Nearly a hundred years before William Rufus once stood on the cliffs of Wales, and cried, as he looked across the waters towards Ireland, "For the conquest of that land I will gather together all the ships of my kingdom, and will make of them a bridge to cross over." The story was carried to a king of Leinster, who listened thoughtfully. "After so tremendous a threat as that," he asked, "did the king add, if the Lord will?" Being told that Rufus used no such phrase, "Since he trusts to do this by human power, not divine," said the shrewd Irishman, "I need not greatly dread his coming." Prophecies which passed from mouth to mouth in Ireland declared that the island should not be conquered till very shortly before the great Day of Judgment. Even in England men commented on the fact that while the Romans had reached as far as the Orkneys, while Saxons and Normans and Danes had overrun England, Ireland had never bowed to foreign rule. The Northmen alone had made any attempt at invasion; but within the fringe of foreign settlements which they planted along the coast from Dublin to Limerick, the various Irish kingdoms maintained themselves according to their ancient customs, and, as English tribes had done before in Britain, waged frequent war for the honour of a shifting and dubious supremacy. The island enjoyed a fair fame for its climate, its healthfulness, its pasturage, its fisheries; English chroniclers dwelt on "the far-famed harbour of Dublin, the rival of our London in commerce," and told of ships of merchandise that sailed from Britanny to Irish ports, and of the busy wine trade with Poitou. Ireland alone broke the symmetry of an empire that bordered the Atlantic from the Hebrides to Spain, and the fame of empire had its attractions for the heirs of the Norman conquerors. Patriotic and courtly historians remembered that their king was representative of Gerguntius, the first king of Britain who had gone to Ireland; the heir of Arthur, to whom Irish kings had been tributary; the ruler over the Basque provinces, from whence undoubtedly the Irish race had sprung. To fill up what was lacking in these titles, he was proclaimed lord and ruler by a yet clearer divine right, when in 1155 John of Salisbury brought to him from Rome a bull, by which the English Pope, Hadrian IV., as supreme lord of all islands, granted Ireland to the English king, that he might bring the people under law, and enlarge the borders of the Church.

From the beginning, indeed, there rested on the unhappy country a curse which has remained to the present moment. The invasion of the Ostmen was the first of a series of half-conquests which brought all the evils of foreign invasion with none of its benefits. In England the great rivers and the Roman roads had been so many highways by which the Scandinavians had penetrated into the heart of the country. But in Ireland no road and no great river had guided the invader onwards past morass and bog and forest. While the great host of the Danish invaders swooped down over England and Gaul, the pirates that sailed to Ireland had only force to dash themselves on the coast, and there cling cautiously to guarded settlements. They settled as a race apart, as unable to mix with the Irish people as they were powerless to conquer them. No memory as in England of a common origin united them, no ties of a common language, no sense of common law or custom, or of a common political tradition. The strangers built the first cities, coined the first money, and introduced trade. But they were powerless to affect Irish civilization. The tribal system survived in its full strength, and Ireland remained divided between two races, two languages, two civilizations in different stages of progress, two separate communities ruled by their own laws, and two half-completed ecclesiastical systems, for the Danish Church long looked, as the Irish had never done, to the Archbishop of Canterbury as their head. Earnest attempts had already been made by Hadrian's predecessor to bring the Irish into closer connection with the see of Rome. In 1152 a papal legate had carried out a great reform by which four archbishops, wholly independent of Canterbury and receiving their palls from Rome, were set over four provinces. But still no Peter's Pence were paid to Rome; Roman canon law, Roman ritual, the Roman rules of marriage, had no authority; the Roman form of baptism was replaced by a tradition which made the father dip his new-born child three times in water, or, if he were a rich man, in milk; there was no payment of tithes; clerks were taxed like laymen when a homicide occurred; Irish nobles still demanded hospitality from religious houses, and claimed, according to ancient custom, provisions from towns on Church domains. Hadrian himself had long been interested in Irish affairs. The religious houses which the Irish maintained in Germany kept up communication with Pope and Emperor; an Irish abbot at Nuremberg was chaplain to the Emperor Frederick; one of Hadrian's masters at Paris had been a monk from the Irish settlement in Ratisbon, and as Pope he still remembered the Irish monk with warm affection. When he was raised to the Papacy in the very year of Henry's coronation, one of his first cares was to complete the organization of Christendom in the West by bringing the Irish Church under Catholic discipline.

