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   Chapter 13 JOHN IN IRELAND.

The Story of Ireland By Emily Lawless Characters: 4362

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

Henry had gone, and the best hopes of the new dependency departed with him never to return again. Fourteen years later he despatched his son John, then a youth of nineteen, with a train of courtiers, and amongst them our friend Giraldus, who appeared to have been sent over in some sort of tutorial or secretarial capacity.

The expedition was a disastrous failure. The chiefs flocked to Waterford to do honour to their king's son. The courtiers, encouraged by their insolent young master, scoffed at the dress, and mockingly plucked the long beards of the tributaries. Furious and smarting under the insult they withdrew, hostile every man of them now to the death. The news spread; the more distant and important of the chieftains declined to appear. John and his courtiers gave themselves up to rioting and misconduct of various kinds. All hopes of conciliation were at an end. A successful confederation was formed amongst the Irish, and the English were for a while driven bodily out of Munster. John returned to England at the end of eight months, recalled in hot haste and high displeasure by his father.

Twenty-five years later he came back again, this time as king, with a motley army of mercenaries gathered to crush the two brothers De Lacy, who for the moment dominated all Ireland--the one, Hugo, being Earl of Ulster, and Viceroy; the other, Walter, Lord of the Palatinate of Meath.

Among his many vices John had not at least that of indolence to be laid to his charge! He marched direct from Waterford to Trim, the head-quarters of the De Lacys, seized the castle, moved on next day to Kells, thence proceeded by rapid stages to Dundalk, Carlingford, Downpatrick, and Carrickfergus. Hugo de Lacy fled in dismay to Scotland. The chieftains of Connaught and Thomond joined their forces with those of the king; even the hitherto indomitable O'Neil made a proffer of submission. Leaving a garrison at Carrickfergus, John marched back by Downpatrick and Drogheda, re entered Meath, visited Duleck, slept a night at Kells, and so back to Dublin, where he was met by nearly every Anglo-Norman baron, each and all eager to exhibit their own loyalty. His next care wa

s to divide their territory into counties; to bind them over to supply soldiers when called upon to do so by the viceroy, and to arrange for the muster of troops in Dublin. Then away he went again to England. He had been in the country exactly sixty-six days.

Unpleasant man and detestable king as he was, John had no slight share of the governing powers of his race, and even his short stay in Ireland did some good, enough to show what might have been done had a better man, and one in a little less desperate hurry, remained to hold the reins. He had proved that, however they might ape the part, the barons were not as a matter of fact the absolute lords of Ireland; that they had a master beyond the sea; one who, if aroused, could make the boldest of them shake in his coat of mail. The lesson was not as well learnt as it ought to have been, but it was better at least than if it had not been learnt at all.

At that age and in its then condition a strong ruler--native if possible, if not, foreign--was by far the best hope for Ireland. Such a ruler, if only for his own sake, would have had the genuine interests of the country at heart. He might have tyrannized himself, but the little tyrants would have been kept at bay. Few countries--and certainly Ireland was not one of the exceptions--were at that time ripe for what we now mean by free institutions. Freedom meant the freedom of a strong government, one that was not at the beck of accident, and was not perpetually changing from one hand to another. The English people found this out for themselves centuries later during the terrible anarchy which resulted from the Wars of the Roses, and of their own accord put themselves under the brutal, but on the whole patriotic, yoke of the Tudors. In Ireland the petty masters unfortunately were always near; the great one was beyond the sea and not so easily to be got at! There was no unity; no pretence of even-handed justice, no one to step between the oppressed and the oppressor. And the result of all this is still to be seen written as in letters of brass upon the face of the country and woven into the very texture of the character of its people.

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