Sir Edward Bruce

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Bruce, Sir Edward, brother of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland, was born about 1275, and crowned King of Ireland in 1316. Encouraged by the success of the Scotch at Bannockburn, and wearied by the contentions of Irish and Anglo-Irish chiefs, some of the leading princes in Ireland applied to Robert Bruce, as representative of the old Hiberno-Scotic colony, to accept the crown and secure the independence of Ireland. He declined for himself; but, perhaps anxious to be rid of a possible future cause of trouble at home, transferred the invitation to his brother.

On the 26th May 1315, Edward Bruce landed 6,000 men at Larne, from 300 vessels. He was accompanied by the Earl of Moray and many Scotch lords. Donald O'Neill and other northern chieftains immediately flocked to his standard with numbers of retainers. Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, raised a powerful army, chiefly in Connaught, and marched against Bruce, forming a junction with the army of the Lord-Justice near Dundalk, which town Bruce had occupied on 29th June. A desperate battle was fought on 10th September. The Anglo-Irish, weakened by the defection of Felim O'Conor, King of Connaught, were defeated, and De Burgh's brother with many Anglo-Irish knights were taken prisoners. After this engagement, the battle of Connor, De Burgh fled to Connaught, while a portion of his army passed north and occupied Carrickfergus. The remainder of 1315 appears to have been spent by Bruce in a fruitless siege of this castle. On 6th December, he turned south, through Kells, and Granard, near which he spent Christmas. In the spring of 1316 he marched further south, defeating Edmund Butler, the Justiciary, at Ardskull, near Athy. He then returned towards Ulster, and at Kells overcame Sir Roger Mortimer with an army of 15,000; whereupon the Irish septs in Wicklow and Leix rose and ravaged the Anglo-Irish settlements. At Dundalk, Bruce was with all solemnity inaugurated King of Ireland.

In the autumn he resumed the siege of Carrickfergus Castle which had bravely held out all the winter. There he was joined by his brother, King Robert Bruce, with reinforcements, and the operations of the siege being thereupon conducted with fresh energy, the garrison at length surrendered on honourable terms. The remainder of 1316 was spent in desultory warfare, which laid waste whole districts of Ireland. To sustain their cause, the Ulster princes and Donald O'Brien, sent a memorial to Pope John XXII., justifying their action, and pointing out the fraudulent means by which the Bull of Adrian had been obtained. The Pope appears to have been moved, and wrote to Edward III. that "he had heaped upon the Irish the most unheard of miseries and persecutions, and had, during a long period, imposed on them a yoke of slavery which could not be borne." Notwithstanding this, he afterwards supported Edward III., and directed the Irish hierarchy to excommunicate all who joined Bruce.

Both parties prepared to put forth their utmost strength at the commencement of 1317. The Scottish army mustered 20,000, with an irregular force of 16,000 Irish. The Bruces crossed the Boyne at Slane, after Shrovetide, and then marched to Castleknock, and on 24th February captured the castle and made it their head-quarters. All was consternation in Dublin. The De Lacys had joined Bruce, and even De Burgh, whose daughter Ellen had been taken as second wife by King Robert Bruce, was suspected of leaning to their side. The Mayor, Robert de Nottingham, acted with the greatest energy, arrested De Burgh and confined him in the Castle, and the citizens immediately burned down the outer suburbs, and constructed new walls along Merchant's and Wood Quays. This spirited action, and the impossibility of properly investing the city without a fleet, obliged the Bruces to raise the siege and pass on. Through Naas, Castledermot, and Gowran, they reached Callan on 12th March, plundering and devastating the country on their route. They proceeded as far as Limerick without meeting active opposition, when, learning that Murtough O'Brien had joined the Anglo-Irish, they retreated to Castleconnell and reached Kells on 22nd March. There they again turned south, the army decimated by disease and famine. Yet the very name of Bruce was so dreaded that an Anglo-Irish army of 30,000 men, under the Earl of Kildare and others, did little more than hover on his flanks.

Finally Bruce, having halted at Trim for seven days to refresh his men, retired into Ulster on the 1st of May; and King Robert, convinced that the Irish were not sufficiently organized and united properly to sustain his brother, returned to Scotland with the Earl of Moray, while Edward determined to see the conflict out to the end. Famine raged with such intensity over Ireland, that it brought about a suspension of hostilities. After the harvest of 1318, war was recommenced by Sir John Bermingham crossing the Boyne at the head of 12,000 men, intent upon attacking Bruce before promised supplies from Scotland could arrive. Delay would have been the wiser policy for Bruce; but, relying on the prestige achieved in previous victories, he resolved to risk a battle. The armies met at the hill of Faughart (two miles from Dundalk) on the 14th October 1318. Bermingham had 15,000 men, Bruce but 3,000. The contest was short and fierce. Bruce was killed at the outset by John de Maupas, an Anglo-Irish knight, and his army was completely routed. His trunk was buried at Faughart, his head sent to London, and his limbs distributed through the country. He was at his death aged about 43. Most of the Irish annalists express unmixed satisfaction at his overthrow, and bitterly deplore the devastation that his invasion brought upon Ireland. King Robert landed a few days afterwards; but only to lead back the shattered remnants of the Scottish contingent. We find the following reflections on this invasion in the introduction to Clyn's Annals: "Many generations passed before the devastating effects of the Scottish invasion, passing thus like a stream of lava through the country, were done away. The animosity between the English and the Irish was embittered, the sense of the greatness of the English power was diminished, the authority of law and order was impaired, the castle and the farmhouse were alike ruined."

Sources

83. Clyn and Dowling's Annals of Ireland: Edited by the Very Rev. Richard Butler. (I. A. S.) Dublin, 1849.

134. Four Masters, Annals of Ireland by the: Translated and Edited by John O'Donovan. 7 vols. Dublin, 1856.

170a. Ireland, History of: Martin Haverty. Dublin, 1860.

174. Ireland, History of, Lectures on the: Alexander G. Richey. 2 vols. Dublin, 1869-'70.

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