Thursday, January 10, 2013

Prince John in Ireland

In the early 1180s Hugh de Lacy, lord of Mide (Meath) (who had recently married King Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair’s daughter) intended to make himself king in Ireland and it caused such alarm among the Norman rulers of England that they urgently d ecided to send prince John to Ireland. In the winter of 1184-1185, Lacy was recalled and Archbishop John Cumin of Dublin was sent ahead to prepare the way. The annals record for 1185 that "the son of the king of England came to Ireland with sixty ships to assume its kingship," and Howden writes that, at Windsor on March 31, Henry "dubbed his son John a knight, and immediately afterwards sent him to Ireland, appointing him king," while the Chester annals record that John "started for Ireland, to be crowned king there." He did not, however, possess a crown as Pope Lucius III refused Henry’s request and it was only late in 1185 that his successor, Urban III, "confirmed it by his bull, and as proof of his assent and confirmation, sent him a crown made of peacocks’ feathers, embroidered with gold." By this point, however, John had returned from Ireland in ignominy and the crown was never worn.

Apart from being ill-behaved and ill-advised, the expedition was undoubtedly spoiled by de Lacy, the annals observing that John "returned to his father complaining of Hugh de Lacy, who controlled Ireland for the king of England before his arrival, and did not allow the Irish kings to send him tribute or hostages."

Image: King John's Castle in Limerick. John never visited Limerick but the castle was built on his orders and was completed around 1200.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Annals of the Four Masters

The Annals of the Four Masters are mainly a compilation of earlier annals, although there is some original work. They were compiled between 1632 and 1636 in the Franciscan friary in Donegal Town. The entries for the twelfth century and befo re are sourced from medieval annals of the community. The later entries come from the records of the Irish aristocracy (such as the Annals of Ulster) and the seventeenth-century entries are based on personal recollection and observation. The annals are written in Irish.

The chief compiler of the annals was Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, who was assisted by, among others, Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh, Fearfeasa Ó Maol Chonaire and Peregrine Ó Duibhgeannain. Although only one of the authors, Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, was a Franciscan friar, they became known as 'The Four Friars' or in the original Irish, Na Ceithre Máistrí. The Anglicized version of this was "The Four Masters", the name that became associated with the annals themselves. The patron of the project was Fearghal Ó Gadhra, a lord in County Sligo.

Several manuscript copies are held at Trinity College Dublin, the Royal Irish Academy, University College Dublin and the National Library of Ireland. The annals have also been digitised and are available free from the website of University College Cork.

Image: Signature page from the Annals of the Four Masters