King John’s expedition to Ireland, 1210: the evidence reconsidered

King John King John’s expedition to Ireland, 1210: the evidence reconsidered

Seán Duffy

Irish Historical Studies, v.30, n. 117 (1996)

The valiant efforts of certain professional historians to redeem the reputation of King John of England have had a limited impact on the public imagination: there he remains a cruel tyrant, the oppressor of his subjects’ liberty. Even within the profession, it must be said, John has never managed fully to endear himself, and while there is general acknowledgement that he was an innovative king who paid meticulous attention to the day-to-day workings of his civil service, this is hardly likely to overcome the lingering and firmly fixed impression that he was a nasty individual, an unpopular ruler and, ultimately, a failure.1 Curiously, apart from his reputation for administrative innovation, John’s Irish policy is one of the few areas of either his public or his private life which has not been viewed unfavourably and where approval by modern historians approaches unanimity.

The accepted view is that John got off to a bad start with regard to Ireland in 1185, when his first visit to the country as a youthful lord of Ireland (though not yet king of England) went disastrously wrong, but that he mended fences with the Irish to such an extent that he recovered all the ground earlier lost, so that his return to Ireland in 1210 was an unqualified success. It cannot be denied that the campaign of 1210 entered into the folk memory in some quite extraordinary way, if one may judge from the number of historical monuments around the country which later bore his name.2  However, the aspect of the visit which most recent accounts tend to stress is that John, in his anxiety to bring certain of his more troublesome Anglo–Irish barons to heel, showed `marked favour’ to the native Irish kings, found, as a result, `a general readiness among the Irish to accept him’, and went on to develop `close relations with their leaders’.3 The essential assumption here is that King John’s negotiations with the Irish kings in the summer of 1210 were concluded successfully in his favour, and that he left Ireland on good terms with them; but it is an assumption which does not do full justice to the evidence of the Irish annals and which, furthermore, ignores an important eye-witness account of the expedition preserved in a continental chronicle known as the Histoire des dues de Normandie et des rois d’Angleterre. It is my intention in this paper to examine both of these neglected strands of evidence and to offer a modification of the received view of the expedition (and, specifically, this question of the success or otherwise of John’s dealings with the Irish provincial kings) in light of it.


Sailing from south Wales, King John landed at Crook, near Waterford, on 20 June 1210. Although he was to remain in Ireland throughout the rest of the summer (arriving back at Fishguard on 26 August), we are largely in the dark about his activities there.4 This is because the English chancery rolls for this part of John’s reign have been lost.5  The implications of this loss for our understanding of the scope and significance of the king’s actions while in Ireland are great, since we know that he brought with him no fewer than fifty-three dozen skins of parchment, `sufficient to record a new enfeoffment and an exhaustive survey of his Irish dominion’,6 though we have no record now of how the bulk of it was used. The Dublin government, of course, kept its own records, modelled on the English, but again little has survived – the last seven medieval rolls went up in smoke in the Four Courts in 1922.7  What we do have in greater abundance are transcripts of the early Irish records. The classic example for John’s reign is the famous pipe roll for his fourteenth year (1211-12),8 from which we can learn a great deal, though it does not help greatly in reconstructing the events of two years earlier. One English exchequer record that still survives is the praestita roll. This records prests, payments made to royal officers and others as advances or loans while they were in the king’s company or on the king’s business, and in so doing it provides us with a long list of those who accompanied the king to Ireland in 1210.9 Because it also supplies the date and place at which these monies were disbursed, we can plot the royal itinerary fairly accurately.10

The problem is, however, that although we can pinpoint John’s where–abouts on almost any given day in the summer of 1210, frequently we cannot say exactly what he was doing there. In the absence of official records, this is where the unofficial comment comes into its own. Naturally enough, contemporary English chroniclers refer to the expedition, but usually only the barest details emerge.11There are at least a dozen such notices.12 Pieced together, they tell us that in June King John sailed from Pembroke, landed at Waterford, subjected the country to his authority, instituting when he came to Dublin what we would call a government reshuffle, strengthened English laws in the country, regulated the coinage and such matters, received the submissions of some of the Irish but not all, seized lands and castles (Carrickfergus in particular) from his baronial enemies, expelled the de Briouze and de Lacy families, punishing the inhabitants of the Isle of Man for helping them, and returned victorious to England in late August. Cumulatively, this seems like quite a lot of detail, but these are just bare matter-of-fact statements with very little elaboration and, with one or two exceptions, the English chroniclers dispose of the expedition in a couple of lines. King John, it seems, was so unpopular that chroniclers who revelled in his misfortunes could not bring themselves to write glowingly of his triumphs.13

We turn, then, to Irish-based writers to see what light they throw, but the results are again disappointing, certainly as regards the Anglo-Irish chroniclers, who had not at this early date fully developed the practice of compiling detailed annalistic entries and who provide no more than a curt sentence or two.14 The Gaelic annalists are more forthcoming. Detailed notices come in four distinct versions. The Annals of the Four Masters and Conell Mageoghagan’s Annals of Clonmacnoise preserve the same recension, which includes five important episodes of the royal visit: the submission to King John of the king of Connacht, Cathal Crobderg O Conchobair, at Ardbraccan in County Meath; the banishment of the lord of Meath, Walter de Lacy; the move to Carrickfergus to expel Walter’s brother, Hugh; the arrival in the vicinity of Aed O Neill, king of Cenel Eogain, but his refusal to hand over hostages; and finally a later meeting between John and Cathal Crobderg at which the Connacht king also refused to hand over his son as hostage, causing John to seize instead four of Cathal’s sub-kings and officers.15

This first version of the campaign has a clear Connacht bias, as has the sec–ond version, the Annals of Loch Ce, which is not dissimilar and also clearly derives at this point from a Connacht source. In this there are three episodes: the expulsion of Hugh de Lacy and capture of his castle of Carrickfergus; a plundering raid by the English fleet on the Isle of Man; and an elaborate account of the rift that later developed between King John and Cathal Crobderg over, as we have seen, the issue of whether or not Cathal would hand over his son as hostage.16

The other two substantial Irish records of the visit are of Munster origin. The Book of Mac Carthaigh account has four episodes: 17 King John knighted Donnchad Cairprech O Briain, bestowing a lordship on him in return for an annual rent, and securing the liberation of his brother and rival, Muirchertach Finn;18 then Cathal Crobderg O Conchobair came to John with a large force to do him honour; next the king went to Dublin and banished Walter de Lacy; finally Hugh de Lacy fled before the king to Carrickfergus, which was eventually taken, though Hugh made good his escape. That leaves the version preserved in the Annals of Inisfallen, which divides into three parts: first King John took hostages from Cathal Crobderg which he later brought back to England with him; then he made a deal with the Ui Briain (described in slightly different terms from that mentioned in the Book of Mac Carthaigh); and it concludes with a curious tale about John’s failed negotiations with O Neill in Ulster.19

It is this story about O Neill, and the description of John’s first encounter with O Conchobair, that I intend to focus on, because an important chronicle account of both meetings has hitherto gone virtually unnoticed.20  It occurs in what at first sight appears the most unlikely of places, a text mentioned above which is known as the Histoire des ducs de Normandie et des rois d’Angleterre. This chronicle is written in Norman-French prose and was edited by Francisque Michel, and published by the Societe de l’Histoire de France in Paris in 1840, from a manuscript that belongs to the mid-thirteenth century.21 The earlier part of the chronicle is a version of William of Jumieges’s Gesta Normannorum ducum, with some additions, and need not concern us.22  It only becomes original at the accession of King John, and it ends with the events of 1220, at which point it was almost certainly composed.23 For this period it is an extremely important source.24

