An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800
by Mary Frances Cusack
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Drinking vessels, of various shapes and materials, are constantly mentioned in the Book of Rights. There were drinking-horns with handsome handles, carved drinking-horns, variegated drinking-horns, drinking-horns of various colours, and drinking-horns of gold.[258] Even in pagan times, cups or goblets were placed beside the public wells; and it is related that, in the reign of Conn of the Hundred Battles, Ireland was so prosperous, so wealthy, and so civilized (circa A.D. 123) that those cups were made of silver. Brian revived this custom nearly a thousand years later. The Danes probably carried off most of these valuables, as there are no remains of them at present. We are able, however, to give an illustration of a stone drinking-cup, which is considered a very beautiful specimen of its kind. This great rarity was found in the Shannon excavations. We give a specimen below of a celt, and on page 246 of a celt mould, for which we have also to acknowledge our grateful obligations to the Council of the Royal Irish Academy.

Drink was usually served to the guests after meals. Among the seven prerogatives for the King of Teamhair (Tara) we find:

"The fruits of Manann, a fine present; And the heath fruit of Brigh Leithe; The venison of Nas; the fish of the Boinn; The cresses of the kindly Brosnach."

Dr. O'Donovan suggests that the "heath fruit" may have been bilberries or whortleberries, and adds that some of the old Irish suppose that this, and not the heath, was the shrub from which the Danes brewed their beer.[259] It would appear that the Celts were not in the habit of excessive drinking until a comparatively recent period. In the year 1405 we read of the death of a chieftain who died of "a surfeit in drinking;" but previous to this entry we may safely assert that the Irish were comparatively a sober race. The origin of the drink called whisky in modern parlance, is involved in considerable obscurity. Some authorities consider that the word is derived from the first part of the term usquebaugh; others suppose it to be derived from the name of a place, the Basque provinces, where some such compound was concocted in the fourteenth century. In Morewood's History of Inebriating Liquors, he gives a list of the ingredients used in the composition of usquebaugh, and none of these are Irish productions.

There is a nice distinction between aqua vitae and aqua vini in the Red Book of Ossory, which was rescued by Dr. Graves from a heap of rubbish, the result of a fire in Kilkenny Castle in 1839. MacGeoghegan, in his annotations on the death of the chieftain above-mentioned, observes that the drink was not aqua vitae to him, but rather aqua mortis; and he further remarks, that this is the first notice of the use of aqua vitae, usquebaugh, or whisky, in the Irish annals. Mead was made from honey, and beer from malt; and these were, probably, the principal liquors at the early period[260] of which we are now writing. As to the heath beer of Scandinavian fame, it is probable that the heather was merely used as a tonic or aromatic ingredient, although the author of a work, published in London in 1596, entitled Sundrie Newe and Artificial Remedies against Famine, does suggest the use of heath tops to make a "pleasing and cheape drink for Poor Men, when Malt is extream Deare;" much, we suppose, on the same principle that shamrocks and grass were used as a substitute for potatoes in the famine year, when the starving Irish had no money to buy Indian corn. But famine years were happily rare in Ireland in the times of which we write; and it will be remembered that on one such occasion the Irish king prayed to God that he might die, rather than live to witness the misery he could not relieve.

It would appear that butter was also a plentiful product then as now. Specimens of bog butter are still preserved, and may be found in the collection of the Royal Irish Academy. The butter was thus entombed either for safety, or to give it that peculiar flavour which makes it resemble the old dry Stilton cheese, so much admired by the modern bon vivant. A writer in the Ulster Archaeological Journal mentions that he found a quantity of red cows' hair mixed with this butter, when boring a hole in it with a gouge. It would appear from this as if the butter had been made in a cow-skin, a fashion still in use among the Arabs. A visitor to the Museum (Mr. Wilmot Chetwode) asked to see the butter from Abbeyleix. He remarked that some cows' heads had been discovered in that neighbourhood, which belonged to the old Irish long-faced breed of cattle; the skin and hair remained on one head, and that was red. An analysis of the butter proved that it was probably made in the same way as the celebrated Devonshire cream, from which the butter in that part of England is generally prepared. The Arabs and Syrians make their butter now in a similar manner. There is a curious account of Irish butter in the Irish Hudibras, by William Moffat, London, 1755, from which it appears that bog butter was then well known:—

"But let his faith be good or bad, He in his house great plenty had Of burnt oat bread, and butter found, With garlick mixt, in boggy ground; So strong, a dog, with help of wind, By scenting out, with ease might find."

A lump of butter was found, twelve feet deep, in a bog at Gortgole, county Antrim, rolled up in a coarse cloth. It still retains visibly the marks of the finger and thumb of the ancient dame who pressed it into its present shape.

Specimens of cheese of great antiquity have also been discovered. It was generally made in the shape of bricks,[261] probably for greater convenience of carriage and pressure in making. Wax has also been discovered, which is evidently very ancient. A specimen may be seen in the collection of the Royal Irish Academy. According to the Book of Rights, the use of wax candles was a royal prerogative:—

"A hero who possesses five prerogatives, Is the King of Laighlin of the fort of Labhraidh: The fruit of Almhain [to be brought to him] to his house; And the deer of Gleann Searraigh; To drink by [the light of] fair wax candles, At Din Riogh, is very customary to the king."[262]

In this matter, at least, the Irish kings and princes were considerably in advance of their Anglo-Saxon neighbours. Wright informs us[263] that their candle was a mere mass of fat, plastered round a wick, and stuck upon an upright stick: hence the name candlestick.

It is probable that fire-light was, however, the principal means of assisting the visual organs after dark in both countries. Until comparatively recent times, fires were generally made on square, flat stones, and these could be placed, as appears to have been the case at Tara, in different parts of any large hall or apartment. There was sometimes a "back stone" to support the pile of wood and turf. The smoke got out how best it might, unless where there was a special provision made for its exit, in the shape of a round hole in the roof. At a later period a "brace" was sometimes made for conducting it. The brace was formed of upright stakes, interlaced with twigs, and plastered over, inside and outside, with prepared clay—the earliest idea of the modern chimney.

Macaulay[264] gives us a picture of an ancient Roman fire-side, and the occupations of those who sat round it. We can, perhaps, form a more accurate and reliable idea of the dress, amusements, and occupations of those who surrounded the hall-fires of ancient Tara, or the humble, domestic hearths of the crannoges or wattled houses.

The amusements of the pre-Christian Celt were, undeniably, intellectual. Chess has already been mentioned more than once in this work as a constant occupation of princes and chieftains. Indeed, they appear to have sat down to a game with all the zest of a modern amateur. A few specimens of chessmen have been discovered: a king, elaborately carved, is figured in the Introduction to the Book of Rights. It belonged to Dr. Petrie, and was found, with some others, in a bog in the county Meath. The chessmen of ancient times appear to have been rather formidable as weapons. In the Tain bo Chuailgne, Cuchullain is represented as having killed a messenger, who told him a lie, with a chessman, "which pierced him to the centre of his brain." English writers speak of the use of chess immediately after the Conquest, and say that the Saxons learned the game from the Danes. The Irish were certainly acquainted with it at a much earlier period; if we are to credit the Annals, it was well known long before the introduction of Christianity. Wright gives an engraving of a Quarrel at Chess, in which Charles, the son of the Emperor Charlemagne, is represented knocking out the brains of his adversary with a chessboard. The illustration is ludicrously graphic, and the unfortunate man appears to submit to his doom with a touching grace of helpless resignation.

We may then suppose that chess was a favourite evening amusement of the Celt. Chessboards at least were plentiful, for they are frequently mentioned among the rights of our ancient kings. But music was the Irish amusement par excellence; and it is one of the few arts for which they are credited. The principal Irish instruments were the harp, the trumpet, and the bagpipe. The harp in the Museum of Trinity College, Dublin, usually known as Brian Boroimhe's harp, is supposed, by Dr. Petrie, to be the oldest instrument of the kind now remaining in Europe. It had but one row of strings, thirty in number; the upright pillar is of oak, and the sound-board of red sallow. The minute and beautiful carving on all parts of the instrument, attests a high state of artistic skill at whatever period it was executed. As the harp is only thirty-two inches high, it is supposed that it was used by ecclesiastics in the church services, Cambrensis[265] mentions this custom; and there is evidence of its having existed from the first introduction of Christianity. Harps of this description are figured on the knees of ecclesiastics on several of our ancient stone crosses.

The subject of Irish music would require a volume, and we cannot but regret that it must be dismissed so briefly. The form of the harp has been incorrectly represented on our coins. It was first assumed in the national arms about the year 1540. When figured on the coins of Henry VIII., the artist seems to have taken the Italian harp of twenty-four strings for his model; but in the national arms sketched on the map of Ireland in the State Papers, executed in the year 1567, the form is more correct. That the Irish possessed this musical instrument in pre-Christian times, cannot be doubted. The ornamental cover of an Irish MS., which Mr. Ferguson considers to date prior to A.D. 1064, contains five examples of the harp of that period. This, and the sculptured harp at Nieg, in Rosshire, are believed to be the earliest delineations of the perfect harp. Dr. Bunting gives a sketch of a harp and harper, taken from one of the compartments of a sculptured cross at Ullard, county Kilkenny. This is a remarkable example. The cross is supposed to be older than that of Monasterboice, which was erected A.D. 830, and this is believed to be the first specimen of a harp without a fore pillar that has been discovered out of Egypt. If the Irish harp be really a variety of the cithara, derived through an Egyptian channel, it would form another important link in the chain of evidence, which leads us back to colonization from Egypt through Scythia. Captain Wilford observes,[266] that there may be a clue to the Celtic word bard in the Hindoo bardatri; but the Irish appellation appears to be of comparatively modern use. It is, however, a noticeable fact, that the farther we extend our inquiries, the more forcibly we are directed to the East as the cradle of our music. Several recent travellers have mentioned the remarkable similarity between Celtic airs and those which they heard in different parts of Asia.[267] Sir W. Ouseley observed, at the close of the last century, that many Hindoo melodies possessed the plaintive simplicity of the Scotch and Irish.

