Strongbow's Genealogy

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XVI

The first member of the Earl’s family who had settled in England, was Richard, son of the Norman Earl Brien, a direct descendant of Robert “the Devil,” Duke of Normandy, father of William the Conqueror.

In return for services at the battle of Hastings, and general assistance in conquering the Saxon, this family obtained a large grant of land in England, and took the title of Earl of Clare from one of their ninety-five lordships in Suffolk.[1]

The Strongbow family appears to have inherited a passion for making raids on neighbouring lands, from their Viking ancestors.

Strongbow’s father had obtained his title of Earl of Pembroke, and his property in the present county of that name, from his successful marauding expedition in Wales, in 1138.

But as he revolted against Stephen, his lands were seized by that king; and after his death, in 1148, his son succeeded to his very numerous titles, without any property commensurate thereto.

Richard was not in favour with his royal master, who probably was jealous of the Earl, despite his poverty; but as Strongbow did not wish to lose the little he had in England, or the chance of obtaining more in Ireland, he proceeded at once to the court, then held in Normandy, and asked permission for his new enterprise.

Henry’s reply was so carefully worded, he could declare afterwards that he either had or had not given the permission, whichever version of the interview might eventually prove most convenient to the royal interests.

Strongbow took the interpretation which suited his own views, and proceeded to the scene of action with as little delay as possible.

He arrived in Ireland, according to the most generally received account, on the vigil of St. Bartholomew, A.D. 1170, and landed at Dundonnell, near Waterford.

His uncle, Hervey de Montmarisco, had already arrived, and established himself in a temporary fort, where he had been attacked by the brave citizens of Wexford.

But the besieged maintained their position, killed five hundred men, and made prisoners of seventy of the principal citizens of Waterford.

Large sums of money were offered for their ransom, but in vain.

They were brutally murdered by the English soldiers, who first broke their limbs, and then hurled them from a precipice into the sea.

It was the first instalment of the utterly futile theory, so often put in practice since that day, of “striking terror into the Irish;” and the experiment was quite as unsuccessful as all such experiments have ever been.[2]


[1] Suffolk.—See Gilbert’s Viceroys of Dublin, passim. We recommend this work to our readers. It should be in the hands of every Irishman at least. It combines the attraction of romance with the accuracy of carefully written history.

[2] Been.—If we are to believe Cambrensis, Raymond argued against this cruelty, and Henry in favour of it.