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ABSTRACT: An examination of the ecclesiastical policy of the first Angevin kings in Ireland suggests that the period 1171-1216 constitutes a distinct phase in Irish history characterised by a desire on the part of Henry II and king John to pursue a policy of peaceful co-existence between Irish and Anglo-Norman, rather than division and competition; a more colonial attitude becomes apparent during the minority of Henry III.
KEYWORDS: Irish church, Anglo-Irish relations, Henry II, king of England, John, king of England, episcopal elections, Ailbe (Albinus) Ua Máel Muaid, bishop of Ferns, Echdhonn (Eugenius) Mac Gilla Uidir, archbishop of Armagh, Aubrey Gwynn.
Chronicon 1 (1997) 6: 1-17
1. The invitation to give this lecture honours me more than it could possibly honour the Reverend Professor after whom the lectures are named.1 I am not an Irish historian; nor even, save marginally, an historian of Ireland. I never received formal instruction in Irish history. I moved into it sideways, as it were; much as did those two enigmatic kings of England whose careers I followed: the Frenchman Henry II, who lies buried among the aristocratic nuns of Fontevrault in the march lands of Anjou, and his youngest son John, who alone of the numerous children of Henry of Anjou and Eleanor of Aquitaine was both born and buried in England.
2. Anyone who has followed my odyssey will observe that the amateurish dabblings in Irish history of my early book on King John had become somewhat more professional by the time I wrote Henry II. The reason is that in the interval I had discovered the learned articles of Aubrey Gwynn. `Discovered' is the right word: Ireland must have more local journals of history per head of the population than any other country in the world, and it would seem that Aubrey Gwynn scattered the pearls of his learning over most of them.
3. My second discovery was that the titles of his articles were no adequate guide to what one was likely to find in them. I first learned of the flirtation of the Montgomerys of Pembroke with Muirchertach Ua Briain in his articles on `The origins of St Mary's Abbey, Dublin'; and came across a vital clue to how king John conceived his lordship of Ireland in a journal of diocesan history. My third discovery was that Aubrey Gwynn was so perfect a practitioner of the historical discipline that one could readily learn from him all that one needed to know to be equipped to disagree with him. But the most valuable and exciting of all the lessons which I learned from Aubrey Gwynn was that the rewriting of twelfth-century Irish history is possible: we are not committed to endlessly retelling a tired tale.
4. Since I wrote about Ireland in a book on Henry II (first published in 1973) I have in several articles been developing and elaborating a thesis about the Angevin policy towards Ireland. In brief, this thesis is that the period from the intervention of Henry II to the later years of king John is a distinct phase in Irish history; that the rift between the Irish and the Anglo-Normans comes at the end of this period not at the beginning, with the development of what I would call a `colonial' attitude to Ireland by some of the barons; that in consequence this distinct phase has more in common with what went before than with what comes after; and that the royal policy in the formation of a lordship of Ireland was essentially conceived as `a high-kingship made effective'. I have sought to establish the following points. First, I have tried to rescue the elements of the royal scheme for Ireland from the obscuring fog of the alternative policy of `complete conquest' advocated by Giraldus Cambrensis, and from the assumption deeply embedded in traditional Irish historiography of inevitable and constant hostility between natives and incomers. Secondly, I have attempted to identify the `strategic plan' which I believe was devised to make the new high kingship work effectively. Thirdly, I have attempted to demonstrate that John in his role as king of Ireland (quite distinct from the kingship of England) saw the Irish and the Norman settlers as equally his subjects, and hence to be treated impartially. Fourthly, I have argued that the kind of opposition which he did encounter from the Irish was essentially the traditional opposition to an effective high kingship; but that at least by 1212 the Irish had by and large become reconciled to it, much more so than had the Anglo-Norman barons who after being coerced into conforming in 1210 seized the opportunity of John's difficulties in England to undermine the whole concept.2 In this lecture I propose to examine how the thesis stands up to a confrontation with the ecclesiastical evidence.
