Earl Strongbow (Richard de Clare) in Ireland

DIED A. D. 1177

From The Irish Nation: Its History and Its Biography

By James and Freeman Wills

RICHARD DE CLARE, third earl of Pembroke, earl of Strigul, lord of Chepstow in England, earl of Ogir in Normandy, &c., &c., prince of Leinster in right of his wife, and lord-lieutenant of Ireland under Henry II., bore the sirname of Strongbow, by which he is familiarly designated, from his father, Gilbert, who obtained it for his remarkable skill in archery. At the time of king Dermod's flight into England, Strongbow was out of favour with king Henry; his estate had been wasted by dissipation, and being yet not past the prime of his life, he was, by disposition as well as from circumstances, prepared to throw himself upon any course which might employ his valour and repair his fortunes.

Accordingly, he applied to king Henry on that occasion, for permission to embark in the undertaking proposed by the fugitive king of Leinster; and, as we have related in our memoir of king Dermod, received an ambiguous answer, the design of which he probably understood, and construed according to his own purpose. He nevertheless had the precaution to defer the execution of his design, until the event of Fitz-Stephen's expedition might offer some decided estimate of the chances of success. It is also probable that he found some difficulties arising from the impoverished condition of his finances.

At length, affairs in Ireland having taken the course already stated, in August, 1170, when all was ready for embarkation at Milford, he had the vexation of receiving from king Henry a peremptory message, forbidding the projected enterprise, on pain of the forfeiture of his possessions and honours. It is probable that Strongbow had not much to lose, and it is certain that his expectations were at the highest point. Henry's hands were full. He had gone too far to recede without dishonour; and, having resolved to brave all consequences, he affected to doubt the purport, and question the authority of the royal mandate; so, dismissing all further consideration, he embarked and came, on the eve of St. Bartholomew, into the port of Waterford.

On the capture of Waterford, he married Eva, daughter to the king of Leinster; and, having passed some days at Ferns, he assisted at the siege of Dublin, as already mentioned, and was invested by his father-in-law with the lordship of that city. From this there is no occurrence important enough to be repeated from the former memoir, until the death of king Dermod, from which we again meet the onward progress of the events in Strongbow's life.

Immediately previous to king Dermod's death, the English adventurers were much depressed in their hopes by an edict published by king Henry, prohibiting the transportation of men, arms, or provisions to Ireland from any English or Welsh port; and, on pain of attainder and forfeiture, commanding all English subjects, of every order and degree, to return home before the ensuing feast of Easter. Strongbow, who knew the character and policy of Henry, immediately despatched his trusty friend, Raymond le Gros, to Aquitaine, where Henry then resided. Raymond made such excuses on the part of Strongbow, as most probably satisfied the king; but, thinking it necessary to repress and retard the progress of the adventurers until he should himself have leisure to follow up the conquest of Ireland, he gave no distinct answer to the reiterated solicitations of Raymond, whom he thus detained from day to day, until an incident occurred which, for a season, so wholly engrossed his mind as to prevent the consideration of any other affair of moment. This was the murder of Becket, which involved his peace of mind, and hazarded even the safety of his throne, in a most hapless contest with his people, clergy, and the court of Rome.

In this interval the affairs of Strongbow and his fellow-adventurers bore a most unpromising aspect; and Dermod's death, in the midst of their trouble, came to heighten their perplexity. On this occurrence, the native Irish fell away from them, with the exception of Donald Kavanagh (Dermod's illegitimate son), Awliffe O'Carvy, and Mac-Gely, chief of Firbrynn.

This gloomy aspect of affairs was quickly interrupted by a torrent of dangers, which accumulated around them with a rapidity and power that menaced inevitable ruin. First, they were surprised by the unexpected return of the Danish governor, Hesculf, with a powerful body of Ostmen, which he had levied among the Scottish isles. Strongbow was, at this time, absent at Waterford, and had left the city under the command of Miles de Cogan.

