Henry II. in Dublin

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XVII

A special residence was erected for the court on part of the ground now occupied by the southern side of Dame-street. The whole extent of Dublin at that time was, in length, from Corn Market to the Lower Castle Yard; and in breadth, from the Liffey, then covering Essex-street, to Little Sheep-street, now Ship-street, where a part of the town wall is yet standing.[7] The only edifices in existence on the southern side of Dame-street, even at the commencement of the seventeenth century, were the Church of St. Andrew and the King's Mills.[8] College-green was then quite in the country, and was known as the village of Le Hogges, a name that is apparently derived from the Teutonic word Hoge, which signifies a small hill or sepulchral mound. Here there was a nunnery called St. Mary le Hogges, which had been erected or endowed not many years before Henry's arrival, and a place called Hoggen's Butt, where the citizens exercised themselves in archery. Here, during the winter of 1171, the Celt, the Saxon, and the Norman, may have engaged in peaceful contests and pleasant trials of skill.

Henry's "winter palace" was extemporized with some artistic taste. It was formed' of polished osiers. Preparations had been made on an extensive scale for the luxuries of the table—a matter in which the Normans had greatly the advantage of either Celt or Saxon. The use of crane's flesh was introduced into Ireland for the first time, as well as that of herons, peacocks,[9] swans, and wild geese. Almonds had been supplied already by royal order in great abundance; wine was purchased in Waterford, even now famous for its trade with Spain in that commodity. Nor had the King's physician forgotten the King's health; for we find a special entry amongst the royal disbursements of the sum of £10 7s., paid to Josephus Medicus for spices and electuaries. Yet Henri-curt-mantel [1] was careful of his physical well-being, and partook but sparingly of these luxuries. Fearing his tendency to corpulency, he threw the short cloak of his native Anjou round him at an earlier hour in the morning than suited the tastes of his courtiers, and took exercise either on horseback or on foot, keeping in constant motion all day.


[7] Standing.—Four Masters, vol. iii. p. 5, note m.

[8] Mills.—Dame-street derived its name from a dam or mill-stream near it. There was also the gate of Blessed Mary del Dam. The original name was preserved until quite recently. In the reign of Charles I. the Master of the Rolls had a residence here, which is described as being "in a very wholesome air, with a good orchard and garden leading down to the water-side."—Gilbert's Dublin, vol. ii. p. 264 In fact, the residences here were similar to those pleasant places on the Thames, once the haunts of the nobility of London.

[9] Peacocks.—To serve a peacock with its feathers was one of the grandest exploits of mediaeval cookery. It was sown up in its skin after it had been roasted, when it was allowed to cool a little. The bird then appeared at the last course as if alive. Cream of almonds was also a favourite dainty. Indeed, almonds were used in the composition of many dishes; to use as many and as various ingredients as possible seeming to be the acme of gastronomy. St. Bernard had already loudly condemned the bon vivants of the age. His indignation appears to have been especially excited by the various methods in which eggs were cooked. But even seculars condemned the excesses of Norman luxuries, and declared that the knights were loaded with wine instead of steel, and spits instead of lances.

[1] Henri-curt-mantel.—A soubriquet derived from the short mantle he constantly wore.