Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lacy, Hugh de (d.1242?)

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LACY, HUGH de, Earl of Ulster (d. 1242?), second son of Hugh de Lacy (d. 1186) [q. v.], by his first wife, Rose or Roysya de Monemue (Monmouth). While his elder brother Walter (d. 1241) [q. v.] eventually succeeded his father in Meath, Hugh went into Ulster. Mr. Gilbert (Viceroys of Ireland, pp. 55, 59, 65) is mistaken in speaking of him as having been viceroy of Ireland in 1189–90, and again in 1203 and 1205; for the records show that John de Courci [q. v.] and Meiler FitzHenry [q. v.] held office uninterruptedly. Nor is it clear that Hugh is the ‘son of Hugo de Lacy’ who in 1195 joined John de Courci in his warfare with the English of Leinster and Munster, and afterwards in assisting Cathal Crobhderg, king of Connaught, against Cathal Macdermot (Loch Cé, i. 191; Four Masters, iii. 101–103; see under Lacy, Walter de, (d. 1241)). But a little later, when Walter de Lacy was absent in France, Hugh acted for him in Meath, and in 1199 accompanied John de Courci to assist Cathal Crobhderg at Kilmacduagh. There Cathal Carragh attacked and defeated them with great slaughter, pursuing them to Randown on Lough Ree, near Athlone. But soon afterwards Hugh took Cathal Carragh by treachery, and confined him in his castle of Nobber, co. Meath, till he purchased his release (Four Masters, iii. 121 and notes; Loch Cé, i. 219–23, sub anno 1201). After this Hugh de Lacy became the chief opponent of John de Courci. When, in 1201, De Courci was fleeing from Walter de Lacy, Hugh treacherously made him prisoner, and would have handed him over to the king had not De Courci's followers rescued their lord by force (Hoveden, iv. 176). In 1203 Hugh again attacked De Courci and drove him out of Down. Next year the war was renewed and De Courci taken prisoner. Hugh's services were rewarded on 31 Aug. 1204 by the promise of eight cantreds of De Courci's land in Ulster, and the confirmation of six cantreds in Connaught, granted to him by the king while Earl of Moretain (Cal. Rot. Pat. i. 45; Charter Rolls, p. 148). In March 1205 Hugh went over to England, and on 2 May obtained a grant of all the lands which John de Courci held in Ulster on the day when Hugh defeated him and took him prisoner in the field; on 29 May the grant was confirmed, and Hugh made Earl of Ulster (ib. p. 151; Cal. Rot. Pat. i. 54). This is the earliest creation of an Anglo-Norman dignity in Ireland of which there is any extant record.

On 30 June 1205 Hugh de Lacy was sent back to Ireland, Meiler FitzHenry the justiciar being ordered to act by his advice (Cal. Rot. Claus. i. 40). According to a legend preserved in the ‘Book of Howth’ (p. 112), Hugh now banished the traitors who had betrayed John de Courci, and on their return through stress of weather had them all hanged. In 1206 he led an army into Tyrone, where he burnt many churches, but could exact no pledge from Hugh O'Neill. His power, however, was already making him obnoxious to the English king, and on 30 Aug. 1206 he was ordered to render obedience to Meiler FitzHenry the justiciar (Cal. Rot. Pat. i. 67). But next year found him at open war with Meiler, whose people were in consequence nearly ruined. In May 1207 King John wrote to the De Lacys and other barons of Leinster in consequence of their opposition to the justiciar, and bade them to desist from their attempt to create a new assize (ib. i. 72). The war, however, still went on, and in 1208 Hugh and Walter de Lacy captured the castle of Ardnurcher after a siege of five weeks, and also took the territory of Fircal (in King's County), compelling Meiler to leave the country (Four Masters, iii. 157; Loch Cé, i. 233, 239, gives date of siege as 1207). During 1208 Hugh was also engaged in warfare in Ulster, where he burnt several churches. Partly owing to the turbulence of the De Lacys during these years, and partly owing to the protection they afforded to William de Braose [q. v.], King John landed at Waterford in the latter part of June 1210. After expelling Walter de Lacy from Meath he marched into Ulster. Hugh retreated to Carrickfergus, and thence, before the king could arrive, fled in a small boat to Scotland (Annales Cambriæ, pp. 66–7 and note, Rolls Ser.) According to some accounts, the expulsion of the De Lacys from Ireland was due to their having treacherously slain Sir John de Courci of Rathenny (Grace, Annals, p. 25; Ann. Hib. in Chart. St. Mary, Dublin, ii. 311).

