Page images

O’Ruark, Prince of Brefni.

DIED A. D. 1173.

The reader who has read the memoir which has commenced this series, in which we have given an outline of the history of the English invasion, will have been fully possessed of the incidents which give OʻRuark a claim on his notice, as one of the main actors in this momentous revolution; and we may be excused for not breaking the continuity of narration, which it has been our study to preserve, by reverting to the early events of this period.

Outraged by the infidelity of his wife, and the libertinism of the prince of Leinster; compelled also by the necessity of his position, in the very centre of the seat of a conflict for territory which lasted through the remainder of his life; he was a party in every contest and confederacy by which the English might be unfixed from their acquisitions. * We shall therefore here merely relate the circumstances attending his death.

Although the province of Meath had been granted to De Lacy, yet, by virtue of arrangements made by Roderic, OʻRuark was still allowed to retain possession of the eastern territory of this province. Unsatisfied with a portion of his ancient possessions, and apprehending, not without reason, the effect of further encroachment, he repaired to Dublin and demanded redress from De Lacy. A conference ensued, which led to no accommodation. Another meeting was appointed, which was to take place on the hill of Tara. This was in accordance with the ancient custom of Ireland, by which differences between chiefs were to be settled by a meeting in some place distant from the dwelling of both, where neither might have any advantage of force; and on some open hill, where the danger of treachery might be more easily guarded against.

Cambrensis and, after him, most of our authorities mention, that the night before this conference was to take place, Griffith, the brother to Raymond le Gros, had a dream, in which he thought he saw a flock of wild boars rushing upon De Lacy and his uncle Maurice Fitz-Gerald; and that one more fierce and monstrous than the others was about to kill them, when he saved them by slaying the monster. Alarmed by this dream, which was the natural result of the working's of an apprehensive understanding, excited by the interest of the occasion, and the restless alertness of youth, Griffith the next morning would have dissuaded the English chiefs from the meeting. De Lacy was not to be deterred by a dream, although the issue which it seemed to forebode was always the highly probable end of such meetings. Griffith, however, was not so easily dispossessed of the apprehension thus awakened in his mind. He selected seven associates, all distinguished for valour, and repairing to the place of meeting, he approached the spot where the conference was to be held, as near as the arrangements of the parties would admit of; and while the conference went on uninterruptedly, they rode about the field affecting to engage in chivalric exercises. For a little while all went on with temper, although without any approach to amicable agreement, between O'Ruark on one part, and De Lacy with Maurice Fitz-Gerald on the other. Suddenly O’Ruark, under some pretext, retired some way from where they stood, and, when at a safe distance, made a signal. It was instantly answered by the sudden appearance of an armed party who came rapidly up the hill. They were already upon the English lords, before the attention of Griffith's party was caught by their appearance: De Lacy and Maurice had therefore to fight for their lives.

So rapid was their approach that De Lacy, whose back was turned, was taken by surprise. Maurice Fitz-Gerald saw his danger, drew his sword, and called out to warn him; but O’Ruark, whose party had in the meantime surrounded them, rushing at De Lacy, attempted to strike him with his battle-axe before he could put himself in a posture of defence; the blow was fortunately warded off by his interpreter, whom it laid on the ground. De Lacy was twice struck down, but a stroke which would have ended his life was warded off by Fitz-Gerald, whom the chance of the struggle brought near. A few seconds were enough for this rapid and violent action; another instant might have been fatal; but Griffith and his gallant party were now on the spot, and the assailants were endeavouring to escape. OʻRuark ran towards his horse, which stood close by where he had left it on first alighting to the conference; he was just in the act of mounting, when the spear of Griffith passed through his body. His party was then attacked and put to flight with some slaughter. His death removed a serious obstacle to the ambition of De Lacy. This incident occurred in 1173.

Maurice Fitz-Gerald.

DIED A. D. 1177.

