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

[A.D. 1171-1176.]

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

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

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

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

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

Henry's "winter palace" was extemporized with some artistic taste. It
was formed of polished osiers. Preparations had been made on an
extensive scale for the luxuries of the table—a matter in which the
Normans had greatly the advantage of either Celt or Saxon. The use of
crane's flesh was introduced into Ireland for the first time, as well as
that of herons, peacocks,[288] swans, and wild geese. Almonds had been
supplied already by royal order in great abundance; wine was purchased
in Waterford, even now famous for its trade with Spain in that
commodity. Nor had the King's physician forgotten the King's health; for
we find a special entry amongst the royal disbursements of the sum of
£10 7s., paid to Josephus Medicus for spices and electuaries. Yet
Henri-curt-mantel[289] was careful of his physical well-being, and
partook but sparingly of these luxuries. Fearing his tendency to
corpulency, he threw the short cloak of his native Anjou round him at an
earlier hour in the morning than suited the tastes of his courtiers, and
took exercise either on horseback or on foot, keeping in constant motion
all day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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