THE NATIVE, THE NATURALIZED, AND “THE ENGLISH INTEREST.”
CIVIL WAR IN ENGLAND—ITS EFFECTS ON THE ANGLO-IRISH— THE KNIGHTS OF SAINT JOHN—GENERAL DESIRE OF THE ANGLO-IRISH TO NATURALIZE THEMSELVES AMONG THE NATIVE POPULATION— A POLICY OF NON-INTERCOURSE BETWEEN THE RACES RESOLVED ON IN ENGLAND.
The closing years of the reign of Edward II. of England were endangered by the same partiality for favourites which, had disturbed its beginning. The de Spensers, father and son, played at this period the part which Gaveston had performed twenty years earlier. The Barons, who undertook to rid their country of this pampered family, had, however, at their head Queen Isabella, sister of the King of France, who had separated from her husband under a pretended fear of violence at his hands, but in reality to enjoy more freely her criminal intercourse with her favourite, Mortimer. With the aid of French and Flemish mercenaries, they compelled the unhappy Edward to fly from London to Bristol, whence he was pursued, captured, and after being confined for several months in different fortresses, was secretly murdered in the autumn of 1327, by thrusting a red hot iron into his bowels. His son, Edward, a lad of fifteen years of age, afterwards the celebrated Edward III., was proclaimed King, though the substantial power remained for some years longer with Queen Isabella, and her paramour, now elevated to the rank of Earl of March. In the year 1330, however, their guilty prosperity was brought to a sudden close; Mortimer was seized by surprise, tried by his peers, and executed at Tyburn; Isabella was imprisoned for life, and the young King, at the age of eighteen, began in reality that reign, which, through half a century’s continuance, proved so glorious and advantageous for England.
It will be apparent that during the last few years of the second, and under the minority of the third Edward, the Anglo-Irish Barons would be left to pursue undisturbed their own particular interests and enmities. The renewal of war with Scotland, on the death of King Robert Bruce, and the subsequent protracted wars with France, which occupied, with some intervals of truce, nearly thirty years of the third Edward’s reign, left ample time for the growth of abuses of every description among the descendants of those who had invaded Ireland, under the pretext of its reformation, both in morals and government. The contribution of an auxiliary force to aid him in his foreign wars was all the warlike King expected from his lords of Ireland, and at so cheap a price they were well pleased to hold their possessions under his guarantee. At Halidon hill the Anglo-Irish, led by Sir John Darcy, distinguished themselves against the Scots in 1333; and at the siege of Calais, under the Earls of Kildare and Desmond, they acquired additional reputation in 1347. From this time forward it became a settled maxim of English policy to draft native troops out of Ireland for foreign service, and to send English soldiers into it in times of emergency.
In the very year when the tragedy of Edward the Second’s deposition and death was enacted in England, a drama of a lighter kind was performed among his new made earls in Ireland. The Lord Arnold le Poer gave mortal offence to Maurice, first Earl of Desmond, by calling him “a Rhymer,” a term synonymous with poetaster. To make good his reputation as a Bard, the Earl summoned his allies, the Butlers and Berminghams, while le Poer obtained the aid of his maternal relatives, the de Burghs, and several desperate conflicts took place between them. The Earl of Kildare, then deputy, summoned both parties to meet him at Kilkenny, but le Poer and William de Burgh fled into England, while the victors, instead of obeying the deputy’s summons, enjoyed themselves in ravaging his estate. The following year (A.D. 1328), le Poer and de Burgh returned from England, and were reconciled with Desmond and Ormond by the mediation of the new deputy, Roger Outlaw, Prior of the Knights of the Hospital at Kilmainham. In honour of this reconciliation de Burgh gave a banquet at the castle, and Maurice of Desmond reciprocated by another the next day, in St. Patrick’s Church, though it was then, as the Anglo-Irish Annalist remarks, the penitential season of Lent. A work of peace and reconciliation, calculated to spare the effusion of Christian blood, may have been thought some justification for this irreverent use of a consecrated edifice.
The mention of the Lord Deputy, Sir Roger Outlaw, the second Prior of his order though not the last, who wielded the highest political power over the English settlements, naturally leads to the mention of the establishment in Ireland, of the illustrious orders of the Temple and the Hospital. The first foundation of the elder order is attributed to Strongbow, who erected for them a castle at Kilmainham, on the high ground to the south of the Liffey, about a mile distant from the Danish wall of old Dublin. Here, the Templars flourished, for nearly a century and a half, until the process for their suppression was instituted under Edward II., in 1308. Thirty members of the order were imprisoned and examined in Dublin, before three Dominican inquisitors—Father Richard Balbyn, Minister of the Order of St. Dominick in Ireland, Fathers Philip de Slane and Hugh de St. Leger. The decision arrived at was the same as in France and England; the order was condemned and suppressed; and their Priory of Kilmainham, with sixteen benefices in the diocese of Dublin, and several others, in Ferns, Meath, and Dromore, passed to the succeeding order, in 1311. The state maintained by the Priors of Kilmainham, in their capacious residence, often rivalled that of the Lords Justices. But though their rents were ample, they did not collect them without service. Their house might justly be regarded as an advanced fortress on the south side of the city, constantly open to attacks from the mountain tribes of Wicklow. Although their vows were for the Holy Land, they were ever ready to march at the call of the English Deputies, and their banner, blazoned with the Agnus Dei, waved over the bloodiest border frays of the fourteenth century. The Priors of Kilmainham sat as Barons in the Parliaments of “the Pale,” and the office was considered the first in ecclesiastical rank among the regular orders.
During the second quarter of this century, an extraordinary change became apparent in the manners and customs of the descendants of the Normans, Flemings, and Cambrians, whose ancestors an hundred years earlier were strangers in the land. Instead of intermarrying exclusively among themselves, the prevailing fashion became to seek for Irish wives, and to bestow their daughters on Irish husbands. Instead of clinging to the language of Normandy or England, they began to cultivate the native speech of the country. Instead of despising Irish law, every nobleman was now anxious to have his Brehon, his Bard, and his Senachie. The children of the Barons were given to be fostered by Milesian mothers, and trained in the early exercises so minutely prescribed by Milesian education. Kildare, Ormond, and Desmond, adopted the old military usages of exacting “coyne and livery”—horse meat and man’s meat—from their feudal tenants. The tie of Gossipred, one of the most fondly cherished by the native population, was multiplied between the two races, and under the wise encouragement of a domestic dynasty might have become a powerful bond of social union. In Connaught and Munster where the proportion of native to naturalized was largest, the change was completed almost in a generation, and could never afterwards be wholly undone. In Ulster the English element in the population towards the end of this century was almost extinct, but in Meath and Leinster, and that portion of Munster immediately bordering on Meath and Leinster, the process of amalgamation required more time than the policy of the Kings of England allowed it to obtain.
The first step taken to counteract their tendency to Hibernicize themselves, was to bestow additional honours on the great families. The baronry of Offally was enlarged into the earldom of Kildare; the lordship of Carrick into the earldom of Ormond; the title of Desmond was conferred on Maurice Fitz-Thomas Fitzgerald, and that of Louth on the Baron de Bermingham. Nor were they empty honours; they were accompanied with something better. The “royal liberties” were formally conceded, in no less than nine great districts, to their several lords. Those of Carlow, Wexford, Kilkenny, Kildare, and Leix, had been inherited by the heirs of the Earl Marshal’s five daughters; four other counties Palatine were now added—Ulster, Meath, Ormond, and Desmond. “The absolute lords of those palatinates,” says Sir John Davis, “made barons and knights, exercised high justice within all their territories; erected courts for civil and criminal causes, and for their own revenues, in the same form in which the king’s courts were established at Dublin; they constituted their own judges, seneschals, sheriffs, coroners, and escheators.” So that the king’s writs did not run in their counties, which took up more than two parts of the English colony; but ran only in the church-lands lying within the same, which was therefore called THE CROSSE, wherein the Sheriff was nominated by the King. By “high justice” is meant the power of life and death, which was hardly consistent with even a semblance of subjection. No wonder such absolute lords should be found little disposed to obey the summons of deputies, like Sir Ralph Ufford and Sir John Morris, men of merely knightly rank, whose equals they had the power to create, by the touch of their swords.
For a season their new honours quickened the dormant loyalty of the recipients. Desmond, at the head of 10,000 men, joined the lord deputy, Sir John Darcy, to suppress the insurgent tribes of South Leinster; the Earls of Ulster and Ormond united their forces for an expedition into West-Meath against the brave McGeoghegans and their allies; but even these services—so complicated were public and private motives in the breasts of the actors —did not allay the growing suspicion of what were commonly called “the old English,” in the minds of the English King and his council. Their resolution seems to have been fixed to entrust no native of Ireland with the highest office in his own country; in accordance with which decision Sir Anthony Lucy was appointed, (1331;) Sir John Darcy, (1332-34; again in 1341;) and Sir Ralph Ufford, (1343-1346.) During the incumbency of these English knights, whether acting as justiciaries or as deputies, the first systematic attempts were made to prevent, both by the exercise of patronage or by penal legislation, the fusion of races, which was so universal a tendency of that age. And although these attempts were discontinued on the recommencement of war with France in 1345, the conviction of their utility had seized too strongly on the tenacious will of Edward III. to be wholly abandoned. The peace of Bretigni in 1360 gave him leisure to turn again his thoughts in that direction. The following year he sent over his third son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence and Earl of Ulster, (in right of his wife,) who boldly announced his object to be the total separation, into hostile camps, of the two populations.
This first attempt to enforce non-intercourse between the natives and the naturalized deserves more particular mention. It appears to have begun in the time of Sir Anthony Lucy, when the King’s Council sent over certain “Articles of Reform,” in which it was threatened that if the native nobility were not more attentive in discharging their duties to the King, his Majesty would resume into his own hands all the grants made to them by his royal ancestors or himself, as well as enforce payment of debts due to the Crown which had been formerly remitted. From some motive, these articles were allowed, after being made public, to remain a dead letter, until the administration of Darcy, Edward’s confidential agent in many important transactions, English and Irish. They were proclaimed with additional emphasis by this deputy, who convoked a Parliament or Council, at Dublin, to enforce them as law. The same year, 1342, a new ordinance came from England, prohibiting the public employment of men born or married, or possessing estates in Ireland, and declaring that all offices of state should be filled in that country by “fit Englishmen, having lands, tenements, and benefices in England.” To this sweeping proscription the Anglo-Irish, as well townsmen as nobles, resolved to offer every resistance, and by the convocation of the Earls of Desmond, Ormond, and Kildare, they agreed to meet for that purpose at Kilkenny. Accordingly, what is called Darcy’s Parliament, met at Dublin in October, while Desmond’s rival assembly gathered at Kilkenny in November. The proceedings of the former, if it agreed to any, are unrecorded, but the latter despatched to the King, by the hands of the Prior of Kilmainham, a Remonstrance couched in Norman-French, the court language, in which they reviewed the state of the country; deplored the recovery of so large a portion of the former conquest by the old Irish; accused, in round terms, the successive English officials sent into the land, with a desire suddenly to enrich themselves at the expense both of sovereign and subject; pleaded boldly their own loyal services, not only in Ireland, but in the French and Scottish wars; and finally, claimed the protection of the Great Charter, that they might not be ousted of their estates, without being called in judgment. Edward, sorely in need of men and subsidies for another expedition to France, returned them a conciliatory answer, summoning them to join him in arms, with their followers, at an early day; and although a vigorous effort was made by Sir Ralph Ufford to enforce the articles of 1331, and the ordinance of 1341, by the capture of the Earls of Desmond and Kildare, and by military execution on some of their followers, the policy of non-intercourse was tacitly abandoned for some years after the Remonstrance of Kilkenny. In 1353, under the lord deputy, Rokeby, an attempt was made to revive it, but it was quickly abandoned; and two years later, Maurice, Earl of Desmond, the leader of the opposition, was appointed to the office of Lord Justice for life! Unfortunately that high-spirited nobleman died the year of his appointment, before its effects could begin to be felt. The only legal concession which marked his period was a royal writ constituting the “Parliament” of the Pale the court of last resort for appeals from the decisions of the King’s courts in that province. A recurrence to the former favourite policy signalized the year 1357, when a new set of ordinances were received from London, denouncing the penalties of treason against all who intermarried, or had relations of fosterage with the Irish; and proclaiming war upon all kernes and idle men found within the English districts. Still severer measures, in the same direction, were soon afterwards decided upon, by the English King and his council.
Before relating the farther history of this penal code as applied to race, we must recall the reader’s attention to the important date of the Kilkenny Remonstrance, 1342. From that year may be distinctly traced the growth of two parties among the subjects of the English Kings in Ireland. At one time they are distinguished as “the old English” and “the new English,” at another, as “English by birth” and “English by blood.” The new English, fresh from the Imperial island, seem to have usually conducted themselves with a haughty sense of superiority; the old English, more than half Hibernicized, confronted these strangers with all the self-complacency of natives of the soil on which they stood. In their frequent visits to the Imperial capital, the old English were made sensibly to feel that their country was not there; and as often as they went, they returned with renewed ardour to the land of their possessions and their birth. Time, also, had thrown its reverent glory round the names of the first invaders, and to be descended from the companions of Earl Richard, or the captains who accompanied King John, was a source of family pride, second only to that which the native princes cherished, in tracing up their lineage to Milesius of Spain. There were many reasons, good, bad, and indifferent, for the descendants of the Norman adventurers adopting Celtic names, laws, and customs, but not the least potent, perhaps, was the fostering of family pride and family dependence, which, judged from our present stand-points, were two of the worst possible preparations for our national success in modern times.
LIONEL, DUKE OF CLARENCE, LORD LIEUTENANT—THE PENAL CODE OF RACE—”THE STATUTE OF KILKENNY,” AND SOME OF ITS CONSEQUENCES.
While the grand experiment for the separation of the population of Ireland into two hostile camps was being matured in England, the Earls of Kildare and Ormond were, for four or five years, alternately entrusted with the supreme power. Fresh ordinances, in the spirit of those despatched to Darcy, in 1342, continued annually to arrive. One commanded all lieges of the English King, having grants upon the marches of the Irish enemy, to reside upon and defend them, under pain of revocation. By another entrusted to the Earl of Ormond for promulgation, “no mere Irishman” was to be made a Mayor or bailiff, or other officer of any town within the English districts; nor was any mere Irishman “thereafter, under any pretence of kindred, or from any other cause, to be received into holy orders, or advanced to any ecclesiastical benefice.” A modification of this last edict was made the succeeding year, when a royal writ explained that exception was intended to be made of such Irish clerks as had given individual proofs of their loyalty.
Soon after the peace of Bretigni had been solemnly ratified at Calais, in 1360, by the Kings of France and England, and the latter had returned to London, it was reported that one of the Princes would be sent over to exercise the supreme power at Dublin. As no member of the royal family had visited Ireland since the reign of John—though Edward I., when Prince, had been appointed his father’s lieutenant—this announcement naturally excited unusual expectations. The Prince chosen was the King’s third son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence; and every preparation was made to give eclat and effect to his administration. This Prince had married, a few years before, Elizabeth de Burgh, who brought him the titles of Earl of Ulster and Lord of Connaught, with the claims which they covered. By a proclamation, issued in England, all who held possessions in Ireland were commanded to appear before the King, either by proxy or in person, to take measures for resisting the continued encroachments of the Irish enemy. Among the absentees compelled to contribute to the expedition accompanying the Prince, are mentioned Maria, Countess of Norfolk, Agnes, Countess of Pembroke, Margery de Boos, Anna le Despenser, and other noble ladies, who, by a strange recurrence, represented in this age the five co-heiresses of the first Earl Marshal, granddaughters of Eva McMurrogh. What exact force was equipped from all these contributions is not mentioned; but the Prince arrived in Ireland with no more than 1,500 men, under the command of Ralph, Earl of Strafford, James, Earl of Ormond, Sir William Windsor, Sir John Carew, and other knights. He landed at Dublin on the 15th of September, 1361, and remained in office for three years. On landing he issued a proclamation, prohibiting natives of the country, of all origins, from approaching his camp or court, and having made this hopeful beginning he marched with his troops into Munster, where he was defeated by O’Brien, and compelled to retreat. Yet by the flattery of courtiers he was saluted as the conqueror of Clare, and took from the supposed fact, his title of Clarence. But no adulation could blind him to the real weakness of his position: he keenly felt the injurious consequences of his proclamation, revoked it, and endeavoured to remove the impression he had made, by conferring knighthood on the Prestons, Talbots, Cusacks, De la Hydes, and members of other families, not immediately connected with the Palatine Earls. He removed the Exchequer from Dublin to Carlow, and expended 500 pounds—a large sum for that age—in fortifying the town. The barrier of Leinster was established at Carlow, from which it was removed, by an act of the English Parliament ten years afterwards; the town and castle were retaken in 1397, by the celebrated Art McMurrogh, and long remained in the hands of his posterity.
In 1364, Duke Lionel went to England, leaving de Windsor as his deputy, but in 1365, and again in 1367, he twice returned to his government. This latter year is memorable as the date of the second great stride towards the establishment of a Penal Code of race, by the enactment of the “Statute of Kilkenny.” This memorable Statute was drawn with elaborate care, being intended to serve as the corner stone of all future legislation, and its provisions are deserving of enumeration. The Act sets out with this preamble: “Whereas, at the conquest of the land of Ireland, and for a long time after, the English of the said land used the English language, mode of riding, and apparel, and were governed and ruled, both they and their subjects, called Betaghese (villeins), according to English law, &c., &c.,—but now many English of the said land, forsaking the English language, manners, mode of riding, laws, and usages, live, and govern themselves according to the manners, fashion, and language of the Irish enemies, and also have made divers marriages and alliances between themselves and the Irish enemies aforesaid—it is therefore enacted, among other provisions, that all intermarriages, fosterings, gossipred, and buying or selling with the ‘enemie,’ shall be accounted treason—that English names, fashions, and manners shall be resumed under penalty of the confiscation of the delinquent’s lands—that March-law and Brehon-law are illegal, and that there shall be no law but English law—that the Irish shall not pasture their cattle on English lands—that the English shall not entertain Irish rhymers, minstrels, or newsmen; and, moreover, that no ‘mere Irishmen’ shall be admitted to any ecclesiastical benefice, or religious house, situated within the English districts.”
All the names of those who attended at this Parliament of Kilkenny are not accessible to us; but that the Earls of Kildare, Ormond, and Desmond, were of the number need hardly surprise us, alarmed as they all were by the late successes of the native princes, and overawed by the recent prodigious victories of Edward III. at Cressy and Poictiers. What does at first seem incomprehensible is that the Archbishop not only of Dublin, but of Cashel and Tuam—in the heart of the Irish country—and the Bishops of Leighlin, Ossory, Lismore, Cloyne, and Killala, should be parties to this statute. But on closer inspection our surprise at their presence disappears. Most of these prelates were at that day nominees of the English King, and many of them were English by birth. Some of them never had possession of their sees, but dwelt within the nearest strong town, as pensioners on the bounty of the Crown, while the dioceses were administered by native rivals, or tolerated vicars. Le Reve, Bishop of Lismore, was Chancellor to the Duke in 1367; Young, Bishop of Leighlin, was Vice-Treasurer; the Bishop of Ossory, John of Tatendale, was an English Augustinian, whose appointment was disputed by Milo Sweetman, the native Bishop elect; the Bishop of Cloyne, John de Swasham, was a Carmelite of Lyn, in the county of Norfolk, afterwards Bishop of Bangor, in Wales, where he distinguished himself in the controversy against Wycliffe; the Bishop of Killala we only know by the name of Robert—at that time very unusual among the Irish. The two native names are those of the Archbishops of Cashel and Tuam, Thomas O’Carrol and John O’Grady. The former was probably, and the latter certainly, a nominee of the Crown. We know that Dr. O’Grady died an exile from his see—if he ever was permitted to enter it—in the city of Limerick, four years after the sitting of the Parliament of Kilkenny. Shortly after the enactment of this law, by which he is best remembered, the Duke of Clarence returned to England, leaving to Gerald, fourth Earl of Desmond, the task of carrying it into effect. In the remaining years of this reign the office of Lord Lieutenant was held by Sir William de Windsor, during the intervals of whose absence in England the Prior of Kilmainham, or the Earl of Kildare or of Ormond, discharged the duties with the title of Lord Deputy or Lord Justice.
