WAR OF SUCCESSION.
THE FORTUNES OF THE FAMILY OF BRIAN.
The last scene of the Irish monarchy, before it entered on the anarchical period, was not destitute of an appropriate grandeur. It was the death-bed scene of the second Malachy, the rival, ally, and successor of the great Brian. After the eventful day of Clontarf he resumed the monarchy, without opposition, and for eight years he continued in its undisturbed enjoyment. The fruitful land of Meath again gave forth its abundance, unscourged by the spoiler, and beside its lakes and streams the hospitable Ard-Righ had erected, or restored, three hundred fortified houses, where, as his poets sung, shelter was freely given to guests from the king of the elements. His own favourite residence was at Dunnasciath (“the fort of shields”), in the north-west angle of Lough Ennel, in the present parish of Dysart. In the eighth year after Clontarf—the summer of 1022—the Dublin Danes once again ventured on a foray into East-Meath, and the aged monarch marched to meet them. At Athboy he encountered the enemy, and drove them, routed and broken, out of the ancient mensal land of the Irish kings.
Thirty days after that victory he was called on to confront the conqueror of all men, even Death. He had reached the age of seventy-three, and he prepared to meet his last hour with the zeal and humility of a true Christian. To Dunnasciath repaired Amalgaid, Archbishop of Armagh, the Abbots of Clonmacnoise and of Durrow, with a numerous train of the clergy. For greater solitude, the dying king was conveyed into an island of the lake opposite his fort—then called Inis-Cro, now Cormorant Island—and there, “after intense penance,” on the fourth of the Nones of September precisely, died Malachy, son of Donald, son of Donogh, in the fond language of the bards, “the pillar of the dignity and nobility of the western world:” and “the seniors of all Ireland sung masses, hymns, psalms, and canticles for the welfare of his soul.”
“This,” says the old Translator of the Clonmacnoise Annals, “was the last king of Ireland of Irish blood, that had the crown; yet there were seven kings after without crown, before the coming in of the English.” Of these seven subsequent kings we are to write under the general title of “the War of Succession.” They are called Ard-Righ go Fresabra, that is, kings opposed, or unrecognised, by certain tribes, or Provinces. For it was essential to the completion of the title, as we have before seen, that when the claimant was of Ulster, he should have Connaught and Munster, or Leinster and Munster, in his obedience: in other words, he should be able to command the allegiance of two-thirds of his suffragans. If of Munster, he should be equally potent in the other Provinces, in order to rank among the recognised kings of Erin. Whether some of the seven kings subsequent to Malachy II., who assumed the title, were not fairly entitled to it, we do not presume to say; it is our simpler task to narrate the incidents of that brilliant war of succession, which occupies almost all the interval between the Danish and Anglo-Norman invasions. The chaunt of the funeral Mass of Malachy was hardly heard upon Lough Ennel, when Donogh O’Brien despatched his agents, claiming the crown from the Provincial Princes. He was the eldest son of Brian by his second marriage, and his mother was an O’Conor, an additional source of strength to him, in the western Province. It had fallen to the lot of Donogh, and his elder brother, Teigue or Thaddeus, to conduct the remnant of the Dalcassians from Clontarf to their home. Marching through Ossory, by the great southern road, they were attacked in their enfeebled state by the lord of that brave little border territory, on whom Brian’s hand had fallen with heavy displeasure. Wounded as many of them were, they fought their way desperately towards Cashel, leaving 150 men dead in one of their skirmishes. Of all who had left the Shannon side to combat with the enemy, but 850 men lived to return to their homes.
No sooner had they reached Kinkora, than a fierce dispute arose, between the friends of Teigue and Donogh, as to which should reign over Munster. A battle ensued, with doubtful result, but by the intercession of the Clergy this unnatural feud was healed, and the brothers reigned conjointly for nine years afterwards, until Teigue fell in an engagement in Ely (Queen’s County), as was charged and believed, by the machinations of his colleague and brother. Thorlogh, son of Teigue, was the foster-son, and at this time the guest or hostage of Dermid of Leinster, the founder of the McMurrogh family, which had now risen into the rank justly forfeited by the traitor Maelmurra. When he reached man’s age he married the daughter of Dermid, and we shall soon hear of him again asserting in Munster the pretensions of the eldest surviving branch of the O’Brien family.
The death of his brother and of Malachy within the same year, proved favourable to the ambition of Donogh O’Brien. All Munster submitted to his sway; Connaught was among the first to recognise his title as Ard-Righ. Ossory and Leinster, though unwillingly, gave in their adhesion. But Meath refused to recognise him, and placed its government in commission, in the hands of Con O’Lochan, the arch-poet, and Corcran, the priest, already more than once mentioned. The country, north of Meath, obeyed Flaherty O’Neil, of Aileach, whose ambition, as well as that of all his house, was to restore the northern supremacy, which had continued unbroken, from the fourth to the ninth century. This Flaherty was a vigorous, able, and pious Prince, who held stoutly on to the northern half-kingdom. In the year 1030 he made the frequent but adventurous pilgrimage to Rome, from which he is called, in the pedigree of his house, an Trostain, or the cross-bearer.
The greatest obstacle, however, to the complete ascendency of Donogh, arose in the person of his nephew, now advanced to manhood. Thorlogh O’Brien possessed much of the courage and ability of his grandfather, and he had at his side, a faithful and powerful ally in his foster-father, Dermid, of Leinster. Rightly or wrongly, on proof or on suspicion, he regarded his uncle as his father’s murderer, and he pursued his vengeance with a skill and constancy worthy of Hamlet. At the time of his father’s death, he was a mere lad—in his fourteenth year. But, as he grew older, he accompanied his foster-father in all his expeditions, and rapidly acquired a soldier’s fame. By marriage with Dervorgoil, daughter of the Lord of Ossory, he strengthened his influence at the most necessary point; and what, with so good a cause and such fast friends as he made in exile, his success against his uncle is little to be wondered at. Leinster and Ossory, which had temporarily submitted to Donogh’s claim, soon found good pretexts for refusing him tribute, and a border war, marked by all the usual atrocities, raged for several successive seasons. The contest, is relieved, however, of its purely civil character, by the capture of Waterford, still Danish, in 1037, and of Dublin, in 1051. On this occasion, Dermid, of Leinster, bestowed the city on his son Morrogh (grandfather of Strongbow’s ally), to whom the remnant of its inhabitants, as well as their kinsmen in Man, submitted for the time with what grace they could.
The position of Donogh O’Brien became yearly weaker. His rival had youth, energy, and fortune on his side. The Prince of Connaught finally joined him, and thus, a league was formed, which overcame all opposition. In the year 1058, Donogh received a severe defeat at the base of the Galtees; and although he went into the house of O’Conor the same year, and humbly submitted to him, it only postponed his day of reckoning. Three years after O’Conor took Kinkora, and Dermid, of Leinster, burned Limerick, and took hostages as far southward as Saint Brendan’s hill (Tralee). The next year Donogh O’Brien, then fully fourscore years of age, weary of life and of the world, took the cross-staff, and departed on a pilgrimage to Rome, where he died soon after, in the monastery of St. Stephen. It is said by some writers that Donogh brought with him to Rome and presented to the Pope, Alexander II., the crown of his father—and from this tradition many theories and controversies have sprung. It is not unlikely that a deposed monarch should have carried into exile whatever portable wealth he still retained, nor that he should have presented his crown to the Sovereign Pontiff before finally quitting the world. But as to conferring with the crown, the sovereignty of which it was once an emblem, neither reason nor religion obliges us to believe any such hypothesis.
Dermid of Leinster, upon the banishment of Donogh, son of Brian (A.D. 1063), became actual ruler of the southern half-kingdom and nominal Ard-Righ, “with opposition.” The two-fold antagonism to this Prince, came, as might be expected from Conor, son of Malachy, the head of the southern Hy-Nial dynasty, and from the chiefs of the elder dynasty of the North. Thorlogh O’Brien, now King of Cashel, loyally repaid, by his devoted adherence, the deep debt he owed in his struggles and his early youth to Dermid. There are few instances in our Annals of a more devoted friendship than existed between these brave and able Princes through all the changes of half a century. No one act seems to have broken the life-long intimacy of Dermid and Thorlogh; no cloud ever came between them; no mistrust, no distrust. Rare and precious felicity of human experience! How many myriads of men have sighed out their souls in vain desire for that best blessing which Heaven can bestow, a true, unchanging, unsuspecting friend!
To return: Conor O’Melaghlin could not see, without deep-seated discontent, a Prince of Leinster assume the rank which his father and several of his ancestors had held. A border strife between Meath and Leinster arose not unlike that which had been waged a few years before for the deposition of Donogh, between Leinster and Ossory on the one part, and Munster on the other. Various were the encounters, whose obscure details are seldom preserved to us. But the good fortune of Dermid prevailed in all, until, in the year 1070, he lost Morrogh, his heir, by a natural death at Dublin, and Gluniarn, another son, fell in battle with the men of Meath. Two years later, in the battle of Ova, in the same territory, and against the same enemy, Dermid himself fell, with the lord of Forth, and a great host of Dublin Danes and Leinster men. The triumph of the son of Malachy, and the sorrow and anger of Leinster, were equally great. The bards have sung the praise of Dermid in strains which history accepts: they praise his ruddy aspect and laughing teeth; they remember how he upheld the standard of war, and none dared contend with him in battle; they denounce vengeance on Meath as soon as his death-feast is over—a vengeance too truly pursued.
