CHAPTER VI. FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE IRISH PREVIOUS TO THE ANGLO-NORMAN INVASION.
The relations of the Irish with other nations, notwithstanding the injurious effects of their War of Succession on national unity and reputation, present several points of interest. After the defeat of Magnus Barefoot, we may drop the Baltic countries out of the map of the relations of Ireland. Commencing, therefore, at the north of the neighbouring island - which, in its entirety, they sometimes called Inismore - the most intimate and friendly intercourse was always upheld with the kingdom of Scotland. Bound together by early ecclesiastical and bardic ties, confronting together for so many generations a common enemy, those two countries were destined never to know an international quarrel. About the middle of the ninth century (A.D. 843), when the Scoto-Irish in Caledonia had completely subdued the Picts and other ancient tribes, the first national dynasty was founded by Kenneth McAlpine. The constitution given by this Prince to the whole country seems to have been a close copy of the Irish - it embraced the laws of Tanistry and succession, and the whole Brehon code, as administered in the parent state. The line of Kenneth may be said to close with Donald Bane, brother of Malcolm III., who died in 1094, and not only his dynasty but his system ended with that century. Edgar, Alexander I., and David I., all sons of Malcolm III., were educated in England among the victorious Normans, and in the first third of the twelfth century, devoted themselves with the inauspicious aid of Norman allies, to the introduction of Saxon settlers and the feudal system, first into the lowlands, and subsequently into Moray-shire. This innovation on their ancient system, and confiscation of their lands, was stoutly resisted by the Scottish Gael. In Somerled, lord of the Isles, and ancestor of the Macdonalds, they found a powerful leader, and Somerled found Irish allies always ready to assist him, in a cause which appealed to all their national prejudices. In the year 1134, he led a strong force of Irish and Islesmen to the assistance of the Gaelic insurgents, but was defeated and slain, near Renfrew, by the royal troops, under the command of the Steward of Scotland. During the reigns of William the Lion, Alexander II., and Alexander III., the war of systems raged with all its fierceness, and in nearly all the great encounters Irish auxiliaries, as was to be expected, were found on the side of the Gaelic race and Gaelic rights. Nor did this contest ever wholly cease in Scotland, until the last hopes of the Stuart line were extinguished on the fatal field of Culloden, where Irish captains formed the battle, and Irish blood flowed freely, intermingled with the kindred blood of Highlanders and Islesmen.
The adoption of Norman usages, laws, and tactics, by the Scottish dynasties of the twelfth and succeeding centuries, did not permanently affect the national relations of Ireland and Scotland. It was otherwise with regard to England. We have every reason to believe - we have the indirect testimony of every writer from Bede to Malmsbury - that the intercourse between the Irish and Saxons, after the first hostility engendered by the cruel treatment of the Britons had worn away, became of the most friendly character. The "Irish" who fought at Brunanburgh against Saxon freedom were evidently the natural allies of the Northmen, the Dano-Irish of Dublin, and the southern seaports. The commerce of intelligence between the islands was long maintained; the royalty of Saxon England had more than once, in times of domestic revolution, found a safe and desired retreat in the western island. The fair Elgiva and the gallant Harold had crossed the western waves in their hour of need. The fame of Edward the Confessor took such deep hold on the Irish mind that, three centuries after his death, his banner was unfurled and the royal leopards laid aside to facilitate the march of an English King, through the fastnesses of Leinster. The Irish, therefore, were not likely to look upon the establishment of a Norman dynasty, in lieu of the old Saxon line, as a matter of indifference. They felt that the Norman was but a Dane disguised in armour. It was true he carried the cross upon his banner, and claimed the benediction of the successor of St. Peter; true also he spoke the speech of France, and claimed a French paternity; but the lust for dominion, the iron self-will, the wily devices of strategy, bespoke the Norman of the twelfth, the lineal descendant of the Dane of the tenth century. When, therefore, tidings reached Ireland of the battle of Hastings and the death of Harold, both the apprehensions and the sympathies of the country were deeply excited. Intelligence of the coronation of William the Conqueror quickly followed, and emphatically announced to the Irish the presence of new neighbours, new dangers, and new duties.