The Ostmen had landed, without opposition, under their captain, John Wood; they were all selected and trained soldiers, and armed "after the Danish manner, with good brigantines, jackes, and shirts of mail; their shields, bucklers, and targets, were round and coloured red, and bound about with iron; and, as they were in arms, so they were in minds, iron-strong and mighty."[1] This formidable force, having landed from sixty transports, marched direct against the eastern gate of the city. The attack was impetuous, and found no proportionate force to resist it. De Cogan was taken by surprise; yet the natural steadiness of English soldiers offered resistance enough to protract, for a considerable time, the violent and sanguinary struggle which heaped the gate with dead; so that, when his force, thinned by the fall of numbers, were on the point of being overpowered by the superior force of the Danish troops, time had been secured for a manoeuvre which turned the fortune of the fight. Richard, brother to De Cogan, issued with a select party from the southern gate of the city; and, coming round to the quarter of assault, charged the rear of the besieging army. The effect was not so decided as at once to end the struggle; their numbers were still too formidably over-balanced by the besiegers. It, however, so far threw them into disorder, that the efforts of the English became more decisive, and their superiority of firmness and discipline began to tell with redoubled effect, so that the confusion of the besiegers, momently increasing, ended at last in a headlong flight. The English were now joined by some Irish allies, of whose disposition they had been hitherto doubtful, and the Ostmen were pursued with great slaughter to their ships. Wood was slain. Hesculf was taken. It was first decided to hold him to ransom; but he imprudently boasted of the extent of his preparations for the next attack, and of his resolution, before long, to crush the power of his captors; and this perilous bravado cost him his life.

But a trial still more severe was yet to be encountered. In the general supineness of the Irish chiefs--altogether devoid of all ideas of a national cause, and only alive to the call of their separate petty interests--one chief alone was, by the accident of his more extended interests, awake to the dangers which menaced the foundations of his monarchy. Roderic--ill seconded by any corresponding sense on the part of his chiefs, of whom the greater number were ready, at any moment, to desert or oppose him for the slightest object, whether of fear or gain--was yet ever on the watch for the moment of advantage against his Norman foes. He had fully learned the vanity of all expectation from the result of any resistance, less than that of an overwhelming national force; he was now aware of the juncture of circumstances, which promised to cut off all further aid from the English, who were thinned in numbers, and nearly destitute of supplies; and he resolved to avail himself of the occasion.

He was nobly seconded by Lawrence O'Toole, the archbishop of Dublin, whose assistance was rendered effective by the commanding influence of his talents and virtues. He hastened from province to province, roused the spirit, and awakened the fears of the divided chiefs. He solicited and obtained the powerful alliance of Gotred, king of Man, who came with thirty vessels into the harbour of Dublin, which they placed under blockade. The confederacy, thus excited, seemed for the first time equal to the emergency. Roderic, with his provincial force, encamped at Castleknock; O'Ruark and O'Carrol at Clontarf; O'Kinsellagh occupied the opposite shore; the chief of Thomond took his position at Kilmainham; Lawrence himself took arms and headed his troop. This formidable armament was perhaps more to be dreaded from the mere consequences of its vis inertiae, than from any active exertion of its power of offence; it was divided by separate commands, and still more by the diffusion of a spirit of private jealousy; most of its chiefs entertaining more dislikes and fears of one another, than hostility to the common enemy.

The besieged, for two months enclosed by this seemingly formidable alliance, were reduced to difficulties of the severest kind. The dearth of provisions increased daily; the men grew distempered, and lost their spirits and vigour; a little further protraction of their present condition would have left nothing for the enemy to effect. Their misery was aggravated by an account of the distress of Fitz-Stephen, who lay in the utmost danger of being seized by the people of Wexford.

