SECOND CAMPAIGN OF EARL RICHARD--HENRY II. IN IRELAND.
The campaign of the year 1171 languished from a variety of causes. At the very outset, the invaders lost their chief patron, who had been so useful to them. During the siege of Dublin, in the previous autumn, the townsmen of Wexford, who were in revolt, had, by stratagem, induced Robert Fitzstephen to surrender his fort at Carrick, and had imprisoned him in one of the islands of their harbour. Waterford had been surprised and taken by Cormac McCarthy, Prince of Desmond, and Strongbow, alarmed by the proclamation of Henry, knew hardly whether to consider himself outlaw, subject, or independent sovereign.
Raymond the Fat had returned from his embassy to King Henry, with no comfortable tidings. He had been kept day after day waiting the pleasure of the King, and returned with sentences as dubious in his mouth, as those on which Earl Richard had originally acted. It was evidently not the policy of Henry to abandon the enterprise already so well begun, but neither was it his interest or desire that any subject should reap the benefit, or erect an independent power, upon his mere permission to embark in the service of McMurrogh. Herve, the Earl's uncle, had been despatched as ambassador in Raymond's place, but with no better success. At length, Richard himself, by the advice of all his counsellors, repaired to England, and waited on Henry at Newenham, in Gloucestershire. At first he was ignominiously refused an audience, but after repeated solicitations he was permitted to renew his homage. He then yielded in due form the city of Dublin, and whatever other conquests he claimed, and consented to hold his lands in Leinster, as chief tenant from the crown: in return for which he was graciously forgiven the success that had attended his adventure, and permitted to accompany the King's expedition, in the ensuing autumn.
Before Strongbow's departure for England three unsuccessful attempts had been made for the expulsion of the Norman garrison from Dublin. They were unfortunately not undertaken in concert, but rather in succession. The first was an attempt at surprising the city by Asculph MacTorcall, probably relying on the active aid of the inhabitants of his own race. He had but "a small force," chiefly from the isles of Insi-Gall and the Orkneys. The Orcadians were under the command of a warrior called John the Furious or Mad, the last of those wild Berserkers of the North, whose valour was regarded in Pagan days as a species of divine frenzy. This redoubted champion, after a momentary success, was repulsed by Milo and Richard de Cogan, and finally fell by the hand of Walter de Riddlesford. Asculph was taken prisoner, and, avowing boldly his intention never to desist from attempting to recover the place, was put to death. The second attack has been often described as a regular investment by Roderick O'Conor, at the head of all the forces of the Island, which was only broken up in the ninth week of its duration, by a desperate sally on the part of the famished garrison. Many details and episodes, proper to so long a beleaguerment, are given by Giraldus, and reproduced by his copyists. We find, however, little warrant for these passages in our native annals, any more than for the antithetical speeches which the same partial historian places in the mouths of his heroes. The Four Masters limit the time to "the course of a fortnight." Roderick, according to their account, was accompanied by the lords of Breffni and Oriel only; frequent skirmishes and conflicts took place; an excursion was made against the Leinster Allies of the Normans, "to cut down and burn the corn of the Saxons." The surprise by night of the monarch's camp is also duly recorded; and that the enemy carried off "the provisions, armour, and horses of Roderick." By which sally, according to Giraldus, Dublin having obtained provisions enough for a year, Earl Richard marched to Wexford, "taking the higher way by Idrone," with the hope to deliver Fitzstephen. But the Wexford men having burned their suburbs, and sent their goods and families into the stockaded island, sent him word that at the first attack they would put Fitzstephen and his companions to death. The Earl, therefore, held sorrowfully on his way to Waterford, where, leaving a stronger force than the first garrison, to which he had entrusted it, he sailed for England to make his peace with King Henry. The third attempt on Dublin was made by the lord of Breffni during the Earl's absence, and when the garrison were much reduced; it was equally unsuccessful with those already recorded. De Cogan displayed his usual courage, and the lord of Breffni lost a son and some of his best men in the assault.
