Sir Henry Crystede

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXII

A little episode of domestic life, narrated by Froissart, is a sufficient proof that the social state of the Irish was neither so wild nor so barbarous as many have supposed; and that even a Frenchman might become so attached to the country as to leave it with regret, though, at the same time, it was not a little difficult to find an English Viceroy who would face the political complications which the Statute of Kilkenny had made more troublesome than ever. Froissart's account runs thus: He was waiting in the royal chamber at Eltham one Sunday, to present his treatise "On Loves" to Henry II.; and he takes care to tell us that the King had every reason to be pleased with the present, for it was "handsomely written and illuminated," bound in crimson velvet, decorated with ten silver-gilt studs, and roses of the same. While he was awaiting his audience, he gossiped with Henry Crystède, whom he describes as a very agreeable, prudent, and well-educated gentleman, who spoke French well, and had for his arms a chevron gules on a field argent, with three besants gules, two above the chevron, and one below.

Crystède gave him a sketch of his adventures in Ireland, which we can but condense from the quaint and amusing original. He had been in the service of the Earl of Ormonde, who kept him out of affection for his good horsemanship. On one occasion he was attending the Earl, mounted on one of his best horses, at a "border foray" on the unfortunate Irish, with whom he kept up constant warfare. In the pursuit his horse took fright, and ran away into the midst of the enemy, one of whom, by a wonderful feat of agility, sprang up behind him, and bore him off to his own house. He calls the gentleman who effected the capture "Brian Costeree," and says he was a very handsome man, and that he lived in a strong house in a well barricaded city.

Crystède remained here for seven years, and married one of the daughters of his host, by whom he had two children. At the end of this period his father-in-law was taken prisoner in an engagement with the Duke of Clarence, and Crystède's horse, which he rode, was recognized. Evidently the knight must have been a person of some distinction, for he states that the Duke of Clarence and the English officers were so well pleased to hear of the "honorable entertainment" he had received from "Brian Costeree," that they at once proposed to set him at liberty, on condition that he should send Crystède to the army with his wife and children. At first "he refused the offer, from his love to me, his daughter, and our children." Eventually the exchange was made. Crystède settled at Bristol. His two daughters were then married. One was settled in Ireland. He concluded the family history by stating that the Irish language was as familiar to him as English, for he always spoke it to his wife, and tried to introduce it, "as much as possible," among his children.