Appendix 14
The sixth shall overthrow the Irish and their walls, and pious and prudent
shall renew the people and the cities.
In September 1155, just before Henry Blois secreted his transportable
wealth with Peter the Venerable and asked him to carriage it to Clugny,
King Henry II held a council at Winchester. This was the last appearance of
Henry Blois before self imposed exile at Clugny.
King Henry enthusiastically considered invading Ireland and discussed
this amongst the bishops; one of which was Henry Blois. As a generous
brother, King Henry II was hoping to give Ireland to William his younger
brother, making him King. The plans were abandoned when their mother,
the Empress Matilda, objected. She did not consider Ireland worth
conquering. Henry, instead, made William one of the richest men in
England, granting him seven manors.
The council at which the invasion of Ireland was discussed is
corroborated in the Chronicle of Clugny
1
(as Peter attended also) which
supports Henry Bloisknowledge of the proposed Irish invasion as a plan.
Henry Blois writing the updated Vulgate version of prophecies, which one
must assume he supposed would be acted upon while he was abroad in
Clugny…. instigated the prophecy so that Merlin would be found to be a real
prophet when the invasion took place. At Winchester about the time of
Michaelmas in 1155 Henry II holds a council with his nobles to discuss the
conquest of Ireland which he seems to have desired to give his younger
brother William on terms of homage.
2
It was straight after this council in which the discussion took place
about the various castles held by bishops and barons was discussed. King
Henry saw these castles which had grown up throughout the land in the
Anarchy as an obstacle of peace in the realm. The only problem was that
without them the powerbase of any baron or bishop was potentially
removed. Henry Blois had several and thus King Henry looked on the
1
Chronicle of Clugnyxxxviii
2
Robert of Torigni.
powerful bishop as a threat. At this meeting it was requested that bishop
Henry hand them over to the King. Straight afterward Henry Blois left the
country secretly without license from the king, probably leaving the
country from a port in the very south of England.
One of the reasons for the Irish invasion was in 1155, three years after
the Synod of Kells, Adrian IV published the Papal Bull Laudabiliter, which
was addressed to Henry II.The Laudabiliter was issued in 1155 whereby the
English pope Adrian IV gave King Henry the right to assume control over
Ireland and apply the Gregorian reforms. He urged Henry II to invade
Ireland to bring its Celtic ChristianChurch under Roman Catholic rule and
to conduct a general reform of governance and society in Ireland. In Irish
records, they seem to have known nothing of the plans of the prospect of an
Angevin Norman invasion and many commentators mistrust whether the
Papal bull was genuine. With Henry Blois’ prediction found here in the Vita
Merlini it would seem to substantiate that there was such a bull.
The Normans did in fact invade Ireland, beginning with a small landing
of Norman knights, but not until 1 May 1169 long after the Vita Merlini was
written. A force of loosely associated Norman knights landed near Bannow,
County Wexford at the request of Diarmait Mac Murchada, the ousted King
of Leinster, who sought their help in regaining his Kingdom. It was not until
the 18 October 1171, however (two months after Henry Blois’ death) that
Henry II landed a much bigger army in Waterford to ensure his continuing
control over the preceding Norman force. In the process he took Dublin and
had accepted the fealty of the Irish Kings and bishops by 1172; thus creating
the Lordship of Ireland, which formed part of his Angevin Empire.
Henry Blois had to wait four years from the time he wrote the prophecy
in the Vita concerning the ‘Sixth and the Irish invasion’ until a partial
realization of Merlin’s prediction which became fact with the small band of
Norman Knight’s arriving in 1161. However, the vaticinatory vision and
pious and prudent shall renew the people and the cities’, was based upon
what he understood were going to be the implementations of Gregorian
reform within Ireland which were proposed at Winchester in 1155.