It is now time that we should turn to the native annals of the country to show how the Irish princes had carried on the contest during the eventful half century which the reign of Edward III. occupies in the history of England.
In the generation which elapsed from the death of the Earl of Ulster, or rather from the first avowal of the policy of proscription in 1342, the native tribes had on all sides and continuously gained on the descendants of their invaders. In Connaught, the McWilliams, McWattins, and McFeoriss retained part of their estates only by becoming as Irish as the Irish. The lordships of Leyny and Corran, in Sligo and Mayo, were recovered by the heirs of their former chiefs, while the powerful family of O’Conor Sligo converted that strong town into a formidable centre of operations. Rindown, Athlone, Roscommon, and Bunratty, all frontier posts fortified by the Normans, were in 1342, as we learn from the Remonstrance of Kilkenny, in the hands of the elder race.
The war, in all the Provinces, was in many respects a war of posts. Towards the north Carrickfergus continued the outwork till captured by Neil O’Neil, when Downpatrick and Dundalk became the northern barriers. The latter town, which seems to have been strengthened after Bruce’s defeat, was repeatedly attacked by Neil O’Neil, and at last entered into conditions, by which it procured his protection. At Downpatrick also, in the year 1375, he gained a signal victory over the English of the town and their allies, under Sir James Talbot of Malahide, and Burke of Camline, in which both these commanders were slain. This O’Neil, called from his many successes Neil More, or the Great, dying in 1397, left the borders of Ulster more effectually cleared of foreign garrisons than they had been for a century and a half before. He enriched the churches of Armagh and Deny, and built a habitation for students resorting to the primatial city, on the site of the ancient palace of Emania, which had been deserted before the coming of St. Patrick.
The northern and western chiefs seem in this age to have made some improvements in military equipments, and tactics. Cooey-na-gall, a celebrated captain of the O’Kanes, is represented on his tomb at Dungiven as clad in complete armour—though that may be the fancy of the sculptor. Scottish gallowglasses—heavy-armed infantry, trained in Bruce’s campaigns, were permanently enlisted in their service. Of their leaders the most distinguished were McNeil Cam, or the Crooked, and McRory, in the service of O’Conor, and McDonnell, McSorley, and McSweeney, in the service of O’Neil, O’Donnell, and O’Conor Sligo. The leaders of these warlike bands are called the Constables of Tyr-Owen, of North Connaught, or of Connaught, and are distinguished in all the warlike encounters in the north and west.
The midland country—the counties now of Longford, West-Meath, Meath, Dublin, Kildare, King’s and Queen’s, were almost constantly in arms, during the latter half of this century. The lords of Annally, Moy-Cashel, Carbry, Offally, Ely, and Leix, rivalled each other in enterprise and endurance. In 1329, McGeoghegan of West-Meath defeated and slew Lord Thomas Butler, with the loss of 120 men at Mullingar; but the next year suffered an equal loss from the combined forces of the Earls of Ormond and Ulster; his neighbour, O’Farrell, contended with even better fortune, especially towards the close of Edward’s reign (1372), when in one successful foray he not only swept their garrisons out of Annally, but rendered important assistance to the insurgent tribes of Meath. In Leinster, the house of O’Moore, under Lysaght their Chief, by a well concerted conspiracy, seized in one night (in 1327) no less than eight castles, and razed the fort of Dunamase, which they despaired of defending. In 1346, under Conal O’Moore, they destroyed the foreign strongholds of Ley and Kilmehedie; and though Conal was slain by the English, and Rory, one of their creatures, placed in his stead, the tribe put Rory to death as a traitor in 1354, and for two centuries thereafter upheld their independence. Simultaneously, the O’Conors of Offally, and the O’Carrolls of Ely, adjoining and kindred tribes, so straightened the Earl of Kildare on the one hand, and the Earl of Ormond on the other, that a cess of 40 pence on every carucate (140 acres) of tilled land, and of 40 pence on chattels of the value of six pounds, was imposed on all the English settlements, for the defence of Kildare, Carlow, and the marches generally. Out of the amount collected in Carlow, a portion was paid to the Earl of Kildare, “for preventing the O’Moores from burning the town of Killahan.” The same nobleman was commanded, by an order in Council, to strengthen his Castles of Rathmore, Kilkea, and Ballymore, under pain of forfeiture. These events occurred in 1856, ‘7, and ‘8.
In the south the same struggle for supremacy proceeded with much the same results. The Earl of Desmond, fresh from his Justiceship in Dublin, and the penal legislation of Kilkenny, was, in 1370, defeated and slain near Adare, by Brian O’Brien, Prince of Thomond, with several knights of his name, and “an indescribable number of others.” Limerick was next assailed, and capitulated to O’Brien, who created Sheedy McNamara, Warden of the City. The English burghers, however, after the retirement of O’Brien, rose, murdered the new Warden, and opened the gates to Sir William de Windsor, the Lord Lieutenant, who had hastened to their relief. Two years later the whole Anglo-Irish force, under the fourth Earl of Kildare, was, summoned to Limerick, in order to defend it against O’Brien. So desperate now became the contest, that William de Windsor only consented to return a second time as Lord Lieutenant in 1374, on condition that he was to act strictly on the defensive, and to receive annually the sum of 11,213 pounds 6 shillings 8 pence—a sum exceeding the whole revenue which the English King derived from Ireland at that period; which, according to Sir John Davies, fell short of 11,000 pounds. Although such was the critical state of the English interest, this lieutenant obtained from the fears of successive Parliaments annual subsidies of 2,000 pounds and 3,000 pounds. The deputies from Louth having voted against his demand, were thrown into prison; but a direct petition from the Anglo-Irish to the King brought an order to de Windsor not to enforce the collection of these grants, and to remit in favour of the petitioners the scutage “on all those lands of which the Irish enemy had deprived them.”
In the last year of Edward III. (1376), he summoned the magnates and the burghers of towns to send representatives to ‘London to consult with him on the state of the English settlements in Ireland. But those so addressed having assembled together, drew up a protest, setting forth that the great Council of Ireland had never been accustomed to meet out of that kingdom, though, saving the rights of their heirs and successors, they expressed their willingness to do so, for the King’s convenience on that occasion. Richard Dene and William Stapolyn were first sent over to England to exhibit the evils of the Irish administration; the proposed general assembly of representatives seems to have dropped. The King ordered the two delegates just mentioned to be paid ten pounds out of the Exchequer for their expenses.
The series of events, however, which most clearly exhibits the decay of the English interest, transpired within the limits of Leinster, almost within sight of Dublin. Of the actors in these events, the most distinguished for energy, ability, and good fortune, was Art McMurrogh, whose exploits are entitled to a separate and detailed account.
ART McMURROGH, LORD OF LEINSTER—FIRST EXPEDITION OF
RICHARD II., OF ENGLAND, TO IRELAND.
Whether Donald Kavanagh McMurrogh, son of Dermid, was born out of wedlock, as the Lady Eva was made to depose, in order to create a claim of inheritance for herself as sole heiress, this, at least, is certain, that his descendants continued to be looked upon by the kindred clans of Leinster as the natural lords of that principality. Towards the close of the thirteenth century, in the third or fourth generation, after the death of their immediate ancestor, the Kavanaghs of Leighlin and Ballyloughlin begin to act prominently in the affairs of their Province, and then—chief is styled both by Irish and English “the McMurrogh.” In the era of King Edward Bruce, they were sufficiently formidable to call for an expedition of the Lord Justice into their patrimony, by which they are said to have been defeated. In the next age, in 1335, Maurice, “the McMurrogh,” was granted by the Anglo-Irish Parliament or Council, the sum of 80 marks annually, for keeping open certain roads and preserving the peace within its jurisdiction. In 1358, Art, the successor of Maurice, and Donald Revagh, were proclaimed “rebels” in a Parliament held at Castledermot, by the Lord Deputy Sancto Amando, the said Art being further branded with deep ingratitude to Edward III., who had acknowledged him as “the Mac-Murch.” To carry on a war against him the whole English interest was assessed with a special tax. Louth contributed 20 pounds; Meath and Waterford, 2 shillings on every carucate (140 acres) of tilled land; Kilkenny the same sum, with the addition of 6 pence in the pound on chattels. This Art captured the strong castles of Kilbelle, Galbarstown, Rathville, and although his career was not one of invariable success, he bequeathed to his son, also called Art, in 1375, an inheritance, extending over a large portion— perhaps one-half—of the territory ruled by his ancestors before the invasion.
Art McMurrogh, or Art Kavanagh, as he is more commonly called, was born in the year 1357, and from the age of sixteen and upwards was distinguished by his hospitality, knowledge, and feats of arms. Like the great Brian, he was a younger son, but the fortune of war removed one by one those who would otherwise have preceded him in the captaincy of his clan and connections. About the year 1375—while he was still under age—he was elected successor to his father, according to the Annalists, who record his death in 1417, “after being forty-two years in the government of Leinster.” Fortunately he attained command at a period favourable to his genius and enterprise. His own and the adjoining tribes were aroused by tidings of success from other Provinces, and the partial victories of their immediate predecessors, to entertain bolder schemes, and they only waited for a chief of distinguished ability to concentrate their efforts. This chief they found, where they naturally looked for him, among the old ruling family of the Province. Nor were the English settlers ignorant of his promise. In the Parliament held at Castledermot in 1377, they granted to him the customary annual tribute paid to his house, the nature of which calls for a word of explanation. This tribute was granted, “as the late King had done to his ancestors;” it was again voted in a Parliament held in 1380, and continued to be paid so late as the opening of the seventeenth century (A.D. 1603). Not only was a fixed sum paid out of the Exchequer for this purpose—inducing the native chiefs to grant a right of way through their territories —but a direct tax was levied on the inhabitants of English origin for the same privilege. This tax, called “black mail,” or “black rent,” was sometimes differently regarded by those who paid and those who received it. The former looked on it as a stipend, the latter as a tribute; but that it implied a formal acknowledgment of the local jurisdiction of the chief cannot be doubted. Two centuries after the time of which we speak, Baron Finglas, in his suggestions to King Henry VIII. for extending his power in Ireland, recommends that “no black rent be paid to any Irishman for the four shires”—of the Pale—”and any black rent they had afore this time be paid to them for ever.” At that late period “the McMurrogh” had still his 80 marks annually from the Exchequer, and 40 pounds from the English settled in Wexford; O’Carroll of Ely had 40 pounds from the English in Kilkenny, and O’Conor of Offally 20 pounds from those of Kildare, and 300 pounds from Meath. It was to meet these and other annuities to more distant chiefs, that William of Windsor, in 1369, covenanted for a larger revenue than the whole of the Anglo-Irish districts then yielded, and which led him besides to stipulate that he was to undertake no new expeditions, but to act entirely on the defensive. We find a little later, that the necessity of sustaining the Dublin authorities at an annual loss was one of the main motives which induced Richard II. of England to transport two royal armies across the channel, in 1394 and 1399.
Art McMurrogh, the younger, not only extended the bounds of his own inheritance and imposed tribute on the English settlers in adjoining districts, during the first years of his rule, but having married a noble lady of the “Pale,” Elizabeth, heiress to the barony of Norragh, in Kildare, which included Naas and its neighbourhood, he claimed her inheritance in full, though forfeited under “the statute of Kilkenny,” according to English notions. So necessary did it seem to the Deputy and Council of the day to conciliate their formidable neighbour, that they addressed a special representation to King Richard, setting forth the facts of the case, and adding that McMurrogh threatened, until this lady’s estates were restored and the arrears of tribute due to him fully discharged, he should never cease from war, “but would join with the Earl of Desmond against the Earl of Ormond, and afterwards return with a great force out of Minister to ravage the country.” This allusion most probably refers to James, second Earl of Ormond, who, from being the maternal grandson of Edward I., was called the noble Earl, and was considered in his day the peculiar representative of the English interest. In the last years of Edward III., and the first of his successor, he was constable of the Castle of Dublin, with a fee of 18 pounds 5 shillings per annum. In 1381—the probable date of the address just quoted—he had a commission to treat with certain rebels, in order to reform them and promote peace. Three years later he died, and was buried in the Cathedral of St. Canice, Kilkenny, the place of sepulture of his family.
When, in the year 1389, Richard II., having attained his majority, demanded to reign alone, the condition of the English interest was most critical. During the twelve years of his minority the Anglo-Irish policy of the Council of Regency had shifted and changed, according to the predominance of particular influences. The Lord Lieutenancy was conferred on the King’s relatives, Edward Mortimer, Earl of March (1379), and continued to his son, Roger Mortimer, a minor (1381); in 1383, it was transferred to Philip de Courtenay, the King’s cousin. The following year, de Courtenay having been arrested and fined for mal-administration, Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the special favourite of Richard, was created Marquis of Dublin and Duke of Ireland, with a grant of all the powers and authority exercised at any period in Ireland by that King or his predecessors. This extraordinary grant was solemnly confirmed by the English Parliament, who, perhaps willing to get rid of the favourite at any cost, allotted the sum of 30,000 marks due from the King of France, with a guard of 500 men-at-arms and 1,000 archers for de Vere’s expedition. But that favoured nobleman never entered into possession of the principality assigned him; he experienced the fate of the Gavestons and de Spencers of a former reign; fleeing, for his life, from the Barons, he died in exile in the Netherlands. The only real rulers of the Anglo-Irish in the years of the King’s minority, or previous to his first expedition in 1394, (if we except Sir John Stanley’s short terms of office in 1385 and 1389,) were the Earls of Ormond, second and third, Colton, Dean of Saint Patrick’s, Petit, Bishop of Meath, and White, Prior of Kilmainham. For thirty years after the death of Edward III., no Geraldine was entrusted with the highest office, and no Anglo-Irish layman of any other family but the Butlers. In 1393, Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, uncle to Richard, was appointed Lord Lieutenant, and was on the point of embarking, when a royal order reached him announcing the determination of the King to take command of the forces in person.
The immediate motives for Richard’s expedition are variously stated by different authors. That usually assigned by the English—a desire to divert his mind from brooding over the loss of his wife, “the good Queen Anne,” seems wholly insufficient. He had announced his intention a year before her death; he had called together, before the Queen fell ill, the Parliament at Westminster, which readily voted him “a tenth” of the revenues of all their estates for the expedition. Anne’s sickness was sudden, and her death took place in the last week of July. Richard’s preparations at that date were far advanced towards completion, and Sir Thomas Scroope had been already some months in Dublin to prepare for his reception. The reason assigned by Anglo-Irish writers is more plausible: he had been a candidate for the Imperial Crown of Germany, and was tauntingly told by his competitors to conquer Ireland before he entered the lists for the highest political honour of that age. This rebuke, and the ill-success of Ms arms against France and Scotland, probably made him desirous to achieve in a new field some share of that military glory which was always so highly prized by his family:
Some events which immediately preceded Richard’s expedition may help us to understand the relative positions of the natives and the naturalized to the English interest in the districts through which he was to march. By this time the banner of Art McMurrogh floated over all the castles and raths, on the slope of the Ridge of Leinster, or the steps of the Blackstair hills; while the forests along the Barrow and the Upper Slaney, as well as in the plain of Carlow and in the South-western angle of Wicklow (now the barony of Shillelagh), served still better his purposes of defensive warfare; So entirely was the range of country thus vaguely defined under native sway that John Griffin, the English Bishop of Leighlin, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, obtained a grant in 1389 of the town of Gulroestown, in the county of Dublin, “near the marches of O’Toole, seeing he could not live within his own see for the rebels.” In 1390, Peter Creagh, Bishop of Limerick, on his way to attend an Anglo-Irish Parliament, was taken prisoner in that region, and in consequence the usual fine was remitted in his favour. In 1392, James, the third Earl of Ormond, gave McMurrogh a severe check at Tiscoffin, near Shankill, where 600 of his clansmen were left dead among the hills.
This defeat, however, was thrown into the shade by the capture of New Boss, on the very eve of Richard’s arrival at Waterford. In a previous chapter we have described the fortifications erected round this important seaport towards the end of the thirteenth century. Since that period its progress had been steadily onward. In the reign of Edward III. the controversy which had long subsisted between the merchants of Ross and those of Waterford, concerning the trade monopolies claimed by the latter, had been decided in favour of Ross. At this period it could muster in its own defence 363 cross-bowmen, 1,200 long-bowmen, 1,200 pikemen, and 104 horsemen—a force which would seem to place it second to Dublin in point of military strength. The capture of so important a place by McMurrogh was a cheering omen to his followers. He razed the walls and towers, and carried off gold, silver, and hostages.
On the 2nd of October, 1394, the royal fleet of Richard arrived from Milford Haven, at Waterford. To those who saw Ireland for the first time, the rock of Dundonolf, famed for Raymond’s camp, the abbey of Dunbrody, looking calmly down on the confluence of the three rivers, and the half-Danish, half-Norman port before them, must have presented scenes full of interest. To the townsmen the fleet was something wonderful. The endless succession of ships of all sizes and models, which had wafted over 30,000 archers and 4,000 men-at-arms; the royal galley leading on the fluttering pennons of so many great nobles, was a novel sight to that generation. Attendant on the King were his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, the young Earl of March, heir apparent, Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, the Earl of Rutland, the Lord Thomas Percy, afterwards Earl of Westmoreland, and father of Hotspur, and Sir Thomas Moreley, heir to the last Lord Marshal of the “Pale.” Several dignitaries of the English Church, as well Bishops as Abbots, were also with the fleet. Immediately after landing, a Te Deum was sung in the Cathedral, where Earl Richard had wedded the Princess Eva, where Henry II. and John had offered up similar thanksgivings.
Richard remained a week at Waterford; gave splendid fetes, and received some lords of the neighbouring country, Le Poers, Graces, and Butlers. He made gifts to churches, and ratified the charter given by John to the abbey of Holy Cross in Munster. He issued a summons to Gerald, Earl of Desmond, to appear before him by the feast of the Purification “in whatever part of Ireland he should then be,” to answer to the charge of having usurped the manor, revenues, and honour of Dungarvan. Although it was then near the middle of October, he took the resolution of marching to Dublin, through the country of McMurrogh, and knowing the memory of Edward the Confessor to be popular in Leinster, he furled the royal banner, and hoisted that of the saintly Saxon king, which bore “a cross patence, or, on a field gules, with four doves argent on the shield.” His own proper banner bore lioncels and fleur-de-lis. His route was by Thomastown to Kilkenny, a city which had risen into importance with the Butlers. Nearly half a century before, this family had brought artizans from Flanders, who established the manufacture of woollens, for which the town was ever after famous. Its military importance was early felt and long maintained. At this city Richard was joined by Sir William de Wellesley, who claimed to be hereditary standard-bearer for Ireland, and by other Anglo-Irish nobles. From thence he despatched his Earl Marshal into “Catherlough” to treat with McMurrogh. On the plain of Ballygorry, near Carlow, Art, with his uncle, Malachy, O’Moore, O’Nolan, O’Byrne, MacDavid, and other chiefs, met the Earl Marshal. The terms proposed were almost equivalent to extermination. They were, in effect, that the Leinster chieftains, under fines of enormous amount, payable into the Apostolic chamber, should, before the first Sunday of Lent, surrender to the English King “the full possession of all their lands, tenements, castles, woods, and forts, which by them and all other of the Kenseologhes, their companions, men, or adherents, late were occupied within the province of Leinster.” And the condition of this surrender was to be, that they should have unmolested possession of any and all lands they could conquer from the King’s other Irish enemies elsewhere in the kingdom. To these hard conditions some of the minor chiefs, overawed by the immense force brought against them, would, it seems, have submitted, but Art sternly refused to treat, declaring that if he made terms at all, it should be with the King and not with the Earl Marshal; and that instead of yielding his own lands, his wife’s patrimony in Kildare should be restored. This broke up the conference, and Mowbray returned discomfitted to Kilkenny.
