Our Ancient Capital (9)

When the first Norman monarch landed amongst us, the memorable 18th day of October, 1172, no resistance was offered by any party; no battle was fought. The Irish chiefs were so elated at the Danish overthrow, that they even volunteered oaths of fealty to the foreign prince who had been in some sort their deliverer. Calmly, as in a state pageant, Henry proceeded from Wexford to Dublin; his route lay only through the conquered Danish possessions, now the property of the Countess Eva; there was no fear therefore of opposition. On reaching the city, "he caused a royal palace to be built, very curiously contrived of smooth wattels, after the manner of the country, and there, with the kings and princes of Ireland, did keep Christmas with great solemnity," on the very spot where now stands St. Andrew's Church.

King Henry remained six months in Ireland, the longest period which a foreign monarch has ever passed amongst us, and during that time he never thought of fighting a battle with the Irish. As yet, the whole result of Norman victories was the downfall of the Danes, in which object the Irish had gladly assisted. Strongbow and Eva reigned peacefully in our capital. Henry placed governors over the other Danish cities, and in order that Dublin, from which the Danes had been expelled, might be repeopled, he made a present of our fair city to the good people of Bristol.

Accordingly a colony from that town, famed for deficiency in personal attractions, came over and settled here; but thirty years after, the Irish, whose instincts of beauty were no doubt offended by the rising generation of Bristolians, poured down from the Wicklow hills upon the ill-favoured colony, and made a quick ending of them by a general massacre.

In a fit of penitence, also, for the murdered A Becket, Henry founded the Abbey of Thomas Court, from which Thomas Street derives its name, and then the excommunicated king quitted Ireland, leaving it unchanged, save that Henry the Norman held the possessions of Torkil the Dane, and Dublin, from a Danish, had become a Norman city. Five hundred years more had to elapse before English jurisdiction extended beyond the ancient Danish pale, and a Cromwell or a William of Nassau was needed for the final conquest of Ireland, as well as for the redemption of England.