A German scholar has written a work, to prove that the pentatonic scale was brought over by the Celts from Asia, and that it was preserved longer in Scotland than elsewhere, on account of the isolated position of that country.[268] The Phoenicians are supposed to have invented the kinnor, trigonon, and several other of the most remarkable instruments of antiquity. Their skill as harpists, and their love of music, are indicated by the prophetic denunciation in Ezechiel, where the ceasing of songs and the sound of the harp are threatened as a calamity they were likely specially to feel.

We give at least one evidence that the Irish monks practised the choral performance of rhythmical hymns. Colgan supplies the proof, which we select from one of the Latin hymns of St. Columba:—

"Protegat nos altissimus, De suis sanctis sedibus, Dum ibi hymnos canimus, Decem statutis vicibus."

Mr. O'Curry gives the names of all the ancient Irish musical instruments as follows:—Cruit, a harp; Timpan, a drum, or tambourine; Corn, a trumpet; Stoc, a clarion; Pipai, the pipes; Fidil, the fiddle. He adds: "All those are mentioned in an ancient poem in the Book of Leinster, a MS. of about the year 1150, now in the Library of Trinity College. The first four are found in various old tales and descriptions of battles."

We shall find how powerful was the influence of Irish music on the Irish race at a later period of our history, when the subject of political ballads will be mentioned.

The dress of the rich and the poor probably varied as much in the century of which we write as at the present day. We have fortunately remains of almost every description of texture in which the Irish Celt was clad; so that, as Sir W. Wilde has well observed, we are not left to conjecture, or forced to draw analogies from the habits of half-civilized man in other countries at the present day.

In the year 1821 the body of a male adult was found in a bog on the lands of Gallagh, near Castleblakeney, county Galway, clad in its antique garb of deerskin. A few fragments of the dress are preserved, and may be seen in the collection of the Royal Irish Academy. Portions of the seams still remain, and are creditable specimens of early needlework. The material employed in sewing was fine gut of three strands, and the regularity and closeness of the stitching cannot fail to excite admiration. It is another of the many proofs that, even in the earliest ages, the Celt was gifted with more than ordinary skill in the execution of whatever works he took in hand. After all, the skin of animals is one of the most costly and appreciated adornments of the human race, even at the present day; and our ancestors differ less from us in the kind of clothes they wore, than in the refinements by which they are fashioned to modern use. It is stated in the old bardic tale of the Tain bo Chuailgne, that the charioteer of the hero was clothed in a tunic of deerskin. This statement, taken in connexion with the fact above-mentioned, is another evidence that increased knowledge is daily producing increased respect for the veracity of those who transmitted the accounts of our ancestral life, which, at one time, were supposed to be purely mythical. Skin or leather garments were in use certainly until the tenth century, in the form of cloaks. It is supposed that Muircheartach obtained the soubriquet "of the leathern cloaks," from the care which he took in providing his soldiers with them; and it is said that, in consequence of this precaution, there was not a single man lost in this campaign.

We give a specimen of an ancient shoe and boot, from the collection of the Royal Irish Academy. It would appear as if the Celt was rather in advance of the Saxon in the art of shoemaking; for Mr. Fairholt has been obliged to give an illustration selected from Irish remains, in his history, although it is exclusively devoted to British costume. In illustrating the subject of gold ornaments, he has also made a selection from the same source. Some curious specimens of shoes joined together, and therefore perfectly useless for ordinary wear, have also been discovered. Sir W. Wilde conjectures they may have been used by chieftains as inauguration shoes.[269]

Saffron was a favourite colour, though it does not appear evident how the dye was procured. There is no doubt the Irish possessed the art of dyeing from an early period. Its introduction is attributed to King Tighearnmas, who reigned from A.M. 3580 to 3664. It is probable the Phoenicians imparted this knowledge to our ancestors. Although our old illuminations are not as rich in figures as those from which English historians have obtained such ample information regarding the early costume of that country, we have still some valuable illustrations of this interesting subject. These representations also are found to correspond faithfully, even in the details of colour, with the remains which have been discovered from time to time. Our ancient crosses give immense scope for antiquarian research, though the costumes are principally ecclesiastical, and hence are not of so much general interest. But the Book of Rights[270] affords ample information, as far as mere description, of the clothing of a higher class. While the peasant was covered with a garment of untanned skin or fur, however artistically sown together, the bards, the chieftains, and the monarchs had their tunics [imar] of golden borders, their mantles [leanna] or shirts of white wool or deep purple, their fair beautiful matals, and their cloaks of every colour. If we add to this costume the magnificent ornaments which still remain to attest the truth of the bardic accounts of Erinn's ancient greatness, we may form a correct picture of the Celtic noble as he stood in Tara's ancient palace; and we must coincide in the opinion of the learned editor of the Catalogue of the Royal Irish Academy, that "the variegated and glowing colours, as well as the gorgeous decorations of the different articles of dress enumerated in the Book of Rights, added to the brilliancy of the arms, must have rendered the Irish costume of the eighth and ninth centuries very attractive."

With a passing glance at our ancient Fauna and Flora, and the physical state of the country at this period, we must conclude briefly.

It is probable that the province of Ulster, which was styled by statute, in Queen Elizabeth's time, "the most perilous place in all the isle," was much in the same state as to its physical characteristics in the century of which we write. It was densely wooded, and strong in fortresses, mostly placed on lakes, natural or artificial. Two great roads led to this part of Ireland—the "Gap of the North," by Carrickmacross, and the historically famous pass by Magh-Rath. From the former place to Belturbet the country was nearly impassable, from its network of bogs, lakes, and mountains. We shall find at a later period what trouble these natural defences gave to the English settlers.

Munster so abounded in woods, that it was proposed, in 1579, to employ 4,000 soldiers for the sole purpose of hewing them down. Indeed, its five great forests were the strongholds of the Earls of Desmond; and enough evidence still remains at Glengariff and Killarney, to manifest the value of their sylvan possessions. The cold and withering blasts of the great Atlantic, appear to have stunted or hindered the growth of trees in Connaught. In 1210 the Four Masters mention the wilderness of Cinel-Dorfa, its principal forest; but it was amply provided with other resources for the protection of native princes. In 1529 Chief Baron Finglas gave a list of dangerous passes, with the recommendation that the "Lord Deputy be eight days in every summer cutting passes into the woods next adjoining the king's subjects."

In Leinster the forests had been cleared at an earlier period; and the country being less mountainous, was more easily cultivated. But this portion of Ireland contained the well-known Curragh of Kildare, which has its history also, and a more ancient one than its modern visitors are likely to suppose. The Curragh is mentioned for the first time in the Liber Hymnorum, in a hymn in praise of St. Brigid. The Scholiast in a contemporary gloss says: "Currech, a cursu equorum dictus est." It is also mentioned in Cormac's Glossary, where the etymology is referred to running or racing. But the most important notice is contained in the historical tale of the destruction of the mansion of Da Derga.[271] In this, Connaire Mor, who was killed A.D. 60, is represented as having gone to the games at the Curragh with four chariots. From this and other sources we may conclude, that chariot-races preceded horse-races in ancient Erinn, and that the Curragh has been used as a place of public amusement for the last 2,000 years. It would appear that every province in Ireland possessed an Aenach or "fair-green," where the men assembled to celebrate their games and festivals. In an old list of Irish Triads, the three great Aenachs of Ireland are said to have been Aenach Crogan, in Connaught; Aenach Taillten, in Meath; and Aenach Colmain, the Curragh. The last would appear, however, to have been frequented by persons from all parts of Ireland; and it is not a little strange that it should still be used in a similar manner as a place of public amusement. Ireland in the tenth century and Ireland in the nineteenth form a painful contrast, notwithstanding the boasted march of intellect. The ancient forests have been hewn down with little profit[272] to the spoiler, and to the injury in many ways of the native. The noble rivers are there still, and the mountains look as beautiful in the sunsets of this year of grace as they did so many hundred years before; but the country, which was in "God's keeping" then, has but little improved since it came into the keeping of man; for the poor tenant, who may be here to-day, and to-morrow cast out on the wayside, has but substituted ill-fenced and ill-cultivated fields for wide tracts of heather and moorland, which had at least the recommendation of attractive scenery, and of not suggesting painful reflections.