Strongbow called a council.[2] It was agreed that their situation was too desperate for further resistance, and they resolved to treat with Roderic on any fair and honourable terms. The speech attributed by Regan to Strongbow, may be cited as descriptive of the circumstances:--"You see with what forces our enemies besiege us; we have not victuals to suffice us longer than fifteen days; a measure of wheat is now sold for a marke, of barley for half a marke; wherefore I think it best that we presently send to the king of Connaught to tell him, that if he will rise and depart from the siege, I will submit myself to him, and be his man, and hold Leinster of him; and I am of opinion that Lawrence, the archbishop of Dublin, is the meetest man to negotiate this business." Lawrence was applied to, and willingly engaged to bear the proposal of the earl to Roderic; but soon returned with an answer, of which some writers suspect him to have been the framer. The supposition implies a baseness which we cannot credit, notwithstanding the low morality of the age; and we think the answer more likely to have come from Roderic, of whose position it was the natural suggestion. Lawrence entered the council of the English with the stern composure of his character, and delivered, with firmness, an answer which he may honestly have approved. It was this:--That all the forts held by the English should be immediately surrendered to Roderic, and that the English should depart before an appointed day, and leave the country henceforth free from their claims and usurpations; on refusal of which, Roderic threatened to assault the city, "making no doubt to carry it by force." This proud answer amazed the earl and his council: they sat for some moments silent and perplexed. At last Miles de Cogan started up and advised an immediate sally, himself offering to be the leader. The proposal was received with acclamation, and they immediately broke up their sitting to execute it. The following was the disposition of their little force, as stated by Regan:--"The vanguard was assigned to Myles de Cogan, consisting of two hundred; Raymond le Gros, with other two hundre, commanded the battle; and the erle, with two hundre, marched in the reare, In this interprize, full of perill, they used not the aid of their Irish soldiers; for neyther in their fidelity nor in their valour reposed they confidence, saving only of the persons of Donald Kavannagh, and Mac Gely, and Awliff O'Carvie, of whom they wer assured. Unto Finglass they directed their march. When they approached the enemies' campe, who wer careless and secure, not mistrustinge any suche attempt, Myles de Cogan, to encourage his souldiers--'In the name of God,' said he, 'let us this day try our valour upon these savages, or dye like men;' and therwithall broke furiously into the camp, and made such slaughter as all fled before hym. Raymond, callinge upon St David, furiously rushed in amongst his enemies, and performed wonders; and so did the erle Richard; but especially Meyler Fitz-Henry's valour was admired at bye all men.

In Boynhill of the enemies were slain more than one hundreth and fifty; of the English there was only one footman hurt. This overthrow so discouraged the Irish, as the siege was nearly abandoned; and in the enemies' campe store of baggage was gotten, and such quantities of corn, meale, and pork, as was sufficiaunt to victuall the citty for one whole yere."[3]

Thus, by a single effort, was dissolved a league, the apparent power of which fully justified the haughty imposition of terms proposed by Roderic, through the archbishop of Dublin. Strongbow was now at liberty to proceed to Wexford to the succour of the unfortunate Fitz-Stephen. This brave man had, for a long time held out with a resolution and skill which rendered vain the most furious efforts of his assailants. At length they had recourse to a stratagem, which might be excused on the plea of utter barbarism, were it not frightfully aggravated by the more atrocious perjury. They demanded a parley, in which, assuming the tone of friendly sympathy, they assured Fitz-Stephen that Strongbow had been defeated, and that Roderic was now on his march to Wexford, with the resolution of storming his fortress and putting his garrison to the sword, and that Fitz-Stephen himself was more especially the object of his vengeance. They had resolved that under these dreadful circumstances, he should not be left ignorant of the danger that awaited him; they could not assist, but they would countenance and facilitate his escape. Fitz-Stephen hesitated. His garrison amounted to about a score of persons; the besiegers were at least three thousand. Their improbable professions of regard seemed to throw an air of doubt over their whole story. To remove all further hesitation, they produced the bishops of Wexford and Kildare in their robes, and bearing the cross, the host, and some relics; laying their hands on these, the perfidious barbarians confirmed their falsehood by an oath. Fitz-Stephen, completely duped, without further question, delivered himself and his hapless associates to the mercy of these miscreants. They instantly cast him into chains; and, disarming his men, exhausted on them every torture they could devise. In the midst of this inhuman employment, they received intelligence of Strongbow's approach; on which they set fire to Wexford, and decamped with Fitz-Stephen and the surviving prisoners.

