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.