King Richard, full of indignation, put himself at the head of his army and advanced against the Leinster clans. But his march was slow and painful: the season and the forest fought against him; he was unable to collect by the way sufficient fodder for the horses or provisions for the men. McMurrogh swept off everything of the nature of food—took advantage of his knowledge of the country to burst upon the enemy by night, to entrap them into ambuscades, to separate the cavalry from the foot, and by many other stratagems to thin their ranks and harass the stragglers. At length Richard, despairing of dislodging him from his fastnesses in Idrone, or fighting a way out of them, sent to him another deputation of “the English and Irish of Leinster,” inviting him to Dublin to a personal interview. This proposal was accepted, and the English king continued his way to Dublin, probably along the sea coast by Bray and the white strand, over Killiney and Dunleary. Soon after his arrival at Dublin, care was taken to repair the highway which ran by the sea, towards Wicklow and Wexford.
SUBSEQUENT PROCEEDINGS OF RICHARD II.—LIEUTENANCY AND
DEATH OF THE EARL OF MARCH—SECOND EXPEDITION OF RICHARD
AGAINST ART McMURROGH—CHANGE OF DYNASTY IN ENGLAND.
At Dublin, Richard prepared to celebrate the festival of Christmas, with all the splendour of which he was so fond. He had received letters from his council in England warmly congratulating him on the results of his “noble voyage” and his successes against “his rebel Make Murgh.” Several lords and chiefs were hospitably entertained by him during the holidays—but the greater magnates did not yet present themselves—unless we suppose them to have continued his guests at Dublin, from Christmas till Easter, which is hardly credible.
The supplies which he had provided were soon devoured by so vast a following. His army, however, were paid their wages weekly, and were well satisfied. But whatever the King or his flatterers might pretend, the real object of all the mighty preparations made was still in the distance, and fresh supplies were needed for the projected campaign of 1395. To raise the requisite funds, he determined to send to England his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. Gloucester carried a letter to the regent, the Duke of York, countersigned “Lincolne,” and dated from Dublin, “Feb. 1, 1395.” The council, consisting of the Earls of Derby, Arundel, de Ware, Salisbury, Northumberland, and others, was convened, and they “readily voted a tenth off the clergy, and a fifteenth off the laity, for the King’s supply.” This they sent with a document, signed by them all, exhorting him to a vigorous prosecution of the war, and the demolition of all forts belonging to “MacMourgh [or] le grand O’Nel.” They also addressed him another letter, complimentary of his valour and discretion in all things.
While awaiting supplies from England, Richard made a progress as far northward as Drogheda, where he took up his abode in the Dominican Convent of St. Mary Magdalen. On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, O’Neil, O’Donnell, O’Reilly, O’Hanlon, and MacMahon, visited and exchanged professions of friendship with him. It is said they made “submission” to him as their sovereign lord, but until the Indentures, which have been spoken of, but never published, are exhibited, it will be impossible to determine what, in their minds and in his, were the exact relations subsisting between the native Irish princes and the King of England at that time. O’Neil, and other lords of Ulster, accompanied him back to Dublin, where they found O’Brien, O’Conor, and McMurrogh, lately arrived. They were all lodged in a fair mansion, according to the notion of Master Castide, Froissart’s informant, and were under the care of the Earl of Ormond and Castide himself, both of whom spoke familiarly the Irish language.
The glimpse we get through Norman spectacles of the manners and customs of these chieftains is eminently instructive, both as regards the observers and the observed. They would have, it seems, very much to the disedification of the English esquire, “their minstrels and principal servants sit at the same table and eat from the same dish.” The interpreters employed all their eloquence in vain to dissuade them from this lewd habit, which they perversely called “a praiseworthy custom,” till at last, to get rid of importunities, they consented to have it ordered otherwise, during their stay as King Richard’s guests.
On the 24th of March the Cathedral of Christ’s Church beheld the four kings devoutly keeping the vigil preparatory to knighthood. They had been induced to accept that honour from Richard’s hand. They had apologized at first, saying they were all knighted at the age of seven. But the ceremony, as performed in the rest of Christendom, was represented to them as a great and religious custom, which made the simplest knight the equal of his sovereign, which added new lustre to the crowned head, and fresh honour to the victorious sword. On the Feast of the Annunciation they went through the imposing ceremony, according to the custom obtaining among their entertainers.
While the native Princes of the four Provinces were thus lodged together in one house, it was inevitable that plans of co-operation for the future should be discussed between them. Soon after the Earl of Ormond, who knew their language, appeared before Richard as the accuser of McMurrogh, who was, on his statement, committed to close confinement in the Castle. He was, however, soon after set at liberty, though O’Moore, O’Byrne, and John O’Mullain were retained in custody, probably as hostages, for the fulfilment of the terms of his release. By this time the expected supplies had arrived from England, and the festival of Easter was happily passed. Before breaking up from his winter quarters Richard celebrated with great pomp the festival of his namesake, St. Richard, Bishop of Chichester, and then summoned a parliament to meet him at Kilkenny on the 12th of the month. The acts of this parliament have not seen the light; an obscurity which they share in common with all the documents of this Prince’s progress in Ireland. The same remark was made three centuries ago by the English chronicler, Grafton, who adds with much simplicity, that as Richard’s voyage into Ireland “was nothing profitable nor honourable to him, therefore the writers think it scant worth the noting.”
Early in May a deputation, at the head of which was the celebrated William of Wyckham, arrived from England, invoking the personal presence of the King to quiet the disturbances caused by the progress of Lollardism. With this invitation he decided at once to comply, but first he appointed the youthful Earl of March his lieutenant in Ireland, and confirmed the ordinance of Edward III., empowering the chief governor in council to convene parliament by writ, which writ should be of equal obligation with the King’s writ in England. He ordained that a fine of not less than fifty marks, and not more than one hundred, should be exacted of every representative of a town or shire, who, being elected as such, neglected or refused to attend. He reformed the royal courts, and appointed Walter de Hankerford and William Sturmey, two Englishmen, “well learned in the law” as judges, whose annual salaries were to be forty pounds each. Having made these arrangements, he took an affectionate leave of his heir and cousin, and sailed for England, whither he was accompanied by most of the great nobles who had passed over with him to the Irish wars. Little dreamt they of the fate which impended over many of their heads. Three short years and Gloucester would die by the assassin’s hand, Arundel by the executioner’s axe, and Mowbray, Earl Marshal, the ambassador at Ballygorry, would pine to death in Italian banishment. Even a greater change than any of these—a change of dynasty—was soon to come over England.
The young Earl of March, now left in the supreme direction of affairs, so far as we know, had no better title to govern than that he was heir to the English throne, unless it may have been considered an additional recommendation that he was sixth in descent from the Lady Eva McMurrogh. To his English title, he added that of Earl of Ulster and Lord of Connaught, derived from his mother, the daughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and those of Lord of Trim and Clare, from other relations. The counsellors with whom he was surrounded included the wisest statesmen and most experienced soldiers of “the Pale.” Among them were Almaric, Baron Grace, who, contrary to the statute of Kilkenny, had married an O’Meagher of Ikerrin, and whose family had intermarried with the McMurroghs; the third Earl of Ormond, an indomitable soldier, who had acted as Lord Deputy, in former years of this reign; Cranley, Archbishop of Dublin, and Roche, the Cistercian Abbot of St. Mary’s, lately created Lord Treasurer of Ireland; Stephen Bray, Chief Justice; and Gerald, fifth Earl of Kildare. Among his advisers of English birth were Roger Grey, his successor; the new Judges Hankerford and Sturmey, and others of less pacific reputation. With the dignitaries of the Church, and the innumerable priors and abbots, in and about Dublin, the court of the Heir-Presumptive must have been a crowded and imposing one for those times, and had its external prospects been peaceful, much ease and pleasure might have been enjoyed within its walls.
In the three years of this administration, the struggle between the natives, the naturalized, and the English interest knew no cessation in Leinster. Some form of submission had been wrung from McMurrogh before his release from Dublin Castle, in the spring of 1395, but this engagement extorted under duress, from a guest towards whom every rite of hospitality had been violated, he did not feel bound by after his enlargement. In the same year an attempt was made to entrap him at a banquet given in one of the castles of the frontier, but warned by his bard, he made good his escape “by the strength of his arm, and by bravery.” After this double violation of what among his countrymen, even of the fiercest tribes, was always held sacred, the privileged character of a guest, he never again placed himself at the mercy of prince or peer, but prosecuted the war with unfaltering determination. In 1396, his neighbour, the chief of Imayle, carried off from an engagement near Dublin, six score heads of the foreigners: and the next year—an exploit hardly second in its kind to the taking of Ross —the strong castle and town of Carlow were captured by McMurrogh himself. In the campaign of 1398, on the 20th of July, was fought the eventful battle of Kenlis, or Kells, on the banks of the stream called “the King’s river,” in the barony of Kells, and county of Kilkenny. Here fell the Heir-Presumptive to the English crown, whose premature removal was one of the causes which contributed to the revolution in England, a year or two later. The tidings of this event filled “the Pale” with consternation, and thoroughly aroused the vindictive temper of Richard. He at once despatched to Dublin his half-brother, Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent, recently created Duke of Surrey. To this duke he made a gift of Carlow castle and town, to be held (if taken) by knights’ service. He then, as much, perhaps, to give occupation to the minds of his people, as to prosecute his old project of subduing Ireland, began to make preparations for his second expedition thither. Death again delayed him. John of Ghent, Duke of Lancaster, his uncle, and one of the most famous soldiers of the time, suddenly sickened, and died. As Henry, his son, was in banishment, the King, under pretence of appropriating his vast wealth to the service of the nation, seized it into his own hands, and despite the warnings of his wisest counsellors as to the disturbed state of the kingdom, again took up his march for Milford Haven.
A French knight, named Creton, had obtained leave with a brother-in-arms to accompany this expedition, and has left us a very vivid account of its progress. Quitting Paris they reached London just as King Richard was about “to cross the sea on account of the injuries and grievances that his mortal enemies had committed against him in Ireland, where they had put to death many of his faithful friends.” Wherefore they were further told, “he would take no rest until he had avenged himself upon MacMore, who called himself most excellent King and Lord of great Ireland; where he had but little territory of any kind.”
They at once set out for Milford, where, “waiting for the north wind,” they remained “ten whole days.” Here they found King Richard with a great army, and a corresponding fleet. The clergy were taxed to supply horses, waggons, and money—the nobles, shires, and towns, their knights, men-at-arms, and archers-the seaports, from Whitehaven to Penzance, were obliged, by an order in council, dated February 7th, to send vessels rated at twenty-five tons and upwards to Milford, by the octave of Easter. King’s letters were issued whenever the usual ordinances failed, and even the press-gang was resorted to, to raise the required number of mariners. Minstrels of all kinds crowded to the camp, enlivening it by their strains, and enriching themselves the while. The wind coming fair, the vessels “took in their lading of bread, wine, cows and calves, salt meat and plenty of water,” and the King taking leave of his ladies, they set sail.
In two days they saw “the tower of Waterford.” The condition to which the people of this English stronghold had been reduced by the war was pitiable in the extreme. Some were in rags, others girt with ropes, and their dwellings seemed to the voyagers but huts and holes. They rushed into the tide up to their waists, for the speedy unloading of the ships, especially attending to those that bore the supplies of the army. Little did the proud cavaliers and well-fed yeomen, who then looked on, imagine, as they pitied the poor wretches of Waterford, that before many weeks were over, they would themselves be reduced to the like necessity—even to rushing into the sea to contend for a morsel of food.
Six days after his arrival, which was on the 1st of June, King Richard marched from Waterford “in close order to Kilkenny.” He had now the advantage of long days and warm nights, which in his first expedition he had not. His forces were rather less than in 1394; some say twenty, some twenty-four thousand in all. The Earl of Rutland, with a reinforcement in one hundred ships, was to have followed him, but this unfaithful courtier did not greatly hasten his preparations to overtake his master. With the King were the Lord Steward of England, Sir Thomas Percy; the Duke of Exeter; De Spencer, Earl of Gloucester; the Lord Henry of Lancaster, afterwards King Henry V.; the son of the late Duke of Gloucester; the son of the Countess of Salisbury; the Bishop of Exeter and London; the Abbot of Westminster, and a gallant Welsh gentleman, afterwards known to fame as Owen Glendower. He dropped the subterfuge of bearing Edward the Confessor’s banner, and advanced his own standard, which bore leopards and flower de luces. In this order, “riding boldly,” they reached Kilkenny, where Richard remained a fortnight awaiting news of the Earl of Rutland from Waterford. No news, however, came. But while he waited, he received intelligence from Kildare which gratified his thirst for vengeance. Jenico d’Artois, a Gascon knight of great discretion and valour, who had come over the preceding year with the Duke of Surrey, marching towards Kilkenny, had encountered some bands of the Irish in Kildare (bound on a like errand to their prince), whom he fought and put to flight, leaving two hundred of them dead upon the field. This Jenico, relishing Irish warfare more than most foreign soldiers of his age, continued long after to serve in Ireland—married one of his daughters to Preston, Baron of Naas, and another to the first Lord Portlester.
On the 23rd of June, “the very vigil of St. John,” a saint to whom the King was very much devoted, Richard, resolving to delay no longer, left Kilkenny, and marched directly towards Catherlough. He sent a message in advance to McMurrogh, “who would neither submit nor obey him in anyway; but affirmed that he was the rightful King of Ireland, and that he would never cease from war and the defence of his country until his death; and said that the wish to deprive him of it by conquest was unlawful.”
Art McMurrogh, now some years beyond middle age, had with him in arms “three thousand hardy men,” “who did not appear,” says our French knight, “to be much afraid of the English.” The cattle and corn, the women and the helpless, he had removed into the interior of the fastnesses, while he himself awaited, in Idrone, the approach of the enemy.
This district, which lies north and south between the rivers Slaney and Barrow, is of a diversified and broken soil, watered with several small streams, and patched with tracts of morass and marsh. It was then half covered with wood, except in the neighbourhood of Old Leighlin, and a few other places where villages had grown up around the castles, raths, and monasteries of earlier days. On reaching the border of the forest, King Richard ordered all the habitations in sight to be set on fire; and then “two thousand five hundred of the well affected people,” or, as others say, prisoners, “began to hew a highway into the woods.”
When the first space was cleared, Richard, ever fond of pageantry, ordered his standard to be planted on the new ground, and pennons and banners arrayed on every side. Then he sent for the sons of the Dukes of Gloucester and Lancaster, his cousins, and the son of the Countess of Salisbury and other bachelors-in-arms, and there knighted them with all due solemnity. To young Lancaster, he said, “My fair cousin, henceforth, be preux and valiant, for you have some valiant blood to conquer.” The youth to whom he made this address was little more than a boy, but tall of his age, and very vigorous. He had been a hard student at Oxford, and was now as unbridled as a colt new loosed into a meadow. He was fond of music, and afterwards became illustrious as the Fifth Henry of English history. Who could have foreseen, when first he put on his spurs by the wood’s side, in Catherlough, that he would one day inherit the throne of England and make good the pretensions of all his predecessors to the throne of France?
Richard’s advance was slow and wearisome in the forests of Idrone. His route was towards the eastern coast. McMurrogh retreated before him, harassing him dreadfully, carrying off everything fit for food for man or beast, surprising and slaying his foragers, and filling his camp nightly with alarm and blood. The English archers got occasional shots at his men, “so that they did not all escape;” and they in turn often attacked the rear-guard, “and threw their darts with such force that they pierced haubergeon and plates through and through.” The Leinster King would risk no open battle so long as he could thus cut off the enemy in detail. Many brave knights fell, many men-at-arms and archers; and a deep disrelish for the service began to manifest itself in the English camp.
A party of Wexford settlers, however, brought one day to his camp Malachy McMurrogh, uncle to Art, a timid, treaty-making man. According to the custom of that century—observed by the defenders of Stirling and the burgesses of Calais—he submitted with a wythe about his neck, rendering up a naked sword. His retinue, bareheaded and barefoot, followed him into the presence of Richard, who received them graciously. “Friends,” said he to them, “as to the evils and wrongs that you have committed against me, I pardon you on condition that each of you will swear to be faithful to me for the time to come.” Of this circumstance he made the most, as our guide goes on to tell in these words: “Then every one readily complied with his demand; and took the oath. When this was done he sent word to MacMore, who called himself Lord and King of Ireland, (that country,) where he has many a wood but little cultivated land, that if he would come straightways to him with a rope about his neck, as his uncle had done, he would admit him to mercy, and elsewhere give him castles and lands in abundance.” The answer of King Art is thus reported: “MacMore told the King’s people he would do no such thing for all the treasures of the sea or on this side, (the sea,) but would continue to fight and harass him.”
For eleven days longer Richard continued his route in the direction of Dublin, McMurrogh and his allies falling back towards the hills and glens of Wicklow. The English could find nothing by the way but “a few green oats” for the horses, which being exposed night and day, and so badly fed, perished in great numbers. The general discontent now made itself audible even to the ears of the King. For many days five or six men had but a “single loaf.” Even gentlemen, knights and squires, fasted in succession; and our chivalrous guide, for his part, “would have been heartily glad to have been penniless at Poitiers or Paris.” Daily deaths made the camp a scene of continued mourning, and all the minstrels that had come across the sea to amuse their victor countrymen, like the poet who went with Edward II. to Bannockburn to celebrate the conquest of the Scots, found their gay imaginings turned to a sorrowful reverse.
At last, however, they came in sight of the sea-coast, where vessels laden with provisions, sent from Dublin, were awaiting them. So eager were the famished men for food, that “they rushed into the sea as eagerly as they would into their straw.” All their money was poured into the hands of the merchants; some of them even fought in the water about a morsel of food, while in their thirst they drank all the wine they could lay hands on. Our guide saw full a thousand men drunk that day on “the wine of Ossey and Spain.” The scene of this extraordinary incident is conjectured to have been at or near Arklow, where the beach is sandy and flat, such as it is not at any point of Wicklow north of that place.