The most formidable, if not the largest, of the carnivora in this island, was the brown bear. The wolf lingered on until the beginning of the last century; and the Irish greyhound has passed with it also. The gigantic Irish elk, Cervus megaseros, belongs more to the palaeontologist than to the historian, as it is supposed to have existed only in pre-historic times. A smaller variety has been found in peat overlaying the clay, from which it is inferred that some species may have been contemporary with the human race. The horse co-existed with the elephant. The red deer was the principal object of chase from an early period. The wild boar found abundant food from our noble oaks; and the hare, the rabbit, the goat, and the sheep supplied the wants of the Celt in ancient as in modern times. But the great wealth of Ireland consisted in her cows, which then, as now, formed a staple article of commerce. Indeed, most of the ancient feuds were simply cattle raids, and the successful party signalized his victory by bearing off the bovine wealth of the vanquished enemy.

It is impossible exactly to estimate the population of Ireland at this period with any degree of reliable exactitude. The only method of approximating thereto should be based on a calculation of the known or asserted number of men in arms at any given time. When Roderic and his allies invested the Normans in Dublin, he is said to have had 50,000 fighting men. Supposing this to include one-fourth of all the men of the military age in the country, and to bear the proportion of one-fifth to the total number of the inhabitants, it would give a population of about a million, which would probably be rather under than over the correct estimate.


[245] Day.—Wilkinson's Geology and Architecture of Ireland, p. 59.

[246] Celt.—Catalogue of R.I.A. p. 43. This celt is the largest discovered in Ireland, and is formed of coarse clay-slate. It is 22 inches long, 1 inch thick, and 3-3/4 broad at the widest part. It was found in the bed of the river Blackwater, two miles below Charlemont, county Armagh.

[247] Axe.—Catalogue of R.I.A. p. 80. Sir W. Wilde pronounces this to be one of the most beautiful specimens of the stone battle-axe which has been found in Ireland, both for design and execution. It is composed of fine-grained remblendic sylicite, and is highly polished all over. It was found in the river at Athlone.

[248] Wright.—History of Domestic Manners and Sentiments, p. 11.

[249] Hall.—Hence the term "hall" is still used to denote mansions of more than ordinary importance. The hall was the principal part of the ancient Saxon house, and the term used for the part was easily transferred to the whole.

[250] Discovery.—Ulster Arch. Journal, vol. v. p. 83.

[251] Assigned.—Petrie's Tara, p. 200.

[252] Smith.—The animals were brought to the smith, who knocked them down with his big hammer: hence, probably, the name of Smithfield for a cattle market. He was an important personage in the olden time. In the Odyssey, as armourer, he ranks with the bard and physician.

[253] Tinnes.—Dr. Petrie does not give the meaning of this word, but Dr. O'Donovan supplies the deficiency in the Book of Rights, where he explains it to mean a salted pig, or in plain English, bacon.

[254] Table.—In the earliest ages of Tara's existence, the household may have been served as they sat on the benches round the hall. The table was at first simply a board: hence we retain the term a hospitable board; a board-room, a room where a board was placed for writing on. The board was carried away after dinner, and the trestles on which it stood, so as to leave room for the evening's amusements.

[255] Cooked.—Wright's Domestic Manners, p. 87. The knights in this engraving are using their shields as a substitute for a table. At p. 147 there is an illustration of the method of cooking on a spit; this is turned by a boy. The Irish appear to have had a mechanical arrangement for this purpose some centuries earlier. Bellows, which are now so commonly used in Ireland, and so rare in England, appear to have been a Saxon invention.

[256] Poems.—Ulster Arch. Journal, vol. i. p. 108. It would appear as if corn had been eaten raw, or perhaps partly scorched, at an early period, as was customary in eastern countries. Teeth have been found in crania taken from our ancient tombs, quite worn down by some such process of mastication.

[257] Weir.—Salt appears to have been used also at a very ancient period, though it cannot now be ascertained how it was procured. Perhaps it was obtained from native sources now unknown.

[258] Gold.—Book of Rights, pp. 145, 209, &c. The King of Cashel was entitled to a hundred drinking horns.—p. 33.

[259] Beer.—Book of Rights, p. 9.

[260] Period.—Accounts will be given later of the use of aqua vitae, or whisky, after the English invasion. The English appear to have appreciated this drink, for we find, in 1585, that the Mayor of Waterford sent Lord Burleigh a "rundell of aqua vitae;" and in another letter, in the State Paper Office, dated October 14, 1622, the Lord Justice Coke sends a "runlett of milde Irish uskebach," from his daughter Peggie (heaven save the mark!) to the "good Lady Coventry," because the said Peggie "was so much bound to her ladyship for her great goodness." However, the said Lord Justice strongly recommends the uskebach to his lordship, assuring him that "if it please his lordship next his heart in the morning to drinke a little of this Irish uskebach, it will help to digest all raw humours, expell wynde, and keep his inward parte warm all the day after." A poor half-starved Irishman in the present century, could scarcely have brought forward more extenuating circumstances for his use of the favourite beverage; and he might have added that he had nothing else to "keep him warm."

[261] Bricks.—In an ancient life of St. Kevin of Glendalough, there is mention made of certain brick-cheeses, which the saint converted into real bricks, in punishment to a woman for telling a lie.

[262] King.—Book of Rights, p. 15.

[263] Informs us.—Domestic Manners, p. 43.

[264] Macaulay.—Lays of Ancient Rome.—Horatius.

[265] Cambrensis.—"Hinc accidit, ut Episcopi et Abbates, et Sancti in Hibernia viri cytharas circumferre et in eis modulando pie delectari consueverunt."—Cam. Des. p. 739.

[266] Observes.—Asiatic Researches, vol. ix. p. 76.

[267] Asia.—See Carl Eugen's valuable work on the Music of Ancient Nations passim.

[268] Country.—Erste Wanderung der aeltesten Tonkunst, von G.W. Fruh, Essen, 1831. In Conran's National Music of Ireland, he attributes this to the influence of ecclesiastical music. But an article by Mr. Darmey, in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, takes a much more probable view. The Ambrosian chant, introduced about A.D. 600, could not have influenced national music which existed for centuries before that period.

[269] Shoes.—The use of inauguration shoes appears to have been very ancient in Ireland. It will be remembered how early and how frequently the shoe is mentioned in Scripture in connexion with legal arrangements. It was obviously an important object in Eastern business transactions.

[270] Book of Rights.—The great antiquity and perfect authenticity of this most valuable work, should be remembered. It is admitted that the original Book of Rights was compiled by St. Benignus, the disciple of St. Patrick. Dr. O'Donovan thinks there is every reason to believe that this work was in existence in the time of Cormac, the bishop-king of Cashel, A.D. 900. It is probable that the present Book of Rights was compiled about this period, from the more ancient volume of the same name.

[271] Da Derga.—See an interesting Essay on the Curragh of Kildare, by Mr. W.M. Hennessy, read before the R.I.A., February 26, 1866.

[272] Profit.—The trustees of the estates forfeited in 1688 notice this especially. Trees to the value of L20,000 were cut down and destroyed on the estate of Sir Valentine Brown, near Killarney, and to the value of L27,000 on the territory of the Earl of Clancarty. Some of these trees were sold for sixpence a piece.


The English Invasion—Dermod's Interview with Henry II.—Henry grants Letters-patent—Dermod obtains the assistance of Strongbow, Earl de Clare—He returns to Ireland—Arrival of English Forces under FitzStephen—Fatal Indifference of Roderic, the Irish Monarch—He is at last roused to action, but acknowledges Dermod's Authority almost without a Struggle—Strongbow's Genealogy—He obtains a Tacit Permission to invade Ireland—His Arrival in Ireland—Marriage of Strongbow and Eva—Death of Dermod Mac Murrough—Strongbow proclaims himself King of Leinster—Difficulties of his Position—Siege of Dublin—Strongbow's Retreat—He returns to England.

[A.D. 1168-1171.]

Until this period (A.D. 1168) the most friendly relations appear to have existed between England and Ireland. Saxon nobles and princes had fled for shelter, or had come for instruction to the neighbouring shores. The assistance of Irish troops had been sought and readily obtained by them. Irish merchants[273] had taken their goods to barter in English markets; but when the Norman had won the Saxon crown, and crushed the Saxon race under his iron heel, the restless spirit of the old Viking race looked out for a new quarry, and long before Dermod had betrayed his country, that country's fate was sealed.

William Rufus is reported to have said, as he stood on the rocks near St. David's, that he would make a bridge with his ships from that spot to Ireland—a haughty boast, not quite so easily accomplished. His speech was repeated to the King of Leinster, who inquired "if the king, in his great threatening, had added, 'if it so please God'?" The reporter answered in the negative. "Then," said he, "seeing this king putteth his trust only in man, and not in God, I fear not his coming." When Dermod Mac Murrough was driven in disgrace from Ireland, he fled at once to Bristol. There he learned that Henry was still in Aquitaine, and thither, with a perseverance worthy of a better cause, he followed the English king. Henry was only too happy to listen to his complaints, and forward his views; but he was too much occupied with his personal affairs to attempt the conquest of a kingdom. Letters-patent were incomparably more convenient than men-at-arms, and with letters-patent the renegade was fain to be content. Dermod only asked help to recover the kingdom from which he had been expelled for his crimes; Henry pretended no more than to give the assistance asked, and for all reward only wished that Dermod should pay a vassal's homage to the English king. Henry may have known that his client was a villain, or he may not. Henry may have intended to annex Ireland to the British dominions (if he could), or he may merely have hoped for some temporary advantage from the new connexion. Whatever he knew or whatever he hoped, he received Dermod "into the bosom of his grace and benevolence," and he did but distantly insinuate his desires by proclaiming him his "faithful and liege subject." The royal letter ran thus:—"Henry, King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Earl of Anjou, to all his liegemen, English, Norman, Welsh, and Scotch, and to all the nation under his dominion, sends greeting. As soon as the present letter shall come to your hands, know that Dermod, Prince of Leinster, has been received into the bosom of our grace and benevolence: wherefore, whosoever, within the ample extent of our territories, shall be willing to lend aid towards this prince as our faithful and liege subject, let such person know that we do hereby grant to him for said purpose our licence and favour."

