We have already told the tragic fate of the two adventurers--Fitzstephen and de Cogan--between whom the whole of Desmond was first partitioned by Henry II. But there were not wanting other claimants, either by original grant from the crown, by intermarriage with Irish, or Norman-Irish heiresses, or new-comers, favourites of John or of Henry III., or of their Ministers, enriched at the expense of the native population. Thomas, third son of Maurice Fitzgerald, claimed partly through his uncle Fitzstephen, and partly through his marriage with the daughter of another early adventurer, Sir William Morrie, whose vast estates on which his descendants were afterwards known as Earls of Desmond, the White Knight, the Knight of Glyn, and the Knight of Kerry. Robert de Carew and Patrick de Courcy claimed as heirs general to de Cogan. The de Mariscoes, de Barris, and le Poers, were not extinct; and finally Edward I., soon after his accession, granted the whole land of Thomond to Thomas de Clare, son of the Earl of Gloucester, and son-in-law of Maurice, third Baron of Offally. A contest very similar to that which was waged in Connaught between the O'Conors and de Burghs was consequently going on in Munster at the same time, between the old inhabitants and the new claimants, of all the three classes just indicated.
The principality of Desmond, containing angles of Waterford and Tipperary, with all Cork and Kerry, seemed at the beginning of the thirteenth century in greatest danger of conquest. The O'Callaghans, Lords of Cinel-Aedha, in the south of Cork, were driven into the mountains of Duhallow, where they rallied and held their ground for four centuries; the O'Sullivans, originally settled along the Suir, about Clonmel, were forced towards the mountain seacoast of Cork and Kerry, where they acquired new vigour in the less fertile soil of Beare and Bantry. The native families of the Desies, from their proximity to the port of Waterford, were harassed and overrun, and the ports of Dungarvan, Youghal, and Cork, being also taken and garrisoned by the founder of the earldom of Desmond, easy entrance and egress by sea could always be obtained for his allies, auxiliaries, and supplies. It was when these dangers were darkening and menacing on every side that the family of McCarthy, under a succession of able and vigorous chiefs, proved themselves worthy of the headship of the Eugenian race. Cormac McCarthy, who had expelled the first garrison from Waterford, ere he fell in a parley before Cork, had defeated the first enterprises of Fitzstephen and de Cogan; he left a worthy son in Donald na Curra, who, uniting his own co-relations, and acting in conjunction with O'Brien and O'Conor, retarded by his many exploits the progress of the invasion in Munster. He recovered Cork and razed King John's castle at Knockgraffon on the Suir. He left two surviving sons, of whom the eldest, Donald Gott, or the Stammerer, took the title of More, or Great, and his posterity remained princes of Desmond, until that title merged in the earldom of Glencare (A.D. 1565); the other, Cormac, after taking his brother prisoner compelled him to acknowledge him as lord of the four baronies of Carbury. From this Cormac the family of McCarthy Reagh descended, and to them the O'Driscolls, O'Donovans, O'Mahonys, and other Eugenian houses became tributary. The chief residence of McCarthy Reagh was long fixed at Dunmanway; his castles were also at Baltimore, Castlehaven, Lough-Fyne, and in Inis-Sherkin and Clear Island. The power of McCarthy More extended at its greatest reach from Tralee in Kerry to Lismore in Waterford. In the year 1229, Dermid McCarthy had peaceable possession of Cork, and founded the Franciscan Monastery there. Such was his power, that, according to Hamner and his authorities, the Geraldines "dare not for twelve years put plough into the ground in Desmond." At last, another generation rose, and fierce family feuds broke out between the branches of the family. The Lord of Carbury now was Fineen, or Florence, the most celebrated man of his name, and one whose power naturally encroached upon the possession of the elder house. John, son of Thomas Fitzgerald of Desmond, seized the occasion to make good the enormous pretension of his family. In the expedition which he undertook for this purpose, in the year 1260, he was joined by the Justiciary, William Dene, by Walter de Burgo, Earl of Ulster, by Walter de Riddlesford, Baron of Bray, by Donnel Roe, a chief of the hostile house of McCarthy. The Lord of Carbury united under his standard the chief Eugenian families, not only of the Coast, but even of McCarthy More's principality, and the battle was fought with great ferocity at Callan-Glen, near Kenmare, in Kerry. There the Anglo-Normans received the most complete defeat they had yet experienced on Irish ground. John Fitz-Thomas, his son Maurice, eight barons, fifteen knights, and "countless numbers of common soldiers were slain." The Monastery of Tralee received the dead body of its founder and his son, while Florence McCarthy, following up his blow, captured and broke down in swift succession all the English castles in his neighbourhood, including those of Macroom, Dunnamark, Dunloe, and Killorglin. In besieging one of these castles, called Ringrone, the victorious chief, in the full tide of conquest, was cut off, and his brother, called the Atheleireach (or suspended priest), succeeded to his possessions. The death of the victor arrested the panic of the defeat, but Munster saw another generation before her invaders had shaken off the depression of the battle of Callan-glen.
