Raymond le Gros (1173-1176)

Patrick Weston Joyce

211. No sooner had Strongbow entered on his new duties as viceroy than troubles began to thicken round him. He found most of the Irish princes in revolt, and the money he had brought was soon spent, so that he had no pay for his soldiers. Mountmaurice was general of the army: but the soldiers hated him and demanded to have Raymond put over them, which was done: on which the new general led the men south and ravaged Offaly and the country round Lismore, carrying off immense spoils in spite of all opposition.

212. Raymond growing more ambitious with continued success, solicited in marriage Strongbow's sister Basilea: and he asked also to be made constable or commander of Leinster. But the earl refused both requests; whereupon Raymond threw up his post in 1174, and returned to Wales; and Mountmaurice was restored to the chief command.

213. And now (1174) Strongbow marched towards Limerick against Donall O'Brien king of Thomond who had revolted. But O'Brien and king Roderick intercepted him at Thurles, defeated him, and killed 1,700 of his men—the best part of his army. Strongbow fled to Waterford and shut himself up there, but was besieged and in great danger, till Raymond returned and rescued him. Then he gave his sister in marriage to his rescuer and made him constable of Leinster.

214. Raymond next made preparation to avenge on Donall O'Brien the defeat of Thurles. He led his troops, in 1175, to Limerick; and in the face of enormous difficulties he forded the deep and rapid river, stormed the city, and gave it up to slaughter and plunder. Then leaving a sufficient garrison under the command of Miles de Cogan he returned to Dublin.

215. Meanwhile Roderick, finding that he could not prevent the daily incursions of English raiders, determined to claim the protection of king Henry. Accordingly he sent three ambassadors to England, one of whom was archbishop Laurence O'Toole, and a treaty was arranged between the two kings. Under this treaty, which was signed at Windsor in 1175, it was agreed that Roderick was to remain king of Connaught, which he was to hold directly as vassal to Henry; that he was to rule the rest of Ireland also as vassal, except the portions held by the English colony; and that through him the other kings and chiefs of the country were to pay tribute to king Henry.

216. But now Mountmaurice secretly reported to the king that Raymond aimed at making himself king of Ireland; whereupon king Henry ordered that he should be sent to England. But even while Raymond was preparing to obey the command, news came that Donall O'Brien had laid siege to Limerick; and when Strongbow ordered out the army for its relief, the men refused point blank to march under Mountmaurice. So Raymond had to be replaced in command, and marching south he defeated O'Brien and recovered Limerick.

217. One day while he was in the south a courier arrived post haste from Dublin with an odd message from his wife Basilea:—-"Be it known to you that the great jaw-tooth which used to trouble me so much has fallen out. Wherefore return with all speed." She took this enigmatical way of telling him that her brother the earl was dead (A.D. 1176). Knowing well the dangerous position of the colony in Dublin, and fearing the Irish might rise if they knew of his death, she determined to keep the matter secret till Raymond should be present. Raymond understood the meaning and returned; and the earl was interred with great pomp in Christ Church Cathedral.

218. As soon as the king heard of Strongbow's death, being still jealous of the brilliant soldier Raymond, he appointed William Fitz Adelm de Burgo viceroy in 1176, with John de Courcy, Robert Fitzstephen, and Miles de Cogan to assist him. Raymond met them near Wexford, and having given them a most respectful reception, he delivered up all his authority to the new viceroy without a murmur.

After this we hear little more of Raymond le Gros in public life. He retired to his estates in Wexford where he resided quietly till his death, which took place in 1182.

218a. Among the families descended from the Anglo-Norman lords, the most distinguished were the Fitzgeralds or Geraldines, the Butlers, and the De Burgos or Burkes. The Geraldines were chiefly descended from Maurice Fitzgerald. There were two main branches: one in Leinster, whose chiefs became, first, barons of Offaley, then earls of Kildare, and lastly dukes of Leinster: the other in Munster, whose heads were earls of Desmond. The Butlers settled in Leinster, and their chiefs became earls of Ormond. The family of De Burgo was founded by William Fitz Adelm de Burgo: they settled chiefly in Connaught, and were of two main branches as told in Paragraph 262.