Saturday, April 25, 2015

Henry Tyrel, outlaw

In this blog post, as promised, I will be talking about Henry Tyrel, an outlaw whose execution I mentioned in my previous post. I also mentioned Henry in my very first post, and I expect I'll be mentioning him in future posts. I'm very fond of Henry. He appeared in an article I wrote on violence and crime in fourteenth-century Ireland, which was published in Medieval Dublin X (ed. Seán Duffy): I also dealt with him in my book (see previous post for image of book and link, I won't be shameless enough to post it again!) ;-)

Lots of comparisons can be made between outlaws that lived in late medieval Ireland, and their counterparts in England. The early fourteenth century in England was a period when outlaw gangs, whose exploits were somewhat similar to those that were committed by the legendary Robin Hood and his gang, reigned supreme. Outlaws like the Coterels of Derbyshire and the Folvilles of Leicestershire have received much attention from English social historians. Surprisingly, the criminal gangs that existed in Ireland in this same period have received less attention in spite of the fact that their exploits are recorded in the plea rolls. There are plenty of them to look at, and I will do so in future blogs.

In my head, this is what Henry Tyrel looks like! :)

Who was Henry Tyrel? Henry was a member of the burgeoning gentry class. His father was Gerald Tyrel, a knight who held the manor of Lyons in north county Kildare. Gerald was a close associate of two important men: John Fitz Thomas, lord of Offaly and future first earl of Kildare, and Ralph Pipard, who as well as owning extensive lands in county Louth and Monaghan also owned the manors of Leixlip, Oughterard and Castlewarden in county Kildare. These manors had originally been granted to Adam de Hereford by Strongbow just after the invasion and came into the Pipard family’s possession when Adam’s daughter Auda married William Pipard. Although he was a major landholder in Ireland, by the beginning of the fourteenth century Ralph Pipard was spending all of his time in England and Gerald Tyrel served as seneschal of his lands in Ireland. Eventually, Ralph relinquished his Irish lands to the crown and they quickly passed into the hands of Eustace le Poer, and Gerald may have served as his seneschal too. Gerald liked to use the courts on a frequent basis, and will probably be the subject of a future post.

Henry had at least two brothers: Roger and Thomas. It is also likely that Maurice Tyrel, who served as seneschal of the royal demesne (i.e. he was the main administrator of the king's manors located in south-west Dublin) in 1314, was another brother. Sometime before 1309 Gerald had granted lands in Saggart and Newcastle Lyons to Maurice, which would suggest some sort of close kinship. It appears that Maurice avoided a life of crime by becoming a royal administrator. Roger, probably the eldest son, also avoided the life of an outlaw by inheriting his father's lands. He does appears in the court records briefly in 1302 (Calendar of the Justiciary Rolls, 1295-1303, p. 449), when he was involved in a trespass with Richard Tyrel of Castleknock, but generally appears to have avoided his brothers' criminal lifestyle.

Map of south county Dublin, including royal manors of Newcastle, Saggart, Esker and Crumlin

Did real-life outlaws like Henry in any way resemble their literary counterparts like Robin Hood? In a superficial sense they probably did, and it is likely that these tales were based on the exploits of real outlaws. Certainly, the outlaws depicted in medieval tales could behave just as violently as their real-life counterparts. The difference was that these outlaws probably didn't share Robin Hood's socialist sensibilities. They probably stole from the rich, but that was because they had something worth stealing, it's highly unlikely that there was any redistribution of wealth. Most leaders of outlaw gangs, like our Henry, would have been members of the gentry class. Barbara Hanawalt uses the phrase “fur-collar crime”, a perfect description of the medieval equivalent of white collar crime. Why did these young men, of high social status, turn to a life of crime? Simply put, many participated in criminal activities in order to maintain their social status. It was usual for the eldest son (or at least just one individual son) to inherit his father's property, the eldest brother of the Folville gang in England, for example, inherited from his father, thus becoming a country gentleman while the rest of his brothers became criminals. This meant that, unless their father made other provisions, there was little left for the other sons to inherit. Additionally, many of these men would have had previous military service. It is possible that, as a knight’s son, Henry had served in the king’s overseas campaigns. Gerald had certainly served in royal military expeditions, and his sons may have accompanied him. After serving in the army, the men who returned home must have found it hard to settle back into a civilian life, especially considering that killing, looting and other criminal behaviour was intrinsic to the life of a soldier. Henry (and his brother Thomas) may also have been behaving violently as a way of enforcing their father's authority or settle his disputes, or they may have been working for a more powerful lord. Although they had access to courts, members of the ruling class felt that they had the right to resolve disputes by more direct, and often violent, means.

Of course, Henry may have simply become an outlaw because he was attracted to that lifestyle. The dissemination of outlaw tales may have offered the lifestyle a sort of glamour. Could outlaws have possibly been the fourteenth-century equivalents of rock stars?

