his Norman instincts, proceeding forthwith to build a castle
upon the rock of Carneg, at the narrowest point of the river Slaney, the
first of that large crop of castles which subsequently sprang up upon
Irish soil.

The next sharers of the struggle were the wild Ossory clans, who
gathered to the defence of their territory under Donough McPatrick, an
old and especially hated enemy of Dermot's. The latter had now three
thousand men at his back, in addition to his Welsh and Norman allies.
The Ossory men fought, as Giraldus admits, with furious valour, but upon
rashly venturing out of their own forests into the open, were charged by
FitzStephen, whose horsemen defeated them, killing a great number, over
two hundred heads being collected and laid at the feet of Dermot, who,
"turning them over, one by one, to recognize them, lifted his hands to
heaven in excess of joy, and with a loud voice returned thanks to God
most High." So pious was Dermot!

After this, finding that the country at large was beginning to take some
note of their proceedings, the invaders fell back upon Ferns, which they
fortified according to the science of the age under the superintendence
of Robert FitzStephen. Roderick O'Connor, the Ard-Reagh, was by this
time not unnaturally beginning to get alarmed, and had gathered his men
together against the invaders. The winter, however, was now at hand, and
a temporary peace was accordingly patched up; Leinster being restored to
Dermot on condition of his acknowledging the over-lordship of Roderick.
Giraldus recounts at much length the speeches made upon both sides on
this occasion; the martial addresses to the troops, the many classical
and flowery quotations, which last he is good enough to bestow upon the
unlucky Roderick no less than upon his own allies. Seeing, probably,
that all were alike imaginary, it is hardly necessary to delay to
record them.

The next to arrive upon the scene was Maurice Fitzgerald, half brother
of Robert FitzStephen and uncle of Giraldus. Strongbow meanwhile was
still upon the eastern side of the channel awaiting the return of his
uncle, Hervey de Montmorency, whom he had sent over to report upon the
condition of affairs. Even after Hervey's return bringing with him a
favourable report, he had still the king's permission to gain. Early in
1170 he again sought Henry and this time received an ambiguous reply,
which, however, he chose to interpret in his own favour. He sent back
Hervey to Ireland, accompanied by Raymond Fitzgerald, surnamed Le Gros,
and a score of knights with some seventy archers. These, landing in
Kilkenny, entrenched themselves, and being shortly afterwards attacked
by the Danes of Waterford, defeated them with great slaughter, seizing a
number of prisoners. Over these prisoners a dispute arose; Raymond was
for sparing their lives, Hervey de Montmorency for slaying. The
eloquence of the latter prevailed. "The citizens," says Giraldus, "as
men condemned, had their limbs broken and were cast headlong into the
sea and so drowned."

Shortly after this satisfactory beginning, Strongbow himself appeared
with reinforcements. He attacked Waterford, which was taken after a
short but furious resistance, and the united forces of Dermot and the
Earl marched into the town, where the marriage of the latter with Eva,
Dermot's daughter, was celebrated, as Maclise has represented it in his
picture, amid lowering smoke and heaps of the dead and dying.

Dermot was now on the top of the wave. With his English allies and his
own followers he had a considerable force around him. Guiding the latter
through the Wicklow mountains, which they would probably have hardly got
through unaided, he descended with them upon Dublin, and despite the
efforts of St. Lawrence O'Toole, its archbishop, to effect a pacific
arrangement, the town was taken by assault. The principal Danes, with
Hasculph, their Danish governor, escaped to their ships and sailed
hastily away for the Orkneys.

Meath was the next point to be attacked. O'Rorke, the old foe of Dermot,
who held it for King Roderick, was defeated; whereupon, in defiance of
his previous promises, Dermot threw off all disguise and proclaimed
himself king of Ireland, upon which Roderick, as the only retaliation
left in his power, slew Dermot's son who had been deposited in his hands
as hostage.

It was now Strongbow's aim to hasten back and place his new lordship at
the feet of his sovereign, already angry and jealous at such unlocked
for and uncountenanced successes. He was not able however to do so at
once. Hasculph the Dane returned suddenly with sixty ships, and a large
force under a noted Berserker of the day, known as John the Mad,
"warriors," says Giraldus, "armed in Danish fashion, having long
breast-plates and shirts of mail, their shields round and bound about
with iron. They were iron-hearted," he says, "as well as
iron-armed men."

In spite of their arms and their hearts, he is able triumphantly to
proclaim their defeat. Milo de Cogan, the Norman governor of Dublin,
fell upon his assailants suddenly. John the Mad was slain, as were also
nearly all the Berserkers. Hasculph was brought back in triumph, and
promptly beheaded by the conquerors.

He was hardly dead before a new assailant, Godred, king of Man, appeared
with thirty ships at the mouth of the Liffy. Roderick, in the meanwhile,
had collected men from every part of Ireland, with the exception of the
north which stood aloof from him, and now laid siege to Dublin by land,
helped by St. Lawrence its patriotic archbishop. Strongbow was thus shut
in with foes behind and before, and the like disaster had befallen
Robert FitzStephen, who was at this time closely besieged in his own new
castle at Wexford. Dermot their chief native ally had recently died.
There seemed for a while a reasonable chance that the invaders would be
driven back and pushed bodily into the sea.

Discipline and science however again prevailed. The besieged, excited
both by their own danger and that of their friends in the south, made a
desperate sally. The Irish army kept no watch, and was absolutely
undrilled. A panic set in. The besiegers fled, leaving behind them their
stores of provisions, and the conquerors thereupon marched away in
triumph to the relief of FitzStephen. Here they were less successful. By
force, or according to Giraldus, by a pretended tale of the destruction
of all the other invaders, the Wexford men seized possession of him and
the other English, and had them flung into a dungeon. Finding that
Strongbow and the rest were not destroyed, but that on the contrary they
were marching down on them, the Wexford men set fire to their own town
and departed to an island in the harbour, carrying their prisoner with
them and threatening if pursued to cut off his head.

Foiled in this attempt, Strongbow hastened to Waterford, took boat
there, and flew to meet the king, whom he encountered near Gloucester
with a large army. Henry's greeting was a wrathful one. His anger and
jealousy had been thoroughly aroused. Not unwarrantably. But for his
promptness his head-strong subjects--several of them it must be
remembered of his own dominant blood--would have been perfectly capable
of attempting to carve out a kingdom for themselves at his very gates.
Happily Strongbow had found the task too large for his unaided energies,
and, as we have seen, had barely escaped annihilation. He was ready,
therefore, to accept any terms which his sovereign chose to impose. His
submission appears to have disarmed the king. He allowed himself to be
pacified, and after a while they returned to Ireland together. Henry II.
landed at Waterford in the month of October, 1171.




This was practically the end of the struggle. The king had four thousand
men-at-arms at his back, of whom no less than four hundred were knights.
In addition his ships contained vast stores of provisions, a variety of
war devices never before seen in Ireland, artizans for building bridges
and making roads--a whole war train, in short. Such a display of force
was felt to be irresistible. The chieftains one after the other came in
and made their submission. Dermot McCarthy, lord of Desmond and Cork,
was the first to do homage, followed by Donald O'Brien, Prince of
Thomond; while another Donald, chieftain of Ossory, rapidly followed
suit. The men of Wexford appeared, leading their prisoner with them by a
chain, and presenting him as an offering to his master, who, first
rating him soundly for his unauthorized proceedings, ordered him to be
chained to another prisoner and shut up in Reginald's tower. Later,
soothed by his own triumph, or touched, as Giraldus tells us, with
compassion for a brave man, he, at the intercession of some of his
courtiers, forgave and restored him to his possessions, reserving,
however, the town of Wexford for himself.

From Wexford Henry marched to Dublin, having first visited Tipperary and
Waterford. The Danes at once submitted and swore allegiance; so also did
O'Carrol of Argial, O'Rorke of Brefny, and all the minor chieftains of
Leinster; Roderick O'Connor still stood at bay behind the Shannon, and
the north also remained aloof and hostile, but air the other chieftains,
great and small, professed themselves willing to become tributaries of
the king of England.

The idea of an Ard-Reagh, or Over-lord, was no new one, as we have seen,
to any of them. Theoretically they had always acknowledged one,
although, practically, he had rarely exercised any authority save over
his own immediate subjects. Their feeling about Henry was doubtless the
same. They were as willing to swear fealty to him as to Roderick
O'Connor, more so in fact, seeing that he was stronger than Roderick,
but that was all. To Henry and to his successors this recognition
carried with it all the complicated dependence of feudalism, which in
England meant that his land and everything else which a man possessed
was his only so long as he did service for it to the king. To these new
Irish subjects, who had never heard of feudalism, it entailed nothing of
the sort. They regarded it as a mere vague promise of adhesion, binding
them at most to a general muster or "hosting" under his arms in case of
war or some common peril. This was an initial misconception, which
continued, as will be seen, to be a deeper and deeper source of
confusion as the years went on.

