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Thomas D'Arcy McGee

Ireland, during the first three quarters of the thirteenth century, produced fewer important events, and fewer great men, than in the thirty last years of the century preceding. From the side of England, she was subjected to no imminent danger in all that interval. The reign of John ending in 1216, and that of Henry III.

The history of "the Pale" being recounted down to the period of its complete isolation, we have now to pass beyond its entrenched and castellated limits, in order to follow the course of events in other parts of the kingdom.

Ireland is situated in the North Atlantic, between the degrees fifty-one and a half and fifty-five and a half North, and five and a quarter and ten and a third West longitude from Greenwich. It is the last land usually seen by ships leaving the Old World, and the first by those who arrive there from the Northern ports of America. In size it is less than half as large as Britain, and in shape it may be compared to one of those shields which we see in coats-of-arms, the four Provinces - Ulster, Connaught, Leinster, and Munster - representing the four quarters of the shield.

We have already told the tragic fate of the two adventurers - Fitzstephen and de Cogan - between whom the whole of Desmond was first partitioned by Henry II. But there were not wanting other claimants, either by original grant from the crown, by intermarriage with Irish, or Norman-Irish heiresses, or new-comers, favourites of John or of Henry III., or of their Ministers, enriched at the expense of the native population.

We have already described the limits to which "the Pale" was circumscribed at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The fortunes of that inconsiderable settlement during the following century hardly rise to the level of historical importance, nor would the recital of them be at all readable but for the ultimate consequences which ensued from the preservation of those last remains of foreign power in the island.

Since we have no Roman accounts of the form of government or state of society in ancient Erin, we must only depend on the Bards and Story-tellers, so far as their statements are credible and agree with each other. On certain main points they do agree, and these are the points which it seems reasonable for us to take on their authority.

The last scene of the Irish monarchy, before it entered on the anarchical period, was not destitute of an appropriate grandeur. It was the death-bed scene of the second Malachy, the rival, ally, and successor of the great Brian. After the eventful day of Clontarf he resumed the monarchy, without opposition, and for eight years he continued in its undisturbed enjoyment.

We may estimate the power of the de Lacy family in the second generation, from the fact that their expulsion required a royal army and navy, commanded by the King in person, to come from England. Although pardoned by John, the brothers took care never to place themselves in that cowardly tyrant's power, and they observed the same precaution on the accession of his son, until well assured that he did not share the antipathy of his father.

Perhaps no preface could better introduce to the reader the singular events which marked the times of Gerald, eighth Earl of Kildare, than a brief account of one of his principal partizans - Sir James Keating, Prior of the Knights of St. John. The family of Keating, of Norman-Irish origin, were most numerous in the fifteenth century in Kildare, from which they afterwards spread into Tipperary and Limerick.

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