In this document there is not even the most remote reference to the Bull of Adrian, conferring the island of Ireland on Henry, although this Bull had been obtained some time before. In whatever light we may view this omission, it is certainly inexplicable.

For some time Dermod failed in his efforts to obtain assistance. After some fruitless negotiations with the needy and lawless adventurers who thronged the port of Bristol, he applied to the Earl of Pembroke, Richard de Clare. This nobleman had obtained the name of Strongbow, by which he is more generally known, from his skill in archery. Two other young men of rank joined the party; they were sons of the beautiful and infamous Nesta,[274] once the mistress of Henry I., but now the wife of Gerald, Governor of Pembroke and Lord of Carew. The knights were Maurice FitzGerald and Robert FitzStephen. Dermod had promised them the city of Wexford and two cantreds of land as their reward. Strongbow was to succeed him on the throne of Leinster, and to receive the hand of his young and beautiful daughter, Eva, in marriage.

There is considerable uncertainty as to the real date and the precise circumstances of Dermod's arrival in Ireland. According to one account, he returned at the close of the year 1168, and concealed himself during the winter in a monastery of Augustinian Canons at Ferns, which he had founded. The two principal authorities are Giraldus Cambrensis and Maurice Regan; the latter was Dermod Mac Murrough's secretary. According to his account, Robert FitzStephen landed at Bannow, near Waterford, in May, 1169, with an army of three hundred archers, thirty knights, and sixty men-at-arms.[275] A second detachment arrived the next day, headed by Maurice de Prendergast, a Welsh gentleman, with ten knights and sixty archers. Dermod at once assembled his men, and joined his allies. He could only muster five hundred followers; but with their united forces, such as they were, the outlawed king and the needy adventurers laid siege to the city of Wexford. The brave inhabitants of this mercantile town at once set forth to meet them; but, fearing the result if attacked in open field by well-disciplined troops, they fired the suburbs, and entrenched themselves in the town. Next morning the assaulting party prepared for a renewal of hostilities, but the clergy of Wexford advised an effort for peace: terms of capitulation were negotiated, and Dermod was obliged to pardon, when he would probably have preferred to massacre. It is said that FitzStephen burned his little fleet, to show his followers that they must conquer or die. Two cantreds of land, comprising the present baronies of Forth and Bargy,[276] were bestowed on him: and thus was established the first English colony in Ireland. The Irish princes and chieftains appear to have regarded the whole affair with silent contempt. The Annals say they "set nothing by the Flemings;"[277] practically, they set nothing by any of the invaders. Could they have foreseen, even for one moment, the consequences of their indifference, we cannot doubt but that they would have acted in a very different manner. Roderic, the reigning monarch, was not the man either to foresee danger, or to meet it when foreseen; though we might pardon even a more sharp-sighted and vigilant warrior, for overlooking the possible consequence of the invasion of a few mercenary troops, whose only object appeared to be the reinstatement of a petty king. Probably, the troops and their captains were equally free from suspecting what would be the real result of their proceedings.

The fair of Telltown was celebrated about this time; and from the accounts given by the Annals of the concourse of people, and the number of horsemen who attended it, there can be little doubt that Ireland was seldom in a better position to resist foreign invasion. But unity of purpose and a competent leader were wanted then, as they have been wanted but too often since. Finding so little opposition to his plans, Mac Murrough determined to act on the offensive. He was now at the head of 3,000 men. With this force he marched into the adjoining territory of Ossory, and made war on its chief, Donough FitzPatrick; and after a brave but unsuccessful resistance, it submitted to his rule.[278] The Irish monarch was at length aroused to some degree of apprehension. He summoned a hosting of the men of Ireland at Tara; and with the army thus collected, assisted by the Lords of Meath, Oriel, Ulidia, Breffni, and some northern chieftains, he at once proceeded to Dublin. Dermod was alarmed, and retired to Ferns. Roderic pursued him thither. But dissension had already broken out in the Irish camp: the Ulster chiefs returned home; the contingent was weakened; and, either through fear, or from the natural indolence of his pacific disposition, he agreed to acknowledge Mac Murrough's authority. Mac Murrough gave his son Cormac as hostage for the fulfilment of the treaty. A private agreement was entered into between the two kings, in which Dermod pledged himself to dismiss his foreign allies as soon as possible, and to bring no more strangers into the country. It is more than probable that he had not the remotest idea of fulfilling his promise; it is at least certain that he broke it the first moment it was his interest to do so. Dermod's object was simply to gain time, and in this he succeeded.

Maurice FitzGerald arrived at Wexford a few days after, and the recreant king at once proceeded to meet him; and with this addition to his army, marched to attack Dublin. The Dano-Celts, who inhabited this city, had been so cruelly treated by him, that they dreaded a repetition of his former tyrannies. They had elected a governor for themselves; but resistance was useless. After a brief struggle, they were obliged to sue for peace—a favour which probably would not have been granted without further massacres and burnings, had not Dermod wished to bring his arms to bear in another quarter.

Donnell O'Brien, Prince of Thomond, who had married a daughter of Dermod, had just rebelled against Roderic, and the former was but too willing to assist him in his attempt. Thus encouraged where he should have been treated with contempt, and hunted down with ignominy, his ambition became boundless. He played out the favourite game of traitors; and no doubt hoped, when he had consolidated his own power, that he could easily expel his foreign allies. Strongbow had not yet arrived, though the winds had been long enough "at east and easterly."[279] His appearance was still delayed. The fact was, that the Earl was in a critical position. Henry and his barons were never on the most amiable terms; and there were some very special reasons why Strongbow should prove no exception to the rule.

The first member of the Earl's family who had settled in England, was Richard, son of the Norman Earl Brien, a direct descendant of Robert "the Devil," Duke of Normandy, father of William the Conqueror. In return for services at the battle of Hastings, and general assistance in conquering the Saxon, this family obtained a large grant of land in England, and took the title of Earl of Clare from one of their ninety-five lordships in Suffolk.[280] The Strongbow family appears to have inherited a passion for making raids on neighbouring lands, from their Viking ancestors. Strongbow's father had obtained his title of Earl of Pembroke, and his property in the present county of that name, from his successful marauding expedition in Wales, in 1138. But as he revolted against Stephen, his lands were seized by that king; and after his death, in 1148, his son succeeded to his very numerous titles, without any property commensurate thereto. Richard was not in favour with his royal master, who probably was jealous of the Earl, despite his poverty; but as Strongbow did not wish to lose the little he had in England, or the chance of obtaining more in Ireland, he proceeded at once to the court, then held in Normandy, and asked permission for his new enterprise. Henry's reply was so carefully worded, he could declare afterwards that he either had or had not given the permission, whichever version of the interview might eventually prove most convenient to the royal interests. Strongbow took the interpretation which suited his own views, and proceeded to the scene of action with as little delay as possible. He arrived in Ireland, according to the most generally received account, on the vigil of St. Bartholomew, A.D. 1170, and landed at Dundonnell, near Waterford. His uncle, Hervey de Montmarisco, had already arrived, and established himself in a temporary fort, where he had been attacked by the brave citizens of Wexford. But the besieged maintained their position, killed five hundred men, and made prisoners of seventy of the principal citizens of Waterford. Large sums of money were offered for their ransom, but in vain. They were brutally murdered by the English soldiers, who first broke their limbs, and then hurled them from a precipice into the sea. It was the first instalment of the utterly futile theory, so often put in practice since that day, of "striking terror into the Irish;" and the experiment was quite as unsuccessful as all such experiments have ever been.[281]

While these cruelties were enacting, Strongbow had been collecting forces in South Wales; but, as he was on the very eve of departure, he received a peremptory order from Henry, forbidding him to leave the kingdom. After a brief hesitation, he determined to bid defiance to the royal mandate, and set sail for Ireland. The day after his arrival he laid siege to Waterford. The citizens behaved like heroes, and twice repulsed their assailants; but their bravery could not save them in the face of overpowering numbers. A breach was made in the wall; the besiegers poured in; and a merciless massacre followed. Dermod arrived while the conflict was at its height, and for once he has the credit of interfering on the side of mercy. Reginald, a Danish lord, and O'Phelan, Prince of the Deisi, were about to be slain by their captors, but at his request they were spared, and the general carnage was suspended. For the sake of common humanity, one could wish to think that this was an act of mercy. But Mac Murrough had his daughter Eva with him; he wished to have her nuptials with Strongbow celebrated at once; and he could scarcely accomplish his purpose while men were slaying their fellows in a cold-blooded massacre. The following day the nuptials were performed. The English Earl, a widower, and long past the prime of manhood, was wedded to the fair young Celtic maiden; and the marriage procession passed lightly over the bleeding bodies of the dying and the dead. Thus commenced the union between Great Britain and Ireland: must those nuptials be for ever celebrated in tears and blood?

Immediately after the ceremony, the army set out for Dublin. Roderic had collected a large force near Clondalkin, and Hosculf, the Danish governor of the city, encouraged by their presence, had again revolted against Dermod. The English army having learned that the woods and defiles between Wexford and Dublin were well guarded, had made forced marches along the mountains, and succeeded in reaching the capital long before they were expected. Their decision and military skill alarmed the inhabitants—they might also have heard reports of the massacres at Wexford; be this as it may, they determined to negotiate for peace, and commissioned their illustrious Archbishop, St. Laurence O'Toole, to make terms with Dermod. While the discussion was pending, two of the English leaders, Raymond le Gros and Miles de Cogan, obtained an entrance into the city, and commenced a merciless butchery of the inhabitants. When the saint returned he heard cries of misery and groans of agony in all quarters, and it was not without difficulty that he succeeded in appeasing the fury of the soldiers, and the rage of the people, who had been so basely treated.

The Four Masters accuse the people of Dublin of having attempted to purchase their own safety at the expense of the national interests, and say that "a miracle was wrought against them" as a judgment for their selfishness. Hosculf, the Danish governor, fled to the Orkneys, with some of the principal citizens, and Roderic withdrew his forces to Meath, to support O'Rourke, on whom he had bestowed a portion of that territory. Miles de Cogan was invested with the government of Dublin, and Dermod marched to Meath, to attack Roderic and O'Rourke, against whom he had an old grudge of the worst and bitterest kind. He had injured him by carrying off his wife, Dervorgil, and men generally hate most bitterly those whom they have injured most cruelly.

Meanwhile MacCarthy of Desmond had attacked and defeated the English garrison at Waterford, but without any advantageous results. Roderic's weakness now led him to perpetrate an act of cruelty, although it could scarcely be called unjust according to the ideas of the times. It will be remembered that he had received hostages from Dermod for the treaty of Ferns. That treaty had been openly violated, and the King sent ambassadors to him to demand its fulfilment, by the withdrawal of the English troops, threatening, in case of refusal, to put the hostages to death. Dermod laughed at the threat. Under any circumstances, he was not a man who would hesitate to sacrifice his own flesh and blood to his ambition. Roderic was as good as his word; and the three royal hostages were put to death at Athlone.

An important synod was held at the close of this year (A.D. 1170), at Armagh. We have already mentioned one of its principal enactments, which deplored and condemned the practice of buying English slaves from the Bristol merchants. Other subjects shall be more fully entertained when we come to the Synod of Cashel, which was held two years later.

In 1171 Dermod MacMurrough, the author of so many miseries, and the object of so much just reprobation, died at Ferns, on the 4th of May. His miserable end was naturally considered a judgment for his evil life. His obituary is thus recorded: "Diarmaid Mac Murchadha, King of Leinster, by whom a trembling soil was made of all Ireland, after having brought over the Saxons, after having done extensive injuries to the Irish, after plundering and burning many churches, as Ceanannus, Cluain-Iraired, &c., died before the end of a year [after this plundering], of an insufferable and unknown disease; for he became putrid while living, through the miracle of God, Colum-cille, and Finnen, and the other saints of Ireland, whose churches he had profaned and burned some time before; and he died at Fearnamor, without [making] a will, without penance, without the body of Christ, without unction, as his evil deeds deserved."[282]

But the death of the traitor could not undo the traitor's work. Men's evil deeds live after them, however they may repent them on their deathbeds. Strongbow had himself at once proclaimed King of Leinster—his marriage with Eva was the ground of his claim; but though such a mode of succession might hold good in Normandy, it was perfectly illegal in Ireland. The question, however, was not one of right but of might, and it was settled as all such questions invariably are. But Strongbow had a master at the other side of the Channel, who had his own views of these complications. His tenure, however, was somewhat precarious. His barons, always turbulent, had now a new ground for aggression, in the weakness to which he had exposed himself by his virtual sanction of the murder of St. Thomas of Canterbury, and he was fain to content himself with a strong injunction commanding all his English subjects then in Ireland to return immediately, and forbidding any further reinforcements to be sent to that country. Strongbow was alarmed, and at once despatched Raymond le Gros with apologies and explanations, offering the King all the lands he had acquired in Ireland. Henry does not appear to have taken the slightest notice of these communications, and the Earl determined to risk his displeasure, and remain in Ireland.

His prospects, however, were by no means promising. His Irish adherents forsook him on the death of Dermod; Dublin was besieged by a Scandinavian force, which Hosculf had collected in the Orkneys, and which was conveyed in sixty vessels, under the command of Johan le Deve (the Furious). Miles de Cogan repulsed this formidable attack successfully, and captured the leaders. Hosculf was put to death; but he appears to have brought his fate on himself by a proud and incautious boast.

At this period the thoughtful and disinterested Archbishop of Dublin saw a crisis in the history of his country on which much depended. He endeavoured to unite the national chieftains, and rally the national army. His words appear to have had some effect. Messengers were sent to ask assistance from Godfred, King of the Isle of Man, and other island warriors. Strongbow became aware of his danger, and threw himself into Dublin; but he soon found himself landlocked by an army, and enclosed at sea by a fleet. Roderic O'Connor commanded the national forces, supported by Tiernan O'Rourke and Murrough O'Carroll. St. Laurence O'Toole remained in the camp, and strove to animate the men by his exhortations and example. The Irish army contented themselves with a blockade, and the besieged were soon reduced to extremities from want of food. Strongbow offered terms of capitulation through the Archbishop, proposing to hold the kingdom of Leinster as Roderic's vassal; but the Irish monarch demanded the surrender of the towns of Dublin, Wexford, and Waterford, and required the English invaders to leave the country by a certain day.

While these negotiations were pending, Donnell Cavanagh, son of the late King of Leinster, got into the city in disguise, and informed Strongbow that FitzStephen was closely besieged in Wexford. It was then at once determined to force a passage through the Irish army. Raymond le Gros led the van, Miles de Cogan followed; Strongbow and Maurice FitzGerald, who had proposed the sortie, with the remainder of their force, brought up the rere. The Irish army was totally unprepared for this sudden move; they fled in panic, and Roderic, who was bathing in the Liffey, escaped with difficulty.[283]

Strongbow again committed the government of Dublin to Miles de Cogan, and set out for Wexford. On his way thither he was opposed by O'Regan, Prince of Idrone. An action ensued, which might have terminated fatally for the army, had not the Irish prince received his death-wound from an English archer. His troops took to flight, and Strongbow proceeded on his journey. But he arrived too late. Messengers met him on the way, to inform him that the fort of Carrig had fallen into the hands of the Irish, who are said to have practised an unjustifiable stratagem to obtain possession of the place. As usual, there are two versions of the story. One of these versions, which appears not improbable, is that the besieged had heard a false report of the affair in Dublin; and believing Strongbow and the English army to have been overthrown, they surrendered on the promise of being sent in safety to Dublin. On their surrender, the conditions were violated, FitzStephen was imprisoned, and some of his followers killed. The charge against the besiegers is that they invented the report as a stratagem to obtain their ends, and that the falsehood was confirmed in a solemn manner by the bishops of Wexford and Kildare.

As soon as the Wexford men had heard of Strongbow's approach, they set fire to the town, and fled to Beg-Erin, a stockaded island, at the same time sending him a message, that, if he attempted to approach, they would kill all their prisoners. The Earl withdrew to Waterford in consequence of this threat, and here he learned that his presence was indispensable in England; he therefore set off at once to plead his own cause with his royal master. A third attack had been made on Dublin, in the meantime, by the Lord of Breffni, but it was repulsed by Miles. With this exception, the Irish made no attempt against the common enemy, and domestic wars were as frequent as usual.

Henry had returned to England, and was now in Newenham, in Gloucestershire, making active preparations for his visit to Ireland. The odium into which he had fallen, after his complicity in the murder of St. Thomas of Canterbury, had rendered his position perilous in the extreme; and probably his Irish expedition would never have been undertaken, had he not required some such object to turn his thoughts and the thoughts of his subjects from the consequences of his crime.[284] He received Strongbow coldly, and at first refused him an interview. After a proper delay, he graciously accepted the Earl's offer of "all the lands he had won in Ireland"—a very questionable gift, considering that there was not an inch of ground there which he could securely call his own. Henry, however, was pleased to restore his English estates; but, with consummate hypocrisy and villany, he seized the castles of the Welsh lords, whom he hated for their vigorous and patriotic opposition, and punished them for allowing the expedition, which he had just sanctioned, to sail from their coasts unmolested.



[273] Merchants.—Wright says that "theft and unfair dealing" were fearfully prevalent among the Anglo-Normans, and mentions, as an example, how some Irish merchants were robbed who came to Ely to sell their wares.—Domestic Manners, p. 78. It would appear that there was considerable slave-trade carried on with the British merchants. The Saxons, who treated their dependents with savage cruelty (see Wright, p. 56), sold even their children as slaves to the Irish. In 1102 this inhuman traffic was forbidden by the Council of London. Giraldus Cambrensis mentions that, at a synod held at Armagh, A.D. 1170, the Irish clergy, who had often forbidden this trade, pronounced the invasion of Ireland by Englishmen to be a just judgment on the Irish for their share in the sin, and commanded that all who had English slaves should at once set them free. Mr. Haverty remarks, that it was a curious and characteristic coincidence, that an Irish deliberative assembly should thus, by an act of humanity to Englishmen, have met the merciless aggressions which the latter had just then commenced against this country.—Hist. of Ireland, p. 169.

