CHAPTER IV. SECOND CAMPAIGN OF EARL RICHARD - HENRY II. IN IRELAND.
The campaign of the year 1171 languished from a variety of causes. At the very outset, the invaders lost their chief patron, who had been so useful to them. During the siege of Dublin, in the previous autumn, the townsmen of Wexford, who were in revolt, had, by stratagem, induced Robert Fitzstephen to surrender his fort at Carrick, and had imprisoned him in one of the islands of their harbour. Waterford had been surprised and taken by Cormac McCarthy, Prince of Desmond, and Strongbow, alarmed by the proclamation of Henry, knew hardly whether to consider himself outlaw, subject, or independent sovereign.
Raymond the Fat had returned from his embassy to King Henry, with no comfortable tidings. He had been kept day after day waiting the pleasure of the King, and returned with sentences as dubious in his mouth, as those on which Earl Richard had originally acted. It was evidently not the policy of Henry to abandon the enterprise already so well begun, but neither was it his interest or desire that any subject should reap the benefit, or erect an independent power, upon his mere permission to embark in the service of McMurrogh. Herve, the Earl's uncle, had been despatched as ambassador in Raymond's place, but with no better success. At length, Richard himself, by the advice of all his counsellors, repaired to England, and waited on Henry at Newenham, in Gloucestershire. At first he was ignominiously refused an audience, but after repeated solicitations he was permitted to renew his homage. He then yielded in due form the city of Dublin, and whatever other conquests he claimed, and consented to hold his lands in Leinster, as chief tenant from the crown: in return for which he was graciously forgiven the success that had attended his adventure, and permitted to accompany the King's expedition, in the ensuing autumn.
Before Strongbow's departure for England three unsuccessful attempts had been made for the expulsion of the Norman garrison from Dublin. They were unfortunately not undertaken in concert, but rather in succession. The first was an attempt at surprising the city by Asculph MacTorcall, probably relying on the active aid of the inhabitants of his own race. He had but "a small force," chiefly from the isles of Insi-Gall and the Orkneys. The Orcadians were under the command of a warrior called John the Furious or Mad, the last of those wild Berserkers of the North, whose valour was regarded in Pagan days as a species of divine frenzy. This redoubted champion, after a momentary success, was repulsed by Milo and Richard de Cogan, and finally fell by the hand of Walter de Riddlesford. Asculph was taken prisoner, and, avowing boldly his intention never to desist from attempting to recover the place, was put to death. The second attack has been often described as a regular investment by Roderick O'Conor, at the head of all the forces of the Island, which was only broken up in the ninth week of its duration, by a desperate sally on the part of the famished garrison. Many details and episodes, proper to so long a beleaguerment, are given by Giraldus, and reproduced by his copyists. We find, however, little warrant for these passages in our native annals, any more than for the antithetical speeches which the same partial historian places in the mouths of his heroes. The Four Masters limit the time to "the course of a fortnight." Roderick, according to their account, was accompanied by the lords of Breffni and Oriel only; frequent skirmishes and conflicts took place; an excursion was made against the Leinster Allies of the Normans, "to cut down and burn the corn of the Saxons." The surprise by night of the monarch's camp is also duly recorded; and that the enemy carried off "the provisions, armour, and horses of Roderick." By which sally, according to Giraldus, Dublin having obtained provisions enough for a year, Earl Richard marched to Wexford, "taking the higher way by Idrone," with the hope to deliver Fitzstephen. But the Wexford men having burned their suburbs, and sent their goods and families into the stockaded island, sent him word that at the first attack they would put Fitzstephen and his companions to death. The Earl, therefore, held sorrowfully on his way to Waterford, where, leaving a stronger force than the first garrison, to which he had entrusted it, he sailed for England to make his peace with King Henry. The third attempt on Dublin was made by the lord of Breffni during the Earl's absence, and when the garrison were much reduced; it was equally unsuccessful with those already recorded. De Cogan displayed his usual courage, and the lord of Breffni lost a son and some of his best men in the assault.