The morning after the arrival of these stores, King Richard again set forward for Dublin, determining to penetrate Wicklow by the valleys that lead from the Meeting of the Waters to Bray. He had not proceeded far on his march, when a Franciscan friar reached his camp as Ambassador from the Leinster King. This unnamed messenger, whose cowl history cannot raise, expressed the willingness of his lord to treat with the King, through some accredited agent—”some lord who might be relied upon”—”so that their anger (Richard’s and his own), that had long been cruel, might now be extinguished.” The announcement spread “great joy” in the English camp. A halt was ordered, and a council called. After a consultation, it was resolved that de Spencer, Earl of Gloucester, should be empowered to confer with Art. This nobleman, now but 26 years of age, had served in the campaign of 1394. He was one of the most powerful peers of England, and had married Constance, daughter of the Duke of York, Richard’s cousin. From his possessions in Wales, he probably knew something of the Gaelic customs and speech. He was captain of the rearguard on this expedition, and now, with 200 lances, and 1,000 archers, all of whom were chosen men, he set out for the conference. The French knight also went with him, as he himself relates in these words:
“Between two woods, at some distance from the sea, I beheld MacMore and a body of the Irish, more than I can number, descend the mountain. He had a horse, without housing or saddle, which was so fine and good, that it had cost him, they said, four hundred cows; for there is little money in the country, wherefore their usual traffic is only with cattle. In coming down, it galloped so hard, that, in my opinion, I never saw hare, deer, sheep, or any other animal, I declare to you for a certainty, run with such speed as it did. In his right hand he bore a great long dart, which he cast with much skill. * * * His people drew up in front of the wood. These two (Gloucester and the King), like an out-post, met near a little brook. There MacMore stopped. He was a fine large man—wondrously active. To look at him, he seemed very stern and savage, and an able man. He and the Earl spake of their doings, recounting the evil and injury that MacMore had done towards the King at sundry times; and how they all foreswore their fidelity when wrongfully, without judgment or law, they most mischievously put to death the courteous Earl of March. Then they exchanged much discourse, but did not come to agreement; they took short leave, and hastily parted. Each took his way apart, and the Earl returned towards King Richard.”
This interview seems to have taken place in the lower vale of Ovoca, locally called Glen-Art, both from the description of the scenery, and the stage of his march at which Richard halted. The two woods, the hills on either hand, the summer-shrunken river, which, to one accustomed to the Seine and the Thames naturally looked no bigger than a brook, form a picture, the original of which can only be found in that locality. The name itself, a name not to be found among the immediate chiefs of Wicklow, would seem to confirm this hypothesis.
The Earl on his return declared, “he could find nothing in him, (Art,) save only that he would ask for pardon, truly, upon condition of having peace without reserve, free from any molestation or imprisonment; otherwise, he will never come to agreement as long as he lives; and, (he said,) ‘nothing venture, nothing have.’ This speech,” says the French knight, “was not agreeable to the King; it appeared to me that his face grew pale with anger; he swore in great wrath by St. Edward, that, no, never would he depart from Ireland, till, alive or dead, he had him in his power.”
The King, notwithstanding, was most anxious to reach Dublin. He at once broke up his camp, and marched on through Wicklow, “for all the shoutings of the enemie.” What other losses he met in those deep valleys our guide deigns not to tell, but only that they arrived at last in Dublin “more than 30,000” strong, which includes, of course, the forces of the Anglo-Irish lords that joined them on the way. There “the whole of their ills were soon forgotten, and their sorrow removed.” The provost and sheriffs feasted them sumptuously, and they were all well-housed and clad. After the dangers they had undergone, these attentions were doubly grateful to them. But for long years the memory of this doleful march lived in the recollection of the English on both sides the Irish sea, and but once more for above a century did a hostile army venture into the fastnesses of Idrone and Hy-Kinsellah.
When Richard arrived in Dublin, still galled by the memory of his disasters, he divided his force into three divisions, and sent them out in quest of McMurrogh, promising to whosoever should bring him to Dublin, alive or dead, “100 marks, in pure gold.” “Every one took care to remember these words,” says Creton, “for it was a good hearing.” And Richard, moreover, declared that if they did not capture him when the autumn came, and the trees were leafless and dry, he would burn “all the woods great and small,” or find out that troublous rebel. The same day he sent out his three troops, the Earl of Rutland, his laggard cousin, arrived at Dublin with 100 barges. His unaccountable delay he submissively apologized for, and was readily pardoned. “Joy and delight” now reigned in Dublin. The crown jewels shone at daily banquets, tournaments, and mysteries. Every day some new pastime was invented, and thus six weeks passed, and August drew to an end. Richard’s happiness would have been complete had any of his soldiers brought in McMurrogh’s head: but far other news was on the way to him. Though there was such merriment in Dublin, a long-continued storm swept the channel. When good weather returned, a barge arrived from Chester, bearing Sir William Bagot, who brought intelligence that Henry of Lancaster, the banished Duke, had landed at Ravenspur, and raised a formidable insurrection amongst the people, winning over the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Duke of York, and other great nobles. Richard was struck with dismay. He at once sent the Earl of Salisbury into Wales to announce his return, and then, taking the evil counsel of Rutland, marched himself to Waterford, with most part of his force, and collected the remainder on the way. Eighteen days after the news arrived he embarked for England, leaving Sir John Stanley as Lord Lieutenant in Ireland. Before quitting Dublin, he confined the sons of the Dukes of Lancaster and Gloucester, in the strong fortress of Trim, from which they were liberated to share the triumph of the successful usurper, Henry IV.
It is beyond our province to follow the after-fate of the monarch, whose Irish campaigns we have endeavoured to restore to their relative importance. His deposition and cruel death, in the prison of Pontefract, are familiar to readers of English history. The unsuccessful insurrections suppressed during his rival’s reign, and the glory won by the son of that rival, as Henry V., seem to have established the house of Lancaster firmly on the throne; but the long minority of Henry VI.—who inherited the royal dignity at nine months old—and the factions among the other members of that family, opened opportunities, too tempting to be resisted, to the rival dynasty of York. During the first sixty years of the century on which we are next to enter, we shall find the English interest in Ireland controlled by the house of Lancaster; in the succeeding twenty-five years the partizans of the house of York are in the ascendant; until at length, after the victory of Bosworth field (A.D. 1485), the wars of the roses are terminated by the coronation of the Earl of Richmond as Henry VII., and his politic marriage with the Princess Elizabeth-the representative of the Yorkist dynasty. It will be seen how these rival houses had their respective factions among the Anglo-Irish; how these factions retarded two centuries the establishment of English power in Ireland; how the native lords and chiefs took advantage of the disunion among the foreigners to circumscribe more and more the narrow limits of the Pale; and lastly, how the absence of national unity alone preserved the power so reduced from utter extinction. In considering all these far extending consequences of the deposition of Richard II., and the substitution of Henry of Lancaster in his stead, we must give due weight to his unsuccessful Irish wars as proximate causes of that revolution. The death of the Heir-Presumptive in the battle of Kells; the exactions and ill-success of Richard in his wars; the seizure of John of Ghent’s estates and treasures; the absence of the sovereign at the critical moment: all these are causes which operated powerfully to that end. And of these all that relate to Irish affairs were mainly brought about by the heroic constancy, in the face of enormous odds, the unwearied energy, and high military skill exhibited by one man—Art McMurrogh.
PARTIES WITHIN “THE PALE”—BATTLES OF KILMAINHAM AND KILLUCAN-SIR JOHN TALBOT’S LORD LIEUTENANCY.
One leading fact, which we have to follow in all its consequences through the whole of the fifteenth century, is the division of the English and of the Anglo-Irish interest into two parties, Lancasterians and Yorkists. This division of the foreign power will be found to have produced a corresponding sense of security in the minds of the native population, and thus deprived them of that next best thing to a united national action, the combining effects of a common external danger.
The new party lines were not drawn immediately upon the English revolution of 1399, but a very few years sufficed to infuse among settlers of English birth or descent the partizan passions which distracted the minds of men in their original country. The third Earl of Ormond, although he had received so many favours from the late King and his grandfather, yet by a common descent of five generations from Edward I., stood in relation of cousinship to the Usurper. On the arrival of the young Duke of Lancaster as Lord Lieutenant, in 1402, Ormond became one of his first courtiers, and dying soon after, he chose the Duke guardian to his heir, afterwards the fourth Earl. This heir, while yet a minor (1407), was elected or appointed deputy to his guardian, the Lord Lieutenant; during almost the whole of the short reign of Henry V. (1413-1421) he resided at the English Court, or accompanied the King in his French campaigns, thus laying the foundations of that influence which, six several times during the reign of Henry VI., procured his appointment to office as Lord Deputy, Lord Justice, or Lord Lieutenant. At length, in the mid-year of the century, his successor was created Earl of Wiltshire, and entrusted with the important duties of one of the Commissioners for the fleet, and Lord Treasurer of England; favours and employments which sufficiently account for how the Ormond family became the leaders of the Lancaster party among the Anglo-Irish.
The bestowal of the first place on another house tended to estrange the Geraldines, who, with some reason, regarded themselves as better entitled to such honours. During the first official term of the Duke of Lancaster, no great feeling was exhibited, and on his departure in 1405, the fifth Earl of Kildare was, for a year, entrusted with the office of Deputy. On the return of the Duke, in August, 1408, the Earl rode out to meet him, but was suddenly arrested with three other members of his family, and imprisoned in the Castle, His house in Dublin was plundered by the servants of the Lord Lieutenant, and the sum of 300 marks was exacted for his ransom. Such injustice and indignity, as well as the subsequent arrest of the sixth Earl, in 1418, “for having communicated with the Prior of Kilmainham”—still more than their rivalry with the Ormonds, drove the Kildare family into the ranks of the adherents of the Dukes of York. We shall see in the sequel the important reacting influence of these Anglo-Irish combinations upon the fortunes of the white rose and the red.
To signalize his accession and remove the reproach of inaction which had been so often urged against his predecessor, Henry IV, was no sooner seated on the throne than he summoned the military tenants of the Crown to meet him in arms upon the Tyne, for the invasion of Scotland. It seems probable that he summoned those of Ireland with the rest, as we find in that year (1400) that an Anglo-Irish fleet, proceeding northwards from Dublin, encountered a Scottish, fleet in Strangford Lough, where a fierce engagement was fought, both sides claiming the victory. Three years later the Dubliners landed at Saint Ninians, and behaved valiantly, as their train bands did the same summer against the mountain tribes of Wicklow. Notwithstanding the personal sojourn of the unfortunate Richard, and his lavish expenditure among them, these warlike burghers cordially supported the new dynasty. Some privileges of trade were judiciously extended to them, and, in 1407, Henry granted to the Mayors of the city the privilege of having a gilded sword carried before them, in the same manner as the Mayors of London.
At the period when these politic favours were bestowed on the citizens of Dublin, Henry was contending with a formidable insurrection in Wales, under the leadership of Owen Glendower, who had learned in the fastnesses of Idrone, serving under King Richard, how brave men, though not formed to war in the best schools, can defend their country against invasion. In the struggle which he maintained so gallantly during this and the next reign, though the fleet of Dublin at first assisted his enemies, he was materially aided afterwards by the constant occupation furnished them by the clans of Leinster. The early years of the Lancasterian dynasty were marked by a series of almost invariable defeats in the Leinster counties. Art McMurrogh, whose activity defied the chilling effects of age, poured his cohorts through Sculloge gap, on the garrisons of Wexford, taking in rapid possession in one campaign (1406) the castles of Camolin, Ferns, and Enniscorthy. Returning northward he retook Castledermot, and inflicted chastisement on the warlike Abbot of Conal, near Naas, who shortly before attacked some Irish forces on the Curragh of Kildare, slaying two hundred men. Castledermot was retaken by the Lord Deputy Scrope the next year, with the aid of the Earls of Ormond and Desmond, and the Prior of Kilmainham, at the head of his Knights. These allies were fresh from a Parliament in Dublin, where the Statute of Kilkenny had been, according to custom, solemnly re-enacted as the only hope of the English interest, and they naturally drew the sword in maintenance of their palladium. Within six miles of Callan, in “McMurrogh’s country,” they encountered that chieftain and his clansmen. In the early part of the day the Irish are stated to have had the advantage, but some Methian captains coming up in the afternoon turned the tide in favour of the English. According to the chronicles of the Pale, they won a second victory before nightfall at the town of Callan, over O’Carroll of Ely, who was marching to the aid of McMurrogh. But so confused and unsatisfactory are the accounts of this twofold engagement on the same day, in which the Deputy in person, and such important persons as the Earls of Desmond, of Ormond, and the Prior of Kilmainham commanded, that we cannot reconcile it with probability. The Irish Annals simply record the fact that a battle was gained at Callan over the Irish of Munster, in which O’Carroll was slain. Other native authorities add that 800 of his followers fell with O’Carroll, but no mention whatever is made of the battle with McMurrogh. The English accounts gravely add, that the evening sun stood still, while the Lord Deputy rode six miles, from the place of the first engagement to that of the second. This was the last campaign of Sir Stephen Scrope; he died soon after by the pestilence which swept over the island, sparing neither rich nor poor.
The Duke of Lancaster resumed the Lieutenancy, arrested the Earl of Kildare as before related, convoked a Parliament at Dublin, and with all the forces he could muster, determined on an expedition southwards. But McMurrogh and the mountaineers of Wicklow now felt themselves strong enough to take the initiative. They crossed the plain which lies to the north of Dublin, and encamped at Kilmainham, where Roderick when he besieged the city, and Brien before the battle of Clontarf, had pitched their tents of old. The English and Anglo-Irish forces, under the eye of their Prince, marched out to dislodge them, in four divisions. The first was led by the Duke in person; the second by the veteran knight, Jenico d’Artois, the third by Sir Edward Perrers, an English knight, and the fourth by Sir Thomas Butler, Prior of the Order of Saint John, afterwards created by Henry V., for his distinguished service, Earl of Kilmain. With McMurrogh were O’Byrne, O’Nolan, and other chiefs, besides his sons, nephews, and relatives. The numbers on each side could hardly fall short of ten thousand men, and the action may be fairly considered one of the most decisive of those times. The Duke was carried back wounded into Dublin; the slopes of Inchicore and the valley of the Liffey were strewn with the dying and the dead; the river at that point obtained from the Leinster Irish the name of Athcroe, or the ford of slaughter; the widowed city was filled with lamentation and dismay. In a petition addressed to King Henry by the Council, apparently during his son’s confinement from the effects of his wound, they thus describe the Lord Lieutenant’s condition: “His soldiers have deserted him; the people of his household are on the point of leaving him; and though they were willing to remain, our lord is not able to keep them together; our said lord, your son, is so destitute of money, that he hath not a penny in the world, nor a penny can he get credit for.”
One consequence of this battle of Kilmainham was, that while Art McMurrogh lived, no further attacks were made upon his kindred or country. He died at Ross, on the first day of January, 1417, in the 60th year of his age. His Brehon, O’Doran, having also died suddenly on the same day, it was supposed they were both poisoned by a drink prepared for them by a woman of the town. “He was,” say our impartial Four Masters, who seldom speak so warmly of any Leinster Prince, “a man distinguished for his hospitality, knowledge, and feats of arms; a man full of prosperity and royalty; a founder of churches and monasteries by his bounty and contributions,” and one who had defended his Province from the age of sixteen to sixty.
On his recovery from the effects of his wound, the Duke of Lancaster returned finally to England, appointing Prior Butler his Deputy, who filled that office for five consecutive years. Butler was an illegitimate son of the late Earl of Ormond, and naturally a Lancasterian: among the Irish he was called Thomas Baccagh, on account of his lameness. He at once abandoned South Leinster as a field of operations, and directed all his efforts to maintain the Pale in Kildare, Meath, and Louth. His chief antagonist in this line of action was Murrogh or Maurice O’Conor, of Offally. This powerful chief had lost two or three sons, but had gamed as many battles over former deputies. He was invariably aided by his connexions and neighbours, the MacGeoghegans of West-Heath. Conjointly they captured the castles and plundered the towns of their enemies, holding their prisoners to ransom or carrying off their flocks. In 1411 O’Conor held to ransom the English Sheriff of Meath, and somewhat later defeated Prior Butler in a pitched battle. His greatest victory was the battle of Killucan, fought on the 10th day of May, 1414. In this engagement MacGeoghegan was, as usual, his comrade. All the power of the English Pale was arrayed against them. Sir Thomas Mereward, Baron of Screen, “and a great many officers and common soldiers were slain,” and among the prisoners were Christopher Fleming, son of the Baron of Slane, for whom a ransom of 1,400 marks was paid, and the ubiquitous Sir Jenico d’Artois, who, with some others, paid “twelve hundred marks, beside a reward and fine for intercession.” A Parliament which sat at Dublin for thirteen weeks, in 1413, and a foray into Wicklow, complete the notable acts of Thomas Baccagh’s viceroyalty. Soon after the accession of Henry V. (1413), he was summoned to accompany that warlike monarch into France, and for a short interval the government was exercised by Sir John Stanley, who died shortly after his arrival, and by the Archbishop of Dublin, as Commissioner. On the eve of St. Martin’s Day, 1414, Sir John Talbot, afterwards so celebrated as first Earl of Shrewsbury, landed at Dalkey, with the title of Lord Lieutenant.
The appointment of this celebrated Captain, on the brink of a war with France, was an admission of the desperate strait to which the English interest had been reduced. And if the end could ever justify the means, Henry V., from his point of view, might have defended on that ground the appointment of this inexorable soldier. Adopting the system of Sir Thomas Butler, Talbot paid little or no attention to South Leinster, but aimed in the first place to preserve to his sovereign, Louth and Meath. His most southern point of operation, in his first Lieutenancy, was Leix, but his continuous efforts were directed against the O’Conors of Offally and the O’Hanlons and McMahons of Oriel. For three succeeding years he made circuits through these tribes, generally by the same route, west and north, plundering chiefs and churches, sparing “neither saint nor sanctuary.” On his return to Dublin after these forays, he exacted with a high hand whatever he wanted for his household. When he returned to England, 1419, he carried along with him, according to the chronicles of the Pale—”the curses of many, because he, being run much in debt for victuals, and divers other things, would pay little or nothing at all.” Among the natives he left a still worse reputation. The plunder of a bard was regarded by them as worse, if possible, than the spoliation of a sanctuary. One of Talbot’s immediate predecessors was reputed to have died of the malediction of a bard of West-Meath, whose property he had appropriated; but as if to show his contempt of such superstition, Talbot suffered no son of song to escape him. Their satires fell powerless on his path. Not only did he enrich himself, by means lawful and unlawful, but he created interest, which, a few years afterwards, was able to checkmate the Desmonds and Ormonds. The see of Dublin falling vacant during his administration, he procured the appointment of his brother Richard as Archbishop, and left him, at his departure, in temporary possession of the office of Lord Deputy. Branches of his family were planted at Malahide, Belgarde, and Talbotstown, in Wicklow, the representatives of which survive till this day.
One of this Lieutenant’s most acceptable offices to the State was the result of stratagem rather than of arms. The celebrated Art McMurrogh was succeeded, in 1417, by his son, Donogh, who seems to have inherited his valour, without his prudence. In 1419, in common with the O’Conor of Offally, his father’s friend, he was entrapped into the custody of Talbot. O’Conor, the night of his capture, escaped with his companions, and kept up the war until his death: McMurrogh was carried to London and confined in the Tower. Here he languished for nine weary years. At length, in 1428, Talbot, having “got license to make the best of him,” held him to ransom. The people of his own province released him, “which was joyful news to the Irish.”
But neither the aggrandizement of new nor the depression of old families effected any cardinal change in the direction of events. We have traced for half a century, and are still farther to follow out, the natural consequences of the odious Statute of Kilkenny. Although every successive Parliament of the Pale recited and re-enacted that statute, every year saw it dispensed in particular cases, both as to trading, intermarriage, and fostering with the natives. Yet the virus of national proscription outlived all the experience of its futility. In 1417, an English petition was presented to the English Parliament, praying that the law, excluding Irish ecclesiastics from Irish benefices, should be strictly enforced; and the same year they prohibited the influx of fugitives from Ireland, while the Pale Parliament passed a corresponding act against allowing any one to emigrate without special license. At a Parliament held at Dublin in 1421, O’Hedian, Archbishop of Cashel, was impeached by Gese, Bishop of Waterford, the main charges being that he loved none of the English nation; that he presented no Englishman to a living; and that he designed to make himself King of Minister. This zealous assembly also adopted a petition of grievances to the King, praying that as the Irish, who had done homage to King Richard, “had long since taken arms against the government notwithstanding their recognizances payable in the Apostolic chamber, his Highness the King would lay their conduct before the Pope, and prevail on the Holy Father to publish a crusade against them, to follow up the intention of his predecessor’s grant to Henry II.!”