In the meanwhile Henry was established in Dublin, where he kept
Christmas in high state, occupying a palace built in the native fashion
of painted wicker-work, set up just outside the walls. Here he
entertained the chiefs, who were naturally astonished at the splendour
of his entertainments. "They learnt," Giraldus observes with
satisfaction, "to eat cranes"--does this mean herons?--"a species of
food which they had previously loathed;" and, in general, were suitably
impressed with the greatness and glory of the conqueror. The bishops
were most of them already warmly in his favour, and at a synod shortly
afterwards held at Cashel, at which all the Irish clergy were
represented, the Church of Ireland was solemnly declared to be finally
united to that of England, and it was laid down that, "as by Divine
Providence Ireland has received her lord and king from England, so she
should also submit to a reformation from the same source."

The weather that winter was so rough that hardly a ship could cross the
channel, and Henry in his new kingdom found himself practically cut off
from his old one. About the middle of Lent, the wind veering at last to
the east, ships arrived from England and Aquitaine, bearers of very ill
news to the king. Two legates were on their way, sent by the Pope, to
inquire into the murder of Becket, and armed in case of an
unsatisfactory reply with all the terrors of an interdict. Henry hastily
made over the government of Ireland to Hugo de Lacy, whom he placed in
Dublin as his representative, and sailed from Wexford upon Easter
Monday. He never again revisited his new dominions, where many of the
lessons inculcated by him--including possibly the delights of eating
cranes--were destined before long to be forgotten.



Henry had been only six months in Ireland, but he had accomplished
much--more certainly than any other English ruler ever accomplished
afterwards within the same time. He had divided the ceded districts into
counties; had appointed sheriffs for them; had set up three Law
Courts--Bench, Pleas, and Exchequer; had arranged for the going on
circuit by judges; and had established his own character for orthodoxy,
and acquitted himself of his obligations to the papacy by freeing all
church property from the exactions of the chiefs, and rigidly enforcing
the payment of tithes.

In a still more important point--that about which he was evidently
himself most tenacious--his success was even more complete. He once for
all put a stop to all danger of an independent lordship by forcing those
who had already received grants of land from the native chiefs to
surrender them into his hands, and to receive them back direct from
himself, according to the ordinary terms of feudal tenure.

That he had larger and more statesmanlike views for the new dependency
than he was ever able to carry out there can be no question. As early as
1177 he appointed his youngest son John king of Ireland, and seems to
have fully formed the intention of sending him over as a permanent
governor or viceroy, a purpose which the misconduct of that youthful
Rehoboam, as Giraldus calls him, was chiefly instrumental in foiling.

It is curious to hear this question of a royal viceroy and a permanent
royal residence in Ireland coming to the front so very early in the
history of English rule there. That the experiment, if fairly tried, and
tried with a man of the calibre of Henry himself, might have made the
whole difference in the future of Ireland, we cannot, I think,
reasonably doubt. Any government, indeed, so that it was central, so
that it gathered itself into a single hand and took its impress from a
single mind, would have been better a thousand times than the miserable
condition of half-conquest, half-rule, whole anarchy and confusion which
set in and continued with hardly a break.

This is one reason more why it is so much to be regretted that Ireland,
save for a few years, had never any real king or central government of
her own. Had this been the case, even if she had been eventually
conquered by England--as would likely enough have been the case--the
result of that conquest would have been different. There would have been
some one recognized point of government and organization, and the
struggle would have been more violent and probably more successful at
first, but less chronic and less eternally renewed in the long run. As
it was, all the conditions were at their very worst. No native ruler of
the calibre of a Brian Boru could ever again hope to unite all Ireland
under him, since long before he arrived at that point his enemies would
have called in the aid of the new colonists, who would have fallen upon
and annihilated him, though after doing so they would have been as
little able to govern the country for themselves as before.

This also explains what is often set down as the inexplicable want of
patriotism shown by the native Irish in not combining more resolutely
together against their assailants. It is true that they did not do so,
but the fact is not referred to the right cause. An Englishman of the
time of the Heptarchy had, if at all, little more patriotism, and hardly
more sense of common country. He was a Wessex man, or a Northumbrian, or
a man of the North or the East Angles, rather than an Englishman. So too
in Ireland. As a people the Irish of that day can hardly be said to have
had any corporate existence. They were O'Briens, or O'Neils, or
O'Connors, or O'Flaherties, and that no doubt in their own eyes appeared
to be quite nationality enough.

Unfortunately both for the country and for his own successors, Henry had
no time to carry out his plans, and all that he had begun to organize
fell away into disorder again after his departure. "That inconstant
sea-nymph," says Sir John Davis, "whom the Pope had wedded to him with a
ring," remained obedient only as long as her new lord was present, and
once his back was turned she reverted to her own ways again. The crowd
of Norman and Welsh adventurers who now filled the country were each and
all intent upon ascertaining how much of that country they could seize
upon and appropriate for themselves. There were many gallant men amongst
them, but there was not one apparently who had the faintest trace of
what is meant by public spirit. Occupied only by their own interests,
and struggling solely for their own share of the spoil, they could never
really hold the country, and even those parts which they did get into
their hands lapsed back after a while into the old condition again.

The result was that the fighting never ended. The new colonists built
castles and lived shut up in them, ruling their own immediate retainers
with an odd mixture of Brehon and Norman law. When they issued forth
they appeared clad from head to foot in steel, ravaging the country more
like foreign mercenaries than peaceful settlers. The natives, driven to
bay and dispossessed of their lands, fought too, not in armour, but,
like the Berserkers of old, in their shirts, with the addition at most
of a rude leather helmet, more often only with their hair matted into a
sort of cap on their foreheads in the fashion known as the "gibbe," that
"rascally gibbe" to which Spenser and other Elizabethan writers object
so strongly. By way of defence they now and then threw up a rude
stockade of earth or stone, modifications of the primitive rath, more
often they made no defence, or merely twisted a jungle of boughs along
the pathways to break the advance of their more heavily armed foes. The
ideas of the two races were as dissimilar as their weapons. The instinct
of the one was to conquer a country and subdue it to their own uses; the
instinct of the other was to trust to the country itself, and depend
upon its natural features, its forests, morasses, and so forth for
security. The one was irresistible in attack, the other, as his
conqueror soon learnt to his cost, practically invincible in defence,
returning doggedly again and again, and a hundred times over to the
ground from which he seemed at first to have been so easily and so
effectually driven off.

All these peculiarities, which for ages continued to mark the struggle
between the two races now brought face to face in a death struggle, are
just as marked and just as strikingly conspicuous in the first twenty
years which followed the invasion as they are during the succeeding
half-dozen centuries.




Henry had gone, and the best hopes of the new dependency departed with
him never to return again. Fourteen years later he despatched his son
John, then a youth of nineteen, with a train of courtiers, and amongst
them our friend Giraldus, who appeared to have been sent over in some
sort of tutorial or secretarial capacity.

The expedition was a disastrous failure. The chiefs flocked to Waterford
to do honour to their king's son. The courtiers, encouraged by their
insolent young master, scoffed at the dress, and mockingly plucked the
long beards of the tributaries. Furious and smarting under the insult
they withdrew, hostile every man of them now to the death. The news
spread; the more distant and important of the chieftains declined to
appear. John and his courtiers gave themselves up to rioting and
misconduct of various kinds. All hopes of conciliation were at an end. A
successful confederation was formed amongst the Irish, and the English
were for a while driven bodily out of Munster. John returned to England
at the end of eight months, recalled in hot haste and high displeasure
by his father.

Twenty-five years later he came back again, this time as king, with a
motley army of mercenaries gathered to crush the two brothers De Lacy,
who for the moment dominated all Ireland--the one, Hugo, being Earl of
Ulster, and Viceroy; the other, Walter, Lord of the Palatinate of Meath.

Among his many vices John had not at least that of indolence to be laid
to his charge! He marched direct from Waterford to Trim, the
head-quarters of the De Lacys, seized the castle, moved on next day to
Kells, thence proceeded by rapid stages to Dundalk, Carlingford,
Downpatrick, and Carrickfergus. Hugo de Lacy fled in dismay to Scotland.
The chieftains of Connaught and Thomond joined their forces with those
of the king; even the hitherto indomitable O'Neil made a proffer of
submission. Leaving a garrison at Carrickfergus, John marched back by
Downpatrick and Drogheda, re entered Meath, visited Duleck, slept a
night at Kells, and so back to Dublin, where he was met by nearly every
Anglo-Norman baron, each and all eager to exhibit their own loyalty. His
next care was to divide their territory into counties; to bind them over
to supply soldiers when called upon to do so by the viceroy, and to
arrange for the muster of troops in Dublin. Then away he went again to
England. He had been in the country exactly sixty-six days.

Unpleasant man and detestable king as he was, John had no slight share
of the governing powers of his race, and even his short stay in Ireland
did some good, enough to show what might have been done had a better
man, and one in a little less desperate hurry, remained to hold the
reins. He had proved that, however they might ape the part, the barons
were not as a matter of fact the absolute lords of Ireland; that they
had a master beyond the sea; one who, if aroused, could make the boldest
of them shake in his coat of mail. The lesson was not as well learnt as
it ought to have been, but it was better at least than if it had not
been learnt at all.