Henry, on his part, was only too eager to accept his new responsibility, and less than a year after his coronation he called a council to discuss the conquest of Ireland. The scheme was abandoned on account of its difficulties, but the question was later raised again in another form. Diarmait Mac Murchadha (in modern form Jeremiah Murphy), King of Leinster, had carried off in 1152 the wife of the chief of Breifne (Cavan and Leitrim). A confederation was formed against him under Ruaidhri (or Rory), King of Connaught, and he was driven from the island in 1166. "Following a flying fortune and hoping much from the turning of the wheel," he fled to Henry in Aquitaine, did homage to the English king for his lands, and received in return letters granting permission to such of Henry's servants as were willing to aid him in their recovery. Diarmait easily found allies in the nobles of the Welsh border, in whose veins ran the blood of two warlike races. It was by just such an enterprise as this that their Norman fathers and grandfathers had won their Welsh domains. From childhood they had been brought up in the tumult of perpetual forays, and trained in a warfare where agility and dash and endurance of hunger and hardship were the first qualifications of a soldier. Richard de Clare, Earl of Striguil, in later days nicknamed Strongbow - a descendant of one of the Conqueror's greatest warriors, but now a needy adventurer sorely harassed by his creditors - was easily won by the promise of Diarmait's daughter and heiress, Aeifi, as his wife. Rhys, the Prince of South Wales, looked favourably on the expedition. His aunt, Nesta, had been the mistress of Henry I. of England; and had afterwards married first Gerald of Windsor, and then a certain Stephen; her sons and grandsons, whether Fitz-Henrys, Fitz-Geralds, or Fitz-Stephens, were famous men of war; nor were the children of her daughter, who had married William de Barri, behind them in valour. No less than eighteen knights of this extraordinary family took part in the conquest, where in feats of war they renewed the glories of their ancestors both Norse and Welsh; a son of Nesta's, David, the Bishop of St. David's, gave his sympathy and help; while her grandson, Gerald de Barri, became the famous historian of the conquest.

In 1167 Diarmait returned to Ireland with a little band of allies, the pioneers of the English conquest. Others followed the next year, among them Strongbow's uncle, Hervey of Mount Moriss, a famous soldier in the French army, distinguished for his beautifully proportioned figure, his delicate long hands, his winning face, and graceful speech. With him went Nesta's son Robert Fitz-Stephen, a powerful man of the Norman type, handsome, freehanded, sumptuous in his way of living, liberal and jovial, given to wine and dissipation. His nephew, Meiler Fitz-Henry, showed stronger traces of Welsh blood in his swarthy complexion, fierce black eyes, and passionate face. The knights carried on the war with the virtues and vices of a feudal chivalry, with a frank loyalty to their allies, a good comradeship which recognized no head but left each knight supreme over his own forces, a magnificent daring in the face of overwhelming forces, and a joyful acceptance of the savage privileges of slaughter and rapine which fell to their lot. "By their aid Diarmait began first to take breath, then to gain strength, and at last to triumph over his enemies." The Irish, however, rallied under the king of Connaught against the traitor who had brought the English into their land; and Diarmait was forced to conclude a peace and promise to receive no more English soldiers.

