Art MacMurrough

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXII

A royal visit was arranged and accomplished soon after; and on the 2nd October, A.D. 1394, Richard II. landed on the Irish shores. The country was in its normal state of partial insurrection and general discontent; but no attempt was made to remove the chronic cause of all this unnecessary misery. There was some show of submission from the Irish chieftains, who were overawed by the immense force which attended the King. Art MacMurrough, the heir of the ancient Leinster kings, was the most formidable of the native nobles; and from his prowess and success in several engagements, was somewhat feared by the invaders. He refused to defer to any one but Richard, and was only prevailed on to make terms when he found himself suddenly immured in Dublin Castle, during a friendly visit to the court.

The King's account of his reception shows that he had formed a tolerably just opinion of the political state of the country. He mentions in a letter from Dublin, that the people might be divided into three classes—the "wild Irish, or enemies," the Irish rebels, and the English subjects; and he had just discernment enough to see that the "rebels had been made such by wrongs, and by want of close attention to their grievances," though he had not the judgment or the justice to apply the necessary remedy. His next exploit was to persuade the principal Irish kings to receive knighthood in the English fashion. They submitted with the worst possible grace, having again and again repeated that they had already received the honour according to the custom of their own country. The dealings of the Anglo-Norman knights, with whom they already had intercourse, were not likely to have inspired them with very sublime ideas of the dignity. They might, indeed, have been chevaliers sans peur, but the latter part of the flattering appellation could not be applied.

The customs of the Irish nobles were again made a subject of ridicule, as they had been during the visit of Prince John; though one should have supposed that an increased knowledge of the world should have led to a wiser policy, if not to an avoidance of that ignorant criticism, which at once denounces everything foreign as inferior.[9] Richard returned to England in 1395, after nine months of vain display. He appointed Roger Mortimer his Viceroy. Scarcely had the King and his fleet sailed from the Irish shores, when the real nature of the proffered allegiance of seventy-two kings and chieftains became apparent. The O'Byrnes rose up in Wicklow, and were defeated by the Viceroy and the Earl of Ormonde; the MacCarthys rose up in Munster, and balanced affairs by gaining a victory over the English. The Earl of Kildare was captured by Calvagh O'Connor, of Offaly, in 1398; and, in the same year, the O'Briens and O'Tooles avenged their late defeat, by a great victory, at Kenlis, in Ossory.


[9] Inferior.—While these sheets were passing through the press, we chanced to meet the following paragraph in an English paper. The article was headed "International Courtesy," apropos of the affair at Dinan:—"Prince John pulling the beards of the Irish chiefs is the aggravated type of a race which alienated half a continent by treating its people as colonial, and which gave India every benefit but civility, till Bengal showed that it was strong, and Bombay that it could be rich." And yet it would be quite as unjust to accuse a whole nation of habitual insolence to foreigners and dependents, as to blame every Englishman, in the reigns of John or Richard, for the insults offered to the Irish nation.