The consensus of opinion is that the author was attached to the de Bethune family, a prominent Flemish courtly family, who were `advocates’ of Bethune, lords of the town of Bethune (in what was formerly the province of Artois, which now comprises the major part of the departement of Pas-de-Calais) and hereditary protectors of the important church of St Vaast at Arras (chief town of the samedepartement).25 Robert IV de Bethune (d. c.1129) held Gayton in Northamptonshire in the time of Henry I.26 His grandson, Robert V (d. 1191), inherited a further English estate that included Rushden and Broadfield in Hertfordshire, Hazleton and Yanworth in Gloucestershire, and Easton near Kimbolton in Huntingdonshire.27 He was ambassador in England of the count of Flanders in 1177 and accompanied the king of France to the tomb of Thomas Becket two years later.28 After his death at the siege of Acre he was succeeded by his eldest son Robert VI (d. 1194), then by his second son, William (d. 1213), who came into possession of further English lands at Rothersthorpe and Grimsbury in Northamptonshire; William also appears in 1174 as holding of the king the manor of Olney in Buckinghamshire, while Henry II paid for his passage to and from England in 1176 and 1182.29 William was absent on crusade from 1203-5, during which period his English estates were administered by his brother, the well-known and widely respected knight, Baldwin de Bethune (d.1212).30 In the years following the loss of Normandy William’s two sons took opposing sides, the older, Daniel, remaining loyal to the king of France, while the younger, Robert VII, took service with King John’s ally, the count of Flanders. Robert acted as the count’s ambassador to England and also accompanied him there and took part in the English expedition to Flanders that preceded the disaster at Bouvines.31 Subsequently he became a prominent commander of Flemish mercenaries serving King John against his baronial opponents and was well rewarded with seisin of the family’s English lands, amounting to a sizeable estate in the counties of Nottingham, Northampton, Kent, Gloucester and Hertford; he also held custody of the lands of Earl Richard de Clare.32

There is little doubt that the remarkably detailed description which the Histoire preserves of John’s final years, and in particular the events connected with the French invasion of 1216, is to be accounted for by the fact that its author was a member of the entourage of this Robert de Bethune.33 This, however, does not explain the detail which it also provides of John’s activities in Ireland in 1210, since there is no evidence to suggest that Robert took part in this expedition. There is, though, one likely explanation. Robert’s uncle was, as already noted, the famous Baldwin de Bethune, undoubtedly one of the heroes of the Histoire.34 Baldwin had been a devoted follower of King Richard I, a companion-in-arms on crusade and a hostage for the king in Germany in 1194, and was, as a result, soon afterwards rewarded with marriage to a rich widow.35 This was Hawise, countess of Aumale (in the departement of Seine-Maritime in north-east Normandy) and lady of Holderness in the East Riding of Yorkshire.36 Unfortunately for Baldwin, the castle and lordship of Aumale fell to the forces of Philip Augustus in the summer of 1196 and thereafter remained in French hands,37 though Baldwin retained the titular title `count of Aumale’ (comes Albemarla, often translated `earl of Albemarle’). After the accession of John, Baldwin transferred his loyalty to him. From both Richard and John he received further grants which included lands in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Northamptonshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent and Bedfordshire; a regular companion of King John, he frequently attested his charters and letters and served in his army in the continental campaigns of 1199, 1201, 1206 and 1209.38

What is most interesting, however, is that Baldwin spent at least part of the summer of 1210 in Ireland. The praestita roll records payments made to Flemish knights at Dublin on 28 June and at Greenoge (in the barony of Ratoath, County Meath) two days later, at Carlingford on 11 July, Carrickfergus on 27 July, Drogheda on 9 August, and Fore (in County Westmeath) on 11 August.39 Within a week King John was back at Dublin, where substantial payments were again made to the Flemings in his service, including, on 19 August, to the count of Aumale himself.40  It seems a reasonable assumption that the author of the Histoire was either in Ireland with Baldwin de Bethune or, on the latter’s return to England, took down from him an account of what had occurred there. In either case, we can be fairly certain that we are dealing with a chronicle that approaches closely in contemporaneity to the events it describes, possibly even written by someone who had witnessed those events at first hand.


Let us look, therefore, at what the Histoire has to say.41 Although King John landed near Waterford on 20 June, the chronicler knows nothing of his progress in Ireland until he reached Dublin just over a week later.42 Even then, he reveals little of what took place, beyond pointing out that John `was received with great joy’ by the citizens. One can well imagine that this was the case, since Dublin had done well under John. It was he who in 1192, as lord of Ireland, had granted Dublin the most important of its early charters, defining the bounds of the city, setting out the various privileges and immunities which its citizens would enjoy, and permitting them to form guilds modelled on those of Bristol.43 And, of course, the building of Dublin castle itself – the very symbol of the city’s status and power for centuries to come – was more than likely begun following John’s direct command to that effect in 1204.44 It is not difficult, therefore, to imagine the Dubliners rolling out the red carpet, as it were, for the royal visit in 1210.

Unfortunately, though, the chronicler fails to record anything else to do with John’s brief but important sojourn in Dublin. It is another English-based writer, Roger of Wendover, who furnishes the bulk of the detail for the developments at Dublin during the visit.45  He describes the administrative and personnel changes brought about during these few days, and tells us that more than twenty petty kings of that region (plusquam viginti reguli illius regionis), stricken with fear, came to John there to do homage and fealty, but that some few others, who inhabited the impenetrable places (eo quod in locis inexpugnabilibus habitabant), scorned the king’s presence and refused to come. This hint by Roger of Wendover that John enjoyed less than the unanimous support of Gaelic Ireland is of some significance, since it is one of the aspects of John’s campaign upon which the Histoire throws new light. Roger of Wendover does not reveal the identity of any of the Irish kings with whom King John came into contact, but the author of the Histoire does.

He describes how John left Dublin and rode across the land, where `both he and his men saw many great marvels which would be hard to believe if they were told to you’. Then we hear that the king of Connacht `came to his service, one of the richest kings of Ireland, bringing many great men’. In this he is quite correct. All the Irish annals record that Cathal Crobderg O Conchobair submitted to King John, and some mention that he brought with him a large force and that he was in the royal army which went in pursuit of Hugh de Lacy through Meath and Louth, to Carlingford and on to Carrickfergus. Where the author of the Histoire comes into his own, in recording the encounter between the two kings, is in the colourful detail he supplies to describe the scene. According to his account, King John presented his new adherent with the ceremonial gift of a powerful charger. We have to accept the author’s word on this point, but there seems no reason to doubt it, since such gifts were a customary component of diplomacy.46  They were especially heavily laden with significance in Irish society, where the acceptance of a gift of this nature was a commonly understood sign of submission.47 This is not the only, occasion when horses were used for the purpose: Brian Boruma, for instance, is said to have given twelve score steeds to his great rival, Mael Sechnaill mac Domnaill, when the latter surrendered to him in 1002.48 In the Middle Irish period and later the ceremonial gift is known as tuarastal, and it was perceived as `an honourable form of vassalage’ which might involve the performance of military service but not necessarily the payment of tribute or the surrender of hostages.49 Its acceptance in this instance implies at least `a minimal concession to a higher power’,50 but did not in itself commit Cathal Crobderg to more than a loose form of vassalage’, and we shall see later that he baulked at the prospect of handing over valuable hostages.

However, what is most curious is the author’s description of Cathal and his men. Although the king of Connacht rode a horse, it was a poor specimen. Although he came accompanied by many great men, they had to make do on foot. All, including King Cathal, were very strangely dressed. When presented with the richly saddled and bridled destrier, O Conchobair thanked King John for it, but then had the saddle removed, since, according to our writer, he did not know how to ride with a saddle. Once it had been removed, he easily mounted the war-horse and rode a great distance along–side King John, who found the spectacle very amusing.

We get fairly used to this sort of descriptive detail from late medieval and sixteenth-century commentators on Ireland,51 but with the single remarkable exception of the writings of Giraldus Cambrensis, this kind of observa–tion is almost unknown for the early days of the Anglo-Norman colony in Ireland. This is what Giraldus has to say about the Irish horseman: `When they are riding, they do not use saddles or leggings or spurs. They drive on and guide their horses by means of a stick with a crook at its upper end, which they hold in their hand. They use reins to serve the purpose of both a bridle and a bit.’52  The fact that the author of the Histoire was from the Low Countries is of significance, because continental observers in particular were taken by the preference of the Irish for riding horseback.  A Burgundian chronicle dealing with the deposition and death in 1399-1400 of Richard II, tells us that in Ireland there are two races, one of which speaks bastard English and dwells in the towns, castles and seaports; `the other’, to quote him, `are a wild people, who speak a strange language . . . which have neither town, house, castle, nor dwelling, and dwell always in the woods, and on the mountains of the country, and have many chiefs among themselves, of whom [even] the most powerful go barefoot and without breeches, and ride horses without saddles’.53 If he had added a mention of the different legal systems operating among both groups, the author would have come close to capturing the classic ethnographic description of the distinction between the native Irish and the English colonists. It occurs in the very opening sentences of the preamble to the notorious 1366 Statutes of Kilkenny:

. . . at the conquest of the land of Ireland and for a long time after, the English of the said land used the English language, mode of riding and apparel and were governed and ruled . . . by the English law . . . But now many English of the said land, forsaking the English language, fashion, mode of riding, laws, and usages, live and govern themselves according to the manners, fashion and language of the Irish enemies.

