Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lacy, Hugh de (d.1186)

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LACY, HUGH de, fifth Baron Lacy by tenure, and first Lord of Meath (d. 1186), one of the conquerors of Ireland, was no doubt the son, and not, as has sometimes been stated, a younger brother, of Gilbert de Lacy (cf. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi. 135).

Gilbert de Lacy (fl. 1150), fourth baron Lacy, was son of Emma, daughter of Walter de Lacy, first baron [q. v.] His father's name is not known. After the death of his uncle, Hugh de Lacy, the family estates were taken into the royal hands, but Gilbert assumed the name of Lacy. In the reign of Stephen he at first supported the Empress Matilda, in whose behalf he attempted to capture Bath in 1138 (Gesta Stephani, iii. 38, Rolls Series). But by 1146 he had gone over to the king, perhaps because the empress kept Joce de Dinan in possession of Ludlow Castle. So far as there is any truth in the early part of the ‘Romance of Fulk Fitzwarine,’ Gilbert, and not his grandson Walter, must be the hero. That Joce and Gilbert were opponents is an historical fact. Gilbert appears to have obtained the favour of Henry II, and recovered his uncle's lands; in 1158 he was excused the ‘donum’ to the king. A little later he joined the knights of the Temple, and went to the Holy Land. There he became preceptor of his order in the county of Tripoli, in which capacity he engaged in Geoffrey of Angoulême's successful expedition against Noureddin in 1163 (William of Tyre, xix. 8). He gave the templars twelve hides of land, and one virgate in Guttinges, and also five burgages in Winchcombe. He is described as a prudent man and skilful soldier.

Hugh de Lacy is said to have had a dispute with Joce de Dinan as to certain lands in Herefordshire in 1154 (Wright, Hist. of Ludlow, p. 54). He was in possession of his father's lands before 1163, and in 1165–6 held fifty-eight and three-quarters knights' fees, and had nine tenants without knight service (Eyton, Shropshire, v. 253). In October 1171 he went over to Ireland with Henry II, and early in 1172 was sent to receive the submission of Roderic, king of Connaught. Before Henry's departure about the end of March Lacy was granted Meath by the service of fifty knights and with almost royal authority; he was also put in charge of Dublin Castle. Later in the year Lacy arranged a meeting with Tiernan O'Rourke to take place at Tlachtgha, now called the Hill of Ward, near Athboy in Meath. The meeting ended in a quarrel, which both parties attributed to the treachery of the other; Tiernan was slain, and Hugh only escaped with difficulty. Lacy seems to have left Dublin in charge of Earl Richard de Clare by the king's orders, and to have commenced securing Meath by the erection of castles. Among these was the castle of Trim, which was put in charge of Hugh Tyrel. After this Lacy went back to England (Regan, ll. 3152–3238). On 29 Dec. 1172 he was at Canterbury, where, according to a story preserved by Giraldus, he reproved Archbishop Richard for his boastful language (Opera, vii. 69). Next year he was fighting for Henry in France, and held Verneuil against Louis VII for a month; but at the end of that time the town was forced to capitulate. Hugh de Lacy is mentioned as one of those who were sent by the king with his treasure to Jerusalem in May 1177 (Gesta Henrici, ii. 159). Another version names Henry de Lacy, and in any case it cannot be our Hugh, who was at the same time sent over to Ireland as procurator-general, Richard de Clare having died shortly before. The grant of Meath was now confirmed, with the addition of Offelana, Offaly, Kildare, and Wicklow (ib. ii. 161, 163–4; Giraldus, v. 347).