It was upon the marches of Wales that the Earl found King Henry busily engaged in making preparations for his own voyage into Ireland. He had levied on the landholders throughout his dominions an escutage or commutation for personal service, and the Pipe roll, which contains his disbursements for the year, has led an habitually cautious writer to infer "that the force raised for the expedition was much more numerous than has been represented by historians." During the muster of his forces he visited Pembroke, and made a progress through North Wales, severely censuring those who had enlisted under Strongbow, and placing garrisons of his own men in their castles. At Saint David's he made the usual offering on the shrine of the Saint and received the hospitalities of the Bishop. All things being in readiness, he sailed from Milford Haven, with a fleet of 400 transports, having on board many of the Norman nobility, 500 knights, and an army usually estimated at 4,000 men at arms. On the 18th of October, 1171, he landed safely at Crook, in the county of Waterford, being unable, according to an old local tradition, to sail up the river from adverse winds. As one headland of that harbour is called Hook, and the other Crook, the old adage, "by hook or by crook," is thought to have arisen on this occasion.
In Henry's train, beside Earl Richard, there came over Hugh de Lacy, some time Constable of Chester; William, son of Aldelm, ancestor of the Clanrickardes; Theobald Walter, ancestor of the Butlers; Robert le Poer, ancestor of the Powers; Humphrey de Bohun, Robert Fitz-Barnard, Hugh de Gundeville, Philip de Hastings, Philip de Braos, and many other cavaliers whose names were renowned throughout France and England. As the imposing host formed on the sea side, a white hare, according to an English chronicler, leapt from a neighbouring hedge, and was immediately caught and presented to the King as an omen of victory. Prophecies, pagan and Christian--quatrains fathered on Saint Moling and triads attributed to Merlin--were freely showered in his path. But the true omen of his success he might read for himself, in a constitution which had lost its force, in laws which had ceased to be sacred, and in a chieftain race, brave indeed as mortal men could be, but envious, arrogant, revengeful, and insubordinate. For their criminal indulgence of these demoniacal passions a terrible chastisement was about to fall on them, and not only on them, but also, alas! on their poor people.
The whole time passed by Henry II. in Ireland was from the 18th October, 1171, till the 17th of April following, just seven months. For the first politician of his age, with the command of such troops, and so much treasure, these seven months could not possibly be barren of consequences. Winter, the season of diplomacy, was seldom more industriously or expertly employed. The townsmen of Wexford, aware of his arrival as soon as it had taken place, hastened to make their submission and to deliver up to him their prisoner, Robert Fitzstephen, the first of the invaders. Henry, affecting the same displeasure towards Fitzstephen he did for all those who had anticipated his own expedition, ordered him to be fettered and imprisoned in Reginald's tower. At Waterford he also received the friendly overtures of the lords of Desies and Ossory, and probably some form of feudal submission was undergone by those chiefs. Cormac, Prince of Desmond, followed their example, and soon afterwards Donald O'Brien of Thomond met him on the banks of the Suir, not far from Cashel, made his peace, and agreed to receive a Norman garrison in his Hiberno-Danish city of Limerick. Having appointed commanders over these and other southern garrisons, Henry proceeded to Dublin, where a spacious cage-work palace, on a lawn without the city, was prepared for winter quarters. Here he continued those negotiations with the Irish chiefs, which we are told were so generally successful. Amongst others whose adhesion he received, mention is made of the lord of Breffni, the most faithful follower the Monarch Roderick could count. The chiefs of the Northern Hy-Nial remained deaf to all his overtures, and though Fitz-Aldelm and de Lacy, the commissioners despatched to treat with Roderick, are said to have procured from the deserted Ard-Righ an act of submission, it is incredible that a document of such consequence should have been allowed to perish. Indeed, most of the confident assertions about submissions to Henry are to be taken with great caution; it is quite certain he himself, though he lived nearly twenty years after his Irish expedition, never assumed any Irish title whatever. It is equally true that his successor, Richard I., never assumed any such title, as an incident of the English crown. And although Henry in the year 1185 created his youngest son, John Lackland, "lord of Ireland," it was precisely in the same spirit and with as much ground of title as he had for creating Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath, or John de Courcy, Earl of Ulster. Of this question of title we shall speak more fully hereafter, for we do not recognize any English sovereign as King of Ireland, previous to the year 1541; but it ought surely to be conclusive evidence, that neither had Henry claimed the crown, nor had the Irish chiefs acknowledged him as their Ard-Righ, that in the two authentic documents from his hand which we possess, he neither signs himself Rex nor Dominus Hibernioe. These documents are the Charter of Dublin, and the Concession of Glendalough, and their authenticity has never been disputed.