Hence the law thereupon enacted that

No Englishman . . . shall ride otherwise than on a saddle in the English fashion, and he that shall do the contrary . . . his horse shall be forfeited to our lord the king and his body committed to prison until he make fine . . . for the contempt aforesaid.54

The riding of a horse without a saddle was, therefore, a serious business, and archetypically Irish.

Froissart has a delightful story dictated to him by a man purportedly charged with the delicate task of preparing four Irish kings for knighthood at Dublin by King Richard II. The incident itself may be apocryphal, but the description of the Irish is very familiar:

King Richard wanted the Irish kings to adopt the habits, the appearance and the dress of England, and he also wanted to knight them. A large and fine house was found for them in Dublin, and I was commanded to live there with them . . . At first I had great difficulty in persuading them to wear clothes of silk trimmed with fur, for till then they considered a rough Irish cloak sufficient. They always rode without saddles or stirrups, and I had great trouble in getting them to use them 55

One of these kings is thought to have been Art Mac Murchada, the famous king of Leinster, and a beautiful contemporary illustration still survives depicting Art on horseback – and, sure enough, he appears to be without saddle or stirrups.56  Monstrelet’s account of those Irish present at the siege of Rouen in 1418 has quite a few parallels with the Histoire’s description of Cathal Crobderg’s army over two centuries earlier. Both point out that the greater part of the host was on foot. Monstrelet likewise adds that those who were on horseback had no saddles, but `rode excellently well on small mountain horses’; he also makes the point that the Irish were, as he says, miserably attired in comparison with the English and without any arms which could much hurt the French whenever they might meet them’.57

Unstated in these depictions of the bareback Irish horseman is the impli–cation that the custom was, at best, quaint, if unfashionable and backward; at worst, it was the mark of uncivilised barbarism.58 We may note that the author of the Histoire views it in similar terms, since he expressly records that although Cathal Crobderg, having had the saddle and stirrups removed, expertly managed to mount the massive war-horse presented to him by King John, and then was able to accompany the king on his journey without any difficulty, the latter and his courtly entourage found the spectacle a source of great amusement.

That is as much as the chronicler tells us about John’s dealings with O Conchobair. He then proceeds to a description of the siege of Carrickfergus. He maintains that Hugh de Lacy and Maud de Briouze with her son William fled from the castle on hearing of John’s approach and sailed to the Isle of Man. No other chronicler records this latter detail, but various Irish, Manx and English annals note that John launched a hostile attack on Man during that summer,59 and it is therefore very likely that its inhabitants had angered him by providing a refuge for his enemies, as the chronicler claims. He adds that from Man the refugees fled to Galloway, where Maud and her children were captured and then brought back to King John at Carrickfergus. Again, no other chronicler tells us this, but when John later felt compelled to justify his harsh treatment of the de Briouze family by issuing a full statement explaining his motives and outlining his actions, he described in detail, in words not far removed from the chronicler’s, how Maud de Briouze and her family had been captured by one of the rulers of greater Galloway, Duncan of Carrick, and brought back to him at the siege of Carrickfergus, but that de Lacy had managed to escape.60

Therefore all that the author of the Histoire has said so far about the doings of King John at Carrickfergus is remarkably accurate and can be corroborated virtually word for word by other sources. This brings us to the main point of his account of Carrickfergus, to which he devotes just over half of his entire account of the royal expedition to Ireland. The author says that while King John was besieging Carrickfergus castle another Irish king came to his service. He calls him the king of `Kenelyon’, fairly close to the Irish Cenel Edgain, though, as in the case of Cathal Crobderg, the author fails to record his name, in this case, Aed Meith O Neill. We are told that he did not come as far as John’s host but instead camped about a league away beside a meadow. John heard of his arrival and went to meet him, and was delighted when he saw O Neill’s army because, he says, they were squeezed into a place which looked as if it would fit only 2,000 men, whereas there were a full 40,000 gathered there. We need not worry about these hugely exaggerated figures. The point the chronicler is making is that O Neill came to offer John military service, to assist him in the seizure of Carrickfergus and the overthrow of the earldom of Ulster, and, whatever about the exact numbers, he brought a very sizeable army with him, and King John was delighted to have their help.

Then we are told that Aed Meith saw the king coming towards him and went on foot to meet him with a small party of his men. John, seeing him approach, himself dismounted and went to greet him, kissed him and warmly welcomed him. Again the imagery is very vivid – one can almost picture the scene. The two armies camp a league a apart. A piece of neutral turf is selected. The two kings approach, dismount, walk out to the chosen spot, surrounded by a few close officials and lieutenants, and exchange a formal friendly greeting. It is almost a paradigm of a diplomatic encounter between kings, and is a type of procedure virtually unknown in meetings between Irish kings and the representatives of English royalty before the reign of Richard II nearly two centuries later.

The author then proceeds to describe in elaborate detail the negotiations that ensued between both parties. King John, it seems, employed the services of an Irish-speaking interpreter, who was given the task of conveying his wishes to the king’s Irish counterpart. The interpreter asked Aed O Neill to become the vassal of the English king and to pay an annual tribute for his land. It is worth considering in some detail the technical relationship between the two kings envisaged under this arrangement. Four years earlier John had made an arrangement with the king of Connacht, Cathal Crobderg, whereby the latter was given one-third of Connacht to hold by heritable fee, and the other two-thirds in return for the payment of an annual tribute.61 In other words, two-thirds of the province would be Cathal’s only so long as he paid tribute, but for the other one-third he would in effect be a feudal tenant-in-chief, holding the land directly of the crown, and, what is more important, entitled to hand it on to his heir after his death.

If this arrangement had held firm, it had many advantages for O Conchobair. The one-third he was given in fee was precisely the bit he wanted, his core territory. A similar deal was done with Donnchad Cairprech O Briain during the 1210 expediton. John confirmed Donnchad in the kingship of Thomond. This he would hold as a client king in return for tribute. But he was apparently also given a charter for Carrigogunnell, a small part of the Ui Briain ancestral patrimony in the barony of Pobalbrien in County Limerick.62 We know this only from the Book of Mac Carthaigh,63 which is not the most reliable of sources, but one government source shortly afterwards refers to five vills in Thomond which the archbishop of Cashel held of Donnchad Cairprech `in the fee which Donnchad held of the king’.64 It seems, therefore, that by these grants of charters King John was prepared to go some way towards easing the fears of Irish kings about the security of their tenure, in the face of both colonial expansion and the threat posed by their own dynastic rivals.65

In comparison with the offer being made to O Neill, both Cathal Crobderg and Donnchad Cairprech were getting a relatively good deal. If the Histoire is right (and there seems little reason to doubt it on this point), O Neill was not offered any part of the kingdom of Cenel Eogain in fee. He would be for all his land what Cathal Crobderg was for the other two-thirds of Connacht and Donnchad Cairprech for most of Thomond – a client king. It was a personal arrangement between King John and Aed With O Mill. It expired at the death or deposition of either party, and it only lasted for as long as Aed supplied the military service which he undertook to supply and handed over the yearly tribute which he agreed to pay. Under the deal there was no guarantee that Aed’s successor would continue to receive the royal favour, but Aed himself was at least entitled to John’s protection for as long as he continued to fulfil his end of the bargain. It was, in effect, a licence to stay put. It meant that for the relatively small price of handing over an annual tribute of cattle, Aed With could remain unaffected by John’s intervention, and after the English king’s departure life would go on much as before.

However, it is understandable that O Mill might seek to drive a hard bar–gain. According to the Histoire, after the proposal was put to him he withdrew with his men and took counsel on the matter. The advice given him seems to have been to play for time. We are told that O Mill sent his interpreter (presumably a French- or Latin-speaking Irishman) to King John with the following announcement:

Sire, my lord responds that what you have requested greatly pleases him, and he greatly desires to be your vassal (hom) and to do your will in all; but he asks of you as he would of his lord that you give him a delay and forgive him for this; because his counsellors (consaus) have not all yet come, but should all come soon later today; and tomorrow, when he will have discussed it, he will give you his answer, and will gladly do your will.