The origin of this illustrious ancestor of a race whose history is for ages identified with that of Ireland, is derived by the heralds from Otho, a noble descended from the dukes of Tuscany, and contemporary with king Alfred. The family are supposed to have come over with the Normans into England, and finally to have settled in Wales. Dugdale, however, affirms that Otho was an English baron, in the reign of Edward the Confessor; but this inconsistency between the two accounts, may be simply due to the confusion of the common name of two different persons, both probably of the same race. Of the latter person of this name, it is said that he was father to Walter Fitz-Otho, who in 1078 was castellan of Windsor, and appointed by William the Conqueror warden of the forests of Berkshire, being then possessed of two lordships in that county, three in Surrey, three in Dorsetshire, four in Middlesex, nine in Wiltshire, one in Somerset, and ten in the county of Southampton.** He married the daughter of a Welsh chief or prince, Rywall-ap-Cotwyn, by whom he had three sons, Gerald, Robert, and William.

* Lodge, i. 55.

Of these, heralds have had much discussion, without being able to settle the seniority. “Gerald, the eldest son, in the earl of Kildare's pedigree," observes Lodge, “ being made the youngest in the earl of Kerry's, drawn in the year 1615, and attested by Sir William Seager, garter king of arms, who is followed by his successors, Dugdale and Anstis, for which they assign this reason, viz., That the appellation of Fitz-Walter was given to this Gerald, because he was the younger son. To controvert this is to encounter great authority; but we think it deserves an inquiry, how the consequences of his being a younger son, can be drawn from his having the appellation of FitzWalter? The custom of that age warrants us to affirm the contrary, and to assert that the eldest son (especially) assumed for his surname the Christian name of his father, with the addition of Fitz, &c., of which many instances occur in this very family; and this continued in use till surnames began to be fixed about the time of king Edward 1.* We do not consider the question material to be settled here, and quote so far for the sake of the incidental matter.

On the revolt of a Welsh prince, Fitz-Walter was employed by Henry I. to reduce him to submission; and on his success, was appointed president of the county of Pembroke, and rewarded with extensive grants in Wales. From this he settled there, and married Nesta, the daughter of a Welsh prince. The history of this lady offers a curious illustration of the lax morality of the 11th century. She had been mistress to king Henry, by whom she had a son; she was next married to Stephen, constable of the castles of Pembroke and Cardigan; and lastly, to Gerald Fitz-Walter. The fortune which united her descendants in the common enterprise which forms the main subject of this period, is not less remarkable; for Meiler Fitz-Henry, Robert Fitz-Stephen, and Maurice Fitz-Gerald, were thus related by the mother's side.

Maurice came over with Fitz-Stephen in 1168, and took a principal part in all the successes and hardships which followed. When Henry paid his visit to the island, at his departure in 1173, he left Maurice as governor conjointly with Hugh de Lacy. In discharge of this important trust he performed many important services. It was during this administration that the occurrence of O’Ruark's attempted treachery and violent death, already related, took place.

The affairs of Henry became, at this time, deeply involved. The repeated rebellions of his turbulent and ungrateful sons were becoming more formidable as they became more influentially connected with foreign politics, and supported by the power and political intrigue of his enemies. He was menaced by a dangerous war, which made it necessary for him to draw away his Irish forces, with the most experienced and trustworthy of their leaders. Among these, Maurice was thus removed from the scene where his wisdom and valour were so much required; and it was not till 1176, that he was again brought back by the earl of Pembroke. From this nobleman he received large grants in Leinster, among which was a renewal of the king's grant of the barony of Ophaly, and the castle of Wicklow.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Maurice died in the autumn of the following year, 1177, and was buried in the Grey Friars, near Wexford; he left four sons, and one daughter. Of these, Gerald was the elder; the second, William, left a daughter, through whom the barony of Naas descended to the lords Gormanstown.

Robert Fitz-Stephen.

DIED A.D. 1182.

If it were our object to relate the history of this entire period under the head of a single life, the fittest for selection would be that of Robert Fitz-Stephen. But there are few particulars of his eventful and active course, which are not mentioned in their place. By maternal descent he was brother to the Fitz-Geralds-the mother of both having been Nesta, the daughter of Rees ap Tudor, who after an illegitimate union with Henry the First, was married first to Stephen (Custos Campe Abertivi), by whom she had Fitz-Stephen, and then to Gerald the son of Otho, and castellan of Windsor.

