Page images

usurped from his family. The English yielded to his reiterated persuasions, but strongly insisted that their force was insufficient for an undertaking of such magnitude. They urged his strenuous efforts to gain additional assistance from England, as the only sure support against all impediment and resistance. By their advice, he renewed his application to earl Strongbow, who possessed the means to lead over a sufficient force to effect the purpose.

Earl Strongbow, fully apprised of the advantages he might hope for from compliance with the repeated invitations and offers of Dermod, was embarrassed by the necessity of obtaining leave from king Henry. Henry was reluctant to permit private adventure to advance too far without his own co-operation; it was indeed well to have the pretext raised, and the way securely tried; but the gradual occupation of the country by adventurers, by no means squared with the views of this ambitious and far-seeing monarch. A consent so ambiguous as to admit of question when expediency might require, was the most that earl Richard could obtain; but it was enough for a will ready to precipitate itself on its object: the earl departed, with the resolution to understand the king according to his own purpose.

The season retarded his operations for some months. But he employed the interval effectively, and completed his preparation against the spring. He now sent Raymond le Gros, the near kinsman of Fitz-Stephen and Fitz-Gerald, as an advanced guard, with a force of ten knights and seventy archers, accompanied by Hervey of Montmorres, who had returned to Wales, and now returned with a small train. This company landed near Waterford, at Dundolf.*

Here they secured themselves with a sufficient entrenchment. As soon as their landing was known, there was a tumultuary muster of the men of Waterford and Ossory, who marched against them; these were joined by Mac Kelan of Offelan, and O’Rian of Odrone. The company of Raymond did not exceed an hundred men. He had collected into his little fortification all the cows in the surrounding districts; and seeing the besiegers too numerous to be attacked without much unnecessary risk, at the same time resolving not to endure the inconveniences of a lingering siege, he hit on a device which, considering the irregular character of the besiegers, was not ill-judged. While the men of Waterford and their allies, to the number of many thousands, were deliberating on the most effectual means of securing the handful of adventurers which fortune seemed to have placed within their grasp, of a sudden the gates of the little fortress expanded, and a frightened herd of black cattle rushed forth with hoof and horn, and burst with resistless impetuosity on the disorderly multitude. The undisciplined ranks scattered on every side in that confusion and disarray which, of itself, is enough to carry terror to the fiercest hearts. Before the first effects of this disorder could subside, while all were yet scattered in the wild tumult of dismay, a still fiercer enemy was among them— Raymond and his thirty knights were spreading wide avenues of slaughter among the unresisting kernes. A thousand were slain, and

* Downdonnel. Regan.

seventy taken prisoners. But the victory of Raymond was sullied by cruelty. In the fray he had lost a dear friend, and in his fury he ordered all his prisoners to be put to death.*

While Raymond le Gros yet continued in his fort at Dundonnel, earl Strongbow, embarking at Milford, August 1170, on St Bartholomew's eve, arrived in the bay of Waterford with fifteen or sixteen hundred troops, among whom, we learn from Cambrensis, were two hundred knights, and at once resolved on the siege of that city, which was at this time governed by Reginald and Smorth, two petty Danish chiefs. Strongbow's first step was probably the sending for king Dermod, but Regan and Cambrensis differ as to the period of his arrival; the first, with whom we are inclined to concur, making it to have taken place before, the latter after, the taking of the city. Another difference here occurs between our authorities—Cambrensis giving the command of the assault to Raymond, who, by the silence of Regan, would seem to have had no share in this affair. Omitting the consideration of this difference, the siege of Waterford was begun on the following day. After meeting some severe repulses from the walls, a house was noticed which projected over an angle of the wall, and was supported by props from the outside. By cutting down the props, the house came to the ground, and left a breach through which the besiegers poured into the town. Resistance was of course at an end, and a fearful slaughter was interrupted by the humane interposition of king Dermod, whose dark history seems brightened with this sole redeeming gleam of beneficence. Immediately on the cessation of the tumult and terror of the recent siege, the nuptials of Strongbow and Eva were solemnized in Waterford.

