Thursday 9 April 2015

Historical Notice of the City of Dublin (pt 2)

We now take up the history of Dublin from the period of the Anglo-Norman conquest; and in thus approaching nearer to our own times, we crave the indulgence of the reader, and hope that we will be enabled to state truths without indicating any bias.

No king, perhaps, ever gained so important a possession as Ireland, at so little personal expense, as did Henry the Second of England. While with all his chivalry, and the flower of his dominions, he was vainly endeavouring to preserve France as part and parcel of the British empire, a few of his subjects on the marches of Wales had won for him apparently against his consent, an island without which the empire must have been incomplete, even though France had been retained. The Plantagenet, though he affected to be angry until Strongbow and the extraordinary handful of men who had secured Dublin and the east of Ireland for him, was not slow in proceeding to take possession in person of the crown that was thus won. On landing at Waterford, he immediately went on to Dublin, attended by Strongbow, and having in his train a gallant body of the Anglo-Norman nobility, and a small but well appointed army. When he reached the metropolis, he summoned the Irish kings to meet him, which was obeyed by the kings of Meath, Brefney, (Longford,) Uriel, (Louth,) and many others. But O'Connor, the Irish monarch, would not trust himself on the eastern side of the Shannon, and made his submission to Hugh de Lacy, who was commissioned to receive it, acknowledging Henry as his liege lord. Dublin, at the period of the Plantagenet's arrival, did not contain a house fit to receive a King, or capable of exhibiting those festive hospitalities which, as a King, he was determined to display to his new subjects. Therefore, outside the walls, in what was then called Hoggin, but now College Green, a large temporary building was erected, composed of wattles plastered with clay. In this pavillion, run up after Irish fashion, Henry kept his Christmas. Within these rude walls, hung with the draperies of Flanders, and with the gorgeous plate and household decorations of France and Italy, he dazzled, while he feasted the Irish chieftains, and confirmed them in the opinion of his wealth and power. Having established courts of justice, granted English laws, which were accepted, and held a Parliament, according to the existing Anglo-Norman constitution, and after staying a few months, he hurried back to the peculiar field of his ambition -- Normandy; leaving Dublin, not under the government of Strongbow, for of him he was ever jealous, but of Hugh de Lacy, Robert Fitzstephen and Maurice Fitzgerald, who, for their talents, rank and possessions, amongst the Anglo-Norman conquerors of Ireland, he supposed would prove a counterpoise to the power of Strongbow. Henry, though he accepted the conquest of Ireland because it cost him little, and though he had cunning enough to see that it was worth something, yet actuated by his mean parsomony, political views, and perhaps a low estimate of the real value of our country, determined that the private individuals at whose risk it was obtained, should also be at the expense of preserving what was already mastered, and of subduing the rest. So, after bringing over a colony from Bristol to settle in Dublin, and occupy the place of the evicted Ostmen, he distributed immense territories to the grandees who had first invaded, and gained a footing on our isle. To Strongbow he gave all Leinster; to De Lacy, Meath; to De Courcy, Ulster; and to Robert Fitz Stephen and Miles de Cogan, Cork. Thus he laid the foundation of that great Anglo-Norman aristocracy, or rather oligarchy, who ever at war with the Irish or the crown, were the chief cause of the unquiet state of Ireland for five hundred years.

It is not within our scope to enter into detail on the annals of Dublin, because, in fact, there is not a great deal that is really historically interesting. The colony of Bristollians settled under Henry's encouragement and charter, seemed to have amalgamated readily with the Irish and Ostman remnant that remained in the city after the seizure of it by Miles de Cogan. The walls being strengthened, and the Castle of Dublin commenced in 1205, by Meyler Fitz Henry, and completed in 1220 by Henry de Londres, the Archbishop, and rendered a respectable fortress, the citizens of Dublin were found to be of great use in maintaining the English power in Ireland. They went forth from the Lords lieutenants and Lords deputies, in carrying the war beyond the pale, and in breaking the hostile confederacies of the Anglo-Irish or Milesian chieftains; and the fame of their martial prowess went before them beyond the Shannon, and as far as the Giant's Causeway. On these occasions the martial force of Dublin consisted of twenty companies, drawn from the Corporations, and headed by their Masters as Captains, and bearing before them their black standard, which, as Stanihurst says, was "ragged and jagged, and almost by the rough tract of time, worn to the bare stumps." This array was always beheld by their enemies with particular respect and dread, and it was not alone the Byrnes or the O'Tooles that were kept by them in check, but the farthest north had reason to feel their power.

The particular day for mustering the martial array of Dublin was Easter Monday, which is still called Black Monday, for the following reason: the Bristollians, to whom Henry the Second had granted the city, and who now in fact composed the majority of the citizens, had introduced a sport which appears to have been lost in England, but is to this day a favorite game with the Irish -- the hurling of balls on an extensive green. In the year 1209, a party of the citizens having challenged another party to a hurling match on Easter Monday, they fixed on an open space, now Cullenswood, which then stretched from within two miles of the Castle of Dublin to the Wicklow mountains. Here, while unarmed, and deeply engaged in this beautiful and interesting game, they were set upon by the Byrnes and the O'Tooles, and a dreaded slaughter ensued.1

It was chiefly owing to the defensive precautions of the Dublin citizens, and to their reputation for discipline and valour, that Edward Bruce failed in his attempt at making Ireland an appendage to the Scottish crown. He had engaged in his alliance, all Ireland north of Dublin, and had marched (A.D. 1316) as far as Castlenock, within four miles of the city. But the townsmen having set fire to the suburbs, demolished Thomas-street, and even in the ardour of defence having pulled down part of a monastery of Dominican friars to strenghten the fortifications. Bruce saw that he had no chance, and under the mixed discouragement of his failure and want of provisions, he was forced to retreat to Ulster, where he was finally defeated. Thus this brief but dangerous attempt of the Scotch on Ireland was frustrated: and the good citizens of Dublin, in suing out their pardon from the king for demolishing part of their town, and making submission to the Church for delapidating a holy house, doubtless mixed no little pride with their penance, as having made sacrifices in their country's cause.

