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design which he had long projected, and by which he hoped to recover
his credit, somewhat impaired by his late transactions with the



[MN 1172. State of Ireland.]
As Britain was first peopled from Gaul, so was Ireland probably from
Britain; and the inhabitants of all these countries seem to have been
so many tribes of the Celtae, who derive their origin from an
antiquity that lies far beyond the records of any history or
tradition. The Irish, from the beginning of time, had been buried in
the most profound barbarism and ignorance; and as they were never
conquered, or even invaded by the Romans, from whom all the western
world derived its civility, they continued still in the most rude
state of society, and were distinguished by those vices alone, to
which human nature, not tamed by education, or restrained by laws, is
for ever subject. The small principalities into which they were
divided exercised perpetual rapine and violence against each other;
the uncertain succession of their princes was a continual source of
domestic convulsions; the usual title of each petty sovereign was the
murder of his predecessor; courage and force, though exercised in the
commission of crimes, were more honoured than any pacific virtues; and
the most simple arts of life, even tillage and agriculture, were
almost wholly unknown among them. They had felt the invasions of the
Danes and the other northern tribes; but these inroads, which had
spread barbarism in other parts of Europe, tended rather to improve
the Irish; and the only towns which were to be found in the island had
been planted along the coast by the freebooters of Norway and Denmark.
The other inhabitants exercised pasturage in the open country; sought
protection from any danger in their forests and morasses; and being
divided by the fiercest animosities against each other, were still
more intent on the means of mutual injury, than on the expedients for
common or even for private interest.

Besides many small tribes, there were in the age of Henry II. five
principal sovereignties in the island, Munster, Leinster, Meath,
Ulster, and Connaught; and as it had been usual for the one or the
other of these to take the lead in their wars, there was commonly some
prince, who seemed, for the time, to act as monarch of Ireland.
Roderic O'Connor, King of Connaught, was then advanced to this dignity
[a]; but his government, ill obeyed even within his own territory,
could not unite the people in any measures either for the
establishment of order, or for defence against foreigners. The
ambition of Henry had, very early in his reign, been moved by the
prospect of these advantages to attempt the subjecting of Ireland; and
a pretence was only wanting to invade a people who, being always
confined to their own island, had never given any reason of complaint
to any of their neighbours. For this purpose, he had recourse to
Rome, which assumed a right to dispose of kingdoms and empires; and,
not foreseeing the dangerous disputes which he was one day to maintain
with that see, he helped, for present, or rather for an imaginary,
convenience, to give sanction to claims which were now become
dangerous to all sovereigns. Adrian III., who then filled the papal
chair, was by birth an Englishman; and being, on that account, the
more disposed to oblige Henry, he was easily persuaded to act as
master of the world, and to make, without any hazard or expense, the
acquisition of a great island to his spiritual jurisdiction. The Irish
had, by precedent missions from the Britons, been imperfectly
converted to Christianity; and, what the pope regarded as the surest
mark of their imperfect conversion, they followed the doctrines of
their first teachers, and had never acknowledged any subjection to the
see of Rome. Adrian, therefore, in the year 1156, issued a bull in
favour of Henry; in which, after premising that this prince had ever
shown an anxious care to enlarge the church of God on earth, and to
increase the number of his saints and elect in heaven; he represents
his design of subduing Ireland as derived from the same pious motives:
he considers his care of previously applying for the apostolic
sanction as a sure earnest of success and victory; and having
established it as a point incontestable, that all Christian kingdoms
belong to the patrimony of St. Peter, he acknowledges it to be his own
duty to sow among them the seeds of the gospel, which might in the
last day fructify to their eternal salvation: he exhorts the king to
invade Ireland, in order to extirpate the vice and wickedness of the
natives, and oblige them to pay yearly, from every house, a penny to
the see of Rome: he gives him entire right and authority over the
island, commands all the inhabitants to obey him as their sovereign,
and invests with full power all such godly instruments as he should
think proper to employ in an enterprise thus calculated for the glory
of God and the salvation of the souls of men [b]. Henry, though armed
with this authority, did not immediately put his design in execution;
but being detained by more interesting business on the continent,
waited for a favourable opportunity of invading Ireland.
[FN [a] Hoveden, p. 527. [b] M. Paris, p. 67. Girald. Cambr. Spellm.
Concil. vol. ii. p. 51. Rymer, vol. i. p. 15.]