It was now agreed, between Dermod and his son-in-law, to march against Dublin, which had recently shown strong signs of returning disaffection, and against which also the wrathful enmity of Dermod had not yet been satisfied. With this resolution they went to Ferns, to remain until the completion of the necessary preparations. They were, in the mean time, apprised that Roderic had succeeded in raising a levy of thirty thousand men to intercept their approach to Dublin; and that, with this view, he had “plashed and trenched all the places through which the earl and Dermod must have passed.”+

There was no result decisive enough for this narrative. The exhibition of the invading force, now swelled to upwards of four thousand English, was fully sufficient to convince the leaders of the native force of the utter absurdity of an attack, which, from the open line of march sagaciously chosen by Strongbow, should have been made without those advantages of defile and morass, without which every such attempt had hitherto failed. After three days of desultory skirmish, in which they became confirmed in this opinion, they compelled their disappointed leader to dismiss them. Roderic, who must himself have felt the just

* Such is the account of Regan. Cambrensis represents the circumstance differently, and Leland gives weight to his statement by adopting it. According to this account, Raymond pleaded for the prisoners, who offered their ransom; but the arguments of Hervey prevailed for their death.

+ Regan.

ness, went home to mature more extensive preparations, and to secure more trusty allies.

Dublin was soon invested by Dermod and the English; and Maurice Regan, the writer of the narrative from which this memoir is chiefly drawn, was sent to summon the city to surrender, and to demand hostages for its fidelity. The citizens could not agree, and the treaty was interrupted: the time assigned for it was spent in vain altercations, until Miles de Cogan, who was stationed at a more assailable point, without consulting the earl, gave the signal for attack; the citizens, who were expecting a treaty, were surprised by the sight of the enemy pouring into their streets in the fury of a successful assault. It is needless to multiply the details of slaughter and devastation. Lawrence O'Toole, the archbishop of Dublin, did honour to his humanity and patriotism on this occasion, by the energy of his exertions for the rescue of his fellow-citizens; throwing himself between the heated conquerors and their trembling victims, he denounced, entreated, persuaded, intercepted the blows, and dragged the prostrate citizens from beneath the very swords of the assailants.

Earl Strongbow was now invested with the lordship of Dublin, and appointed De Cogan his governor.

From Dublin, the confederates marched into Meath, where they committed the most furious devastations; the result of which was a message from Roderic, who had not yet acquired sufficient strength to take the field, commanding Dermod, as his subject, to retire. He was reminded that he had been allowed to recover his territories according to a treaty, the stipulations of which he had violated by continuing to employ foreigners in the oppression of the kingdom; and that, unless he would immediately return to the observance of his engagements, it would become necessary to visit his obstinacy on the life of his son, who was the hostage for his faith. Dermod, who was devoid of natural affection, was content to sacrifice paternal duty to ambition, and sent back a scornful and irritating answer. He re-asserted his claim to the dominion of Connaught, and professed his intention not to lay down his arms until he should have established his right. His son was the victim of his faithlessness and the barbarism of the time.

Dermod, immoderately elevated by his successes, now ventured to try his force by leading an army of his own troops into the territory of his ancient enemy, O’Ruark; and, in consequence, he met with the deserved penalty of his rashness in two successive defeats. This is the last adventure, of any importance, in which he seems to have been personally engaged.

His death, in the following winter, threw a temporary damp on the spirit of his adventurous allies. The Irish annalists, in their natural dislike to the memory of one whom they represent as the first who shook the prosperity of his country, attribute his death to the immediate stroke of Divine retribution, granted to the intercession of all the Irish saints. According to these records, Dermod died of a lingering and offensive disease, which drove from his agitated and despairing couch the last consolations and tender offices of his kindred and servants. His death took place at his residence in Ferns, in

the month of May; on which event, the succession to his kingdom of Leinster devolved, both by inheritance and treaty, on Strongbow.

[merged small][ocr errors]

RICHARD DE CLARE, third earl of Pembroke, earl of Strigul, lord of Chepstow in England, earl of Ogir in Normandy, &c., &c., prince of Leinster in right of his wife, and lord-lieutenant of Ireland under Henry II., bore thé sirname of Strongbow, by which he is familiarly designated, from his father, Gilbert, who obtained it for his remarkable skill in archery. At the time of king Dermod's fight into England, Strongbow was out of favour with king Henry; his estate had been wasted by dissipation, and being yet not past the prime of his life, he was, by disposition as well as from circumstances, prepared to throw himself upon any course which might employ his valour and repair his fortunes.