At that age and in its then condition a strong ruler--native if
possible, if not, foreign--was by far the best hope for Ireland. Such a
ruler, if only for his own sake, would have had the genuine interests of
the country at heart. He might have tyrannized himself, but the little
tyrants would have been kept at bay. Few countries--and certainly
Ireland was not one of the exceptions--were at that time ripe for what
we now mean by free institutions. Freedom meant the freedom of a strong
government, one that was not at the beck of accident, and was not
perpetually changing from one hand to another. The English people found
this out for themselves centuries later during the terrible anarchy
which resulted from the Wars of the Roses, and of their own accord put
themselves under the brutal, but on the whole patriotic, yoke of the
Tudors. In Ireland the petty masters unfortunately were always near; the
great one was beyond the sea and not so easily to be got at! There was
no unity; no pretence of even-handed justice, no one to step between the
oppressed and the oppressor. And the result of all this is still to be
seen written as in letters of brass upon the face of the country and
woven into the very texture of the character of its people.



The jealousy shown by Henry and his sons towards the earliest invaders
of Ireland is doubtless the reason why Giraldus--for a courtier and an
ecclesiastic upon his promotion--is so remarkably explicit upon their
royal failings. The Geraldines especially seem to have been the objects
of this not very unnatural jealousy, and the Geraldines are, on the
other hand, to Giraldus himself, objects of an almost superstitious
worship. His pen never wearies of expatiating upon their valour, fame,
beauty, and innumerable graces, laying stress especially--and in this he
is certainly borne out by the facts--upon the great advantage which men
trained in the Welsh wars, and used all their lives to skirmishing in
the lightest order, had over those who had had no previous experience of
the very peculiar warfare necessary in Ireland. "Who," he cries with a
burst of enthusiasm, "first penetrated into the heart of the enemy's
country? The Geraldines! Who have kept it in submission? The Geraldines!
Who struck most terror into the enemy? The Geraldines! Against whom are
the shafts of malice chiefly directed? The Geraldines! Oh that they had
found a prince who could have appreciated their distinguished worth! How
tranquil, how peaceful would then have been the state of Ireland under
their administration!"

Even their indignant chronicler admits however that the Geraldines did
not do so very badly for themselves! Maurice Fitzgerald, the eldest of
the brothers, became the ancestor both of the Earls of Kildare and
Desmond; William, the younger, obtained an immense grant of land in
Kerry from the McCarthys, indeed as time went on the lordship of the
Desmond Fitzgeralds grew larger and larger, until it covered nearly as
much ground as many a small European kingdom. Nor was this all. The
White Knight, the Knight of Glyn, and the Knight of Kerry were all three
Fitzgeralds, all descended from the same root, and all owned large
tracts of country. The position of the Geraldines of Kildare was even
more important, on account of their close proximity to Dublin. In later
times their great keep at Maynooth dominated the whole Pale, while their
followers swarmed everywhere, each man with a G. embroidered upon his
breast in token of his allegiance. By the beginning of the sixteenth
century their power had reached to, perhaps, the highest point ever
attained in these islands by any subject. Whoever might be called the
Viceroy in Ireland it was the Earl of Kildare who practically governed
the country.

Originally there were three Palatinates--Leinster granted to Strongbow,
Meath to De Lacy, and Ulster to De Courcy. To these two more were
afterwards added, namely, Ormond and Desmond. The power of the Lord
Palatine was all but absolute. He had his own Palatinate court, with its
judges, sheriffs, and coroners. He could build fortified towns, and
endow them with charters. He could create as many knights as he thought
fit, a privilege of which they seem fully to have availed themselves,
since we learn that Richard, Earl of Ulster, created no less than
thirty-three upon a single occasion. For all practical purposes the
Palatinates were thus simply petty kingdoms or principalities,
independent in everything but the name.

Strongbow, the greatest of all the territorial barons, left no son to
inherit his estates, only a daughter, who married William Marshall, Earl
of Pembroke. Through her his estates passed to five heiresses, who
married five great nobles, namely, Warrenne, Mountchesny, De Vesci, De
Braosa, and Gloucester. Strongbow's Palatinate of Leinster was thus
split up into five smaller Palatinates. As none of the new owners
moreover chose to live in Ireland, and their revenues were merely drawn
away to England, the estates were after awhile very properly declared
forfeited, and went to the Crown. Thus the one who of all the
adventurers had cherished the largest and most ambitious hopes in the
end left no enduring mark at all in Ireland.

Connaught--despite a treaty drawn up between Henry I. and Cathal
O'Connor, its native king--was granted by John to William FitzAldelm de
Burgh and his son Richard, on much the same terms as Ulster had been
already granted to De Courcy, on the understanding, that is to say, that
if he could he might win it by the sword. De Courcy failed, but the De
Burghs were wilier and more successful. Carefully fostering a strife
which shortly after broke out between the two rival princes of the house
of O'Connor, and watching from the fortress they had built for
themselves at Athlone, upon the Shannon, they seized an opportunity when
both combatants were exhausted to pounce upon the country, and wrest the
greater part of it away from their grasp. They also drove away the clan
of O'Flaherty--owners from time immemorial of the region known as Moy
Seola, to the east of the bay of Galway--and forced them back across
Lough Corrib, where they took refuge amongst the mountains of far
Connaught, descending continually in later times in fierce hordes, and
wreaking their vengeance upon the town of Galway, which had been founded
by the De Burghs at the mouth of the river which carries the waters of
Lough Corrib to the sea. To this day the whole of this region of Moy
Seola and the eastern shores of Lough Corrib may be seen to be thickly
peppered over with ruined De Burgh castles, monuments of some four or
five centuries of uninterrupted fighting.

At one time the De Burghs were by far the largest landowners in Ireland.
Not only did they possess an immense tract of Connaught, but by the
marriage of Richard de Burgh's son to Maud, daughter of Hugh de Lacy,
Earl of Ulster, they became the nominal owners of nearly all Ulster to
boot. It never was more, however, than a nominal ownership, the clutch
of the O'Neills and O'Donnells being found practically impossible to
unloose, so that all the De Burghs could be said to hold were the
southern borders of what are now the counties of Down, Monaghan, and
Antrim. When, too, William, the third Earl of Ulster, was murdered in
1333, his possessions passed to his daughter and heiress, a child of two
years old. A baby girl's inheritance was not likely, as may be imagined,
to be regarded at that date as particularly sacred. Ulster was at once
retaken by the O'Neills and O'Connels. Two of the Burkes, or De Burghs,
Ulick and Edmund, seized Connaught and divided it between them, becoming
in due time the ancestors, the one of the Mayos, the other of the

Another of the great houses was that of the Ormonds, descended from
Theobald Walter, a nephew of Thomas a Becket, who was created hereditary
cup-bearer or butler to Henry II. Theobald Walter received grants of
land in Tipperary and Kilkenny, as well as at Arklow, and in 1391
Kilkenny Castle was sold to his descendant the Earl of Ormond by the
heirs of Strongbow. The Ormonds' most marked characteristic is that from
the beginning to the end of their career they remained, with hardly an
exception, loyal adherents of the English Crown. Their most important
representative was the "great duke" as he was called, James, Duke of
Ormond, who bore an important part in the civil wars of Charles I., and
is perhaps the most distinguished representative of all these great
Norman Irish houses, unless indeed one of the greatest names in the
whole range of English political history--that of Edmund Burke--is to be
added to the list, as perhaps in fairness it ought.

Troublesome as it is to keep these different houses in the memory, it is
hopeless to attempt without doing so to understand anything of the
history of Ireland. In England where the ruling power was vested first
in the sovereign and later in the Parliament, the landowners, however
large their possessions, rarely attained to more than a local
importance, save of course when one of them chanced to rise to eminence
as a soldier or a statesman. In Ireland the parliament, throughout
nearly the whole of its separate existence, was little more than a name,
irregularly summoned, and until the middle of the sixteenth century,
representing only one small corner of the country. The kings never came;
the viceroys came and went in a continually changing succession;
practically, therefore, the great territorial barons constituted the
backbone of the country--so far as it could be said to have had any
backbone at all. They made war with the native chiefs, or else made
alliances with them and married their daughters. They raided one
another's properties, slew one another's kerns, and carried one another
away prisoner. Sometimes their independent action went even further than
this. The battle of Knocktow, of which we shall hear in due time, arose
because the Earl of Kildare's daughter had quarrelled with her husband,
the Earl of Clanricarde, and her father chose to espouse her quarrel.
Two large armies were collected, nearly all the lords of the Pale and
their followers being upon one side, under the banner of Kildare, a vast
and undisciplined horde of natives under Clanricarde upon the other, and
the slaughter is said to have exceeded 8,000. Parental affection is a
very attractive quality, but when it swells to such dimensions as these
it becomes formidable for the peace of a country!



One of the greatest difficulties to be faced in the study of Irish
history, no matter upon what scale, is to discover any reasonable method
of dividing our space. The habit of distributing all historical affairs
into reigns is often misleading enough even in England; in Ireland it
becomes simply ridiculous. What difference can any one suppose it made
to the great bulk of the people of that country whether a Henry, whom
they had never seen, had been succeeded by an Edward they had never
seen, or an Edward by a Henry? No two sovereigns could have been less
alike in character or aims than Henry III. and Edward I., yet when we
fix our eyes upon Ireland the difference is to all intents and purposes

That, though he never visited the country, Edward I., like his
great-grandfather, had large schemes for the benefit of Ireland is
certain. Practically, however? his schemes never came to anything, and
the chief effect of his reign was that the country was so largely drawn
upon for men and money for the support of his wars elsewhere as greatly
to weaken the already feeble power of the Government, the result being
that at the first touch of serious trouble it all but fell to pieces.