[274] Nesta.—David Powell, in his notes to the Itinerary of Cambria, states that this lady was a daughter of Rufus, Prince of Demetia. She was distinguished for her beauty, and infamous for her gallantries. She had a daughter by Gerald of Windsor, called Augweth, who was mother to Giraldus Cambrensis. This relationship accounts for the absurd eulogiums which he has lavished on the Geraldines. Demetia is the district now called Pembrokeshire, where a colony of Normans established themselves after the Norman Conquest.—See Thierry's Norman Conquest.

[275] Men-at-arms.—Hibernia Expugnata, lib. i. c. 16.

[276] Bargy.—Our illustration gives a view of the remains of this ancient castle. It was formerly the residence of Bagenal Harvey, a Protestant gentleman, who suffered in the rebellion of 1798, for his adherence to the cause of Ireland.

[277] Flemings.—Dr. O'Donovan mentions, in a note to the Four Masters, that he was particularly struck with the difference between the personal appearance of the inhabitants of the baronies where they settled. The Cavanaghs and Murphys are tall and slight; the Flemings and Codds short and stout. They still retain some peculiarities of language.

[278] Rule.—What the rule of this ferocious monster may have been we can judge from what is related of him by Cambrensis. Three hundred heads of the slain were piled up before him; and as he leaped and danced with joy at the ghastly sight, he recognized a man to whom he had a more than ordinary hatred. He seized the head by the ears, and gratified his demoniacal rage by biting off the nose and lips of his dead enemy.

[279] Easterly.—Cambrensis takes to himself the credit of having advised the despatch of a letter to Strongbow. He also gives us the letter, which probably was his own composition, as it is written in the same strain of bombast as his praises of his family.—Hib. Expug. lib. i. c. 12. It commences thus: "We have watched the storks and swallows; the summer birds are come and gone," &c. We imagine that Dermod's style, if he had taken to epistolary correspondence, would have been rather a contrast.

[280] Suffolk.—See Gilbert's Viceroys of Dublin, passim. We recommend this work to our readers. It should be in the hands of every Irishman at least. It combines the attraction of romance with the accuracy of carefully written history.

[281] Been.—If we are to believe Cambrensis, Raymond argued against this cruelty, and Henry in favour of it.

[282] Deserved.—The Annals of Clonmacnois give a similar account; but in a paper MS. in Trinity College, Dublin, it is said that he died "after the victory of penance and unction." The old account is probably the more reliable, as it is the more consonant with his previous career.

[283] Difficulty.—The army was so well supplied, that the English got sufficient corn, meal, and pork to victual the city of Dublin for a whole year.—Harris' Hibernae, p. 25.

[284] Crime.—So fearful was the unfortunate monarch of a public excommunication and interdict, that he sent courtiers at once to Rome to announce his submission. When he heard of the murder he shut himself up for three days, and refused all food, except "milk of almonds." See Vita Quadrip. p. 143. It would appear this was a favourite beverage, from the amount of almonds which were brought to Ireland for his special benefit. See p. 272.


Arrival of Henry II.—Some of the Native Princes pay him Homage—His Character—Dublin in the time of Henry II.—His Winter Palace—Norman Luxuries—King Henry holds a Court—Adrian's Bull—Temporal Power of the Popes in the Middle Ages—Conduct of the Clergy—Irish Property given to English Settlers—Henry II. returns to England—The Account Cambrensis gives of the Injuries done to Ireland by his Countrymen—Raymond, Montmarisco, and Strongbow—The latter is defeated—He recalls Raymond from Wales—Treaty between Roderic and Henry—Death of Strongbow.

[A.D. 1171-1176.]

Henry landed in Ireland on the 18th of October, 1171, at Crook, in the county of Waterford. He was accompanied by Strongbow, William FitzAldelm, Humphrey de Bohun, Hugh de Lacy, Robert FitzBarnard, and many other lords. His whole force, which, according to the most authentic English accounts, was distributed in four hundred ships, consisted of 500 knights and 4,000 men-at-arms. It would appear the Irish had not the least idea that he intended to claim the kingdom as his own, and rather looked upon him as a powerful potentate who had come to assist the native administration of justice. Even had they suspected his real object, no opposition might have been made to it. The nation had suffered much from domestic dissension; it had yet to learn that foreign oppression was an incomparable greater evil.

If a righteous king or a wise statesman had taken the affair in hand, Ireland might have been made an integral and most valuable portion of the British Empire without a struggle. The nation would have bowed gratefully to an impartial government; they have not yet ceased to resent a partial and frequently unjust rule. From the very commencement, the aggrandizement of the individual, and not the advantage of the people, has been the rule of action. Such government is equally disgraceful to the rulers, and cruel to the governed.

MacCarthy of Desmond was the first Irish prince who paid homage to the English King. At Cashel, Donnell O'Brien, King of Thomond, swore fealty, and surrendered the city of Limerick. Other princes followed their example. The "pomp and circumstance" of the royal court, attracted the admiration of a people naturally deferential to authority; the condescension and apparent disinterestedness of the monarch, won the hearts of an impulsive and affectionate race. They had been accustomed to an Ard-Righ, a chief monarch, who, in name at least, ruled all the lesser potentates: why should not Henry be such to them? and why should they suppose that he would exercise a tyranny as yet unknown in the island?

The northern princes still held aloof; but Roderic had received Henry's ambassadors personally, and paid the usual deference which one king owed to another who was considered more powerful. Henry determined to spend his Christmas in Dublin, and resolved on a special display of royal state. It is to be presumed that he wished to make up for deficiency in stateliness of person by stateliness of presence; for, like most of the descendants of Duke Robert "the Devil" and the daughter of the Falaise tanner, his appearance was not calculated to inspire respect. His grey bloodshot eyes and tremulous voice, were neither knightly nor kingly qualifications; his savage and ungovernable temper, made him appear at times rather like a demon than a man. He was charged with having violated the most solemn oaths when it suited his convenience. A cardinal had pronounced him an audacious liar. Count Thiebault of Champagne had warned an archbishop not to rely on any of his promises, however sacredly made. He and his sons spent their time quarrelling with each other, when not occupied in quarrelling with their subjects. His eldest son, Richard, thus graphically sketched the family characteristics:—"The custom in our family is that the son shall hate the father; our destiny is to detest each other; from the devil we came, to the devil we shall go." And the head of this family had now come to reform the Irish, and to improve their condition—social, secular, and ecclesiastical!

A special residence was erected for the court on part of the ground now occupied by the southern side of Dame-street. The whole extent of Dublin at that time was, in length, from Corn Market to the Lower Castle Yard; and in breadth, from the Liffey, then covering Essex-street, to Little Sheep-street, now Ship-street, where a part of the town wall is yet standing.[286] The only edifices in existence on the southern side of Dame-street, even at the commencement of the seventeenth century, were the Church of St. Andrew and the King's Mills.[287] College-green was then quite in the country, and was known as the village of Le Hogges, a name that is apparently derived from the Teutonic word Hoge, which signifies a small hill or sepulchral mound. Here there was a nunnery called St. Mary le Hogges, which had been erected or endowed not many years before Henry's arrival, and a place called Hoggen's Butt, where the citizens exercised themselves in archery. Here, during the winter of 1171, the Celt, the Saxon, and the Norman, may have engaged in peaceful contests and pleasant trials of skill.

Henry's "winter palace" was extemporized with some artistic taste. It was formed of polished osiers. Preparations had been made on an extensive scale for the luxuries of the table—a matter in which the Normans had greatly the advantage of either Celt or Saxon. The use of crane's flesh was introduced into Ireland for the first time, as well as that of herons, peacocks,[288] swans, and wild geese. Almonds had been supplied already by royal order in great abundance; wine was purchased in Waterford, even now famous for its trade with Spain in that commodity. Nor had the King's physician forgotten the King's health; for we find a special entry amongst the royal disbursements of the sum of L10 7s., paid to Josephus Medicus for spices and electuaries. Yet Henri-curt-mantel[289] was careful of his physical well-being, and partook but sparingly of these luxuries. Fearing his tendency to corpulency, he threw the short cloak of his native Anjou round him at an earlier hour in the morning than suited the tastes of his courtiers, and took exercise either on horseback or on foot, keeping in constant motion all day.

When the Christmas festivities had passed, Henry turned his attention to business, if, indeed, the same festivities had not also been a part of his diplomatic plans, for he was not deficient in kingcraft. In a synod at Cashel he attempted to settle ecclesiastical affairs. In a Curia Regis, held at Lismore, he imagined he had arranged temporal affairs. These are subjects which demand our best consideration. It is an historical fact, that the Popes claimed and exercised great temporal power in the middle ages; it is admitted also that they used this power in the main for the general good;[290] and that, as monks and friars were the preservers of literature, so popes and bishops were the protectors of the rights of nations, as far as was possible in such turbulent times. It does not belong to our present subject to theorize on the origin or the grounds[291] of this power; it is sufficient to say that it had been exercised repeatedly both before and after Adrian granted the famous Bull, by which he conferred the kingdom of Ireland on Henry II. The Merovingian dynasty was changed on the decision of Pope Zachary. Pope Adrian threatened Frederick I., that if he did not renounce all pretensions to ecclesiastical property in Lombardy, he should forfeit the crown, "received from himself and through his unction." When Pope Innocent III. pronounced sentence of deposition against Lackland in 1211, and conferred the kingdom of England on Philip Augustus, the latter instantly prepared to assert his claim, though he had no manner of title, except the Papal grant.[292] In fact, at the very moment when Henry was claiming the Irish crown in right of Adrian's Bull, given some years previously, he was in no small trepidation at the possible prospect of losing his English dominions, as an excommunication and an interdict were even then hanging over his head. Political and polemical writers have taken strangely perverted views of the whole transaction. One writer,[293] with apparently the most genuine impartiality, accuses the Pope, the King, and the Irish prelates of the most scandalous hypocrisy. A cursory examination of the question might have served to prove the groundlessness of this assertion. The Irish clergy, he asserts—and his assertion is all the proof he gives—betrayed their country for the sake of tithes. But tithes had already been enacted, and the Irish clergy were very far from conceding Henry's claims in the manner which some historians are pleased to imagine.

