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the throne of Ireland. The time was favourable to this undertaking; Ireland was seemingly defenceless; the English were divided and weakened by dissension; the Irish chiefs were favourable; and England not in a condition to offer any very efficient resistance. The great monarch, whose wisdom and valour would have made such an enterprise formidable, was succeeded by a feeble prince, whose incapacity was betrayed by the uncontrolled disorder and maleadministration of every province of his kingdom, which made him the subject of universal contempt. The project was full of golden promise, and Edward Bruce was easily tempted by the glittering bait.
Some historians speak of a premature attempt of Bruce's, the result of his impatience, which, not being proportionably seconded, was repelled. It will, however, be enough here, to detail the particulars of the main effort which worked so much woe in this island, and is connected mainly with the subject of this memoir.
It was in 1314, the seventh year of king Edward II., when lord Edmund Butler was deputy in Ireland, that Edward Bruce made his appearance with three hundred transports, containing six thousand Scots, on the north-eastern coast. Having effected a landing, he took forcible possession of the castle of Man, and took the lord O'Donnel prisoner. * Soon after, he landed his entire army, and was joined by the greater part of the native chiefs of Ulster, with such forces as they could command. They freely swore fidelity to his cause, and gave their hostages. He commenced hostilities without loss of time. It was thought necessary to begin by striking terror through the country; and his operations were of the most violent and desolating character: fire, waste, and a nearly indiscriminate slaughter were diffused among the northern settlements of the English. His barbarian outrages were heightened by the savage animosity of the natives. The castles of their English neighbours were levelled to the ground; their towns destroyed by fire; and the whole settlement depopulated. The terror of the spoilers went before them, and consternation was spread through every part of the English pale. Amongst the greater English barons disunion prevailed; and it is not improbable, that they were more intent on the consideration how this invasion might be made instrumental to their private animosities or cupidities, than on the means of averting the general calamity. As has been already noticed, De Burgo rose in defence of his own possessions, which were the first to suffer from the enemy's attack; but any force that De Burgo could command, was far below the demand of the emergency. The prince of Connaught was won from his alliance by the insidious flatteries of Bruce; and he was left to the support of his own proud and courageous spirit. The lord deputy came to his aid; but unwilling to be indebted to the English government, which he had always treated with contempt, for his safety, he declared his own forces sufficient to repel the enemy. The feebleness of the government is indicated by the fact, that the lord deputy yielded to this boastful rejection, and left him to a struggle for which he was manifestly unprepared. Bruce had advanced into Louth, but was compelled, by the scarcity of provisions, to fall back
into Ulster. De Burgo followed, and coming to an engagement, on the 10th of September, was defeated with great loss. This defeat was, however, not sufficient to paralyze the activity of De Burgo, and he was still enabled to harass the enemy.
The operations of Bruce were materially weakened and retarded by an inconvenience which was, in some measure, the result of his own improvidence. The waste committed by his army quickly made provisions scarce, and before long grew to a disastrous dearth, to which the failure of his enterprise is mainly attributable. He found it necessary to retire into Ulster, until he might make more efficient provision, and increase his force for an advance.
During this interval, a relation of Feidlim OʻConor's took advantage of his absence to usurp his rights. Feidlim was quickly re-instated in his possessions by Sir John Birmingham, but immediately after declared for Bruce. His example was followed by many other chiefs, who had till then rested neuter. The chiefs of Munster and Meath joined their forces. The clergy declared for Bruce, and loudly called to arms. Bruce was crowned at Dundalk; and to add to this formidable conjuncture, the king of Scotland landed with a fresh and powerful force in Ireland. This sagacious prince soon saw enough to damp his ardour for the field: the subsistence of an army, even under the most favourable circumstances, was at the time a main obstacle to such enterprises; the support of the Irish was little to be counted on; the resistance of the English, though tardy, would be formidable; and a sagacious eye could perceive, that while the Scottish force was daily becoming less efficient, the hostile power was slowly gathering from afar. The first step to be gained by the English was embarrassed by many difficulties: it was hard for the lord justice to bring an army into the field; but if this were once effected, the odds would be fearfully against any force that could be brought to oppose them. It was, besides, no part of king Robert's plan to waste his life upon an enterprise made painful by distressing dearth of means, and beset with incalculable difficulties and impediments. He was satisfied with having cheered his proud and hotbrained brother to perseverance, and having effected this purpose, he retired. He left his army with his brother, who was thus enabled to assume a more formidable posture. Among his adherents were many of the degenerate English, of whom the De Lacies and their numerous followers were the chief part.*
He laid siege to Carrickfergus. This town resisted to the most distressing extremities of weakness and famine; but the vast increase of the besieging force now rendered further resistance hopeless, and it was compelled to surrender. Bruce was next obliged to march southward.