Eagles: rock stars who wanted to be outlaws (admittedly not medieval ones)

Henry embarked on a life of crime he did not move beyond his own locality. An examination of the justiciary rolls reveal that most of his crimes were committed between Lyons and Oughterard:

Pleas of the crown and gaol-delivery, at Dublin, before John Wogan, Justiciar, on Tuesday the morrow of St. Lucia the Virgin, anno regni 34 Edward I. [14 December 1305] 
[Henry Tyrel] charged that he is a common robber and thief of oxen and afers and that he waylays (foristallat) faithful men passing [between] Lyouns and Ughtrard and exhorts from them money and other their goods under pretence of a courtesy... (Calendar of the Justiciary Rolls of Ireland, 1305-1307, p. 477 – for whole entry see previous blog post).

John Bellamy has noted that most criminal gangs in England operated in the locality where their leader either originated from or held lands. Obviously they were more comfortable in their own locality because they understood the lay of the land. The location of Lyons manor was also important strategically, it was located in north Kildare, close to the border with county Dublin. This meant that when Tyrel and his gang of outlaws committed crimes in Dublin, they could quickly escape back over the border to Kildare. The sheriff of one county did not have jurisdiction in another, and could not, or would not, pursue a criminal over the county line. Criminals were escaping justice and this motivated the passing of a statute in 1351 that ordered sheriffs and other county officers to pursue felons into other counties and apprehend them. The statute also ordered the sheriff of the county into which the felon escaped was to provide aid in his capture. This reflects trends in England, where criminal gangs had a tendency to establish themselves in areas where two or more counties met, and escaping into one county after committing crimes in another. Coincidentally, American outlaws of the Depression-era behaved in an almost identical fashion. Criminals, like the infamous Bonnie and Clyde, committed some of their crimes near county lines, and escaped over the border to avoid arrest. A practice that proved successful until different jurisdictions coordinated their efforts to apprehend them.

Bonnie and Clyde

Parallels can also be made between the Irish colony in the early fourteenth-century and Depression-era America. The United States plunged into an economic recession in the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash in 1929, and this was further exacerbated by the severe droughts of the 1930s that turned the agricultural heartland into a dust bowl. Centuries earlier, Edward I's military expeditions and the construction of his Welsh castles were partly funded by Irish revenues. The frequent taxes levied on his Irish subjects financially crippled the colony and helped contribute to the lawless conditions here. The situation was made worse by the Bruce Invasion, which began in 1315, and the Great Famine that coincided with it. In both cases a combination of economic recklessness and natural disasters (and in Ireland's case, trouble-making Scots) helped breed a situation where lawless behaviour thrived.

The similarities do not end there. Much like Clyde Barrow, Henry Tyrel had his own Bonnie Parker. A court roll entry says:

[and he entered] the house of Arnald de Penrys, and wastes his goods against the will of Arnald . . . . . . uses [her as] his own wife, and brings her to and fro with him at his will. (Calendar of the Justiciary Rolls of Ireland, 1305-1307, p. 477)
BL Egerton MS 881, f. 141v K061043

This entry is pretty fragmented, but it appears that Tyrel was committing adultery with Arnald de Penrys' wife, who is not named in the justiciary roll entry, and bringing her with him on his travels. Her feelings on the matter were not recorded, but because she was travelling around with Henry and he was not charged with abducting her, she may in fact have been his willing companion. It is possible that de Penrys’ wife was an Irishwoman. A very fragmented entry in the justiciary rolls for 1306 describes a concubine named Mcnabyth associated with an outlaw called Henry.

Ric. de Bother, charged with the death of David de Naungle, [comes and defends], and puts himself on the country . . . . Naungle, a felon, was slain, but not by Ricard. And John . . . . Will. Seys, Stephen son of Gilbert, Thomas Seys, John son of Ricard, Thomas . . . . the white of Tauelauth, Henry son of Ricard of Balymargy, Will. . . . . . . of Tassagard, Ric. Daniel, John Colynm jurors, say that [David was] a felon, of the company of the Ototheles, notorious felons, who lived with Henry . . . . . a concubine, one Mcnabyth, who is with said Irish felons. And . . . . continually with Henry, knowingly. And Ricard slew him . . . .but would have rather taken him alive if he could. And Ricard, after he slew David, took from him . . . . . And because the Jurors testify that David was a common thief, and that the slaying of him . . . . by grace let him go quit. (Calendar of the Justiciary Rolls of Ireland, 1305-1307, p. 500).

I have highlighted the relevant bit of this entry. Mcnabyth appears to have been either the concubine of Henry or one of his followers, David de Naungle. Though Henry's surname isn't given, this is undoubtedly Tyrel, all the jurors (who can be identified) come from the same locality as Tyrel (as was usual in this period) and this case comes soon after Henry's trial and execution, so chronologically it fits too. James Mills, the editor of the justiciary rolls, was also of the opinion that this may have been Henry Tyrel and he records this in the index. She was also an associate of the O’Tooles and if this is the case Arnald, an Englishman, was married into one of the most notorious Gaelic families in the locality. Mcnabyth may have found life with Arnald dull, and chose to accompany Henry on his adventures, terrorizing the surrounding countryside.

From the Codex Manesse

I was going to deal with Henry's followers (including his brother Thomas) in this post, but it has grown longer than expected, so I will deal with them in my next post. Thanks for reading. :) x  

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