Although this has all the appearance of cynical prevarication on O Neill’s part, it was not unusual for consultations to take place between Irish kings and their subjects on the eve of important political decisions.66 An earlier Aed O Neill (d.1004) is said to have summoned .the Cenel when he proposed allying with Mael Sechnaill mac Domnaill against Brian Boruma, and when they objected he had them retire from his presence to discuss the matter in secret counsel.67

There is, though, an even closer parallel. After John’s, the next royal expedition was not until 1394-5. At this point the reigning O Neill was Niall Mor, though his son Niall Og was by now the real power. Just as King John had sought the submission of Aed With in 1210, Richard II sought that of Niall Og, who claimed, in a letter explaining his stance on the question, that `we made to come to us all the great men obedient to us among the Irish of Ulster to consult and deliberate with them about my going to the king’s court’.68 An impromptu version of this consultative process seems to be what our chronicler reports Aed With as conducting in 1210. And he was not the only Irish king to take such advice on the occasion. When Cathal Crobderg withdrew from John’s forces at Carrickfergus in order to return to Connacht, he promised to rejoin the king in a fortnight and to bring his son Aed, who was his intended heir.69  It was John’s intention to hold the son as a hostage to ensure Cathal’s future good behaviour. However, when Cathal returned home he took counsel with his wife and his people (a mhuinntir), who decided not to hand Aed over. Cathal then went to meet King John at Rathwire in County Westmeath two weeks later, as arranged, but without his son. The English king was anything but pleased and seems to have forcibly apprehended four of Cathal’s sub-kings and royal officers, whom he brought back to England. At this point, therefore, relations were soured between the two sides, and after John’s departure the government began building the royal castle on the Shannon at Athlone – a sinister development – and connived in (indeed, was instrumental in organising) an invasion of Connacht by the colonists of Meath and Leinster and another invasion from the south by the forces of Munster under Geoffrey de Marisco and rival sections of the Ui Chonchobair.70  Cathal never did hand over his son Aed, but later that year he did allow another son, Toirrdelbach, to be taken hostage; his wisdom in keeping Aed out of John’s grasp was well founded, because Toirrdelbach never again saw the light of freedom and died in his English captivity some years later.71

This issue of the hostages is, therefore, very important. King John, of course, had a reputation as an untrustworthy custodian of important guests. His brother’s son, Arthur of Brittany, the main stumbling-block to his succession, had earlier disappeared in mysterious circumstances while in his care.72  Arthur’s sister, Eleanor, remained imprisoned in England for her entire life.73  In 1208, when John began to fear a baronial plot, he sought hostages from William de Briouze (the very man who had handed Arthur of Brittany over to John and who knew best the fate that had befallen him), whose wife Maud is said to have retorted that she would not entrust the lives of her son, to a man who had murdered his own nephew.74 If we accept the accuracy of this version of events, it was the king’s angry response to this challenge which forced the de Briouzes’ flight to Ireland and the massive royal expedition there in pursuit. And before very much longer Maud de Briouze and her children were themselves, as we have seen, to be captured, transported in cages to the king, and then starved to death, apparently in Windsor castle.75 Another wife and mother felt similar misgivings. In 1205 King John had demanded the eldest son of William Marshal as hostage, and two years later, when the latter was about to set off for Ireland, John also sought delivery of his second son; but the Marshal’s wife, Isabella, daughter of Strongbow and Affe, publicly warned him against doing so at a council of the Marshal’s men held just before his departure.76 In 1209, when John had forced King William of Scotland into a humiliating submission, again he insisted on obtaining over a dozen hostages from among the sons of the Scottish nobility, along with two of William’s own daughters, the elder of whom was to be married – so John said – to his heir Henry and the younger to his second son or to a leading English magnate.77 John’s promise, however, was little more than a trick; years later the princesses were still on the shelf and were only eventually married off beneath their rank to English barons.78 The Welsh fared even worse. In the summer of 1212 John hanged twenty-eight sons of Welsh princes and lords who were hostages for their fathers’ good behaviour.79 Of one Welsh hostage cruelly put to death at this time the Welsh chronicles pathetically point out that he was `an excellent boy not yet seven years old’.80

Sidney Painter was surely not far off the mark when he observed that `no one trusts a man who trusts no one’.81  In the case of Cathal Crobderg O Conchobair, here was a man who had struggled long and hard to gain and maintain power in Connacht against the opposition of rival kinsmen. His only concern now was that his son Aed consolidated that grip on power. To hand him over to the notoriously cruel and capricious King John was a risk he simply was not prepared to take. Hence the breakdown in relations between the two. Now, it is interesting that Cathal’s refusal to hand over his son as hostage followed immediately on his return from Carrickfergus, and it is possible that his decision was motivated by the sequence of events in Ulster. This is because, by the time Cathal withdrew from Carrickfergus, the negotiations with Aed O Neill had also broken down. As far as the author of the Histoire is aware, the cause of the rupture was King John’s insistence on obtaining not alone military service from O Neill but an annual tribute in livestock. There is, however, evidence to the contrary, evidence which suggests that O Mill fell out with John for the same reason that O Conchobair was soon to, the issue of hostages.

First, though, let us continue with what the Histoire has to say. When O Neill asked for more time to consult with his advisers on the matter, John, we are told, swore `by God’s teeth’ that what he said was good, and willingly granted him the delay.82 Then both kings departed and returned to their hosts. But early the next morning O Mill attacked the foragers and those whose task it was to provide victuals for King John’s army,83 and they plundered a great supply of cattle and sheep and of both riding-horses and draught-horses. Then, taking a great number of `squires and servants and villeins’, he retreated into the mountains, where he was safe from John’s army. Only then did he send a message to King John telling him, in effect, that if wanted his tribute, he would have to come and get it. `And thus’, the author concludes, `King John lost the service of that king because of his covetousness, of which he was full’. By this the author of the Histoire seems to blame King John for the collapse of the negotiations, implying that if he had wanted O Neill’s military service, he should have sought that and that alone, but that by asking for tribute on top of it he was being greedy and had only himself to blame when O Neill chose not to comply.

However, it does not seem that the chronicler can be right on this point. If Aed Meith was ready to come to John’s peace and accept a loose form of vassalage, it is unlikely that he would have resisted the handing over of tribute. The payment of cis and cain by submitting kings to their overlord, usually levied in livestock, was an integral part of the Irish political structure.84 It is true that in his obit the Annals of Connacht say that Aed Meith was a king who never yielded `pledge or hostage or tribute (cis) to Gall or Gaedel’.85  But the Annals of Loch Ce have just `pledge or hostage’ here; by not mentioning the word cis they avoid the question of whether he ever showed himself willing to pay for the privilege of retaining his kingship. And, in any case, the Irish pipe roll for 14 John (1211‑12) records the receipt of `321 cows from the rent of O Neill’ – so at some stage he did pay up.86

The negotiations, therefore, may have broken down over another matter. The crux seems to have been the same in the case of both O Neill and O Conchobair. The report of John’s expedition in the contemporaneous Annals of Inisfallen supplies some information not in the Histoire, and differs too in defining the issue over which the negotiations collapsed. Whereas the Histoire has O Neill refusing to enter John’s camp but staying instead in a meadow a league away, only then meeting John on neutral soil, the Annals of Inisfallen have O Neill insisting on holding some of John’s men as guarantors to ensure his safe return (literally, `O Neill went into the house of [i.e. submitted to] the king of England . . . but two or three of the nobles of the foreigners were held by his followers as a guarantee of his safe return from the king’).87 On this point, the two accounts are not mutually exclusive. Aed Meith O Neill was both a gifted military commander and a canny politician – his long and successful career is proof of that 88 - and the basic point of both accounts is his perhaps justifiable reluctance to trust John. A more serious point of divergence between both accounts is the Histoire’s insistence that the handing over of tribute was the sticking-point, and the Inisfallen statement that O Neill simply said no to the yielding of hostages (literally, `Messengers came to him [O Neill] to his house to seek hostages, and he said: “Depart, O foreigners, I will give you no hostages at all this time”. The foreigners departed, and he gave no hostages to the king’). It should be pointed out in this regard that – and it serves to emphasise the point – this set of annals, the Annals of Inisfallen, is independent of the Annals of the Four Masters, yet in the latter case too the emphasis is on the hostage question rather than tribute.89


It seems, therefore, that we have to accept the Irish version, for the reasons given above, that is, that, first, whatever the symbolic importance of it, the handing over of a few hundred head of cattle had far less serious repercussions than the handing over of one’s eldest son; second, we know that within a year or two O Neill was handing over a cattle-rent; and third, within a fortnight of his withdrawal from Ulster, John also fell out with his erstwhile ally Cathal Crobderg, and the deciding issue there was hostages, very possibly because O Neill had made it such.