Meanwhile other knights were preparing for the Irish expedition. Maurice Fitz-Gerald encamped on a rock near Wexford. Another Fitz-Gerald, Raymond the Fat, fortified his camp near Waterford. In August 1170 came Earl Richard himself, who had crossed to France in search of Henry, and with persistent importunity implored for leave to join the Irish war. Henry, at that moment busy in his last negotiations with Thomas, gave a doubtful half-consent, and Richard sailed with an army of nearly fifteen hundred men. We see in the pages of Gerald of Wales, the hero with whose name the conquest of Ireland was to be for ever associated, red-haired, gray-eyed, freckled, with delicate features like a woman's, and thin, feeble voice; wearing a plain citizen's dress without arms, "that he might seem more ready to obey than to command;" suave, gracious, politic, patient, deferential, with his fine aristocratic air, and an undaunted courage that blazed out in battle, when "he never moved from his post, but remained a beacon of refuge to his followers." At his coming Waterford was taken, as Wexford and Ossory had been before. Before the prudent Norman went farther the marriage contract was carried out, and the beginning of a strife which lasted for seven hundred years was celebrated in this first alliance of a Norman baron and an Irish chief. Richard and Diarmait marched against Dublin, and its Danishin habitants were driven over sea. In a few months their king, Hasculf, returned with a great fleet gathered from Norway, the Hebrides, the Orkneys, Man, - the last fleet of Northmen which descended on the British Isles, - but again the Normans won the day.

Henry meanwhile was watching nervously the progress of affairs. The war was, no doubt, useful in withdrawing from Wales a restless and dangerous baronage, and in the rebellion of 1174 the hostility of the border barons would have been far more serious if the best warriors of Wales had not been proving their courage on the plains of Ireland. But Henry had no mind to break through his general policy by allowing a feudal baronage to plant themselves by force of arms in Ireland, as they had in earlier days settled themselves in northern England and on the Welsh border. The death of Diarmait in 1171 brought matters to a crisis. By Celtic law the land belonged to the tribe, and the people had the right of electing their king. But the tribal system had long been forgotten by the Normans, whose ancestors had ages before passed out of it into the later stage of the feudal system; and by Norman law the kingdom of Leinster would pass to Aeifi's husband and her children. Rights of inheritance and rights of conquest were judiciously blended together, and Richard assumed rule, not under the dangerous title of king, but as "Earl of Leinster." The title was strange and unwelcome to Irish ears. Among envious Norman rivals it did not hide the suspicion that Richard was "nearly a king," and rumours reached Henry's ears that he was conquering not only Leinster but other districts to which neither he nor his wife had any right. Henry immediately confiscated all the earl's lands in England, and ordered that all knights who had gone to Ireland should return, on pain of forfeiture of their lands and exile. In vain Strongbow's messengers hastened to him in France, and promised that the earl would yield up all his conquests, "since from the munificence of your kindness all proceeds." While they still anxiously followed the Court from place to place came the sudden tidings of the archbishop's murder, and before many months were over Henry was on his way to Ireland to take its affairs into his own hands. Strongbow was summoned to meet him, forced to full submission, and sent back to prepare the way before the king.

In Ireland Henry had little to do save to enter into the labours of its first conquerors. The Danes had been driven from the ports. The Irish were broken and divided, and looked to him as their only possible ally and deliverer from the tyranny, the martial law, the arbitrary executions, which had marked the rough rule of the invaders. The terrified barons were ready to buy their existence at any price. The leaders of the Church welcomed him as the supporter of Roman discipline. Henry used all his advantages. He consistently carried through the farce of arbitration. The Wexford men brought to him Fitz-Stephen, whom they had captured, as the greatest enemy to the royal majesty and the Irish people. Henry threw him into prison, but as soon as he had won the smaller kings of the south separately to make submission to him, and given the chief castles into the hands of his own officers, he conciliated the knights by releasing Fitz-Stephen. He spent the winter in Dublin, in a palace built of wattles after the fashion of the country. There he received the homage of all the kings of Leinster and Meath. Order, law, justice, took the place of confusion. Dublin, threatened with ruin now the Danish traders were driven off, was given to the men of Bristol to found a new prosperity. Its trade with Chester was confirmed, and from all parts of England new settlers came in numbers during the next few years to share in the privileges and wealth which its commerce promised. A stately cathedral of decorated Norman work rose on the site of an earlier church founded by the Ostmen. It seemed as though the mere military rule of the feudal lords was to be superseded under the king's influence by a wiser and more statesmanlike occupation of the country. A great council was held at Cashel, where a settlement was made of Church and State, and where Henry for the first time published the Papal Bull issued by Hadrian fifteen years before. He had won a position of advantage from whence to open a new bargain with the Pope. In the moment of his deepest disgrace and peril he defiantly showed himself before the world in all the glory of the first foreign Conqueror and Lord of Ireland.

