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Saturday, 2 January 2016


2‭ ‬January‭ ‬1417:‭ ‬The death of Art Mac Murrough Cavanagh‭ (‬King of Leinster‭) ‬on this day.‭

Art,‭ ‬the son of Art,‭ ‬son of Murtough,‭ ‬son of Maurice,‭ ‬Lord of Leinster,‭ ‬a man who had defended his own province against the English and Irish from his sixteenth to his sixtieth year‭; ‬a man full of hospitality,‭ ‬knowledge,‭ ‬and chivalry‭; ‬a man full of prosperity and royalty‭; ‬the enricher of churches and monasteries,‭ ‬by his alms and offerings,‭ ‬died‭ (‬after having been forty-two years in the lordship of Leinster‭) ‬a week after Christmas.‭

Some assert that it was of a poisonous drink which a woman gave to him,‭ ‬and to O'Doran,‭ ‬Chief Brehon of Leinster,‭ ‬at Ros-Mic-Triuin‭ [‬New Ross‭]‬,‭ ‬that both died.‭ ‬Donough,‭ ‬his son,‭ ‬assumed his place after him.

‭ ‬Annals of the Four Masters 1417 AD

Art McMurrough Cavanagh was a formidable character in his day.‭ ‬He‭ ‬was born in the year‭ ‬1357.‭ ‬From an early age he was distinguished by his great hospitality,‭ ‬intelligence and bravery,‭ ‬and I should imagine his contemporaries recognised a certain level of guile in the young Art that would serve him well in his dealings with rivals both internal and external.‭ ‬About the year‭ ‬1375 while he was still under age he was elected successor to his father,‭ ‬according to the annalists,‭ ‬who record his death in‭ ‬1417,‭ '‬after being forty-two years in the government of Leinster.‭' ‬A traditional Gaelic Leader he married a Lady from the Pale named Elizabeth and so through marriage,‭ ‬inheritance and conquest he dominated large tracts of Wexford,‭ ‬Wicklow,‭ ‬Kildare and Carlow.‭ ‬The Palesmen paid him tribute to keep him sweet and of course in the Gaelic areas he ruled in the old way.

However he did suffer a severe reverse in‭ ‬1392‭ ‬when the Earl of Ormond defeated him at Tiscoffin and killed‭ ‬600‭ ‬of his best warriors.‭ ‬But‭ ‬Art McMurrough pulled of a great coup when he captured the Colonial town of New Ross.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1395‭ ‬he had to contend with a descent on Ireland by the King of England,‭ ‬the hapless Richard II,‭ ‬who brought a huge army with him to overawe the Irish Kings and Chieftains.‭ ‬He could not however bring Art to‭ ‘‬come into his House‭’ ‬and submit.‭ ‬Instead he gave a promise of safe passage to the Leinsterman to come up to Dublin an treat with him.‭ ‬Though wary,‭ ‬Art accepted the invitation and was imprisoned and could only get his freedom by promising to agree to Richard’s terms.‭ ‬Once free though he resumed his independent way of life and soon fell to harrying the invaders once more.

In the summer of‭ ‬1398‭ ‬his allies the O’Byrnes defeated and slew Roger Mortimer,‭ ‬the Earl of March,‭ ‬and the heir to the Throne of England.‭ ‬This political earthquake brought Richard II back to Ireland in the following year,‭ ‬bent on revenge against all who defied him.‭ ‬But once again his campaign here was a fiasco,‭ ‬with not even a series of nominal submissions to flaunt at Court when he returned home.‭ ‬Indeed while he was bogged down here news reached him that Henry of Bolingbroke had landed in England to claim the throne for himself.‭ ‬This he did and when Richard went back he was taken prisoner and then starved to death by the now King of England  Henry IV.‭ ‬Thus Art McMurrough Cavanagh was the‭ ‬catalyst for one of the most momentous events in England’s history.