Very serious trouble indeed came in the reign of the second Edward. The
battle of Bannockburn--the greatest disaster which ever befel the
English during their Scotch wars--had almost as marked an effect on
Ireland as on Scotland. All the elements of disaffection at once began
to boil and bubble. The O'Neills--ever ready for a fray, and the nearest
in point of distance to Scotland--promptly made overtures to the Bruces,
and Edward Bruce, the victorious king's brother, was despatched at the
head of a large army, and landing in 1315 near Carrickfergus was at once
joined by the O'Neills, and war proclaimed.

The first to confront these new allies was Richard de Burgh, the "Red
Earl" of Ulster, who was twice defeated by them and driven back on
Dublin. The viceroy, Sir Edmund Butler, was the next encountered, and he
also was defeated at a battle near Ardscul, whereupon the whole country
rose like one man. Fedlim O'Connor, the young king of Connaught, the
hereditary chieftain of Thomond, and a host of smaller chieftains of
Connaught, Munster, and Meath, flew to arms. Even the De Lacys and
several of the other Norman colonists threw in their lot with the
invaders. Edward Bruce gained another victory at Kells, and having
wasted the country round about, destroying the property of the colonists
and slaughtering all whom he could find, he returned to Carrickfergus,
where he was met by his brother, King Robert, and together they crossed
Ireland, descending as far south as Cashel, and burning, pillaging, and
destroying wherever they went. In 1316 the younger Bruce was crowned
king at Dundalk.

Such was the panic they created, and so utterly disunited were the
colonists, that for a time they carried all before them. It is plain
that Edward Bruce--who on one side was descended both from Strongbow and
Dermot McMurrough--fully hoped to have cut out a kingdom for himself
with his sword, as others of his blood had hoped and intended before
him. His own excesses, however, went far to prevent that. So frightfully
did he devastate the country, and so horrible was the famine which he
created, that many even of his own army perished from it or from the
pestilence which followed. His Irish allies fell away in dismay. English
and Irish annalists, unanimous for once, alike exclaim in horror over
his deeds. Clyn, the Franciscan historian, tells us how he burned and
plundered the churches. The annals of Lough Ce say that "no such period
for famine or destruction of men" ever occurred, and that people "used
then to eat one another throughout Erin." "They, the Scots," says the
poet Spenser, writing centuries later, "utterly consumed and wasted
whatsoever was before left unspoyled so that of all towns, castles,
forts, bridges, and habitations they left not a stick standing, nor yet
any people remayning, for those few which yet survived fledde from their
fury further into the English Pale that now is. Thus was all that goodly
country utterly laid waste."

Such insane destruction brought its own punishment. The colonists began
to recover from their dismay. Ormonds, Kildares, and Desmonds bestirred
themselves to collect troops. The O'Connors, who with all their tribe
had risen in arms, had been utterly defeated at Athenry, where the young
king Fedlim and no less than 10,000 of his followers are said to have
been left dead. Roger Mortimer, the new viceroy, was re-organizing the
government in Dublin. The clergy, stimulated by a Papal mandate, had all
now turned against the invader. Robert Bruce had some time previously
been recalled to Scotland, and Sir John de Bermingham, the victor of
Athenry, pushing northward at the head of 15,000 chosen troops, met the
younger Bruce at Dundalk. The combat was hot, short, and decisive. The
Scots were defeated, Edward Bruce himself killed, and his head struck
off and sent to London. The rest hastened back to Scotland with as
little delay as possible. The Scotch invasion was over.

It was over, but its effects remained. From one end of Ireland to the
other there was disaffection, anger, revolt. England had proved too weak
or too negligent to interfere at the right time and in the right way,
and although successful in the end she could not turn back the tide.
There was a general feeling of disbelief in the reality of her
government. A semi-national feeling had sprung up which temporarily
united colonists and natives in a bond of self-defence. Norman nobles
and native Irish chieftains threw in their lot together. The English
yeoman class, which had begun to get established in Leinster and
Munster, had been all but utterly destroyed by Edward Bruce, and the
remnant now left the country in despair. The great English lords, with
the exception of Ormond and Kildare, from this out took Irish names and
adopted Irish dress and fashions. The two De Burghs, as already stated,
seized upon the Connaught possessions of their cousin, and divided them,
taking the one Galway and the other Mayo, and calling themselves
McWilliam Eighter and McWilliam Oughter, or the Nether and the Further
Burkes. So too with nearly all the rest. Bermingham of Athenry, in spite
of his late famous victory over the Irish, did the same, calling himself
McYorris; Fitzmaurice of Lixnaw became McMaurice; FitzUrse of Louth,
McMahon; and so on through a whole list.

Nor is it difficult to understand the motives which led to these
changes. The position of an Irish chieftain--with his practically
limitless powers of life and death, his wild retinue of retainers whose
only law was the will of their chief--offered an irresistible temptation
to men of their type, and had many more charms than the narrow and
uninteresting _role_ of liegeman to a king whom they never saw, and the
obeying of whose behests brought them harm rather than good. England had
shown only too plainly that she had no power to protect her Irish
colonists, of what use therefore, it was asked, for them to call
themselves any longer English? The great majority from that moment
ceased to do so. Save within the "five obedient shires" which came to be
known as the English Pale, "the king's writ no longer ran." The native
Irish swarmed back from the mountains and forests, and repossessed
themselves of the lands from which they had been driven. No serious
attempts were made to re-establish the authority of the law over
three-fourths of the island. Within a century and a half of the
so-called conquest, save within one small and continually narrowing
area, Ireland had ceased even nominally to belong to England.




It was not to be expected, however, that the larger country would for
very shame let her possessions thus slip from her grasp without an
effort to retain them, certainly not when a ruler of the calibre of an
Edward III. came to the helm. Had his energies been able to concentrate
themselves upon Ireland the stream which was setting dead against
loyalty might even then have been turned back. The royal interest would
have risen to the top of faction, as it did in England, and would have
curbed the growing and dangerous power of the barons. That magic which
surrounds the word king might--who can say that it would not?--have
awakened a sentiment at once of patriotism and loyalty.

Chimerical as it may sound even to suppose such a thing, there seems no
valid reason why it might not have been. No people admittedly are more
intensely loyal by nature than the native Irish. By their failings no
less than their virtues they are extraordinarily susceptible to a
personal influence, and that devotion which they so often showed towards
their own chiefs might with very little trouble have been awakened in
favour of a king. It is one of the most deplorable of the many
deplorable facts which stud the history of Ireland that no opening for
the growth of such sentiment was ever once presented--certainly not in
such a form that it would have been humanly possible for it to
be embraced.

Edward III. had now his chance. Unfortunately he was too busy to avail
himself of it. He had too many irons in the fire to trouble himself much
about Ireland. If it furnished him with a supply of fighting
men--clean-limbed, sinewy fellows who could run all day without a sign
of fatigue, live on a handful of meal, and for a lodging feel luxurious
with an armful of hay and the sheltered side of a stone--it was pretty
much all he wanted. The light-armed Irish troop did great things at
Crecy, but they were never used at home. That Half-hold, which was the
ruin of Ireland, and which was to go on being its ruin for many and many
a century, was never more conspicuous than during the nominal rule of
the strongest and ablest of all the Angevin kings.

Something, however, for very shame he did do. In 1361 all absentee
landowners, already amounting to no less than sixty-three, including the
heads of several of the great abbeys, were summoned to Westminster and
ordered to provide an army to accompany Lionel, Duke of Clarence, whom
he had decided upon sending over to Ireland as viceroy.

Clarence was the king's third son, and had married the only daughter and
heiress of William de Burgh (mentioned a little way back as a baby
heiress), and through his wife had become Earl of Ulster and the nominal
lord of an enormous tract of the country stretching from the Bay of
Galway nearly up to the coast of Donegal. Most of this had, however,
already, as we have seen, been lost. The two rebel Burkes had got
possession of the Galway portion, the O'Neills, O'Connors, and other
chiefs had repossessed themselves of the North. So completely indeed was
the latter lost that Ulster--nominally the patrimony of the Duchess of
Clarence--is not even alluded to by her husband as part of the country
over which his government could attempt to lay claim.

The chief event of this visit was the summoning of a Parliament at
Kilkenny, a Parliament made memorable ever after by the passing of what
is still known as the Statute of Kilkenny[5]. This Statute, although it
produced little effect at the time, is an extremely important one to
understand, as it enables us to realize the state to which the country
had then got, and explains, moreover, a good deal that would otherwise
be obscure or confusing in the after history of Ireland.

[5] 40 Edward III., Irish Statutes.