In the meantime, Strongbow had not been allowed to reach his destination without the usual share of adventures. For a while he marched on without the appearance of a foe, until he reached a narrow pass between vast bogs in the district of Hidrone, in the county of Carlow. Here O'Ryan, the lord of the place, placed an armed force in ambush to intercept him in the most difficult part of this passage. On the arrival of the English at this point, they were unexpectedly attacked by an impetuous burst of these uncouth assailants, who broke in among them with hideous outcries, and, for a moment, threw them into confusion. They even succeeded so far as to beat Meyler Fitz-Henry to the ground, and it was not without much difficulty that he was extricated from their fury. At this moment an arrow, discharged by a monk, killed O'Ryan, when the enemy fled as wildly as they had advanced. The earl regained the plain with the loss of only one young man.

It is a tradition that, on this occasion, Strongbow's only son was so terrified at the sudden rush and savage appearance of the Irish, that he turned and fled to Dublin, where he reported the death of his father and the destruction of his entire force. When undeceived from this error, he appeared before his father to congratulate him on his victory: the earl had him seized and condemned to death. It is even added that he slew him with his own hand. "This tradition," observes Leland, "receives some countenance from the ancient monument in the cathedral of Dublin, in which the statue of the son of Strongbow is continued only to the middle, with the bowels open and supported by the hands; but, as this monument was erected some centuries after the death of Strongbow, it is thus of less authority. The Irish annalists mention the earl's son as engaged in several actions posterior to this period."[4]

Strongbow, on his arrival at Wexford, had the mortification to learn, by a deputation from the Irish, that Fitz-Stephen remained in their hands, and that any attempt to molest them in their retreat, would cause them to strike off his head. He felt the risk, and, with vain regret for his friend, turned towards Waterford.

At Waterford, he found himself soon involved in the inextricable web of Irish feuds. These are not in themselves sufficiently remarkable to be described with the detail of history; it may be sufficient to say, that some of the chiefs of the neighbouring districts, by artful misrepresentations, endeavoured to league him with their petty hostilities, and to make his power instrumental to their private animosities and ambitious designs. From Waterford he proceeded to Ferns, where, for some days, he remained in the exercise of royal authority.

He was, however, not long allowed to plume himself in the state of royalty. His uncle, Hervey de Montmorres, whom he had deputed to king Henry, now landed at Waterford, bearing letters and messages from his friends in England, strongly urging that he should not lose a moment in presenting himself before the king. Of the necessity of this, Strongbow was himself fully sensible, and resolved to set out without delay.

We have already mentioned the troubles in which Becket's death had involved the king. From these it had required all his eminent courage and sagacity to deliver him. But he was now free to follow the impulse of his ambition, which had long contemplated Ireland as an enviable accession to his dominions. With this view he had, so far back as 1155, procured a bull from pope Adrian IV., who was an Englishman, authorizing the conquest of Ireland; this, with its subsequent confirmation by a breve from pope Alexander, he had suffered to lie by till a favourable juncture of circumstances might render it available. The season was now arrived, and the king entered with alacrity on his preparations. His first steps, however, were calculated to mislead expectation. He began by disclaiming all countenance of the proceedings of the English adventurers, and summoned Strongbow to is presence, to answer for his unauthorized proceedings.