5. The idea that Anglo-Irish relations took a marked turn for the worse in the early years of the thirteenth century first came to me when reading Aubrey Gwynn's article on `Henry of London, archbishop of Dublin'.3 There I encountered the writs issuing from the English chancery in January 1217 instructing the justiciar in Ireland not for the future to permit any Irishman to be elected or promoted to any Irish see, and to take counsel with the archbishop of Dublin to procure the election and promotion of the king's clerks and other worthy English clerks.4 This evidence does not, of course, by itself establish the argument: we have to ask whether it marks the inception of a new policy, or whether it simply makes arrogantly explicit a policy already established in practice. The second has been the usual assumption. The traditional view would have it that the policy of substituting English for Irish bishops was an almost inevitable consequence of the acceptance by the synod of Cashel in 1172 of the `customs' of the English church which gave the crown de facto control of episcopal appointments. If I am to establish my thesis I must challenge and contradict this assumption.
6. We should observe that to the papacy the policy of the 1217 writs appeared new and abhorrent. Only a year before, the episcopate of Ireland had been well represented at the Fourth Lateran Council by eighteen bishops and two bishops elect. Of these about a third were Anglo-Normans and two-thirds Irish. Yet in all the problems of the church in Ireland laid before pope Innocent III there is, in the words of the late and lamented Rev. Dr P. J. Dunning, `little or no evidence of any sharp division between Irish and Anglo-Norman interests'.5 On the other hand, Innocent III's successor, pope Honorius III responded promptly in 1220 when he heard from his newly appointed legate in Ireland what he calls `the unheard of audacity of certain Englishmen' in ruling that no Irish cleric, whatever his worth, should assume an ecclesiastical dignity.6 Yet despite repeated and forthright papal condemnation, those instructions to the justiciar to promote only Englishmen were not formally rescinded until 1227, shortly after the young king Henry III took the reins of government into his own hands.7 It seems clear, then, that the policy should be seen as peculiarly characteristic of the regency government in England during Henry III's minority, and, moreover, a regency government strongly influenced by barons with personal interests in Ireland. Aubrey Gwynn suggested that the notorious writs were inspired by Henry of London, archbishop of Dublin (and for two periods himself justiciar in Ireland).8 The evidence presented by Aubrey Gwynn certainly demonstrates archbishop Henry's energetic support of the policy; but its instigator, I believe, was William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, lord of Leinster, and `rector regis et regni' in England from October 1216 until his death in 1219. I have elsewhere given grounds for believing that William Marshal had since the loss of his estates in Normandy embarked on a policy of colonial exploitation in Leinster, a policy which earned him and those other barons in Ireland who followed his lead the opposition of John's government between 1206 and 1210.9 There was, however, a more particular reason for William Marshal taking a partisan line over episcopal appointments, and that was the vigorous opposition of the Irish bishop of Ferns to his appropriation of lands belonging to the see of Ferns.10 The general and the particular may indeed run together for behind this situation lies, I suspect, William Marshal's reorganisation of his lordship for large-scale grain production for the export market, which involved encroachment on lands in south-east Leinster which ever since the accord between Strongbow and the Meic Murchadha had remained exclusively Irish.
7. We may say with confidence that William Marshal would have had no support from king John in his persecution of the bishop of Ferns, at least not before king John was obliged to buy the co-operation of the barons of Ireland after 1212 and to replace John de Grey as justiciar by Henry of London. Bishop Ailbe of Ferns was so highly favoured by king John that we may well believe him to be (with the possible exception of another Cistercian, Henry bishop of Emly) the king's favourite bishop in Ireland.11 Of course, as always, we have much less concrete evidence than we could wish; but all that we have points in the same direction. So far as I am aware, we have no direct information about the appointment of Ailbe, the Cistercian abbot of Baltinglass, to Ferns; but we should observe that it was in 1186. The lordship of Leinster, within which the bishopric lay, was then in the hands of the crown, as it had been since the death