It has been already shown that the possession of Ireland was coveted at an early period by the Norman rulers of Great Britain. When Henry II. ascended the throne in 1154, he probably intended to take the matter in hands at once. An Englishman, Adrian IV., filled the Papal chair. The English monarch would naturally find him favourable to his own country. John of Salisbury, then chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, was commissioned to request the favour. No doubt he represented his master as very zealous for the interests of religion, and made it appear that his sole motive was the good, temporal and spiritual, of the barbarous Irish; at least this is plainly implied in Adrian's Bull.[294] The Pope could have no motive except that which he expressed in the document itself. He had been led to believe that the state of Ireland was deplorable; he naturally hoped that a wise and good government would restore what was amiss. There is no doubt that there was much which required amendment, and no one was more conscious of this, or strove more earnestly to effect it, than the saintly prelate who governed the archiepiscopal see of Dublin. The Irish clergy had already made the most zealous efforts to remedy whatever needed correction; but it was an age of lawless violence. Reform was quite as much wanted both in England and in the Italian States; but Ireland had the additional disadvantage of having undergone three centuries of ruthless plunder and desecration of her churches and shrines, and the result told fearfully on that land which had once been the home of saints.

Henry's great object was to represent himself as one who had come to redress grievances rather than to claim allegiance; but however he may have deceived princes and chieftains, he certainly did not succeed in deceiving the clergy. The Synod of Cashel, which he caused to be convened, was not attended as numerously as he had expected, and the regulations made thereat were simply a renewal of those which had been made previously. The Primate of Ireland was absent, and the prelates who assembled there, far from having enslaved the State to Henry, avoided any interference in politics either by word or act. It has been well observed, that, whether "piping or mourning," they are not destined to escape. Their office was to promote peace. So long as the permanent peace and independence of the nation seemed likely to be forwarded by resistance to foreign invasion, they counselled resistance; when resistance was hopeless, they recommended acquiescence, not because they believed the usurpation less unjust, but because they considered submission the wisest course. But the Bull of Adrian had not yet been produced; and Henry's indifference about this document, or his reluctance to use it, shows of how little real importance it was considered at the time. One fearful evil followed from this Anglo-Norman invasion. The Irish clergy had hitherto been distinguished for the high tone of their moral conduct; the English clergy, unhappily, were not so rich in this virtue, and their evil communication had a most injurious effect upon the nation whom it was supposed they should be so eminently capable of benefiting.

Henry did not succeed much better with his administration of secular affairs. In his Curia Regis, at Lismore, he modelled Irish administration on Norman precedents, apparently forgetting that a kingdom and a province should be differently governed. Strongbow was appointed Earl Marshal; Hugh de Lacy, Lord Constable; Bertram de Verdun, Seneschal; Theobald Walter, Chief Butler; and De Wellesley, Royal Standard-bearer. It was also arranged that, on the demise of a Chief Governor, the Norman nobles were to elect a successor, who should have full authority, until the royal pleasure could be known. Henry did not then attempt to style himself King or Lord of Ireland; his object seems to have been simply to obtain authority in the country through his nobles, as Wales had been subdued in a similar manner. English laws and customs were also introduced for the benefit of English settlers; the native population still adhered to their own legal observances. Henry again forgot that laws must be suited to the nation for whom they are made, and that Saxon rules were as little likely to be acceptable to the Celt, as his Norman tongue to an English-speaking people.

Dublin was now made over to the inhabitants of Bristol. Hugh de Lacy, its governor, has been generally considered in point of fact the first Viceroy for Ireland. He was installed in the Norman fashion, and the sword and cap of maintenance were made the insignia of the dignity. Waterford and Wexford were also bestowed on royal favourites, or on such knights as were supposed most likely to hold them for the crown. Castles were erected throughout the country, which was portioned out among Henry's needy followers; and, for the first time in Ireland, a man was called a rebel if he presumed to consider his house or lands as his own property.

The winter had been so stormy that there was little communication with England; but early in spring the King received the portentous intelligence of the arrival of Papal Legates in Normandy, and learned that they threatened to place his dominions under an interdict, if he did not appear immediately to answer for his crime. Queen Eleanor and his sons were also plotting against him, and there were many who boldly declared that the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury would yet be fearfully avenged. Henry determined at once to submit to the Holy See, and to avert his doom by a real or pretended penitence. He therefore sailed for England from Wexford Harbour, on Easter Monday, the 17th of April, 1172, and arrived the same day at Port Finnen, in Wales. We give the testimony of Cambrensis, no friend to Ireland, to prove that neither clergy nor laity benefited by the royal visit. He thus describes the inauguration of that selfish system of plunder and devastation, to which Ireland has been subjected for centuries—a system which prefers the interests of the few to the rights of the many, and then scoffs bitterly at the misery it has created: "The clergy are reduced to beggary in the island; the cathedral churches mourn, having been deprived, by the aforesaid persons [the leading adventurers], and others along with them, or who came over after them, of the lands and ample estates which had been formerly granted to them faithfully and devoutly. And thus the exalting of the Church has been changed into the despoiling or plundering of the Church." Nor is his account of the temporal state of the kingdom any better. He informs us that Dermod Mac Murrough, the originator of all those evils, "oppressed his nobles, exalted upstarts, was a calamity to his countrymen, hated by the strangers, and, in a word, at war with the world." Of the Anglo-Norman nobles, who, it will be remembered, were his own relatives, and of their work, he writes thus: "This new and bloody conquest was defiled by an enormous effusion of blood, and the slaughter of a Christian people." And again: "The lands even of the Irish who stood faithful to our cause, from the first descent of FitzStephen and the Earl, you have, in violation of a treaty, made over to your friends."[295] His character of Henry is, that he was more given to "hunting than to holiness."

The English monarch, however, could assume an appearance of most profound humility and the deepest piety, when it suited his convenience. He excelled himself in this department by his submission to the Holy See, when he found that submission alone could save his crown.

The Lord of Breffni had been one of Henry's favourite guests at his Christmas festivities. He possessed the territory of East Meath, and this territory Henry had coolly bestowed on Hugh de Lacy.[296] The rightful owner was not quite so dazzled by the sunshine of royal favour, as to be willing to resign his property without a struggle. The Irish chieftain, whose name was Tiernan O'Rourke, was persuaded to hold a conference with the English usurper at the Hill of Tara, near Athboy. Both parties were attended by armed men. A dispute ensued. The interpreter was killed by a blow aimed at De Lacy, who fled precipitately; O'Rourke was killed by a spear-thrust as he mounted his horse, and vengeance was wreaked on his dead body, for the crime of wishing to maintain his rights, by subjecting it to decapitation. His head was impaled over the gate of Dublin Castle, and afterwards sent as a present to Henry II. His body was gibbeted, with the feet upwards, on the northern side of the same building.[297] The Four Masters say that O'Rourke was treacherously slain. From the account given by Cambrensis, it would appear that there was a plot to destroy the aged chieftain, but for want of clearer evidence we may give his enemies the benefit of the doubt.

Strongbow was now employing himself by depredating the territories which had been conferred on him. He took an army of 1,000 horse and foot into Offaly, to lay waste O'Dempsey's territory, that prince having also committed the crime of wishing to keep his ancestral estates. He met with no opposition until he was about to return with the spoils; then, as he passed through a defile, the chieftain set upon him in the rear, and slew several of his knights, carrying off the Norman standard. Robert de Quincey, who had just married a daughter of Strongbow's by a former marriage, was amongst the slain. The Earl had bestowed a large territory in Wexford on him.

Henry was at that time suffering from domestic troubles in Normandy; he therefore summoned De Clare to attend him there. It would appear that he performed good service for his royal master, for he received further grants of lands and castles, both in Normandy and in Ireland. On his return to the latter country, he found that the spoilers had quarrelled over the spoil. Raymond le Gros contrived to ingratiate himself with the soldiers, and they demanded that the command should be transferred from Hervey de Montmarisco, Strongbow's uncle, to the object of their predilection. The Earl was obliged to comply. Their object was simply to plunder. The new general gratified them; and after a raid on the unfortunate inhabitants of Offaly and Munster, they collected their booty at Lismore, intending to convey it by water to Waterford.

The Ostmen of Cork attacked them by sea, but failed to conquer. By land the Irish suffered another defeat. Raymond encountered MacCarthy of Desmond on his way to Cork, and plundered him, driving off a rich cattle spoil, in addition to his other ill-gotten goods. Raymond now demanded the appointment of Constable of Leinster, and the hand of Strongbow's sister, Basilia. But the Earl refused; and the general, notwithstanding his successes, retired to Wales in disgust.

