English Settlers in Ireland

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XVII

Henry did not succeed much better with his administration of secular affairs. In his Curia Regis, at Lismore, he modelled Irish administration on Norman precedents, apparently forgetting that a kingdom and a province should be differently governed. Strongbow was appointed Earl Marshal; Hugh de Lacy, Lord Constable; Bertram de Verdun, Seneschal; Theobald Walter, Chief Butler; and De Wellesley, Royal Standard-bearer. It was also arranged that, on the demise of a Chief Governor, the Norman nobles were to elect a successor, who should have full authority, until the royal pleasure could be known. Henry did not then attempt to style himself King or Lord of Ireland; his object seems to have been simply to obtain authority in the country through his nobles, as Wales had been subdued in a similar manner. English laws and customs were also introduced for the benefit of English settlers; the native population still adhered to their own legal observances. Henry again forgot that laws must be suited to the nation for whom they are made, and that Saxon rules were as little likely to be acceptable to the Celt, as his Norman tongue to an English-speaking-people.

Dublin was now made over to the inhabitants of Bristol. Hugh de Lacy, its governor, has been generally considered in point of fact the first Viceroy for Ireland. He was installed in the Norman fashion, and the sword and cap of maintenance were made the insignia of the dignity. Waterford and Wexford were also bestowed on royal favourites, or on such knights as were supposed most likely to hold them for the crown. Castles were erected throughout the country, which was portioned out among Henry's needy followers; and, for the first time in Ireland, a man was called a rebel if he presumed to consider his house or lands as his own property.