First Anglo-Norman Adventurers (1169-1171)

Patrick Weston Joyce

195. In the month of May 1169 a force of 100 knights and men-at-arms in coats of mail and about 600 archers, under Robert Fitzstephen and Maurice Prendergast landed at Bannow in Wexford with Hervey Mountmaurice, Strongbow's uncle. As knights and archers had attendants, the total force was about 2,000. Having been joined by Dermot and his son, Donall Kavanagh, with 500 horsemen, he advanced on the town of Wexford, which after a valiant defence was surrendered to them.

Then Dermot granted Wexford and the adjoining district to Robert Fitzstephen and Maurice Fitzgerald—the latter of whom had not yet arrived. He granted also to Mountmaurice the district lying between the towns of Wexford and Waterford. Dermot and his allies next attacked Ossory and forced its chief Mac Gilla Patrick to submit.

196. King Roderick O'Conor now at last became alarmed, and marched with a large army towards Ferns, where he found the king of Leinster and his foreign auxiliaries strongly entrenched. But the feeble-minded monarch, instead of promptly attacking the rebel king and his few foreign auxiliaries, made peace with Dermot and restored him to his kingdom, on condition—which was kept secret from his new friends—that he should send home the foreigners and bring hither no more of them; and Dermot gave his favourite son Conor and two other relatives as hostages.

But Maurice Fitzgerald landing soon afterwards, Dermot broke his promises, and with all the Anglo-Normans marched on Dublin, which the Danish king Hasculf Mac Turkill was forced to surrender to them.

197. At last Dermot resolved to make himself king of Ireland, and sent to Strongbow urging him to come over. On the 1st of May, 1170, Strongbow, not being yet ready to come himself, despatched a force of about 800 men under Raymond Fitzgerald, commonly known as Raymond le Gros, who fortified himself at a place called Dundonnell on the Wexford coast not far from Waterford.

Here they were soon attacked by a great army from Waterford; but Raymond defeated them, slaying 500 of them. And after the battle 70 of the principal citizens who had been taken prisoners were cruelly executed.

198. At last, on the 23rd of August 1170, Strongbow landed near Waterford with an army of 3,000 men; and being joined by the others, they captured the city of Waterford, slaughtering great numbers of the inhabitants. Then Dermot carried out his promise: and the marriage of Strongbow and Eva was solemnized.

199. Scarcely had the ceremony ended when tidings came that Hasculf of Dublin had revolted against Dermot. Whereupon Dermot and Strongbow, in this same year 1170, marched over the mountains with an army of 5,000 men; and when the Dublin citizens beheld this formidable army approaching, they were so terrified that they sent their illustrious and saintly archbishop Laurence O'Toole with conditions of surrender. A truce was agreed on till terms of peace should be settled. But even after the conclusion of the truce, Raymond le Gros and Miles de Cogan, with a band of followers, forced their way into the city, and falling on the unresisting citizens butchered them without mercy. Hasculf and a large number of his people made their escape on board ship and sailed for the Scottish isles; and Dermot and Strongbow remained in possession of the city. After this king Roderick caused Dermot's three hostages to be put to death.

200. The progress of the invaders began now to excite general alarm, and a synod of all the clergy of Ireland was convoked at Armagh, who came to the conclusion that the invasion was a judgment from heaven for the crime of Slavery (57). And the synod decreed that all English slaves should be forthwith restored to freedom.

201. In the Spring of the next year, 1171, the arch traitor Dermot died at Ferns in the 61st year of his age: and immediately after his death earl Richard had himself proclaimed king of Leinster.

202. The fame of the great conquests made by Strongbow got noised abroad, so that it came to the ears of king Henry. Fearing that Strongbow might make himself king, he issued an edict forbidding further intercourse with Ireland: and at the same time he began to prepare for his own expedition.

And now Strongbow, being in want of provisions and reinforcements, was reduced to dire distress; and the little band of Anglo-Normans were preserved from destruction only by their own indomitable bravery.

203. Hasculf Mac Turkill returned to Ireland in 1171 with a great army of Danes, and besieged Dublin. But the governor Miles de Cogan, sallied forth from the gate, and after a terrible struggle he defeated the Danish army, and slew the commander, a fierce Dane named John the Mad. Hasculf himself was captured and put to death.

204. But no sooner was this danger averted than there arose another much more formidable. The patriotic archbishop Laurence O'Toole persuaded the kings and chiefs to join in an attempt to crush the enemy. And numerous contingents began to march from every side towards Dublin; so that a great army was soon encamped round about the city, under king Roderick's command.

For two whole months (of 1171) the king let his army lie inactive in their tents; but they reduced the garrison to great straits by stopping all supplies. To add to the distress news came that Fitzstephen was surrounded by the Irish in his castle of Carrick near Wexford.

Driven to desperation they came to the resolution to attempt to cut their way in a body through the enemy. About 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the desperate little band, 600 Anglo-Normans with some Irish under Donall Kavanagh, suddenly sallied out and took the Irish completely by surprise; and the king himself, who happened to be in his bath at the time, escaped with much difficulty half naked from the field. The panic spread rapidly, and the various contingents broke up and fled. And the garrison returned triumphant to the city, laden with booty, and with provisions enough for a whole year.

205. Strongbow now marched south to relieve Fitzstephen; but he was too late, for Fitzstephen had been taken prisoner. Immediately afterwards he received a message from king Henry, summoning him to his presence. So hastily crossing the sea he presented himself before the monarch, whom he found with a large army preparing to invade Ireland.