As a picture of the manners and habits of thought in those tunes, the fate of Conor, son of Melaghlin, and its connection with the last illness and death of Thorlogh O’Brien, are worthy of mention. Conor was treacherously slain, the year after the battle of Ova, in a parley with his own nephew, though the parley was held under the protection of the Bachall-Isa, or Staff, of Christ, the most revered relic of the Irish Church. After his death, his body was buried in the great Church of Clonmacnoise, in his own patrimony. But Thorlogh O’Brien perhaps, from his friendship for Dermid, carried off his head, as the head of an enemy, to Kinkora. When it was placed in his presence in his palace, a mouse ran out from the dead man’s head, and under the king’s mantle, which occasioned him such a fright that he grew suddenly sick, his hair fell off, and his life was despaired of. It was on Good Friday that the buried head was carried away, and on Easter Sunday, it was tremblingly restored again, with two rings of gold as a peace offering to the Church. Thus were God and Saint Kieran vindicated. Thorlogh O’Brien slowly regained his strength, though Keating, and the authors he followed, think he was never the same man again, after the fright he received from the head of Conor O’Melaghlin. He died peaceably and full of penitence, at Kinkora, on the eve of the Ides of July, A.D. 1086, after severe physical suffering. He was in the 77th year of his age, the 32nd of his rule over Munster, and the 13th—since the death of Dermid of Leinster—in his actual sovereignty of the southern half, and nominal rule of the whole kingdom. He was succeeded by his son Murkertach, or Murtogh, afterwards called More, or the great.
We have thus traced to the third generation the political fortunes of the family of Brian, which includes so much of the history of those times. That family had become, and was long destined to remain, the first in rank and influence in the southern half-kingdom. But internal discord in a great house, as in a great state, is fatal to the peaceable transmission of power. That “acknowledged right of birth” to which a famous historian attributes “the peaceful successions” of modern Europe, was too little respected in those ages, in many countries of Christendom—and had no settled prescription in its favour among the Irish. Primogeniture and the whole scheme of feudal dependence seems to have been an essential preparative for modern civilization: but as Ireland had escaped the legions of Rome, so she existed without the circle of feudal organization. When that system did at length appear upon her soil it was embodied in an invading host, and patriot zeal could discern nothing good, nothing imitable in the laws and customs of an enemy, whose armed presence in the land was an insult to its inhabitants. Thus did our Island twice lose the discipline which elsewhere laid the foundation of great states: once in the Roman, and again in the Feudal era.
THE CONTEST BETWEEN THE NORTH AND SOUTH—RISE OF THE FAMILY OF O’CONOR.
Four years before the death of Thorlogh O’Brien, a Prince destined to be the life-long rival of his great son, had succeeded to the kingship of the northern tribes. This was Donald, son of Ardgall, Prince of Aileach, sometimes called “O” and sometimes “Mac” Laughlin. Donald had reached the mature age of forty when he succeeded in the course of nature to his father, Ardgall, and was admitted the first man of the North, not only in station but for personal graces and accomplishments; for wisdom, wealth, liberality, and love of military adventure.
Murkertach, or Murtogh O’Brien, was of nearly the same age as his rival, and his equal, if not superior in talents, both for peace and war. During the last years of his father’s reign and illness, he had been the real ruler of the south, and had enforced the claims of Cashel on all the tribes of Leath Mogha, from Dublin to Galway. In the year 1094, by mutual compact, brought about through the intercession of the Archbishop of Armagh and the great body of the clergy, north and south—and still more perhaps by the pestilence and famine which raged at intervals during the last years of the eleventh century —this ancient division of the midland asker, running east and west, was solemnly restored by consent of both parties, and Leath Mogha and Leath Conn became for the moment independent territories. So thoroughly did the Church enter into the arrangement, that, at the Synod of Rath-Brazil, held a few years later, the seats of the twelve Bishops of the southern half were grouped round the Archbishop of Cashel, while the twelve of the northern half were ranged round the Archbishop of Armagh. The Bishops of Meath, the ancient mensal of the monarchy, seem to have occupied a middle station between the benches of the north and south.
Notwithstanding the solemn compact of 1094, Murtogh did not long cease to claim the title, nor to seek the hostages of all Ireland. As soon as the fearful visitations with which the century had closed were passed over, he resumed his warlike forays, and found Donald of Aileach nothing loath to try again the issue of arms. Each prince, however, seems to have been more anxious to coerce or interest the secondary chiefs in his own behalf than to meet his rival in the old-style pitched battle. Murtogh’s annual march was usually along the Shannon, into Leitrim, thence north by Sligo, and across the Erne and Finn into Donegal and Derry. Donald’s annual excursion led commonly along the Bann, into Dalriada and Ulidia, Whence by way of Newry, across the Boyne, into Meath, and from West-Meath into Munster. In one of these forays, at the very opening of the twelfth century, Donald surprised Kinkora in the absence of its lord, razed the fort and levelled the buildings to the earth. But the next season the southern king paid him back in kind, when he attacked and demolished Aileach, and caused each of his soldiers to carry off a stone of the ruin in his knapsack. “I never heard of the billeting of grit stones,” exclaims a bard of those days, “though I have heard of the billeting of soldiers: but now we see the stones of Aileach billeted on the horses of the King of the West!”
Such circuits of the Irish kings, especially in days of opposition, were repeated with much regularity. They seem to have set out commonly in May—or soon after the festival of Easter—and when the tour of the island was made, they occupied about six weeks in duration. The precise number of men who took part in these visitations is nowhere stated, but in critical times no prince, claiming the perilous honour of Ard-Righ, would be likely to march with less than from five to ten thousand men. The movements of such a multitude must have been attended with many oppressions and inconveniences; their encampment for even a week in any territory must have been a serious burthen to the resident inhabitants, whether hostile or hospitable. Yet this was one inevitable consequence of the breaking up of the federal centre at Tara. In earlier days, the Ard-Righ, on his election, or in an emergency, made an armed procession through the island. Ordinarily, however, his suffragans visited him, and not he them; all Ireland went up to Tara to the Feis, or to the festivals of Baaltine and Samhain. Now that there was no Tara to go to, the monarch, or would-be monarch, found it indispensable to show himself often, and to exercise his authority in person, among every considerable tribe in the island. To do justice to Murtogh O’Brien, he does not appear to have sought occasions of employing force when on these expeditions, but rather to have acted the part of an armed negotiator. On his return from the demolition of Aileach (A.D. 1101), among other acts of munificence, he, in an assembly of the clergy of Leath Mogha, made a solemn gift of the city of Cashel, free of all rents and dues, to the Archbishop and the Clergy, for ever. His munificence to churches, and his patronage of holy men, were eminent traits in this Prince’s character. And the clergy of that age were eminently worthy of the favours of such Princes. Their interposition frequently brought about a truce between the northern and southern kings. In the year 1103, the hostages of both were placed in custody with Donald, Archbishop of Armagh, to guarantee a twelvemonth’s peace. But the next season the contest was renewed. Murtogh besieged Armagh for a week, which Donald of Aileach successfully defended, until the siege was abandoned. In a subsequent battle the northern force defeated one division of Murtogh’s allies in Iveagh, under the Prince of Leinster, who fell on the field, with the lords of Idrone, Ossory, Desies, Kerry, and the Dublin Danes. Murtogh himself, with another division of his troops, was on an incursion into Antrim when he heard of this defeat. The northern visitors carried off among other spoils the royal tent and standard, a trophy which gave new bitterness on the one side, and new confidence on the other. Donald, the good Archbishop, the following year (A.D. 1105) proceeded to Dublin, where Murtogh was, or was soon expected, to renew the previous peace between North and South, but he fell suddenly ill soon after his arrival, and caused himself to be carried homewards in haste. At a church by the wayside, not far from Dublin, he was anointed and received the viaticum. He survived, however, to reach Armagh, where he expired on the 12th day of August. Kellach, latinized Celsus, his saintly successor, was promoted to the Primacy, and solemnly consecrated on Saint Adamnan’s day following—the 23rd of September, 1105.
Archbishop Celsus, whose accession was equally well received in Munster as in Ulster, followed in the footsteps of his pious predecessor, in taking a decided part with neither Leath Mogha nor Leath Conn. When, in the year 1110, both parties marched to Slieve-Fuaid, with a view to a challenge of battle, Celsus interposed between them the Bachall-Isa—and a solemn truce followed; again, three years later, when they confronted each other in Iveagh, in Down, similar success attended a similar interposition. Three years later Murtogh O’Brien was seized with so severe an illness, that he became like to a living skeleton, and though he recovered sufficiently to resume the exercise of authority he never regained his full health. He died in a spiritual retreat, at Lismore, on the 4th of the Ides of March, A.D. 1119, and was buried at Killaloe. His great rival, Donald of Leath Conn, did not long survive him: he died at Derry, also in a religious house, on the 5th of the Ides of February, A.D. 1121.