After spending a right merry Christmas with Norman and Milesian guests in abundance at Dublin, Henry proceeded to that work of religious reformation, under plea of which he had obtained the Bill of Pope Adrian, seventeen years before, declaring such an expedition undertaken with such motives, lawful and praiseworthy. Early in the new year, by his desire, a synod was held at Cashel, where many salutary decrees were enacted. These related to the proper solemnization of marriage; the catechising of children before the doors of churches; the administration of baptism in baptismal or parish churches; the abolition of Erenachs or lay Trustees of church property, and the imposition of tithes, both of corn and cattle. By most English writers this synod is treated as a National Council, and inferences are thence drawn of Henry's admitted power over the clergy of the nation. There is, however, no evidence that the Bishops of Ulster or Connaught were present at Cashel, but strong negative testimony to the contrary. We read under the date of the same year in the Four Masters, that a synod of the clergy and laity of Ireland was convened at Tuam by Roderick O'Conor and the Archbishop Catholicus O'Duffy. It is hardly possible that this meeting could be in continuation or in concord with the assembly convoked at the instance of Henry.
Following quickly upon the Cashel Synod, Henry held a "Curia Regis" or Great Court at Lismore, in which he created the offices of Marshal, Constable, and Seneschal for Ireland. Earl Richard was created the first Lord Marshal; de Lacy, the first Lord Constable. Theobald, ancestor of the Ormond family, was already chief Butler, and de Vernon was created the first high Steward or Seneschal. Such other order as could be taken for the preservation of the places already captured, was not neglected. The surplus population of Bristol obtained a charter of Dublin to be held of Henry and his heirs, "with all the same liberties and free customs which they enjoyed at Bristol." Wexford was committed to the charge of Fitz-Aldelm, Waterford to de Bohun, and Dublin to de Lacy. Castles were ordered to be erected in the towns and at other points, and the politic king, having caused all those who remained behind to renew their homage in the most solemn form, sailed on Easter Monday from Wexford Haven, and on the same day, landed at Port-Finan in Wales. Here he assumed the Pilgrim's staff, and proceeded humbly on foot to St. David's, preparatory to meeting the Papal Commissioners appointed to inquire into Beckett's murder.
It is quite apparent that had Henry landed in Ireland at any other period of his life except in the year of the martyrdom of the renowned Archbishop of Canterbury, while the wrath of Rome was yet hanging poised in the air, ready to be hurled against him, he would not have left the work he undertook but half begun. The nett result of his expedition, of his great fleet, mighty army, and sagacious counsels, was the infusion of a vast number of new adventurers (most of them of higher rank and better fortunes than their precursors), into the same old field. Except the garrisons admitted into Limerick and Cork, and the displacing of Strongbow's commandants by his own at Waterford, Wexford, and Dublin, there seems to have been little gained in a military sense. The decrees of the Synod of Cashel would, no doubt, stand him in good stead with the Papal legates as evidences of his desire to enforce strict discipline, even on lands beyond those over which he actually ruled. But, after all, harassed as he was with apprehensions of the future, perhaps no other Prince could have done more in a single winter in a strange country than Henry II. did for his seven months' sojourn in Ireland.