Dermot Macmorrogh, King of Leinster, had, by his licentious tyranny,
rendered himself odious to his subjects, who seized with alacrity the
first occasion that offered of throwing off the yoke, which was become
grievous and oppressive to them. This prince had formed a design on
Dovergilda, wife of Ororic, Prince of Breffny; and taking advantage of
her husband's absence, who, being obliged to visit a distant part of
his territory, had left his wife secure, as he thought, in an island
surrounded by a bog, he suddenly invaded the place and carried off the
princess [c]. This exploit, though usual among the Irish, and rather
deemed a proof of gallantry and spirit [d], provoked the resentment of
the husband; who, having collected forces, and being strengthened by
the alliance of Roderic, King of Connaught, invaded the dominions of
Dermot, and expelled him his kingdom. The exiled prince had recourse
to Henry, who was at this time in Guienne, craved his assistance in
restoring him to his sovereignty, and offered, on that event, to hold
his kingdom in vassalage under the crown of England. Henry, whose
views were already turned towards making acquisitions in Ireland,
readily accepted the offer; but being at that time embarrassed by the
rebellions of his French subjects, as well as by his disputes with the
see of Rome, he declined for the present embarking in the enterprise,
and gave Dermot no farther assistance than letters patent, by which he
empowered all his subjects to aid the Irish prince in the recovery of
his dominions [e]. Dermot, supported by this authority, came to
Bristol; and after endeavouring, though for some time in vain, to
engage adventurers in the enterprise, he at last formed a treaty with
Richard, surnamed Strongbow, Earl of Strigul. This nobleman, who was
of the illustrious house of Clare, had impaired his fortune by
expensive pleasures; and being ready for any desperate undertaking, he
promised assistance to Dermot, on condition that he should espouse
Eva, daughter of that prince, and be declared heir to all his
dominions [f]. While Richard was assembling his succours, Dermot went
into Wales; and meeting with Robert Fitz-Stephens, Constable of
Abertivi, and Maurice Fitz-Gerald, he also engaged them in his
service, and obtained their promise of invading Ireland. Being now
assured of succour, he returned privately to his own state; and
lurking in the monastery of Fernes, which he had founded, (for this
ruffian was also a founder of monasteries,) he prepared every thing
for the reception of his English allies [g].
[FN [c] Girald. Cambr. p. 760. [d] Spencer, vol. vi. [e] Girald.
Cambr. p. 760. [f] Ibid. p. 761. [g] Ibid.]

[MN Conquest of that island.]
The troops of Fitz-Stephens were first ready. That gentleman landed
in Ireland with thirty knights, sixty esquires, and three hundred
archers; but this small body, being brave men, not unacquainted with
discipline, and completely armed, a thing almost unknown in Ireland,
struck a great terror into the barbarous inhabitants, and seemed to
menace them with some signal revolution. The conjunction of Maurice
de Pendergast, who, about the same time, brought over ten knights and
sixty archers, enabled Fitz-Stephens to attempt the siege of Wexford,
a town inhabited by the Danes; and after gaining an advantage, he made
himself master of the place [h]. Soon after, Fitz-Gerald arrived with
ten knights, thirty esquires, and a hundred archers [i]; and being
joined by the former adventurers, composed a force which nothing in
Ireland was able to withstand. Roderic, the chief monarch of the
island, was foiled in different actions; the Prince of Ossory was
obliged to submit, and give hostages for his peaceable behaviour; and
Dermot, not content with being restored to his kingdom of Leinster,
projected the dethroning of Roderic, and aspired to the sole dominion
over the Irish.
[FN [h] Girald. Cambr. p. 761, 762. [i] Ibid. p. 766.]

In prosecution of these views, he sent over a messenger to the Earl of
Strigul, challenging the performance of his promise, and displaying
the mighty advantages which might now be reaped by a reinforcement of
warlike troops from England. Richard, not satisfied with the general
allowance given by Henry to all his subjects, went to that prince,
then in Normandy; and having obtained a cold or ambiguous permission,
prepared himself for the execution of his designs. He first sent over
Raymond, one of his retinue, with ten knights and seventy archers,
who, landing near Waterford, defeated a body of three thousand Irish,
that had ventured to attack him [k]; and as Richard himself, who
brought over two hundred horse, and a body of archers, joined, a few
days after, the victorious English, they made themselves masters of
Waterford, and proceeded to Dublin, which was taken by assault.
Roderic, in revenge, cut off the head of Dermot's natural son, who had
been left as a hostage in his hands; and Richard, marrying Eva, became
soon after, by the death of Dermot, master of the kingdom of Leinster,
and prepared to extend his authority over all Ireland. Roderic, and
the other Irish princes, were alarmed at the danger; and, combining
together, besieged Dublin with an army of thirty thousand men; but
Earl Richard making a sudden sally at the head of ninety knights, with
their followers, put this numerous army to rout, chased them off the
field, and pursued them with great slaughter. None in Ireland now
dared to oppose themselves to the English [l].
[FN [k] Ibid. p. 767. [l] Girald. Cambr. p. 773.]

Henry, jealous of the progress made by his own subjects, sent orders
to recall all the English, and he made preparations to attack Ireland
in person [m]: but Richard, and the other adventurers, found means to
appease him by making him the most humble submissions, and offering to
hold all their acquisitions in vassalage to his crown [n]. That
monarch landed in Ireland at the head of five hundred knights, besides
other soldiers: he found the Irish so dispirited by their late
misfortunes, that, in a progress which he made through the island, he
had no other occupation than to receive the homage of his new
subjects. He left most of the Irish chieftains or princes in
possession of their ancient territories; bestowed some lands on the
English adventurers; gave Earl Richard the commission of Seneschal of
Ireland; and after a stay of a few months, returned in triumph to
England. By these trivial exploits, scarcely worth relating, except
for the importance of the consequences, was Ireland subdued, and
annexed to the English crown.
[FN [m] Ibid. p. 770. [n] Ibid. p. 775.]

The low state of commerce and industry, during those ages, made it
impracticable for princes to support regular armies, which might
retain a conquered country in subjection; and the extreme barbarism
and poverty of Ireland could still less afford means of bearing the
expense. The only expedient, by which a durable conquest could then
be made or maintained, was by pouring in a multitude of new
inhabitants, dividing among them the lands of the vanquished,
establishing them in all offices of trust and authority, and thereby
transforming the ancient inhabitants into a new people. By this
policy, the northern invaders of old, and of late the Duke of
Normandy, had been able to fix their dominions, and to erect kingdoms,
which remained stable on their foundations, and were transmitted to
the posterity of the first conquerors. But the state of Ireland
rendered that island so little inviting to the English, that only a
few of desperate fortunes could be persuaded, from time to time, to
transport themselves thither [o]; and instead of reclaiming the
natives from their uncultivated manners, they were gradually
assimilated to the ancient inhabitants, and degenerated from the
customs of their own nation. It was also found requisite to bestow
great military and arbitrary powers on the leaders, who commanded a
handful of men amidst such hostile multitudes; and law and equity, in
a little time, became as much unknown in the English settlements as
they had ever been among the Irish tribes. Palatinates were erected
in favour of the new adventurers; independent authority conferred; the
natives, never fully subdued, still retained their animosity against
the conquerors; their hatred was retaliated by like injuries; and from
these causes, the Irish, during the course of four centuries, remained
still savage and untractable: it was not till the latter end of
Elizabeth’s reign that the island was fully subdued; nor till that of
her successor that it gave hopes of becoming a useful conquest to the
English nation.
[FN [o] Brompton, p. 1069. Neubrig. p. 403.]

Besides that the easy and peaceable submission of the Irish left Henry
no farther occupation in that island, he was recalled from it by
another incident, which was of the last importance to his interest and
safety. The two legates, Albert and Theodin, to whom was committed
the trial of his conduct in the murder of Archbishop Becket, were
arrived in Normandy; and being impatient of delay, sent him frequent
letters, full of menaces, if he protracted any longer making his
appearance before them [p]. He hastened therefore to Normandy, and
had a conference with them at Savigny, where their demands were so
exorbitant, that he broke off the negotiation, threatened to return to
Ireland, and bade them do their worst against him. They perceived
that the season was now past for taking advantage of that tragical
incident; which, had it been hotly pursued by interdicts and
excommunications, was capable of throwing the whole kingdom into
combustion. But the time which Henry had happily gained had
contributed to appease the minds of men: the event could not now have
the same influence as when it was recent; and as the clergy every day
looked for an accommodation with the king, they had not opposed the
pretensions of his partisans, who had been very industrious in
representing to the people his entire innocence in the murder of the
primate, and his ignorance of the designs formed by the assassins.
The legates, therefore, found themselves obliged to lower their terms;
and Henry was so fortunate as to conclude an accommodation with them.
He declared upon oath, before the relics of the saints, that, so far
from commanding or desiring the death of the archbishop, he was
extremely grieved when he received intelligence of it: but as the
passion which he had expressed on account of that prelate's conduct
had probably been the occasion of his murder, he stipulated the
following conditions, as an atonement for the offence. [MN The king’s
accommodation with the court of Rome.] He promised, that he should
pardon all such as had been banished for adhering to Becket, and
should restore them to their livings; that the see of Canterbury
should be reinstated in all its ancient possessions; that he should
pay the Templars a sum of money for the subsistence of two hundred
knights during a year in the Holy Land; that he should himself take
the cross at the Christmas following, and, if the pope required it,
serve three years against the infidels either in Spain or Palestine;
that he should not insist on the observance of such customs,
derogatory to ecclesiastical privileges, as had been introduced in his
own time; and that he should not obstruct appeals to the pope in
ecclesiastical causes, but should content himself with exacting
sufficient security from such clergymen as left his dominions to
prosecute an appeal, that they should attempt nothing against the
rights of his crown [q]. Upon signing these concessions, Henry
received absolution from the legates, and was confirmed in the grant
of Ireland made by Pope Adrian [r]; and nothing proves more strongly
the great abilities of this monarch, than his extricating himself on
such easy terms from so difficult a situation. He had always insisted
that the laws established at Clarendon contained not any new claims,
but the ancient customs of the kingdom; and he was still at liberty,
notwithstanding the articles of this agreement, to maintain his
pretensions. Appeals to the pope were indeed permitted by that
treaty; but as the king was also permitted to exact reasonable
securities from the parties, and might stretch his demands on this
head as far as he pleased, he had it virtually in his power to prevent
the pope from reaping any advantage by this seeming concession. And
on the whole, the constitutions of Clarendon remained still the law of
the realm; though the pope and his legates seem so little to have
conceived the king's power to lie under any legal limitations, that
they were satisfied with his departing, by treaty, from one of the
most momentous articles of these constitutions, without requiring any
repeal by the states of the kingdom.
[FN [p] Girald. Cambr. p. 778. [q] M. Paris, p. 88. Benedict. Abb.
p. 34. Hoveden, p. 529. Diceto, p 560. Chron. Gerv. p. 1422. [r]
Brompton, p. 1071 Liber Nig. Scac. p. 47.]

Henry, freed from this dangerous controversy with the ecclesiastics
and with the see of Rome, seemed now to have reached the pinnacle of
human grandeur and felicity, and to be equally happy in his domestic
situation and in his political government. A numerous progeny of sons
and daughters gave both lustre and authority to his crown, prevented
the dangers of a disputed succession, and repressed all pretensions of
the ambitious barons. The king's precaution, also, in establishing
the several branches of his family, seemed well calculated to prevent
all jealousy among the brothers, and to perpetuate the greatness of
his family. He had appointed Henry, his eldest son, to be his
successor in the kingdom of England, the duchy of Normandy, and the
counties of Anjou, Maine, and Touraine; territories which lay
contiguous, and which, by that means, might easily lend to each other
mutual assistance, both against intestine commotions and foreign
invasions. Richard, his second son, was invested in the duchy of
Guienne and county of Poictou; Geoffrey, his third son, inherited, in
right of his wife, the duchy of Britany; and the new conquest of
Ireland was destined for the appanage of John, his fourth son. He had
also negotiated, in favour of this last prince, a marriage with
Adelais, the only daughter of Humbert, Count of Savoy and Maurienne;
and was to receive as her dowry considerable demesnes in Piedmont,
Savoy, Bresse, and Dauphiny [s]. But this exaltation of his family
excited the jealousy of all his neighbours, who made those very sons,
whose fortunes he had so anxiously established, the means of
embittering his future life, and disturbing his government.
[FN [s] Ypod. Neust. p. 448. Bened. Abb. p. 38. Hoveden, p. 532.
Diceto, p. 562. Brompton, p. 1081. Rymer, vol. i. p. 33.]

Young Henry, who was rising to man's estate, began to display his
character, and aspire to independence: brave, ambitious, liberal,
munificent, affable; he discovered qualities which give great lustre
to youth; prognosticate a shining fortune; but unless tempered in
mature age with discretion, are the forerunners of the greatest
calamities [t]. It is said, that at the time when this prince
received the royal unction, his father, in order to give greater
dignity to the ceremony, officiated at table as one of the retinue;
and observed to his son, that never king was more royally served. IT
IS NOTHING EXTRAORDINARY, said young Henry to one of his courtiers, IF
might pass only for an innocent pleasantry, or even for an oblique
compliment to his father, was however regarded as a symptom of his
aspiring temper; and his conduct soon after justified the conjecture.
[FN [t] Chron. Gerv. p. 1463.]

Henry, agreeably to the promise which he had given both to the pope
and French king, permitted his son to be crowned anew by the hands of
the Archbishop of Rouen, and associated the Princess Margaret, spouse
to young Henry, in the ceremony [u] [MN 1173.] He afterwards allowed
him to pay a visit to his father-in-law at Paris, who took the
opportunity of instilling into the young prince those ambitious
sentiments, to which he was naturally but too much inclined [w]. [MN
Revolt of young Henry and his brothers.] Though it had been the
constant practice of France, ever since the accession of the Capetian
line, to crown the son during the lifetime of the father, without
conferring on him any present participation of royalty, Lewis
persuaded his son-in-law, that, by this ceremony, which in those ages
was deemed so important, he had acquired a title to sovereignty, and
that the king could not, without injustice, exclude him from immediate
possession of the whole or at least a part of his dominions. In
consequence of these extravagant ideas, young Henry, on his return,
desired the king to resign to him either the crown of England, or the
duchy of Normandy; discovered great discontent on the refusal; spake
in the most undutiful terms of his father; and soon after, in concert
with Lewis, made his escape to Paris, where he was protected and
supported by that monarch.
[FN [u] Hoveden, p. 529. Diceto, p. 560. Brompton, p. 1080. Chron.
Gerv. p. 1421. Trivet, p. 58. It appears from Madox's History of the
Exchequer, that silk garments were then known in England, and that the
coronation robes of the young king and queen cost eighty-seven pounds
ten shillings and four pence, money of that age. [w] Girald. Camb. p.

While Henry was alarmed at this incident, and had the prospect of
dangerous intrigues, or even of a war, which, whether successful or
not, must be extremely calamitous and disagreeable to him, he received
intelligence of new misfortunes, which must have affected him in the
most sensible manner. Queen Eleanor, who had disgusted her first
husband by her gallantries, was no less offensive to her second by her
jealousy; and after this manner carried to extremity, in the different
periods of her life, every circumstance of female weakness. She
communicated her discontents against Henry to her two younger sons,
Geoffrey and Richard; persuaded them that they were also entitled to
present possession of the territories assigned to them; engaged them
to fly secretly to the court of France; and was meditating, herself,
an escape to the same court, and had even put on man's apparel for
that purpose; when she was seized by orders from her husband, and
thrown into confinement. Thus, Europe saw with astonishment the best
and most indulgent of parents at war with his whole family; three
boys, scarcely arrived at the age of puberty, required a great
monarch, in the full vigour of his age and height of his reputation,

Online LibraryDavid HumeThe History of England, Volume I → online text (page 35 of 57)