While these two able men were thus for more than a quarter of a century struggling for the supremacy, a third power was gradually strengthening itself west of the Shannon, destined to profit by the contest, more than either of the principals. This was the family of O’Conor, of Roscommon, who derived their pedigree from the same stock as the O’Neils, and their name from Conor, an ancestor, who ruled over Connaught, towards the end of the ninth century. Two or three of their line before Conor had possessed the same rank and title, but it was by no means regarded as an adjunct of the house of Rathcrogan, before the time at which we have arrived. Their co-relatives, sometimes their rivals, but oftener their allies, were the O’Ruarcs of Breffny, McDermots of Moylurg, the O’Flahertys of Iar or West Connaught, the O’Shaughnessys, O’Heynes, and O’Dowdas. The great neighbouring family of O’Kelly had sprung from a different branch of the far-spreading Gaelic tree. At the opening of the twelfth century, Thorlogh More O’Conor, son of Ruari of the Yellow Hound, son of Hugh of the Broken Spear, was the recognised head of his race, both for valour and discretion. By some historians he is called the half-brother of Murtogh O’Brien, and it is certain that he was the faithful ally of that powerful prince. In the early stages of the recent contest between North and South, Donald of Aileach had presented himself at Rathcrogan, the residence of O’Conor, who entertained him for a fortnight, and gave him hostages; but Connaught finally sided with Munster, and thus, by a decided policy, escaped being ground to powder, as corn is ground between the mill-stones. But the nephew and successor of Murtogh was not prepared to reciprocate to Connaught the support it had rendered to Munster, but rather looked for its continuance to himself. Conor O’Brien, who became King of Munster in 1120, resisted all his life the pretensions of any house but his own to the southern half-kingdom, and against a less powerful or less politic antagonist, his energy and capacity would have been certain to prevail. The posterity of Malachy in Meath, as well as the Princes of Aileach, were equally hostile to the designs of the new aspirant. One line had given three, another seven, another twenty kings to Erin—but who had ever heard of an Ard-Righ coming out of Connaught? ‘Twas so they reasoned in those days of fierce family pride, and so they acted. Yet Thorlogh, son of Ruari, son of Hugh, proved himself in the fifteen years’ war, previous to his accession (1021 to 1136), more than a match for all his enemies. He had been chief of his tribe since the year 1106, and from the first had begun to lay his far forecasting plans for the sovereignty. He had espoused the cause of the house of O’Brien, and had profited by that alliance. Nor were all his thoughts given to war. He had bridged the river Suca at Ballinasloe, and the Shannon at Athlone and Shannon harbour, and the same year these works were finished (1120 or ’21) he celebrated the ancient games at Tailtean, in assertion of his claim to the monarchy. His main difficulty was the stubborn pride of Munster, and the valour and enterprise of Conor O’Brien, surnamed Conor “of the fortresses.” Of the years following his assertion of his title, few passed without war between those Provinces. In 1121 and 1127, Thorlogh triumphed in the south, took hostages from Lismore to Tralee, and returned home exultingly; a few years later the tide turned, and Conor O’Brien was equally victorious against him, in the heart of his own country. Thorlogh played off in the south the ancient jealousy of the Eugenian houses against the Dalcassians, and thus weakened both, to his own advantage. In the year 1126 he took Dublin and raised his son to the lordship, as Dermid of Leinster, and Thorlogh O’Brien had done formerly: marching southward he encamped in Ormond, from Lammas to St. Bridget’s day, and overran Munster with his troops in all directions, taking Cork, Cashel, Ardfinnan, and Tralee. Celsus, the holy Primate of Armagh, deploring the evils of this protracted year, left his peaceful city, and spent thirteen months in the south and west, endeavouring to reconcile, and bind over to the peace, the contending kings. In these days the Irish hierarchy performed, perhaps, their highest part—that of peacemakers and preachers of good will to men. When in 1132 and ’33 the tide had temporarily turned against Thorlogh, and Conor O’Brien had united Munster, Leinster, and Meath, against him, the Archbishop of Tuam performed effectually the office of mediator, preserving not only his own Province, but the whole country from the most sanguinary consequences. In the year 1130, the holy Celsus had rested from his labours, and Malachy, the illustrious friend of St. Bernard, was nominated as his successor. At the time he was absent in Munster, as the Vicar of the aged Primate, engaged in a mission of peace, when the crozier and the dying message of his predecessor were delivered to him. He returned to Armagh, where he found that Maurice, son of Donald, had been intruded as Archbishop in the interim, to this city peace, order, and unity, were not even partially restored, until two years later—A.D., 1132.
The reign of Thorlogh O’Conor over Leath Mogha, or as Ard-Righ “with opposition,” is dated by the best authorities from the year 1136. He was then in his forty-eighth year, and had been chief of his tribe from the early age of eighteen. He afterwards reigned for twenty years, and as those years, and the early career of his son Roderick are full of instruction, in reference to the events which follow, we must relate them somewhat in detail. We again beg the reader to observe the consequences of the destruction of the federal bond among the Irish; how every province has found an ambitious dynasty of its own, which each contends shall be supreme; how the ambition of the great families grows insatiable as the ancient rights and customs decay; how the law of Patrick enacted in the fifth century is no longer quoted or regarded; how the law of the strong hand alone decides the quarrel of these proud, unyielding Princes.
THORLOGH MORE O’CONOR—MURKERTACH OF AILEACH—ACCESSION OF RODERICK O’CONOR.
The successful ambition of Thorlogh O’Conor had thus added, as we have seen in the last chapter, a fifth dynasty to the number of competitors for the sovereignty. And if great energy and various talents could alone entitle a chief to rule over his country, this Prince well merited the obedience of his cotemporaries. He is the first of the latter kings who maintained a regular fleet at sea; at one time we find these Connaught galleys doing service on the coast of Cork, at another co-operating with his land forces, in the harbour of Derry. The year of his greatest power was the fifteenth of his reign (A.D. 1151), when his most signal success was obtained over his most formidable antagonists. Thorlogh O’Brien, King of Munster, successor to Conor of the fortresses, had on foot, in that year, an army of three battalions (or caths), each battalion consisting of 3,000 men, with which force he overawed some, and compelled others of the southern chiefs to withdraw their homage from his western namesake. The latter, uniting to his own the forces of Meath, and those of Leinster, recently reconciled to his supremacy, marched southward, and, encamping at Glanmire, received the adhesion of such Eugenian families as still struggled with desperation against the ascendency of the O’Briens. With these forces he encountered, at Moanmore, the army of the south, and defeated them, with the enormous loss of 7,000 men—a slaughter unparalleled throughout the war of succession. Every leading house in North Munster mourned the loss of either its chief or its tanist; some great families lost three, five, or seven brothers on that sanguinary day. The household of Kinkora was left without an heir, and many a near kinsman’s seat was vacant in its hospitable hall. The O’Brien himself was banished into Ulster, where, from Murkertach, Prince of Aileach, he received the hospitality due to his rank and his misfortunes, not without an ulterior politic view on the part of the Ulster Prince. In this battle of Moanmore, Dermid McMurrogh, King of Leinster, of whom we shall hear hereafter, fought gallantly on the side of the victor. In the same year—but whether before or after the Munster campaign is uncertain—an Ulster force having marched into Sligo, Thorlogh met them near the Curlew mountains, and made peace with their king. A still more important interview took place the next year in the plain, or Moy, between the rivers Erne and Drowse, near the present Ballyshannon. On the Bachall-Isa and the relics of Columbkill, Thorlogh and Murkertach made a solemn peace, which is thought to have included the recognition of O’Conor’s supremacy. A third meeting was had during the summer in Meath, where were present, beside the Ard-Righ, the Prince of Aileach, Dermid of Leinster, and other chiefs and nobles. At this conference they divided Meath into east and west, between two branches of the family of Melaghlin. Part of Longford and South Leitrim were taken from Tiernan O’Ruarc, lord of Breffni, and an angle of Meath, including Athboy and the hill of Ward, was given him instead. Earlier in the same year, King Thorlogh had divided Munster into three parts, giving Desmond to MacCarthy, Ormond to Thaddeus O’Brien, who had fought under him at Moanmore, and leaving the remainder to the O’Brien, who had only two short years before competed with him for the sovereignty. By these subdivisions the politic monarch expected to weaken to a great degree the power of the rival families of Meath and Munster. It was an arbitrary policy which could originate only on the field of battle, and could be enforced only by the sanction of victory. Thorlogh O’Brien, once King of all Munster, refused to accept a mere third, and carrying away his jewels and valuables, including the drinking horn of the great Brian, he threw himself again on the protection of Murkertach of Aileach. The elder branch of the family of O’Melaghlin were equally indisposed to accept half of Meath, where they had claimed the whole from the Shannon to the sea. To complicate still more this tangled web, Dermid, King of Leinster, about the same time (A.D. 1153), eloped with Dervorgoil, wife of O’Ruarc of Breffni, and daughter of O’Melaghlin, who both appealed to the monarch for vengeance on the ravager. Up to this date Dermid had acted as a steadfast ally of O’Conor, but when compelled by the presence of a powerful force on his borders to restore the captive, or partner of his guilt, he conceived an enmity for the aged king, which he extended, with increased virulence, to his son and successor.
What degree of personal criminality to attach to this elopement it is hard to say. The cavalier in the case was on the wintry side of fifty, while the lady had reached the mature age of forty-four. Such examples have been, where the passions of youth, surviving the period most subject to their influence, have broken out with renewed frenzy on the confines of old age. Whether the flight of Dermid and Dervorgoil arose from a mere criminal passion, is not laid down with certainty in the old Annals, though national and local tradition strongly point to that conclusion. The Four Masters indeed state that after the restoration of the lady she “returned to O’Ruarc,” another point wanting confirmation. We know that she soon afterwards retired to the shelter of Mellifont Abbey, where she ended her days towards the close of the century, in penitence and alms-deeds.
Murtogh of Aileach now became master of the situation. Thorlogh was old and could not last long; Dermid of Leinster was for ever estranged from him; the new arbitrary divisions, though made with the general consent, satisfied no one. With a powerful force he marched southward, restored to the elder branch of the O’Melaghlins the whole of Meath, defeated Thaddeus O’Brien, obliterated Ormond from the map, restored the old bounds of Thomond and Desmond, and placed his guest, the banished O’Brien, on the throne of Cashel. A hostile force, under Roderick O’Conor, was routed, and retreated to their own territory. The next year (A.D. 1154) was signalized by a fierce naval engagement between the galleys of King Thorlogh and those of Murtogh, on the coast of Innishowen. The latter, recruited by vessels hired from the Gael and Galls of Cantire, the Arran Isles, and Man, were under the command of MacScellig; the Connaught fleet was led by O’Malley and O’Dowda. The engagement, which lasted from the morning till the evening, ended in the repulse of the Connaught fleet, and the death of O’Dowda. The occurrence is remarkable as the first general sea-fight between vessels in the service of native Princes, and as reminding us forcibly of the lessons acquired by the Irish during the Danish period.