But he not the less prepared for the meditated enterprise by an extensive levy of money and forces. Mr Moore observes, that "from the disbursements made for the arms, provision, and shipping of the army, as set forth in the pipe roll of the year 1171, still preserved, it would appear that the force raised for the expedition was much more numerous than has been represented by historians."[5]

Henry at first refused to see Strongbow, but, on the mediation of De Montmorres, admitted him to an audience. Affecting a high tone of offended majesty, he allowed himself to be appeased by the concessions of the earl, who yielded up his Irish acquisitions, and, in return, was restored to his English and Norman estates, with large tracts of Irish territory, to be held in perpetuity under the English crown. This arrangement was ratified by a formal instrument, by which Dublin and its adjoining districts were ceded to the king, together with the maritime towns and places of strength acquired by Strongbow. By these concessions, he was restored to favour, and allowed to attend the king to Pembroke, where he resided during his preparations.

Meanwhile, a last effort was made by O'Ruark against the garrison of Dublin, commanded by Miles de Cogan in the absence of the earl. The attack was vigorous, and repelled with some loss; but with the usual fortune of all the efforts hitherto made by the Irish against their invaders, the first repulse was a decided and sanguinary defeat.

The report of Henry's approach excited no sensation among the Irish. The little spirit of resistance which might yet remain was much damped by the uniform failure of all the efforts which had been successively made against the English. The vast accession of strength which these were now to gain by the approach of the royal army, must have been felt to render all resistance unavailing. But, in addition to this, a lulling impression was produced by the specious manifestations of the king. He professed to come over to assert his unquestioned sovereignty against invaders, who had usurped his power and made war upon his subjects. Devoid of all sense of national existence, each petty chieftain thought of his own interests alone, and looked either with apathy, or with the malignity of some private resentment, on the probable dissolution of their own monarch's power.

His preparations being complete, the king embarked at Milford, and on the 18th October, 1171, landed at Croch, near Waterford. His force amounted to 500 knights, with about 4000 men, distributed in 400 [6] vessels.

There was, on the intelligence of his landing, a general movement through the country, among those whom his arrival impressed with fear or expectation. The Wexford men, who had detained Fitz-Stephen, came and delivered him up, with themselves, their lands, and allegiance to the disposal of the king. They represented their zeal as proved by the seizure of "a traitor to his sovereign," who had, without warrant, "slaughtered their people, seized their lands, and attempted to establish himself independent of his liege lord." The king received them with expressions of favour, and declared that he would inquire into the crimes of Fitz-Stephen, whom, in the meantime, with his wonted double policy, he reprimanded and confined until he had compelled the concession of his acquisitions as the price of favour and freedom. On the same occasion, Strongbow made a formal cession of Waterford, and did homage for his principality of Leinster. Dermod Macarthy, prince of Desmond, was the first of the native princes who submitted. On the next day after Henry's arrival, he came in, and surrendering the dominion of his capital city of Cork, Henry received his oath of fealty, confirmed his subordinate rights, and placed a governor and garrison of his own in Cork. From Waterford he marched to Lismore, and thence to Cashel, near which he received the submission of O'Brien, prince of Limerick. It is not necessary here to state the repetitions of the same proceeding, accompanied by similar circumstances, which attended the successive steps of his progress, at every stage of which he was met by the submission and homage of the neighbouring princes and chiefs, which he received with a conciliating deportment, and secured by garrisons and governors. Among their names, as mentioned by Giraldus, that of O'Rourke arrests the attention of the reader. Roderic alone exhibited, in the manner of his submission, some indications of reluctance. He came no nearer than the Shannon, "which divideth Connaught from Meath," where he was met by Hugh de Lacy and William Fitz-Adelm, who received his oath of allegiance, by which he declared himself tributary to England.

The king kept the festival of Christmas in Dublin, near which he had erected a palace of wattles for his residence. He was here attended by most of the native chiefs, whose astonishment at his magnificence is thus described by Giraldus:--"When they saw the great abundance of victuals, and the noble services, as also the eating of cranes, which they much loathed, being not before accustomed thereunto, they much wondered and marvelled thereat, but in the end, they being by the king's commandment set down, did also there eat and drink among them."

