seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Murder of William de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster

William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster and 4th Baron of Connaught, Irish noble who is Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1331–32), is murdered at the age of 20 on June 6, 1333. His murder leads to the Burke Civil War.

De Burgh is born on September 17, 1312, the grandson of Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, via his second son, John, who dies in 1313. He is also Lord of Connaught in Ireland, and holds the manor of Clare, Suffolk.

De Burgh is summoned to Parliament from December 10, 1327 to June 15, 1328 by writs addressed to Willelmo de Burgh. In 1331 he is appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for a year.

De Burgh marries, before November 16, 1327 (by a Papal Dispensation dated May 1, 1327), Maud of Lancaster, daughter of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster and Maud Chaworth. They have only one surviving child, Elizabeth de Burgh, 4th Countess of Ulster, who is 13 months old when her father is murdered. She marries Lionel of Antwerp, third son of Edward III of England. Maud remarries Sir Ralph Ufford, Justiciar of Ireland (1344–46), and has further issue. She is said to have great influence over her second husband.

In February 1332, at Greencastle, near the mouth of Lough Foyle, de Burgh has his cousin, Sir Walter Liath de Burgh, starved to death. In revenge, Sir Walter’s sister, Gylle de Burgh, wife of Sir Richard de Mandeville, plans his assassination.

On June 6, 1333, William de Burgh is killed by de Mandeville, Sir John de Logan, and others. The Annals of the Four Masters note that “William Burke, Earl of Ulster, was killed by the English of Ulster. The Englishmen who committed this deed were put to death, in divers ways, by the people of the King of England; some were hanged, others killed, and others torn asunder, in revenge of his death.”

De Burgh’s widow, Maud, flees to England, where she remarries, is again widowed in 1346, and then becomes an Augustinian canoness at Campsey Priory in Suffolk, where she is buried. Upon his death, the various factions of the de Burghs, now called Burke, began the Burke Civil War for supremacy.

(Pictured: Arms of the House of de Burgh)


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Death of Sir Thomas de Rokeby, Justiciar of Ireland

Sir Thomas de Rokeby, a soldier and senior Crown official in fourteenth-century England and Ireland, who serves as Justiciar of Ireland, dies on April 23, 1357. He is appointed to that office to restore law and order to Ireland, and has considerable early success in this task, but he is recalled to England after the military situation deteriorates. He is later re-appointed Justiciar, and returns to Ireland to take up office, but dies soon afterwards.

The Rokebys are a prominent landowning family from Mortham in North Yorkshire. He is probably the son of Thomas de Rokeby, who dies in 1318. His nephew, also named Thomas, the son of his brother Robert, is closely associated with him in his later years and the elder Thomas is often called “l’oncle” to distinguish him from his nephew.

Rokeby first comes to public attention in 1327 when, after his return from prison in Scotland, he receives the thanks of the new King Edward III for being the squire who had first pointed out the approach of the Scots army during the invasion of the previous July. As a reward he is knighted and given lands worth £100 a year. He sees action against the Scots regularly between 1336 and 1342 and has charge of Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle while they are held by the English. He is High Sheriff of Yorkshire from 1342 to 1349. He is one of the English commanders at the Battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346, and it is said, “gave the Scots such a draught as they did not care to taste again.” He is then entrusted with bringing King David II of Scotland as a captive to London, and he receives further grants of land as a reward for his good services.

In 1349 Rokeby is appointed Justiciar of Ireland, and given a large armed retinue to accompany him, as it is recognised by the English Crown that “Ireland is not in good plight or good peace.” While there is some surprise at the appointment of an old soldier to such a sensitive political position, the more informed view is that Rokeby is well suited to the task of enforcing justice by military force. He arrives in December and makes a quick circuit of the south of Ireland, mainly to keep watch on the powerful but troublesome magnate Maurice FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Desmond.

Rokeby is praised by his contemporaries for his regard for justice and his zeal in checking extortion by Crown officials. He undertakes a general overhaul of the Irish administration, aimed particularly at the detection and prevention of corruption and the removal of incompetent officials. Arguably he shows excessive zeal in arresting and imprisoning the Lord High Treasurer of Ireland, Robert de Emeldon, a man who enjoys the King’s personal regard. Admittedly the charges against Emeldon are very serious, including rape, robbery and manslaughter, but the King, out of regard for their long friendship and Emeldon’s record of good service to the Crown in Ireland, had already pardoned Emeldon for killing one Ralph de Byrton, a knight, in 1336. Emeldon is once more pardoned and quickly released.

In November 1351 Rokeby holds a Great Council at Kilkenny. It deals partly with the problem of official corruption already mentioned, partly with the problem of defence of the Pale, and partly with the question of intermarriage and other close contacts between the Anglo-Irish and the Old Irish. Otway-Ruthven notes that little of the legislation is new, apart from the application to Ireland of the English Statute of Labourers of 1351, and that much of it is repeated in the better-known Statutes of Kilkenny of 1366.