During the two years of life—which remained to King Thorlogh O’Conor, he had the affliction of seeing the fabric of power, which had taken him nearly half a century to construct, abridged at many points, by his more vigorous northern rival. Murtogh gave law to territories far south of the ancient esker. He took hostages from the Danes of Dublin, and interposed in the affairs of Munster. In the year 1156, the closing incidents which signalized the life of Thorlogh More, was a new peace which he made between the people of Breffni, Meath, and Connaught, and the reception of hostages from his old opponent, the restored O’Brien. While this new light of prosperity was shining on his house, he passed away from this life, on the 13th of the Kalends of June, in the 68th year of his age, and the 50th of his government. By his last will he bequeathed to the clergy numerous legacies, which are thus enumerated by Geoffrey Keating: “namely, four hundred and forty ounces of gold, and forty marks of silver; and all the other valuable treasures he possessed, both cups and precious stones, both steeds and cattle and robes, chess-boards, bows, quivers, arrows, equipments, weapons, armour, and utensils.” He was interred beside the high altar of the Cathedral of Clonmacnoise, to which he had been in life and in death a munificent benefactor.
The Prince of Aileach now assumed the title of Monarch, and after some short-lived opposition from Roderick O’Conor, his sovereignty was universally acknowledged. From the year 1161 until his death, he might fairly be called Ard-Righ, without opposition, since the hostages of all Ireland were in those last five years in his hands. These hostages were retained at the chief seat of power of the northern dynasty, the fortress of Aileach, which crowns a hill nearly a thousand feet high, at the head of Lough Swilly. To this stronghold the ancestor of Murtogh had removed early in the Danish period, from the more exposed and more ancient Emania, beside Armagh. On that hill-summit the ruins of Aileach may still be traced, with its inner wall twelve feet thick, and its three concentric ramparts, the first enclosing one acre, the second four, and the last five acres. By what remains we can still judge of the strength of the stronghold which watched over the waters of Lough Swilly like a sentinel on an outpost. No Prince of the Northern Hy-Nial had for two centuries entered Aileach in such triumph or with so many nobles in his train, as did Murtogh in the year 1161, But whether the supreme power wrought a change for the worse in his early character, or that the lords of Ulster had begun to consider the line of Conn as equals rather than sovereigns, he was soon involved in quarrels with his own Provincial suffragans which ended in his defeat and death. Most other kings of whom we have read found their difficulties in rival dynasties and provincial prejudices; but this ruler, when most freely acknowledged abroad, was disobeyed and defeated at home. Having taken prisoner the lord of Ulidia (Down), with whom he had previously made a solemn peace, he ordered his eyes to be put out, and three of his principal relatives to be executed. This and other arbitrary acts so roused the lords of Leath Conn, that they formed a league against him, at the head of which stood Donogh O’Carroll, lord of Oriel, the next neighbour to the cruelly ill-treated chief of Ulidia. In the year 1166, this chief, with certain tribes of Tyrone and North Leitrim, to the number of three battalions (9,000 men), attacked the patrimony of the monarch—that last menace and disgrace to an Irish king. Murtogh with his usual valour, but not his usual fortune, encountered them in the district of the Fews, with an Inferior force, chiefly his own tribesmen. Even these deserted him on the eve of the battle, so that he was easily surprised and slain, only thirteen men falling in the affray. This action, of course, is unworthy the name of a battle, but resulting in the death of the monarch, it became of high political importance.
Roderick O’Conor, son of Thorlogh More, was at this period in the tenth year of his reign over Connaught, and the fiftieth year of his age. Rathcrogan, the chief seat of his jurisdiction, had just attained to the summit of its glory. The site of this now almost forgotten palace is traceable in the parish of Elphin, within three miles of the modern village of Tulsk. Many objects contributed to its interest and importance in Milesian times. There were the Naasteaghna, or place of assembly of the clans of Connaught, “the Sacred Cave,” which in the Druidic era was supposed to be the residence of a god, and the Relig na Righ-the venerable cemetery of the Pagan kings of the West, where still the red pillar stone stood over the grave of Dathy, and many another ancient tomb could be as clearly distinguished. The relative importance of Rathcrogan we may estimate by the more detailed descriptions of the extent and income of its rivals—Kinkora and Aileach. In an age when Roscommon alone contained 470 fortified duns, over all which the royal rath presided; when half the tributes of the island were counted at its gate, it must have been the frequent rendezvous of armies, the home of many guests, the busy focus of intrigue, and the very elysium of bards, story-tellers, and mendicants. In an after generation, Cathal, the red-handed O’Conor, from some motive of policy or pleasure, transferred the seat of government to the newly-founded Ballintober: in the lifetime of Thorlogh More, and the first years of Roderick, when the fortunes of the O’Conors were at their full, Rathcrogan was the co-equal in strength and in splendour of Aileach and Kinkora.
Advancing directly from this family seat, on the first tidings of Murtogh’s death, Roderick presented himself before the walls of Dublin, which opened its gates, accepted his stipend of four thousand head of cattle, and placed hostages for its fidelity in his hands. He next marched rapidly to Drogheda, with an auxiliary force of Dublin Danes, and there O’Carroll, lord of Oriel (Louth), came into his camp, and rendered him homage. Retracing his steps he entered Leinster, with an augmented force, and demanded hostages from Dermid McMurrogh. Thirteen years had passed since his father had taken up arms to avenge the rape of Dervorgoil, and had earned the deadly hatred of the abductor. That hatred, in the interim, had suffered no decrease, and sooner than submit to Roderick, the ravager burned his own city of Ferns to the ground, and retreated into his fastnesses. Roderick proceeded southward, obtained the adhesion of Ossory and Munster; confirming Desmond to McCarthy, and Thomond to O’Brien. Returning to Leinster, he found that Tiernan O’Ruarc had entered the province, at the head of an auxiliary army, and Dermid, thus surrounded, deserted by most of his own followers, outwitted and overmatched, was feign to seek safety in flight beyond seas (A.D. 1168). A solemn sentence of banishment was publicly pronounced against him by the assembled Princes, and Morrogh, his cousin, commonly called Morrogh na Gael, or “of the Irish,” to distinguish him from Dermid na Gall, or “of the Stranger,” was inaugurated in his stead. From Morrogh na Gael they took seventeen hostages, and so Roderick returned rejoicing to Rathcrogan, and O’Ruarc to Breffni, each vainly imagining that he had heard the last of the dissolute and detested King of Leinster.
STATE OF RELIGION AND LEARNING AMONG THE IRISH, PREVIOUS TO THE ANGLO-NORMAN INVASION.
At the end of the eighth century, before entering on the Norwegian and Danish wars, we cast a backward glance on the Christian ages over which we had passed; and now again we have arrived at the close of an era, when a rapid retrospect of the religious and social condition of the country requires to be taken.
The disorganization of the ancient Celtic constitution has already been sufficiently described. The rise of the great families, and their struggles for supremacy, have also been briefly sketched. The substitution of the clan for the race, of pedigree for patriotism, has been exhibited to the reader. We have now to turn to the inner life of the people, and to ascertain what substitutes they found in their religious and social condition, for the absence of a fixed constitutional system, and the strength and stability which such a system confers.
The followers of Odin, though they made no proselytes to their horrid creed among the children of St. Patrick, succeeded in inflicting many fatal wounds on the Irish Church. The schools, monasteries, and nunneries, situated on harbours or rivers, or within a convenient march of the coast, were their first objects of attack; teachers and pupils were dispersed, or, if taken, put to death, or, escaping, were driven to resort to arms in self-defence. Bishops could no longer reside in their sees, nor anchorites in their cells, unless they invited martyrdom; a fact which may, perhaps, in some degree account for the large number of Irish ecclesiastics, many of them in episcopal orders, who are found, in the ninth century, in Gaul arid Germany, at Rheims, Mentz, Ratisbon, Fulda, Cologne, and other places, already Christian. But it was not in the banishment of masters, the destruction of libraries and school buildings, the worst consequences of the Gentile war were felt. Their ferocity provoked retaliation in kind, and effaced, first among the military class, and gradually from among all others, that growing gentleness of manners and clemency of temper, which we can trace in such princes as Nial of the Showers and Nial of Callan. “A change in the national spirit is the greatest of all revolutions;” and this change the Danish and Norwegian wars had wrought, in two centuries, among the Irish.
The number of Bishops in the early Irish Church was greatly in excess of the number of modern dioceses. From the eighth to the twelfth century we hear frequently of Episcopi Vagantes, or itinerant, and Episcopi Vacantes, or unbeneficed Bishops; the Provincial Synods of England and Gaul frequently had to complain of the influx of such Bishops into their country. At the Synod held near the Hill of Usny, in the year 1111, fifty Bishops attended, and at the Synod of Rath-Brazil, seven years later, according to Keating, but twenty-five were present. To this period, then, when Celsus was Primate and Legate of the Holy See, we may attribute the first attempted reduction of the Episcopal body to something like its modern number; but so far was this salutary restriction from being universally observed that, at the Synod of Kells (A.D. 1152), the hierarchy had again risen to thirty-four, exclusive of the four Archbishops. Three hundred priests, and three thousand ecclesiastics are given as the number present at the first-mentioned Synod.