Whatever the reason, King John, who had set such store by establishing good relations with the Irish kings (especially now that he had quarreled with so many of the Anglo-Irish), left Ireland on bad terms with two of the most powerful, Aed Meith O Neill and Cathal Crobderg O Conchobair. Within a year John’s government had to sponsor invasions of both Connacht and Ulster in an attempt to bring the two kings to heel.90 Yet his expedition has been hailed by modern historians as an out-and-out triumph, partly because of a breakthrough which is thought to have occurred with the Irish.91 The evidence of the chronicles suggests that this view needs to be modified. And on this question the Histoire casts important new light. True, John did initially show favour to Cathal Crobderg (the richly saddled steed with which he presented him symbolised it). The Connacht king, for his part, readily offered military service. But the fragile relationship thus established collapsed because of John’s heavy-handed insistence on taking Cathal’s heir hostage. As to the relationship with O Neill, Professor Otway-Ruthven bluntly states that he `also seems to have joined John in Ulster’,92 whereas we know from the Histoire and from two independent sets of Irish annals that it was a lot more complicated than that, and that here too John seems to have soured Aed Meith’s initial willingness to co-operate. In this way the Histoire des ducs de Normandie adds some new colour to the old black-and-white picture of King John’s expedition to Ireland in 1210.

End Notes

1. John has not lacked biographers, among the better of whom are Kate Norgate, John Lackland (London, 1902); Sidney Painter, The reign of King John (Baltimore, 1949); W L. Warren, King John(London, 1961); and, most recently, Ralph V Turner, King John (London & New York, 1994). For discussion of historiographical perceptions of King John see V H. Galbraith, `Good kings and bad kings in medieval English history’ in History, xxx (1945), pp 119-32; C. Warren Hollister, `King John and the historians’ in Jn. Brit. Studies, i (1962), pp 1-19; J. C. Holt, King John (Historical Association, General Series Pamphlet no. 53, London, 1963); Antonia Gransden, `Propaganda in English medieval historiography’ in Journal of Medieval History, i (1975), pp 363-81.

2. Limerick and Carlingford each have a ‘King John’s castle’, and Roscrea castle is sometimes similarly and erroneously ascribed to him (H. G. Leask, Irish castles and castellated houses (Dundalk, 1941), p. 57). Trim had a tower called after John, whose signet ring is said to have been found in the castle enclosure (C. L. Adams, Castles of Ireland: some fortress histories and legends (London, 1904), p. 361). A seventeenth–century account refers to the `battelments of Kinge John’s chamber’ in St Thomas’s abbey, Dublin (H. F Berry, `Notes on a statement dated 1634, regarding St Thomas’ court and St Katherine’s churchyard, Dublin’ in R.S.A.I. Jn, xxxvii (1907), pp 393-6), while in the same century Waterford still had `the stone walls of a ruined house caled Kinge Johns’ (The Civil Survey, A.D. 1654-56, ed. R. C. Simington (10 vols, I.M.C Dublin, 1931-61), vi: Waterford, p. 250).

3. The phrases appear, respectively, in Warren, King John, p. 196; A. J. Otway–Ruthveii, A history of medieval Ireland (London, 1968), p. 81; and W. L. Warren, `The historian as “private eye”‘ inHistoricat Studies IX, ed. J. G. Barry (Belfast, 1974), p 16. Professor Warren adds: `John’s expedition of 1210 had the twofold objective of putting the barons in their place and recovering the confidence of the Irish. He was crushingly successful.’ (`The historian as “private eye”‘, p. 17) Edmund Curtis says that John came to Ireland, in part at least, `to meet the claims of Gaelic kings versus Norman conquerors’, and that `while he displayed a gracious face to the Irish, John showed a stern one to his offending barons’, adding too that on the expedition, which he describes as `a triumph of demonic energy’, John’s treatment of the Irish marked `a great advance on his visit of 1185′ (A history of medieval Ireland from 1086 to 1513 (2nd ed., London, 1938), pp 111-14). James Lydon states that `most of Gaelic Ireland seemed prepared to accept him’ (The lordship of Ireland in the middle ages (Dublin, 1972), p. 65).

4. The best detailed modern full-length account of the expedition is still G. H Orpen, Ireland under the Normans, 1169-1333 (repr., 4 vols, Oxford, 1968), ii, ch. 21 Two important studies of John’s Irish policy by the late Professor Lewis Warren should also be noted: `John in Ireland, 1185′ in John Bossy and Peter Jupp (eds), Essays presented to Michael Roberts (Belfast, 1976), pp 11-23; and `King John and Ireland’ in James Lydon (ed.), England and Ireland in the later middle ages: essays in honour of Jocelyn Otway-Ruthven (Dublin, 1981), pp 26-42.

5. One of the best studies of this subject is H. G. Richardson’s lengthy introduction

to The memoranda roll for the Michaelmas term of the first year of the reign of King John (1199-1200) (Pipe Roll Society, London, 1943), pp xi-xcviii. See also V. H. Galbraith, Studies in the public records (London, 1948), pp 64-77; G. R. Elton, England, 1200-1640 (Cambridge, 1969), ch. 2; W L. Warren; The governance of Norman and Angevin England, 1086-1272 (London, 1987), ch. 6; N1. T. Clanchy, From memory to written record: England, 1066-1307 (2nd ed., Oxford, 1993), esp. chs 2-3.

6. Curtis, Med. Ire. (1st ed., London, 1923), p.125.

7. The full details of the destruction caused and of the materials that survive appear in the appendix to PR.L rep. D.K. 55; see also Herbert Wood, `The public records of Ireland before and after 1922′ in R. Hist. Soc. Trans., 4th ser., xiii (1930), pp 17-49; J. F Lydon, `Survey of the memoranda rolls of the Irish exchequer’ in Anal. Hib., no. 23 (1966), pp 43-134.

8. The Irish pipe roll of 14 John,1211-1212′, ed. Oliver Davies and D. B. Quinn, in UJA., 3rd ser., iv, supp. (1941).

9. Rotuli de liberate ac de misis et praestitis, regnante Johanne, ed. T. D. Hardy (Record Commission, London, 1844).

10. Mere is an itinerary of John’s reign published as an appendix to the introduction to Rotuli litterarum patentium in Turri Londinensi asservati, ed. T. D. Hardy (Record Commission, London, 1835).

11. As Sidney Painter observes, `The chroniclers were primarily interested in the great struggle between John and the church and make only casual references to domestic politics. These sources show clearly that interesting things were being done, but tell us little or nothing about them.’ (King John, p. 207)

12. Annales Cestrienses: or, chronicle of the abbey of S. Werburg, at Chester, ed. R. C. Christie (Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society, xiv, 1886), p. 48; `Annals of St Edmund’s [to 1212]‘ inMemorials of St Edmund’s abbey, ed. Thomas Arnold (3 vols, Rolls Series (henceforth R.S.), London, 1890-96), ii, 149; The historical works of Gervase of Canterbury, ed. William Stubbs (2 vols, R.S., London, 1879-80), ii, 105; `Chronicle of the thirteenth century’ in Archaeologia Cambrensis, 3rd ser., viii (1862), p. 277; Ralph of Coggeshall, Chronicon Anglicanum, ed. Joseph Stevenson (R.S., London, 1875), p. 164; Memoriale fratris Walteri de Coventria, ed. William Stubbs (2 viols, R.S., London, 1872-3), ii, 202; `Continuatio chronici Willelmi de Novoburgo’, ed. Richard Howlett, inChronicles of the reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I (4 vols, R.S., London, 1884-9), ii, 511; Roger of Wendover, `Chronicle’ in Matthaei Parisiensis, monachi Sancti Albani, chronica majora, ed. H. R. Luard (7 vols, R.S., London, 1872-83), ii, 529-30; ‘Annales monasterii de Theokesberia [1066-1263]‘, ed. H. R. Luard, in Annales monastici (5 vols, R.S., London, 1864-9), i, 59; `Annales monasterii de Wintonia [519-1277]‘, ibid., ii, 81; `Annales prioratus de Wigornia (A.D. 1-1377]’, ibid., iv, 399. John Gillingham has reminded me that the Welsh annals also contain an interesting account of the royal expedition (see, for example, Brut y tywysogyon or the chronicle of the princes: Peniarth MS 20 version, trans. Thomas Jones (Board of Celtic Studies, University of Wales History and Law Series, no. 11, Cardiff, 1952), pp 83-4.). For this and for other helpful suggestions I am most grateful to him.