In 1353 the Clan MacCarthy of Muskerry, the dominant clan in central County Cork, who had until then been loyal to the English Crown, rebels. Rokeby shows considerable skill in crushing the uprising and succeeds in replacing the rebellious head of the clan, Dermot MacCarthy, with his more compliant cousin Cormac. Cormac’s descendants gain great wealth, extensive lands and the title Earl of Clancarty.

This promising state of good order does not last long. A rebellion by the O’Byrne Clan of Wicklow in 1354 is followed by a general uprising headed by the MacMurrough-Kavanagh dynasty. Although Muirchearteach MacMurrough-Kavanagh, the self-styled King of Leinster, is captured and executed, Rokeby suffers several military defeats. He is unable to suppress the O’Byrnes’ rebellion, and other risings take place in Tipperary, Kildare and Ulster.

Rokeby, now an ageing and discouraged man, is recalled in 1355. His replacement, rather surprisingly, is that Earl of Desmond whom it had been one of his main tasks to keep in check. Desmond dies a year later on July 26, 1356. Rokeby is reappointed Justiciar, and returns to Ireland, only to die soon afterwards on April 23, 1357 at Kilkea Castle.

Rokeby is married and his wife is named Juliana, but little else is known of her. They have no children, and his estates pass to his nephew, the younger Thomas.

(Pictured: Portrait of Sir Thomas de Rokeby, painting by Godfried Schalcken)


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Founding of the Ladies’ Land League

Anna Parnell, younger sister of Irish Nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell, founds the Committee of the Ladies’ Land League, an auxiliary of the Irish National Land League, in Dublin on January 31, 1881. The organisation grows rapidly. By May 1881 there are 321 branches in Ireland, with branches also in Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The organization is set up to take over the work of the Irish National Land League after its leadership is imprisoned. They raise money for the Land League prisoners and their dependants. They encourage women to resist eviction from their cottages. If families are evicted, the Ladies’ Land League provides wooden huts to the evicted families.

The ladies find themselves with additional work late in 1881. The Land League has started its own paper, United Ireland, in August 1881, but towards the end of the year the government tries to close it down. William O’Brien, the editor, continues to smuggle out copy from Kilmainham Gaol, but it falls to the ladies to get it printed. This is done first in London and then for a while in Paris. Eventually the ladies print and circulate it themselves from an office at 32 Lower Abbey Street.

On Sunday, March 12, 1881, just more than a month after the formation of the league, a pastoral letter of Archbishop of Dublin Edward McCabe is read out in all the churches of the diocese. It condemns the league in the strongest terms, deploring that “our Catholic daughters, be they matrons or virgins, are called forth, under the flimsy pretext of charity, to take their stand in the noisy street of life.” McCabe is not representative of all bishops, particularly Archbishop of Cashel Thomas Croke, a strong supporter of the original league. Croke publishes a letter in the Freeman’s Journal challenging the “monstrous imputations” in McCabe’s pastoral.

The dissension is revived somewhat in the summer of 1882. McCabe, now a Cardinal, and another bishop try to have a public condemnation of the Ladies’ Land League inserted into an address by the Catholic Bishops of Ireland in June. The other bishops resist on the basis that it would probably do more harm than good. They content themselves with expressing their hope that “the women of Ireland will continue to be the glory of their sex and the noble angels of stainless modesty.” When newspapers interpret this as a condemnation of the league, Croke writes again to the Freeman’s Journal to deny that this had been the intention of the bishops.

The order banning the Irish National Land League makes no direct reference to the Ladies’ Land League but many police officers try to insist that the ban includes the women’s group. Eventually, on December 16, 1881, Inspector General Hillier of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) orders the police to stop the women’s meetings. Anna Parnell defiantly issues a notice to all Ladies’ Land League branches in the country calling on them all to hold a meeting on January 1, 1882.

The prominent resident magistrate, Major Clifford Lloyd, claims that the huts built for evicted tenants are being used as posts from which the evicted tenants can intimidate anyone who attempts to take over their vacated holdings. In April 1882, he threatens that anyone attempting to erect huts will be imprisoned. That month, Anne Kirke is sent down from Dublin to Tulla, County Clare, to oversee the erection of huts for a large number of evicted tenants. Lloyd has her arrested and imprisoned for three months.

The government does not wish to be seen to use the Coercion Act to imprison women, but another stratagem is used. In December 1881 21-year old Hannah Reynolds is imprisoned under an ancient statute from the reign of Edward III, the original purpose of which was to keep prostitutes off the streets. The statute empowers magistrates to imprison “persons not of good fame” if they do not post bail as a guarantee of their good behavior. Since Reynolds claims her behavior is good, she refuses to pay bail and spends a month in Cork gaol. In all, thirteen women serve jail sentences under this statute.