The religious orders, probably represented by the above proportion of three thousand ecclesiastics to three hundred [secular] priests had also undergone a remarkable revolution. The rule of all the early Irish monasteries and convents was framed upon an original constitution, which St. Patrick had obtained in France from St. Martin of Tours, who in turn had copied after the monachism of Egypt and the East. It is called by ecclesiastical writers the Columban rule, and was more rigid in some particulars than the rule of St. Benedict, by which it was afterwards supplanted. Amongst other restrictions it prohibited the admission of all unprofessed persons within the precincts of the monastery—a law as regards females incorporated in the Benedictine constitution; and it strictly enjoined silence on the professed—a discipline revived by the brethren of La Trappe. The primary difference between the two orders lay perhaps in this, that the Benedictine made study and the cultivation of the intellect subordinate to manual labour and implicit obedience, while the Columban Order attached more importance to the acquisition of knowledge and missionary enterprise. Not that this was their invariable, but only their peculiar characteristic: a deep-seated love of seclusion and meditation often, intermingled with this fearless and experimental zeal. It was not to be expected in a century like the ninth, especially when the Benedictine Order was overspreading the West, that its milder spirit should not act upon the spirit of the Columban rule. It was, in effect, more social, and less scientific, more a wisdom to be acted than to be taught. Armed with the syllogism, the Columbites issued out of their remote island, carrying their strongly marked personality into every controversy and every correspondence. In Germany and Gaul, their system blazed up in Virgilius, in Erigena, and Macarius, and then disappeared in the calmer, slower, but safer march of the Benedictine discipline. By a reform of the same ancient order, its last hold on native soil was loosened when, under the auspices of St. Malachy, the Cistercian rule was introduced into Ireland the very year of his first visit to Clairvaux (A.D. 1139). St. Mary’s Abbey, Dublin, was the first to adopt that rule, and the great monastery of Mellifont, placed under the charge of the brother of the Primate, sprung up in Meath, three years later. The Abbeys of Bective, Boyle, Baltinglass, and Monasternenagh, date from the year of Malachy’s second journey to Rome, and death at Clairvaux—A.D. 1148. Before the end of the century, the rule was established at Fermoy, Holycross, and Odorney; at Athlone and Knockmoy; at Newry and Assaroe, and in almost every tribe-land of Meath and Leinster. It is usually but erroneously supposed that the Cistercian rule came in with the Normans; for although many houses owed their foundation to that race, the order itself had been naturalized in Ireland a generation before the first landing of the formidable allies of Dermid on the coast of Wexford. The ancient native order had apparently fulfilled its mission, and long rudely lopped and shaken by civil commotions and Pagan war, it was prepared to give place to a new and more vigorous organization of kindred holiness and energy.
As the horrors of war disturbed continually the clergy from their sacred calling, and led many of them, even Abbots and Bishops, to take up arms, so the yoke of religion gradually loosened and dropped from the necks of the people. The awe of the eighth century for a Priest or Bishop had already disappeared in the tenth, when Christian hands were found to decapitate Cormac of Cashel, and offer his head as a trophy to the Ard-Righ. In the twelfth century the Archbishop and Bishops of Connaught, bound to the Synod of Trim, were fallen upon by the Kern of Carbre the Swift, before they could cross the Shannon, their people beaten and dispersed and two of them killed. In the time of Thorlogh More O’Conor, a similar outrage was offered by Tiernan O’Ruarc to the Archbishop of Armagh, and one of his ecclesiastics was killed in the assault. Not only for the persons of ministers of religion had the ancient awe and reverence disappeared, but even for the sacred precincts of the Sanctuary. In the second century of the war with the Northmen we begin to hear of churches and cloisters plundered by native chiefs, who yet called themselves Christians, though in every such instance our annalists are careful to record the vengeance of Heaven following swift on sacrilege. Clonmacnoise, Kildare, and Lismore, were more than once rifled of their wealth by impious hands, and given over to desolation and burning by so-called Christian nobles and soldiers! It is some mitigation of the dreadful record thus presented to be informed—as we often are—especially in the annals of the twelfth century, that the treasures so pillaged were not the shrines of saints nor the sacred ornaments of the altar, but the temporal wealth of temporal proprietors, laid up in churches as places of greatest security.
The estates of the Church were, in most instances, farmed by laymen, called Erenachs, who, in the relaxation of all discipline, seem to have gradually appropriated the lands to themselves, leaving to the Clergy and Bishops only periodical dues and the actual enclosure of the Church. This office of Erenach was hereditary, and must have presented many strong temptations to its occupants. It is indeed certain that the Irish Church was originally founded on the broadest voluntaryism, and that such was the spirit of all its most illustrious fathers. “Content with food and raiment,” says an ancient Canon attributed to St. Patrick, “reject the gifts of the wicked beside, seeing that the lamb takes only that with which it is fed.” Such, to the letter, was the maxim which guided the conduct of Colman and his brethren, of whom Bede makes such honourable mention, in the third century after the preaching of St. Patrick. But the munificence of tribes and Princes was not to be restrained, and to obviate any violation of the revered canons of the apostle, laymen, as treasurers and stewards over the endowments of the Church, were early appointed. As those possessions increased, the desire of family aggrandizement proved too much for the Erenachs not only of Armagh, but of most other sees, and left the clergy as practically dependent on free-will offerings, as if their Cathedrals or Convents had never been endowed with an acre, a mill, a ferry, or a fishery. The free offerings were, however, always generous, and sometimes munificent. When Celsus, on his elevation to the Primacy, made a tour of the southern half-kingdom, he received “seven cows and seven sheep, and half an ounce of silver from every cantred [hundred] in Munster.” The bequests were also a fruitful source of revenue to the principal foundations; of the munificence of the monarchs we may form some opinion by what has been already recorded of the gifts left to churches by Thorlogh More O’Conor.
The power of the clerical order, in these ages of Pagan warfare, had very far declined from what it was, when Adamnan caused the law to be enacted to prevent women going to battle, when Moling obtained the abolition of the Leinster tribute, and Columbkill the recognition of Scottish independence. Truces made in the presence of the highest dignitaries, and sworn to on the most sacred relics, were frequently violated, and often with impunity. Neither excommunication nor public penance were latterly inflicted as an atonement for such perjury: a fine or offering to the Church was the easy and only mulct on the offender. When we see the safeguard of the Bishop of Cork so flagrantly disregarded by the assassins of Mahon, son of Kennedy, and the solemn peace of the year 1094 so readily broken by two such men as the Princes of the North and the South, we need no other proofs of the decadence of the spiritual authority in that age of Irish history.
And the morals of private life tell the same sad tale. The facility with which the marriage tie was contracted and dissolved is the strongest evidence of this degeneracy. The worst examples were set in the highest stations, for it is no uncommon incident, from the ninth century downwards, to find our Princes with more than one wife living, and the repudiated wife married again to a person of equal or superior rank. We have the authority of Saint Anselm and Saint Bernard, for the existence of grave scandal and irregularities of life among the clergy, and we can well believe that it needed a generation of Bishops, with all the authority and all the courage of Saint Celsus, Saint Malachy, and Saint Lawrence, to rescue from ruin a Priesthood and a people, so far fallen from the bright example of their ancestors. That the reaction towards a better life had strongly set in, under their guidance, we may infer from the horror with which, in the third quarter of the twelfth century, the elopement of Dermid and Dervorgoil was regarded by both Princes and People. A hundred years earlier, that event would have been hardly noticed in the general disregard of the marriage tie, but the frequent Synods, and the holy lives of the reforming Bishops, had already revived the zeal that precedes and ensures reformation.
Primate Malachy died at Clairvaulx, in the arms of Saint Bernard, in the year 1148, after having been fourteen years Archbishop of Armagh and ten years Bishop of Down and Conor. His episcopal life, therefore, embraced the history of that remarkable second quarter of the century, in which the religious reaction fought its first battles against the worst abuses. The attention of Saint Bernard, whose eyes nothing escaped, from Jerusalem to the farthest west, was drawn ten years before to the Isle of Saints, now, in truth, become an Isle of Sinners. The death of his friend, the Irish Primate, under his own roof, gave him a fitting occasion for raising his accusing voice—a voice that thrilled the Alps and filled the Vatican—against the fearful degeneracy of that once fruitful mother of holy men and women. The attention of Rome was thoroughly aroused, and immediately after the appearance of the Life of Saint Malachy, Pope Eugenius III.—himself a monk of Clairvaulx—despatched Cardinal Papiron, with legantine powers, to correct abuses, and establish a stricter discipline. After a tour of great part of the Island, the Legate, with whom was associated Gilla-Criost, or Christianus, Bishop of Lismore, called the great Synod of Kells, early in the year after his arrival (March, 1152), at which simony, usury, concubinage, and other abuses, were formally condemned, and tithes were first decreed to be paid to the secular clergy. Two new Archbishoprics, Dublin and Tuam, were added to Armagh and Cashel, though not without decided opposition from the Primates both of Leath Mogha and Leath Conn, backed by those stern conservatives of every national usage, the Abbots of the Columban Order. The pallium, or Roman cape, was, by this Legate, presented to each of the Archbishops, and a closer conformity with the Roman ritual was enacted. The four ecclesiastical Provinces thus created were in outline nearly identical with the four modern Provinces. Armagh was declared the metropolitan over all; Dublin, which had been a mere Danish borough-see, gained most in rank and influence by the new arrangement, as Glendalough, Ferns, Ossory, Kildare and Leighlin, were declared subject to its presidency.
We must always bear in mind the picture drawn of the Irish Church by the inspired orator of Clairvaulx, when judging of the conduct of Pope Adrian IV., who, in the year 1155—the second of his Pontificate—granted to King Henry II. of England, then newly crowned, his Bull authorising the invasion of Ireland. The authenticity of that Bull is now universally admitted; and both its preamble and conditions show how strictly it was framed in accordance with St. Bernard’s accusation. It sets forth that for the eradication of vice, the implanting of virtue, and the spread of the true faith, the Holy Father solemnly sanctions the projected invasion; and it attaches as a condition, the payment of Peter’s pence, for every house in Ireland. The bearer of the Bull, John of Salisbury, carried back from Rome a gold ring, set with an emerald stone, as a token of Adrian’s friendship, or it may be, his subinfeudation of Henry. As a title, however powerless in modern times such a Bull might prove, it was a formidable weapon of invasion with a Catholic people, in the twelfth century. We have mainly referred to it here, however, as an illustration of how entirely St. Bernard’s impeachment of the Irish Church and nation was believed at Rome, even after the salutary decrees of the Synod of Kells had been promulgated.