13. See Antonia Gransden, Historical writing in England, c. 550-1307 (London, 1974), ch. 15.

14. There is a brief account of all the main sets of Anglo-Irish annals in Gearoid Mac Nioeaill, The medieval Irish annals (Dublin, 1975), pp 37-9. For a full discussion of the work of particular annalists see B. A. Williams, `The Latin Franciscan Anglo-Irish annals of medieval Ireland’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis,Trinity College, Dublin, 1992).

15. A.F.M., s. a. 1209; Ann. Clon., s. a. 1208/9 (p. 223).

16. A.L.C., s. a. 1210.

17. Misc. Ir. Annals, s. a. 1210. For an important discussion of these annals see Tomas O Fiaich, `The contents of Mac Carthaigh’s Book’ in L.F.R., 5th ser., lxxiv (1950), pp 30-39.

18. See also Cal. doc. Ire., 1171-1251, no. 404.

19. Ann. lnisf., s.a. 1210.

20. It is referred to in a footnote by both Norgate, John Lackland, p.153, and Curtis, Med. Ire. (2nd ed.), p.112. Extracts from this chronicle which refer to events in Scotland in 1210 are printed in translation in A. O. Anderson, Early sources of Scottish history, A. D. 500 to 1286 (2 vols, Edinburgh, 1922; repr., Stamford, 1990), ii, 387.

21. For a brief description of the manuscript see De la conqueste de Constantinoble, par Joffroi de Villehardouin et Henri de Valenciennes, ed. Paulin Paris (Societe de 1′Histoire de France, Paris, 1838), pp xxxvii-xxxviii.

22. For William of Jumieges see Gransden, Historical writing in England, pp 94‑8.

23. There is a full discussion of this and of a related chronicle in Charles Petit–Dutaillis, `Une nouvelle chronique du regne de Philippe-Auguste: l’anonyme de Bethune’ in Rev. Hist., 1 (Paris, 1892), 63-71. See also Martin Bouquet, Recited des historiens des Gaules et de la France, xxiv, ed. Leopold Delisle (Paris, 1904), pp 750-53; G. H. Pertz et al., Monumenta Germaniae historica, scriptores, xxvi, ed. Oswald Holder-Egger (Hanover, 1882), pp 699-702; Auguste Molinier, Les sources de l’histoire de France (6 vols, Paris, 1901-6), iii, nos 2217-18; L’histoire de Guillaume le Marechal, ed. Paul Meyer (3 vols, Paris, 1891-1901), iii, p. xci.

24. Petit-Dutaillis describes it as `un des plus interessants [ouvrages] qu’on puisse lire sur les vingt premieres annees du XIIIe siecle et n’a pas ete encore utilise autant qu’il le merite’ (`L’anonyme de Bethune’, p. 65). Although Kate Norgate in 1902 described its author as `a writer who was strictly contemporary, and who ranks as one of the best, and certainly the most impartial, of our informants on the closing years of John’s reign’ (John Lackland, pp 291-2), in the following year, T. F. Tout still felt: it necessary to call attention to `the very valuable chronicle called the Histoire des ducs de Normandie et des rois d’Angleterre, which English writers have so strangely neglected’ (`The fair of Lincoln and the “Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal”‘ in E. H. R., xviii (1903), p. 242).

25. Petit-Dutaillis, `L’anonmye de Bethune’, p. 69; Gransden, Historical writing in England, p. 518. The standard work on the de Bethune family (Histoire de la maison de Bethune) was published by Andre du Chesne as long ago as 1639. For Bethune itself see L. F. Quarre-Reybourbon, Histoire de la ville de Bethune (Lille, 1886). For the influential monastery of St Vaast at Arras see tdouard de Moreau, Les abbayes de Belgique (Brussels, 1952), p. 64.

26. H. A. Doubleday et al. (eds), The Victoria History of the counties of England: Northampton (Westminster, 1902), i, 373; William Farrer, Honors and knights’ fees (3 vols, London, 1923-5), i, 22. Another Robert de Bethune became prior of Llanthony before 1123 (C. N. L. Brooke, The church and the Welsh border in the central middle ages (Woodbridge, 1986), p. 36 n. 85) and was bishop of Hereford, 1131-48. According to du Chesne (Histoire de la maison de Bethune, p. 570), he was unrelated to our family. The most recent account of Bishop Robert is to be found in English episcopal acta VII: Hereford, 1079-1234, ed. Julia Barrow (British Academy, Oxford, 1993), pp xxxvii-xl.

27. The Red Book of the Exchequer, ed. Hubert Hall (3 vols, R.S., London, 1896), i, 24; ii, 692, 697; Farrer, Honors & knights’ fees, i, 22, 23.

28. Roger of Howden, Chronica, ed. William Stubbs (4 vols, R.S. London, 1868-71), ii, 119, 192 (where he is described as one of the `barones de regno Franciae’).

29. Farrer, Honors & knights’ fees, i, 23.

30. Ibid., p. 25; I. J. Sanders, English baronies: a study of their origin and descent, 1086-1327 (Oxford, 1960), pp 141-2. For Baldwin de Bethune see G.E.C., Peerage, i, 354; Sidney Painter, William Marshal: knight-errant, baron, and regent of England (Baltimore, 1933), pp 142-3 and passim; idem, King John, pp 24, 40-41, 295; Sir Maurice Powicke, The loss of Normandy, 1189-1204: studies in the history of the Angevin empire (2nd ed., Manchester, 1961), pp 109-10; John Gillingham, Richard the Lionheart (2nd ed., London, 1989), pp 125-6.

31. Rot. litt. claus.,1204-24, p.133; Farrer, Honors & knights’ fees, i, 26.

32. Farrer, Honors & knights’ fees, i, 26; Norgate, John Lackland, pp 230, 255; Painter, King John, pp 309, 362, 372. For the lands of Richard de Clare see G.E.C., Peerage, vi, 501-3; Sidney Painter, `The earl of Clare: Richard de Clare, earl of Hertford’ in Feudalism and liberty: articles and addresses of Sidney Painter, ed. Fred A. Cazel, jr (Baltimore, 1961), pp 220-25.

33. Petit-Dutaillis, `L’anonyme de Bethune’, pp 65-6.

34. See Histoire des ducs de Normandie, pp 88, 97, 100 (`Bauduins de Bethune, li cuens d’Aubemalle, qui moult estoit preudom et loiaus et boins chevaliers . . .’ ), 109-10, 111, 115 (a detailed account of his death in 1212 and burial in the Cistercian Abbey of Meaux in his lordship of Holdemess on Humberside); see also J. (J.C. Holt `The end of the Anglo-Norman realm’ in Brit. Acad. Proc., lxi (1975), pp 254, 263.

35. Howden, Chronica, iii, 306, and Stubbs’s note.

36. For Hawise see G.E.C., Peerage, i, 353-5; Barbara English, The lords of Holderness, 1086-1260: a study in feudal society (Hull, 1991), pp 30-37; C. T. Clay, Early Yorkshire charters, VII: The honour of Skipton (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series, Extra Series, v, York, 1947), pp 20-21 and passim. Sidney Painter believed that she might well have been one of the future King John’s mis–tresses (King John, p. 235).

37. Powicke, Loss of Normandy, p. 110; Gillingham, Richard the Lionheart, pp 261-2.

38. English, Lords of Holderness, p. 34.

39. Rot. liberate, pp 185, 186, 195, 200-01 (John and Herbert de St Quintin and Walter de Ver were Baldwin’s military tenants; see also English, Lords of Holderness, p.162), 210-11, 212-13.

40. Rot. liberate, p. 214. Baldwin’s tenants Fulk and Lambert de Oyry and Robert de Ros received prests at Dublin on 21 August (ibid., p. 225). The `knights of the earl of Aubemarle’ received further payments at Dublin two days later (ibid., p. 226). All told, at least thirty-three Flemish knights received prests during the expedition (Painter, King John, p. 265 n.130).

41. The relevant extract from the Histoire is printed as an appendix below, along with a translation, for assistance with which I am much indebted to Dr Jean-Michel Picard of University College, Dublin, and Nicholas Jacobs of Jesus College, Okford (though they are not responsible for any errors gnat may reynain).

42. As John Gillingham has pointed out to me, this suggests the possibility that the Flemings (or the informant) sailed directly to Dublin.

4. Rymer, Foedera (4 vols in 7 pts, Record Commission, London, 1816-69), i, pt 1, p. 55; Hist. & mun. doc. Ire., pp 51-5; Anc. rec. Dublin, i,1-13; Gearoid Mac Niocaill (ed.), Na burgeisi, XII-XV aois (2 vols, Dublin, 1964), i, 76-89. For John’s favourable treatment of, and consistent support by, the towns throughout his domains see Turner, King John, p.111.