Two distinct and separate set of rules are here drawn up for two
distinct and separate Irelands. One is for the English Ireland, which
then included about the area of ten counties, though it afterwards
shrank to four and a few towns; the other is for the Ireland of the
Irish and rebellious English, which included the rest of the island; the
object being, not as might be supposed at first sight, to unite these
two closer together, but to keep them as far apart as possible; to
prevent them, in fact, if possible, from ever uniting.

A great many provisions are laid down by this Act, all bearing the same
aim. Marriage and fosterage between the English and Irish are forbidden,
and declared to be high treason. So, too, is the supply of all horses,
weapons, or goods of any sort to the Irish; monks of Irish birth are not
to be admitted into any English monastery, nor yet Irish priests into
any English preferment. The Irish dress and the Irish mode of riding are
both punishable. War with the natives is inculcated as a duty binding
upon all good colonists. None of the Irish, except a certain number of
families known as the "Five Bloods" (_Quinque sanquines_), are to be
allowed to plead at any English court, and the killing of an Irishman is
not to be reckoned as a crime. In addition to this, speaking the
language of the country is made penal. Any one mixing with the English,
and known to be guilty of this offence, is to lose his lands (if he has
any), and his body to be lodged in one of the strong places of the king
until he learns to repent and amend.

The original words of this part of the Act are worth quoting. They run
as follows: "Si nul Engleys ou Irroies entre eux memes encontre c'est
ordinance et de cei soit atteint soint sez terrez e tenez s'il eit
seizez en les maines son Seignours immediate, tanque q'il veigne a un
des places nostre Seignour le Roy, et trove sufficient seurtee de
prendre et user le lang Englais."

One would like--merely as a matter of curiosity--to know what appliances
for the study of that not easiest of languages were provided, and before
what tribunal the student had to prove his proficiency in it. When, too,
we remember that English was still, to a great degree, tabooed in
England itself; that the official and familiar language of the Normans
was French, that French of which the Statutes of Kilkenny are themselves
a specimen, the difficulty of keeping within the law at this point must,
it will be owned, have been considerable.

"In all this it is manifest," says Sir John Davis, "that such as had the
government of Ireland did indeed intend to make a perpetual enmity
between the English and the Irish, pretending that the English should in
the end root out the Irish; which, the English not being able to do,
caused a perpetual war between the two nations, which continued four
hundred and odd years, and would have lasted unto the world's end, if in
Queen Elizabeth's reign the Irish had not been broken and conquered by
the sword."

It is easy to see that the very ferocity--as it seems to us the utter
and inconceivable ferocity--of these enactments is in the main a proof
of the pitiable and deplorable weakness of those who passed them, and to
this weakness we must look for their excuse, so far as they admitted of
excuse at all. Weakness, especially weakness in high places, is apt to
fall back upon cruelty to supply false strength, and a government that
found itself face to face with an entire country in arms, absolutely
antagonistic to and defiant of its authority, may easily have felt
itself driven by sheer despair into some such false and futile
exhibitions of power. The chief sufferers by these statutes were not the
inhabitants of the wilder districts, who, for the most part, escaped out
of reach of its provisions, beyond that narrow area where the Dublin
judges travelled their little rounds, and who were governed still--when
governed at all--by the Brehon laws and Brehon judges, much as in the
days of Brian Boru. The real victims were the unhappy settlers of the
Pale and such natives as had thrown in their lot with them, and who were
robbed and harassed alike by those without and those within. The feudal
system was one that always bore hardly upon the poor, and in Ireland the
feudal system was at its very worst. There was no central authority; no
one to interpose between the baronage and the tillers of the soil; and
that state of things which in England only existed during comparatively
short periods, and under exceptionally weak rulers, in Ireland was
continuous and chronic. The consequence was that men escaped more and
more out of this intolerable tyranny into the comparative freedom which
lay beyond; forgot that they had ever been English; allowed their
beards, in defiance of regulations, to grow; pulled their hair down into
a "gibbes" upon their foreheads; adopted fosterage, gossipage, and all
the other pleasant contraband Irish customs; married Irish wives, and
became, to all intents and purposes, Irishmen. The English power had no
more dangerous enemies in the days that were to come than these men of
English descent, whose fathers had come over to found a new kingdom for
her upon the western side of St. George's Channel.



Richard the Second's reign is a more definite epoch for the Irish
historian than many more striking ones, for the simple reason of two
visits having been paid by him to Ireland. The first of these was in
1394, when he landed at Waterford with 30,000 archers and 40,000 men at
arms, an immense army for that age, and for Ireland it was held an
irresistible one.

It was certainly high time for some steps to be taken. In all directions
the interests of the colonists were going to the wall. Not only in
Ulster, Minister, and Connaught, but even in the East of Ireland, the
natives were fast repossessing themselves of all the lands from which
they had been driven. A great chieftain, Art McMurrough, had made
himself master of the greater part of Leinster, and only by a
humiliating use of "Black Rent," could he be kept at bay. The towns were
in a miserable state; Limerick, Cork, Waterford had all again and again
been attacked, and could with difficulty defend themselves. The Wicklow
tribes swarmed down to the very walls of Dublin, and carried the cattle
off from under the noses of the citizens. The judges' rounds were
getting yearly shorter and shorter. The very deputy could hardly ride
half-a-dozen miles from the castle gates without danger of being set
upon, captured, and carried off for ransom.

Richard flattered himself that he had only to appear to conquer. He was
keen to achieve some military glory, and Ireland seemed an easy field to
win it upon. Like many another before and after him, he found the task
harder than it seemed. The great chiefs came in readily enough;
O'Connors, O'Briens, O'Neills, even the turbulent McMurrough himself,
some seventy-five of them in all. The king entertained them sumptuously,
as Henry II. had entertained their ancestors two centuries before. They
engaged to be loyal, and to answer for the loyalty of their
dependants--with some mental reservations we must conclude. In return
for this submission the king knighted the four chiefs just named, a
somewhat incongruous piece of courtesy it must be owned. Shortly after
his knighthood, Art McMurrough, "Sir Art," was thrown into prison on
suspicion. He was released before long, but the release failed to wipe
out the affront, and the angry chief retired, nursing fierce vengeance,
to his forests.

Richard remained in Ireland nine months, during which he achieved
nothing, and departed leaving the government in the hands of his
heir-presumptive, Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, the grandson of Lionel,
Duke of Clarence, and, therefore, in right of his mother, Earl of
Ulster, and the nominal owner of an immense territory, covering nearly a
third of the island, barely one acre of which, however, remained in
his hands.

The king had not been gone long before Art McMurrough rose again. The
young deputy was in Wicklow, endeavouring to carry out a projected
colony. Hearing of this outbreak, he hastened into Meath. An encounter
took place near Kells. Art McMurrough, at the head of his own men, aided
by some wild levies of O'Tooles and O'Nolans, completely defeated the
royal army, and after the battle the heir of the English Crown was found
amongst the slain.

This Art McMurrough, or Art Kavangh, as he is sometimes called, was a
man of very much more formidable stamp than most of the nameless
freebooters, native or Norman, who filled the country. His fashion of
making his onset seems to have been tremendous. Under him the wild
horsemen and "naked knaves," armed only with skeans and darts, sent
terror into the breast of their armour-clad antagonists. One of the few
early illustrations of Irish history extant represents him as charging
at breakneck pace down a hill. We are told that "he rode a horse without
a saddle or housing, which was so fine and good that it cost him four
hundred cows. In coming down the hill it galloped so hard that in my
opinion," says a contemporary writer, "I never in all my life saw hare,
deer, sheep, or other animal, I declare to you for a certainty, run with
such speed. In his right hand he bore a great dart, which he cast with
much skill[6]." No wonder that such a rider, upon such a horse, should
have struck terror into the very souls of the colonists, and induced
them to comply with any demands, however rapacious and humiliating,
rather than have to meet him face to face in the field.

[6] "Metrical History of the Deposition of Richard II."

The news of McMurrough's victory and of the death of his heir brought
Richard back again to Ireland. He returned in hot wrath resolved this
time to crush the delinquents. At home everything seemed safe. John of
Gaunt was recently dead; Henry of Lancaster still in exile; the Percys
had been driven over the border into Scotland. All his enemies seemed to
be crushed or extinguished. With an army nearly as large as before, and
with vast supplies of stores and arms, he landed at Waterford in 1399.

This time Art McMurrough quietly awaited his coming in a wood not far
from the landing-place. He had only 3,000 men about him, so prudently
declined to be drawn from that safe retreat of the assailed. The king
and his army sat down on the outskirts of the wood. It was July, but the
weather was desperately wet. The ground was in a swamp, the rain
incessant; there was nothing but green oats for the horses. The whole
army suffered from damp and exposure. Some labourers were hastily
collected, and an attempt made to cut down the wood. This, too, as might
be expected, proved a failure, and Richard, in disgust and vexation,
broke up his camp, and with great difficulty, dragging his unwieldy army
after him, fell back upon Dublin.

