Page images
PDF
EPUB

Carlow), Kilkenny, Waterford, Wexford, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Tipperary. Throughout the remainder of John's reign, Ireland was comparatively quiet. But during the reigns of his successors, Henry III. (1216-1272) and Edward I. (1272-1307), the old confusion prevailed. Not only Irish and Normans fought against each other, but fought between themselves. Nevertheless there was a common hostility to England. "We are English to the Irish,' said one of the Normans; 'but we are Irish to the English.' Amid the general anarchy, the work of fusion between conquerors and conquered went on.

The Normans began to adopt Irish customs and manners, to feel Irish sympathies and prejudices, to take Irish titles and Irish names. Thus, the De Burgos became Bourkes; the Fitz-Urses, MacMahon; the De Veres, MacSweeney ; while the proud Geraldines grew more Irish than the Irish themselves.

"The MacMahons in the south,' says Spenser, 'were anciently English, to wit, descended from the Fitz-Urses, which was a noble family in England ; likewise the MacSweeneys, now in Ulster, where recently the Veres in England, for they themselves, for hatred of England, so disgraced their names.'

A modern English historian has tried to account for this fusion. A conquering race,' he says, 'can retain its peculiar characteristics, unaffected by the local influences and tendencies of the people by which it is surrounded, so long only as it preserves the most intimate relations

1307]

CELT AND NORMAN

37

with its kindred elsewhere.' And this the invaders did not, for those to whom Ireland was distasteful, forsook it and returned no more ; while those who remained-separated from their connections by the Irish Sea-learned to look upon it as their adopted country. He supplies another reason; that from a combination of causes the Irish Celts possess on their own soil a power, greater than any other known family of mankind, of assimilating those who venture among them. But there is yet another reason : in England, as in Ireland, no general spirit of patriotism was alive. To those restless Norman nobles, England was almost as much a name as to the Irish themselves. They were in no way connected with its past history; had not absorbed its traditions ; and were, indeed, prepared to 'make a nationality wherever they could find an estate.' Once safely planted in Ireland, they had no reason to maintain any protracted enmity against their Irish neighbours. The baron and his Irish retainers found the relations between them grow easy when the customs of the country were allowed to stand; and when a Butler or a Lacy, not content with leading his people to spoil and victory, assumed their language and their dress, and became as one of themselves, the affection of which they were the objects among the people grew at once into adoration.' The process of change went on rapidly, because there was no counteracting influence. There was no strong feeling of loyalty, for the English kings seldom visited Ireland. There was no dominant, settled authority to maintain

the English allegiance, for the lord-deputy had little real power, and his personal interests very frequently were opposed to those of the Crown. When an Irish baron was appointed to the post, all the other Irish barons became his rivals, and when the deputy was an English baron, all the Irish barons became his enemies. An ecclesiastic was sometimes chosen, because he occupied a sort of neutral position ; but then he had his class and separate interests to preserve, and preferred the interests of his church and order to those of the king of England.

But whatever were the causes, the fact remains that, throughout the reigns of Henry III. and Edward I. Normans and Irish were drawing closer and closer to each other. Indeed, it seemed possible that what had happened in England might happen in Ireland ; and that the conquerors and the conquered might combine to build up a strong and united nation.

CHAPTER IV

EDWARD BRUCE

[graphic]

N the reign of Edward II. (1307

1327), the English connection was threatened by the greatest danger which had yet arisen. In 1314, the English were defeated at Bannockburn by Robert Bruce. This glorious

Scotch victory filled the Irish with joy. Donall O'Neil, Prince of Tyrone, and the Norman De Lacy sent ambassadors to Robert Bruce praying him to allow his brother Edward to become King of Ireland. Robert consented, and in May 1315, Edward landed at Larne with a force of 6ooo disciplined warriors. The Irish chiefs rallied to him from end to end of the country. O'Conor of Connaught, O'Brien of Thomond, the O'Tooles and O'Brynes of Wicklow, the O’Moores of

Leix-all united with the Scots to drive out the English.

Edward Bruce marched onward from victory to victory, storming castles and burning towns, but unhappily pillaging, plundering and destroying all before him. At Dundalk, he was crowned king in the spring of 1316. Anxious for the papal sanction, the Ulster princes, led by O'Neil, addressed a petition to the Pope, in which they enlarged on the pitiful condition of the country, 'which had been ground so long beneath the tyranny of English kings, of their ministers and barons, some of the latter, although born on the island, exercising the same extortions, rapine and cruelties as their ancestors had inflicted. The people had been obliged, like beasts, to take refuge in the mountains, though even there they were not safe. There were only laws for the English, none for the Irish; and any Englishman could, as often happened, kill an Irishman of any rank, and seize his property.

The Church had been despoiled of its lands and possessions by sacrilegious Englishmen.' The Pope sent the petition to Edward, urging him to rule the Irish with justice and humanity; but His Holiness would not favour the revolt against England.

The English, now unable to hold Ulster, retreated to Connaught. There, under the command of De Burgo and Bermingham, they were attacked by the young king of Connaught, Felim O'Conor, then only in his twenty-third year. A bloody pitched battle, in which many deeds

« PreviousContinue »