Norman Settlement

Justin McCarthy
Chapter III | Start of Chapter

Henry prudently refrained from any attempt to effect a complete revolution in the social and economic principles of the conquered race. It was not until a later time that the policy came into force which had for its object the transformation of the island into a mere dependency of England, compelled to adopt English systems and methods. Henry accomplished one great change before he left Ireland, as to the results of which the writers of history have ever since been engaged in controversy. He adopted a system of what must be called confiscation with regard to the lands of the Chieftains and the Septs he had reduced to submission, and divided these lands amongst his followers, with the avowed object of establishing a Norman settlement in Ireland. It may be admitted that he did no worse than most other conquerors have done at all times with the land of those they had conquered, but Henry's policy had unquestionably the effect of making the whole native population hostile to the Sovereign power of England.

The Irish Celts were devoted to the traditions of their ancestors, and no power in any human system could reconcile them to the new principles of ownership, or to the Normans as lords of the soil. For many years the history of Ireland told of nothing but continuous struggles between the Irish inhabitants and the Norman settlers, mingled with much occasional strife between one Irish Chieftain and another. The cause of these latter struggles is not to be found merely in the tendency to jealousy and disunion among Irish ruling families. Many of the Irish Chiefs had sworn allegiance to the Conqueror and accepted his support, while others held out to the last against him. The hatred of those who accepted the new conditions for those who refused to acknowledge them must have been as intense as the hatred of the conquering Normans for the native Chiefs who resisted their rule.