Saturday, 12 November 2011

Henry II Ireland

Henry II Ireland - His Influence Explained

Henry II Ireland

Having dealt with the threat of Strongbow getting too much power, Henry II could not stay in Ireland for long as he had to return to France and fight off his many enemies.

As such, the Normans continued to invade various parts of Ireland.  They protected these by building castles, very basic to begin with but went on to build imposing castles such as Carrickfergus Castle.

At the same time English knights also claimed parts of Ireland as for example East Ulster was invaded by John De Courcy whereas William de Burgh invaded Connacht.

Ireland was transformed by the events of 1169 and the course of history changed forever.  A settlement programme began, and it changed the way land was held, by creating an economic, agricultural transformation and introduced a new social system.

Strongbow already held Leinster and he proceeded to defend it by dividing these lands up among followers, friends and family, who could if they so chose repeat the process. He therefore had his own tenants and sub-tenants and all paid him rent.

This process was repeated throughout the various parts of England and Ireland.  The main land owner typically kept the best land and used a castle construction as defence.  Once security had been achieved then it was a matter of getting tenants and this was done by the establishment of boroughs, which were given an urban constitution.

This style of set up encouraged more English to come to Ireland, and so they arrived and changed the culture of those areas where they inhabited, though more important, a people whose loyalties lay elsewhere.

During all of this, King Henry gave Meath to a man called Hugh de Lacy as this was a crucial border zone. Ruaidri O' Conchobair was not happy about an English presence being so close to his lands and he attacked Lacy and his castles.

King Henry was forced by this pressure to agree The Treaty of Windsor in 1175, where Ruaidri acknowledged Henry as his overlord.  He agreed to pay Henry an annual tribute, and in return Henry would acknowledge Ruaidri as the King of Connacht and be supported by Henry should his kingdom come under threat.

Even though it was agreed it was unlikely that Henry would agree to it for very long as it drew a dividing line in Ireland. The Treaty was left in bits when John de Courcy left Dublin, went to Downpartick and took the kingdom of Ulaid for his own.

In May 1177, Henry held a council at Oxford and dropped the so-called treaty completely. He then proceeded to take Cork and Limerick into English hands. He also made it aware that he would make his fourth son, John, the king of Ireland.

Ruaidri would have been opposed to such a thing but facing such strong opposition he instead abdicated and retired to the Augustinian Abbey at Cong.

Lord John, who was eighteen years of age came to Waterford, Ireland in 1185 and brought with him a huge army, along with many officials. (This is the same Lord John who features in the popular legend of Robin Hood)  He was the youngest of Henry’s sons and his family life had been tempestuous with all Henry’s other sons all doing battle with their father.  The people of Ireland despised John and he remained there for less than a year.  When he left Henry granted the post of justiciar to John de Courcy.

Laws that functioned well in England were now introduced through local and central governments in Ireland. The King was represented by the justiciar and he was considered to be the king's judge, head of civil administrations and chief of his military command.

His authority was imposed as he travelled around the kingdom, administering justice as he went. He also took advice from councils made up of local resident magnates of the kingdom.

These councils became more structured and formal and became used for a variety of purposes including law and taxation. In essence and over time the common law of England also became the common law of Ireland and was created through a parliamentary tradition that lasted through until 1800.

You should now read about John de Courcy Ireland