After a short stay in Scotland at St. Andrews, Hugh crossed over to France, where, according to a later legend, he and his brother Walter worked at the monastery of St. Taurin, Normandy, in the most menial offices. At length the abbot recognised them, and interceded with the king for their pardon (ib.) In point of fact, Hugh was not pardoned till long after his brother, and it seems probable that he was the Hugh de Lacy who took part in the crusade against the Albigensians; for the ‘Dunstable Annals’ allude expressly to him in this connection (Annales Monastici, iii. 75). However, William of Tudela's statement, that he was with Simon de Montfort in 1209, is clearly inaccurate; but there is no other obstacle to the identification. In 1211 he advised Simon to take the offensive against the Count of Toulouse, and in 1214 he appears as lord of Castelnaudry and Laurac. In 1216 he was with Simon at Beaucaire, and accompanied him to the siege of Toulouse, where he served during the next two years, and was present at the crusading leader's death on 25 June 1218. In 1219 he took part in the fight at Baziège (Chanson de la Croisade contre les Albigeois, Soc. de l'Hist. de France, see index; Recueil des Historiens de la France, xix. 181; Garland, De Triumphis Ecclesiæ, p. 86, Roxburghe Club). On 17 Sept. 1221 Hugh de Lacy had a safe-conduct to come to England (Sweetman, i. 1012), and accordingly returned soon after; the ‘Dunstable Annals’ add that he had been expelled by the Albigensians. On his arrival in England Hugh petitioned for the restoration of his lands. This was refused, but a pension of three hundred marks was granted for his support. In April 1215 Hugh had been informed that his brother had paid a fine on his behalf, but that his lands would be retained by the king on account of his neglect to seek pardon, ‘although we have been near to you’ (no doubt an allusion to John's French campaign in 1214). In July 1215 Matthew de Tuit, one of Hugh's knights, had leave to come to England to treat for his lord. The negotiation, however, seems to have failed; for in August Walter de Lacy received charge of some of his brother's lands (Cal. Rot. Pat. i. 134, 150). In November 1216 Hugh was again offered restitution if he would return to his fealty (Fœdera, i. 145, Record edit.)

After the refusal of his petition for restitution Hugh went over to Ireland without the king's consent, and in the summer of 1222 Cathal Crobhderg wrote to the king in complaint of Hugh's conduct (Shirley, i. 183). Hugh de Lacy had allied himself with Hugh O'Neill, destroyed the castle of Coleraine, and ravaged Meath and Leinster. Nevertheless, a scheme was proposed for the conditional return of Hugh's lands; but the intended sureties would not accept the responsibility, and it consequently fell through (Cal. Rot. Claus. i. 501, 527 b, 549 b). In 1223 Hugh went over to Wales, and joined Llewellyn ap Iorwerth [q. v.] in his warfare with William Marshal (Matt. Paris, iii. 82). Llewellyn was defeated, and Hugh then formed a fresh scheme for the invasion of Ireland, whither he returned by stealth early next year. He arranged for assistance to come from Norway in the summer (Shirley, i. 219), and rejoining Hugh O'Neill took up arms against the English and their Irish ally, Hugh or Aedh, son of Cathal Crobhderg. The Anglo-Irish under the justiciar, Henry of London, archbishop of Dublin, were forced to come to terms, and in consequence William Marshal the younger was sent over to Ireland in June 1224. Marshal took Trim, which was held by William de Lacy [see under Lacy, Hugh de, d. 1186)], and sent William Grace to relieve Carrickfergus, which was besieged by Hugh de Lacy. Hugh's fleet attempted without success to oppose Grace, and the siege was then raised. Marshal meantime had captured William de Lacy and his crannog of O'Reilly (ib. i. 500–2). Eventually Hugh made an agreement with Marshal under which he surrendered and was sent over to England (Sweetman, i. 1219). Hugh de Lacy there received absolution from the sentence of excommunication which had been passed on him by the pope's command, but could not obtain the royal pardon (Ann. Mon. iii. 91; Cal. Rot. Claus. i. 549 b). On 12 May 1226 Walter de Lacy received charge of all Hugh's lands in Ulster, to hold them for three years (Sweetman, i. 1371–4). However, on 20 April 1227 Hugh was at length restored to possession of his castles and lands (Cal. Rot. Claus. ii. 182 b).