44. Ca1. doc. Ire., 1171-1251, no. 226. On the castle see J. T Gilbert, A history of the viceroys of Ireland, with notices of the castle of Dublin (London & Dublin, 1865); Charles McNeill, `Notes on Dublin castle’ in R.S.A. Z Jn., lxx (1940), pp 194‑9: J. L. J. Hughes, `Dublin castle in the seventeenth century: a topographical reconstruction’ in Dublin Hist. Rec., ii (1940), pp 80-97; H. G. Leask, Dublin castle: a short descrip–tive and historical guide for the use of visitors (Dublin, 1944); J. B. Maguire, ‘Seventeenth-century plans of Dublin castle’ in H. B. Clarke (ed.), Medieval Dublin: the making of a metropolis (Dublin, 1990), pp 193-201. Detailed reports of the important modern excavations at the castle have yet to appear, but see Ann Lynch and Conleth Manning, `Dublin castle – the archaeological project’ in Archaeology Ireland, iv, no. 2 (summer 1990), pp 65-8.

45. Roger of Wendover, Flores historiarum, ed. H. G. Hewlett (3 vols, R.S., London, 1886-9), ii, 56-7, though a better edition of the text of Wendover is supplied in small type in Luard’s edition of Matthew Paris’s Chronica majora (vol. ii, pp 529-30). It should be pointed out that King John also spent about a week at Dublin just before his departure, and that Wendover is no doubt conflating the business of both visits.

46. See, for example, Philip Grierson, `Commerce in the dark ages: a critique of the evidence’ in R. Hist. Soc. Trans., 5th ser., ix (1959), pp 123-40, esp. pp 135-9; and, for Ireland, Charles Doherty, `Exchange and trade in early medieval Ireland’ in R.S.A.I. Jn., cx (1980), pp 67-89. It is worth noting that in 1211 King John ordered that scarlet robes be presented to the kings of Ireland (Cal. doc Ire.,1171-1251, no. 531; see also Curtis, Med. Ire. (2nd ed.), p.114 n.1).

47. There are detailed discussions of the subject in Katharine Simms, From kings to warlords: the changing political structure of Gaelic Ireland in the later middle ages (Woodbridge, 1987), ch. 7, and Marie Therese Flanagan, Irish society, Anglo-Norman settlers, Angevin kingship: interactions in Ireland in the late twelfth century (Oxford, 1989), ch. 6; see also Fergus Kelly, A guide to early Irish law(Dublin, 1988), pp 120-21. For later medieval Irish society in general see Kenneth Nicholls, Gaelic and gaelicised Ireland in the middle ages (Dublin, 1972), ch. 2.

48. Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh; The war of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, ed. J. H. Todd (R.S. London, 1867), pp 132-3.

49. Simms, From kings to warlords, pp 101-4; see also Dictionary of the Irish lan–guage based mainly on Old and Middle Irish materials, ed. E. G. Quin et al. (Dublin, 1913-76), s. v.

50. Simms, From kings to warlords, p.103. I am grateful to Dr Simms for reading this paper in advance of publication, and especially for her helpful comments on this particular point.

51. See R. W. Dudley Edwards and Mary O’Dowd, Sources for early modern Irish history, 1534-1641 (Cambridge, 1985), ch. 5.

52. Giraldus Cambrensis [Gerald of Wales, The history and topography of Ireland [Topographia Hiberniae], trans. John J. O’Meara (Portlaoise, 1982 ed.), p.101.

53. Chronicque de la trarson et mort de Richart Deux Roy Dengleterre, ed. and trans. Benjamin Williams (English Historical Society, London, 1846), p.171.

54. The original text, in French, is printed in full, along with a translation, in Stat. Ire., John-Hen. V, pp 430-69. Essentially the same translation is provided in Edmund Curtis and R. B. McDowell (eds),Irish historical documents, 1172-1922 (London, 1943), pp 52-9.

55. Froissart’s chronicles, ed. and trans. John Jolliffe (London, 1967), p. 366.

56. Facs. nat. MSS Ire., iii, plate xxxiii. It appears on the cover of Art Cosgrove, Late medieval Ireland, 1370-1541(Dublin, 1981). The Chronicque de la traison et mort de Richart Deux, in describing Mac Murchada, specifically states that while he rode a very fine steed, he did so without a saddle (p.173).

57. La chronique de Monstrelet,1400-1444, ed. Louis Douet d’Arcq (6 vols, Societe de 1′Histoire de France, Paris, 1857-62), iii, 284-5. For the horse among the Viking settlers in Ireland see Rhoda Kavanagh, `The horse in Viking Ireland: some obser–vations’ in John Bradley (ed.), Settlement and society in medieval Ireland: studies presented to F. X. Martin (Kilkenny, 1988), pp 89-121; for Irish horsemen in the later middle ages see J. F Lydon, `The hobelar: an Irish contribution to mediaeval warfare’ in the Irish Sword, ii (1954-6) pp 12-16.

58. John Gillingham has recently done much important work on the contemporary `barbaric’ portrayal of the Irish and other Celtic peoples; see, for example, `The context and purposes of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae’ in Anglo–Norman Studies, xiii (1990), pp 99-118; `The beginnings of English imperialism’ in Journal of Historical Sociology, v (1992), pp 392-409; and `The English invasion of Ireland’ in Brendan Bradshaw et al. (eds), Representing Ireland: literature and the origins of conflict, 1534-1660 (Cambridge, 1993), pp 24-42. See also W R. Jones, `The image of the barbarian in medieval Europe’ in Comparative Studies in History and Society, xiii (1971), pp 376-407; idem, `England against the Celtic fringe’ in Jn. World Hist., xiii (1971), pp 155-71. On the views and influence of Giraldus Cambrensis see Robert Bartlett, Gerald of Wales, 1146-1223 (Oxford, 1982), ch. 6; and, more generally, idem, The making of Europe: conquest, colonization and cultural change, 950-1350 (London, 1993), passim. The subject also forms an important theme in R. R. Davies, Domination and conquest: the experience of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, 1100-1300 (Cambridge, 1990).

59. A.L.C, s.a. 1210; Cronica regum Mannie & Insularum, ed. and trans. George Broderick (Belfast; 1979), f. 41v; `Continuatio chronici Willelmi de Novoburgo’, ii, 511; Paris, Chronica majora, ii, 530. The praestita roll also refers to the activities of John’s agents in Man at this point (Cal. doc. Ire., 1171-1251, no. 407).

60. Rymer, Foedera, i, pt 1, pp 107-8. Duncan soon received his reward, with a grant of Larne and Glenarm and fifty carucates of land in between, approximating to the modern barony of Upper Glenarm in County Antrim (Cal. doc. Ire., 1171-1251, no. 907; Orpen, Normans, ii, 267). For a discussion see Ronald Greeves, `The Galloway lands in Ulster’ in Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, 3rd ser., xxxvi (1957-8), pp 115-22; Keith J. Stringer, `Periphery and core in thirteenth-century Scotland: Alan son of Roland, lord of Galloway and constable of Scotland’ in Alexander Grant and K. J. Stringer (eds), Medieval Scotland: crown, lordship and community: essays presented to G. W. S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1993), pp 82-113; Sean Duffy, `Ireland and the Irish Sea region, 1014-1318′ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Trinity College, Dublin, 1993), pp 64, 72-6, 94-9, and app. 4.

61. Cal. doc. Ire.,1171-1251, no. 279; Rot. litt. claus,1204-24, p. 62. See Helen Walton, `The English in Connacht, 1171-1333′ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Trinity College, Dublin, 1980), pp 37-41; eadem (Helen Walton-Perros), `Crossing the Shannon frontier: Connacht and the Anglo-Normans,1170-1224′ in T B. Barry, R. R Frame and Katharine Simms (eds), Colony and frontier in medieval Ireland: essays presented to J. F. Lydon (London & Rio Grande, 1995), p. 131; see also James Lydon, `Lordship and crown: Llywelyn of Wales and O’Connor of Connacht’ in R. R. Davies (ed.), The British Isles, 1100-1500: comparisons, contrasts and connections (Edinburgh, 1988), p. 56.

62. For Carrigogunnell see T J. Westropp, `Carrigogunnell castle and the O’Briens of Pubblebrian in the County of Limerick’ in R.S.A.I Jn., xxxvii (1907), pp 374-92; Orpen, Normans, ii, 168 n. 2.

