King Henry in Ireland (1171-1173)

Patrick Weston Joyce

206. On the 18th October 1171, king Henry landed at Crook a little below Waterford, with many of his nobles, and an army of 4,400 knights and men at arms. Counting attendants he probably had 10,000 altogether.

At Waterford he was met by Dermot Mac Carthy king of Desmond, who was the first Irish prince to submit and pay tribute; and the Wexford men delivered up to him in fetters Fitzstephen, whom in a few days he released.

207. Henry next marched by Lismore to Cashel where he received the submission of Donall O'Brien of Limerick and of many others of the southern princes. After this he returned to Waterford; and having taken possession of Wexford, he proceeded to Dublin, where he was received in great state. Here he was visited by most of the other Irish princes, all of whom submitted to him. Roderick O'Conor did not come, but he sent his submission: O'Neill of Ulster neither came nor sent submission. The Irish princes and nobles were invited to spend the Christmas with the king in Dublin; and they were astonished at the magnificence of the display, and much pleased with the attention shown to themselves.

208. Early in the ensuing year, 1172, the king caused a synod of the archbishops and bishops of Ireland and several Anglo-Norman ecclesiastics to be held at Cashel; in which certain decrees were drawn up for the regulation of church discipline. These decrees do not indicate any very serious state of religious corruption in Ireland, such as had been falsely represented to the Pope.

209. Henry now rewarded his followers by grants of large tracts of country, giving away the lands belonging to the natives without the least scruple. Leinster was granted to Strongbow, with the exception of Dublin and some other maritime towns; Meath—then much larger than now—to Hugh de Lacy; and Ulster to John de Courcy. In all the chief towns he left governors. He granted Dublin to the people of Bristol with De Lacy as governor, who is generally regarded as the first viceroy of Ireland.* Having completed these arrangements, he embarked at Wexford in April 1172, and returned to England.

210. After his departure his arrangements were all disregarded; and his followers did just as they pleased, plundering and harassing the unfortunate natives without mercy and without restraint.

The turmoil began the moment he had left. Ternan O'Ruarc, Dermot's old adversary, was killed by De Lacy in a fray during a conference. Strongbow, returning from a plundering raid through Offaly, was intercepted by its chief, O'Dempsey, and defeated, a great number of his men, with his son-in-law De Quenci, being slain. In the following year—1173—he was appointed viceroy by the king.

* The governors of Ireland at this time and for centuries after, were designated by various titles, such as viceroy, lieutenant, lord lieutenant, lord justice or justiciary, governor, etc. A person appointed to govern temporarily in place of an absent lord lieutenant or viceroy was designated deputy or lord deputy.