Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath

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Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath, 4th Baron Lacy, (before 1135 – 25 July 1186, Durrow, Leinster) was an Anglo-Norman magnate. He had substantial land holdings in Herefordshire and Shropshire, England. Following his participation in the Norman Invasion of Ireland, he was granted the lands of the Kingdom of Meath by the Anglo-Norman King Henry II of England in 1172. The Lordship of Meath was the most extensive liberty in Ireland.

Early life[edit]

Hugh de Lacy was the son of Gilbert de Lacy (died after 1163) of Ewyas Lacy, Weobley and Ludlow. He is said to have had a dispute with Joscelin de Dinan as to certain lands in Herefordshire in 1154. He was in possession of his father's lands before 1163, and in 1165–66 held fifty-eight and three-quarters knights' fees, and had nine tenants without knight service.[1]

Career in Ireland[edit]

The keep of Trim Castle
Kilkea Castle (Front)
Motte-and-bailey built by de Lacy at Clonard, County Meath

In October 1171 he went over as part of a force to invade Ireland with Henry II, and early in 1172 was sent to receive the submission of Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair (Rory), High King of Ireland. 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.[1] As such it is generally accepted that he was the first Viceroy of Ireland, a position he was to hold three times (1172, 1179 and c. 1180), the third time jointly with the Bishop of Salisbury.[2]

The grant of Meath was not accepted by Tighearnán Ó Ruairc, King of Bréifne, who ruled it at that time. Ó Ruairc refused to concede, but parleyed with De Lacy on the Hill of Ward, in Meath. After negotiations stalled, a dispute ensued in which an interpreter was killed by a blow aimed at De Lacy, who fled; Ó Ruairc was killed by a spear-thrust as he mounted his horse, and he was decapitated. His head was impaled over the gate of Dublin Castle and later was sent to Henry II. The Annals of the Four Masters say that Ó Ruairc was treacherously slain. From the account given by Giraldus Cambrensis, it would appear that there was a plot to destroy Ó Ruairc.[3]

Lordship of Meath[edit]

Main article: Lordship of Meath

De Lacy only escaped with difficulty; he 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 Trim Castle, which was put in charge of Hugh Tyrrel.[1] The Song of Dermot and the Earl states, "And Skryne he then gave by charter to Adam de Feypo he gave it", and he built his castle there.

After this Lacy went back to England. On 29 December 1172 he was at Canterbury, where, according to a story preserved by Giraldus, he reproved Archbishop Richard of Dover for his boastful language. 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.[1]

He was sent over to Ireland as procurator-general in 1177, Richard de Clare having died shortly before. The grant of Meath was now confirmed, with the addition of Offelana, Offaly, Kildare, and Wicklow. As governor of Ireland Lacy secured Leinster and Meath, building numerous castles, while preserving the Irish in possession of their lands. There were accusations that he intended to seize the sovereignty of the island for himself. 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.[1]

In 1181, he was recalled from his government for having married the daughter of Ruadri O Conchobair, King of Connaught and deposed High King of Ireland, without leave of Henry. Hugh was recalled the following winter, though with a co-adjutor, Robert of Shrewsbury, one of the royal clerks. When, early in 1185, Henry sent his son John over to Ireland, the young lord 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.[1]

Death, aftermath and legacy[edit]

De Lacy himself was killed by Gilla-Gan-Mathiar O'Maidhaigh, while supervising the construction of a Motte castle at Durrow in 1186 at the instigation of An tSionnach (the Fox) and O'Breen (see Annals of the Four Masters, 1186.5). Prince John was promptly sent over to Ireland to take possession of his lands.

De Lacy was initially buried at Durrow Abbey. In 1195, the Archbishops of Cashel and Dublin disinterred his body and reinterred his remains at Bective Abbey in Meath and his head in St Thomas's Abbey, Dublin. A long controversy was then carried on between the two abbeys for his body, settled only in 1205 when his body was disinterred again and reburied in St Thomas's Abbey, in the tomb of de Lacy's first wife.[1]

Hugh was a benefactor of Llanthony Priory and also of many churches in Ireland, including the abbey of Trim.[1]


Marriage and Issue[edit]

Hugh de Lacy was married twice.

Before 1155 Hugh married Rohese of Monmouth (also known as Rose of Monmouth or Roysya de Monemue). She was the granddaughter of Gilbert Fitz Richard. Strongbow was the grandson of Fitz Richard. Hugh and Rohese had 9 children, 4 sons and 5 daughters:

  • Walter de Lacy (1166–1241)
  • Hugh de Lacy, 1st Earl of Ulster (bef.1179–1242)
  • Gilbert de Lacy
  • Robert de Lacy (died young)[5]
  • Aegida de Lacy, who married Richard de Burgh
  • Elayne (Elena) de Lacy, who married Richard de Beaufo (Belfou)
  • Alice de Lacy, who married Roger Pipard, then married Geoffrey de Marisco, Justiciar of Ireland, son of Jordan de Marisco, Justiciar of Ireland.
  • Daughter de Lacy, who married Sir William FitzAlan, son of Sir William FitzAlan, Lord of Oswestry, and Isabel de Say.

Rohese died before 1180.

Hugh married 2nd Princess Rose Ní Conchobair, daughter of King of Ireland, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair.
They had 2 children, a son and a daughter:


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Kingsford 1892.
  2. ^ O'Mahony, Charles (1912). The Viceroys of Ireland. p. 16. 
  4. ^ Wrightman Lacy Family pp. 185–186
  5. ^ [1]. Calendar of Patent Rolls. 1340, November 14, Reading, membrane 24 & 25. Volume 5, page 53 (Inspection of charters from 1234 by Walter de Lacy in which grants are made for the soul of his brother, Robert)

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainKingsford, Charles Lethbridge (1892). "Lacy, Hugh de (d.1186)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 31. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

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