« PreviousContinue »
Hervey de Monte Mariscoe.
DIED A.D. 1179.
This person, the ancestor of the lords Mountmorres, and one of the first adventurers who came over with Strongbow, who was his uncle; was descended from the noble and ancient family of Mount Morency. His family came into England with the Conqueror, and had grants in Wales.
He received large grants in Ireland, in the counties of Tipperary, Wexford, and Kerry, “some of which,” says Lodge, “are still vested in his family, but the greater part were carried by intermarriages into the houses of Ormonde and Leinster."*
When Strongbow went over to the assistance of king Henry in Normandy, Hervey was appointed, jointly with Raymond le Gros, to the command of the English army in Ireland. The particulars of this command may be found in our memoir of Raymond. Hervey was unpopular, and Raymond much regarded; so that, although second in command, he soon acquired a preponderance which soured the temper of Montmorres and produced division between these leaders. It may be observed that the causes of dislike to Hervey on the part of the soldiery are rather honourable to him than otherwise, a chief discontent was his preventing them from indiscriminate plunder, for which they claimed licence in consideration of insufficient pay, and also his being severe in discipline. These jealousies were productive of consequences likely to be injurious to the English interest; and coming to the notice of Henry, they led to a different arrangement, by which his rival was joined in commission with Strongbow, who was sent back to Ireland.
In 1175, Hervey married Nesta, the daughter of Maurice FitzGerald, and cousin to Raymond, an alliance which must have materially strengthened his interests, though disgraced by his perfidious conduct towards this latter eminent person.
In 1179, he founded the abbey of Dunbrody, of the Cistercian order, in the county of Wexford—though Ware may be right in asserting that this abbey was not founded till 1182. In the year 1179, he retired from the world and became a “brother in the monastery of the Holy Trinity in Canterbury, but he was buried at Dunbrody, where a stately monument was erected to his memory."1 His large estates passed to his brother Geoffrey, whom we afterwards meet as lord justice in Ireland, in the following century.
Hugh de Lacy.
DIED A. D. 1186.
THE reader is already aware that, on the 14th October, 1172, king Henry landed at Waterford with a train of four hundred knights. Among these was Hugh de Lacy, a Norman by descent, and high in the favour and confidence of the king.
In his arrangements for the purpose of counterbalancing the rising power of Strongbow, we have mentioned already that Henry raised several of his knights into power and possession: amongst these De Lacy was the foremost. The grant of Meath, and the government of Dublin, conjointly with Maurice Fitz-Gerald and Robert Fitz-Stephen, laid, on broad foundations, the long-continued power and importance of his family.
He was immediately after left chief governor of Ireland; and during the season of his administration, had the adventure with O'Ruark, mentioned in our notice of that chief.*
De Lacy married a daughter of Roderic OʻConor, king of Connaught, the effect of which was to cause his recall in 1180. His government had, however, given satisfaction. He had preserved order, and materially strengthened the English settlement. He had by this time also, built many well-situated castles: castle Dermot, Leighlin, Leix, Delvin, Carlow, Tullaghphelim, and Kilkay.
In three months after, therefore, he was restored, and, as well as we can collect, continued till 1184. He was during this time as active and efficient as at first, and raised forts as numerous in Leinster as before in Meath. He employed the bravest adventurers, where their valour and activity might be as a safeguard to the bordering settlements, and administered justice impartially and mildly. The natural effect of such conduct was, to raise his authority in the country; his rivals, taking the usual advantage of this, again contrived to rouse the jealousy of Henry, and in 1184 he was displaced, and De Braosa sent in his room. It was during this interval that the romantic career of John de Courcy commenced under the auspices of De Lacy, to whose government his military prowess was an efficient support.
De Braosa's misconduct soon awakened Henry to a sense of the impolicy and injustice of the change which had superseded the vigour and experience of Hugh de Lacy, and he would have been once more reinstated, but a fatal and atrocious outrage deprived the king of his services. The impolicy of De Braosa had involved the settlement in commotion; incursions into Meath had done considerable mischief within the territories of De Lacy; and he was himself, with his characteristic ardour, engaged in repairing his forts. It was his custom to superintend, and occasionally to take part in the work, a practice
* There is some difference among historians, as to the identity of the native chief concerned in this adventure. Cox names O'Meloghlin—but we have relied on the judgment of Leland.
explained by the rough and manly habits of his age, when all sorts of physical exertion were familiar in the highest rank. One of the forts he was thus engaged with, was founded on the site of an ancient abbey at Dorrowe, or Derwath. The respectable prejudices of the people were shocked by the profanation of a site, rendered sacred in their eyes by the recollections it bore. This feeling fermented among a multitude, until it awakened the fanaticism of one among the workmen; excited to a high degree by this insane affection, he resolved on the murder of the knight. For this purpose, he concealed a battle-axe under the ample folds of his mantle, and, when De Lacy stooped down, either in explaining his orders, or to make some exertion, he seized the occasion, and with a blow struck off his head. This event happened about 1186.
His death was the signal for fresh outbreaks; and Henry, feeling the strong necessity of a vigorous arm in the torrent of commotion and resistance, appointed De Courcy to the government.
Donald O'Brien, Prince of Thomond.
DIED A.D. 1194.
This chief is famous among the Irish writers, and was popular in his day. He occupies an equal place in the history of the troubles of this period, and in the annals of the Irish church. He was among the first of the Irish princes who submitted to the English a step for which his character has suffered some unjust reprehension, from the inconsiderate nationality of some of our most respectable authorities. To enter on the subject here would involve us in needless repetition, as we shall have occasion to weigh the force of such opinions, once for all, in our life of Roderie O'Conor, who, in the same manner, has been grossly misrepresented.