of Strongbow. The government of Ireland was nominally in the hands of the young John, but was in fact directed by Henry II through three of his intimate counsellors seconded to Ireland: John Cumin, Gilbert Pipard, and Bertram de Verdon.12 John Cumin was then archbishop of Dublin and metropolitan of the province embracing Ferns. If we are to follow the assumption that the English crown dictated appointments to sees under its control then there is no escape from the conclusion that Ailbe was a royal nominee. Even if, as I would argue, we should reject that assumption, we should nevertheless allow that the appointment of Ailbe to Ferns had royal approval. The documents of John's reign reveal that approval deepened into confidence. In 1206 Ailbe of Ferns was king John's personal nominee for the archbishopric of Cashel: `The king to the archdeacon and chapter of Cashel. We have learned of the death of Matthaeus, archbishop of Cashel, and we know that our venerable father, Ailbe, bishop of Ferns, is an upright man; to him we have given our assent and wish him to be made archbishop *'.13 Ailbe did not get Cashel; and to the significance of that I will return. In 1208 he was one of a three-man mission from John to the Irish provincial rulers. The other two were the justiciar, Meiler fitz Henry, and the crown's long-term adviser on Irish affairs, Philip of Worcester.14 This is a critical date, and I suspect, a crucial mission, for in my reading of the situation it marks John's disillusionment with the Anglo-Norman barons and his growing apprehensions about William Marshal's influence in Ireland. And on 5 September 1216 (six weeks before his death) John took a step of the utmost significance. In the penultimate document of his reign relating to Ireland he wrote to the justiciar: `Know that we have granted the custody of the bishopric of Killaloe which is vacant to our venerable father the bishop of Ferns *'.15 Given the location of the bishopric of Killaloe it must have been of critical importance in John's amicable relations with the Uí Briain; and in granting custody to an Irish bishop John must have been advertising his intention to respect Irish interests. John's action then is in stark contrast to the policy announced just four months later in William Marshal's writ to the justiciar of Ireland. Indeed this new policy, as I believe it to be, had immediate consequences for Killaloe. Domnall Ua hÉnna had already been elected, and was eventually confirmed as bishop of Killaloe by pope Honorius III in 1219, but was not consecrated until 1221 because his place had been violently usurped by Robert Travers, elected in January 1217 within days of that notorious writ, and presumably at the instigation of Henry of London.16
8. This evidence seems to me to constitute a strong prima facie case for the argument that the ecclesiastical policy of the Angevin kings differed radically from that of the colonialist barons in Ireland. But let us not jump to conclusions. It is possible that the indulgence and favour shown to Ailbe of Ferns was exceptional. We should remember that Henry II and even John could be quixotic in their attitudes to the clergy. Like many laymen who are not personally pious and may lean to anti-clericalism, they respected holy men and preferred them as bishops despite the pressure of other interests. (I am tempted to say, like Winston Churchill nominating the saintly socialist William Temple to Canterbury, with the words, so it is said, that Temple was `the only sixpenny article on a penny tray'.) In 1180 Henry II accepted the election of the notable canonist Baldwin, Cistercian abbot of Ford, to the bishopric of Worcester; and his `affection and reverence' for Baldwin escalated, so the chroniclers tells us, after the bishop had intervened to prevent the king's justiciar having a condemned man executed on a holy day.17 When in 1184 Canterbury fell vacant, king Henry would hear of no nomination save that of Baldwin. In the favour shown to the Cistercian abbot of Ford we may see a parallel in the favour shown to the Cistercian abbot of Baltinglass. Indeed we may press the parallel a little more: just as bishop Baldwin gained in favour by standing up to the royal justiciar, so bishop Ailbe certainly did not lose favour by denouncing at the synod of Dublin in 1186 the unchastity of the Anglo-Norman clergy.18 That one was a `foreigner' is irrelevant: I doubt if the king from Anjou knew what a `foreigner' was. We may recall that another of his quixotic appointments was of a man from southern France, the Carthusian monk St Hugh of Avalon to the English see of Lincoln. And as for the impious John, we might recall that he had a peculiar devotion for an Anglo-Saxon saint, St Wulfstan, and that it is in St Wulfstan's cathedral at Worcester that at his express wish he lies buried.
