Geoffrey de Marisco (2)

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XIX

It could not fail to be remarked by the Irish annalists, that the first Anglo-Norman settlers had been singularly unfortunate. They can scarcely be blamed for supposing that these misfortunes were a judgment for their crimes. Before the middle of this century (the thirteenth) three of the most important families had become extinct. De Lacy, Lord of Meath, died in 1241, infirm and blind; his property was inherited by his grand-daughters, in default of a male heir. Hugh de Lacy died in 1240, and left only a daughter. The Earl of Pembroke died from wounds received at a tournament. Walter, who succeeded him, also died without issue. The property came eventually to Anselm, a younger brother, who also died childless; and it was eventually portioned out among the females of the family.

It is said Henry III. expressed deep grief when he heard of Earl Richard's unfortunate end, and that he endeavoured to have restitution made to the family. Geoffrey de Marisco was banished. His son, William, conspired against the King, and even employed an assassin to kill him. The man would have probably accomplished his purpose, had he not been discovered accidentally by one of the Queen's maids, hid under the straw of the royal bed. The real traitor was eventually captured, drawn at horses' tails to London, and hanged with the usual barbarities.

His miserable father, who had been thrice Viceroy of Ireland, and a peer of that country and of England, died in exile, "pitifully, yet undeserving of pity, for his own treason against the unfortunate Earl Richard, and his son's treason against the King." Such were the men who governed Ireland in the thirteenth century.

Treachery seems to have been the recognized plan of capturing an enemy. In 1236 this method was attempted by the government in order to get Felim O'Connor into their power. He was invited to attend a meeting in Athlone, but, fortunately for himself, he discovered the designs of his enemies time enough to effect his escape. He was pursued to Sligo. From thence he fled to Tir-Connell, which appears to have been the Cave of Adullam in that era; though there were so many discontented persons, and it was so difficult to know which party any individual would espouse continuously, that the Adullamites were tolerably numerous. Turlough's son, Brian O'Connor, was now invested with the government of Connaught by the English, until some more promising candidate should appear. But even their support failed to enable him to keep the field. Felim [3] returned the following year, and after defeating the soldiers of the Lord Justice, made Brian's people take to flight so effectually, that none of Roderic's descendants ever again attempted even to possess their ancestral lands.

The Four Masters have the following graphic entry under the year 1236: "Heavy rains, harsh weather, and much war prevailed in this year." The Annals of Kilronan also give a fearful account of the wars, the weather, and the crimes. They mention that Brian's people burned the church of Imlagh Brochada over the heads of O'Flynn's people, while it was full of women, children, and nuns, and had three priests in it. There were so many raids on cows, that the unfortunate animals must have had a miserable existence. How a single cow survived the amount of driving hither and thither they endured, considering their natural love of ease and contemplative habits, is certainly a mystery. In the year 1238, the Annals mention that the English erected castles in Connaught, principally in the territory from which the O'Flahertys had been expelled. This family, however, became very powerful in that part of the country in which they now settled.


[3] Felim.—The Four Masters say, when writing of the act of treachery mentioned above: "They all yearned to act treacherously towards Felim, although he was the gossip of the Lord Justice."—Annals, vol. iii. p. 285. He was sponsor or godfather to one of his children.