But this was not the only occasion on which the Dublinians committed acts which compromised them with both Crown and Church. They unfortunately engaged in the long feud that was carried on in the fifteenth century, between the earls of Kildare and Ormond, taking part with the Geraldine against the Butler. On a certain occasion they tore the earl of Ormonde from the sanctuary at Mary's Abbey, and breaking open the door, they not only did violence to him, but to the Abbot, carrying him forth from his own altar as they would a corpse. For this the mayor and sheriffs had to do public penance, walking barefoot through the streets of the city, from Patrick's church to Christ's church, and so on to Mary's Abbey. But this was not all. In a quarrel which took place between Ormonde and Kildare in st. Patrick's church, the citizens, who thought their favorite Geraldine in danger, actually discharged a flight of arrows in the sanctuary, at Ormonde's retinue, some of which having stuck in the sacred images that were kept in the rood loft, complaint was made to the Pope, and a legate a latere was sent to make inquisition into the matter. The citizens could only be absolved by their undertaking that their mayor should ever afterwards, in detestation of the enormity, walk barefooted through the city in open procession, on Corpus Christi day. Indeed in these primitive times the ecclesiastical discipline under which good people were kept, was by no means light; and perhaps the world is not much better since the Church's discipline has been relaxed. What, for instance, would the worthy people of Dublin in the nineteenth century say, if subjected to the penalties for sinning to which their forefathers of the thirteenth century were bound? The Black Book of Christ's church records the following ordinance:-- "If any citizen committed a public sin, he should for the said offence commute for a sum of money; if he continued in his sin, and that the same was enormous and public, that then ('fustigetur') he should be cudgelled about the church; that for a third offence he should be cudgelled before the processions made to St. Patrick's or Christ's church; and if after his penance he should persist in his sin, the Official of the Archbishop should give notice of it to the mayor, and bailiffs, who should either turn him out of the city, or cudgel him through it."

But Dublin fell into a worse scrape than any that have been mentioned. In the year 1486, the citizens, encouraged by the influence and example of the earl of Kildare and the Archbishop, received Lambert Simnel, and actually crowned him king of England and Ireland, in Christ's church; and to make the solemnity more imposing, they carried the young imposter on the shoulders of a monstrous man, one Darcy, of Platten, in the county of Meath; and being in want of a crown, they borrowed one for the occasion from the head of the image of the blessed Virgin that stood in the church dedicated to her service at Dame's-gate.2 But the townsmen soon finding out their error, and feeling that they had to do with a prince of the house of Tudor, who was both resolute and wise, (Henry the Seventh) tendered their humble apology and submission in the following words:-- "We were daunted to see not only your chief governor, whom your highness made ruler over us, to bend the knee to this idol, but also our father of Dublin, and most of the clergy of the nation, except his Grace the Archbishop of Armagh. We therefore humbly crave your highness's clemency towards your poor subjects of Dublin." The prayer of this petition his majesty was pleased to accede to, though the citizens were not entitled to pardon on the plea of benefit of clergy, for many who affixed their marks to the instrument could not write.3

But we must conclude for this number, promising our readers a treat when we come to give the history of Silken Thomas, -- Thomas Fitzgerald, lord deputy of Ireland, -- who was so called from the splendour of his military trappings and his gallant and noble bearing. His life and fate are highly interesting, and will adorn a page of our little Journal. In the mean time, hoping that our readers will not complain that we are either dry or tedious, we bid them good-bye -- for a week.

[1] It may interest the reader to peruse the quaint description that Stanihurst gives of this affair:-- "The citizens, having ever great affiance in the multitude of the people, and so consequently being somewhat retchless (reckless) in heeding the mountain enemie, that lurched rude, their noses, were wont to roam and royle in clusters, sometimes three and four myles from towne. The Irish enemy espying that the citizens were accustomed to fetch such odd vagaries on holydays, and having an inkling withal by the means of some claterfert (traitor) or other that a company of them would range abroad, on Monday in the easter week, towards the woode of Cullen, they lay in a state very well appointed, and layde in sundry places for their coming. The citizens rather minding the pleasure they should presently enjoy than forecasting the hurt that might ensue, flockt unarmed from the citie to the woode. Where, being intercepted by their lying in ambush, they were to the number of five hundred miserably slayne. The citizens, deeming that unluckie tyme to be a cross or dismall day, gave it the appellation of Black Monday. The citie, being soon after peopled by a fresh supply of Bristollians, to dare the Irish enemie, agreed to bancket yearly in that place. For the mayor and the sheriffes, with the citizens, repayre to the Woode of Cullen, in which place the mayor bestoweth a costly dinner within a moate or roundell, and both the sheriffs within another, where they are so well guarded by the youth of the citie, as the mountain enemie dareth not attempt to snatch as much as a pastye crust from thence."

[2] This gate was so called from the church of St. Mary les Dame that adjoined it.

[3] Our readers are aware that benefit of clergy was extended to those only who could read and write.

Text: The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Jul. 7, 1832)

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