In the temporal order, as we have seen, the policy of hatred brought its own punishment. “The Pale,” which may be said to date from the passing of the Statute of Kilkenny (1367), was already abridged more than one-half. The Parliament of Kilkenny had defined it as embracing “Louth, Meath, Dublin, Kildare, Catherlough, Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford, and Tipperary,” each governed by Seneschals or Sheriffs. In 1422 Dunlavan and Ballymore are mentioned as the chief keys of Dublin and Kildare —and in the succeeding reign Callan in Oriel is set down as the chief key of that part. Dikes to keep out the enemy were made from Tallaght to Tassagard, at Rathconnell in Meath, and at other places in Meath and Kildare. These narrower limits it long retained, and the usual phrase in all future legislation by which the assemblies of the Anglo-Irish define their jurisdiction is “the four shires.” So completely was this enclosure isolated from the rest of the country that, in the reign at which we have now arrived, both the Earls of Desmond and Ormond were exempted from attending certain sittings of Parliament, and the Privy Council, on the ground that they could not do so without marching through the enemy’s country at great risk and inconvenience. It is true occasional successes attended the military enterprises of the Anglo-Irish, even in these days of their lowest fortunes. But they had chosen to adopt a narrow, bigoted, unsocial policy; a policy of exclusive dealing and perpetual estrangement from their neighbours dwelling on the same soil, and they had their reward. Their borders were narrowed upon them; they were penned up in one corner of the kingdom, out of which they could not venture a league without license and protection, from the free clansmen they insincerely affected to despise.
ACTS OF THE NATIVE PRINCES—SUBDIVISION OF TRIBES AND TERRITORIES—ANGLO-IRISH TOWNS UNDER NATIVE PROTECTION—ATTEMPT OF THADDEUS O’BRIEN, PRINCE OF THOMOND, TO RESTORE THE MONARCHY—RELATIONS OF THE RACES IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.
The history of “the Pale” being recounted down to the period of its complete isolation, we have now to pass beyond its entrenched and castellated limits, in order to follow the course of events in other parts of the kingdom.
While the highest courage was everywhere exhibited by chiefs and clansmen, no attempt was made to bring about another National Confederacy, after the fall of Edward Bruce. One result of that striking denouement of a stormy career—in addition to those before mentioned—was to give new life to the jealousy which had never wholly subsided, between the two primitive divisions of the Island. Bruce, welcomed, sustained, and lamented by the Northern Irish, was distrusted, avoided, and execrated by those of the South. There may have been exceptions, but this was the rule. The Bards and Newsmen of subsequent times, according to their Provincial bias, charged the failure of Bruce upon the Eugenian race, or justified his fate by aspersing his memory and his adherents of the race of Conn. This feeling of irritation, always most deep-seated when driven in by a consciousness of mismanagement or of self-reproach, goes a great way to account for the fact, that more than one generation was to pass away, before any closer union could be brought about between the Northern and Southern Milesian Irish.
We cannot, therefore, in the period embraced in our present book, treat the Provinces otherwise than as estranged communities, departing farther and farther from the ancient traditions of one central legislative council and one supreme elective chief. Special, short-lived alliances between lords of different Provinces are indeed frequent; but they were brought about mostly by ties of relationship or gossipred, and dissolved with the disappearance of the immediate danger. The very idea of national unity, once so cherished by all the children of Miledh Espaigne, seems to have been as wholly lost as any of those secrets of ancient handiwork, over which modern ingenuity puzzles itself in vain. In the times to which we have descended, it was every principality and every lordship for itself. As was said of old in Rome, “Antony had his party, Octavius had his party, but the Commonwealth had none.”
Not alone was the greater unity wholly forgotten, but no sooner were the descendants of the Anglo-Normans driven into their eastern enclosure, or thoroughly amalgamated in language, laws and costume with themselves, than the ties of particular clans began to loose their binding force, and the tendency to subdivide showed itself on every opportunity. We have already, in the book of the “War of Succession,” described the subdivisions of Breffni and of Meath as measures of policy, taken by the O’Conor Kings, to weaken their too powerful suffragans. But that step, which might have strengthened the hands of a native dynasty, almost inevitably weakened the tribes themselves in combating the attacks of a highly organized foreign power. Of this the O’Conors themselves became afterwards the most striking example. For half a century following the Red Earl’s death, they had gained steadily on the foreigners settled in Connaught. The terrible defeat of Athenry was more than atoned for by both other victories. At length the descendants of the vanquished on that day ruled as proudly as ever did their ancestors in their native Province. The posterity of the victors were merely tolerated on its soil, or anxiously building up new houses in Meath and Louth. But in an evil hour, on the death of their last King (1384), the O’Conors agreed to settle the conflicting claims of rival candidates for the succession by dividing the common inheritance. From this date downwards we have an O’Conor Don and an O’Conor Roe in the Annals of that Province, each rallying a separate band of partizans; and according to the accidents of age, minority, alliance, or personal reputation, infringing, harassing, or domineering over the other. Powerful lords they long continued, but as Provincial Princes we meet them no more.
This fatal example—of which there had been a faint foreshadowing in the division of the McCarthys in the preceding century—in the course of a generation or two, was copied by almost every great connection, north and south. The descendants of yellow Hugh O’Neil in Clandeboy claimed exemption from the supremacy of the elder family in Tyrone; the O’Farells, acknowledged two lords of Annally; the McDonoghs, two lords of Tirerril; there was McDermott of the Wood claiming independence of McDermott of the Rock; O’Brien of Ara asserted equality with O’Brien of Thomond; the nephews of Art McMurrogh contested the superiority of his sons; and thus slowly but surely the most powerful clans were hastening the day of their own dissolution.
A consequence of these subdivisions was the necessity which arose for new and opposite alliances, among those who had formerly looked on themselves as members of one family, with common dangers and common enemies. The pivot of policy now rested on neighbourhood rather than on pedigree; a change in its first stages apparently unnatural and deplorable, but in the long run not without its compensating advantages. As an instance of these new necessities, we may adduce the protection and succour steadily extended by the O’Neils of Clandeboy, to the McQuillans, Bissets, of the Antrim coast, and the McDonnells of the Glens, against the frequent attacks of the O’Neils of Tyrone. The latter laid claim to all Ulster, and long refused to acknowledge these foreigners, though men of kindred race and speech. Had it not been that the interest of Clandeboy pointed the other way, it is very doubtful if either the Welsh or Scottish settlers by the bays of Antrim could have made a successful stand against the overruling power of the house of Dungannon. The same policy, adopted by native chiefs under similar circumstances, protected the minor groups of settlers of foreign origin in the most remote districts—like the Barretts and other Welsh people of Tyrawley—long after the Deputies of the Kings of England had ceased to consider them as fellow-subjects, or to be concerned for their existence.
In like manner the detached towns, built by foreigners, of Welsh, Flemish, Saxon, or Scottish origin, were now taken “under the protection” of the neighbouring chief, or Prince, and paid to him or to his bailiff an annual tax for such protection. In this manner Wexford purchased protection of McMurrogh, Limerick from O’Brien, and Dundalk from O’Neil. But the yoke was not always borne with patience, nor did the bare relation of tax-gatherer and tax-payer generate any very cordial feeling between the parties. Emboldened by the arrival of a powerful Deputy, or a considerable accession to the Colony, or taking advantage of contested elections for the chieftaincy among their protectors, these sturdy communities sometimes sought by force to get rid of their native masters. Yet in no case at this period were such town risings ultimately successful. The appearance of a menacing force, and the threat of the torch, soon brought the refractory burgesses to terms. On such an occasion (1444) Dundalk paid Owen O’Neil the sum of 60 marks and two tuns of wine to avert his indignation. On another, the townsmen of Limerick agreed about the same period to pay annually for ever to O’Brien the sum of 60 marks. Notwithstanding the precarious tenure of their existence, they all continued jealously to guard their exclusive privileges. In the oath of office taken by the Mayor of Dublin (1388) he is sworn to guard the city’s franchises, so that no Irish rebel shall intrude upon the limits. Nicholas O’Grady, Abbot of a Monastery in Clare, is mentioned in 1485 as “the twelfth Irishman that ever possessed the freedom of the city of Limerick” up to that time. A special bye-law, at a still later period, was necessary to admit Colonel William O’Shaughnessy, of one of the first families in that county, to the freedom of the Corporation of the town of Galway. Exclusiveness on the one side, and arbitrary taxation on the other, were ill means of ensuring the prosperity of these new trading communities; Freedom and Peace have ever been as essential to commerce as the winds and waves are to navigation.
The dissolution and reorganization of the greater clans necessarily included the removal of old, and the formation of new boundaries, and these changes frequently led to border battles between the contestants. The most striking illustration of the struggles of this description, which occurs in our Annals in the fifteenth century, is that which was waged for three generations between a branch of the O’Conors established at Sligo, calling themselves “lords of Lower Connaught,” and the O’Donnells of Donegal. The country about Sligo had anciently been subject to the Donegal chiefs, but the new masters of Sligo, after the era of Edward Bruce, not only refused any longer to pay tribute, but endeavoured by the strong hand to extend their sway to the banks of the Drowse and the Erne. The pride not less than the power of the O’Donnells was interested in resisting this innovation, for, in the midst of the debateable land rose the famous mountain of Ben Gulban (now Benbulben), which bore the name of the first father of their tribe. The contest was, therefore, bequeathed from father to son, but the family of Sligo, under the lead of their vigorous chiefs, and with the advantage of actual possession, prevailed in establishing the exemption of their territory from the ancient tribute. The Drowse, which carries the surplus waters of the beautiful Lough Melvin into the bay of Donegal, finally became the boundary between Lower Connaught and Tyrconnell.
We have already alluded to the loss of the arts of political combination among the Irish in the Middle Ages. This loss was occasionally felt by the superior minds both in church and state. It was felt by Donald More O’Brien and those who went with him into the house of Conor Moinmoy O’Conor, in 1188; it was felt by the nobles who, at Cael-uisge, elected Brian O’Neil in 1258; it was felt by the twelve reguli who, in 1315, invited Edward Bruce, “a man of kindred blood,” to rule over them; it was imputed as a crime to Art McMurrogh in 1397, that he designed to claim the general sovereignty; and now in this century, Thaddeus O’Brien, Prince of Thomond, with the aid of the Irish of the southern half-kingdom, began (to use the phrase of the last Antiquary of Lecan) “working his way to Tara.” This Prince united all the tribes of Munster in his favour, and needing, according to ancient usage, the suffrages of two other Provinces to ensure his election, he crossed the Shannon in the summer of 1466 at the head of the largest army which had followed any of his ancestors since the days of King Brian. He renewed his protection to the town of Limerick, entered into an alliance with the Earl of Desmond—which alliance seems to have cost Desmond his head—received in his camp the hostages of Ormond and Ossory, and gave gifts to the lords of Leinster. Simultaneously, O’Conor of Offally had achieved a great success over the Palesmen, taking prisoner the Earl of Desmond, the Prior of Trim, the Lords Barnwall, Plunkett, Nugent, and other Methian magnates—a circumstance which also seems to have some connection with the fate of Desmond and Plunkett, who were the next year tried for treason and executed at Drogheda, by order of the Earl of Worcester, then Deputy. The usual Anglo-Irish tales, as to the causes of Desmond’s losing the favour of Edward IV., seem very like after-inventions. It is much more natural to attribute that sudden change to some connection with the attempt of O’Brien the previous year—since this only makes intelligible the accusation against him of “alliance, fosterage, and alterage with the King’s Irish enemies.”
From Leinster O’Brien recrossed the Shannon, and overran the country of the Clan-William Burke. But the ancient jealousy of Leath-Conn would not permit its proud chiefs to render hostage or homage to a Munster Prince, of no higher rank than themselves. Disappointed in his hopes of that union which could alone restore the monarchy in the person of a native ruler, the descendant of Brian returned to Kinkora, where he shortly afterwards fell ill of fever and died. “It was commonly reported,” says the Antiquary of Lecan, “that the multitudes’ envious eyes and hearts shortened his days.”
The naturalized Norman noble spoke the language of the Gael, and retained his Brehons and Bards like his Milesian compeer. For generations the daughters of the elder race had been the mothers of his house; and the milk of Irish foster-mothers had nourished the infancy of its heirs. The Geraldines, the McWilliams, even the Butlers, among their tenants and soldiers, were now as Irish as the Irish. Whether allies or enemies, rivals or as relatives, they stood as near to their neighbours of Celtic origin as they did to the descendants of those who first landed at Bannow and at Waterford. The “Statute of Kilkenny” had proclaimed the eternal separation of the races, but up to this period it had failed, and the men of both origins were left free to develop whatever characteristics were most natural to them. What we mean by being left free is, that there was no general or long-sustained combination of one race for the suppression of the other from the period of Richard the Second’s last reverses (A.D. 1399) till the period of the Reformation. Native Irish life, therefore, throughout the whole of the fifteenth, and during the first half of the sixteenth century, was as free to shape and direct itself, to ends of its own choosing, as it had been at almost any former period in our history. Private wars and hereditary blood-feuds, next after the loss of national unity, were the worst vices of the nation. Deeds of violence and acts of retaliation were as common as the succession of day and night. Every free clansman carried his battle-axe to church and chase, to festival and fairgreen. The strong arm was prompt to obey the fiery impulse, and it must be admitted in solemn sadness, that almost every page of our records at this period is stained with human blood. But though crimes of violence are common, crimes of treachery are rare. The memory of a McMahon, who betrayed and slew his guest, is execrated by the same stoical scribes, who set down, without a single expression of horror, the open murder of chief after chief. Taking off by poison, so common among their cotemporaries, seems to have been altogether unknown, and the cruelties of the State Prisons of the Middle Ages undreamt of by our fierce, impetuous, but not implacable ancestors. The facts which go to affix the imputation of cruelty on those ages are, the frequent entries which we find of deposed chiefs, or conspicuous criminals, having their eyes put out, or being maimed in their members. By these barbarous punishments they lost caste, if not life; but that indeed must have been a wretched remnant of existence which remained to the blinded lover, or the maimed warrior, or the crippled tiller of the soil. Of the social and religious relations existing between the races, we shall have occasion to speak more fully before closing the present book.
CONTINUED DIVISION AND DECLINE OF “THE ENGLISH INTEREST”— RICHARD, DUKE OF YORK, LORD LIEUTENANT—CIVIL WAR AGAIN IN ENGLAND—EXECUTION OF THE EARL OF DESMOND—ASCENDANCY OF THE KILDARE GERALDINES.
We have already described the limits to which “the Pale” was circumscribed at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The fortunes of that inconsiderable settlement during the following century hardly rise to the level of historical importance, nor would the recital of them be at all readable but for the ultimate consequences which ensued from the preservation of those last remains of foreign power in the island. On that account, however, we have to consult the barren annals of “the Pale” through the intermediate period, that we may make clear the accidents by which it was preserved from destruction, and enabled to play a part in after-times, undreamt of and inconceivable, to those who tolerated its existence in the ages of which we speak.
On the northern coasts of Ireland the co-operation of the friendly Scots with the native Irish had long been a source of anxiety to the Palesmen. In the year 1404, Dongan, Bishop of Derry, and Sir Jenico d’Artois, were appointed Commissioners by Henry IV., to conclude a permanent peace with McDonald, Lord of the Isles, but, notwithstanding that form was then gone through during the reigns of all the Lancasterian Kings, evidence of the Hiberno-Scotch alliance being still in existence, constantly recurs. In the year 1430 an address or petition of the Dublin Council to the King sets forth “that the enemies and rebels, aided by the Scots, had conquered or rendered tributary almost every part of the country, except the county of Dublin.” The presence of Henry V. in Ireland had been urgently solicited by his lieges in that kingdom, but without effect. The hero of Agincourt having set his heart upon the conquest of France, left Ireland to his lieutenants and their deputies. Nor could his attention be aroused to the English interest in that country, even by the formal declaration of the Speaker of the English Parliament, that “the greater part of the lordship of Ireland” had been “conquered” by the natives.
The comparatively new family of Talbot, sustained by the influence of the great Earl of Shrewsbury, now Seneschal of France, had risen to the highest pitch of influence. When on the accession of Henry VI., Edward Mortimer, Earl of March, was appointed Lord Lieutenant, and Dantsey, Bishop of Meath, his deputy, Talbot, Archbishop of Dublin, and Lord Chancellor, refused to acknowledge Dantsey’s pretensions because his commission was given under the private seal of Lord Mortimer. Having effected his object in this instance, the Archbishop directed his subsequent attacks against the House of Ormond, the chief favourites of the King, or rather of the Council, in that reign. In 1441, at a Dublin Parliament, messengers were appointed to convey certain articles to the King, the purport of which was to prevent the Earl of Ormond from being made Lord Lieutenant, alleging against him many misdemeanours in his former administration, and praying that some “mighty lord of England” might be named to that office to execute the laws more effectually “than any Irishman ever did or ever will do.”
This attempt to destroy the influence of Ormond led to an alliance between that Earl and Sir James, afterwards seventh Earl of Desmond. Sir James was son of Gerald, fourth Earl (distinguished as “the Rhymer,” or Magician), by the lady Eleanor Butler, daughter of the second Earl of Ormond. He stood, therefore, in the relation of cousin to the cotemporary head of the Butler family. When his nephew Thomas openly violated the Statute of Kilkenny, by marrying the beautiful Catherine McCormac, the ambitious and intriguing Sir James, anxious to enforce that statute, found a ready seconder in Ormond. Earl Thomas, forced to quit the country, died an exile at Rouen, in France, and Sir James, after many intrigues and negotiations, obtained the title and estates. For once the necessities of Desmond and Ormond united these houses, but the money of the English Archbishop of Dublin, backed by the influence of his illustrious brother, proved equal to them both. In the first twenty-five years of the reign of Henry VI. (1422-1447,) Ormond was five times Lieutenant or Deputy, and Talbot five times Deputy, Lord Justice, or Lord Commissioner. Their factious controversy culminated with “the articles” adopted in 1441, which altogether failed of the intended effect; Ormond was reappointed two years afterwards to his old office; nor was it till 1446, when the Earl of Shrewsbury was a third time sent over, that the Talbots had any substantial advantage over their rivals. The recall of the Earl for service in France, and the death of the Archbishop two years later, though it deprived the party they had formed of a resident leader, did not lead to its dissolution. Bound together by common interests and dangers, their action may be traced in opposition to the Geraldines, through the remaining years of Henry VI., and perhaps so late as the earlier years of Henry VII. (1485-1500).
In the struggle of dynasties from which England suffered so severely during the fifteenth century, the drama of ambition shifted its scenes from London and York to Calais and Dublin. The appointment of Richard, Duke of York, as Lord Lieutenant, in 1449, presented him an opportunity of creating a Yorkist party among the nobles and people of “the Pale.” This able and ambitious Prince possessed in his hereditary estate resources equal to great enterprises. He was in the first place the representative of the third son of Edward III.; on the death of his cousin the Earl of March, in 1424, he became heir to that property and title. He was Duke of York, Earl of March, and Earl of Rutland, in England; Earl of Ulster and Earl of Cork, Lord of Connaught, Clare, Meath, and Trim, in Ireland. He had been, twice Regent of France, during the minority of Henry, where he upheld the cause of the Plantagenet King with signal ability. By the peace concluded at Tours, between England, France, and Burgundy, in 1444, he was enabled to return to England, where the King had lately come of age, and begun to exhibit the weak though amiable disposition which led to his ruin. The events of the succeeding two or three years were calculated to expose Henry to the odium of his subjects and the machinations of his enemies. Town after town and province after province were lost in France; the Regent Somerset returned to experience the full force of this unpopularity; the royal favourite, Suffolk, was banished, pursued, and murdered at sea; the King’s uncles, Cardinal Beaufort and the Duke of Gloucester, were removed by death—so that every sign and circumstance of the time whispered encouragement to the ambitious Duke. When, therefore, the Irish lieutenancy was offered, in order to separate him from his partizans, he at first refused it; subsequently, however, he accepted, on conditions dictated by himself, calculated to leave him wholly his own master. These conditions, reduced to writing in the form of an Indenture between the King and the Duke, extended his lieutenancy to a period of ten years; allowed him, besides the entire revenue of Ireland, an annual subsidy from England; full power to let the King’s land, to levy and maintain soldiers, to place or displace all officers, to appoint a Deputy, and to return to England at his pleasure. On these terms the ex-Regent of France undertook the government of the English settlement in Ireland.
