Norman Treachery in Ireland

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XVII

The Lord of Breffni had been one of Henry's favourite guests at his Christmas festivities. He possessed the territory of East Meath, and this territory Henry had coolly bestowed on Hugh de Lacy.[8] The rightful owner was not quite so dazzled by the sunshine of royal favour, as to be willing to resign his property without a struggle. The Irish chieftain, whose name was Tiernan O'Rourke, was persuaded to hold a conference with the English usurper at the Hill of Tara, near Athboy. Both parties were attended by armed men. A dispute ensued. The interpreter was killed by a blow aimed at De Lacy, who fled precipitately; O'Rourke was killed by a spear-thrust as he mounted his horse, and vengeance was wreaked on his dead body, for the crime of wishing to maintain his rights, by subjecting it to decapitation. His head was impaled over the gate of Dublin Castle, and afterwards sent as a present to Henry II. His body was gibbeted, with the feet upwards, on the northern side of the same building.[9] The Four Masters say that O'Rourke was treacherously slain. From the account given by Cambrensis, it would appear that there was a plot to destroy the aged chieftain, but for want of clearer evidence we may give his enemies the benefit of the doubt.


[8] Hugh de Lacy.—In a charter executed at Waterford, Henry had styled this nobleman "Bailli," a Norman term for a representative of royalty. The territory bestowed on him covered 800,000 acres. This was something like wholesale plunder.

[9] Building.—This was the Danish fortress of Dublin, which occupied the greater part of the hill on which the present Castle of Dublin stands. See note, Four Masters, vol. iii. p. 5. The Annals say this was a '' spectacle of intense pity to the Irish." It certainly could not have tended to increase their devotion to English rule.