The appearance of danger was imposing; a strong and numerous army, led by a renowned warrior and joined by the Irish nation, was not without extreme infatuation to be lost sight of in petty animosities. It became at last evident that the safety of the whole was at stake; and the common danger began to infuse unanimity and loyalty among the English barons. The chiefs of the powerful Geraldine branches of Kildare and Desmond united their efforts with lord Edmund Butler. The government, excited by the emergency and by the zeal of the barons, seconded their exertions. The battle of Athenry gave a favourable impulse to the hopes of these leaders, and a discouraging check to the body of the Irish chiefs who were leagued with Bruce. Bruce was not of a temper to be discouraged by the discomfiture of an Irish army. He marched to Dublin. There the citizens set fire to their suburbs; and, retiring within the walls prepared for a resolute defence. In the hurry of these operations, the cathedral of St Patrick took fire. Bruce, unwilling to lose time in so doubtful and tedious a siege, proceeded on through Naas, Castle-Dermot, and the towns on that line, burning and plundering as he went. He was guided by the Lacies, who had a little before caused themselves to be tried and acquitted of any participation in his hostile operations, and received the king's pardon. Bruce continued on unchecked in his march of devastation and plunder by Limerick, through Ossory to Cashel, and thence to Nenagh, directing his fury most chiefly against lord Edmund Butler's estates in the counties of Kilkenny and Tipperary.
There was at this time a meeting of the English barons at Kilkenny; they had, with much difficulty, collected an army, said to amount to thirty thousand men, but still scarcely to be depended on in a seriously contested engagement, as it was made up of a mixture of all classes of persons who could be collected. The operations of this force were checked by the arrival of lord Mortimer, who wished to command them in person. Bruce found his forces too much weakened for a direct encounter, and led them back to Ulster.
The English were not provided for a long pursuit through an exhausted country, and the new deputy dismissed his forces and repaired to Dublin to renew his preparations upon a more adequate scale. Here the barons were once more convened; and the earl of Ulster, who had been imprisoned by the lord mayor, was released at the instance of the lord deputy.
The next step of the governor was to reduce the Lacies in Meath, and to regulate the province of Leinster, through the disorders of which the English subjects had long been reduced to the severest extremes of suffering and depression. The famine, arising from the long continuation of a wasting internal war, had now reached its height. All provisions had risen to the most exorbitant prices, and numbers were dying from mere want. But the proceedings of the government gradually infused vigour and organization into the councils of the English, and the court of England had begun to take more active steps for their security. The pope was applied to, and the sentence of excommunication was denounced against all the enemies of king Edward of England. In this curse the Bruces were included by name; the Irish clergy were also either included or menaced, and a two years' truce was commanded between the Scots and English. To this the Irish chiefs replied, by the representation of the grievous wrongs and oppressions they had sustained from the English, which were, they said, so intolerable, that they were compelled, as a last resource, to invite the Scottish prince to protect and rescue them from
their oppressors. Their representations, which were probably not much beyond the truth, made an impression on the pope, who transmitted it to king Edward, with a strong remonstrance, advising him to redress the grievances of the Irish, that they might thus have no excuse for revolt.
Bruce gave little heed to these denunciations. His condition admitted of no long protraction of the war; his only chance was in the advantage of the present moment, and in the difficulties which his enemies found in bringing an efficient army into the field. His own army was beginning to melt away, under the severity of its wants and fatigues. The resources of the country were exhausted by the ravage of destruction and the cessation of culture. All the various horrible and disgusting resources of starvation had been tried; the last hideous resource of desperate self-preservation, even in its most revolting extreme, had been had recourse to—the living fed upon the victims of disease; a still increasing famine was widening its fatal desolation round their marches and encampments; and disease, the sure companion of famine, was ravaging through Ulster. Dissension, too, began to revive among his Irish friends: four thousand Irish fell in mutual conflict in Connaught.