Arrived at Dublin, the Duke (as in his day he was always called,) employed himself rather to strengthen his party than to extend the limits of his government. Soon after his arrival a son was born to him, and baptized with great pomp in the Castle. James, fifth Earl of Ormond, and Thomas, eighth Earl of Desmond, were invited to stand as sponsors. In the line of policy indicated by this choice, he steadily persevered during his whole connection with Ireland—which lasted till his death, in 1460. Alternately he named a Butler and a Geraldine as his deputy, and although he failed ultimately to win the Earl of Ormond from the traditional party of his family, he secured the attachment of several of his kinsmen. Stirring events in England, the year after his appointment, made it necessary for him to return immediately. The unpopularity of the administration which had banished him had rapidly augmented. The French King had recovered the whole of Normandy, for four centuries annexed to the English Crown. Nothing but Calais remained of all the Continental possessions which the Plantagenets had inherited, and which Henry V. had done so much to strengthen and extend. Domestic abuses aggravated the discontent arising from foreign defeats. The Bishop of Chichester, one of the ministers, was set upon and slain by a mob at Portsmouth. Twenty thousand men of Kent, under the command of Jack Cade, an Anglo-Irishman, who had given himself out as a son of the last Earl of March, who died in the Irish government twenty-five years before, marched upon London. They defeated a royal force at Sevenoaks, and the city opened its gate at the summons of Cade. The Kentish men took possession of Southwark, while their Irish leader for three days, entering the city every morning, compelled the mayor and the judges to sit in the Guildhall, tried and sentenced Lord Say to death, who, with his son-in-law, Cromer, Sheriff of Kent, was accordingly executed. Every evening, as he had promised the citizens, he retired with his guards across the river, preserving the strictest order among them. But the royalists were not idle, and when, on the fourth morning Cade attempted as usual to enter London proper, he found the bridge of Southwark barricaded and defended by a strong force under the Lord Scales. After six hours’ hard fighting his raw levies were repulsed, and many of them accepted a free pardon tendered to them in the moment of defeat. Cade retired with the remainder on Deptford and Rochester, but gradually abandoned by them, he was surprised, half famished in a garden at Heyfield, and put to death. His captor claimed and received the large reward of a thousand marks offered for his head. This was in the second week of July; on the 1st of September, news was brought to London that the Duke of York had suddenly landed from Ireland. His partizans eagerly gathered round him at his castle of Fotheringay, but for five years longer, by the repeated concessions of the gentle-minded Henry, and the interposition of powerful mediators, the actual war of the roses was postponed.
It is beyond our province to follow the details of that ferocious struggle, which was waged almost incessantly from 1455 till 1471—from the first battle of St. Albans till the final battle at Tewksbury. We are interested in it mainly as it connects the fortunes of the Anglo-Irish Earls with one or other of the dynasties; and their fortunes again, with the benefit or disadvantage of their allies and relatives among our native Princes. Of the transactions in England, it may be sufficient to say that the Duke of York, after his victory at St. Albans in ’55, was declared Lord Protector of the realm during Henry’s imbecility; that the next year the King recovered and the Protector’s office was abolished; that in ’57 both parties stood at bay; in ’58 an insecure peace was patched up between them; in ’59 they appealed to arms, the Yorkists gained a victory at Bloreheath, but being defeated at Ludiford, Duke Richard, with one of his sons, fled for safety into Ireland.
It was the month of November when the fugitive Duke arrived to resume the Lord Lieutenancy which he had formerly exercised. Legally, his commission, for those who recognized the authority of King Henry, had expired four months before—as it bore date from July 5th, 1449; but it is evident the majority of the Anglo-Irish received him as a Prince of their own election rather than as an ordinary Viceroy. He held, soon after his arrival, a Parliament at Dublin, which met by adjournment at Drogheda the following spring. The English Parliament having declared him, his duchess, sons, and principal adherents traitors, and writs to that effect having been sent over, the Irish Parliament passed a declaratory Act (1460) making the service of all such writs treason against their authority—”it having been ever customary in their land to receive and entertain strangers with due respect and hospitality.” Under this law, an emissary of the Earl of Ormond, upon whom English writs against the fugitives were found, was executed as a traitor. This independent Parliament confirmed the Duke in his office; made it high treason to imagine his death, and—taking advantage of the favourable conjuncture of affairs—they further declared that the inhabitants of Ireland could only be bound by laws made in Ireland; that no writs were of force unless issued under the great seal of Ireland; that the realm had of ancient right its own Lord Constable and Earl Marshal, by whom alone trials for treason alleged to have been committed in Ireland could be conducted. In the same busy spring, the Earl of Warwick (so celebrated as “the Kingmaker” of English history) sailed from Calais, of which he was Constable, with the Channel-fleet, of which he was also in command, and doubling the Land’s End of England, arrived at Dublin to concert measures for another rising in England. He found the Duke at Dublin “surrounded by his Earls and homagers,” and measures were soon concerted between them.
An appeal to the English nation was prepared at this Conference, charging upon Henry’s advisers that they had written to the French King to besiege Calais, and to the Irish Princes to expel the English settlers. The loyalty of the fugitive lords, and their readiness to prove their innocence before their sovereign, were stoutly asserted. Emissaries were despatched in every direction; troops were raised; Warwick soon after landed in Kent-always strongly pro-Yorkist-defeated the royalists at Northampton in July, and the Duke reaching London in October, a compromise was agreed to, after much discussion, in which Henry was to have the crown for life, while the Duke was acknowledged as his successor, and created president of his council.
We have frequently remarked in our history the recurrence of conflicts between the north and south of the island. The same thing is distinctly traceable through the annals of England down to a quite recent period. Whether difference of race, or of admixture of race may not lie at the foundation of such long-living enmities, we will not here attempt to discuss; such, however, is the fact. Queen Margaret had fled northward after the defeat of Northampton towards the Scottish border, from which she now returned at the head of 20,000 men. The Duke advanced rapidly to meet her, and engaging with a far inferior force at Wakefield, was slain in the field, or beheaded after the battle. All now seemed lost to the Yorkist party, when young Edward, son of Duke Richard, advancing from the marches of Wales at the head of an army equal in numbers to the royalists, won, in the month of February, 1461, the battles of Mortimers-cross and Barnet, and was crowned at Westminster in March, by the title of Edward IV. The sanguinary battle of Towton, soon after his coronation, where 38,000 dead were reckoned by the heralds, confirmed his title and established his throne. Even the subsequent hostility of Warwick—though it compelled him once to surrender himself a prisoner, and once to fly the country—did not finally transfer the sceptre to his rival. Warwick was slain in the battle of Tewkesbury (1471), the Lancasterian Prince Edward was put to death on the field, and his unhappy father was murdered in prison. Two years later, Henry, Earl of Richmond, grandson of Catherine, Queen of Henry V. and Owen Ap Tudor, the only remaining leader capable of rallying the beaten party, was driven into exile in France, from which he returned fourteen years afterwards to contest the crown with Richard III.
In these English wars, the only Irish nobleman who sustained the Lancasterian cause was James, fifth Earl of Ormond. He had been created by Henry, Earl of Wiltshire, during his father’s lifetime, in the same year in which his father stood sponsor in Dublin for the son of the Duke. He succeeded to the Irish title and estates in 1451: held a foremost rank in almost all the engagements from the battle of Saint Albans to that of Towton, in which he was taken prisoner and executed by order of Edward IV. His blood was declared attainted, and his estates forfeited; but a few years later both the title and property were restored to Sir John Butler, the sixth Earl. On the eve of the open rupture between the Roses, another name intimately associated with Ireland disappeared from the roll of the English nobility. The veteran Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, in the eightieth year of his age, accepted the command of the English forces in France, retook the city of Bordeaux, but fell in attack on the French camp at Chatillon, in the subsequent campaign-1453. His son, Lord Lisle, was slain at the same time, defending his father’s body. Among other consequences which ensued, the Talbot interest in Ireland suffered from the loss of so powerful a patron at the English court. We have only to add that at Wakefield, and in most of the other engagements, there was a strong Anglo-Irish contingent in the Yorkist ranks, and a smaller one—chiefly tenants of Ormond—on the opposite side. Many writers complain that the House of York drained “the Pale” of its defenders, and thus still further diminished the resources of the English interest in Ireland.
In the last forty years of the fifteenth century, the history of “the Pale” is the biography of the family of the Geraldines. We must make some brief mention of the remarkable men to whom we refer.
Thomas, eighth Earl of Desmond, for his services to the House of York, was appointed Lord Deputy in the first years of Edward IV. He had naturally made himself obnoxious to the Ormond interest, but still more so to the Talbots, whose leader in civil contests was Sherwood, Bishop of Meath—for some years, in despite of the Geraldines, Lord Chancellor. Between him and Desmond there existed the bitterest animosity. In 1464, nine of the Deputy’s men were slain in a broil in Fingall, by tenants or servants of the Bishop. The next year each party repaired to London to vindicate himself and criminate his antagonist. The Bishop seems to have triumphed, for in 1466, John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, called in England, for his barbarity to Lancasterian prisoners, “the Butcher,” superseded Desmond. The movement of Thaddeus O’Brien, already related, the same year, gave Tiptoft grounds for accusing Desmond, Kildare, Sir Edward Plunkett, and others, of treason. On this charge he summoned them before him at Drogheda in the following February. Kildare wisely fled to England, where he pleaded his innocence successfully with the King. But Desmond and Plunkett, over-confident of their own influence, repaired to Drogheda, were tried, condemned, and beheaded. Their execution took place on the 15th day of February, 1467. It is instructive to add that Tiptoft, a few years later, underwent the fate in England, without exciting a particle of the sympathy felt for Desmond.
Thomas, seventh Earl of Kildare, succeeded on his safe return from England to more than the power of his late relative. The office of Chancellor, after a sharp struggle, was taken from Bishop Sherwood, and confirmed to him for life by an act of the twelfth, Edward III. He had been named Lord Justice after Tiptoft’s recall, in 1467, and four years later exchanged the title for that of Lord Deputy to the young Duke of Clarence—the nominal Lieutenant. In 1475, on some change of Court favour, the supreme power was taken from him, and conferred on the old enemy of his House, the Bishop of Meath. Kildare died two years later, having signalized his latter days by founding an Anglo-Irish order of chivalry, called “the Brothers of St. George.” This order was to consist of 13 persons of the highest rank within the Pale, 120 mounted archers, and 40 horsemen, attended by 40 pages. The officers were to assemble annually in Dublin, on St. George’s Day, to elect their Captain from their own number. After having existed twenty years the Brotherhood was suppressed by the jealousy of Henry VII., in 1494.
Gerald, eighth Earl of Kildare (called in the Irish Annals Geroit More, or “the Great”), succeeded his father in 1477. He had the gratification of ousting Sherwood from the government the following year, and having it transferred to himself. For nearly forty years he continued the central figure among the Anglo-Irish, and as his family were closely connected by marriage with the McCarthys, O’Carrolls of Ely, the O’Conors of Offally, O’Neils and O’Donnells, he exercised immense influence over the affairs of all the Provinces. In his tune, moreover, the English interest, under the auspices of an undisturbed dynasty, and a cautious, politic Prince (Henry VII.), began by slow and almost imperceptible degrees to recover the unity and compactness it had lost ever since the Red Earl’s death.
THE AGE AND RULE OF GERALD, EIGHTH EARL OF KILDARE—THE TIDE BEGINS TO TURN FOR THE ENGLISH INTEREST—THE YORKIST PRETENDERS, SIMNEL AND WARBECK—POYNING’S PARLIAMENT— BATTLES OF KNOCKDOE AND MONABRAHER.
Perhaps no preface could better introduce to the reader the singular events which marked the times of Gerald, eighth Earl of Kildare, than a brief account of one of his principal partizans—Sir James Keating, Prior of the Knights of St. John. The family of Keating, of Norman-Irish origin, were most numerous in the fifteenth century in Kildare, from which they afterwards spread into Tipperary and Limerick. Sir James Keating, “a mere Irishman,” became Prior of Kilmainham about the year 1461, at which time Sir Robert Dowdal, deputy to the Lord Treasurer, complained in Parliament, that being on a pilgrimage to one of the shrines of the Pale, he was assaulted near Cloniff, by the Prior, with a drawn sword, and thereby put in danger of his life. It was accordingly decreed that Keating should pay to the King a hundred pounds fine, and to Sir Robert a hundred marks; but, from certain technical errors in the proceedings, he successfully evaded both these penalties. When in the year 1478 the Lord Grey of Codner was sent over to supersede Kildare, he took the decided step of refusing to surrender to that nobleman the Castle of Dublin, of which he was Constable. Being threatened with an assault, he broke down the bridge and prepared his defence, while his Mend, the Earl of Kildare, called a Parliament at Naas, in opposition to Lord Grey’s Assembly at Dublin. In 1480, after two years of rival parties and viceroys, Lord Grey was feign to resign his office, and Kildare was regularly appointed Deputy to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III. Two years later, Keating was deprived of his rank by Peter d’Aubusson, Grand Master of Rhodes, who appointed Sir Marmaduke Lumley, an English knight, in his stead. Sir Marmaduke landed soon after at Clontarf, where he was taken prisoner by Keating, and kept in close confinement until he had surrendered all the instruments of his election and confirmation. He was then enlarged, and appointed to the commandery of Kilseran, near Castlebellingham, in Louth. In the year 1488, Keating was one of those who took an active part in favour of the pretender Lambert Simnel, and although his pardon had been sternly refused by Henry VII., he retained possession of the Hospital until 1491, when he was ejected by force, “and ended his turbulent life,” as we are told, “in the most abject poverty and disgrace.” All whom he had appointed to office were removed; an Act of Parliament was passed, prohibiting the reception of any “mere Irishman” into the Order for the future, and enacting that whoever was recognized as Prior by the Grand Master should be of English birth, and one having such a connection with the Order there as might strengthen the force and interest of the Kings of England in Ireland.
The fact most indicative of the spirit of the times is, that a man of Prior Keating’s disposition could, for thirty years, have played such a daring part as we have described in the city of Dublin. During the greater part of that period, he held the office of Constable of the Castle and Prior of Kilmainham, in defiance of English Deputies and English Kings; than which no farther evidence may be adduced to show how completely the English, interest was extinguished, even within the walls of Dublin, during the reign of the last of the Plantagenet Princes, and the first years of Henry VII.
In 1485, Henry, Earl of Richmond, grandson of Queen Catherine and Owen ap Tudor, returned from his fourteen years’ exile in France, and, by the victory of Bosworth, took possession of the throne. The Earl of Kildare, undisputed Deputy during the last years of Edward IV., had been continued by Richard, and was not removed by Henry VII. Though a staunch Yorkist, he showed no outward opposition to the change of dynasty, for which he found a graceful apology soon afterwards. Being at Mass, in Christ’s Church Cathedral, on the 2nd of February, 1486, he received intelligence of Henry’s marriage with Elizabeth of York, which he at once communicated to the Archbishop of Dublin, and ordered an additional Mass for the King and Queen. Yet, from the hour of that union of the houses of York and Lancaster, it needed no extraordinary wisdom to foresee that the exemption of the Anglo-Irish nobles from the supremacy of their nominal King must come to an end, and the freedom of the old Irish from any formidable external danger must also close. The union of the Roses, so full of the promise of peace for England, was to form the date of a new era in her relations with Ireland. The tide of English power was at that hour at its lowest ebb; it had left far in the interior the landmarks of its first irresistible rush; it might be said, without exaggeration, that Gaelic children now gathered shells and pebbles where that tide once rolled, charged with all its thunders; it was now about to turn; the first murmuring menace of new encroachments began to be heard under Henry VII.; as we listen they grow louder on the ear; the waves advance with a steady, deliberate march, unlike the first impetuous onslaught of the Normans; they advance and do not recede, till they recover all the ground they had abandoned. The era which we dated from the Red Earl’s death, in 1333, has exhausted its resources of aggression and assimilation; a new era opens with the reign of Henry VII.—or more distinctly still, with that of his successor, Henry VIII. We must close our account with the old era, before entering upon the new.
The contest between the Earl of Kildare and Lord Grey for the government (1478-1480) marks the lowest ebb of the English power. We have already related how Prior Keating shut the Castle gates on the English deputy, and threatened to fire on his guard if he attempted to force them. Lord Portlester also, the Chancellor, and father-in-law to Kildare, joined that Earl in his Parliament at Naas with the great seal. Lord Grey, in his Dublin Assembly, declared the great seal cancelled, and ordered a new one to be struck, but after a two years’ contest he was obliged to succumb to the greater influence of the Geraldines. Kildare was regularly acknowledged Lord Deputy, under the King’s privy seal. It was ordained that thereafter there should be but one Parliament convoked during the year; that but one subsidy should be demanded, annually, the sum “not to exceed a thousand marks.” Certain Acts of both Parliaments—Grey’s and Kildare’s—were by compromise confirmed. Of these were two which do not seem to collate very well with each other; one prohibiting the inhabitants of the Pale from holding any intercourse whatsoever with the mere Irish; the other extending to Con O’Neil, Prince of Tyrone, and brother-in-law of Kildare, the rights of a naturalized subject within the Pale. The former was probably Lord Grey’s; the latter was Lord Kildare’s legislation.
Although Henry VII. had neither disturbed the Earl in his governments, nor his brother, Lord Thomas, as Chancellor, it was not to be expected that he could place entire confidence in the leading Yorkist family among the Anglo-Irish. The restoration of the Ormond estates, in favour of Thomas, seventh Earl, was both politic and just, and could hardly be objectionable to Kildare, who had just married one of his daughters to Pierce Butler, nephew and heir to Thomas. The want of confidence between the new King and his Deputy was first exhibited in 1486, when the Earl, being summoned to attend on his Majesty, called a Parliament at Trim, which voted him an address, representing that in the affairs about to be discussed, his presence was absolutely necessary. Henry affected to accept the excuse as valid, but every arrival of Court news contained some fresh indication of his deep-seated mistrust of the Lord Deputy, who, however, he dared not yet dismiss.