The restoration of religion, which was making such rapid progress previous to the Norman invasion, was accompanied by a relative revival of learning. The dark ages of Ireland are not those of the rest of Europe—they extend from the middle of the ninth century to the age of Brian and Malachy II. This darkness came from the North, and cleared away rapidly after the eventful day of Clontarf. The first and most natural direction which the revival took was historical investigation, and the composition of Annals. Of these invaluable records, the two of highest reputation are those of Tigernach (Tiernan) O’Broin, brought down to the year of his own death, A.D. 1088, and the chronicle of Marianus Scotus, who died at Mentz, A.D. 1086. Tiernan was abbot of Clonmacnoise, and Marian is thought to have been a monk of that monastery, as he speaks of a superior called Tigernach, under whom he had lived in Ireland. Both these learned men quote accurately the works of foreign writers; both give the dates of eclipses, in connection with historical events for several centuries before their own time; both show a familiarity with Greek and Latin authors. Marianus is the first writer by whom the name Scotia Minor was given to the Gaelic settlement in Caledonia, and his chronicle was an authority mainly relied on in the disputed Scottish succession in the time of Edward I. of England. With Tigernach, he may be considered the founder of the school of Irish Annalists, which flourished in the shelter of the great monasteries, such as Innisfallen, Boyle and Multifernan; and culminated in the great compilation made by “the Four Masters” in the Abbey of Donegal.
Of the Gaelic metrical chroniclers, Flann of the Monastery, and Gilla-Coeman; of the Bards McLiag and McCoisse; of the learned professors and lectors of Lismore and Armagh—now restored for a season to studious days and peaceful nights, we must be content with the mention of their names. Of Lismore, after its restoration, an old British writer has left us this pleasant and happy picture. “It is,” he says, “a famous and holy city, half of which is an asylum, into which no woman dares enter; but it is full of cells and monasteries; and religious men in great abundance abide there.”
Such was the promise of better days, which cheered the hopes of the Pastors of the Irish, when the twelfth century had entered on its third quarter. The pious old Gaelic proverb, which says, “on the Cross the face of Christ was looking westwards—,” was again on the lips and in the hearts of men, and though much remained to be done, much had been already done, and done under difficulties greater than any that remained to conquer.
SOCIAL CONDITION OF THE IRISH PREVIOUS TO THE NORMAN INVASION.
The total population of Ireland, when the Normans first entered it, can only be approximated by conjecture. Supposing the whole force with which Roderick and his allies invested the Normans in Dublin, to be, as stated by a cotemporary writer, some 50,000 men, and that that force included one-fourth of all the men of the military age in the country; and further, supposing the men of military age to bear the proportion of one-fifth to the whole number of inhabitants, this would give a total population of about one million. Even this conjecture is to be taken with great diffidence and distrust, but, for the sake of clearness, it is set down as a possible Irish census, towards the close of the twelfth century.
This population was divided into two great classes, the Saer-Clanna, or free tribes, chiefly, if not exclusively, of Milesian race; and the Daer-Clanna, or unfree tribes, consisting of the descendants of the subjugated older races, or of clans once free, reduced to servitude by the sword, or of the posterity of foreign mercenary soldiers. Of the free clans, the most illustrious were those of whose Princes we have traced the record—the descendants of Nial in Ulster and Meath, of Cathaeir More in Leinster, of Oliold in Munster, and of Eochaid in Connaught. An arbitrary division once limited the free clans to six in the southern half-kingdom, and six in the north; and the unfree also to six. But Geoffrey Keating, whose love of truth was quite as strong as his credulity in ancient legends—and that is saying much—disclaimed that classification, and collected his genealogies from principal heads—branching out into three families of tribes, descended from Eber Finn, one from Ir, and four from Eremhon, sons of Milesians of Spain; and ninth tribe sprung from Ith, granduncle to the sons of Milesius. The principal Eberian families’ names were McCarthy, O’Sullivan, O’Mahony, O’Donovan, O’Brien, O’Dea, O’Quin, McMahon (of Clare), McNamara, O’Carroll (of Ely), and O’Gara; the Irian families were Magennis, O’Farrall, and O’Conor (of Kerry); the posterity of Eremhon branched out into the O’Neils, O’Donnells, O’Dohertys, O’Gallahers, O’Boyles, McGeoghegans, O’Conors (of Connaught), O’Flahertys, O’Heynes, O’Shaughnessys, O’Clerys, O’Dowdas, McDonalds (of Antrim), O’Kellys, Maguires, Kavanaghs, Fitzpatricks, O’Dwyers, and O’Conors (of Offally). The chief families of Ithian origin were the O’Driscolls, O’Learys, Coffeys, and Clancys. Out of the greater tribes many subdivisions arose from time to time, when new names were coined for some intermediate ancestor; but the farther enumeration of these may be conveniently dispensed with.
The Daer-Clanna, or unfree tribes, have left no history. Under the despotism of the Milesian kings, it was high treason to record the actions of the conquered race; so that the Irish Belgae fared as badly in this respect, at the hands of the Milesian historians, as the latter fared in after times from the chroniclers of the Normans. We only know that such tribes were, and that their numbers and physical force more than once excited the apprehension of the children of the conquerors. What proportion they bore to the Saer-Clanna we have no positive data to determine. A fourth, a fifth, or a sixth, they may have been; but one thing is certain, the jealous policy of the superior race never permitted them to reascend the plane of equality, from which they had been hurled, at the very commencement of the Milesian ascendency.
In addition to the enslaved by conquest and the enslaved by crime, there were also the enslaved by purchase. From the earliest period, slave dealers from Ireland had frequented Bristol, the great British slave market, to purchase human beings. Christian morality, though it may have mitigated the horrors of this odious traffic, did not at once lead to its abolition. In vain Saint Wulfstan preached against it in the South, as Saint Aidan had done long before him in the North of England. Files of fair-haired Saxon slaves, of both sexes, yoked together with ropes, continued to be shipped at Bristol, and bondmen and bondwomen continued to be articles of value—exchanged between the Prince and his subordinates, as stipend or tribute. The King of Cashel alone gave to the chief of the Eugenians, as part of his annual stipend, ten bondmen and ten women; to the lord of Bruree, seven pages and seven bondwomen; to the lord of Deisi, eight slaves of each sex, and seven female slaves to the lord of Kerry; among the items which make up the tribute from Ossory to Cashel are ten bondmen and ten grown women; and from the Deisi, eight bondmen and eight “brown-haired” women. The annual exchanges of this description, set down as due in the Book of Rights, would require the transfer of several hundreds of slaves yearly, from one set of masters to another. Cruelties and outrages must have been inseparable from the system, and we can hardly wonder at the sweeping decree by which the Synod of Armagh (A.D. 1171) declared all the English slaves in Ireland free to return to their homes, and anathematized the whole inhuman traffic. The fathers of that council looked upon the Norman invasion as a punishment from Heaven on the slave trade; for they believed in their purity of heart, that power is transferred from one nation to another, because of injustices, oppressions, and divers deceits.
The purchased slaves and unfree tribes tilled the soil, and practised the mechanic arts. Agriculture seems first to have been lifted into respectability by the Cistercian Monks, while spinning, weaving, and almost every mechanic calling, if we except the scribe, the armorer, and the bell-founder, continued down to very recent tunes to be held in contempt among the Gael. A brave man is mentioned as having been a “weaving woman’s son,” with much the same emphasis as Jeptha is spoken of as the son of an Harlot. Mechanic wares were disposed of at those stated gatherings, which combined popular games, chariot races for the nobles, and markets for the merchants. A Bard of the tenth or eleventh century, in a desperate effort to vary the usual high-flown descriptions of the country, calls it “Erin of the hundred fair greens,”—a very graphic, if not a very poetic illustration.
The administration of justice was an hereditary trust, committed to certain judicial families, who held their lands, as the Monks did, by virtue of their profession. When the posterity of the Brehon, or Judge failed, it was permitted to adopt from the class of students, a male representative, in whom the judicial authority was perpetuated: the families of O’Gnive and O’Clery in the North, of O’Daly in Meath, O’Doran in Leinster, McEgan in Munster, Mulconry or Conroy in Connaught, were the most distinguished Brehon houses. Some peculiarities of the Brehon law, relating to civil succession and sovereignty, such as the institution of Tanistry, and the system of stipends and tributes, have been already explained; parricide and murder were in latter ages punished with death; homicide and rape by eric or fine. There were, besides, the laws of gavelkind or division of property among the members of the clan; laws relating to boundaries; sumptuary laws regulating the dress of the various castes into which society was divided; laws relating to the planting of trees, the trespass of cattle, and billeting of troops. These laws were either written in detail, or consisted of certain acknowledged ancient maxims of which the Brehon made the application in each particular case, answering to what we call “Judge-made law.” Of such ancient tracts as composed the Celtic code, an immense number have, fortunately survived, even to this late day, and we may shortly expect a complete digest of all that are now known to exist, in a printed and imperishable form, from the hands of native scholars, every way competent to the task.
The commerce of the country, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, was largely in the hands of the Christian Hiberno-Danes, of the eastern and southern coast. By them the slave trade with Bristol was mostly maintained, and the Irish oak, with which William Rufus roofed Westminster Abbey, was probably rafted by them in the Thames. The English and Welsh coasts, at least, were familiar to their pilots, and they combined, as was usual in that age, the military with the mercantile character. In 1142, and again in 1165, a troop of Dublin Danes fought under Norman banners against the brave Britons of Cambria, and in the camps of their allies, sung the praises of the fertile island of the west. The hundred fairs of Erin— after their conversion and submission to native authority —afforded them convenient markets for disposing of the commodities they imported from abroad.
