The Cambro-Norman invasion of Dublin

1169
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Excerpt from Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland for the metropolis of Dublin (pub. 1837).

THE CAMBRO-NORMAN INVASION

After the reduction of Wexford by the English forces, who landed at Bannow bay, in 1169, under the command of Robert Fitz-Stephen, to assist Dermod Mac Murrough in the recovery of Leinster, the combined force marched upon Dublin, The garrison, intimidated by the reports of the numbers and ferocity of the assailants, sued for peace, which was granted on the payment of tribute secured by hostages. Asculph Mac Torcall, the Danish king, was suffered to retain the government, and Dermod retired with his English auxiliaries to the southern part of Leinster, where he was joined by Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, who had landed with a reinforcement of fifteen or sixteen hundred men, and taken Waterford by storm from the Danes.

The combined army thus enforced, resolved upon another attack on Dublin, either in consequence of a second revolt, or, as the Irish writers assert, to gratify the vindictive feelings of Dermod, who hoped thus to revenge the injury and insult of his former expulsion. Roderic O'Conor, King of Ireland, hearing of the intended movement, levied an army of 30,000 men, which he posted at Clondalkin to oppose the invaders; but on their nearer approach he disbanded his troops, and retired across the Shannon. The citizens perceiving themselves thus abandoned, again had recourse to treaty; but while they were preparing to select the hostages required of them, Milo de Cogan, one of the English leaders, forced his way into the place. Asculph and most of the Danes took shelter on board their fleet, and the city was, after much slaughter, taken possession of by the English.

Roderic now made a second attempt to expel the strangers, for which purpose he invested Dublin with an army of double the number he had formerly collected, and reduced the place to such straits, that Strongbow deputed Laurence O'Toole, the archbishop, to treat with him for a surrender. The terms offered by the Irish king were not only the surrender of all the towns held by the English, but their total evacuation of the country. When these humiliating conditions were reported, Milo de Cogan protested against thus relinquishing the earnings of so many hard-fought battles, and proposed a general sally upon the enemy. His advice was adopted. The English forces, leaving behind them in the city their Irish auxiliaries, on whose fidelity they had less reliance, and led on by Milo, proceeded to Roderic's head-quarters at Finglass, which they assaulted so suddenly that he was obliged to escape half-dressed from a bath, and his whole army was dispersed.

Strongbow being soon after called to England, Asculph Mac Torcall, during his absence, arrived in the harbour of Dublin with a fleet of 60 ships and an army of 10,000 men levied in the isle of Man, the Orkneys, and Norway, and proceeded at once to storm the city. His main body was led on by John de Dene, a Norwegian of great military repute, who was repulsed by Milo de Cogan, with the loss of 500 men; and the Danes being unexpectedly attacked in the rear by another body of the garrison, which had made a sally from a different quarter, they were utterly routed, and their king Asculph made prisoner and put to death.

  • The relics of the Danish army which escaped the sword were cut in pieces by the peasantry through the country, in revenge for their former cruelties, so that scarcely 2000 gained their ships, most of whom were destroyed by a tempest during their voyage home. This defeat put an end to the Danish power in these parts.
  • An attempt made, soon after, to seize on the city by Tiernan O'Rourke, the chieftain of Breffny, who thought that the garrison, exhausted by its late struggle, though successful, would be incapable of making a vigorous resistance to the large force he was bringing against it, also failed.

THE NORMAN CONQUEST

The arrival of Henry II, who landed at Waterford with a large fleet and a numerous train in 1172 caused a great change in the state of the city. He had compelled Strongbow to surrender to him all his conquests in Ireland: the lands were restored, to be held by feudal tenure, but the fortified places were retained in the king's hands. Henry, after having received the homage of most of the petty chieftains of the south, arrived in Dublin, in the beginning of winter, and celebrated the feast of Christmas there in great splendour; on which occasion a pavilion of hurdles, after the Irish fashion, was erected in the eastern suburb, where the court was held, and where several of the native princes did homage to him.

  • Hugh de Lacy and William Fitz Aldelm were commissioned to receive the homage of Roderic, King of Ireland, who declined crossing the Shannon. Being unexpectedly hurried away to oppose a revolt of his own sons in Normandy, Henry quitted the city for Wexford, whence he embarked for England on Easter-Monday, leaving Hugh de Lacy in charge of the place as governor, with twenty men at arms, and Robert Fitz-Stephen and Maurice Fitz-Gerald with the same number, as wardens and constables. Milo de Cogan, to whose intrepidity the English had been indebted for their conquest, accompanied Henry on his departure. Previously to his leaving the city, the king granted it a charter, entitling it to the same privileges as Bristol then enjoyed: the original is still preserved in the archives of the corporation. By a subsequent charter of the same king, the citizens are freed from payment of toll, passage, and pontage, throughout England, Normandy, Wales, and Ireland.
  • Three years after Henry's departure, Strong-bow made an incursion into Munster, in which he was accompanied by the Ostmen of Dublin, but was surprised on his march by Donald, Prince of Ossory, and defeated, with the loss of 400 of the citizens. Elated with this success, Roderic O'Conor ravaged the country even to the walls of Dublin. Shortly after, Strongbow died of a mortification in his foot, and was buried in Christ Church, where his monument is still preserved. Previously to his death he had founded the extensive and wealthy preceptory of Knights Templars, on the site on which the Royal Hospital now stands. In the same year, Vivian, the pope's legate, held a synod in the city, at which he caused the title of Hen. II. to the lordship of Ireland to be proclaimed, and denounced an ex-communication against all who should refuse allegiance to him. In 1185, John, Earl of Morton, the favourite son of Hen. II., having been invested by his father with the lordship of Ireland, arrived in Dublin, attended by a train of young noblemen; but a series of insurrections taking place, he was recalled.