On May 3, 1882 Parnell and other leaders are released from jail after agreeing to the Kilmainham Treaty. This includes some improvement in the 1881 Land Act. He now wishes to turn his attention more to the Home Rule question. The Irish National Land League is replaced by the Irish National League. Parnell also wants to see an end to the Ladies’ Land League. There had been increased violence while he was in jail and he sees Anna as too radical. The organization has an overdraft of £5,000 which Parnell agrees to clear from central funds only if the organization is dissolved. At a meeting of the Central Committee on August 10, 1882 the Ladies’ Land League votes to dissolve itself. Anna Parnell herself is not in attendance at that meeting having suffered a physical and mental collapse after the sudden death of her sister Fanny the previous month.

The records of the Ladies’ Land League are lost to history in 1916. Jennie Wyse Power, who had served on the Central Committee, had kept them in her house in Henry Street, Dublin. When fire spreads from Sackville Street during the 1916 Easter Rising, her house is destroyed and the records perish in the blaze.

(Pictured: Lady Land Leaguers at work at the Dublin office)


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Death of Edmund de Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March

Edmund de Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March and jure uxoris Earl of Ulster, is killed at Cork on December 27, 1381. His sudden death leaves the colony without effective leadership and prompts a military crisis.

Mortimer, the son of Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March, by his wife Philippa, daughter of William Montagu, 1st Earl of Salisbury and Catherine Grandison, is born on February 1, 1352. An infant at the death of his father, as a ward of the crown he is placed by Edward III of England under the care of William of Wykeham and Richard FitzAlan, 3rd Earl of Arundel. The position of the young earl, powerful on account of his possessions and hereditary influence in the Welsh marches, is rendered still more important by his marriage on August 24, 1369 at the age of 17 to the 14-year-old Philippa, the only child of the late Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, the second son of Edward III.

Lionel’s late wife, Elizabeth, had been daughter and heiress of William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster, and Lionel had himself been created Earl of Ulster before his marriage. Mortimer inherits the title Earl of Ulster on Lionel’s death. Therefore, the Earl of March not only represents one of the chief Anglo-Norman lordships in Ireland in right of his wife Philippa, but Philippa’s line is also the second most senior line of descent in the succession to the crown, after Edward the Black Prince and his son, King Richard II of England. John of Gaunt, younger brother of Prince Edward, had become the 1st Duke of Lancaster and thus the source of the House of Lancaster‘s claim to the throne.

This marriage has, therefore, far-reaching consequences in English history, ultimately giving rise to the claim of the House of York to the crown of England contested in the Wars of the Roses between the Yorks and the Lancasters; Edward IV being descended from the second adult son of Edward III as great-great-grandson of Philippa, countess of March, and in the male line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York and the fourth adult son of Edward III. Mortimer’s son, Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, becomes heir presumptive to the English crown during the reign of Richard II.

Mortimer, now styled Earl of March and Ulster, becomes Earl Marshal of England in 1369, and is employed in various diplomatic missions during the following years. He is a member of the committee appointed by the Peers to confer with the Commons in 1373, the first instance of such a joint conference since the institution of representative parliaments on the question of granting supplies for John of Gaunt’s war in France.

Mortimer participates in the opposition to Edward III and the court party, which grows in strength towards the end of the reign, taking the popular side and being prominent in the Good Parliament of 1376 among the lords who support the Prince of Wales and oppose the Court Party and John of Gaunt. The Speaker of the House of Commons in this parliament is Mortimer’s steward, Peter de la Mare, who firmly withstands John of Gaunt in stating the grievances of the Commons, in supporting the impeachment of several high court officials, and in procuring the banishment of the king’s mistress, Alice Perrers. Mortimer is a member of the administrative council appointed by the same parliament after the death of Edward, the Black Prince, to attend the king and advise him in all public affairs.

Following the end of the Good Parliament its acts are reversed by John of Gaunt, Mortimer’s steward is jailed, and he himself is ordered to inspect Calais and other remote royal castles as part of his duty as Marshal of England. He instead chooses to resign the post.

On the accession of Richard II in 1377, Mortimer becomes a member of the standing council of government; though as husband of the heir-presumptive to the crown he wisely refrains from claiming any actual administrative office. The richest and most powerful person in the realm is, however, the king’s uncle John of Gaunt, whose jealousy leads Mortimer to accept the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1379. He succeeds in asserting his authority in eastern Ulster, but fails to subdue the O’Neill dynasty farther west. Proceeding to Munster to put down the turbulent southern chieftains, he is killed at Cork on December 27, 1381. He is buried in Wigmore Abbey, of which he had been a benefactor, and where his wife Philippa is also interred.

(Pictured: Coat of Arms of the House of Mortimer)