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ANGLO-NORMAN POEM

ON THE CONQUEST OF IRELAND

BY HENRY THE SECOND



FROM A MANUSCRIPT

PRESERVED IN THE ARCHIEPISCOPAL LIHRARV

AT LAMBETH PALACE

EDITED BY FRANCISQUE MICHEL

WITH AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY ON THE HISTORY

OF THE AN'CiLO-NORMAN CONQUEST

OF IRELAND

HV THOMAS WRIGHT




LONDON

WILLIAM PICKERING

M l)CCC XXXVII



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PREFACE.

Th e poem which is here printed is taken
from a manuscript in the library of
Lambeth Palace, where it is marked
596.* The volume is written upon vel-
lum by a hand of the fourteenth cen-
tury, in double columns, and is unfor-
tunately mutilated both at beginning
and end. It belonged formerly to Sir
George Carew, who made a very incor-
rect analysis of it, which was printed
by Harris in his Hibernica.f



V



* It is described in^ Catalogue of the ArchiephcopaL
Manuscripts in the Library at Lambeth Palace, by the
Rev. Henry J. Todd. London, 1812, large folio, p. 94.
^, + Hibernica ; or some Antient Pieces relating to

"^^^X Ireland (Never hitherto made publick) by

^!^,,V^\V alter Harris.— Dublin ; Printed for William Wil-

'Y^ liamson, bookseller, at Mecaenas's Head in Bride

Street. MDCcLvn. folio, pp. 1—21. The same, Dub-



428050



VI PREFACE.

Though this poem is faulty in its
style, and very corrupt in its language,
yet it affords extremely valuable infor-
mation on one of the most important
events of the reign of Henry the Second.
The author, who is anonymous and un-
known, had a good opportunity of
gathering details on the events he com-
memorates, for he learnt them from the
mouth of Morice Regan, interpreter to
King Dermod, as he declares in the
lines which at present begin his poem.
It appears, however, that this rhymer
did not confine himself to Regan's oral
account only, but that he made use of
the history, or geste, which Dermod's in-
terpreter shewed to him,* and of the

lin ; Printed for John IMilUken, (at No. 10) in Skin-
ner How. M.DCc.Lxx. 8vo. p. 9 — 4.5. See also Notes
to the second and third books of the History of King
Henry the Second, &c. by George Lord L)'ttelton.
The 2nd edit. Lend. 1767. 4to. p. 270.

• L. 7, 327, 106.5, 1309, 1779, 2403, 2598, 3003,
3134, 3177. He also calls the account which he fol-



PREFACE. VU

reminiscences of "old men," and other
people.* This last circumstance clearly
indicates that our poet did not live far
from the epoch of which he relates the
events. We must add that the late
Abbe de la Rue has not mentioned him
in his last work on the bards, and the
Anglo-Norman gesters and trouveres.

In order to make this poem of more
utility to antiquaries and historians, I
have appended to the text a glossary of
the most difficult words, which are not
to be found in Roquefort's " Glossaire
de la Langue Romane ;" and the notes
and illustrations have been added by
my learned friend, Thomas Wright, Esq.

lows a song, viz, 1. 143, 456, and 1912 ; and perhaps
an old lay, viz. 1. 3221. Tliis seems to prove that
this song was nothing else than an historical poem, a
chanson de geste like his own, for he says that he sings,
viz. 1. 2064.

* L. 1500, 2437, 2584, 2594, 2678, 2686, 2822,
2955,3053,3171,3400.



Vlll PREFACE.

whose name will ensure the attention of
all lovers of antiquarian lore. I am
indebted for more than one literary obli-
gation to this gentleman, who, since my
return to France, has constantly given
his kind assistance to my labours.

I must also return my respectful
thanks to his Grace the Lord Arch-
bishop of Canterbury, who graciously
permitted me to transcribe the poem
for the purpose of publication, also to
the Rev. Mr. Ogilvie, his lordship's li-
brarian ; and to M. Lewis, for the faci-
lities they kindly gave me whilst mak-
ing my transcript.

Paris, September 20, 1836.



THE

CONQUEST OF IRELAND

BY THE ANGLO-NORMANS.

It has long been known that there existed,
among the manuscripts of the archiepiscopal
palace at Lambeth, a most valuable docu-
ment, though unfortunately imperfect, on the
English conquest of Ireland, written appa-
rently at the end of the twelfth or beginning
of the thirteenth century, and therefore not
long after the important event which it com-
memorates, in Norman-French verse, by a
poet or historian, — we may call him which
we will, — who had received the history from
the mouth of one who had himself been in-
timately engaged in the expedition ; and who
was no less a person than Maurice Regan,
interpreter to Dermod Mac Murrough, the
king of Leinster.