Donald succeeded, on the death of his brother, to the kingdom of Thomond, in 1168. To this he soon added the kingdom of Ormond, which he took from his brother Brian, whom he deprived of his eyes; he thus became sole chief of north Munster. Two years after, he became involved in hostilities with Roderic O'Conor, against whom he was assisted by Fitz-Stephen, an alliance by which the English gained a footing in Munster. In the following year, he took the oath of allegiance to king Henry; but, conceiving soon that he was likely to lose his independence, and to have his territory endangered mor, more probably, taking up a tone of opposition from the surrounding chiefs -he appears, in 1173, engaged in repeated struggles with the English. In this year, he destroyed the castle of Kilkenny, and made various destructive incursions upon the English lands. In 1175, he was dethroned by Roderic, and his brother raised to his throne; but, on making submission, he was, in the following year, restored.
He died in 1194, king of all Munster. He left many sons, and is celebrated by ecclesiastical writers. His monastic foundations were many;* among these the most important to mention are the cathedrals
of Limerick and Cashel. The latter of these occupied the site of the king's palace, and included the venerable ancient structure called Cormac's chapel, which was, from the new erection, allotted to the purpose of a chapter house.*
DIED A. D. 1198.
We shall offer not more than a brief outline of the life of Roderic. All the incidents of his eventful reign which can now have much interest for any one but the antiquary, have been fully related in the preceding memoirs, in their more important connexion with the main events of this period of Irish biography. That which is peculiar to the history of a native chief, belongs to an order of events and a state of society in which few can feel any interest, and of which the record is meagre and of doubtful authority. Yet the often slighted memory of the last of Ireland's monarchs demands the tribute of a memorial from the justice of the impartial historian. It is difficult to do historic justice to the memory of a name which has been the subject of unwarranted reproach or slight, according to the patriotism or the timidity of different writers, whose disrespectful comments are not borne out by the facts they state. To these statements we have no objection to offer; but when, in the course of these memoirs, they have come before us in the order of narration, we have been so free as to divest them of the tone of misrepresentation, from which even Leland —who sat down to the undertaking of Irish history in the most historical spirit—is not free. The ruling national spirit of our age is faction, to which we might apply all that Scott says of a softer passion:
“ In peace it tunes the shepherd's reed,
In war it mounts the warrior's steed.” In peace or war, amity or opposition, praise or condemnation, party spirit is diffused through all the functions of society. Few speakers or writers seem to have retained the clearness of vision which can see facts and the actions of men, unless through the medium of the system of politics with which the mind is jaundiced in the heat of party: a mist of liberalism, or of toryism, sits like an atmosphere round every alert and intelligent actor and thinker; and nothing is looked on but as it seems to bear relation to the creed of either party. If any one have the fortune (or misfortune) to have preserved that intellectual indifference which seldom, perhaps, belongs to the highest order of minds; there is still the fear of opinion, and the respect for individuals, to draw the judgment aside, and to draw from fear the concession to which opinion gives no sanction—a weakness the more dangerous, because there is no modern history, and least of all our own, in which a rigidly impartial writer can avoid alternately drawing down the reprehension of either party; nor can any one, with perfect impunity, presume to
redeem historical composition from some of the worst defects of an electioneering pamphlet. There is yet, in the history of the period to which Roderic belongs, an error still more prejudicial, founded on the same principle in nature.
Dr Leland, after some comments on the subject of the following memoir, in which we can hardly believe him to have been quite sincere, adds a reflection, which contains the true answer to all such strictures on the lives of ancient men. “ It would be rash to form the severest opinion of this sthe military part of his conduct, as we are not distinctly informed of the obstacles and difficulties he had to encounter. The Irish annalists who record his actions were little acquainted with intrigues of policy or faction, and little attentive to their operations. They confine themselves to the plain exposition of events; tell us of an insurrection, a victory, or a retreat; but never think of developing the secret causes that produced or influenced these events."* But in addition to this fair admission, there is a weightier and more applicable truth, from its nature less popular, yet not less to be admitted by every candid mind. It is this that the progress of historical events, and the changes of circumstances in the social state, develop and mature new feelings, which in their accumulated effects at remote intervals, amount to a serious difference in the moral nature of the men of different periods. The social state, with all its divisions of sect and civil feud, is now so far cemented into one, that a moral impulse can be made to vibrate through all its arteries, and awaken the intensest national sympathy, on any subject that can be extricated from exclusive locality. Certain opinions have grown into feelings of human nature, and have taken such deep root in the mind, that it has ceased to have the power of dismissing them, even when they are not applicable. Among these is the strong impression of sect, faction, country, and common cause, which are principles developed, not only by civilization, and by reflection or moral culture, but by even those accidental circumstances which may happen to diffuse a sense of common interests, or admitted relation, or in any way create a community. They who look on the past, as most will, only through the medium of the present; who see their own impressions reflected upon the obscure distance of antiquity, and mistake them for the mind of the remote rude ancestors of the land; must find a very pardonable difficulty in realizing to themselves the fact, that in the period of king Roderic, there was no community, no national cause, no patriotism, in the operative social elements of Ireland. Such notions belonged to poetry, or figured in the periods of rhetoric, and were perhaps recognised as fine sayings by the hearers, and meant for nothing more by the speakers. But they had no foundation in the actual state of things. The common complaints of the people had not yet been taught to offer themselves, in one voice, to a common government. National questions had not suggested national individuality, or a recognised common cause cemented the hostile and restless strife of petty kings into a country. “We know," says Leland in continuation, “that Roderic led great armies against Dermod and his English allies; but they were collected by inferior chiefs, many
* Leland, i. 165.