Henry's work, however, was scarcely begun when in March there came a lull in the long winter storms, and a vessel made its way across the waters of the Irish Sea. It brought grave tidings. Legates from the Pope had reached Normandy, with powers only after full submission to absolve the king; unless Henry quickly met them, all his lands would be laid under interdict. Other heavy tidings came. Evil counsellors were exciting the young king to rebellion. It was absurd, they said, to be king, and to exercise no authority in the kingdom, and the boy was willing enough to believe that since his coronation "the reign of his father had expired." All Henry's plans in Ireland were at once thrown aside. At the first break in the adverse winds he hastily set sail, and for two hundred years no English king again set foot in Ireland. The short winter's work was to end in utter confusion. The king's policy had been to set up the royal justice and power, and to break the strength of the barons by dividing and curtailing their interests. He had left them without a leader. The growing power of Strongbow had been broken; Dublin had been taken from him; the castles had all been committed to knights appointed by the king. Quarrels and rivalries soon broke out. Raymond the Fat became the recognized head of Nesta's descendants. In his enormous frame, his yellow curly hair, his high-coloured cheery face, his large gray eyes, we seethe type of the old Norse conquerors who had once harried England; we recognize it too in his carelessness as to food or clothing, his indifference to hardship, his prodigious energy, the sleepless nights spent in wandering through his camp where his resounding shouts awoke the sleeping sentinels, the enduring wrath which never forgot an enemy. Richard's uncle, Hervey of Mount Moriss, led a rival faction in the interests of Strongbow. The English garrison in Ireland was weakened by the loss of troops which Henry was compelled to carry away with him. The forces that remained, divided, thinned, discouraged, were left to confront an Irish party united in a revived hope. No sooner did rebellion break over England in the next year than the Irish with one accord rose in revolt. The treasury was exhausted, and there was no payment for the troops. A doubtful campaign went on in which the English, attacked now by the Ostmen of the towns, now by the Irish, fought with very varying success, but with prodigies of valour. They were reckless of danger, heedless of the common safeguards of military precaution. When Henry heard of Raymond's daring capture of Limerick in 1176, and then of his retreat, he made one of his pithy "Great was the courage in attacking it, and yet greater in the subduing of it, but the only wisdom that was shown was in its desertion."

The rivalry of Raymond and Strongbow was at its height when, in 1176, Earl Richard died; and to this day his burial-place in the Norman Cathedral in Dublin, and that of his wife Aeifi, are marked by the only sculptured tombs that exist of these first Norman conquerors of Ireland. Others besides the king heard with joy the news that the great warrior was dead. Richard's sister, who had been married to Raymond, had cast in her lot with her lord. She sent a cautious despatch to her husband, who was unable himself to read, and had to depend on the good offices of a clerk. "Know, my dearest lord," wrote the prudent wife, "that that great tooth which pained me so long has now fallen out, wherefore see that you delay not your return." The watchful Henry, however, at once recalled Raymond to England, and sent a new governor, Fitz-Aldhelm, to hold the restless barons in check, till his son John, to whom he now proposed to give the realm of Ireland, should be of age to undertake its government. When Fitz-Aldhelm saw the magnificent troop of Raymond's cousins and nephews, who had thrown aside all armour save shields, and, mounted on splendid horses, dashed across the plain to display their feats of agility and horsemanship, he muttered to his followers, "This pride I will shortly abate, and these shields I will scatter." He was true to his word. The fortunes of the knights of both parties indeed rapidly declined; "those who had been first had to learn to be last;" their lands were taken from them on every excuse, and they were followed by the enmity and persecution of the king. For the next ten years the history of the English in Ireland is a miserable record of ineffective and separate wars undertaken by leaders each acting on his own account, and of watchful jealousy on the part of Henry. A new governor was sent in 1177 to replace Fitz-Aldhelm. Hugh de Lacy was no Norman. His black hair, his deep-set black eyes, his snub nose, the scar across his face, his thin ill-shapen figure, marked him out from the big fair Fitz-Geralds, as much as did his "Gallican sobriety" and his training in affairs, for in war he had no great renown. Perhaps it was some quick French quality in him that won the love of the Irish. But Henry was suspicious and uneasy. He was recalled in 1181 on the news that without the king's leave he had married the daughter of the King of Connaught, and rumour added that he had even made ready a diadem for himself. But his services were so valuable that that same winter he was sent back, only to be again recalled in 1184 and again sent back. At last in 1186, "as though fortune had been zealous for the king of England," he was treacherously slain by an Irishman, to Henry's "exceeding joy."