Accordingly, he applied to king Henry on that occasion, for permission to embark in the undertaking proposed by the fugitive king of Leinster; and, as we have related in our memoir of king Dermod, received an ambiguous answer, the design of which he probably understood, and construed according to his own purpose. He nevertheless had the precaution to defer the execution of his design, until the event of Fitz-Stephen's expedition might offer some decided estimate of the chances of success. It is also probable that he found some difficulties arising from the impoverished condition of his finances.

At length, affairs in Ireland having taken the course already stated, in August, 1170, when all was ready for embarkation at Milford, he had the vexation of receiving from king Henry a peremptory message, forbidding the projected enterprise, on pain of the forfeiture of his possessions and honours. It is probable that Strongbow had not much to lose, and it is certain that his expectations were at the highest point; he felt that the splendid success for which he hoped might well enable him to appease the politic anger of the king, perhaps to defy his power, surrounded as Henry was by other cares likely to fill his hands for a long time. He had gone too far to recede without dishonour; and, having resolved to brave all consequences, he affected to doubt the purport, and question the authority of the royal mandate; so, dismissing all further consideration, he embarked and came, on the eve of St Bartholomew, into the port of Waterford.

On the capture of Waterford, he married Eva, daughter to the king of Leinster; and, having passed some days at Ferns, he assisted at the siege of Dublin, as already mentioned, and was invested by his father-in-law with the lordship of that city, From this there is no occurrence important enough to be repeated from the former memoir, until the death of king Dermod, from which we again meet the onward progress of the events in Strongbow's life.

Immediately previous to king Dermod's death, the English adventurers were much depressed in their hopes by an edict published by

king Henry, prohibiting the transportation of men, arms, or provisions to Ireland from any English or Welsh port; and, on pain of attainder and forfeiture, commanding all English subjects, of every order and degree, to return home before the ensuing feast of Easter. Strongbow, who knew the character and policy of Henry, immediately despatched his trusty friend, Raymond le Gros, to Aquitaine, where Henry then resided. Raymond made such excuses on the part of Strongbow, as most probably satisfied the king; but, thinking it necessary to repress and retard the progress of the adventurers until he should himself have leisure to follow up the conquest of Ireland, he gave no distinct answer to the reiterated solicitations of Raymond, whom he thus detained from day to day, until an incident occurred which, for a season, so wholly engrossed his mind as to prevent the consideration of any other affair of moment. This was the murder of Becket, which involved his peace of mind, and hazarded even the safety of his throne, in a most hapless contest with his people, clergy, and the court of Rome.

In this interval the affairs of Strongbow and his fellow-adventurers bore a most unpromising aspect; and Dermod's death, in the midst of their trouble, came to heighten their perplexity. On this occurrence, the native Irish fell away from them, with the exception of Donald Kavanagh (Dermod's illegitimate son), Awliffe O'Carvy, and MacGely, chief of Firbrynn.

This gloomy aspect of affairs was quickly interrupted by a torrent of dangers, which accumulated around them with a rapidity and power that menaced inevitable ruin. First, they were surprised by the unexpected return of the Danish governor, Hesculf, with a powerful body of Ostmen, which he had levied among the Scottish isles. Strongbow was, at this time, absent at Waterford, and had left the city under the command of Miles de Cogan.

The Ostmen had landed, without opposition, under their captain, John Wood; they were all selected and trained soldiers, and armed “after the Danish manner, with good brigantines, jackes, and shirts of mail; their shields, bucklers, and targets, were round and coloured red, and bound about with iron; and, as they were in arms, so they were in minds, iron-strong and mighty.”* This formidable force, having landed from sixty transports, marched direct against the eastern gate of the city. The attack was impetuous, and found no proportionate force to resist it. De Cogan was taken by surprise; yet the natural steadiness of English soldiers offered resistance enough to protract, for a considerable time, the violent and sanguinary struggle which heaped the gate with dead ; so that, when his force, thinned by the fall of numbers, were on the point of being overpowered by the superior force of the Danish troops, time had been secured for a maneuvre which turned the fortune of the fight. Richard, brother to De Cogan, issued with a select party from the southern gate of the city; and, coming round to the quarter of assault, charged the rear of the besieging army. The effect was not so decided as at once to end the struggle; their numbers were still too formidably over-balanced by the be

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »