King John and Ireland

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter XVIII. ...continued

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John ascended the English throne in 1199. He appointed Meiller FitzHenri [2] Governor of Ireland. It has been conjectured that if John had not obtained the sovereignty, he and his descendants might have claimed the "Lordship of Ireland." There can be no doubt that he and they might have claimed it; but whether they could have held it is quite another consideration. It is generally worse than useless to speculate on what might have been. In this case, however, we may decide with positive certainty, that no such condition of things could have continued long. The English kings would have looked with jealousy even on the descendants of their ancestors, if they kept possession of the island; and the descendants would have become, as invariably happened, Hibernicis ipsis Hibernior, and therefore would have shared the fate of the "common enemy."

Meanwhile the O'Connors were fighting in Kerry. Cathal Carragh obtained the services of FitzAldelm, and expelled Cathal Crovderg. He, in his turn, sought the assistance of Hugh O'Neill, who had been distinguishing himself by his valour against De Courcy and the English. They marched into Connaught, but were obliged to retreat with great loss. The exiled Prince now sought English assistance, and easily prevailed on De Courcy and young De Lacy to help him. But misfortune still followed him. His army was again defeated; and as they fled to the peninsula of Rindown, on Lough Ree, they were so closely hemmed in, that no way of escape remained, except to cross the lake in boats. In attempting to do this a great number were drowned. The Annals of Kilronan and Clonmacnois enter these events under the year 1200; the Four Masters under the year 1199. The former state that "Cahall Carragh was taken deceitfully by the English of Meath," and imprisoned until he paid a ransom; and that De Courcy, "after slaying of his people," returned to Ulster.

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[2] FitzHenri.—His father was an illegitimate son of Henry I. When a mere youth, FitzHenri came to Ireland with the Geraldines, and obtained large possessions.


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