The only surviving Yorkists who could put forward pretensions to the throne were the Earl of Lincoln, Richard’s declared heir, and the young Earl of Warwick, son of that Duke of Clarence who was born in Dublin Castle in 1449. Lincoln, with Lord Lovell and others of his friends, was in exile at the court of the dowager Duchess of Burgundy, sister to Edward IV.; and the son of Clarence—a lad of fifteen years of age—was a prisoner in the Tower. In the year 1486, a report spread of the escape of this Prince, and soon afterwards Richard Symon, a Priest of Oxford, landed in Dublin with a youth of the same age, of prepossessing appearance and address, who could relate with the minutest detail the incidents of his previous imprisonment. He was at once recognized as the son of Clarence by the Earl of Kildare and his party, and preparations were made for his coronation by the title of Edward VI. Henry, alarmed, produced from the Tower the genuine Warwick, whom he publicly paraded through London, in order to prove that the pretender in Dublin was an impostor. The Duchess of Burgundy, however, fitted out a fleet, containing 2,000 veteran troops, under the command of Martin Swart, who, sailing up the channel, reached Dublin without interruption. With this fleet came the Earl of Lincoln, Lord Lovell, and the other English refugees, who all recognized the protege of Father Symon as the true Prince. Octavius, the Italian Archbishop of Armagh, then residing at Dublin, the Bishop of Clogher, the Butlers, and the Baron of Howth, were incredulous or hostile. The great majority of the Anglo-Irish lords, spiritual and temporal, favoured his cause, and he was accordingly crowned in Christ Church Cathedral, with a diadem taken from an image of our Lady, on the 24th of May, 1487; the Deputy, Chancellor, and Treasurer were present; the sermon was preached by Pain, Bishop of Meath. A Parliament was next convoked in his name, in which the Butlers and citizens of Waterford were proscribed as traitors. A herald from the latter city, who had spoken over boldly, was hanged by the Dubliners as a proof of their loyalty. The Council ordered a force to be equipped for the service of his new Majesty in England, and Lord Thomas Fitzgerald resigned the Chancellorship to take the command. This expedition—the last which invaded England from the side of Ireland —sailed from Dublin about the first of June, and landing on the Lancashire shore, at the pile of Foudray, marched to Ulverstone, where they were joined by Sir Thomas Broughton and other devoted Yorkists. From Ulverstone the whole force, about 8,000 strong, marched into Yorkshire, and from Yorkshire southwards into Nottingham. Henry, who had been engaged in making a progress through the southern counties, hastened to meet him, and both armies met at Stoke-upon-Trent, near Newark, on the 16th day of June, 1487. The battle was contested with the utmost obstinacy, but the English prevailed. The Earl of Lincoln, the Lords Thomas and Maurice Fitzgerald, Plunkett, son of Lord Killeen, Martin Swart, and Sir Thomas Broughton were slain; Lord Lovell escaped, but was never heard of afterwards; the pretended Edward VI. was captured, and spared by Henry only to be made a scullion in his kitchen. Father Symon was cast into prison, where he died, after having confessed that his protege was Lambert Simnel, the son of a joiner at Oxford.
Nothing shows the strength of the Kildare party, and the weakness of the English interest, more than that the deputy and his partizans were still continued in office. They despatched a joint letter to the King, deprecating his anger, which he was prudent enough to conceal. He sent over, the following spring, Sir Richard Edgecombe, Comptroller of his household, accompanied by a guard of 500 men. Sir Richard first touched at Kinsale, where he received the homage of the Lords Barry and de Courcy; he then sailed to Waterford, where he delivered to the Mayor royal letters confirming the city in its privileges, and authorizing its merchants to seize and distress those of Dublin, unless they made their submission. After leaving Waterford, he landed at Malahide, passing by Dublin, to which he proceeded by land, accompanied with his guard. The Earl of Kildare was absent on a pilgrimage, from which he did not return for several days. His first interviews with Edgecombe were cold and formal, but finally on the 21st of July, after eight or ten days’ disputation, the Earl and the other lords of his party did homage to King Henry, in the great chamber of his town-house in Thomas Court, and thence proceeding to the chapel, took the oath of allegiance on the consecrated host. With this submission Henry was fain to be content; Kildare, Portlester, and Plunkett were continued in office. The only one to whom the King’s pardon was persistently refused was Sir James Keating, Prior of Kilmainham.
In the subsequent attempts of Perkin Warbeck (1492-1499), in the character of Richard, Duke of York, one of the Princes murdered in the tower by Richard III., the Anglo-Irish took a less active part. Warbeck landed at Cork from Lisbon, and despatched letters to the Earls of Kildare and Desmond, to which they returned civil but evasive replies. At Cork he received an invitation from the King of France to visit that country, where he remained till the conclusion of peace between France and England. He then retired to Burgundy, where he was cordially received by the Duchess; after an unsuccessful descent on the coast of Kent, he took refuge in Scotland, where he married a lady closely allied to the crown. In 1497 he again tried his fortune in the South of Ireland, was joined by Maurice, tenth Earl of Desmond, the Lord Barry, and the citizens of Cork. Having laid siege to Waterford, he was compelled to retire with loss, and Desmond having made his peace with Henry, Warbeck was forced again to fly into Scotland. In 1497 and ‘8, he made new attempts to excite insurrection in his favour in the north of England and in Cornwall. He was finally taken and put to death on the 16th of November, 1499. With him suffered his first and most faithful adherent, John Waters, who had been Mayor of Cork at his first landing from Lisbon, in 1492, and who is ignorantly or designedly called by Henry’s partizan “O’Water.” History has not yet positively established the fraudulency of this pretender. A late eminently cautious writer, with all the evidence which modern research has accumulated, speaks of him as “one of the most mysterious persons in English history;” and in mystery we must leave him.
We have somewhat anticipated events, in other quarters, in order to dispose of both the Yorkist pretenders at the same time. The situation of the Earls of Kildare in this and the next reign, though full of grandeur, was also full of peril. Within the Pale they had one part to play, without the Pale another. Within the Pale they held one language, without it another. At Dublin they were English Earls, beyond the Boyne or the Barrow, they were Irish chiefs. They had to tread their cautious, and not always consistent way, through the endless complications which must arise between two nations occupying the same soil, with conflicting allegiance, language, laws, customs, and interests. While we frequently feel indignant at the tone they take towards the “Irish enemy” in their despatches to London—the pretended enemies being at that very time their confidants and allies-on farther reflection we feel disposed to make some allowance on the score of circumstance and necessity, for a duplicity which, in the end, brought about, as duplicity in public affairs ever does, its own punishment.
In Ulster as well as in Leinster, the ascendency of the Earl of Kildare over the native population was widespread and long sustained. Con O’Neil, Lord of Tyrone, from 1483 to 1491, and Turlogh, Con and Art, his sons and successors (from 1498 to 1548), maintained the most intimate relations with this Earl and his successors. To the former he was brother-in-law, and to the latter, of course, uncle; to all he seems to have been strongly attached. Hugh Roe O’Donnell, Lord of Tyrconnell (1450-1505), and his son and successor, Hugh Dhu O’Donnell, (1505-1530), were also closely connected with Kildare both by friendship and intermarriage. In 1491, O’Neil and O’Donnell mutually submitted their disputes to his decision, at his Castle of Maynooth, and though he found it impossible to reconcile them at the moment, we find both of these houses cordially united with him afterwards. In 1498, he took Dungannon and Omagh, “with great guns,” from the insurgents against the authority of his grandson, Turlogh O’Neil, and restored them to Turlogh; the next year he visited O’Donnell, and brought his son Henry to be fostered among the kindly Irish of Tyrconnell. In the year 1500 he also placed the Castle of Kinnaird in the custody of Turlogh O’Neil. In Leinster, the Geraldine interest was still more entirely bound up with that of the native population. His son, Sir Oliver of Killeigh, married an O’Conor of Offally; the daughter of another son, Sir James of Leixlip, (sometimes called the Knight of the Valley) became the wife of the chief of Imayle. The Earl of Ormond, and Ulick Burke of Clanrickarde, were also sons-in-law of the eighth Earl, but in both these cases the old family feuds survived in despite of the new family alliances.
In the fourth year after his accession, Henry VII., proceeding by slow degrees to undermine Kildare’s enormous power, summoned the chief Anglo-Irish nobles to his Court at Greenwich, where he reproached them with their support of Simnel, who, to their extreme confusion, he caused to wait on them as butler, at dinner. A year or two afterwards, he removed Lord Portlester, from the Treasurership, which he conferred on Sir James Butler, the bastard of Ormond. Plunkett, the Chief-Justice, was promoted to the Chancellorship, and Kildare himself was removed to make way for Fitzsymons, Archbishop of Dublin. This, however, was but a government ad interim, for in the year 1494, a wholly English administration was appointed. Sir Edward Poynings, with a picked force of 1,000 men, was appointed Lord Deputy; the Bishop of Bangor was appointed Chancellor, Sir Hugh Conway, an Englishman, was to be Treasurer; and these officials were accompanied by an entirely new bench of judges, all English, whom they were instructed to instal immediately on their arrival. Kildare had resisted the first changes with vigour, and a bloody feud had taken place between his retainers and those of Sir James of Ormond, on the green of Oxmantown—now Smithfield, in Dublin. On the arrival of Poynings, however, he submitted with the best possible grace, and accompanied that deputy to Drogheda, where he had summoned a Parliament to meet him. From Drogheda, they made an incursion into O’Hanlon’s country (Orior in Armagh). On returning from Drogheda, Poynings, on a real or pretended discovery of a secret understanding between O’Hanlon and Kildare, arrested the latter, in Dublin, and at once placed him on board a barque “kept waiting for that purpose,” and despatched him to England. On reaching London, he was imprisoned in the Tower, for two years, during which time his party in Ireland were left headless and dispirited.
The government of Sir Edward Poynings, which lasted from 1494 till Kildare’s restoration, in August, 1496, is most memorable for the character of its legislation. He assembled a Parliament at Drogheda, in November, 1495, at which were passed the statutes so celebrated in our Parliamentary history as the “10th Henry VII.” These statutes were the first enacted in Ireland in which the English language was employed. They confirmed the Provisions of the Statute of Kilkenny, except that prohibiting the use of the Irish language, which had now become so deeply rooted, even within the Pale, as to make its immediate abolition impracticable. The hospitable law passed in the time of Richard, Duke of York, against the arrest of refugees by virtue of writs issued in England, was repealed. The English acts, against provisors to Rome— ecclesiastics who applied for or accepted preferment directly from Rome—were adopted. It was also enacted that all offices should be held at the King’s pleasure; that the Lords of Parliament should appear in their robes as the Lords did in England; that no one should presume to make peace or war except with license of the Governor; that no great guns should be kept in the fortresses except by similar license; and that men of English birth only should be appointed Constables of the Castles of Dublin, Trim, Leixlip, Athlone, Wicklow, Greencastle, Carlingford, and Carrickfergus. But the most important measure of all was one which provided that thereafter no legislation whatever should be proceeded with in Ireland, unless the bills to be proposed were first submitted to the King and Council in England, and were returned, certified under the great seal of the realm. This is what is usually and specially called in our Parliamentary history “Poyning’s Act,” and next to the Statute of Kilkenny, it may be considered the most important enactment ever passed at any Parliament of the English settlers.
The liberation of the Earl of Kildare from the Tower, and his restoration as Deputy, seems to have been hastened by the movements of Perkin Warbeck, and by the visit of Hugh Roe O’Donnell to James IV., King of Scotland. O’Donnell had arrived at Ayr in the month of August, 1495, a few weeks after Warbeck had reached that court. He was received with great splendour and cordiality by the accomplished Prince, then lately come of age, and filled with projects natural to his youth and temperament. With O’Donnell, according to the Four Masters, he formed a league, by which they bound themselves “mutually to assist each other in all their exigencies.” The knowledge of this alliance, and of Warbeck’s favour at the Scottish Court, no doubt decided Henry to avail himself, if possible, of the assistance of his most powerful Irish subject. There was, moreover, another influence at work. The first countess had died soon after her husband’s arrest, and he now married, in England, Elizabeth St. John, cousin to the King. Fortified in his allegiance and court favour by this alliance, he returned in triumph to Dublin, where he was welcomed with enthusiasm.
In his subsequent conduct as Lord Deputy, an office which he continued to hold till his death in 1513, this powerful nobleman seems to have steadily upheld the English interest, which was now in harmony with his own. Having driven off Warbeck in his last visit to Ireland (1497), he received extensive estates in England, as a reward for his zeal, and after the victory of Knock-doe (1505), he was installed by proxy at Windsor as Knight of the Garter. This long-continued reign—for such in truth it may be called—left him without a rival in his latter years. He marched to whatever end of the island he would, pulling down and setting up chiefs and castles; his garrisons were to be found from Belfast to Cork, and along the valley of the Shannon, from Athleague to Limerick.
The last event of national importance connected with the name of Geroit More arose out of the battle of KNOCK-DOE, (“battle-axe hill”), fought within seven or eight miles of Galway town, on the 19th of August, 1504. Few of the cardinal facts in our history have been more entirely misapprehended and misrepresented than this. It is usually described as a pitched battle between English and Irish —the turning point in the war of races—and the second foundation of English power. The simple circumstances are these: Ulick III., Lord of Clanrickarde, had married and misused the lady Eustacia Fitzgerald, who seems to have fled to her father, leaving her children behind. This led to an embittered family dispute, which was expanded into a public quarrel by the complaint of William O’Kelly, whose Castles of Garbally, Monivea, and Gallagh, Burke had seized and demolished. In reinstating O’Kelly, Kildare found the opportunity which he sought to punish his son-in-law, and both parties prepared for a trial of strength. It so happened that Clanrickarde’s alliances at that day were chiefly with O’Brien and the southern Irish, while Kildare’s were with those of Ulster. From these causes, what was at first a family quarrel, and at most a local feud, swelled into the dimensions of a national contest between North and South—Leath-Moghda and Leath-Conn. Under these terms, the native Annalists accurately describe the belligerents on either side. With Kildare were the Lords of Tyrconnell, Sligo, Moylurg, Breffni, Oriel, and Orior; O’Farrell, Bishop of Ardagh, the Tanist of Tyrowen, the heir of Iveagh, O’Kelly of Hy-Many, McWilliam of Mayo, the Barons of Slane, Delvin, Howth, Dunsany, Gormanstown, Trimblestown, and John Blake, Mayor of Dublin, with the city militia. With Clanrickarde were Turlogh O’Brien, son of the Lord of Thomond, McNamara of Clare, O’Carroll of Ely, O’Brien of Ara, and O’Kennedy of Ormond. The battle was obstinate and bloody. Artillery and musketry, first introduced from Germany some twenty years before (1487), were freely used, and the ploughshare of the peasant has often turned up bullets, large and small, upon the hillside where the battle was fought. The most credible account sets down the number of the slain at 2,000 men—the most exaggerated at 9,000. The victory was with Kildare, who, after encamping on the field for twenty-four hours, by the advice of O’Donnell, marched next day to Galway, where he found the children of Clanrickarde, whom he restored to their injured mother. Athenry opened its gates to receive the conquerors, and after celebrating their victory in the stronghold of the vanquished, the Ulster chiefs returned to the North, and Kildare to Dublin.
Less known is the battle of Monabraher, which may be considered the offset of Knock-doe. It was fought in 1510—the first year of Henry VIII., who had just confirmed Lord Kildare in the government. The younger O’Donnell joined him in Munster, and after taking the Castles of Kanturk, Pallis, and Castelmaine, they marched to Limerick, where the Earl of Desmond, the McCarthys of both branches, and “the Irish of Meath and Leinster,” in alliance with Kildare, joined them with their forces. The old allies, Turlogh O’Brien, Clanrickarde, and the McNamaras, attacked them at the bridge of Portrush, near Castleconnell, and drove them through Monabraher (“the friar’s bog”), with the loss of the Barons Barnwall and Kent, and many of their forces; the survivors were feign to take refuge within the walls of Limerick.
Three years later, Earl Gerald set out to besiege Leap Castle, in O’Moore’s country; but it happened that as he was watering his horse in the little river Greese, at Kilkea, he was shot by one of the O’Moores: he was immediately carried to Athy, where shortly afterwards he expired. If we except the first Hugh de Lacy and the Red Earl of Ulster, the Normans in Ireland had not produced a more illustrious man than Gerald, eighth Earl of Kildare. He was, says Stainhurst, “of tall stature and goodly presence; very liberal and merciful; of strict piety; mild in his government; passionate, but easily appeased.” And our justice-loving Four Masters have described him as “a knight in valour, and princely and religious in his words and judgments.”
STATE OF IRISH AND ANGLO-IRISH SOCIETY DURING THE FOURTEENTH AND FIFTEENTH CENTURIES.
The main peculiarities of social life among the Irish and Anglo-Irish during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are still visible to us. Of the drudges of the earth, as in all other histories, we see or hear little or nothing, but of those orders of men of whom the historic muse takes count, such as bards, rulers, builders, and religious, there is much information to be found scattered up and down our annals, which, if properly put together and clearly interpreted, may afford us a tolerably clear view of the men and their times.
The love of learning, always strong in this race of men and women, revived in full force with their exemption from the immediate pressure of foreign invasion. The person of Bard and Brehon was still held inviolable; to the malediction of the Bard of Usnagh was attributed the sudden death of the Deputy, Sir John Stanley; to the murder of the Brehon McEgan is traced all the misfortunes which befell the sons of Irial O’Farrell. To receive the poet graciously, to seat him in the place of honour at the feast, to listen to him with reverence, and to reward him munificently, were considered duties incumbent on the princes of the land. And these duties, to do them justice, they never neglected. One of the O’Neils is specially praised for having given more gifts to poets, and having “a larger collection of poems” than any other man of his age. In the struggle between O’Donnell and O’Conor for the northern corner of Sligo, we find mention made of books accidentally burned in “the house of the manuscripts,” in Lough Gill. Among the spoils carried off by O’Donnell, on another occasion, were two famous books—one of which, the Leahar Gear (Short Book), he afterwards paid back, as part of the ransom for the release of his friend, O’Doherty.
The Bards and Ollams, though more dependent on their Princes than we have seen them in their early palmy days, had yet ample hereditary estates in every principality and lordship. If natural posterity failed, the incumbent was free to adopt some capable person as his heir. It was in this way the family of O’Clery, originally of Tyrawley, came to settle in Tyrconnell, towards the end of the fourteenth century. At that time O’Sgingin, chief Ollam to O’Donnell, offered his daughter in marriage to Cormac O’Clery, a young professor of both laws, in the monastery near Ballyshannon, on condition that the first male child born of the marriage should be brought up to his own profession. This was readily agreed to, and from this auspicious marriage descended the famous family, which produced three of the Four Masters of Donegal.
The virtue of hospitality was, of all others, that which the old Irish of every degree in rank and wealth most cheerfully practised. In many cases it degenerated into extravagance and prodigality. But in general it is presented to us in so winning a garb that our objections on the score of prudence vanish before it. When we read of the freeness of heart of Henry Avery O’Neil, who granted all manner of things “that came into his hands,” to all manner of men, we pause and doubt whether such a virtue in such excess may not lean towards vice. But when we hear of a powerful lord, like William O’Kelly of Galway, entertaining throughout the Christmas holydays all the poets, musicians, and poor persons who choose to flock to him, or of the pious and splendid Margaret O’Carroll, receiving twice a year in Offally all the Bards of Albyn and Erin, we cannot but envy the professors of the gentle art their good fortune in having lived in such times, and shared in such assemblies. As hospitality was the first of social virtues, so inhospitality was the worst of vices; the unpopularity of a churl descended to his posterity through successive generations.
The high estimation in which women were held among the tribes is evident from the particularity with which the historians record their obits and marriages. The maiden name of the wife was never wholly lost in that of her husband, and if her family were of equal standing with his before marriage, she generally retained her full share of authority afterwards. The Margaret O’Carroll already mentioned, a descendant and progenitress of illustrious women, rode privately to Trim, as we are told, with some English prisoners, taken by her husband, O’Conor of Offally, and exchanged them for others of equal worth lying in that fortress; and “this she did,” it is added, “without the knowledge of” her husband. This lady was famed not only for her exceeding hospitality and her extreme piety, but for other more unexpected works. Her name is remembered in connection with the erection of bridges and the making of highways, as well as the building of churches, and the presentation of missals and mass-books. And the grace she thus acquired long brought blessings upon her posterity, among whom there never were wanting able men and heroic women while they kept their place in the land. An equally celebrated but less amiable woman was Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of the eighth Earl of Kildare, and wife of Pierce, eighth Earl of Ormond. “She was,” says the Dublin Annalist, “a lady of such port that all the estates of the realm couched to her, so politique that nothing was thought substantially debated without her advice.” Her decision of character is preserved in numerous traditions in and around Kilkenny, where she lies buried. Of her is told the story that when exhorted on her death-bed to make restitution of some ill-got lands, and being told the penalty that awaited her if she died impenitent, she answered, “it was better one old woman should burn for eternity than that the Butlers should be curtailed of their estates.”