Hervey now resumed the command, A.D. 1174, and undertook an expedition against Donnell O'Brien, which proved disastrous to the English. Roderic once more appears in the field. The battle took place at Thurles, and seventeen hundred of the English were slain. In consequence of this disaster, the Earl proceeded in sorrow to his house in Waterford.[298] This great success was a signal for revolt amongst the native chieftains. Donald Cavanagh claimed his father's territory, and Gillamochalmog and other Leinster chieftains rose up against their allies. Roderic O'Connor at the same time invaded Meath, and drove the Anglo-Normans from their castles at Trim and Duleek. Strongbow was obliged to despatch messengers at once to invite the return of Raymond le Gros, and to promise him the office he had demanded, and his sister's hand in marriage.

Raymond came without a moment's delay, accompanied by a considerable force. His arrival was most opportune for the English cause. The Northmen of Waterford were preparing to massacre the invaders, and effected their purpose when the Earl left the town to join the new reinforcements at Wexford. The nuptials were celebrated at Wexford with great pomp; but news was received, on the following morning, that Roderic had advanced almost to Dublin; and the mantle and tunic of the nuptial feast were speedily exchanged for helmet and coat-of-mail.[299] Unfortunately Roderic's army was already disbanded. The English soon repaired the injuries which had been done to their fortresses; and once more the Irish cause was lost, even in the moment of victory, for want of combination and a leader.

Henry now considered it time to produce the Papal Bulls, A.D. 1175. He therefore despatched the Prior of Wallingford and William FitzAldelm to Waterford, where a synod of the clergy was assembled to hear these important documents. The English monarch had contrived to impress the Holy See with wonderful ideas of his sanctity, by his penitential expiations of his share in the murder of St. Thomas a Becket. It was therefore easy for him to procure a confirmation of Adrian's Bull from the then reigning Pontiff, Alexander III. The Pope also wrote to Christian, the Legate, to the Irish archbishops, and to the King. Our historians have not informed us what was the result of this meeting. Had the Papal donation appeared a matter of national importance, there can be little doubt that it would have excited more attention.

Raymond now led an army to Limerick, to revenge himself on Donnell O'Brien, for his defeat at Thurles. He succeeded in his enterprise. Several engagements followed, in which the Anglo-Normans were always victorious. Roderic now sent ambassadors to Henry II. The persons chosen were Catholicus, Archbishop of Tuam; Concors, Abbot of St. Brendan's, in Clonfert; and St. Laurence O'Toole, styled quaintly, in the old Saxon manner, "Master Laurence." The King and Council received them at Windsor. The result of their conference was, that Roderic consented to pay homage to Henry, by giving him a hide from every tenth head of cattle; Henry, on his part, bound himself to secure the sovereignty of Ireland to Roderic, excepting only Dublin, Meath, Leinster, Waterford, and Dungarvan. In fact, the English King managed to have the best share, made a favour of resigning what he never possessed, and of not keeping what he could never have held. This council took place on the octave of the feast of St. Michael, A.D. 1175. By this treaty Henry was simply acknowledged as a superior feudal sovereign; and had Ireland been governed with ordinary justice, the arrangement might have been advantageous to both countries.

Roderic was still a king, both nominally and ipso facto. He had power to judge and depose the petty kings, and they were to pay their tribute to him for the English monarch. Any of the Irish who fled from the territories of the English barons, were to return; but the King of Connaught might compel his own subjects to remain in his land. Thus the English simply possessed a colony in Ireland; and this colony, in a few years, became still more limited, while throughout the rest of the country the Irish language, laws, and usages, prevailed as they had hitherto done.

Henry now appointed Augustin, an Irishman, to the vacant see of Waterford, and sent him, under the care of St. Laurence, to receive consecration from the Archbishop of Cashel, his metropolitan. For a century previous to this time, the Bishops of Waterford had been consecrated by the Norman Archbishops of Canterbury, with whom they claimed kindred.

St. Gelasius died in 1173, and was succeeded in the see of Armagh by Connor MacConcoille. This prelate proceeded to Rome very soon after his consecration, and was supposed to have died there. When the Most Rev. Dr. Dixon, the late Archbishop of Armagh, was visiting Rome, in 1854, he ascertained that Connor had died at the Monastery of St. Peter of Lemene, near Chambery, in 1176, where he fell ill on his homeward journey. His memory is still honoured there by an annual festival on the 4th of June; another of the many instances that, when the Irish Church was supposed to be in a state of general disorder, it had still many holy men to stem and subdue the torrent of evil. We shall find, at a later period, that several Irish bishops assisted at the Council of Lateran.

Dermod MacCarthy's son, Cormac, had rebelled against him, and he was unwise enough to ask Raymond's assistance. As usual, the Norman was successful; he reinstated the King of Desmond, and received for his reward a district in Kerry, where his youngest son, Maurice, became the founder of the family of FitzMaurice, and where his descendants, the Earls of Lansdowne, still possess immense property.[300] The Irish princes were again engaging in disgraceful domestic feuds. Roderic now interfered, and, marching into Munster, expelled Donnell O'Brien from Thomond.

While Raymond was still in Limerick, Strongbow died in Dublin. As it was of the highest political importance that his death should be concealed until some one was present to hold the reigns of government, his sister, Basilia, sent an enigmatical letter[301] to her husband, which certainly does no small credit to her diplomatic skill. The messengers were not acquainted with the Earl's death; and such of the Anglo-Normans in Dublin as were aware of it, had too much prudence to betray the secret. Raymond at once set out on his journey. Immediately after his arrival, FitzGislebert, Earl de Clare, was interred in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, now called Christ's Church.

Strongbow has not obtained a flattering character, either from his friends or his enemies. Even Cambrensis admits that he was obliged to be guided by the plans of others, having neither originality to suggest, nor talent to carry out any important line of action.

The Irish annalists call him the greatest destroyer of the clergy and laity that came to Ireland since the times of Turgesius (Annals of Innisfallen). The Four Masters record his demise thus: "The English Earl [i.e., Richard] died in Dublin, of an ulcer which had broken out in his foot, through the miracles of SS. Brigid and Colum-cille, and of all the other saints whose churches had been destroyed by him. He saw, he thought, St. Brigid in the act of killing him." Pembridge says he died on the 1st of May, and Cambrensis about the 1st of June. His personal appearance is not described in very flattering terms;[302] and he has the credit of being more of a soldier than a statesman, and not very knightly in his manner or bearing.

The Earl de Clare left only one child, a daughter, as heir to his vast estates. She was afterwards married to William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. Although Strongbow was a "destroyer" of the native clergy, he appears to have been impregnated with the mediaeval devotion for establishing religious houses. He founded a priory at Kilmainham for the Knights of the Temple, with an alms-house and hospital He was also a liberal benefactor to the Church of the Holy Trinity, where he was buried.[303]

An impression on green wax of his seal still exists, pendent from a charter in the possession of the Earl of Ormonde. The seal bears on the obverse a mounted knight, in a long surcoat, with a triangular shield, his head covered by a conical helmet, with a nasal. He has a broad, straight sword in his right hand. A foot soldier, with the legend, "Sigillum Ricardi, Filii Comitis Gilleberti," is on the reverse. The last word alone is now legible.


[285] Irish Brooch.—The brooch figured above is of great antiquity. It was found in the Ardkillen crannoge, near Strokestown, county Roscommon. The original is in the Royal Irish Academy, and is considered the finest specimen of bronze workmanship in the collection.

[286] Standing.—Four Masters, vol. iii. p. 5, note m.

[287] Mills.—Dame-street derived its name from a dam or mill-stream near it. There was also the gate of Blessed Mary del Dam. The original name was preserved until quite recently. In the reign of Charles I. the Master of the Rolls had a residence here, which is described as being "in a very wholesome air, with a good orchard and garden leading down to the water-side."—Gilbert's Dublin, vol. ii. p. 264. In fact, the residences here were similar to those pleasant places on the Thames, once the haunts of the nobility of London.

[288] Peacocks.—To serve a peacock with its feathers was one of the grandest exploits of mediaeval cookery. It was sown up in its skin after it had been roasted, when it was allowed to cool a little. The bird then appeared at the last course as if alive. Cream of almonds was also a favourite dainty. Indeed, almonds were used in the composition of many dishes; to use as many and as various ingredients as possible seeming to be the acme of gastronomy. St. Bernard had already loudly condemned the bon vivants of the age. His indignation appears to have been especially excited by the various methods in which eggs were cooked. But even seculars condemned the excesses of Norman luxuries, and declared that the knights were loaded with wine instead of steel, and spits instead of lances.

[289] Henri-curt-mantel.—A soubriquet derived from the short mantle he constantly wore.

[290] Good.—Even the infidel Voltaire admitted that the Popes restrained princes, and protected the people. The Bull In Coena Domini contained an excommunication against those who should levy new taxes upon their estates, or should increase those already existing beyond the bounds of right. For further information on this subject, see Balmez, European Civilization, passim. M. Guizot says: "She [the Church] alone resisted the system of castes; she alone maintained the principle of equality of competition; she alone called all legitimate superiors to the possession of power."—Hist. Gen. de la Civilization en Europe, Lect. 5.

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