During his stay, Henry assembled a synod at Cashel, composed chiefly of the Irish prelates, in which many canons were decreed. To notice these distinctly would lead us farther into the province of church history than the purpose of this memoir admits of. Matthew Paris mentions a lay council at Lismore, where "the laws of England were gratefully accepted by all, and confirmed by the solemnity of an oath." Henry next proceeded to Wexford, where he passed the remainder of his stay in endeavouring to strengthen his hold on the faith and allegiance of his principal English officers who were to remain in the country; and, above all, to secure himself against the power and influence of Strongbow, to whom his jealousy was the source of much trouble and vexation during the rest of his life.

The absence of all news from England, owing to the weather having been so unusually tempestuous, that for some months no ship approached the Irish coast, had for some time much depressed the king's mind. At last, about the middle of Lent, ships from England and France brought intelligence of the fresh revolt of his ungrateful children, and also of the arrival of the papal legates to place his kingdom under an interdict for the murder of Becket. These perplexing accounts admitted of no delay; ordering his forces to Waterford, where his fleet awaited him, he embarked for England on the 17th of April.

It is to be regretted that this able and sagacious monarch was not allowed, by the course of events, to remain until he had completed the structure of which he imperfectly laid the foundation. The quiet submission of the natives, with the sound method of equalizing and soothing policy by which it was obviously the king's intent and interest to cement this newly acquired dominion with the mass of his kingdom, by the only just and effective tie of a full intercommunity of interest and laws, might be expected to have ultimately placed the interests of the island on the securest foundation. Yet, however we may arrive at this conclusion, and concur with those who are of opinion that such would have been the most desirable result for the country and for the body of the people; at the same time the general course of experience, from the history of similar changes, and especially the process which had so recently altered the constitution and transferred the power and property of England, warrants the added conclusion, that the continued attention of the king to Irish affairs--while it much enlarged the basis of popular right, and much advanced the prospects of civilization--by a succession of arbitrary interferences on slight pretexts, would have made much more extensive transfers of the property of the country. Fresh settlers would soon have brought with them new demands on his bounty, and desires of extended settlement; and causes of exasperation would not have failed to furnish pretexts for a more iron-handed subjugation. The course of events depends little on the intent of the hand which sets them in motion; strong necessities, which arise from the cross winds of seeming chance and the complex currents of human passions, impel the subsequent course of policy with forces which it is easier to speculate on than to govern. Slight grievances would have produced discontents, which the direction of a more arbitrary power would have settled more tranquilly, but more sternly.

As circumstances turned out, the jealousy of the king was not directed towards the natives, of whose power of resistance he made small account. But he felt afraid of the power of Strongbow, which, from the extreme smallness of the English settlement, was likely (if allowed) to grow into an ill-balanced and preponderant authority, in which the temptations to disaffection would be strong. To control this, Henry effected on a small scale, that which, if circumstances had induced and warranted, he would have effected to a more serious extent. He raised up several others into power, dignity, and wealth, with extensive allotments of land, and great privileges and immunities. He gave Ulster to De Courcy, and Meath to De Lacy, and several grants in like manner to others, whom, in the course of these memoirs, we shall have distinct occasions to notice.

Earl Strongbow was thus placed in the mortifying position of a subordinate, where he must have felt that he had the first claim, both by right and rank. He retired to Ferns, for the marriage of his daughter to De Quincy, to whom he gave large grants of lands. But De Quincy was not long suffered to enjoy his honours; Strongbow being obliged to march into Ophaly to compel the payment of his tribute, his force was attacked in the rear, and De Quincy, with many others, slain, before order could be restored.

But the eclipse of Strongbow's favour quickly passed away. King Henry became the object of a powerful confederacy. The unnatural rebellion of his unruly sons was joined by many foreign potentates, who were jealous of his greatness, and hostilities began to menace him from every side. Among other steps for his defence, he was obliged to draw forces from Ireland. Strongbow was foremost in this moment of emergency, and displayed such zeal and efficiency, that Henry trusted him with the government of Gisors. The effects of this step were highly detrimental to the interests of the Irish settlement: the absence of the troops and chief leaders excited a general insurrection of the native chiefs, which we shall again have to notice more fully.