After this Hugh de Lacy appears as a supporter of the royal authority in Ireland. In 1228 he was summoned for the French war with four knights, being more than were demanded of any Anglo-Irish noble except his brother Walter (Shirley, i. 358). On the coming of Richard Marshal, earl of Pembroke [q. v.], into Ireland, Hugh de Lacy supported Maurice Fitzgerald, the royal justiciar, against the earl, and was present at the conference between the earl-marshal and his opponents at the Curragh, and the earl's defeat on 1 April 1234. Afterwards Hugh was summoned to England to advise the king, and he was subsequently thanked by Henry for his services (ib. i. 437, 478; Sweetman, i. 2113). In 1235 he took part in the great raid of Richard de Burgh (d. 1243) [q. v.] into Connaught. In the same year Alan of Galloway, who had married Hugh's daughter in 1228 (Chron. Lanercost, p. 40), died, leaving three daughters by a former wife and a bastard son, Thomas, who endeavoured to seize his father's lands. In April 1236 Hugh gathered a great army from Ireland and the Isle of Man, and joined Thomas in his rebellion. But Alexander II of Scotland soon compelled them to come to terms (Matt. Paris, iii. 364–6; Fordun, Scotichronicon, iii. 753). On 25 April 1237 Hugh was summoned to England to advise the king (Sweetman, i. 2384). In 1238 some of Hugh's followers killed an Irish chieftain, whereupon Donnell MacLoughlin, chief of Cenel Owen took up arms and drove Hugh out of Ulster. Hugh returned with FitzMaurice the justiciar at harvest time, and after expelling MacLoughlin gave Tyrone to Brian O'Neill. In 1239 MacLoughlin recovered his lordship, but was speedily expelled once more. It was probably a later phase of this struggle which caused the great dissensions against Hugh in Ulster in 1240 (Four Masters, iii. 301 n.)

Hugh died at Carrickfergus at the end of 1242 or beginning of 1243 (Matt. Paris, iv. 232; Sweetman, i. 2616; he was certainly dead before 25 April 1243). He was buried in the church of the Dominican friars at Carrickfergus (Book of Howth, p. 124). Matthew Paris calls him ‘a most renowned warrior, and the glorious conqueror of a great part of Ireland’ (iv. 232). As Hugh was certainly the most turbulent, so also he was perhaps the most powerful of all the Anglo-Irish nobles of his age. The careers of himself, his father and brother, illustrate well the course of the English conquest of Ireland, and the peculiar difficulties which the royal authority had to encounter through the excessive power granted to or acquired by the chiefs of the English settlement. The grant of Ulster to Hugh included all authority except that of episcopal investiture, and Hugh held it exempt and separate from every county, having his own court and chancery (Sweetman, i. 260, 263; Carew MSS. v. 450). The earldom of Ulster of this creation came to an end at Hugh's death, for he left no male heir; and the allegation that a daughter of his married Walter de Burgh, and conveyed to her husband her father's rights in the earldom, is incorrect [see under Burgh, Walter de].

Hugh married Emmeline (sometimes called Leceline), daughter of Walter de Redelesford. She was alive as late as November 1267, but died before 1278 (Sweetman, ii. 834; Calendarium Genealogicum, i. 256). Besides the daughter who married Alan of Galloway, Hugh had another daughter, who married Miles MacCostelloe (Four Masters, iii. 349). One of his daughters was called Roysya (Carew MSS. v. 412). He had two sons, Walter and Roger, who were alive in 1226 (Sweetman, i. 1372). A son of his was killed during the war with MacLoughlin in 1238 (Four Masters, iii. 239 n.) There is no evidence as to whether these children were illegitimate or not; the ‘Dunstable Annals’ allege that in 1225 Hugh had abandoned his wife, and was living with an adulteress (Ann. Mon. iii. 91).

Hugh is said to have given the monks of St. Taurin a cell at Ruskey, near Carlingford. He founded the house of the Dominicans at Carrickfergus and was a benefactor of the canons of St. Thomas, Dublin, and also of St. Andrew's Church in Scotland (Chart. St. Mary's, Dublin, ii. 311; Reg. St. Thos. Dublin, pp. 7, 9, 13, 49-50; Sweetman, i. 2408).

[Annals of Loch Cé; Roger of Hoveden's Chronicle; Matthew Paris's Chronica Majora; Annales Monastici; Shirley's Royal and Historical Letters of the Reign of Henry III; Annales Cambriæ; Register of St. Thomas, Dublin; Chartulary of St Mary's, Dublin (all these are in the Rolls Series); Annals of the Four Masters, ed. O’Donovan; Calendars of Patent Rolls, Close Rolls, and Charter Rolls, published by the Record Commission; Sweetman's Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland; Carew MSS., vol. v., containing the Book of Howth. Among modern writers reference may be made to Gilbert's Viceroys of Ireland, and Stokes's Ireland and the Anglo-Norman Church.]

C. L. K.