Bound up in the same volume with the
manuscript of which we speak, is a prose
abstract of this poem by Sir George Carew,
who was lord president of Munster in the
reign of Elizabeth, and who was himself a
descendant of the Robert Fitz-Stephen who
acts so prominent a part in the history. Of

b



11 CONQUEST OF

the oiiiiinal manuscript, which is apparently
a somewhat later transcript of the poem, no
use has hithertoA^een made by our historians ;
probably, because it was difficult of access
and of translation. But Walter Harris, in
1747, published in his Hibernica the abstract
which had been made by Carew ; and this
has been ever since quoted in place of the
original, and all its errors and misrepresen-
tations repeated ; and no w-onder if it be full
of them, for we are sure that its author could
seldom translate the words of his original.

The story which our poet gives us confirms,
most remarkably, the relation of Giraldus,
which had been written previously ; although,
as independent histories, each contains many
circumstances not mentioned by the other.
We are inclined to suppose that Maurice Re-
gan was not the bard's sole authority, and it
is probable that from him the recital was
obtained in his old age ; for, in confirmation
of what he says, he commonly appeals to the
authority of the old people who witnessed it.
Thus, after speaking of the death of Robert
de Quency, he says :

" Une fiUe pur vers aveit
Robert, qui tant fjentils esteit,
De sa espuse veraiment,
Solum le anciene gent."

And again, speaking of the Irish barons
who, in their way through England to Nor-



IRELAND. Ill

mandy, had joined in putting down the re-
bellion of the earl of Leicester with the Scots :

" Et (le Leycestre lors li qiiens,
Solum li (list des aiiciens,
Sur sun seignur esteit turne
Et Flemenges aveit meiie."

We should, probably, have known more
of the poet and of his authorities had we the
whole of his proeme, the earlier part of which
is unfortunately lost, with a leaf of the ma-
nuscript ; yet what remains is far from au-
thorizing the assertion of all those who have
quoted it through Sir George Carew's ab-
stract, that the history was originally written
by Maurice Regan himself. For the sake of
shewing; how ill Sir Georo;e read and inter-
preted his text, we will give the first eleven
lines as he has quoted and translated them
from the manuscript, and again as they ac-
tually stand in the manuscript itself, and as
they ought to be translated. We quote from
the octavo edition of Harris's Hibernica,
published in 1770. Perhaps some of the er-
rors in this instance must be laid to the
charge of the editor : *

* We will atld one instance of tlie utter incompe-
tency of Sir George Carew to give the sense even of
his original. We are told b)' the former that, " The
expedition of Ossory being determined, O'Brien re-
turned to Limerick, and the Erie to Femes, wher he
remained eight days ; in which time INIorrough



IV CONQUEST OF

■Sir George Carew's Text and Version,

" Parsoen demande Latinner

L'moi conta de sim historic

Dunt far ici la memorie.

-Morice Reu;an iret celui,

Buche a buche par la alui

Ri cest gest endita

Lestorie de lui me mostra.

.Teil Morice iret Latinner

Al rei re Murcher.

Ici lirrai del bacheller

Del rei Dermod, vous voil center.

At his own desire, the Interpreter

To nie related his histor)',

Which I here commit to memory.

Maurice llegan was the man.

Who face to face indited to me

These actions of the king,

And of liiniself shewed me this history.

This Maurice was interpreter

To the king, King Murcher.

These things this batchellor

Of King Dermod read to me :

'I'his is his storj'."



O'Byrne (who evermore had been a traitor unto king
Dermond) was brought prisoner unto hym, imme-
diately beheaded, and his body cast to the dogs ; and
with him a son nf Daniel Kevunn^h was eiecuted ;" on
which Harris, naturally enough, observes in a note,
" It does not aj)pear anywliere what the oifence of
Daniel Kavenagh's son was, that the loyalty and good
services of the father could not atone for him." In
fact the poem says as distinctly as possible that it was



IRELAlfD. V

The Text from the MS., with our Versiim.

* * * *

" Par soen demeine latinier.

Que moi conta de lui lestorie,

Dunt faz ici la memorie.

Morice Regan iert celiii,

Buche a buche parla a lui,

Ki cest jest endita,

Lestorie de lui me mostra.

Icil IMorice iert latinier

Al rei Uermot, ke mult lout cher.

Ici lirrai del bacheler,

Del rei Dermod vus voil center.

* * » »

— By his own interpreter.

Who related to me the history of him,

Of which I here make memorial.