The fame of virtuous deeds, of generosity, of peace-making, of fidelity, was in that state of society as easily attainable by women as by men. The Unas, Finolas, Sabias, Lasarinas, were as certain of immortality as the Hughs, Cathals, Donalds and Conors, their sons, brothers, or lovers. Perhaps it would be impossible to find any history of those or of later ages in which women are treated upon a more perfect equality with men, where their virtues and talents entitled them to such consideration.
The piety of the age, though it had lost something of the simplicity and fervour of older times, was still conspicuous and edifying. Within the island, the pilgrimage of Saint Patrick’s purgatory, the shrine of our Lady of Trim, the virtues of the holy cross of Raphoe, the miracles wrought by the Baculum Christi, and other relics of Christ Church, Dublin, were implicitly believed and piously frequented. The long and dangerous journeys to Rome and Jerusalem were frequently taken, but the favourite foreign vow was to Compostella, in Spain. Chiefs, Ladies, and Bards, are almost annually mentioned as having sailed or returned from the city of St. James; generally these pilgrims left in companies, and returned in the same way. The great Jubilee of 1450, so enthusiastically attended from every corner of Christendom, drew vast multitudes from our island to Rome. By those who returned tidings were first brought to Ireland of the capture of Constantinople by the Turks. On receipt of this intelligence, which sent a thrill through the heart of Europe, Tregury, Archbishop of Dublin, proclaimed a fast of three days, and on each day walked in sackcloth, with his clergy, through the streets of the city, to the Cathedral. By many in that age the event was connected with the mystic utterances of the Apocalypse, and the often-apprehended consummation of all Time.
Although the Irish were then, as they still are, firm believers in supernatural influence working visibly among men, they do not appear to have ever been slaves to the terrible delusion of witchcraft. Among the Anglo-Irish we find the first instance of that mania which appears in our history, and we believe the only one, if we except the Presbyterian witches Of Carrickfergus, in the early part of the eighteenth century. The scene of the ancient delusion was Kilkenny, where Bishop Ledred accused the Lady Alice Kettel, and William her son, of practising black magic, in the year 1327. Sir Roger Outlaw, Prior of Kilmainham, and stepson to Lady Alice, undertook to protect her; but the fearful charge was extended to him also, and he was compelled to enter on his defence. The tribunal appointed to try the charge—one of the main grounds on which the Templars had been suppressed twenty-five years before—was composed of the Dean of St. Patrick’s, the Prior of Christ Church, the Abbots of St. Mary’s and St. Thomas’s, Dublin, Mr. Elias Lawless, and Mr. Peter Willeby, lawyers. Outlaw was acquitted, and Ledred forced to fly for safety to England, of which he was a native. It is pleasant to remember that, although Irish credulity sometimes took shapes absurd and grotesque enough, it never was perverted into diabolical channels, or directed to the barbarities of witch-finding.
About the beginning of the fifteenth century we meet with the first mention of the use of Usquebagh, or Aqua Vitae, in our Annals. Under the date of 1405 we read that McRannal, or Reynolds, chief of Muntireolais, died of a surfeit of it, about Christmas. A quaint Elizabethan writer thus descants on the properties of that liquor, as he found them, by personal experience: “For the rawness (of the air) they (the Irish) have an excellent remedy by their Aqua Vitae, vulgarly called Usquebagh, which binds up the belly and drieth up moisture more than our Aqua Vitae, yet inflameth not so much.”
And as the opening of the century may be considered notable for the first mention of Usquebagh, so its close is memorable for the first employment of fire-arms. In the year 1489, according to Anglo-Irish Annals, “six hand guns or musquets were sent to the Earl of Kildare out of Germany,” which his guard bore while on sentry at Thomas Court—his Dublin residence. But two years earlier (1487) we have positive mention of the employment of guns at the siege of Castlecar, in Leitrim, by Hugh Roe O’Donnell. Great guns were freely used ten years later in the taking of Dungannon and Omagh, and contributed, not a little to the victory of Knock-doe—in 1505. About the same time we begin to hear of their employment by sea in rather a curious connection. A certain French Knight, returning from the pilgrimage of Lough Derg, visiting O’Donnell at Donegal, heard of the anxiety of his entertainer to take a certain Castle which stood by the sea, in Sligo. This Knight promised to send him, on Ms return to France, “a vessel carrying great guns,” which he accordingly did, and the Castle was in consequence taken. Nevertheless the old Irish, according to their habit, took but slowly to this wonderful invention, though destined to revolutionize the art to which they were naturally predisposed—the art of war.
The dwellings of the chiefs, and of the wealthy among the proprietors, near the marches, were chiefly situated amid pallisaded islands, or on promontories naturally moated by lakes. The houses, in those circumstances, were mostly of framework, though the Milesian nobles, in less exposed districts, had castles of stone, after the Norman fashion. The Castle “bawn” was usually enclosed by one or more strong walls, the inner sides of which were lined with barns, stables, and the houses of the retainers. Not unfrequently the thatched roofs of these outbuildings taking fire, compelled the castle to surrender. The Castle “green,” whether within or without the walls, was the usual scene of rural sports and athletic games, of which, at all periods, our ancestors were so fond. Of the interior economy of the Milesian rath, or dun, we know less than of the Norman tower, where, before the huge kitchen chimney, the heavy-laden spit was turned by hand, while the dining-hall was adorned with the glitter of the dresser, or by tapestry hangings;-the floors of hall and chambers being strewn with rushes and odorous herbs. We have spoken of the zeal of the Milesian Chiefs in accumulating MSS. and in rewarding Bards and Scribes. We are enabled to form some idea of the mental resources of an Anglo-Irish nobleman of the fifteenth century, from the catalogue of the library remaining in Maynooth Castle, in the reign of Henry VIII. Of Latin books, there were the works of several of the schoolmen, the dialogues of St. Gregory, Virgil, Juvenal, and Terence; the Holy Bible; Boethius’ Consolations of Philosophy, and Saint Thomas’s Summa; of French works, Froissart, Mandeville, two French Bibles, a French Livy and Caesar, with the most popular romances; in English, there were the Polychronicon, Cambrensis, Lyttleton’s Tenures, Sir Thomas More’s book on Pilgrimages, and several romances. Moreover, there were copies of the Psalter of Cashel, a book of Irish chronicles, lives of St. Beraghan, St. Fiech and St. Finian, with various religious tracts, and romantic tales. This was, perhaps, the most extensive private collection to be found within the Pale; we have every reason to infer, that, at least in Irish and Latin works, the Castles of the older race—lovers of learning and entertainers of learned men—were not worse furnished than Maynooth.
STATE OF RELIGION AND LEARNING DURING THE FOURTEENTH AND FIFTEENTH CENTURIES.
Although the English and Irish professed the same religion during these ages, yet in the appointment of Bishops, the administration of ecclesiastical property, and in all their views of the relation of the Church to the State, the two nations differed almost as widely as in their laws, language, and customs. The Plantagenet princes and their Parliaments had always exhibited a jealousy of the See of Rome, and statute upon, statute was passed, from the reign of Henry II. to that of Richard II., in order to diminish the power of the Supreme Pontiffs in nominating to English benefices. In the second Richard’s reign, so eventful for the English interest in Ireland, it had been enacted that any of the clergy procuring appointments directly from Rome, or exercising powers so conferred, should incur the penalty of a praemunire—that is, the forfeiture of their lands and chattels, beside being liable to imprisonment during the King’s pleasure. This statute was held to apply equally to Ireland, being confirmed by some of those petty conventions of “the Pale,” which the Dublin Governors of the fourteenth century dignified with the name of Parliaments.
The ancient Irish method of promotion to a vacant see, or abbacy, though modelled on the electoral principle which penetrated all Celtic usages, was undoubtedly open to the charge of favouring nepotism, down to the time of Saint Malachy, the restorer of the Irish Church. After that period, the Prelates elect were ever careful to obtain the sanction of the Holy See, before consecration. Such habitual submission to Rome was seldom found, except in cases of disputed election, to interfere with the choice of the clergy, and the custom grew more and more into favour, as the English method of nomination by the crown was attempted to be enforced, not only throughout “the Pale,” but, by means of English agents at Rome and Avignon, in the appointment to sees, within the provinces of Armagh, Cashel, and Tuam. The ancient usage of farming the church lands, under the charge of a lay steward, or Erenach, elected by the clan, and the division of all the revenues into four parts—for the Bishop, the Vicar and his priests, for the poor, and for repairs of the sacred edifice, was equally opposed to the pretensions of Princes, who looked on their Bishops as Barons, and Church temporalities, like all other fiefs, as held originally of the crown. Even if there had not been those differences of origin, interest, and government which necessarily brought the two populations into collision, these distinct systems of ecclesiastical polity could not well have existed on the same soil without frequently clashing, one with the other.
In our notice of the association promoted among the clergy, at the end of the thirteenth century, by the patriotic McMaelisa, (“follower of Jesus”), and in our own comments on the memorable letter of Prince Donald O’Neil to Pope John XXII., written in the year 1317 or ’18, we have seen how wide and deep was the gulf then existing between the English and Irish churchmen. In the year 1324, an attempt to heal this unchristian breach was made by Philip of Slane, the Dominican who presided at the trial of the Knights Templars, who afterwards became Bishop of Cork, and rose into high favour with the Queen-Mother, Isabella. As her Ambassador, or in the name of King Edward III., still a minor, he is reported to have submitted to Pope John certain propositions for the promotion of peace in the Irish Church, some of which were certainly well calculated to promote that end. He suggested that the smaller Bishoprics, yielding under sixty pounds per annum, should be united to more eminent sees, and that Irish Abbots and Priors should admit English lay brothers to their houses, and English Superiors Irish brothers, in like manner. The third proposition, however, savours more of the politician than of the peacemaker; it was to bring under the bann of excommunication, with all its rigorous consequences in that age, those “disturbers of the peace” who invaded the authority of the English King in Ireland. As a consequence of this mission, a Concordat for Ireland seems to have been concluded at Avignon, embracing the two first points, but omitting the third, which was, no doubt, with the English Court, the main object of Friar Philip’s embassy.
During the fourteenth century, and down to the election of Martin V. (A.D. 1417), the Popes sat mainly at Avignon, in France. In the last forty years of that melancholy period, other Prelates sitting at Rome, or elsewhere in Italy, claimed the Apostolic primacy. It was in the midst of these troubles and trials of the Church that the powerful Kings of England, who were also sovereigns of a great part of France, contrived to extort from the embarrassed pontiffs concessions which, however gratifying to royal pride, were abhorrent to the more Catholic spirit of the Irish people. A constant struggle was maintained during the entire period of the captivity of the Popes in France between Roman and English influence in Ireland. There were often two sets of Bishops elected in such border sees as Meath and Louth, which were districts under a divided influence. The Bishops of Limerick, Cork, and Waterford, liable to have their revenues cut off, and their personal liberty endangered by sea, were almost invariably nominees of the English Court; those of the Province of Dublin were necessarily so; but the prelates of Ulster, of Connaught, and of Munster—the southern seaports excepted—were almost invariably native ecclesiastics, elected in the old mode, by the assembled clergy, and receiving letters of confirmation direct from Avignon or Italy.
A few incidents in the history of the Church of Cashel will better illustrate the character of the contest between the native episcopacy and the foreign power. Towards the end of the thirteenth century, Archbishop McCarwill maintained with great courage the independence of his jurisdiction against Henry III. and Edward I. Having inducted certain Bishops into their sees without waiting for the royal letters, he sustained a long litigation in the Anglo-Irish courts, and was much harassed in his goods and person. Seizing from a usurer 400 pounds, he successfully resisted the feudal claim of Edward I., as lord paramount, to pay over the money to the royal exchequer. Edward having undertaken to erect a prison —or fortress in disguise—in his episcopal city, the bold Prelate publicly excommunicated the Lord Justice who undertook the work, the escheator who supplied the funds, and all those engaged in its construction, nor did he desist from his opposition until the obnoxious building was demolished. Ralph O’Kelly, who filled the same see from 1345 to 1361, exhibited an equally dauntless spirit. An Anglo-Irish Parliament having levied a subsidy on all property, lay and ecclesiastical, within their jurisdiction, to carry on the war of races before described, he not only opposed its collection within the Province of Cashel, but publicly excommunicated Epworth, Clerk of the Council, who had undertaken that task. For this offence an information was exhibited against him, laying the King’s damages at a thousand pounds; but he pleaded the liberties of the Church, and successfully traversed the indictment. Richard O’Hedian, Archbishop from 1406 to 1440, was a Prelate of similar spirit to his predecessors. At a Parliament held in Dublin in 1421, it was formally alleged, among other enormities, that he made very much of the Irish and loved none of the English; that he presented no Englishman to a benefice, and advised other Prelates to do likewise; and that he made himself King of Munster—alluding, probably, to some revival at this time of the old title of Prince-Bishop, which had anciently belonged to the Prelates of Cashel. O’Hedian retained his authority, however, till his death, after which the see remained twelve years vacant, the temporalities being farmed by the Earl of Ormond.
From this conflict of interests, frequently resulting in disputed possession and intrusive jurisdiction, religion must have suffered much, at least in its discipline and decorum. The English Archbishops of Dublin would not yield in public processions to the Irish Archbishops of Armagh, nor permit the crozier of St. Patrick to be borne publicly through their city; the English Bishop of Waterford was the public accuser of the Irish Archbishop of Cashel, last mentioned, before a lay tribunal—the knights and burgesses of “the Pale.” The annual expeditions sent out from Dublin, to harass the nearest native clans, were seldom without a Bishop or Abbot, or Prior of the Temple or Hospital, in their midst. Scandals must have ensued; hatreds must have sprung up; prejudices, fatal to charity and unity, must have been engendered, both on the one side and the other. The spirit of party carried into the Church can be cherished in the presence of the Altar and Cross only by doing violence to the teachings of the Cross and the sanctity of the Altar.
While such was the troubled state of the Church, as exemplified in its twofold hierarchy, the religious orders continued to spread, with amazing energy, among both races. The orders of Saint Francis and Saint Dominick, those twin giants of the thirteenth century, already rivalled the mighty brotherhood which Saint Bernard had consecrated, and Saint Malachy had introduced into the Irish Church. It is observable that the Dominicans, at least at first, were most favoured by the English and the Anglo-Irish; while the Franciscans were more popular with the native population. Exceptions may be found on both sides: but as a general rule this distinction can be traced in the strongholds of either order, and in the names of their most conspicuous members, down to that dark and trying hour when the tempest of “the Reformation” involved both in a common danger, and demonstrated their equal heroism. As elsewhere in Christendom, the sudden aggrandizement of these mendicant institutes excited jealousy and hostility among certain of the secular clergy and Bishops. This feeling was even stronger in England during the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II., when, according to the popular superstition, the Devil appeared at various places “in the form of a grey friar.” The great champion of the secular clergy, in the controversy which ensued, was Richard, son of Ralph, a native of Dundalk, the Erasmus of his age. Having graduated at Oxford, where the Irish were then classed as one of “the four nations” of students, Fitz-Ralph achieved distinction after distinction, till he rose to the rank of Chancellor of the University, in 1333. Fourteen years afterwards he was consecrated, by provision of Pope Clement VI., Archbishop of Armagh, and is by some writers styled “Cardinal of Armagh.” Inducted into the chief see of his native Province and country, he soon commenced those sermons and writings against the mendicant orders which rendered him so conspicuous in the Church history of the fourteenth century. Summoned to Avignon, in 1350, to be examined on his doctrine, he maintained before the Consistory the following propositions: 1st, that our Lord Jesus Christ, as a man, was very poor, not that He loved poverty for itself; 2nd, that our Lord had never begged; 3rd, that He never taught men to beg; 4th, that, on the contrary, He taught men not to beg; 5th, that man cannot, with prudence and holiness, confine himself by vow to a life of constant mendicity; 6th, that minor brothers are not obliged by their rule to beg; 7th, that the bull of Alexander IV., which condemns the Book of Masters, does not invalidate any of the aforesaid conclusions; 8th, that by those who, wishing to confess, exclude certain churches, their parish one should be preferred to the oratories of monks; and 9th, that, for auricular confession, the diocesan, bishop should be chosen in preference to friars.
In a “defence of Parish Priests,” and many other tracts, in several sermons, preached at London, Litchfield, Drogheda, Dundalk, and Armagh, he maintained the thesis until the year 1357, when the Superior of the Franciscans at Armagh, seconded by the influence of his own and the Dominican order, caused him to be summoned a second time before the Pope. Fitz-Ralph promptly obeyed the summons, but before the cause could be finally decided he died at Avignon in 1361. His body was removed from thence to Dundalk in 1370 by Stephen de Valle, Bishop of Meath. Miracles were said to have been wrought at his tomb; a process of inquiry into their validity was instituted by order of Boniface IX., but abandoned without any result being arrived at. The bitter controversy between the mendicant and other orders was revived towards the end of the century by Henry, a Cistercian monk of Baltinglass, who maintained opinions still more extreme than those of Fitz-Ralph; but he was compelled publicly and solemnly to retract them before Commissioners appointed for that purpose in the year 1382.
The range of mental culture in Europe during the fourteenth century included only the scholastic philosophy and theology with the physics, taught in the schools of the Spanish Arabs. The fifteenth century saw the revival of Greek literature in Italy, and the general restoration of classical learning. The former century is especially barren of original belles lettres writings; but the next succeeding ages produced Italian poetry, French chronicles, Spanish ballads, and all that wonderful efflorescence of popular literature, which, in our far advanced cultivation, we still so much envy and admire. In the last days of Scholasticism, Irish intelligence asserted its ancient equality with the best minds of Europe; but in the new era of national literature, unless there are buried treasures yet to be dug out of their Gaelic tombs, the country fell altogether behind England, and even Scotland, not to speak of Italy or France. Archbishop Fitz-Ralph, John Scotus of Down, William of Drogheda, Professor of both laws at Oxford, are respectable representatives among the last and greatest group of the School-men. Another illustrious name remains to be added to the roll of Irish Scholastics, that of Maurice O’Fihely, Archbishop of Tuam. He was a thorough Scotist in philosophy, which he taught at Padua, in discourses long afterwards printed at Venice. His Commentaries on Scotus, his Dictionary of the Sacred Scriptures, and other numerous writings, go far to justify the compliments of his cotemporaries, though the fond appellation of the “flower of the earth” given him by some of them sounds extravagant and absurd. Soon after arriving from Rome to take possession of his see he died at Tuam in 1513, in the fiftieth year of his age—an early age to have won so colossal a reputation.
Beyond some meagre annals, compiled in monastic houses, and a few rhymed panegyrics, the muses of history and of poetry seem to have abandoned the island to the theologians, jurists, and men of science. The Bardic order was still one of the recognized estates, and found patrons worthy of their harps in the lady Margaret O’Carroll of Offally, William O’Kelley of Galway, and Henry Avery O’Neil. Full collections of the original Irish poetry of the Middle Ages are yet to be made public, but it is scarcely possible that if any composition of eminent merit existed, we should not have had editions and translations of it before now.