Before the English interest had received this severe blow in the south, a series of events had transpired in Leinster, going to show that its aspiring barons had been seized with the madness which precedes destruction. William, Earl Marshal and Protector of England during the minority of Henry III., had married Isabella, the daughter of Strongbow and granddaughter of Dermid, through whom he assumed the title of Lord of Leinster. He procured the office of Earl Marshal of Ireland--originally conferred on the first de Lacy--for his own nephew, and thus converted the de Lacys into mortal enemies. His son and successor Richard, having made himself obnoxious, soon after his accession to that title, to the young King, or to Hubert de Burgh, was outlawed, and letters were despatched to the Justiciary, Fitzgerald, to de Burgo, de Lacy, and other Anglo-Irish lords, if he landed in Ireland, to seize his person, alive or dead, and send it to England. Strong in his estates and alliances, the young Earl came; while his enemies employed the wily Geoffrey de Mountmorres to entrap him into a conference, in order to his destruction. The meeting was appointed for the first day of April, 1234, and while the outlawed Earl was conversing with those who had invited him, an affray began among their servants by design, he himself was mortally wounded and carried to one of Fitzgerald's castles, where he died. He was succeeded in his Irish honours by three of his brothers, who all died without heirs male. Anselme, the last Earl Marshal of his family, dying in 1245, left five co-heiresses, Maud, Joan, Isabel, Sybil, and Eva, between whom the Irish estates--or such portions of them in actual possession--were divided. They married respectively the Earls of Norfolk, Suffolk, Gloucester, Ferrers, and Braos, or Brace, Lord of Brecknock, in whose families, for another century or more, the secondary titles were Catherlogh, Kildare, Wexford, Kilkenny, and Leix,--those five districts being supposed, most absurdly, to have come into the Marshal family, from the daughter of Strongbow. The false knights and dishonoured nobles concerned in the murder of Richard Marshal were disappointed of the prey which had been promised them--the partition of his estates. And such was the horror which the deed excited in England, that it hastened the fall of Hubert de Burgh, though Maurice Fitzgerald, of Offally--ancestor of the Kildare family--having cleared himself of all complicity in it by oath--was continued as Justiciary for ten years longer. In the year 1245, for his tardiness in joining the King's army in Wales, he was succeeded by the false-hearted Geoffrey de Mountmorres, who held the office till 1247. During the next twenty-five years, about half as many Justices were placed and displaced, according to the whim of the successive favourites at the English Court. In 1252, Prince Edward, afterwards Edward I., was appointed with the title of Lord Lieutenant, but never came over. Nor is there in the series of rulers we have numbered, with, perhaps, two exceptions, any who have rendered their names memorable by great exploits, or lasting legislation. So little inherent power had the incumbents of the highest office--unless when, they employed their own proper forces in their sovereign's name--that we read without surprise, how the bold mountaineers of Wicklow, at the opening of the century (A.D. 1209) slaughtered the Bristolians of Dublin, engaged at their archery in Cullenswood, and at the close of it, how "one of the Kavanaghs, of the blood of McMurrogh, living at Leinster," "displayed his standards within sight of the city." Yet this is commonly spoken of as a country overrun by a few score Norman Knights, in a couple of campaigns!
The maintenance of the conquest was in these years less the work of the King's Justices than of the great houses. Of these, two principally profited, by the untimely felling of that great tree which overshadowed all others in Leinster, the Marshals. The descendants of the eldest son of Maurice Fitzgerald clung to their Leinster possessions, while their equally vigorous cousins pushed their fortunes in Desmond. Maurice, grandson of Maurice, and second Baron of Offally, from the year 1229 to the year 1246, was three times Lord Justice. "He was a valiant Knight, a very pleasant man, and inferior to none in the kingdom," by Matthew Paris's account. He introduced the Franciscan and Dominican orders into Ireland, built many castles, churches, and abbeys at Youghal, at Sligo, at Armagh, at Maynooth, and in other places. In the year 1257, he was wounded in single combat by O'Donnell, Lord of Tyrconnell, near Sligo, and died soon after in the Franciscan habit in Youghal. He left his successor so powerful, that in the year 1264, there being a feud between the Geraldines and de Burghs, he seized the Lord Justice and the whole de Burgh party at a conference at Castledermot, and carried them to his own castles of Lea and Dunamase as prisoners. In 1272, on the accidental death of the Lord Justice Audley, by a fall from his horse, "the council" elected this the third Baron of Offally in his stead.