Maurice Regan was he,

I spoke mouth to mouth with him.

Who endited this history,

[Who] shewed me the history of him.

This Maurice was interpreter

To King Dermod, who loved him much.

Here I will read of the bachelor [i.e. the king] ;

Of King Dermod I will tell you."

We see at once in this translation how
arose the error that Regan had written the
history. We rejoice in being able to say, that
an edition of the original poem is now in the
press, to the accuracy of which we can bear

a son of Morrough who was taken and executed witli
liis father —

" E Dovenald Kevenath un sun fiz
Aveit al cunte mene e pris."



VI CONQUEST OF

our own testimony, as we have been favoured
with the sheets. We rejoice, because the
publication of this document will throw light
on a most interesting- piece of history, and
one which has hitherto been peculiarly ill
treated by historians. Yet few events have
had the good fortune to be recorded by two
contemporaries so well fitted for the task as
Giraldus and Maurice Regan — one closely
related to the heroes (for heroes we may truly
call them) who performed the enterprize ;
the other, an immediate agent of the native
chieftain in whose aid it was performed. For
our own part, we feel an entire conviction of
the candour of the Welshman, in the use of
the materials he had collected for his history.
The testimony of the Irishman is delivered
with too much simplicity to allow us to sus-
pect him of intentional misrepresentation.

It happens, unfortunately, that the rolls of
the reign of the second Henry are nearly all
lost. In the reign of John they first begin
to be numerous, and they then throw great
light upon Irish history. The charter-rolls
of this reign contain the confirmations of
most of the grants of land made to the first
conquerors.

In spite of all which has been advanced to
the contrary, we shall still continue to look
upon the ancient Irish as a wild and barba-
rous people. Such were they found when



IRELAND. Vll

the Romans entered Britain ; such were they
in the time of the Saxons ; and their cha-
racter was not changed for the better when
the Anglo-Normans succeeded in establish-
ing themselves in the isle. For ages they
had infested, by their piratical depredations,
the coasts of England and Wales ; when,
during the days of Saxon rule, a rebellious
noble had been defeated in his projects, he
fled immediately to Ireland to recruit his
strength ; and at its conquest at the end of
the twelfth century, the country was full of
English slaves, who had been purloined from
their homes. Such being the case, we need
not wonder if our kings sometimes contem-
plated the conquest of Ireland as a matter of
policy ; and it appears from the Saxon Chro-
nicle, that William the Conqueror had him-
self formed the design of reducing it to a de-
pendence upon the English crown. The pas-
sage, from its briefness, and from the late
and bad Saxon in which it is written, is ra-
ther obscure; the sense seems to be, that if
the king had lived two years longer he would
have subdued Ireland, and that by the re-
nown of his valour, without even striking a
blow (and gif he moste Jja gyt twa gear lib-
ban, he hajfde Yrlande mid his werscipe
gewunnon. and wi^-utan sclcon wsepnon).
An historian of the twelfth century charac-
terizes the Irish of his time as a people so



Vlll cox Qf EST OF

little accustomed to peace and quiet, that
they only slackened in their depredations
upon others to pursue more inveterately their
internal dissensions. In the latter half of
this century, the petty king of Leinster was
Dermod Mac Murrough, who is described
by historians as a bold and valiant prince,
but proud and restless; as little liked by his
neighbours for his encroachments upon their
rights, as he was agreeable to his own sub-
jects by his overbearing tyranny. He had
reduced to the condition of tributaries seve-
ral of the petty kingdoms which bordered on
his own, among which was that of Meath ;
and in one of his wars he had carried with
him to Leinster, O'Karrel, the son of the
king of " Yriel." A district nearly adjoin-
ing to the kingdom of Dermod, which our
Anglo-Norman poem calls Leschoin, and
which Harris, in his Hibernica, explains by
Leitrim, and Giraldus by Meath, was govern-
ed during this same period by King O'Rourk,
whose residence appears to have been at
" Tirbrun," in a wild and woody district.
The wife of O'Rourk was the daughter of
Melaghlin Mac Coleman, the king of Meath,
who was herself amorous of the king of Lein-
ster. The love between the lady and Der-
mod seems to have been mutual, though our
poem insinuates that the object of the latter
in seducing O'Rourk's wife was to revenge



IRELAKD. IX

the disgrace which his people had suffered at
" Lechunthe ;" where it would appear that
the people of O'Rourk had made an hostile
incursion into Leinster. At this uncivilized
period, when an Irishman left his home for
a short period, it appears to have been a com-
mon and necessary precaution to hide his
wife in some corner during his absence.
King O'Rourk selected for this purpose a
secret place, apparently not far from Tirbrun,
which Giraldus calls " insula quaedam Me-
diae" — a certain island in Meath ; but his
queen had already yielded to the importu-
nities of Dermod : she invited him to enter
" Lethcoin," with a sufficient force, during
the absence of her husband, and at Tirbrun
he was encountered by her messenger, with
information of the place of her concealment;
whence — " rapta," as Giraldus has it, " quia
et rapi voluit" — she was carried away by
Dermod to Ferns.