63. Misc. Ir. Annals, s .a. 1210.

64. Cal. doc. Ire., 1171-1251, no. 649; see also C. A. Empey, `The settlement of the kingdom of Limerick’ in Lydon (ed.), England & Ireland in the later middle ages, pp 14-15.

65. For a general discussion see Warren, `King John & Ireland’, and Robin Frame, Colonial Ireland, 1169-1369 (Dublin, 1981), p. 57.

66. See Simms, From kings to warlords, ch. 5.

67. Cog. Gaedhel, pp 128-31.

68. Translated in Edmund Curtis, Richard II in Ireland, 1394-5, and submissions of the Irish chiefs (Oxford, 1927), p. 221; see also Simms, From kings to warlords, p. 70.

69. A.L.C, s. a. 1210.

70. Ibid.; for comment see Walton, `The English in Connacht’, pp 41-3; eadem (Walton-Perros), `Crossing the Shannon frontier’, p.132.

71. A.L.C, s. a. 1210; Ann. Clon., s. a. 1213.

72. See F M. Powicke, `King John and Arthur of Brittany’ in E.H.R., xxiv (1909), pp 659-74; idem, The loss of Normandy, pp 309-28; M. D. Legge, `William the Marshal and Arthur of Brittany’ in I.H.R. Bull., Iv (1982), pp 18-24. John’s most recent biog–rapher comments: `Baronial fear and distrust of John . . . confronted them with a dilemma when he demanded their sons as hostages. Handing over hostages was difficult once rumours spread of Arthur of Brittany’s disappearance while in his uncle’s custody . . . Rumours of the boy’s death spread by the spring of 1204; and they drastically damaged John’s moral authority, especially with those nobles whose sons he held hostage.’ (Turner, King John, pp 17,121)

73. Turner, King John, p. 253.

74. Roger of Wendover, Flores historiarum, ii, 48-9.

75. Their fate is discussed in detail in Norgate, John Lackland, pp 287-8.

76. L’histoire de Guillaume le Marechal, ll 13272, 13355-419; see also Painter, William Marshal, pp 143, 146; David Crouch, William Marshal: court, career and chivalry in the Angevin empire, 1147-1219 (London, 1990), pp 91, 94, 99.

77. The best discussion is in A. A. M. Duncan, Scotland: the making of the kingdom (Edinburgh, 1975), pp 241-52.

78. G. W. S. Barrow, Kingship and unity: Scotland, 1000-1306 (Edinburgh, 1981), p.146.

79. Walter of Coventry, Memoriale, ii, 207; Roger of Wendover, Flores historiarum, ii, 61; for the importance of the hostage question in John’s dealings with the Welsh princes at this point see J Beverley Smith, `Magna Carta and the Welsh princes’ in E.H.R., xcix (1984), pp 344-62. Needless to say, in view of the longstanding affinity between both countries, in Ireland the memory would still be strong of Henry II’s equally cruel treatment of Welsh hostages during his 1165 campaign, a campaign recorded in the Irish annals (see A.U., s.a. 1165); for the most recent account see Paul Latimer, `Henry II’s campaign against the Welsh in 1165′ in Welsh Hist. Rev, xiv (1989), pp 523-52.

80. Brut y tywysogyon . . . Peniarth MS 20 version, p. 86.

81. Painter, King John, p. 229.

82. This was a favourite oath of John’s. It occurs in one of his outbursts following the loss of Normandy, recorded in L’histoire de Guillaume le Marechal, 1. 13159. Roger of Wendover also has him using it in a fit of rage a couple of years later: `Rex . . . in verba blasphemiae prorupit, jurans per dentes Dei . . .’ (Flores historiarum, ii, 46).

83. We know that at Carrickfergus, on 20 July, Roger Pipard was given a prest of 2 marks `ad equos emendos’ (Rot. liberate, p.197).

84. See Simms, From kings to warlords, pp 130-36; Kelly, Guide to early Irish law, p.19.

85. Ann. Conn., s.a. 1230; see also A.FM.

86. Irish pipe roll of 14 John’, ed. Davies & Quinn, pp 36, 66; see also Katharine Simms, `The O’Hanlons, the O’Neills, and the Anglo-Norman in thirteenth-century Armagh’, Seanchas Ardmhacha, ix (1978-9), p. 77; eadem, `Gaelic lordships in Ulster in the later middle ages’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Trinity College, Dublin, 1976), ii, 640-42.

87. Ann. Inisf, s a. 1210.

88. The only satisfactory account remains unpublished in Simms, `Gaelic lordships in Ulster’, ii, 636-48.

89. A.F.M., s.a. 1209-1210: `Hugh O’Neill repaired hither [to Carrickfergus] at the king’s summons, but returned home without giving him hostages . . . The king of England then went to Rathguaire, whither O’Conor repaired again to meet him; and the king requested O’Conor to deliver him up his son, to be kept as a hostage. O’Conor did not give him his son, but delivered up four of his people instead . . . The king then returned to England, bringing these hostages with him:

90. Walton, `The English in Connacht’, pp 42-3; Simms, `Gaelic lordships in Ulster’, ii, 641-2.

91. This is what the Dictionary of the Middle Ages has to say: `Since 1200 John’s only success had been the Irish expedition of 1210 that enabled him to impose his control over the whole island and to introduce the English administrative system’ (ed. J. R. Strayer et al., vii (New York, 1986), s .n. `John, king of England’, by Bryce Lyon, p. 130). Sidney Painter puts it thus: `History has not, I believe, fully recognized either the full scope of John’s plans to recover his prestige or how near they came to fruition . . . He humbled the great Anglo-Irish barons and the native chieftains and vastly increased his authority in that lordship.’ (King John, p. 227)

92. Otway-Ruthven, Med. Ire., p. 81.

Appendix: Histoire des dues de Normandie et des rois d’Angleterre - translation

Maud de Briouze and William her husband, when they heard the news that the king was coming against them, dared not await him, but fled out of the land. William de Briouze went to France, but that was by safe-conduct; and Maud his wife and William his son fled to Ireland to Hugh de Lacy, who was [a relative] of William de Briouze. The king seized their land, then put to sea and passed to Ireland, and came to the city of Dublin, where he was received with great joy. Then he rode across the land, and both he and his men saw many great marvels which would be hard to believe if they were told to you.

The king of Connacht came to his service, one of the richest kings of Ireland, bringing many great men; but all were on foot and very strangely dressed. Even the king was very poorly mounted and dressed in the same manner. King John presented to him, therefore, a very powerful charger, very richly saddled and bridled. The king of Connacht thanked him for it; then he had the saddle removed and mounted it at his ease, for he did not know how to ride with a saddle; and thus he rode a long distance alongside King John, who found it greatly amusing; and so did the people.

King John besieged the castle of Carrickfergus, which was very strong. Hugh de Lacy and Maud de Briouze and William her son had been in it; but when they heard talk of the coming of the king, they dared not wait, but went to sea and fled to the Isle of Man, where they were four days; then they crossed into the land of Galloway. There both Maud de Briouze and William her son were taken; they were sent back to Ireland, to King John, their lord, who was still before the castle of Carrickfergus. Hugh de Lacy was not taken along with them, but escaped and fled into Scotland.

At the siege of Carrickfergus, where King John was, there came to his service the king of Cenel Eogain, another king of Ireland; but he did not come as far as the host, but encamped one league away, nearby a meadow. King John, when he heard about his coming, went to meet him, and when he came at seeing distance of the king’s host, he saw him with great pleasure, because they were encamped in so small a place that it seemed that two thousand men would not be able to fit, while there were in the host a full forty thousand men. The king of Cenel Eogain, when he saw the king of England coming, went to meet him all on foot along with a party of his men. When King John saw him coming, he dismounted and went to greet him and to kiss him, and he gave him a warm welcome. Then he had his interpreter come, and had him ask that he become his vassal and that each year he give him tribute for his land.

The king of Cenel Eogain said that he would discuss it: he retired aside with his men, and soon took counsel; then his interpreter came back and said to King John: `Sire, my lord responds that what you have requested greatly pleases him, and he greatly desires to be your vassal and to do your will in all; but he asks of you as he would of his lord that you give him a delay and forgive him for this; because his counsellors have not all yet come, but should all come soon later today; and tomorrow, when he will have discussed it, he will give you his answer, and will gladly do your will’. King John swore by God’s teeth that what he had said was good and very willingly granted him the delay; then he took his leave and repaired to his host, and the king of Cenel Eogain to his own.

This article was first published in Irish Historical Studies v.30 n.117 (May, 1996).  We thank William E. Vaughn of the management committee of Irish Historical Studies for his permission to republish this article.


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