Archbishop Comyn

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XVIII

In 1192 the brave King of Thomond again attacked the English invaders. But after his death, in 1194, the Anglo-Normans had little to apprehend from native valour. His obituary is thus recorded: "Donnell, son of Turlough O'Brien, King of Munster, a burning lamp in peace and war, and the brilliant star of the hospitality and valour of the Momonians, and of all Leth-Mogha, died." Several other "lamps" went out about the same time; one of these was Crunce O'Flynn, who had defeated De Courcy in 1178, and O'Carroll, Prince of Oriel, who had been hanged by the English the year before, after the very unnecessary cruelty of putting out his eyes.

The affairs of the English colony were not more prosperous. New Lords Justices followed each other in quick succession. One of these governors, Hamon de Valois, attempted to replenish his coffers from church property,—a proceeding which provoked the English Archbishop Comyn. As this ecclesiastic failed to obtain redress in Ireland, he proceeded to England with his complaints; but he soon learned that justice could not be expected for Ireland. The difference between the conduct of ecclesiastics, who have no family but the Church, and no interests but the interests of religion, is very observable in all history. While English and Norman soldiers were recklessly destroying church property and domestic habitations in the country they had invaded, we find, with few exceptions, that the ecclesiastic, of whatever nation, is the friend and father of the people, wherever his lot may be cast.

The English Archbishop resented the wrongs of the Irish Church as personal injuries, and devoted himself to its advancement as a personal interest. We are indebted to Archbishop Comyn for building St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, as well as for his steady efforts to promote the welfare of the nation. After an appeal in person to King Richard and Prince John, he was placed in confinement in Normandy, and was only released by the interference of the Holy See; Innocent III., who had probably by this time discovered that the English monarchs were not exactly the persons to reform the Irish nation, having addressed a letter from Perugia to the Earl of Montague (Prince John), reprimanding him for detaining "his venerable brother, the Archbishop of Dublin," in exile, and requiring him to repair the injuries done by his Viceroy, Hamon de Valois, on the clergy of Leighlin. The said Hamon appears to have meddled with other property besides that belonging to the Church—a more unpardonable offence, it is to be feared, in the eyes of his master. On returning from office after two years vice-royalty, he was obliged to pay a thousand marks to obtain an acquittance from his accounts.[1]


[1] Accounts.—Gilbert's Viceroys, p. 58.