The lands in Ireland granted to Fitz-Stephen were, first, a share in two cantreds near Wexford, granted by Dermod M‘Murrogh between him and Maurice Fitz-Gerald, on the capture of Wexford. The city of Wexford shortly after fell into his possession; but this he was forced to give up to king Henry, as the price of his liberty, when, by a most base perjury, with the connivance of two bishops, Malachy O'Brin and John OʻHethe, he was cajoled into a surrender of his person, into the hands of those who besieged him in his castle of Carrig.

His services were afterwards requited, by a grant from the king to himself and Miles de Cogan, of the kingdom of Cork, from Lismore to the sea, with the exception of the city of Cork. This grant was to be held of the king by a service of sixty knights. The settlement, on being claimed, was disputed by the native chiefs of the province, who, with great justice, submitted that they had not resisted king Henry, or committed any act to which the penalty of forfeiture could be attached, The remonstrance was too obviously just, not to be allowed some weight. Fortunately for the peace of this district, neither party was possessed of the means of resistance: a few slight skirmishes satisfied each, that no decisive result was likely to follow the appeal to force, and a compromise was made to the satisfaction of the new grantees. By this agreement, the English chiefs were allowed to hold seven cantreds near Cork, the remaining twenty-four being retained by the native chiefs,

Fitz-Stephen's life had been one of great exertion and vicissitude. His old age was one of severe afflictions. Miles de Cogan his kinsman and friend, and his son Ralph Fitz-Stephen, who had not long been married to Miles' daughter, were, on their way to Waterford, engaged to pass a night at the house of a native, of the name of Mac Tire. This vile miscreant had been on terms of friendly intimacy with his victims, and, considering their wealth and power, it is probable that he had obtained their confidence, by having received kindness from their families. Nothing had occurred, it is evident, to lessen their reliance on the friendly hospitality of their host, at whose instance their journey had been undertaken, and by whose special invitation they were his guests. The particulars cannot with any certainty be described, but it is certain that, in a moment of confiding security, they were assassinated, with five followers, in the house of their perfidious host.

This event excited terror amongst the followers of the English knight, and an ill-warranted sense of triumph among the natives. The account quickly spread, and became the signal for war and tumult; Macarthy of Desmond, who yet retained the title of king of Cork, collected his followers and laid siege to the city of Cork. Fitz-Stephen, overwhelmed by his recent calamity, was little capable of resistance. In this affliction his friends had recourse to Raymond le Gros, who, coming from Wexford by sea, with twenty knights and one hundred archers, compelled Macarthy to submission. Poor Fitz-Stephen, received no consolation from this service. A life of severe toil and vicissitude, had worn his strength; he had been heavily afflicted by the loss of another, it is said, his favourite son: this last trial overcame him, and his rescuer found him deprived of reason,

On his death, the Carews laid claim to his estate. But Ware writes that the claim was set aside on the ground of Fitz-Stephen's being illegitimate. The plea on which legal decision can have been grounded, is likely to have some foundation; but it seems inconsistent with the concurrent testimonies of history, which agree in representing his mother Nesta as having been married to Stephen. The facts are, however, not directly contradictory; and it must be admitted, that in the statements of the annalists of the period, accuracy is not the principal recommendation.

Baymond le Gros.

DIED A. D. 1184.

RAYMOND Fitz-GERALD, called, from his large person and full habits, Le Gros, was the son of William Fitz-Gerald, and grandson of Gerald of Windsor, and the bravest of the first adventurers who, in the 12th century, sought and found fortune in this island. From the beginning his courage and prowess were signalized by those hardy and prompt feats of valour which, in the warfare of that age, when so much depended on personal address and strength, were often important enough to decide the fortune of the field. And there is hardly one of the combats which we have had occasion to notice, which does not offer some special mention of his name. We shall take up his history a little back, among the events we have just related.

When Strongbow had been summoned to attend the English monarch, the command of the forces in Ireland was committed to the care of Montmorres, to whom Raymond was second in command. This combination was productive of some jealousy on the part of Montmorres, which led to ill offices, and ripened into mutual animosity. Montmorres was proud, tenacious of the privileges and dignity of his station, and felt the acrimony of an inferior mind excited against one,

« PreviousContinue »