« PreviousContinue »
ARRIVAL OF HENRY II.
immediately, on pain of the forfeiture of their lands and chattels, and of perpetual banishment. He would allow no reinforcements to be sent to Ireland, nor any English or Scottish ship to touch the Irish coast.
A Gordian knot can be cut only by the sword, and Strongbow in this dilemma acted with characteristic energy. Gathering his little garrison together, he suddenly sallied from behind the walls of Dublin, and fell on the besieging force with such suddenness and directness as to scatter them in tumultuous Aight. Then he hastened over to England, obtained admission to the royal presence, and pacified Henry by the offer of all the lands he had won in Ireland. Henry now decided to undertake the conquest of Ireland himself, and having assembled a fleet of 400 ships, with an army of about 400 knights and 4000 men-at-arms, crossed the Channel from Milford Haven, accompanied by Strongbow, Hugh de Lacy and William Fitz-Adelm de Burgo, in October 1171, disembarking at Crook, near Waterford. The Irish princes had suffered much from long years of rivalry and disunion, and Henry's claim of suzerainty they were not disinclined to acknowledge, if he, on his part, respected their individual rights. Several of the most powerful of them at once did homage to him, and swore fealty, their territories being restored to them on the usual conditions of feudal tenure.
Henry also parcelled out lands among his own followers, giving Leinster to Strongbow, Ulster to De Courcy, and Meath to De Lacy. Dublin he granted to the people of Bristol, making Hugh de Lacy governor of the town.
Afterwards, Henry summoned a meeting of the clergy at Cashel, under the presidency of the bishop of Lismore, when his ‘lordship of Ireland' was acknowledged by the priests and hierarchy. While, with characteristic energy and state-craft, Henry was maturing schemes for the extension and consolidation of his acquisitions, the rebellion of his sons recalled him in hot haste to England.
Henry might have been able to establish a settled government in Ireland, but his departure threw everything into confusion. A struggle immediately broke out between the dispossessed Irish chiefs and the Norman adventurers, which was carried on with spirit and valour on both sides. De Lacy, who was the first governor of Ireland, was succeeded in 1173 by Strongbow, the strongest and most capable of the Normans.1
Henry, jealous of his power, made a treaty 1 A detailed character of Strongbow is given by Giraldus Cambrensis. He described him as of feminine countenance, with a thin voice ; gentle and courteous in his manners; gaining by address what he could not by force; in peace readier to obey than to command; when not in battle more a soldier than a general, and in battle more a general than a soldier. Prompt always to take his companions into council, and plunging into no enterprise without their advice. In action he was the sure rallying point of his troops. In either fortune of war preserving an unshaken constancy, he was neither to be disabled by adversity, nor thrown off his balance by
with the Ard-ri in 1175, by which Roderick bound himself to do homage to Henry as his suzerain, while Henry undertook to secure the sovereignty of Ireland to Roderick.
Strongbow died in 1176. He was succeeded in the government of the colony (1177-1181) by Raymond le Gros, by William Fitz-Adelm de Burgo, and by Hugh de Lacy, who married the daughter of the Ard-ri. All this time, affairs in Ireland remained in a state of great confusion. The Irish were not sufficiently disciplined and united to drive out the foreigners, and the Normans were not strong enough to conquer the entire country. At length, in 1185, Henry bestowed the title of lord of Ireland on his eldest son, John (then nineteen years old), and sent him to govern the country. New grants of land had previously been made to the Norman warriors. According to Sir John Davies, Henry divided the island among ten of his nobles; and though Davies says they did not gain possession of one-third of the kingdom, yet in title they were owners and lords of all, as nothing was left to be granted to the natives. In violation of the treaty made with Roderick, South Munster was conferred upon Miles de Cogan and Robert Fitz-Stephen; North Munster was given to Philip de Braose; Wexford fell to the lot of Robert de la Poer, while a great part of Connaught became the property of William Fitz-Adelm de Burgo. In most cases, the adventurers thus suddenly enriched, were prudent enough to enter into negotiations with the natives, and, obtaining peaceable possession
of a portion of their grant, wisely left the remainder to the rightful owners.
John landed at Waterford about Easter 1185, attended by a band of profligate young nobles and incompetent advisers. The Irish chieftains met him with friendly greetings. Clothed in their long, flowing robes and linen vests, with their untrimmed hair and luxuriant beards, they presented a dignified appearance as they entered the royal presence, and, according to the national custom, advanced to salute the new viceroy with the kiss of peace.
But the young Norman courtiers, looking upon the proceeding as an insult, drove them back roughly, and some even ventured to pluck their beards and mimic their gestures. Deeply resenting this unworthy' treatment, the chieftains returned home to meditate revenge. Meanwhile, John went from bad to
To meet the lavish expenditure of his profligate Court he inflicted a heavy taxation on the maritime towns, in spite of the immunities granted them by Henry. He even incensed the Norman warriors by his contemptuous treatment of them. At length the volcano broke forth with violence. The Irish rose in all directions, led by Donall O'Brien of Thomond. The Normans were attacked at all points; John's army was destroyed, and the settlers were driven for shelter to the walled towns. For eight months the colony was exposed to the most
serious disaster, and Ireland had nearly slipped from his grasp before Henry had learned the full extent of the insurrection. Then he recalled John and his idle Court, and placed the administration in the
hands of De Courcy as lord-deputy. This able and vigorous soldier acted with all the promptitude and energy the crisis demanded, and gradually recovered the ground which had been lost.
Henry II. died in 1189, leaving Ireland but partially conquered and wholly unsettled ; and so she remained throughout the reign of his successor, Richard I. (1189-1199). Not only were the Irish chiefs bent on throwing off the yoke of the foreigner, but the Norman settlers were disloyal to England. In this crisis, John (1199-1216) showed extraordinary vigour. He descended on the island in 1210, attacked the rebellious Norman knights, De Lacy and De Braose, driving them from the country, and finally subdued the Irish chiefs. The De Lacys fled to France, where they sank into such an abyss of distress, that to support themselves they became gardeners to a monastery. After some time, the abbot, suspecting that they had a story to tell, and learning their real rank, interceded with King John on their behalf with so much effect, that on their payment of a considerable fine, their Irish titles and estates were restored to them, and they returned to Ulster.
John did not attempt to extend the Norman settlement in Ireland. He tried to consolidate it. English laws were introduced; English courts were established; sheriffs and other officials were duly appointed; and the districts subject to English control were divided into twelve counties - Dublin, Meath, Uriel (now called Louth), Kildare, Katherlagh (now called