The Leinster chief was not slow to avail himself of the situation. He
now took a high hand, and demanded to be put in possession of certain
lands he claimed through his wife, as well as to retain his chieftaincy.
A treaty was set on foot, varied by the despatch of a flying column to
scour his country. In the middle of the negotiation startling news
arrived. Henry of Lancaster had landed at Ravenspur, and all England was
in arms. The king set off to return, but bad weather and misleading
counsel kept him another sixteen days on Irish soil. It was a fatal
sixteen days. When he reached Milford Haven it was to find the roads
blocked, and to be met by the news that all was lost. The army of
Welshmen, gathered by Salisbury, had dispersed, finding that the king
did not arrive. His own army of 30,000 men caught the panic, and melted
equally rapidly. He tried to negotiate with his cousin, but too late. At
Chester he fell into the hands of the victor, and, within a few weeks
after leaving Ireland, had passed to a prison, and from there to a
grave. He was the last English king to set foot upon its soil until
nearly exactly three centuries later, when two rivals met to try
conclusions upon the same blood-stained arena.

From this out matters grew from bad to worse. Little or no attempt was
made to enforce the law save within the ever-narrowing boundary of what
about this time came to be known as the Pale. Outside, Ireland grew to
be more and more the Ireland of the natives. Art McMurrough ruled over
his own country triumphantly till his death, and levied tribute right
and left with even-handed impartiality upon his neighbours. "Black
Rent," indeed, began to take the form of a regularly recognized tribute;
O'Neill receiving L40 a year from the county of Louth, O'Connor of
Offaly, _L60_ from the county of Meath, and others in like proportion.
In despair of any assistance from England some of the colonists formed
themselves into a fraternity which they called the "Brotherhood of St.
George," consisting of some thirteen gentlemen of the Pale with a
hundred archers and a handful of horsemen under them.

The Irish Government continued to pass Act after Act, each more and more
ferocious as it became more and more ineffective. Colonists were now
empowered to take and behead any natives whom they found marauding, or
whom they even suspected of any such intention. All friendly dealing
with natives was to be punished as felony. All who failed to shave their
upper lip at least once a fortnight were to be imprisoned and their
goods seized. Englishmen who married Irish women were to be accounted
guilty of high treason, and hung, drawn, and quartered at the
convenience of the viceroy. Such feeble ferocity tells its own tale.
Like some angry shrew the unhappy executive was getting louder and
shriller the less its denunciations were attended to.



The most salient fact in Irish history is perhaps its monotony. If that
statement is a bull it is one that must be forgiven for the sake of the
truth it conveys. Year after year, decade after decade, century after
century, we seem to go swimming slowly and wearily on through a vague
sea of confusion and disorder; of brutal deeds and yet more brutal
retaliations; of misgovernment and anarchy; of a confusion so
penetrating and all-persuasive that the mind fairly refuses to grapple
with it. Even killing--exciting as an incident--becomes monotonous when
it is continued _ad infinitum_, and no other occurrence ever comes to
vary its tediousness. Campion the Elizabethan historian, whose few pages
are a perfect magazine of verbal quaintness, apologizes in the preface
to his "lovyng reader, for that from the time of Cambrensis to that of
Henry VIII." he is obliged to make short work of his intermediate
periods; "because that nothing is therein orderly written, and that the
same is time beyond any man's memory, wherefore I scramble forward with
such records as could be sought up, and am enforced to be the briefer."

"Scrambling forward" is, indeed, exactly what describes the process. We,
too, must be content "to be the briefer," and to "scramble forward"
across these intermediate and comparatively eventless periods in order
to reach what lies beyond. The age of the Wars of the Roses is one of
great gloom and confusion in England; in Ireland it is an all but
complete blank. What intermittent interest in its affairs had been
awakened on the other side of the channel had all but wholly died away
in that protracted struggle. That its condition was miserable, almost
beyond conception, is all that we know for certain. In England, although
civil war was raging, and the baronage were energetically slaughtering
one another, the mass of the people seem for the most part to have gone
unscathed. The townsfolk were undisturbed; the law was protected; the
law officers went their rounds; there seems even to have been little
general rapine and pillage. The Church, still at its full strength,
watched jealously over its own rights and over the rights of those whom
it protected. In Ireland, although there was nothing that approached to
the dignity of civil war, the condition of the country seems to have
been one of uninterrupted and almost universal carnage, pillage, and
rapine. The baronage of the Pale raided upon the rest of the country,
and the rest of the country raided upon the Pale. Even amongst churchmen
it was much the same. Although there was no religious dissension, and
heresy was unknown, the jealousy between the churchmen of the two rival
races, seems to have been as deep as between the laymen, and their
hatred of one another probably even greater. As has been seen in a
former chapter, no priest or monk of Irish blood was ever admitted into
an English living or monastery, and the rule appears to have been quite
equally applicable the other way.

The means, too, for keeping these discordant elements in check were
ludicrously inefficient. The whole military establishment during the
greater part of this century consisted of some 80 archers, and about 40
"spears;" the whole revenue amounted to a few hundred pounds per annum.
The Parliament was a small and irregular body of barons and knights of
the shires, with a few burgesses, unwillingly summoned from the towns,
and a certain number of bishops and abbots, the latter, owing to the
disturbed state of the country, being generally represented by their
proctors. It was summoned at long intervals, and met sometimes in
Dublin, sometimes in Drogheda, at other times in Kilkenny, as occasion
suggested. Even when it did meet legislation was rarely attempted, and
its office was confined mainly to the voting of subsidies. The country
simply drifted at its own pleasure down the road to ruin, and by the
time the battle of Bosworth was fought, the deepest depths of anarchy
had probably been sounded.

The seaport towns alone kept up some little semblance of order and
self-government, and seem to have shown some slight capacity for
self-defence. In 1412, Waterford distinguished itself by the spirited
defence of its walls against the O'Driscolls, a piratical clan of West
Cork, and the following year sent a ship into the enemy's stronghold of
Baltimore, whose crew seized upon the chief himself, his three brothers,
his son, his uncle, and his wife, and carried them off in triumph to
Waterford, a feat which the annals of the town commemorate with laudable
pride. Dublin, too, showed a similar spirit, and fitted out some small
vessels which it sent on a marauding expedition to Scotland, in reward
for which its chief magistrate, who had up to that time been a Provost,
was invested with the title of Mayor. "The king granted them license,"
says Camden, "to choose every year a Mayor and two baliffs." Also that
its Mayor "should have a gilt sword carried before him for ever."

Several eminent figures appear amongst the "ruck of empty names" which
fill up the list of fifteenth-century Irish viceroys. Most of
these were mere birds of passage, who made a few experiments at
government--conciliatory or the reverse, as the case might be--and so
departed again. Sir John Talbot, the scourge of France, and antagonist
of the Maid of Orleans, was one of these. From all accounts he seems to
have quite kept up his character in Ireland. The native writers speak of
him as a second Herod. The colonist detested him for his exactions,
while his soldiery were a scourge to every district they were quartered
upon. He rebuilt the bridge of Athy, however, and fortified it so as to
defend that portion of the Pale, and succeeded in keeping the O'Moores,
O'Byrnes, and the rest of the native marauders to some degree at bay.

In 1449, Richard, Duke of York, was sent to Ireland upon a sort of
honorary exile. He took the opposite tack of conciliation. Although
Ormond was a prominent member of the Lancastrian party, he at once made
gracious overtures to him. Desmond, too, he won over by his courtesy,
and upon the birth of his son George--afterwards the luckless Duke of
Clarence--the rival earls acted as joint sponsors, and when, in 1451, he
left Ireland, he appointed Ormond his deputy and representative.

Nine years later he came back, this time as a fugitive. The popularity
which he had already won stood him then in good stead. Seizing upon the
government, he held it in the teeth of the king and Parliament for more
than a year. The news of the battle of Northampton tempted him to
England. His son, the Earl of March, had been victorious, and Henry VI,
was a prisoner. He was not destined, however, to profit by the success
of his own side. In a temporary Lancastrian triumph he was outnumbered,
and killed by the troops of Queen Margaret at Wakefield.

His Irish popularity descended to his son. A considerable number of
Irish Yorkist partisans, led by the Earl of Kildare, fought beside the
latter at the decisive and sanguinary battle of Towton, at which battle
the rival Earl of Ormond, leader of the Irish Lancastrians, was taken
prisoner, beheaded by the victors, and all his property attained, a blow
from which the Butlers were long in recovering.

No other great Irish house suffered seriously. In England the older
baronage were all but utterly swept away by the Wars of the Roses, only
a few here and there surviving its carnage. In Ireland it was not so. A
certain number of Anglo-Norman names disappear at this point from its
annals, but the greater number of those with which the reader has become
familiar continue to be found in their now long established homes. The
Desmonds and De Burghs still reigned undisputed and unchallenged over
their several remote lordships. Ulster, indeed, had long since become
wholly Irish, but within the Pale the minor barons of Norman
descent--Fingals, Gormanstons, Dunsanys, Trimbelstons and
others--remained where their Norman fathers had established themselves,
and where their descendants for the most part may be found still. The
house of Kildare had grown in strength during the temporary collapse of
its rival, and from this out for nearly a century towers high over every
other Irish house. The Duke of York was the last royal viceroy who
actually held the sword. Others, though nominated, never came over, and
in their absence the Kildares remained omnipotent, generally as
deputies, and even when that office was for a while confided to other
hands, their power was hardly diminished. Only the barren title of
Lord-Lieutenant was withheld, and was as a rule bestowed upon some royal
personage, several times upon children, once in the case of Edward IV.'s
son upon an actual infant in arms.