These troubles were heightened by dissensions among the English leaders who remained, and matters were proceeding to a dangerous length, when Henry resolved to send Strongbow over, as the only person whose authority was likely to have weight with all. Having communicated this design to Strongbow, the earl, aware of the jealous temper of the king, proposed that he should have a colleague joined in commission with him; by this he also hoped to be able to turn aside the jealousy of his rivals and enemies. Henry would not consent to the proposal of a colleague, but gave his consent to have Raymond le Gros employed in any service he might think fit. He also granted to Strong-bow, on this occasion, the town of Wexford, together with a fort erected at Wicklow.

On landing in Ireland, Strongbow quickly found himself immersed in distresses of no light order. Obliged to send off Fitz-Stephen, De Prendergast, De Lacy, De Cogan, and others, with a considerable force for the service of Henry, with a weakened army he had to contend with the increasing opposition of the Irish chiefs. The soldiery were on the point of mutiny, from their discontent with the command of Hervey de Montmorres, and at last positively refused to march or obey orders, unless under the command of their favourite leader Raymond. Strongbow was obliged to comply; and, in order to propitiate discontents justly excited by their pay having been allowed to fall into arrears, he sent them on an expedition into Ophaly, where a rich plunder was to be expected. Raymond led them into Ophaly, where they met with no resistance; and not long after obtained a slight success in the field over Malachy, prince of Desmond, which had the good effect of restoring alacrity and confidence to his army.

This beneficial effect was in some degree counteracted by the combined incapacity and rashness of Hervey de Montmorres, who, jealous of the success, fame, and favour of Raymond, was anxious to do something to raise his own character. He availed himself of the pliability of Strongbow, whose mind being rather fitted for the field than for the council, disposed him very much to be led by the suggestions of others: and proposed to him a specious plan of operations to suppress the turbulent spirit of the Munster chiefs. The only result of this plan, was the surprise of a body of Danish troops, who had been injudiciously ordered to march from Dublin to join the English. O'Brien allowed them to inarch as far as Thurles, without meeting any indication which might awaken their vigilance. Here they encamped, in the carelessness of perfect security, and, when they least expected, found themselves defenceless and in the power of an armed force, which burst into their encampment, and, without resistance, slaughtered four hundred men with their leaders.

The incident was productive of the worst consequences. Strongbow himself, alarmed by a disaster so little to be anticipated, retreated into Waterford. The Irish chieftains rose in arms; and, at a preconcerted signal, Donald Kavanagh, who from the beginning had sided with the English, now thinking that this reverse left an opening for him to lay claim to his father's province, withdrew his fidelity, and asserted his right to Leinster; while the brave king of Connaught, hoping at last some prospect of union and fidelity from this show of zeal, once more exerted his activity in an endeavour to combine the chiefs, and give method and concert to their efforts.

Strongbow, in this emergency, became sensible of the necessity of Raymond's services. He had offended this eminent soldier by the refusal of his sister; he now sent to solicit his presence, and made the lady's hand the price of conciliation. Raymond came, and brought with him a well appointed force from Wales. Collecting thirty of his own relations, with a hundred horse and three hundred archers, he embarked in twenty transports, and landed at Waterford.

It was agreed between Strongbow and Raymond, to march without delay to Wexford. Departing, they left a small, but as they thought sufficient, garrison behind them. The event was nearly fatal to this body. The townsmen of Waterford were secretly disaffected to the English, and thinking they had now a fair opportunity to seize on the town, they concerted their measures for this purpose. The garrison took no precautions against an enemy of which they had no suspicion; but acted as if among friends. Their commander crossed the Suir in a boat with few attendants; his whole party were suddenly assailed and murdered by the boatmen, who, it is to be supposed, went prepared for the purpose. This horrible deed was the signal for massacre; the bloody tidings were scarcely echoed from the observers on the shore, when the English were simultaneously attacked, and all who were unarmed, without distinction of age or sex, became the helpless victims. Of the garrison many were in the citadel, and many who were abroad contrived to join them. Arming themselves, they sallied forth into the streets, and soon reduced the rabble, who had attempted to besiege them, to sue for quarter and invent excuses for their treason.

