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Ireland

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.

We have fortunately still existing the main provisions of that constitution which was prepared under the auspices of Saint Patrick, and which, though not immediately, nor simultaneously, was in the end accepted by all Erin as its supreme law. It is contained in a volume called "the Book of Rights," and in its printed form (the Dublin bilingual edition of 1847), fills some 250 octavo pages.

Four years before the death of Thorlogh O'Brien, a Prince destined to be the life-long rival of his great son, had succeeded to the kingship of the northern tribes. This was Donald, son of Ardgall, Prince of Aileach, sometimes called "O" and sometimes "Mac" Laughlin. Donald had reached the mature age of forty when he succeeded in the course of nature to his father, Ardgall, and was admitted the first man of the North, not only in station but for personal graces and accomplishments; for wisdom, wealth, liberality, and love of military adventure.

Though the victorious and protracted career of Richard de Burgh, the "Red Earl" of Ulster, might, without overstraining, be included in the Norman period, yet, as introductory to the memorable advent and election of King Edward Bruce, we must leave it for the succeeding book. Having brought down the narrative, as regards all the provinces, to the end of the first century, from the invasion, we must now cast a backward glance on the events of that hundred years before passing into the presence of other times and new combinations.

The main peculiarities of social life among the Irish and Anglo-Irish during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are still visible to us. Of the drudges of the earth, as in all other histories, we see or hear little or nothing, but of those orders of men of whom the historic muse takes count, such as bards, rulers, builders, and religious, there is much information to be found scattered up and down our annals, which, if properly put together and clearly interpreted, may afford us a tolerably clear view of the men and their times.

Twenty-seven years is a long reign, and the years of King-Hugh II. were marked with striking events. One religious and one political occurrence, however, threw all others into the shade - the conversion of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (then called Alba or Albyn by the Gael, and Caledonia by the Latins), and the formal recognition, after an exciting controversy, of the independence of the Milesian colony in Scotland. These events follow each other in the order of time, and stand partly in the relation of cause and effect.

The successful ambition of Thorlogh O'Conor had thus added, as we have seen in the last chapter, a fifth dynasty to the number of competitors for the sovereignty. And if great energy and various talents could alone entitle a chief to rule over his country, this Prince well merited the obedience of his cotemporaries. He is the first of the latter kings who maintained a regular fleet at sea; at one time we find these Connaught galleys doing service on the coast of Cork, at another co-operating with his land forces, in the harbour of Derry.

We have already spoken of the character of the war waged by and against the Normans on Irish soil, and as war was then almost every man's business, we may be supposed to have described all that is known of the time in describing its wars. What we have to add of the other pursuits of the various orders of men into which society was divided, is neither very full nor very satisfactory.

Although the English and Irish professed the same religion during these ages, yet in the appointment of Bishops, the administration of ecclesiastical property, and in all their views of the relation of the Church to the State, the two nations differed almost as widely as in their laws, language, and customs. The Plantagenet princes and their Parliaments had always exhibited a jealousy of the See of Rome, and statute upon, statute was passed, from the reign of Henry II. to that of Richard II., in order to diminish the power of the Supreme Pontiffs in nominating to English benefices.

THE five years of the sixth century, which remained after the death of Hugh II., were filled by Hugh III., son of Dermid, the semi-Pagan. Hugh IV. succeeded (A.D. 599) and reigned for several years; two other kings, of small account, reigned seven years; Donald II. (A.D. 624) reigned sixteen years; Connall and Kellach, brothers, (A.D. 640) reigned jointly sixteen years; they were succeeded (A.D. 656) by Dermid and Blathmac, brothers, who reigned jointly seven years; Shanasagh, son of the former, reigned six years; Kenfala, four; Finnacta, "the hospitable," twenty years, and Loingsech (A.D.

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