In 1480, Gerald, eighth Earl of Kildare, called by his own following,
Geroit Mor, or Gerald the Great, became deputy, and, from that time
forward under five successive kings, and during a period of 33 years, he
"reigned" with hardly an interval until his death in 1513.

Geroit Mor is perhaps the most important chief governor who ruled
Ireland upon thorough-going Irish principles. "A mighty man of stature,
full of honour and courage." Stanihurst describes him as being "A knight
in valour;" and "princely and religious in his words and judgments" is
the flattering report of the "Annals of the Four Masters." "His name
awed his enemies more than his army," says Camden. "The olde earle being
soone hotte and soone cold was of the Englishe well beloved," is another
report. "In hys warres hee used a retchlesse (reckless) kynde of
diligence, or headye carelessnesse," is a less strong commendation, but
probably not less true.

He was a gallant man unquestionably, and as far as can be seen an honest
and a well-intentioned one, but his policy was a purely personal, or at
most a provincial, one. As for the interests of the country at large
they seem hardly to have come within his ken. That fashion of looking at
the matter had now so long been the established rule that it had
probably ceased indeed to be regarded as a failing.




When the Battle of Bosworth brought the adherents of the Red Rose back
to triumph, Gerald Mor was still Lord-deputy. He was not deposed,
however, on that account, although the Butlers were at once reinstated
in their own property, and Sir Thomas Butler was created Earl of Ormond.
According to a precedent now prevailing for several reigns, the
Lord-Lieutenancy was conferred upon the Duke of Bedford, the king's
uncle, Kildare continuing, however, practically to exercise all the
functions of government as his deputy.

A dangerous plot, started by the discomfited Yorkist faction, broke out
in Ireland in 1487. An impostor, named Lambert Simnel, was sent by the
Duchess of Burgundy, and trained to simulate the son of Clarence who, it
will be remembered, had been born in Ireland, and whose son was
therefore supposed to have a special claim on that country. Two thousand
German mercenaries were sent with him to support his pretensions.

[Illustration: Ireland In the Reign of Henry VII.]

This Lambert Simnel seems to have been a youth of some talent, and to
have filled his ugly imposter's _role_ with as much grace as it admitted
of Bacon, in his history of the reign, tells us that "he was a comely
youth, not without some extraordinary dignity of grace and aspect." The
fashion in which he retailed his sufferings, pleaded his youth, and
appealed to the proverbial generosity of the Irish people, to protect a
hapless prince, robbed of his throne and his birthright, seems to have
produced an immense effect. Kildare, there is reason to suspect, was
privy to the plot, but of others there is no reason to think this, and
with a single exception--that of the Earl of Howth--all the lords of the
Pale and many of the bishops, including the Archbishop of Dublin, seem
to have welcomed the lad--he was only fifteen--with the utmost
enthusiasm, an enthusiasm which Henry's production of the real son of
Clarence had no effect at all in diminishing.

Lambert Simnel was conducted in high state to Dublin, and there crowned
in the presence of the Earl of Kildare, the chancellor, and other State
officers. The crown used for the purpose was taken off the head of a
statue of The Virgin in St. Mary's Abbey, and--a quainter piece of
ceremonial still--the youthful monarch was, after the ceremony, hoisted
upon the shoulders of the tallest man in Ireland, "Great Darcy of
Flatten," and, in this position, promenaded through the streets of
Dublin so as to be seen by the people, after which he was taken back in
triumph to the castle.

His triumph was not, however, long-lived. Emboldened by this preliminary
success, his partizans took him across the sea and landed with a
considerable force at Fondray, in Lancashire, the principal leaders on
this occasion being the Earl of Lincoln, Thomas Fitzgerald, brother to
the Earl of Kildare, Lord Lovell, and Martin Schwartz, the commander of
the German forces.

The enthusiasm that was expected to break out on their arrival failed
however to come off. "Their snowballs," as Bacon puts it, "did not
gather as they went." A battle was fought at Stoke, at which 4,000 of
the rebels fell, including Thomas Fitzgerald, the Earl of Lincoln, and
the German general Martin Schwartz, while Lambert Simnel with his tutor,
Simon the priest, fell into the king's hands, who spared their lives,
and appointed the former to the office of turnspit, an office which he
held for a number of years, being eventually promoted to that of
falconer, and as guardian of the king's hawks he lived and died.

He was not the only culprit whom Henry was willing to pardon. Clemency
indeed was his strong point, and he extended it without stint again and
again to his Irish rebels. He despatched Sir Richard Edgecombe, a member
of the royal household, shortly afterwards upon a mission of
conciliation to Ireland. The royal pardon was to be extended to Kildare
and the rest of the insurgents on condition of their submission.
Kildare's pride stood out for a while against submission on any
conditions, but the Royal Commissioner was firm, and the terms, easy
ones it must be owned, were at last accepted, and an oath of allegiance
sworn to. Kildare, thereupon, was confirmed in his deputyship, and Sir
Richard Edgecombe having first partaken of "much excellent good cheere"
at the earl's castle at Maynooth, returned peaceably to England.

The Irish primate, one of the few ecclesiastics who had refused to
support the impostor, was then, as it happened, in London, and placed
strongly before the king the impolicy of continuing Kildare in office.
Apparently his remonstrance had its effect, for Henry issued a summons
to the deputy and all the Irish nobility to attend at Court, one which
was obeyed with hardly an exception. A dramatic turn is given to this
visit by the fact that Lambert Simnel, the recently crowned king, was
promoted for the occasion to serve wine at dinner to his late Irish
subjects. The poor scullion did his office with what grace he might, but
no one, it is said, would touch the wine until it came to the turn of
the Earl of Howth, the one Irish peer, as we have seen, who had declined
to accept the impostor in his heyday of success. "Nay, but bring me the
cup if the wine be good," quoth he, being a merry gentleman, "and I
shall drink it both for its sake and mine own, and for thee also as thou
art, so I leave thee, a poor innocent!"

Howth, whose speech is recorded by his own family chronicler, received
three hundred pounds as a reward for his loyalty, the rest returned as
they came, lucky, they must have felt under the circumstances, in
returning at all.

Simnel was not the last Yorkist impostor who found credit and an asylum
in Ireland. Peterkin, or Perkin Warbeck was the next whom the
indefatigable Duchess of Burgundy started on the same stage and upon the
same errand. This time the prince supposed to be personated was the
youngest son of Edward IV., one of the two princes murdered in the
tower. He is also occasionally spoken of as a son of Clarence, and
sometimes as an illegitimate son of Richard III.--any royal personage,
in fact, whose age happened to suit. In spite of the slight ambiguity
which overhung his princely origin, he was received with high honour in
Cork, and having appealed to the Earls of Desmond and Kildare, was
accepted by the former with open arms. "You Irish would crown apes!"
Henry afterwards said, not indeed unwarrantably. This time Kildare was
more cautious, though his brother, Sir James Fitzgerald, warmly espoused
the cause of the impostor. Perkin Warbeck remained in Ireland about a
year, when he was invited to France and, for a while, became the centre
of the disaffected Yorkists there. He was a very poor specimen of the
genus impostor, and seems even to have been destitute of the commonplace
quality of courage.

In spite of the unusual prudence displayed by him on this occasion,
Kildare was, in 1497, removed from the deputyship, which was for a time
vested in Walter Fitzsimons, Archbishop of Dublin, a declared enemy of
the Geraldines. Sir James Ormond who represented his brother, the earl,
was appointed Lord Treasurer in place of the Baron of Portlester,
Kildare's uncle, who had held the office for thirty-eight years. Fresh
quarrels thereupon broke out between the Butlers and the rival house,
and each harassed the lands of the other in the usual approved style. A
meeting was at last arranged to take place in St. Patrick's Cathedral
between the two leaders, but a riot breaking out Sir James barred
himself up in alarm in the Chapter House. Kildare arriving at the door
with offers of peace, a hole had to be cut to enable the two to
communicate. Sir James fearing treachery declined to put out his hand,
whereupon Kildare boldly thrust in his, and the rivals shook hands. The
door was then opened; they embraced, and for a while peace was patched
up. The door, with the hole still in it, was extant up to the other day.

The quarrels between these two great houses were interminable, and kept
the whole Pale and the greater part of Ireland in eternal hot water.
Their war-cries of "Crom-a-Boo" and "Butler-a-Boo" filled the very air,
and had to be solemnly prohibited a few years later by special Act of
Parliament. By 1494 the complaints against Kildare had grown so loud and
so long that the king resolved upon a new experiment, that of sending
over an Englishman to fill the post, and Sir Edward Poynings was pitched
upon as the most suitable for the purpose.

He arrived accompanied by a force of a thousand men-at-arms, and five or
six English lawyers, who were appointed to fill the places of
chancellor, treasurer, and other offices from which the present
occupiers, most of whom had been concerned either in the Warbeck or
Simnel rising, were to be ejected.

It was at a parliament summoned at Drogheda, whither this new deputy had
gone to quell a northern rising, that the famous statute known as
Poynings' Act was passed, long a rock of offence, and even still a
prominent feature in Irish political controversy.

