Page images
PDF
EPUB

the sentence of excommunication, and cited her son William Outlawe to appear on a certain day and answer to the charge of harbouring and concealing his mother in defiance of the authority of the church.

On learning this, the seneschal of Kilkenny, Arnold le Poer, repaired to the priory of Kells, where the Bishop was lodged, and made a long and touching appeal to him to mitigate his anger, until at length, wearied and provoked by his obstinacy, he left his presence with threats of vengeance. The next morning, as the Bishop was departing from the priory to continue his visitation in other parts of the diocese, he was stopped at the entrance to the town of Kells by one of the seneschal's officers, Stephen le Poer, with a body of armed

men, who conducted him as a prisoner to the castle of Kilkenny, where he was kept in custody until the day was past on which William Outlawe had been cited to appear in his court. The Bishop, after many protests on the indignity offered in his person to the Church, and on the protection given to sorcerers and heretics, was obliged to submit. It was a mode of evading the form of law, characteristic of an age in which the latter was subservient to force, and the Bishop's friends believed that the king's officers were bribed by William Outlawe's wealth. They even reported afterwards, to throw more discredit on the authors of this act of violence, that one of the guards was heard to say to another, as they led him to prison, “ That fair steed which William Outlawe presented to our lord Sir Arnald last night draws well, for it has drawn the Bishop to prison.'

This summary mode of proceeding against an ecclesiastic appears to have caused astonishment even in Ireland, and during the first day multitudes of people of all classes visited the Bishop in his confinement, to feed and comfort him, the general ferment increasing with the discourses he pronounced to his visitors. To hinder this, the seneschal ordered him to be more strictly confined, and forbade the admission of any visitors, except a few of the Bishop's especial friends and servants. The Bishop at once placed the whole diocese under an interdict.

It was necessary to prepare immediately some excuse for these proceedings, and the seneschal issued a proclamation calling upon all who had any complaints to make against the Bishop of Ossory to come forward ; and at an inquest held before the justices itinerant, many grievous crimes of the Bishop were rehearsed, but none would venture personally to charge him with them. All these circumstances, however, show that the Bishop was not faultless; and that his conduct would not bear a very close examination is evident, from the fact, that on more than one occasion in subsequent times he was obliged to shelter himself under the protection of the king's pardon for all past offences. William Outlawe now went to the archives of Kilkenny, and there found a former deed of accusation against the Bishop of Ossory for having defrauded a widow of the inheritance of her husband. The Bishop's party said that it was a cancelled document, the case having been taken out of the secular court; and that William had had a new copy made of it to conceal the evidence of this fact, and had then rubbed the fresh parchment with his shoes in order to give his copy the appearance of an old document. However, it was delivered to the seneschal, who now offered to release his prisoner on condition of his giving sufficient bail to appear and answer in the secular court the charge thus brought against him. This the Bishop refused to do, and after he had remained eighteen days in confinement, he was unconditionally set free.

The Bishop marched from his prison in triumph, fulldressed in his pontifical robes, and immediately cited William Outlawe to appear before him in his court on another day; but before that day arrived, he received a royal writ, ordering him to appear before the Lord Justice of Ireland without any delay, on penalty of a fine of a thousand pounds, to answer to the king for having placed his diocese under interdict, and also to make his defence against the accusations of Arnald le Poer. He received a similar summons from the Dean of St. Patrick's, to appear before him as the vicarial representative of the Archbishop of Dublin. The Bishop of Ossory made answer that it was not safe for him to undertake the journey, because his way lay through the lands and lordship of his enemy, Sir Arnald; but this excuse was not admitted, and the diocese was relieved from the interdict.

Other trials were reserved for the mortified prelate. On

a

the Monday after the Octaves of Easter, the seneschal, Arnald le Poer, held his court of justice in the judicial hall of the city of Kilkenny, and there the Bishop of Ossory resolved to present himself and invoke publicly the aid of the secular arm to his assistance in seizing the persons accused of sorcery.

The seneschal forbade him to enter the court on his peril; but the Bishop persevered, and, “ robed in his pontificals, carrying in his hands the body of Christ (the consecrated host) in a vessel of gold,” and attended by a numerous body of friars and clergy, he entered the hall and forced his way to the tribunal. The seneschal received him with reproaches and insults, and caused him to be ignominiously turned out of court. At the repeated protest, however, of the offended prelate, and the intercession of some influential persons there present, he was allowed to return, and the seneschal ordered him to take his place at the bar allotted for criminals, upon which the Bishop cried out that Christ had never been treated

so since he stood at the bar before Pontius Pilate. He then called upon the seneschal to cause the persons accused of sorcery to be seized and delivered into his hands, and, upon his refusal to do this, he held open the book of the decretals, and said, “You, Sir Arnald, are a knight, and instructed in letters, and that you may not have the plea of ignorance in this place, we are prepared here to show in these decretals that you and your officials are bound to obey my order in this respect under heavy penalties."