The family of Butler were of slower growth, but of equal tenacity with the Geraldines. They first seem to have attached themselves to the Marshals, for whom they were indebted for their first holding in Kilkenny. At the Conference of Castledermot, Theobald Butler, the fourth in descent from the founder of the house, was numbered among the adherents of de Burgh, but a few years later we find him the ally of the Geraldines in the invasion of Thomond. In the year 1247, the title of Lord of Carrick had been conferred on him, which in 1315 was converted into Earl of Carrick, and this again into that of Ormond. The Butlers of this house, when they had attained their growth of power, became the hereditary rivals of the Kildare Geraldines, whose earldom dates from 1316, as that of Ormond does from 1328, and Desmond from 1329.
The name of Maurice, the third Baron of Offally, and uncle of John, the first Earl of Kildare, draws our attention naturally to the last enterprise of his life --the attempt to establish his son-in-law, Thomas de Clare, in possession of Thomond. The de Clares, Earls of Gloucester, pretended a grant from Henry II. of the whole of Thomond, as their title to invade that principality; but their real grant was bestowed by Edward I., in the year 1275. The state of the renowned patrimony of Brian had long seemed to invite such an aggression. Murtogh, son of Donnell More, who succeeded his father in 1194, had early signalized himself by capturing the castles of Birr, Kinnetty, Ballyroane and Lothra, in Leix, and razing them to the ground. But these castles were reconstructed in 1213, when the feuds between the rival O'Briens--Murtogh and Donogh Cairbre--had paralyzed the defence force of Thomond. It was, doubtless, in the true divide-and-conquer spirit, that Henry the Third's advisers confirmed to Donogh the lordship of Thomond in 1220, leaving to his elder brother the comparatively barren title of King of Munster. Both brothers, by alternately working on their hopes and fears, were thus for many years kept in a state of dependence on the foreigner. One gleam of patriotic virtue illumines the annals of the house of O'Brien, during the first forty years of the century--when, in the year 1225, Donogh Cairbre assisted Felim O'Conor to resist the Anglo-Norman army, then pouring over Connaught, in the quarrel of de Burgh. Conor, the son of Donogh, who succeeded his father in the year 1242, animated by the example of his cotemporaries, made successful war against the invaders of his Province, more especially in the year 1257, and the next year; attended with O'Conor the meeting at Beleek, on the Erne, where Brian O'Neil was acknowledged, by both the Munster and the Connaught Prince, as Ard-Righ. The untimely end of this attempt at national union will be hereafter related; meantime, we proceed to mention that, in 1260, the Lord of Thomond defeated the Geraldines and their Welsh auxiliaries, at Kilbarran, in Clare. He was succeeded the following season by his son, Brian Roe, in whose time Thomas de Clare again put to the test of battle his pretensions to the lordship of Thomond.
It was in the year 1277, that, supported by his father-in-law, the Kildare Fitzgerald, de Clare marched into Munster, and sought an interview with the O'Brien. The relation of gossip, accounted sacred among the Irish, existed between them, but Brien Roe, having placed himself credulously in the hands of his invaders, was cruelly drawn to pieces between two horses. All Thomond rose in arms, under Donogh, son of Brian, to revenge this infamous murder. Near Ennis the Normans met a terrible defeat, from which de Clare and Fitzgerald fled for safety into the neighbouring Church of Quin. But Donogh O'Brien burned the Church over their heads, and forced them to surrender at discretion. Strange to say they were held to ransom, on conditions, we may suppose, sufficiently hard. Other days of blood were yet to decide the claims of the family of de Clare. In 1287, Turlogh, then the O'Brien, defeated an invasion similar to the last, in which Thomas de Clare was slain, together with Patrick Fitzmaurice of Kerry, Richard Taafe, Richard Deriter, Nicholas Teeling, and other knights, and Gerald, the fourth Baron of Offally, brother-in-law to de Clare, was mortally wounded. After another interval, Gilbert de Clare, son of Thomas, renewed the contest, which he bequeathed to his brother Richard. This Richard, whose name figures more than his brother's in the events of his time, made a last effort, in the year 1318, to make good the claims of his family. On the 5th of May, in that year, he fell in battle against McCarthy and O'Brien, and there fell with him Sir Thomas de Naas, Sir Henry Capell, Sir James and Sir John Caunton, with four other knights, and a proportion of men-at-arms. From thenceforth that proud offshoot of the house of Gloucester, which, at its first settling in Munster, flourished as bravely as the Geraldines themselves, became extinct in the land.
Such were the varying fortunes of the two races in Leinster and Munster, and such the men who rose and fell. We must now turn to the contest as maintained at the same period in Meath and Ulster.