The first thought of O'Rourk, when he
received intelligence of the violence which
had been done to him by Dermod, was of
revenge. He carried his complaint to the
king of Connaught, who was then looked
upon as the superior monarch over all Ire-
land, and who immediately espoused his
cause; and by his instigation, all the chiefs
who were tributary to Dermod deserted their
superior lord. Among these were the king



X CONQUEST OF

of Ossory, to whom was promised Dermod's
kingdom of Leinster, after the expulsion of
its present sovereign ; Melaghlin {Malath-
Ihi), the kingof Meath; Hasculf MacTurkil,
the Danish king of Dublin ; and Murrough
O'Brien (by Carew translated O'Byrne),
whom the author of our poem stigmatizes as
" un nial felun ;" or, as we might say in
simple English, a singulaijly great scoundrel.
It would appear, indeed, that the king of
Leinster had put more than ordinary confi-
dence in O'Brien : when all his other friends
had deserted him, he seems still to have clung
to the hope that he would return to his alle-
giance, and therefore he felt the more sen-
sibly his ingratitude and perfidy. Dermod
had taken refuge in the city of Ferns, where
was his paramour, and where he was har-
boured,wearetold,in an abbey of St. Mary's.
Here he resolved to make a last attempt to
obtain an interview with O'Brien, and for
that purpose had recourse to a stratagem.
Disguised in the long robe of a monk, which
he had borrowed of the abbot of St. Mary's,
and which concealed his head and body, and
even his feet, he made his way in safety to
O'Brien's residence : but here again the king
was unsuccessful : O'Brien refused to hold
any parley with him, loaded him with re-
proaches and threats, and retreated into the
woods.



IRELAND. XI



Deserted by those in whom he put his
trust, his party at home too weak to make
head against his enemies, the kinc^ of Lein-
ster was driven to seek aid amongst stran-
gers. He left the harbour of " Corkeran,"
attended by Awehf O'Kinad, and, accord-
ing to the recital of Maurice Regan (who,
we suspect, must have been guilty of exag-
geration, or the writer of the manuscript of
error), with more than sixty ships. With a
favourable wind he soon reached Bristol,
where with his followers, and, according to
the common report, with the wife of King
O'Rourk, he was lodged in the house of Ro-
bert Harding, at St. Austins. Thence, after
a short stay, he passed through Normandy,
into Aquitaine, where he found the king of
England, Henry H., who listened with at-
tention to his complaint, and promised him
assistance as soon as possible. Dermod re-
turned to Bristol with the royal letters to
Robert Harding, his former host, ordering
him to furnish the refugees with every ne-
cessary during their residence there; and,
according to Giraldus, with the king's let-
ters-patent, authorizing his subjects to assist
him in recovering his kingdom. At Bristol
he made a stay of nearly a month ; but at
length, despairing of any immed iate aid from
the king, and with the hope of alluring pri-
vate adventurers to join his standard, he pro-



-Ml CONQUEST OF

claimed rewards of extensive possessions in
Ireland to all those who would be instru-
mental in the recovery of his lost territory.
The liberality of his promises quickly at-
tracted the attention of Richard Fitz- Gil-
bert, surnamed Strongbow, earl of Strigul.
Earl Richard was descended from a great
and noble family, being the son and heir of
Gilbert, earl of Pembroke, who was the
grandson of that Richard de Clare who had
distinguished himself so highly in the memo-
rable battle of Hastings. He is described as
a man liberal and courteous, ever ready to
listen to the counsel of his friends, cautious
in the cabinet, yet bold and resolute in the
field. In time of peace he was distinguished
by his gentle bearing, having more of the
freedom of the soldier than of the haughti-
ness of a chieftain ; but in war he shewed
more of the commander than of the soldier,
less of the indiscriminate daring of the latter
than of the firm and cool valour of the for-
mer. Such was Strongbow, if we believe his
contemporaries. By some means or other
he had lost, we are told, most of his paternal
possessions : to support his character and
rank, it would appear thathe had been obliged
to borrow, probably of the Jews, who in those
days were the grand usurers; and at the
time when Dermod was seeking private ad-
venturers for the invasion of Lcinster, Strong-



IRELAND. XIII

bow was driven, as inurli by his own limited
fortune as by the clamorous importunities of
his creditors, to listen to his proposals. The
Irish king offered him his daughter in mar-
riage, and, with her, the kingdom after his
death ; and the earl promised to come to his
assistance at the first approach of spring.