“Go to the church with your decretals,” replied the seneschal, “and preach there, for here you will not find an attentive audience."

The Bishop then read aloud the names of the offenders, and the crimes imputed to them, suminoned the seneschal to deliver them up to the jurisdiction of the church, and retreated from the court.

Sir Arnald le Poer and his friends had not been idle on their part, and the Bishop was next cited to defend himself against various charges in the parliament to be held at Dublin, while the Lady Alice indicted him in a secular court for defamation. The Bishop is represented as having narrowly escaped the snares which were laid for him on his

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

way to Dublin. He there found the Irish prelates not much inclined to advocate his cause, because they looked upon him as a foreigner and an interloper, and he was spoken of as a truant monk from England, who came thither to represent the “Island of Saints” as a nest of heretics, and to plague them with papal bulls of which they never heard before. It was, however, thought expedient to preserve the credit of the Church, and some of the more influential of the Irish ecclesiastics interfered to effect at least an outward reconciliation between the seneschal and the Bishop of Ossory. After encountering an infinity of new obstacles and disappointments, the latter at length obtained the necessary power to bring the alleged offenders to a trial, and most of them were imprisoned ; but the chief object of the Bishop's proceedings, the Lady Alice, had been conveyed secretly away, and she is said to have passed the rest of her life in England. When her son, William Outlawe, was cited to appear before the Bishop in his court in the church of St. Mary at Kilkenny, he went “armed to the teeth” with all sorts of armour, and attended with a very formidable company, and demanded a copy of the charges objected against him, which extended through thirty-four chapters. He for the present was allowed to go at large, because nobody dared to arrest him; and when the officers of the crown arrived, they showed so openly their favour towards him, as to take up their lodgings at his house. At length, however, having been convicted in the Bishop's court at least of harbouring those accused of sorcery, he consented to

go

into prison, trusting, probably, to the secret protection of the great barons of the land.

The only person mentioned by name as punished for the extreme crime of sorcery was Petronilla de Meath, who was, perhaps, less provided with worldly interests to protect her, and who appears to have been made an expiatory sacrifice for her superiors. She was, by order of the Bishop, six times flogged, and then, probably to escape a further repetition of this cruel and degrading punishment, she made a public confession, accusing not only herself, but all the others against whom the Bishop had proceeded. She said, that in all England,

“perhaps in the whole world,” there was not a nerson more deeply skilled in the practices of sorcery than

the Lady Alice Kyteler, who had been their mistress and teacher in the art. She confessed to most of the charges contained in the Bishop's articles of accusation, and said that she had been present at the sacrifices to the demon, and had assisted in making the unguents of the intestines of the cocks offered on this occasion, mixed with spiders and certain black worms like scorpions, with a certain herb. called millefoil, and other herbs and worms, and with the brains and clothes of a child that had died without baptism, in the manner before related; that with these unguents. they had produced various effects upon different persons, making the faces of certain ladies appear horned like goats; that she had been present at the nightly conventicles, and with the assistance of her mistress had frequently pronounced the sentence of excommunication against her own husband, with all the ceremonies required by their unholy rites, and that she had been with the Lady Alice when demon, Robin Artisson, appeared to her. The wretched woman, having made this public confession, was carried out into the city, and publicly burnt. This, says the relater, was the first witch who was ever burnt in Ireland.

The rage of the Bishop of Ossory appears now to have been, to a certain degree, appeaser. He was prevailed upon to remit the offences

of William Outlawe, enjoining him, as a reparation for his contempt of the Church, that within the period of four years he should cover with lead the whole roof of his cathedral from the steeple eastward, as well as that of the chapel of the Holy Virgin. The rest of the Lady Alice's “pestiferous society" were punished in different ways, with more or less severity ; one or two of them, we are told, were subsequently burnt; others were flogged publicly in the market-place and through the city; others. were banished from the diocese; and a few, like their mistress, fled to a distance, or concealed themselves so effectually as to escape the hands of justice.

There was one person concerned in the foregoing events. whom the Bishop had not forgotten nor forgiven. That was Arnald le Poer, the seneschal of Kilkenny, who had so strenuously advocated the cause of William Outlawe and his mother, and who had treated with so much rudeness the Bishop himself

« PreviousContinue »