Meanwhile the king had in 1185 made a further attempt at a permanent settlement of the distracted island. John was formally appointed king over Ireland, and accompanied by Glanville, landed in Waterford on the 25th of April. His coming with a new batch of Norman followers completed the misfortunes of the first settlers. The Norman-Welsh knights of the border had by painful experience learned among their native woods and mountains how to wage such war as was needed in Ireland-a kind of war where armour was worse than useless, where strength was of less account than agility, where days and nights of cold and starvation were followed by impetuous assaults of an enemy who never stood long enough for a decisive battle, a war where no mercy was given and no captives taken. On the other hand, their half Celtic blood had made it easy for them to mingle with the Irish population, to marry and settle down among them. But the followers of John were Norman and French knights, accustomed to fight in full armour upon the plains of France; and to add to a rich pay the richer profits of plunder and of ransom. The seaport towns and the castles fell into the hands of new masters, untrained to the work required of them. "Wordy chatterers, swearers of enormous oaths, despisers of others," as they seemed to the race of Nesta's descendants, the new rulers of the country proved mere plunderers, who went about burning, slaying, and devastating, while the old soldiery of the first conquest were despised and cast aside. Divisions of race which in England had quite died out were revived in Ireland in their full intensity; and added to the two races of the Irish and the Danes we now hear of the three hostile groups into which the invaders were broken - the Normans, the English, and the men of the Welsh border. To the new comers the natives were simply barbarians. When the Irish princes came to do homage, their insolent king pulled their long beards in ridicule; at the outrage they turned their backs on the English camp, and the other kings hearing their tale, refused to do fealty. Any allies who still remained were alienated by being deprived of the lands which the first invaders had left them. Even the newly-won Church was thrown into opposition by interference with its freedom and plunder of its lands; the ancient custom of carrying provisions to the churches for safe keeping in troubled times was contemptuously ignored when a papal legate gave the English armies leave to demand the opening of the church doors, and the sale of such provisions as they chose to require. There were complaints too in the country of the endless lawsuits that now sprang up, probably from the infinite confusion that grew out of the attempt to override Irish by English law. But if Glanville tried any legal experiments in Ireland, his work was soon interrupted. Papal legates arrived in England at Christmas 1186 to crown the King of Ireland with the crown of peacocks' feathers woven with gold which the Pope himself had sent. But John never wore his diadem of peacocks' feathers. Before it had arrived he had been driven from the country.

Thus ended the third and last attempt in Henry's reign to conquer Ireland. The strength and the weakness of the king's policy had alike brought misery to the land. The nation was left shattered and bleeding; its native princes weakened in all things save in the habits of treachery and jealousy; its Danish traders driven into exile; its foreign conquerors with their ranks broken, and their hope turned to bitterness. The natural development of the tribal system was violently interrupted by the half-conquest of the barons and the bringing in of a feudal system, for which the Irish were wholly unprepared. But the feudal conquerors themselves were only the remnants of a broken and defeated party, the last upholders of a tradition of conquest and of government of a hundred years earlier. Themselves trembling before the coming in of a new order of things, they could destroy the native civilization, but they could set nothing in its place. There remained at last only the shattered remnants of two civilizations which by sheer force were maintained side by side. Their fusion was perhaps impossible, but it was certainly rendered less possible by the perplexed and arbitrary interferences of later rulers in England, almost as foreign to the Anglo-Irish of the Pale as to the native tribes who, axe in hand and hidden in bog and swamp and forest, clung desperately to the ancient traditions and inheritance of their forefathers.