From Bristol, Dermod passed over into
Wales, and was honourably received by the
Welsh king, Rhys ap Gruftydh, and by the
bishop of the see at St. David's, where he
stayed two or three days, until ships were
procured to carry him over to Ireland. At
St. David's, he became accidentally ac-
quainted with one who was to play an active
and prominent part in the events which fol-
lowed. This was Robert Fitz-Stephen, who
had been treacherously arrested and impri-
soned by his kinsman, the Welsh king, be-
cause he would not join the latter in rebel-
lion against his sovereign, the king of Eng-
land. At the intercession of Dermod and of
his half-brothers, the bishop of St. David's
and Maurice Fitz-Gerald, it was agreed that
he should be liberated, on condition of join-
ing in the Irish expedition in company with
Maurice ; and it was stijjulated that, in re-
turn for their services, Dermod should give
in fee to the two brothers the city of Wexford
with the two adjacent cantreds, or hundreds.
They, also, promised to sail for Ireland at the



XIV CONQUEST OF

opening- of spring. The Irish king seems to
have liad still a tew faithful adherents in his
own country, and he was naturally anxious
to return thither as soon as he had secured
assistance from England. He accordingly
left St. David's in August 1 168, with a small
number of attendants, and arrived safely at
Ferns; where he was privately but honour-
ably received by the clergy of the place, and
where he remained during the winter.

According to the Norman rimer, Dermod
was attended in his voyage by a small party
of English, led by a Pembrokeshire knight,
Richard Fitz-Godobert ; but finding, per-
haps, on his arrival, his own party in Ireland
much w^eaker than he had expected, and
thinking that so small a body of foreigners
would be rather an impediment than an aid,
he seems to have dismissed them ; and he
sent to Wales his secretary, Maurice Regan,
to hasten the preparations of Fitz-Stephen,
and to allure others to his standard by offers
of lands and money.

We may well admire the circumstance of
one family, by the mother's side, having pro-
duced so many great and brave men as were
associated together in the first invasion of
Ireland. Nesta or Nest, the daughter of
GruflPydh ap Rhys, king of South Wales (the
father of the Rhys who was king when Der-
mod visited St. David's), became the concu-



IRELAND. XV

bine of Henry I. of England, and by him
bore a son named Henry, whose sons were
Meiler Fitz-Henry and Robert Fitz- Henry.
She afterwards married Gerald of Windsor,
who was constable of Pembroke, and by him
she had three sons : William, who was the
father of Raymund le Gros ; Maurice Fitz-
Gerald ; and David, who was bishop of St.
David's. Her second husband was Stephen,
the constable of Aberteivi, or Cardigan, by
whom she had Robert Fitz-Stephen, A
daughter of this same Nesta married William
de Barri, of Pembrokeshire, by whom she had
four sons, Robert, Philip, Walter, and Girald,
the historian of the enterprize.

As the spring approached, Robert Fitz-
Stephen made himself ready for the voyage.
In the month of May, 11 69, his little arma-
ment of three ships arrived at the Banne ;
hi sarniy consisting of a hundred and thirty
knights, his own kinsmen and retainers, with
sixty other men of arms, and about three
hundred chosen W^elsh archers on foot.
Among the more eminent of his companions
in arms — the " chevalers de grant pris" of
the poem — were Meiler Fitz-Henry, Miles
Fitz-David, who was the son of the bishop
of St. David's, and Hervy de Montmaurice,
a soldier of fortune, who had come on the
part of Earl Strongbow, The day following,
at the same place, arrived Maurice de Pren-



XVI CONQUEST OF

dergast, who had set sail from Milford Haven
in two ships, with ten knights and a consi-
derable body of archers.

In that part of Ireland which was first oc-
cupied by the English, the older Irish names
of places seem in many instances to have
been changed and forgotten ; and we have
now a difficulty in identifying the places
which are mentioned in the recitals of Gi-
raldus and of Maurice Regan. The place
where Fitz-Stephen's armament landed, then
called simply the Banne, is by tradition iden-
tified with the small peninsula on the coast
of Wexford, forming the promontory now
called Baganbun. The headland called Ba-
ganbun, consisting altogether of about thirty
acres, forms a bold projection towards the
Welsh coast. On one side of the greater
promontory is a lesser one, stretching out to


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