The Gaelic mind, long distracted by the din of war from the purifying and satisfying influences of a Christian life, naturally fell back upon the abandoned, half-forgotten superstitions of the Pagan period. Preceding every fresh calamity, we hear of signs and wonders, of migratory lakes disappearing in a night, of birds and wolves speaking with human voices, of showers of blood falling in the fields, of a whale with golden teeth stranded at Carlingford, of cloud ships, with their crews, seen plainly sailing in the sky. One of the marvels of this class is thus gravely entered in our Annals, under the year 1054—”A steeple of fire was seen in the air over Rossdala, on the Sunday of the festival of St. George, for the space of five hours; innumerable black birds passed into and out of it, and one large bird in the middle of them; and the little birds went under his wings when they went into the steeple. They came out and raised up a greyhound that was in the middle of the town aloft in the air, and let it drop down again, so that it died immediately; and they took up three cloaks and two shirts, and let them drop down in the same manner. The wood on which these birds perched fell under them; and the oak tree on which they perched shook with its roots in the earth.” In many other superstitions of the same age we see the latent moral sentiment, as well as the over-excited imagination of the people. Such is the story of the stolen jewels of Clonmacnoise, providentially recovered in the year 1130. The thief in vain endeavoured to escape out of the country, from Cork, Lismore, and Waterford, “but no ship into which he entered found a wind to sail, while all the other ships did.” And the conscience stricken thief declared, in his dying confession, that he used to see Saint Kieran “stopping with his crozier, every ship into which he entered.” It was also an amiable popular illusion that abundant harvests followed the making of peace, the enacting of salutary laws, and the accession of a King who loved justice; and careful entry is made in our chronicles of every evidence of this character.
The literature of the masses of the people was pretty equally composed of the legends of the Saints and the older Ossianic legend, so much misunderstood and distorted by modern criticism. The legends of the former class were chiefly wonders wrought by the favourite Saints of the district or the island, embellished with many quaint fancies and tagged out with remnants of old Pagan superstition. St. Columbkill and St. Kieran were, most commonly, the heroes of those tales, which, perhaps, were never intended by their authors to be seriously believed. Such was the story of the great founder of Iona having transformed the lady and her maid, who insulted him on his way to Drom-Keth, into two herons, who are doomed to hover about the neighbouring ford till the day of doom; and such that other story of “the three first monks” who joined St. Kieran in the desert, being a fox, a badger, and a bear, all endowed with speech, and all acting a part in the legend true to their own instincts. Of higher poetic merit is the legend of the voyage of St. Brendan over the great sea, and how the birds which sung vespers for him in the groves of the Promised Land were inhabited by human souls, as yet in a state of probation waiting for their release!
In the Ossianic legend we have the common stock of Oriental ideas—the metamorphosis of guilty wives and haughty concubines into dogs and birds; the speaking beasts and fishes; the enchanted swans, originally daughters of Lir; the boar of Ben Bulben, by which the champion, Diarmid, was slain; the Phoenix in the stork of Inniskea, of which there never was but one, yet that one perpetually reproduced itself; the spirits of the wood, and the spirits inhabiting springs and streams; the fairy horse; the sacred trees; the starry influences. Monstrous and gigantic human shapes, like the Jinns of the Arabian tales, occasionally enter into the plot, and play a midnight part, malignant to the hopes of good men. At their approach the earth is troubled, the moon is overcast, gusts of storm are shaken out from the folds of their garments, the watch dogs and the war dogs cower down, in camp and rath, and whine piteously, as if in pain.
The variety of grace, and peculiarities of organization, with which, if not the original, certainly the Christianized Irish imagination, endowed and equipped the personages of the fairy world, were of almost Grecian delicacy. There is no personage who rises to the sublime height of Zeus, or the incomparable union of beauty and wisdom in Pallas Athene: what forms Bel, or Crom, or Bride, the queen of Celtic song, may have worn to the pre-Christian ages we know not, nor can know; but the minor creations of Grecian fancy, with which they peopled their groves and fountains, are true kindred of the brain, to the innocent, intelligent, and generally gentle inhabitants of the Gaelic Fairyland. The Sidhe, a tender, tutelary spirit, attached herself to heroes, accompanied them in battle, shrouded them with invisibility, dressed their wounds with more than mortal skill, and watched over them with more than mortal love; the Banshee, a sad, Cassandra-like spirit, shrieked her weird warning in advance of death, but with a prejudice eminently Milesian, watched only over those of pure blood, whether their fortunes abode in hovel or hall. The more modern and grotesque personages of the Fairy world are sufficiently known to render description unnecessary.
Two habitual sources of social enjoyment and occupation with the Irish of those days were music and chess. The harp was the favourite instrument, but the horn or trumpet, and the pibroch or bagpipe, were also in common use. Not only professional performers, but men and women of all ranks, from the humblest to the highest, prided themselves on some knowledge of instrumental music. It seems to have formed part of the education of every order, and to have been cherished alike in the palace, the shieling, and the cloister. “It is a poor church that has no music,” is a Gaelic proverb, as old, perhaps, as the establishment of Christianity in the land; and no house was considered furnished without at least one harp. Students from other countries, as we learn from Giraldus, came to Ireland for their musical education in the twelfth century, just as our artists now visit Germany and Italy with the same object in view.
The frequent mention of the game of chess, in ages long before those at which we have arrived, shows how usual was that most intellectual amusement. The chess board was called in Irish fithcheall, and is described in the Glossary of Cormac, of Cashel, composed towards the close of the ninth century, as quadrangular, having straight spots of black and white. Some of them were inlaid with gold and silver, and adorned with gems. Mention is made in a tale of the twelfth century of a “man-bag of woven brass wire.” No entire set of the ancient men is now known to exist, though frequent mention is made of “the brigade or family of chessmen,” in many old manuscripts. Kings of bone, seated in sculptured chairs, about two inches in height, have been found, and specimens of them engraved in recent antiquarian publications.
It only remains to notice, very briefly, the means of locomotion which bound and brought together this singular state of society. Five great roads, radiating from Tara, as a centre, are mentioned in our earliest record; the road Dala leading to Ossory, and so on into Munster; the road Assail, extending western through Mullingar towards the Shannon; the road Cullin, extending towards Dublin and Bray; the exact route of the northern road, Midhluachra, is undetermined; Slighe Mor, the great western road, followed the course of the esker, or hill-range, from Tara to Galway. Many cross-roads are also known as in common use from the sixth century downwards. Of these, the Four Masters mention, at various dates, not less than forty, under their different local names, previous to the Norman invasion. These roads were kept in repair, according to laws enacted for that purpose, and were traversed by the chiefs and ecclesiastics in carbads, or chariots; a main road was called a slighe (sleigh), because it was made for the free passage of two chariots—”i.e. the chariot of a King and the chariot of a Bishop.” Persons of that rank were driven by an ara, or charioteer, and, no doubt, made a very imposing figure. The roads were legally to be repaired at three seasons, namely, for the accommodation of those going to the national games, at fair-time, and in time of war. Weeds and brushwood were to be removed, and water to be drained off; items of road-work which do not give us a very high idea of the comfort or finish of those ancient highways.
Such, faintly seen from afar, and roughly sketched, was domestic life and society among our ancestors, previous to the Anglo-Norman invasion, in the reign of King Roderick O’Conor.
FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE IRISH PREVIOUS TO THE ANGLO-NORMAN INVASION.
The relations of the Irish with other nations, notwithstanding the injurious effects of their War of Succession on national unity and reputation, present several points of interest. After the defeat of Magnus Barefoot, we may drop the Baltic countries out of the map of the relations of Ireland. Commencing, therefore, at the north of the neighbouring island—which, in its entirety, they sometimes called Inismore—the most intimate and friendly intercourse was always upheld with the kingdom of Scotland. Bound together by early ecclesiastical and bardic ties, confronting together for so many generations a common enemy, those two countries were destined never to know an international quarrel. About the middle of the ninth century (A.D. 843), when the Scoto-Irish in Caledonia had completely subdued the Picts and other ancient tribes, the first national dynasty was founded by Kenneth McAlpine. The constitution given by this Prince to the whole country seems to have been a close copy of the Irish—it embraced the laws of Tanistry and succession, and the whole Brehon code, as administered in the parent state. The line of Kenneth may be said to close with Donald Bane, brother of Malcolm III., who died in 1094, and not only his dynasty but his system ended with that century. Edgar, Alexander I., and David I., all sons of Malcolm III., were educated in England among the victorious Normans, and in the first third of the twelfth century, devoted themselves with the inauspicious aid of Norman allies, to the introduction of Saxon settlers and the feudal system, first into the lowlands, and subsequently into Moray-shire. This innovation on their ancient system, and confiscation of their lands, was stoutly resisted by the Scottish Gael. In Somerled, lord of the Isles, and ancestor of the Macdonalds, they found a powerful leader, and Somerled found Irish allies always ready to assist him, in a cause which appealed to all their national prejudices. In the year 1134, he led a strong force of Irish and Islesmen to the assistance of the Gaelic insurgents, but was defeated and slain, near Renfrew, by the royal troops, under the command of the Steward of Scotland. During the reigns of William the Lion, Alexander II., and Alexander III., the war of systems raged with all its fierceness, and in nearly all the great encounters Irish auxiliaries, as was to be expected, were found on the side of the Gaelic race and Gaelic rights. Nor did this contest ever wholly cease in Scotland, until the last hopes of the Stuart line were extinguished on the fatal field of Culloden, where Irish captains formed the battle, and Irish blood flowed freely, intermingled with the kindred blood of Highlanders and Islesmen.