As governor of Ireland Lacy secured Leinster and Meath by building numerous castles, while he maintained peace and good order by making it his first care to preserve the native Irish in possession of their lands. By his liberal and just conduct he won the hearts of the Irish; but his friendly relations with the native chiefs soon led to an accusation that he intended to seize the sovereignty of the island for himself (ib. v. 352–353, 356). The author of the ‘Gesta Henrici,’ however, says that Lacy lost his favour with Henry in consequence of complaints of his injustice by the Irish (ii. 221). In 1181, he was recalled from his government for having married the daughter of Roderic, king of Connaught, without leave (ib. ii. 270). But in the following winter Hugh was sent back, though with a coadjutor in the person of one of the royal clerks, Robert of Shrewsbury. When, early in 1185, Henry sent his son John over to Ireland, the young earl complained to his father that Hugh would not permit the Irish to pay tribute. This led to fresh disgrace, but Hugh remained in Ireland, and occupied himself as before with castle-building. He had erected a castle at Durrow, in what is now King's County, and on 25 July 1186 had gone out to view it, when ‘one of the men of Teffia, a youth named Gilla-gan-inathar O'Meyey, approached him, and with an axe severed his head from his body’ (Four Masters, iii. 73). The murderer was a foster-son of Sinnach O'Caharny, or ‘the Fox,’ chief of Teffia, by whose instigation he is said to have done the deed. A later story described him as one of the labourers on the castle, but there does not appear to be any authority for this older than Holinshed (ib. iii. 73–5 n.) William of Newburgh says that Henry was very glad at Hugh's death, and repeats the story that he had aspired to obtain the crown of Ireland for himself (Chron. Stephen, Henry II, &c., i. 239–40, Rolls Ser.). Certainly Lacy had made himself formidable to the royal authority, and Earl John was promptly sent over to Ireland to take possession of his lands (Gesta Henrici, ii. 350).

Lacy was buried at Durrow, but in 1195 his body was removed to the abbey of Bective in Meath, and his head to St. Thomas's Church at Dublin. Afterwards a controversy arose between the canons of St. Thomas and the monks of Bective, which ended in 1205 in the removal of the body to Dublin, where it was interred, together with the head, in the tomb of De Lacy's first wife (Reg. St. Thomas, Dublin, pp. 348–50).

Giraldus describes Lacy as a swarthy man, with small black sunken eyes, a flat nose, and an ugly scar on his cheek; muscular in body, but small and ill-made. He was a man of resolute character; for temperance a very Frenchman, careful in private affairs, and vigilant in public business. Despite his experience in military matters he sustained many reverses in his campaigns. He was lax in his morality, and avaricious, but eager beyond measure for honour and renown (Opera, v. 354). Hugh was a benefactor of Lanthony Abbey, and also of many churches in Ireland, including the abbey of Trim.

Hugh's first wife was Rose or Roysya de Monemue (Monmouth); by her he had two sons, Walter (d. 1241) and Hugh, both of whom are noticed separately, and also a daughter, Elayne, who married Richard de Beaufo. By the daughter of Roderic O'Connor, whose name is also given as Rose, he had a son, William (called Gorm or ‘Blue’), who acted in close connection with his half-brothers. William de Lacy took a prominent part in the resistance to William Marshal in 1224, and was killed fighting against Cathal O'Reilly in 1233 (Four Masters, iii. 269; Hennessey, Book of Fenagh, pp. 72–7). He married a daughter of Llewelyn, prince of North Wales. Pierce Oge Lacy, the famous rebel of Elizabeth's time, was eighteenth in descent from him, and from him also descend the Lynches of Galway (Four Masters, iii. 75 n.; Reg. St. Thos. Dublin, pp. 7, 419–20; Shirley, Royal and Historical Letters, i. 223–4, 499, 500–2, Rolls Ser.) Hugh had another son, Gilbert, who was alive in 1222 (Cal. Rot. Claus. i. 527 b), and two daughters, one married to Geoffrey de Marisco [q. v.] (Matt. Paris, iii. 277), and the other to William FitzAlan (Eyton, v. 240), but by which wife is not clear. The daughter of the king of Connaught was alive in 1224; she had at least two other sons, Thomas and Henry, whose surname is given as Blund. Since William de Lacy is also sometimes called Le Blund, they may have been brothers of the whole blood (Shirley, u.s. i. 502).

[Annals of the Four Masters, ed. O'Donovan; Annals of Loch Cé; Hoveden's Chron.; Gesta Henrici II ascribed to Benedict Abbas; Chron. St. Peter's, Gloucester; Chartularies of St. Mary, Dublin; Reg. St. Thomas, Dublin; Giraldus Cambrensis, Expugnatio Hiberniæ, in Opera, vol. v. (all these are in the Rolls Ser.); Anglo-Norman Poem on the Conquest of Ireland, ascribed to Regan, ed. Michel; Gilbert's Viceroys of Ireland; Stokes's Ireland and the Anglo-Norman Church; Eyton's Shropshire, v. 248–56; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 96.]

C. L. K.