9. We must then look to see if there is other evidence to confirm or contradict the view of royal policy which I am advancing. It might indeed be argued that the favour shown to Ailbe of Ferns cannot be taken to indicate John's true policy towards the church in Ireland because it is contradicted by his behaviour over the election to Armagh in 1202. The story of John's stubbornly protracted attempts to have a royal clerk appointed to Armagh in place of the locally elected Eugenius [Echdhonn Mac Gilla Uidir], abbot of Bangor, is well known and I do not propose to recount it here. I have elsewhere given my reasons for believing that there is an alternative explanation to the traditional view that it typifies Anglo-Norman aggression against the Irish and their church.19 Here I will simply advance pieces of information which should make us hesitate to accept the traditional view. We may first observe that king John tried to avoid a dispute by offering Eugenius a pension of 20 marks a year until some other episcopal see fell vacant `to which if he be canonically elected and in accordance with the customs of the realm we will accord our assent'; and that subsequently the king made use of Eugenius's episcopal services during the papal interdict on England.20 Secondly we may observe that in the midst of the dispute with the crown archbishop Eugenius acted as guarantor of a pact between John de Courcy and Hugh de Lacy.21 Clearly there was no animus against Eugenius personally. We may then appreciate that king John took the view, understandably, that he owed it to his position as lord of Ireland to have his own nominee in the primatial see of Armagh, just as in England in 1206 he could not tolerate being overruled over Canterbury.22 We should also appreciate that his fury with the Armagh electors was not that they had elected an Irishman but that they had broken the rules: they had not waited for the congé d'élire and they had not sought the overlord's assent. Any English chapter which similarly broke the rules could expect the same treatment. I was fortified in this interpretation when I learned from a footnote in Aubrey Gwynn's article on `Armagh and Louth in the twelfth century' that the previous election to Armagh raised the same issues in a purely Irish context.23 Ruaidrí Ua Conchobhair was then high king, and as any high king from Muirchertach Ua Briain onwards would have done, sought to put his own man into Armagh and secured the appointment of his kinsman Tommaltach Ua Conchobair in the face of fierce local opposition, which for a time denied the archbishop access to his see. We may then see that the opposition in Armagh to king John's nominee was not so much that he was a royal clerk as that he was not an Ulsterman. At the very same time the resistance in wholly Irish Connacht to accepting Felix prior of Saul as archbishop of Tuam (even though he was consecrated by a papal legate) was precisely that he was an Ulsterman and not of the local kindred.24 These are not Irish versus non-Irish conflicts, but of locals versus outsiders. The fundamental fact which we must not overlook is that the Irish church, unlike the English church, had not yet been `nationalised'. Archbishop Felix waged a long and not unsuccessful struggle for church reform in Connacht; but he was for a time driven out of his province. The lord John provided for his maintenance at Dublin: `The king to the archbishop of Dublin. We command you to provide honourably for the lord archbishop of Tuam while he is in exile and staying with you; and it will be credited to you at our exchequer'.25
10. For all these reasons I cannot accept that the disputed election at Armagh indicates Anglo-Norman aggression or a policy of normanising the Irish church. To assume so is to fall into the trap of concentrating attention on disputes. Let us look rather to the uncontentious norm. It is hardly surprising that Anglo-Norman clerks obtained preferment to Irish sees. What is surprising, under Henry II and John, is how few they were; so few that it is unreasonable to talk about a process of `normanisation' even in areas under direct control. At the end of John's reign a mere eight of the thirty-six episcopal sees in Ireland were held by Anglo-Normans. What a striking contrast to the abrupt and ruthless normanisation of the English church after 1070. Henry II's first assent to the appointment of a bishop in Ireland was in 1175 to the see of Waterford, and it went to an Irishman, Master Augustinus. It is more than likely that archbishop Lorcán Ua Tuathail was instrumental in this appointment: approval was given at the royal council at Windsor at which archbishop Lorcán negotiated the treaty between Henry II and Ruaidrí Ua Conchobhair. He had Master Augustinus with him, and escorted him back to Ireland for consecration by the archbishop of Cashe1.26 So we may see this as a special case, and the appointment of Master Augustinus as a gesture of appreciation to Lorcán Ua Tuathail. We should not, however, overlook the particular significance of the appointment: Canterbury's claims to jurisdiction over the Irish church received its strongest support from the previous history of the consecration of bishops of Waterford by archbishops of Canterbury. In allowing the consecration of Master Augustinus by the archbishop of Cashel, Henry II and his council were recognising the autonomy of the Irish church and the ecclesiastical arrangements of the synod of Kells. We do not know for certain who was the next bishop of Waterford, but Giraldus Cambrensis tells us that he was `a good Irish bishop, who was a frequent visitor to St Davids'.27 There is a further significance in these successive appointments of Irishmen to the see of Waterford, for the district of Waterford was already marked out as a royal base for the extension of royal authority in Ireland.28 In this respect Waterford was more important than Dublin. Yet it was not until 1200 that an Anglo-Norman was made bishop there. Clearly there was no thought of making it an enclave from which Irish influence was excluded.
