King Richard II.

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXII

On the retirement of the Duke of Clarence, in 1367, the Vice-royalty was accepted by Gerald, fourth Earl of Desmond, styled "the poet." He was one of the most learned men of the day, and thereby, as usual, obtained the reputation of practising magic. Yet this refined and educated nobleman wished to have his son fostered in an Irish family, and, despite the Statute of Kilkenny, obtained a special permission to that effect—another evidence that social life among the natives could not have been quite what the malice of Cambrensis, and others who wrote from hearsay reports, and not from personal knowledge, have represented it.

Sir Richard Pembridge refused the office of Viceroy in 1369. He was stripped of all his lands and offices held under the crown, as a punishment for his contumacy, but this appears to have had no effect upon his determination. It was decided legally, however, that the King could neither fine nor imprison him for this refusal, since no man could be condemned to go into exile. High prices were now offered to induce men to bear this intolerable punishment. Sir William de Windsor asked something over £11,000 per annum for his services, which Sir John Davis states exceeded the whole revenue of Ireland. The salary of a Lord Justice before this period was £500 per annum, and he was obliged to support a small standing army. The truth was, that the government of Ireland had become every day more difficult, and less lucrative. The natives were already despoiled of nearly all their possessions, and the settlement of the feuds of the Anglo-Norman nobles was neither a pleasant nor a profitable employment. In addition to this, Edward was levying immense subsidies in Ireland, to support his wars in France and Scotland. At last the clergy were obliged to interfere. The Archbishop of Cashel opposed these unreasonable demands, and solemnly excommunicated the King's collector, and all persons employed in raising the obnoxious taxes.

Richard II. succeeded his grandfather, A.D. 1377. As he was only in his eleventh year, the government was carried on by his uncles. The Earl of March was sent to Ireland as Justiciary, with extraordinary powers. He had married Philippa, daughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, by his first wife, and in her right became Earl of Ulster. One of the Irish princes who came to his court, was treacherously arrested and thrown into prison. The injustice was resented, or, perhaps, we should rather say, feared, by the English nobles, as well as the Irish chieftains, who took care to keep out of the way of such adventures, by absenting themselves from the Viceregal hospitalities. Roger Mortimer succeeded his father, and was followed by Philip de Courtenay, the King's cousin. He was granted the office for ten years, but, in the interval, was taken into custody by the Council of Regency, for his peculations.

There was war in Connaught between the O'Connors, in 1384, and fierce hostility continued for years after between the families of the O'Connor Don (Brown) and the O'Connor Roe (Red). Richard II. had his favourites as usual; and in a moment of wild folly he bestowed the sovereignty of Ireland on the Earl of Oxford, whom he also created Marquis of Dublin. His royal master accompanied him as far as Wales, and then, determining to keep the Earl near his person, despatched Sir John Sydney to the troublesome colony.