Henry III. and Ireland

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XIX

Henry III. succeeded his father, John, while only in his tenth year. William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, was appointed protector of the kingdom and the King. The young monarch was hastily crowned at Bristol, with one of his mother's golden bracelets. Had the wise and good Earl lived to administer affairs for a longer period, it would have been a blessing to both countries. Geoffrey de Marisco still continued Governor of Ireland. Affairs in England were in an extremely critical position. The profligate Isabella had returned to her first husband, Hugh de Lusignan, whom she had before forsaken for King John. Gloucester, London, and Kent, were in the hands of the Dauphin of France. Some few acts of justice to Ireland were the result; but when justice is only awarded from motives of fear or interest, it becomes worse than worthless as a mode of conciliation. Such justice, however, as was granted, only benefited the Anglo-Norman settlers; the "mere Irish" were a race devoted to plunder and extermination.

In consequence of complaints from the English barons in Ireland, a modified form of Magna Charta was granted to them, and a general amnesty was proclaimed, with special promises of reparation to the nobles whom John had oppressed. Hugh de Lacy was also pardoned and recalled; but it was specially provided that the Irish should have no share in such favours; and the Viceroy was charged to see that no native of the country obtained cathedral preferment. This piece of injustice was annulled through the interference of Pope Honorius III.

In 1217 the young King, or rather his advisers, sent the Archbishop of Dublin to that city to levy a "tallage," or tax, for the royal benefit. The Archbishop and the Justiciary were directed to represent to the "Kings of Ireland," and the barons holding directly from the crown, that their liberality would not be forgotten; but neither the politeness of the address [5] nor the benevolence of the promises were practically appreciated, probably because neither were believed to be sincere, and the King's coffers were not much replenished.

Arrangements were now made defining the powers of the Viceroy or Justiciary. The earliest details on this subject are embodied in an agreement between Henry III. and Geoffrey de Marisco, sealed at Oxford, in March, 1220, in presence of the Papal Legate, the Archbishop of Dublin, and many of the nobility.

By these regulations the Justiciary was bound to account in the Exchequer of Dublin for all taxes and aids received in Ireland for the royal purse. He was to defray all expenses for the maintenance of the King's castles and lands out of the revenues. In fact, the people of the country were taxed, either directly or indirectly, for the support of the invaders. The King's castles were to be kept by loyal and proper constables, who were obliged to give hostages. Indeed, so little faith had the English kings in the loyalty of their own subjects, that the Justiciary himself was obliged to give a hostage as security for his own behaviour. Neither does the same Viceroy appear to have benefited trade, for he is accused of exacting wine, clothing, and victuals, without payment, from the merchants of Dublin.


[5] Address.—Gilbert's Viceroys, p. 82, where the address may be seen in extenso.