11. The succession of two Irishmen to Waterford has parallels in other districts under firm Anglo-Norman control. Consider the lordship of Meath: the bishops of Clonard (`bishops of the men of Meath' as they described themselves) remained Irish until 1192. Consider the lordship of Leinster after the coming of the Normans: Glendalough had two Irish bishops before 1192; at Kildare Irish bishops were appointed in 1177 and 1206; when Ossory fell vacant in 1178 an Irish Cistercian was appointed and in 1206 a Norman Augustinian; Leighlin had two Irish bishops after 1172. Consider the `march lands': direct royal control of the march lands (as I have argued elsewhere) was a crucial element in the plan for stabilising Ireland, interposing royal authority between Norman settlers and recognised Irish kingships; yet nowhere in the march lands was the succession of Irishmen to bishoprics disrupted.29 In a particularly critical area of the march lands lay Clonmacnoise. There the efforts of John's government in Ireland to establish a royal base at Athlone were constantly disrupted by the Connachtmen until John came to terms with Cathal Crobderg Ua Conchobhair and recognised him as king of Connacht. Now (if I read aright the programme for ecclesiastical reform) the bishopric of Clonmacnoise was a prime candidate for suppression. It was a small diocese based on an ancient monastic church, and not one of those designated as a diocesan centre at the synod of Ráith Bressail in 1111. It survived after the synod of Kells in 1152, but was presumably one of those which fell under the ruling of the papal legate that on the deaths of existing bishops the smaller and poorer sees should be absorbed into their neighbours.30 Yet the diocese of Clonmacnoise did not become absorbed into a reorganised see of Meath. The bishopric of Clonmacnoise, representing the oldest Irish tradition, survived amidst the planting of John's men and castles in the district as the king consolidated the defences of Athlone. In John's time the see fell vacant three times, in 1187, 1207, and 1214, and on each occasion an Irishman was peacefully elected. And this is all the more remarkable in that bishop Cathal of Clonmacnoise was one of the suffragans of Armagh who elected Eugenius as archbishop, and of whom John complained to the papal legate in 1202 that `they manifestly wish to work against our right and dignity over the church of Armagh'.31 Moreover, in the matter of encroachments on his property the Irish bishop of Clonmacnoise fared better at the hands of king John than did the Irish bishop of Ferns at the hands of William Marshal: `The king to the justiciar of Ireland. We command you to make suitable satisfaction to the bishop of Clonmacnoise [Muiredach Ua Muirecén] for lands of the bishopric appropriated for the construction of Clonmacnoise castle. Moreover, in the matter of damages suffered by the bishop in the fortification of the castle, namely fruit trees cut down, fourteen cows, three horses, and six oxen taken away, and his household utensils stolen * you are to see that he is given full justice and complete satisfaction without delay; and henceforth do not trouble the bishop and his men in any way, but rather be a wall of protection, and succour him and his by kindly treatment'.32
12. Consider next what is known about royal nominations to vacant Irish sees. Admittedly this is very little; but what little found its way into the record is interesting. Among the royal documents of John's reign relating to Ireland there are three explicit references to royal nominations which the justiciar was instructed to promote. The first was to the see of Armagh, and we know what happened to that.33 The second was the nomination to which I have already referred of the Irishman Ailbe of Ferns to the archbishopric of Cashel. Ailbe did not get it, even though the king had written to the chapter of Cashel, to the suffragans of the province, and to the justiciar to promote it, adding to the words I have previously quoted: `It is our will that you consent unanimously to his promotion and hasten it as far as you can, knowing that we wish for him and for no one else'.34 The electors instead chose Donnchad Ua Lonngargáin. There is no sign of any discord over it. In December 1207 John nominated Master Geoffrey of Bristol to the vacant see of Limerick. The writ to the justiciar concludes: `* We charge you to see that he has the bishopric and to advise and persuade the clergy of that bishopric to elect and accept him as bishop'.35 What happened at Limerick at that vacancy is a mystery; but one thing is certain: Master Geoffrey did not get it. There is one other reference, not strictly to a nomination, but to a recommendation. In 1214 the bishopric of Cork fell vacant. Archbishop Henry of Dublin put up his clerk, Geoffrey White. King John gave his assent and wrote to the archbishop of Cashel: `We pray you on behalf of our beloved Master Geoffrey White, whom we believe to be a learned, provident, and just man, to direct your efforts to his promotion to the vacant see of Cork, knowing that we have given our assent to his election'.36 He did not obtain it. The Irishman Mairin Ua Briain did; John gave his approval, and as we are told in a letter of pope Honorius III, `received the bishop as his clerk and familiar'.37 We must then once and for all dismiss as nonsense the oft repeated assertion of Edmund Curtis that the imposition of the customs of the church of England entailed the introduction by the crown whenever opportunity presented itself of `a new style of state prelate' forming a `party' which the `old Gaelic bishops feared and disliked'.38 It is contradicted by the facts of what happened, and by the facts of what did not happen. It is contradicted also by the clear evidence of co-operation between Irish and Anglo-Norman bishops in the continuing work of reform. Professor Watt has ably surveyed this, and I need not repeat it here, except to underline his point that under the Angevin rulers the four metropolitans `seem to have been able to work in harmony'.39 One of these provinces, Dublin, was largely Anglo-Norman; one, Tuam, was almost exclusively Irish; and two, Armagh and Cashel, had mixed polities.
