Death of Strongbow

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XVII

While Raymond was still in Limerick, Strongbow died in Dublin. As it was of the highest political importance that his death should be concealed until some one was present to hold the reigns of government, his sister, Basilia, sent an enigmatical letter [4] to her husband, which certainly does no small credit to her diplomatic skill. The messengers were not acquainted with the Earl's death; and such of the Anglo-Normans in Dublin as were aware of it, had too much prudence to betray the secret. Raymond at once set out on his journey. Immediately after his arrival, EitzGislebert, Earl de Clare, was interred in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, now called Christ's Church.

Strongbow has not obtained a flattering character, either from his friends or his enemies. Even Cambrensis admits that he was obliged to be guided by the plans of others, having neither originality to suggest, nor talent to carry out any important line of action.

The Irish annalists call him the greatest destroyer of the clergy and laity that came to Ireland since the times of Turgesius (Annals of Innisfallen). The Four Masters record his demise thus: "The English Earl [i.e., Richard] died in Dublin, of an ulcer which had broken out in his foot, through the miracles of SS. Brigid and Colum-cille, and of all the other saints whose churches had been destroyed by him. He saw, he thought, St. Brigid in the act of killing him." Pembridge says he died on the 1st of May, and Cambrensis about the 1st of June. His personal appearance is not described in very flattering terms;[5] and he has the credit of being more of a soldier than a statesman, and not very knightly in his manner or bearing.

The Earl de Clare left only one child, a daughter, as heir to his vast estates. She was afterwards married to William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. Although Strongbow was a "destroyer" of the native clergy, he appears to have been impregnated with the mediaeval devotion for establishing religious houses. He founded a priory at Kilmainham for the Knights of the Temple, with an alms-house and hospital. He was also a liberal benefactor to the Church of the Holy Trinity, where he was buried.[6]


[4] Letter.—"To Raymond, her most loving lord and husband, his own Basilia wishes health as to herself. Know you, my dear lord, that the great tooth in my jaw, which was wont to ache so much, is now fallen out; wherefore, if you have any love or regard for me, or of yourself, you will delay not to hasten hither with all speed."—Gilbert's Viceroys, p. 40. It is said that this letter was read for Raymond by a cleric of his train, so it is presumable that reading and writing were not made a part of his education.

[5] Terms.—Hib. Expug. lib, i. cap. 27.

[6] Buried.—The early history of this church is involved in much obscurity.