ENGLISH IMPERAIALISM UNDER HENRY II
In 1155 Pope Adrian IV issued a significant bull that changed the history of Ireland and England forever. The papal bull issued gave Henry II, King of England (1154-1189), the right to conquer Ireland .Ireland has gained and lost as a result of English rule. It was rewarded with a stronger Church and a more centralized government. It lost some of its cultural values and customs, as well as its own system government for example; its clan-based hierarchy was removed.
Henry IIs control of Ireland was not solely based on the word of Adrian IV, there were a number of nobles who made it possible. One of the most important was Dermot MacMurrough, the king of Linster (an Irish city-state).Linster held in its bounds the main port city between Ireland and England. Being the King of Linster MacMurrough had control over trade and all other maritime activities of Ireland while he was king.Because of their close proximity, trade, and other maritime activity MacMurrough and Henry II developed a close relationship . Shortly after Adrian IV issued the bull, MacMurrough went to Henry II asking for help because he had been banished from Ireland his other Irish nobles. Henry II saw the weak Irish government and the internal quarrels that it created as an opportunity to act on the bull issued to him and agreed to help MacMurrough.Henry II wrote a letter to MacMurrough upon hearing his request for assistance; it is the best evidence of such sentiment.
“Henry, king of England, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to all his liegemen, English, Normans, Welsh, and Scots, and to all other nations subject to his dominion, Sendeth, greeting, Whensoever these our letters shall come unto you, know ye that we have received Dermitius Dermot, prince of Leinster, unto our grace and favor, -Wherefore, whosoever within the bounds of our territories shall be willing to give him aid, as our vassal and liegeman, in recovering his territories, let him be assured of our favor and license on that behalf.”
What fallowed was the first stepping-stone in Henry II occupation of Ireland. MacMurrough was searching for two things after his expulsion from Ireland, the recovery of his power and prestige. This is most evident in his bolstering when he received a letter from Bernard of Claurveaux , and his willingness to give Linster to Henry in return for a smaller fiefdom of his own, if Henry II would lend him the necessary troops to return and conquer the city.The stipulation Henry gave to MacMurrough was, that the power of the bull was now in full effect and Ireland owed allegiance to the King of England.The troops that Henry II provided MacMurrough were not quite sufficient enough so MacMurrough solicited the help of a Welshmen by the name of Strongbow, in return for his daughters hand in marriage as well as succession to the throne.
Armed with English and Welsh troops MacMurrough returned to Ireland where he was victorious not only in claming his old territory Lenster its capital Dublin, and Wexford, as well as all port cities on the islands coast, but Limerick, an inland city state ruled by MacMurroughs son-in-law.
Dermot MacMurrough then did something surprising, he signed a truce with the archbishop of Dublin in order to secure that territory. This was surprising because of MacMurrough known hatred for the city of Dublin and its people. However, he had able to make concessions to them in order to ensure he would still have land to give Henry II when his quest for expansion was over in addition to the territories he wanted for himself. After signing the truce with the Archbishop of Dublin, MacMurrough appointed Milo de Cogan as constable. Cogan, a soldier in the army thrown together by MacMurrough and Strongbow, was largely responsible for the taking of Dublin.MacMurrough then turned the army north and proceeded to take Meath, in order to expand his lands and settle a personal vendetta with the ORourke clan.
In the meantime Henry II was in France trying to further his political power. He had relied on others to establish the English rule in Ireland. However, in 1171 King Henry was forced to go Ireland after receiving word that there had been resistance to MacMurrough and Strongbows efforts to establish English rule. Upon his arrival there was quick submission to the King by the rabble-rousers and the nobles.In the six months that King Henry was in Dublin he was able to put together a working centralized government with ties to the outlying counties. MacMurrough and Strongbow had been unsuccessful in their attempts to gain complete political control over the city-states they had conquered.This is a credit to Henry II and is ability to rule and run a successful government.He was however unsuccessful in maintaining the order and control for very long.
Shortly after King Henry success in establishing a working peripheral government other matters in France and England called him away before he was able to complete a strong lasting government that would work and represent his authority.Soon after he left Ireland the newly established government collapsed and the old practices of exploiting the Irish countrymen by the self-serving nobles and soldiers of fortune continued once again. In retrospect it is unfortunate that Henry had to be called away on other matters because the natives began to mount a resistance and this time they did it with some success. The English army had been depleted over time and many of the soldiers had returned to their homes in England or Wales. This made Strongbow and MacMurrough very vulnerable, especially when they kept trying to expand their presences and their wealth.