13. It may be suggested that Curtis's case is at least supported in one instance; the notorious Waterford-Lismore controversy. Successive Anglo-Norman bishops of Waterford behaved with appalling violence against an Irish bishop of Lismore in an attempt to have the diocese of Lismore suppressed and absorbed into that of Waterford. The violence itself, however, is not the real issue; many examples may be cited from elsewhere of violence in purely clerical disputes, especially if, as in this case, one of the parties was Cistercian. Take, for instance, the dreadful dispute over the archbishopric of York, which lasted for fourteen years in the mid-twelfth century, between a Cistercian party backing Henry Murdac, abbot of Fountains, and the secular clergy backing William fitz Herbert, a nephew of king Stephen. Despite superficial appearances, this was not in fact a case of the secular power contesting free canonical election. William fitz Herbert was forced to retire; but Henry Murdac was kept out of his cathedral city for four and a half years by the citizens and local clergy. When Murdac died, pope Anastasius restored fitz Herbert, but he was poisoned by a member of the rival faction, and in 1227 was canonised as St William of York.40 So let us approach the Waterford-Lismore controversy with an open mind. There are two points which I wish to make about it. First, we should observe that amalgamation of the two sees made sense (and had been envisaged at the synod of Ráith Bressail). Ireland was overendowed with episcopal sees; after the synod of Kells there were thirty-nine, compared with seventeen in England, eleven in Scotland, and four in Wales; cardinal Paparo had recommended the absorption of the smaller into neighbouring sees. In consequence, a re-organised diocese of Meath absorbed Kells, and the archbishopric of Dublin absorbed Glendalough. The latter was effected by archbishop John Cumin, and approved by pope Innocent III on the recommendation of the archbishop of Tuam and his suffragans.41 The archbishopric of Tuam itself tried unsuccessfully to absorb Mayo, and later Annaghdown.42 Logic might suggest that Lismore, as much the larger and more ancient see, should have absorbed Waterford; though on that ground Glendalough should have absorbed Dublin. The second point I wish to make is that the crown, perhaps surprisingly, did not take sides in the Waterford-Lismore controversy. It might be supposed that Anglo-Norman control of the diocese of Lismore would have been convenient for the crown. The importance of Waterford as a royal base was fully recognised at least by 1177. The enclave which Henry II had taken from Strongbow was then extended westwards from Dungarvan to the river Blackwater. The proper defence of this extended base (neglected while Hugh de Lacy was justiciar) was the first task of the new government of the lord John in 1185, with the proposed erection of castles at Lismore, Ardfinnan, and Tibberaghny. The young John, as Giraldus Cambrensis tells us, made a mess of it, stupidly alienating the local Irish chieftains who had hitherto been friendly, and in whose lands the perimeter of the base was to be fashioned.43 He repaired the damage, but it took, I suspect, a long time. We find him in 1203-04 granting charters to local Irish lords defining relationships which ought to have been settled twenty years earlier.44 In these circumstances we might assume that it would have been advantageous to have Lismore in the hands of a royal clerk. The significant fact, however, is that no such move was made: three Irishmen (two of them Cistercians) successively held the see from 1151 to 1216. We must then conclude that Henry II and John were quite content with the loyalty and discretion of Irish bishops of Lismore. Hence we should assume that the dispute was an ecclesiastical and not a political matter. This is borne out by the evidence, largely papal evidence, of the conduct of the case. It is true that bishop Robert of Waterford made dark threats about having friends in high places, but there is no sign that he received any help from the secular authorities, certainly not from John's government which stayed studiously aloof. The dispute is never mentioned in royal documents. The matter was left entirely to the ecclesiastical authorities in Cashel and at Rome. The significant fact is that the Anglo-Norman bishops of Waterford were obliged to defend their invasion of an Irish see before Irish ecclesiastical tribunals. Their violence ruined their case: the papacy could not but decide not only that Malachias had been validly elected to the bishopric of Lismore but also that the sees should remain separate. Among those appointed as papal commissioners to enforce the sentence was John de Grey, bishop of Norwich, the royal justiciar in Ireland.45