Strongbow in the meantime staid in Wexford. Thither his sister Basilia had repaired, with a splendid retinue from Dublin, and was married to Raymond le Gros. The rejoicings were suddenly arrested by the startling intelligence that Roderic, still indefatigable in an ill-supported opposition, had passed the Shannon at the head of the combined army of the Irish chiefs, and entering Meath had expelled the English, and devastated the land to the walls of Dublin. There was a sudden stop to the festal proceedings; Raymond was compelled to change his festal weed and softer cares, for a sterner attire and purpose. He marched to Dublin, resolved to meet and crush the confederacy which had thus inopportunely called him to the field. But with the usual inconsistency of such confederacies, the impulse of the chiefs, who had no common object, had exhausted itself in the ravage of a province; and Roderic was left alone before the enemy had time to come up. Disappointed and depressed by this further evidence of the hopelessness of the cause, in which he felt himself alone, he endeavoured, by a judicious retreat, to save his own small party.

Strongbow, with Raymond, arrived in time to convert the retreat of some of the numerous parties, which had thus fallen asunder, into a destructive flight. They restored the English settlement, and had the forts rebuilt at the cost of Tyrrel, who governed there for Hugh de Lacy.

Many circumstances now occurred which seemed to give some assurance of union and prosperity to the English; but in the midst of these events, Strongbow's death took place in Dublin, after a tedious and painful illness, in the month of May, 1177. Raymond, apprized of this event by a letter from his wife, hurried privately to Dublin, and, with the archbishop, Lawrence O'Toole, solemnized his funeral. Strongbow was interred in Christ church, to which he had (with other English leaders) made considerable additions.[7]

The following description has been transmitted by Giraldus, of his person and character:--

"Earl Strongbow was of a complexion somewhat sanguine and spotted; his eyes grey, his countenance feminine, his voice small, his neck slender, but in most other particulars he was well formed and tall; liberal and courteous in his manners; and what he could not gain by power, he frequently obtained by an insinuating address. In peace he was more disposed to obey than to govern. His state and authority were reserved for the camp, and were supported with the utmost dignity. He was diffident of his own judgment, cautious of proposing his own plans of operation; but in executing those of others, undaunted and vigorous. In battle, he was the standard on which his soldiers fixed their eyes, and by whose motions they were determined either to advance or to retreat. His temper was composed and uniform; not dejected by misfortune, nor elated by success."


[1] Giraldus.

[2] The officers present at this council are mentioned by Maurice Regan:--Robert de Quincy, Walter de Ridleford, Maurice de Prendergast, Myles de Cogan, Myles Fitz-Henry, Myles Fitz-David, Richard de Maroine, Walter Bluett, and others, to the number of twenty.

[3] Regan.

[4] Lel. i. p. 61, note.

[5] In the following note on the above extract, Mr Moore gives some curious particulars. "Lynch, feudal dignities, &c. Some of the smaller payments, as given by this writer, are not a little curious. Thus we find 26s. 6d. paid for adorning and gilding the king's swords; £12 10s. for 1000 pounds of wax; 118s. 7d. for 569 pounds of almonds, sent to the king in Ireland; 15s. 11d. for five carts."--Moore, ii. 248.

[6] "240" Ann. Ulst.--quoted by Leland.

[7] "Laurence, archbishop of Dublin, Richard, surnamed Strongbow, earl of Strigul, Robert Fitz-Stephens, and Raymond le Gros, undertook to enlarge this church, and at their own charges built the choir; the steeple, and two chapels; one dedicated to St Edmund, king and martyr, and to St Mary, called the White, and the other to St Laud."--Harris's Ware.