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Thomas D'Arcy McGee

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.

Though Ireland dates the decay of Scandinavian power from Good Friday, 1014, yet the North did not wholly cease to send forth its warriors, nor were the shores of the Western Island less tempting to them than before. The second year after the battle of Clontarf, Canute founded his Danish dynasty in England, which existed in no little splendour during thirty-seven years. The Saxon line was restored by Edward "the Confessor;" in the forty-third year of the century, only to be extinguished for ever by the Norman conquest twenty-three years later.

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.

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.

The conversion of a Pagan people to Christianity must always be a primary fact in their history. It is not merely for the error it abolishes or the positive truth it establishes that a national change of faith is historically important, but for the complete revolution it works in every public and private relation.

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