The lord justice was summoned into England; in his room Alexander Ricknor, archbishop of Dublin, was made deputy; he appointed Sir John Birmingham general of the English. Bruce advanced towards Dundalk with three thousand men, the remains of a gallant army. Birmingham advanced to meet him with a small but select force of fifteen hundred English.
Both parties were eager for the decision of the field. The Scotch were weary of a protracted warfare, with famine and disease, which had grievously thinned their numbers, and were likely to exterminate them; they had probably looked for a different issue—an easy conquest, with the rich spoils of the ejected English. These had, on their part, still keener motives to excite their ardour. They must have resented the intrusion of the Scotch upon their hard won acquisition, and felt that the protracted disquietude and danger arising from the presence of so formidable a foe, must now be brought to a decided end. Each army was equally confident of victory. The tried valour of Bruce gave confidence to the Scots, who listened with military ardour to his cheering exhortations. The bishop of Armagh walked through the English ranks, represented the justice of their cause, and promised absolution to those who should fall.
The fight began, and was for some time maintained on both sides with the steady valour of those two brave nations. But the Scots, though numerous, were exhausted by their fatigues and sufferings; they were soon compelled to give way before the unbroken strength and spirit of the English. Bruce was slain, but the accounts of his death are not quite consistent. Most of our historians represent him as having been slain in the onset by Maupas, a brave English knight, who rushed forward to meet him in the ranks; but another account, more circumstantially related, places his death immediately before the battle, while the two armies were yet encamped half a mile asunder. According to this latter account, Maupas was a burgher of Dundalk: having disguised himself in a fool's dress, he entered the Scottish camp, and seeking out Bruce, he dashed his brains out with a leaden plummet.* He was instantly cut to pieces. When Birmingham received intelligence of the event, he at once took advantage of the confusion it must have caused, and commanded an attack. Both accounts agree that Bruce was slain by Maupas, whose body was found stretched over him. This incident cannot be reconciled with the last mentioned accounts, as it seems to imply a state of confused resistance and hurried flight; for it is nearly impossible that the respect of the Scots would have suffered the body of his slayer to lie across that of their general, if there was a moment for the deliberate notice of such a circumstance. Maupas's heir was rewarded with forty marks per annum. Bruce's head was sent to king Edward by Birmingham, who was created earl of Louth, by a patent dated 12th May, 1319,7 with a grant of the manor of Atherdee in that county.
The same year he gained another victory, in Connaught, over O'Conor and MacKelly, in which 500 Irish were slain. In June, 1321, he was lord justice in Ireland, with a fee or salary of 500 marks. In 1322, he conducted a large force into England, to join the king in his intended war with the Scots. I
In 1325, he founded the Franciscan friary of Thermoy. He was at length murdered by the Irish in Louth, on Whitsun-Eve, at Ballibeagan in 1329,9 with many of his kindred and name, to the amount of 200 persons. He was the most able leader among the Irish barons of his day. He was married to a daughter of the earl of Ulster, by whom he left three daughters.|
Maurice, First Earl of Desmond.
CREATED A. D. 1329.-DIED A.D. 1356.
In 1329, this nobleman was created earl of Desmond, at the same time that his son-in-law, Edmund Butler, was raised to the earldom of Carrick, by Edward II.; by the same patent, the county of Kerry was confirmed to him and his heirs male, to hold by the service of one knight's fee. He took an active and efficient part in the war against Bruce.
It is mentioned that some time in the year 1327, Maurice (not yet earl of Desmond) took offence at Arnold Poer for calling him a rhymer, and declared war against him. Maurice was joined by the Butlers and Birminghams; and many of the Poers and Burkes, who sided with them, were slain or driven out of Connaught, and their lands despoiled. The Fitz-Geralds and Butlers increased their force, and committed such ravages that the country was thrown into the utmost alarm. Complaints were made to government; these were met by professions on the opposite side, of the most just and moderate intentions. They met at Kilkenny, and sought a charter of pardon;