The adoption of Norman usages, laws, and tactics, by the Scottish dynasties of the twelfth and succeeding centuries, did not permanently affect the national relations of Ireland and Scotland. It was otherwise with regard to England. We have every reason to believe—we have the indirect testimony of every writer from Bede to Malmsbury —that the intercourse between the Irish and Saxons, after the first hostility engendered by the cruel treatment of the Britons had worn away, became of the most friendly character. The “Irish” who fought at Brunanburgh against Saxon freedom were evidently the natural allies of the Northmen, the Dano-Irish of Dublin, and the southern seaports. The commerce of intelligence between the islands was long maintained; the royalty of Saxon England had more than once, in times of domestic revolution, found a safe and desired retreat in the western island. The fair Elgiva and the gallant Harold had crossed the western waves in their hour of need. The fame of Edward the Confessor took such deep hold on the Irish mind that, three centuries after his death, his banner was unfurled and the royal leopards laid aside to facilitate the march of an English King, through the fastnesses of Leinster. The Irish, therefore, were not likely to look upon the establishment of a Norman dynasty, in lieu of the old Saxon line, as a matter of indifference. They felt that the Norman was but a Dane disguised in armour. It was true he carried the cross upon his banner, and claimed the benediction of the successor of St. Peter; true also he spoke the speech of France, and claimed a French paternity; but the lust for dominion, the iron self-will, the wily devices of strategy, bespoke the Norman of the twelfth, the lineal descendant of the Dane of the tenth century. When, therefore, tidings reached Ireland of the battle of Hastings and the death of Harold, both the apprehensions and the sympathies of the country were deeply excited. Intelligence of the coronation of William the Conqueror quickly followed, and emphatically announced to the Irish the presence of new neighbours, new dangers, and new duties.
The spirit with which our ancestors acted towards the defeated Saxons, whatever we may think of its wisdom, was, at least, respectable for decision and boldness. Godwin, Edmund, and Magnus, sons of Harold, had little difficulty in raising in Ireland a numerous force to co-operate with the Earls Edwin and Morcar, who still upheld the Saxon banner. With this force, wafted over in sixty-six vessels, they entered the Avon, and besieged Bristol, then the second commercial city of the kingdom. But Bristol held out, and the Saxon Earls had fallen back into Northumberland, so the sons of Harold ran down the coast, and tried their luck in Somersetshire with a better prospect. Devonshire and Dorsetshire favoured their cause; the old Britons of Cornwall swelled their ranks, and the rising spread like flame over the west. Eadnoth, a renegade Saxon, formerly Harold’s Master of Horse, despatched by William against Harold’s sons, was defeated and slain. Doubling the Land’s End, the victorious force entered the Tamar, and overran South Devon. The united garrisons of London, Winchester, and Salisbury, were sent against them, under the command of the martial Bishop of Coutances; while a second force advanced along the Tamar, under Brian, heir of the Earl of Brittany, who routed them with a loss of 2,000 men, English, Welsh, and Irish. The sons of Harold retreated to their vessels with all their booty, and returned again into Ireland, where they vanish from history. Such, in the vale of Tamar, was the first collision of the Irish and Normans, and as the race of Rolla never forgot an enemy, nor forewent a revenge, we may well believe that, even thus early, the invasion of Ireland was decided upon. Meredith Hanmer relates in his Chronicle that William Rufus, standing on a high rock, and looking towards Ireland said: “I will bring hither my ships, and pass over and conquer that land;” and on these words of the son of the Conqueror being repeated to Murkertach O’Brien, he replied: “Hath the King in his great threatening said if it please God?” and when answered “No;” “Then,” said the Irish monarch, “I fear him not, since he putteth his trust in man and not in God.”
Ireland, however, was destined to be reached through Wales, and along that mountain coast we early find Norman castles and Norman ships. It was the special ambition of William Rufus to add the principality to the conquests of his father, and the active sympathy of the Welsh with the Saxons on their inland border gave him pretexts enough. A bitter feud between North and South Wales hastened an invasion, in which Robert Fitz-Aymon and his companions played, by anticipation, the parts of Strongbow and Fitz-Stephen, in the invasion of Ireland.
The struggle, commenced under them, was protracted through the reign of Rufus, who led an army in person (A.D. 1095) against the Welsh, but with little gain and less glory. As an after thought he adopted the device of his father, (followed, too, in Ireland by Henry II.,) of partitioning the country among the most enterprising nobles, gravely accepting their homage in advance of possession, and authorizing them to maintain troops at their own charges, for making good his grant of what never belonged to him. Robert Fitz-Aymon did homage for Glamorgan, Bernard Newmarch for Brecknock, Roger de Montgomery for Cardigan, and Gilbert de Clare for Pembroke: the best portions of North Wales were partitioned between the Mortimers, Latimers, De Lacys, Fitz-Alans, and Montgomerys. Rhys, Prince of Cambria, with many of his nobles, fell in battle defending bravely his native hills; but Griffith, son of Rhys, escaped into Ireland, from which he returned some twenty years later, and recovered by arms and policy a large share of his ancestral dominions. In the reign of Henry I. (A.D. 1110), a host of Flemings, driven from their own country by an inundation of the sea, were planted upon the Welsh marches, from which they soon swarmed into all the Cambrian glens and glades. The industry and economy of this new people, in peaceful times, seemed almost inconsistent with their stubborn bravery in battle; but they demonstrated to the Welsh, and afterwards to the Irish, that they could handle the halbert as well as throw the shuttle; that men of trade may on occasion prove themselves capable men of war.
The Norman Kings of England were not insensible to the fact that the Cymric element in Wales, the Saxon element in England, and the Gaelic element in Scotland, were all more agreeable to the Irish than the race of Rollo and William. They were not ignorant that Ireland was a refuge for their victims and a recruiting ground for their enemies. They knew, furthermore, that most of the strong points on the Irish coast, from the Shannon to the Liffey, were possessed by Christian Northmen kindred to themselves. They knew that the land was divided within itself, weakened by a long war of succession; groaning under the ambition of five competitors for the sovereignty; and suffering in reputation abroad under the invectives of Saint Bernard, and the displeasure of Rome. More tempting materials for intrigue, or fairer opportunities of aggrandizement, nowhere presented themselves, and it was less want of will than of leisure from other and nearer contests, which deferred this new invasion for a century after the battle of Hastings.
While that century was passing over their heads, an occasional intercourse, not without its pleasing incidents, was maintained between the races. In the first year of the twelfth, Arnulph de Montgomery, Earl of Chester, obtained a daughter of Murkertach O’Brien in marriage; the proxy on the occasion being Gerald, son of the Constable of Windsor, and ancestor of the Geraldines. Murkertach, according to Malmsbury, maintained a close correspondence with Henry I., for whose advice he professed great deference. He was accused of aiding the rebellion of the Montgomerys against that Prince; and if at one time he did so, seems to have abandoned their alliance, when threatened with reprisals on the Irish engaged in peaceful commerce with England. The argument used on this occasion seems to be embodied in the question of Malmsbury—and has since become familiar—”What would Ireland do,” says the old historian, “if the merchandize of England were not carried to her shores?”
The estimation in which the Irish Princes were held in the century preceding the invasion, at the Norman Court, may be seen in the style of Lanfranc and Anselm, when addressing the former King Thorlogh, and the latter King Murkertach O’Brien. The first generation of the conquerors had passed away before the second of these epistles was written. In the first, the address runs—”Lanfrancus, a sinner, and the unworthy Bishop of the Holy Church of Dover, to the illustrious Terdelvacus, King of Ireland, blessing,” &c., &c.; and the epistle of Anselm is addressed—”To Muriardachus, by the grace of God, glorious King of Ireland, Anselm, servant of the Church of Canterbury, greeting health and salvation,” &c., &c. This was the tone of the highest ecclesiastics in England towards the ruler of Ireland, in the reigns of William I. and Henry I., and equally obsequious were the replies of the Irish Princes.
After the death of Henry I., nineteen years of civil war and anarchy diverted the Anglo-Normans from all other objects. In the year 1154, however, Henry of Anjou succeeded to the throne, on which he was destined to act so important a part. He was born in Anjou in the year 1133, and married at eighteen the divorced wife of the King of France. Uniting her vast dominions to his own patrimony, he became the lord of a larger part of France than was possessed by the titular king. In his twenty-first year he began to reign in England, and in his thirty-fifth he received the fugitive Dermid of Leinster, in some camp or castle of Aquitaine, and took that outlaw, by his own act, under his protection. The centenary of the victory of Hastings had just gone by, and it needed only this additional agent to induce him to put into execution a plan which he must have formed in the first months of his reign, since the Bull he had procured from Pope Adrian, bears the date of that year—1154. The return from exile, and martyrdom of Beckett, disarranged and delayed the projects of the English King; nor was he able to lead an expedition into Ireland until four years after his reception of the Leinster fugitive in France.
Throughout the rest of Christendom—if we except Rome— the name of Ireland was comparatively little known. The commerce of Dublin, Limerick, and Galway, especially in the article of wine, which was already largely imported, may have made those ports and their merchants somewhat known on the coasts of France and Spain. But we have no statistics of Irish commerce at that early period. Along the Rhine and even upon the Danube, the Irish missionary and the Irish schoolmaster were still sometimes found. The chronicle of Ratisbon records with gratitude the munificence of Conor O’Brien, King of Munster, whom it considers the founder of the Abbey of St. Peter in that city. The records of the same Abbey credit its liberal founder with having sent large presents to the Emperor Lothaire, in aid of the second crusade for the recovery of the Holy Land. Some Irish adventurers joined in the general European hosting to the plains of Palestine, but though neither numerous nor distinguished enough to occupy the page of history, their glibs and cooluns did not escape the studious eye of him who sang Jerusalem Delivered and Regained.