Many of the statutes passed by this Parliament--such as the one just
mentioned forbidding war cries, others forbidding the levying of private
forces, forbidding the "country's curse" Coyne and livery, and other
habitual exactions were undoubtedly necessary and called for by the
circumstances of the case. The only ones now remembered however are the
following. First, that no parliament should be summoned by the deputy's
authority without the king's special license for that purpose. Secondly,
that all English statutes should henceforward be regarded as binding
upon Ireland; and thirdly, that all Acts referring to Ireland must be
submitted first to the king and Privy Council, and that, when returned
by them, the Irish Parliament should have no power to modify them
further. This, as will be seen, practically reduced the latter to a mere
court for registering laws already passed elsewhere, passed too often
without the smallest regard to the special requirements of the country.
A condition of subserviency from which it only escaped again for a short
time during the palmy days of the eighteenth century.

By this same parliament Kildare was attained--rather late in the day--on
the ground of conspiracy, and sent prisoner to London. He lay a year in
prison, and was then brought to trial, and allowed to plead his own
cause in the king's presence. The audacity, frank humour, and ready
repartee of his great Irish subject seems to have made a favourable
impression upon Henry, who must himself have had more sense of humour
than English historians give us any impression of. One of the principal
charges against the earl was that he had burned the church at Cashel.
According to the account given in the Book of Howth he readily admitted
the charge, but declared positively that he would never have thought of
doing so had he not been solemnly assured that the archbishop was at the
time inside it. The audacity of this defence is not a little heightened
by the fact that the archbishop in question was at the moment sitting in
court and listening to it.

Advised by the king to provide himself with a good counsel, "By St.
Bride"--his favourite oath--said he, "I know well the fellow I would
have, yea, and the best in England, too!" Asked who that might be.
"Marry, the king himself." The note of comedy struck at the beginning of
the trial lasted to the end. The earl's ready wit seems to have
dumbfounded his accusers, who were not unnaturally indignant at so
unlocked for a result. "All Ireland," they swore, solemnly, "could not
govern the Earl of Kildare." "So it appears," said Henry. "Then let the
Earl of Kildare govern all Ireland."

Whether the account given by Irish historians of this famous trial is to
be accepted literally or not, the result, at any rate, was conclusive.
The king seems to have felt, that Kildare was less dangerous as
sheep-dog--even though a head-strong one--than as wolf, even a wolf in a
cage. He released him and restored him to his command. Prince Henry,
according to custom, becoming nominally Lord-Lieutenant, with Kildare as
deputy under him. The earl's wife had lately died, and before leaving
England he strengthened himself against troubles to come by marrying
Elizabeth St. John, the king's cousin, and having left his son Gerald
behind as hostage for his good behaviour, sailed merrily home
to Ireland.

Perkin Warbeck meanwhile had made another foray upon Munster, where he
was supported by Desmond, and repulsed with no little ignominy by the
townsfolk of Waterford; after which he again departed and was seen no
more upon that stage. Kildare--whose own attainder was not reversed
until after his arrival in Ireland--presided over a parliament, one of
whose first acts was to attaint Lord Barrymore and the other Munster
gentlemen for their share in this rising. He also visited Cork and
Kinsale, leaving a garrison behind him; rebuilt several towns in
Leinster which had been ruined in a succession of raids; garrisoned the
borders of the Pale with new castles, and for the first time in its
history brought ordnance into Ireland, which he employed in the siege of
Belrath Castle. A factor destined to work a revolution upon Irish
traditional modes of warfare, and upon none with more fatal effect than
upon the house of Fitzgerald itself.

That Kildare's authority, even during this latter period of his
government was wholly exercised in the cause of tranquility it would be
certainly rash to assert. At the same time it may be doubted whether any
better choice was open to the king--short of some very drastic policy
indeed. That he used his great authority to overthrow his own enemies
and to aggrandize his own house goes almost without saying. The titular
sovereignty of the king could hope to count for little beside the real
sovereignty of the earl, and the house of Kildare naturally loomed far
larger and more imposingly in Ireland than the house of Tudor. Despotism
in some form was the only practical and possible government, and Earl
Gerald was all but despotic within the Pale, and even outside it was at
any rate stronger than any other single individual. The Desmond
Geraldines lived remote, the Butlers, who came next to the Geraldines in
importance, held Kilkenny, Carlow, and Tipperary, but were cut off from
Dublin by the wild mountains of Wicklow, and the wilder tribes of
O'Tooles, and O'Byrnes who held them. They were only able to approach it
through Kildare, and Kildare was the head-quarters of the Geraldines.

One of Earl Gerald's last, and, upon the whole, his most remarkable
achievement was that famous expedition which ended in the battle of
Knocktow already alluded to in an earlier chapter, in which a large
number of the lords of the Pale, aided by the native allies of the
deputy, took part. In this case there was hardly a pretence that the
expedition was undertaken in the king's service. It was a family quarrel
pure and simple, between the deputy and his son-in-law McWilliam, of
Clanricarde. The native account tells us that the latter's wife "was not
so used as the earl (her father) could be pleased with," whereupon "he
swore to be revenged upon this Irishman and all his partakers," The
notion of a Fitzgerald stigmatizing a De Burgh as an Irishman is
delightful, and eminently characteristic of the sort of wild confusion
prevailing on the subject. The whole story indeed is so excellent, and
is told by the narrator with so much spirit, that it were pity to
curtail it, and as it stands it would be too long for these pages. The
result was that Clanricarde and his Irish allies were defeated with
frightful slaughter, between seven and eight thousand men, according to
the victors, having been left dead upon the field! Galway, previously
held by Clanricarde, was re-occupied, and the deputy and his allies
returned in triumph to Dublin, whence the archbishop was despatched in
hot haste to explain matters to the king.

A slight incident which took place at the end of this battle is too
characteristic to omit. "We have done one good work," observed Lord
Gormanston, one of the Lords of the Pale, confidentially to the
Lord-deputy. "And if we now do the other we shall do well," Asked by the
latter what he meant, he replied, "We have for the most part killed our
enemies, if we do the like with all the Irishmen that we have with us it
were a good deed[7]." Happily for his good fame Kildare seems to have
been able to resist the tempting suggestion, and the allies parted on
this occasion to all appearances on friendly terms.

[7] Book of Howth.



The battle of Knocktow was fought five years before the death of Henry
VII. Of those five years and of the earlier ones of the new reign little
of any vital importance remains to be recorded in Ireland. With the rise
of Wolsey to power however a new era set in. The great cardinal was the
sworn enemy of the Geraldines. He saw in them the most formidable
obstacle to the royal power in that country. The theory that the
Kildares were the only people who could carry on the government had by
this time become firmly established. No one in Ireland could stand
against the earl, and when the earl was out of Ireland the whole island
was in an uproar. The confusion too between Kildare in his proper
person, and Kildare as the king's Viceroy was, it must be owned, a
perennial one, and upon more than one occasion had all but brought the
government to an absolute standstill.

Geroit Mor had died in 1513 of a wound received in a campaign with the
O'Carrolls close to his own castle of Kilkea, but almost as a matter of
course his son Gerald had succeeded him as Viceroy and carried on the
government in much the same fashion; had made raids on the O'Moores and
O'Reillys and others of the "king's Irish enemies," and been rewarded
with grants upon the lands which he had captured from the rebels. The
state of the Pale was terrible. "Coyne and livery," it was declared, had
eaten up the people. The sea, too, swarmed with pirates, who descended
all but unchecked upon the coast and carried off men and women to
slavery. Many complaints were made of the deputy, and by 1520 these had
grown so loud and long that Henry resolved upon a change, and like his
predecessor determined to send an English governor, one upon whom he
could himself rely.

The choice fell upon the Earl of Surrey, son of the conqueror of
Flodden. Surrey's survey of the field soon convinced him to his own
satisfaction that no half measures was likely to be of any avail. The
plan proposed by him had certainly the merit of being sufficiently
sweeping. Ireland was to be entirely reconquered. District was to be
taken after district, and fortresses to be built to hold them according
as they were conquered. The occupation was thus to be pushed steadily on
until the whole country submitted, after which it was to be largely
repopulated by English colonists. The idea was a large one, and would
have taken a large permanent army to carry out. The loss too of life
would have been appalling, though not, it was represented to the king,
greater than was annually squandered in an interminable succession of
petty wars. Probably the expense was the real hindrance. At any rate
Surrey's plan was put aside for the time being, and not long afterwards
at his own urgent prayer he was allowed to lay down his uneasy honours
and return to England.

Meanwhile Earl Gerald the younger had been rapidly gaining favour at
Court, had accompanied Henry to France, and like his father before him,
had wooed and won an English bride. Like his father, too, he possessed
that winning charm which had for generations characterized his house.
Quick-witted and genial, with the bright manner and courteous ease of
high-bred gentlemen, such--even on the showing of those who had no love
for them--was the habitual bearing of these Leinster Geraldines. The end
was that Kildare after a while was allowed to return to Ireland, and
upon Surrey's departure, and after a brief and very unsuccessful tenure
of office by Sir Pierce Butler, the deputyship was restored to him.


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