The Norman Lordship of Ireland
The struggle between internal dynasties within Ireland led to the political conditions in which King Henry II intervened and exercised his claim to a feudal Lordship. The King of Leinster exiled in 1166 and his direct appeal to Henry II for help, led to the royal licensing of an expeditionary force from Wales and the arrival of Henry II with a great army in 1171. The Irish kings and prelates submitted and invading feudal lords followed.
The Treaty of Windsor in 1175, so-called, was concluded between King Henry the II and the high king of Ireland, establishing a new relationship between the feudal monarchy and the Irish kingship. Henry II became Lord of Ireland by conquest, treaty and by papal grant, granted by Adrian IV referred to as the Papal Bull ‘Laudabiliter.’
When King John became king in 1200 the Lordship of Ireland was united with the crown. By the beginning of the 13th century, King John authorised his justiciar in Ireland to issue the important writs. A Kings Council was held in Dublin in 1210, which the magnate of the Lordship and native rulers submitted and swore allegiance to English law. A charter issued, referred to as King John’s charter. The great charter Magna Carta issued in 1215 and sent to Ireland in 1217.
The major new statutes of the 13th century were applied to Ireland and the traditional common laws were reiterated to the writ system. In the 13th Century, the basis of the application of English statutes in Ireland was contested. One view was that English legislation applied in Ireland in automatically principle. Only one native major piece of legislation, Statute of Merchants 1285 expressly applied to Ireland. The major statutes appear to have applied directly by simply being giving to the justiciar for implementation and enforcement.
In 1232, the English Chancellor was conferred with the title “Chancellor of Ireland” and the Irish Chancellery was presided over by a deputy chancellor. In 1244, an Irish chancellor was appointed. The chancellor was principally in the administration and ranked behind the treasurer.
The government machinery in Norman Ireland was based on that in England. As the institutions and mechanisms of government developed in England corresponding changes occurred in Ireland.
The office of Justiciar developed from the 12th century. The Justiciar was permanent head of the administration and government on behalf of the King during his absences. The King was often absent from England in this period too, as he was also Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine. The office was imported into Ireland and the chief governor was normally referred to as the Chief Justiciar or Justiciar until the 14th century when the term king’s lieutenant became common.
The Justiciar was all powerful and his power corresponded to the direct and personal power of the King. He was at once head of the military, administration and supreme judge. He was subject to the power of the King. The Justiciar or chief governors had powers to make war, summon tenants-in-chief of lands to serve in person or pay scutage, issue pardons, control royal officials, dismiss all except the most important offices and do justice according to the laws and customs in Ireland.
They exercised rights of patronage and had the right to purveyance being a right to take goods as necessary for the efficient exercise of their functions. They had the right to summon parliaments and councils or make statutes and ordinances. He had the right to appoint deputies and to exercise functions through them in his absence.
From early times, many of the chief governors were Anglo-Irish magnates, although in the early 14th century, English administrators presided. Some lieutenants as well as chief governors hardly visited Ireland at all in the 15th century and presided through deputies. In these circumstances, the government was administered by Anglo-Irish magnates acting as deputies for the absentee lieutenant.
The chief governor was initially assisted by a council based on the King’s council in England. Most things which the Justiciar did, were done in collaboration with the council. In the early 13th century, this compromised Barons , the major landowners who as the tenants-in-chief were obliged as part of their feudal duty to give counsel.
The chief governor and council were subjected to the control of the King. Messages were sent to the King with reports in writing of the position in the country and decisions made. At certain point, the King’s directions were sought on particular matters, although the practice varied over time.
By the 13th century, the Irish council followed the English council in becoming more specialised with more definition and continuity in membership and which supervised all day-to-day business in government. The occasional assemblies of tenants-in-chiefs were separate and over the course of the 13th century they became parliament.
In parallel, the Irish council became an official body, comprised from time to time of various magnates, but was ultimately dominated by officials carrying out day-to-day business. The treasure and chancellor and other officers usually were present. Itinerant justices was attended when available.
In the early 14th century, the justices of the bench attended council when summoned. By the later part of the 14th century, the chancellor, treasurer, chief justices or chief baron or the exchequer together with other judges, the keeper of the rolls of chancery and other officials were members of the council. Other persons were appointed from time to time.
English Law and Irish Law
In broad terms, the Law of Ireland was the same as the Law of England. Local customs could vary. By the time of the Norman conquest, the common law was becoming more uniform and control was taken by royal power. In the unconquered areas, customary native Brehon law continued to apply.
Certain Brehon laws were recognised in the common law courts as established customs. However, tensions arose between Brehon land law and its different rules of succession, and the requirements of the crown for feudal tenure which required reversion of lands to the King on certain occasions.
The Irish courts were controlled by the possibility of an appeal to the English Kings bench by writ of error or certiorari. Grievances from Ireland came for the king by petition to the English parliament. This was reduced significantly by the reign of Edward I.
Early Irish statute law.
In the early middle ages, the English statutes were presumed to apply automatically to Ireland. The authority was that of the King,not the parliament in which it was made. In the later middle ages, the authority became that of the King in the Irish parliament.
Most Irish legislation was concerned with the maintenance of order in the Lordship and the relations between its subjects and the native Irish. Other matters which were the subject of English legislation, also applied. Pleadings in the era show reference to both statutes.
Before Ponying’s Law, English Acts might apply to Ireland in a number of ways. It is rare that the statutes themselves from this era provided specifically as for their application to Ireland.Some English legislation was remitted to Ireland with a royal writ ordering it to be observed. Some English statutes were confirmed by the Irish parliament.
Assess to Court
In the conquered areas, there was no right of access to common law courts unless granted. Without such direct right, the actions can only be taken by their lord. They could put themselves in the advowry of a lord and pay the fee.
Charters were granted giving access to royal justice. By the late 13th century, attempts were made to have a general extension of English law to the Irish. By the middle of this 14th century, early statutes declared the same law for the Irish and English except for the service of betaghs in the power of their lord.