Here it is interesting the important role that Irish culture played in curbing English conquest. At the time King Henry left Ireland there where three people all vying for the right to rule, and all for different reasons. King Henry beginning to recognize what was really happening in Ireland, resolved to solve the problem and preserve order in his empire he sent his son John to maintain his efforts. His father then gave John the title King of Ireland. However, Johns nobles alienated the local Irish magistrates and began mocking them and their manner and dress, in essence their culture.The alienation and mocking of the Irish chieftains led directly to another native uprising. The revolt nominally was led by Murtaugh MacMurrough, Dermot MacMurrough’s nephew and heir (buy hereditary right), who claimed that succession should be determined by Irish (Brehon) law, not his uncle’s agreement with Strongbow. Significantly, Murtaugh had military support from the other Gaelic lords who where dissenting strongly from the English presence. The superior Normans military established its supremacy once and for all in its defeat of Irish attempt to overthrow Strongbow and his army. . The uprising, despite its loss, ruined King Johns authority amongst the nobles as much as it did for the commoners. The Irish chiefs and its native citizens sank deep in to a state of political misery and years of quarrelling between each other and the many English who still remained in Ireland for English rule had been established.
Henry II died in 1189, and his vast Angevin empire (of which England was only a small part) quickly began to break apart. Henry II, succeeded by his son, Richard the Lionheart (1189-99), a magnificent warrior, but a inept administrator, whose glaring blunder was to concede that English monarchs were simply feudal under-lords to Philip II of France and his successors. Henrys second son succeeded Richard; the much maligned John I (1199-1216), who had been Lord of Ireland since 1190.So in his death Henry II presence and his admirable talent for organization came to a close and were replaced by his less competent sons and an end to English conquest, until the reign of Elizabeth I.
Looking past the often-violent struggles there are some ways that Ireland benefited from the English occupancy of Ireland. England had an advanced government and more central control on social and political stability. Prior to the English conquest the Irish had no central government. There where instead different counties, headed by tribal chieftains. Quarrelling often erupted regarding who established the laws and was the recipient of the taxes and duties. Once the English were able to defeat some of the wealthier and more powerful chieftains their centralized government was put in place. As much as English presence was detested at the time it did give Ireland a sense of stability for a brief period of time. All the laws in Ireland became uniform the taxes and duties, which where stilled paid to Irish lords, where regulated by a single entity and published.
Religion is another example of how Ireland was able to gain a greater sense of unity during Henry II conquest. The role the religion first began to play an important role Ireland when Saint Patrick (389-461), the patron of Ireland, was a real person, a bishop and missionary came to Ireland. He came from England to Ireland to convert the inhabitants to Catholicism and to educate them and convert them. He succeeded beyond any rational expectation, as Ireland eventually became almost exclusively Christian.Irelands practice of Catholicism was largely different than that practiced in Rome and in England. These loose practicings being one of the reason that Pope Adrian IV cited in his bull to Henry II as a justification for conquest and pacification.The irony of Catholicism in all of this is the very church that almost all of the population was part of was the same entity that provided the justification for their subjection. During Henry II reign Masses got to be so crowded that the number of churches was insufficient and they where conducted outdoors.
The damaging blows that Ireland suffered, other than the mass slaughter of its citizens, as a result of colonization by the English lords; was the loss of self-identity. The where unable to grow as there own country with there own values and customs. Instead the Irish had a core set of values imposed on them and their own culture essentially outlawed in a later document issued by Elizabeth I.
As has been illustrated Pope Adrian IV bull that gave Henry II the right to conquer Ireland changed both countrys history forever.There where allot of favors granted and promises made and broken on both sides that lead to Ireland gains and loses that defined their growth during the Middle Ages. Henry IIs control of Ireland was due in a much larger part to Dermot MacMurrough than to Adrian IV, even though he gave him papal approval, MacMurrough gave Henry the in that he needed to exercise the powers granted to him by the pope. Henry II was blessed with the weak Irish government and the opportunity to act on the bull issued to him and for that he created history. All of the struggles and political problems that existed before and as a result of Henry II, Dermot MacMurrough, and Adrian IV are still being challenged today.
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