14. It seems to me that Angevin government had a general policy of minimal interference in Irish ecclesiastical affairs. Indeed, the reason why I have not hitherto ventured upon this topic is that the sources with which I am most familiar-principally the documents of royal administration-are little concerned with ecclesiastical matters, except for charters confirming the church's property. I strongly suspect that the ecclesiastical authorities, both Irish and papal, wanted more royal intervention than the crown was prepared to give. That, admittedly, is a challenging statement. It has been argued, and argued well (especially by Aubrey Gwynn) that the Irish church was capable of reforming itself; but much depends on what is meant by `reform'. In respect of ecclesiastical organisation, the revision of the liturgy, and the establishing of canonical procedures, the Irish church had certainly shown itself capable of promoting change before the intervention of Henry II in Ireland; but the formation of an effective episcopate was not simply a matter of drawing diocesan boundaries, holding councils, and writing treatises on episcopal authority. Sees needed to be endowed, property had to be assigned and defended, authority had to be effectively enforced. Anyone who doubts the difficulty of establishing a new see, even in favourable circumstances, should consider the early history of the see of Ely. The initiative came from archbishop Anselm, but effecting it required considerable help from both the papacy and the crown; and once the strong hand of king Henry I was removed the see virtually collapsed during the reign of Stephen. It was well into the reign of Henry II before the property assigned to it was securely held by the church.46
15. Consider the evidence relating to an important aspect of the diocesan reorganisation decided upon at the synod of Kells in 1152: the absorption of Glendalough by Dublin. It was not simply a matter, as cardinal Paparo seems to have supposed, of the suppression of the less viable see on the death of the incumbent. John Cumin as archbishop of Dublin was still engaged upon it nearly forty years after Kells. He proceeded circumspectly by careful steps. The suffragan bishop of Glendalough became first an assistant bishop and then an archdeacon. In making his case to the pope, Cumin cited Paparo's recommendation, and enlisted the support of Irish bishops.47 This was the ecclesiastical aspect of the matter. But there were also property questions involved, and for this he had to call on the help of the secular power. It was given, but cautiously: Innocent III was to commend Henry II and John for having done what properly belonged to the kingly office in the matter.48 It was not merely a delicate but also a disputable question. The problem was to decide what belonged to the bishop and what belonged to the abbey of Glendalough-an almost impossible question to answer with ancient Irish monastic churches. We can see some of the necessary parts of the process in the royal records: the grant by John of a charter to abbot Thomas of Glendalough in 1200, and a royal charter of 1213 confirming an apportionment between the archbishop of Dublin and the abbot of lands, appurtenant churches, and rights such as the fair of Swords.49 From the start of the process to its formal conclusion at the papal court took thirty years. If this was a tricky matter for archbishop Cumin of Dublin with all the support he had, no wonder that archbishop Felix of Tuam made no headway with similar proposals for reorganisation in Connacht.
