Fourteenth Century Ireland
Following the initial invasion of the Cambro-Normans
in the late twelfth century the installation of foreign-born lords and earls in Ireland, by King Henry II and his son John, continued throughout the thirteenth century. This gave rise to some of the great ascendacy class of Anglo-Norman families such as the Geraldines of Leinster and south Munster, the Burkes of Connacht and north Munster, and the Butlers of Tipperary and Kilkenny. These families held complete control over their designated areas.
By the beginning of the fourteenth century the expanse of the Irish feudalism was at its pinnacle. Every native leader, even the Maguires and O'Donnells in the extreme northwest, was legally the tenant of some earl or baron, or of the English king directly. However power struggles between the Irish lords and the Anglo barons, as well as rivalries among the various Irish chieftains, continued to change the landscape of political power within Ireland over the next century.
Between 1315 and 1318, the Scottish war in Britain spilled into Ireland. Edward Bruce
, brother of Robert the king of Scotland, in alliance with Domhnall O Neill, king of Tir Eoghain, carried on a three year campaign against the English barons before he was defeated at the Battle of Faughart in Louth.
At the Battle of Athenry
in 1316, five Irish kings were killed along with many chieftains from Connacht, Thomond and Westmeath. In conjunction with a terrible Famine from 1315-1317
, the Bruce campaign devastated much of the land in the colony. In Thomond the death of Richard de Clare at the Battle of Dysert O'Dea
leaves a gap which allow the O'Brien chiefs de facto independence for the rest of the Middle Ages.
At Christmas 1316, Robert Bruce
joined his brother, landing at Carrickfergus with an imposing force. Early in February 1317, the brothers fought their way thru Ulster and besieged Dublin. The capital of the Irish Lordship held out successfully and the Bruces turned away to raid as far as Limerick. The winter was one of the harshest in memory, and the paucity was as severe as anyone could remember.
Edward Bruce had had himself crowned King of Ireland but the Scots were failing in their great enterprise. Robert Bruce returned to Scotland in May 1317, but Edward stayed on for another year. Then in the autumn of 1318 John de Bermingham brought an English army north from Dublin and defeated and killed Edward Bruce at the hill of Faughart near Dundalk.
For the rest of the fourteenth century the Anglo-Irish parliament in Ireland complained of decaying defenses and incompetent administration in the lands of the English lords, many of whom were living in England. The Statutes of Kilkenny
were passed in 1366 as a fultile attempt to stem the increasing cooperation between the 'Gaelicized' English and the Irish chiefs.
*Part two tomorrow.