16. The government of the overlord could be very helpful to the Irish church, as the numerous charters of `confirmation' in the royal records testify; and also by the crown's process of inquest, by which, for example, the property of the bishopric of Limerick was identified and secured in 1200 before William de Briouze was allowed on the scene as the new lord of Limerick.50 The crown could provide new kinds of guarantee for the property rights of the Irish church. But property was not the half of it. When the Irish bishops accepted the customs of the English church in 1172 what did they think was involved? The royal prerogatives, of course; but the customs of England also gave the English clergy exclusive control over matrimonial causes, over allegations of bastardy, over the testamentary bequests of laymen, to name but a few. But what was the value of such English customs in the context of Irish law? In England secular law complemented and supported ecclesiastical law. For example, in England any form of marriage except that recognised by the church had been outlawed from time immemorial. How Irish bishops must have envied that. Consider tithe. It was a novelty in twelfth-century Ireland, but essential if the widespread absence of parish churches and parish clergy was to be rectified. Synodal decrees might proclaim it to be the law of the church, but it was not enough to require payment as a moral duty. Payment of tithe had been enforced in England since the tenth century by a law of king Edgar.51 In Scotland, where it was also a novelty in the twelfth century, it was introduced and enforced by an assize of king David.52 This is the point: the Irish bishops wanted Henry II to emulate the king of Scots. In Scotland at this very time the intervention of king David and his clerical advisers, mainly Normans, produced what Geoffrey Barrow has described as, in a chapter heading of a book, `The church transformed'-not `reformed' but `transformed'.53 Henry II would not do it, because his political policy for Ireland (followed by John) required no interference with Irish custom except on the initiative of the Irish, and no interference with Irish kingship and lordship except in so far as stability and security demanded. The church would have to shift for itself. This is why a century later an Irish archbishop, with the support of other Irish bishops but with no lay support, was still trying to `buy out' Irish law-trying to bribe Edward I into imposing English law on Ireland. That is what the so-called attempt to `purchase English law for the Irish' was really about.54 We may argue that it was unfortunate that the Irish bishops did not get what they wanted from Henry II, because the consequence was the formation of two traditions both in church and state which in time became mutually antagonistic; but let us recognise that the policy of `a high kingship made to work' was intended to provide a structure in which two traditions could subsist harmoniously.
17. There is a symbol of the policy and its consequences in the survival of two medieval cathedrals in Dublin.55 The oldest, Holy Trinity (Christ Church), was reformed by archbishop Lorcán Ua Tuathail as a community of Augustinian canons (and, incidentally, was generously patronised by Strongbow). John Cumin, as archbishop, found this unsatisfactory-not, it may be said, because it was a community of Irish canons, but because they were canons regular. The trend in the twelfth century favoured cathedral chapters of secular canons. This was more than a fashion: there was good reason for it in the consequences of the reform movement, which by the later twelfth century had markedly increased the administrative and judicial duties as well as the pastoral responsibilities of bishops. Hence the proliferation of diocesan bureaucracy. To sustain their retinues of assistants, bishops needed the patronage of the prebends (the propertied income) attached to the canonries of secular chapters. Those who found themselves with monastic chapters or canons regular were severely handicapped. St Mary's cathedral at Limerick also had a chapter of Augustinian canons. Bishop Donnchad Ua Briain, who became bishop of Limerick in 1190, dealt with the problem drastically and decisively: he swept away the existing constitution and replaced the canons regular by a secular chapter on the common English model (as he explicitly says, `anglicanam considerantes consuetudinem'), just as Scottish cathedral chapters were all reorganised after the model of either Salisbury or Lincoln.56 We should, however, bear in mind that Donnchad Ua Briain was an Irish bishop and brother of an Irish king-he could get away with it. It must then be indicative of the royal policy for Ireland that John Cumin (who was probably one of the architects of that policy) did not attempt the same in Dublin. He instead followed the tactic of those English bishops who were saddled with monastic chapters of trying to establish an alternative and separate college of secular canons. Successive archbishops of Canterbury were defeated in their attempt to establish a secular college first at Hackington and then at Lambeth. John Cumin succeeded, and it must have taken as much of his skill as a diplomat as ever he had needed as advocate for Henry II in the Becket business. His endeavours could well have aroused not only the fears of the existing chapter for its privileges, but also the rivalry of regulars against seculars, and the hostility of Irish against foreigners. The measure of his success is not merely that there was no overt resistance, but that when the new college of St Patrick was consecrated on St Patrick's day 1192, the ecclesiastical procession set out from Holy Trinity. The procession was led by the two most senior Irish ecclesiastics, archbishop Matthaeus of Cashel, who was papal legate in Ireland, and archbishop Eugenius of Armagh.57 There was one essential element of compromise in the arrangements: St Patrick's was no threat to Holy Trinity because Cumin's constitution gave it secular canons but no cathedral officials or dignatories. It was Cumin's successor as archbishop of Dublin, Henry of London, who gave it a dean, precentor, chancellor, and treasurer, and turned St Patrick's into a rival cathedral. So what had started as a symbol of the royal policy of harmonious duality and peaceful coexistence became instead a symbol of the colonist policy of division and competition. My case rests.
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