The new Viceroy was not a favourite with the Anglo-Norman colonists. He was openly accused of partiality to the Irish, because he attempted to demand justice for them. It is not known whether this policy was the result of his own judgment, or a compliance with the wishes of his royal master. His conciliatory conduct, whatever may have been its motive, was unhappily counteracted by the violence of De Courcy. This nobleman asserted that he had obtained a grant of Ulster from Henry II., on what grounds it would be indeed difficult to ascertain. He proceeded to make good his claim; and, in defiance of the Viceroy’s prohibition, set out for the north, with a small army of chosen knights and soldiers. His friend, Sir Almaric Tristram de Saint Lawrence, was of the number. He was De Courcy’s brother-in-law, and they had made vows of eternal friendship in the famous Cathedral of Rouen. De Courcy is described as a man of extraordinary physical strength, of large proportions, shamefully penurious, rashly impetuous, and, despite a fair share in the vices of the age, full of reverence for the clergy, at least if they belonged to his own race. Cambrensis gives a glowing description of his valour, and says that “any one who had seen Jean de Courci wield his sword, lopping off heads and arms, might well have commended the might of this warrior."
De Courcy arrived in Downpatrick in four days. The inhabitants were taken by surprise; and the sound of his bugles at daybreak was the first intimation they received of their danger. Cardinal Vivian, who had come as Legate from Alexander III., had but just arrived at the spot. He did his best to promote peace. But neither party would yield; and as the demands of the Norman knights were perfectly unreasonable, Vivian advised Dunlevy, the chieftain of Ulidia, to have recourse to arms. A sharp conflict ensued, in which the English gained the victory, principally through the personal bravery of their leader. This battle was fought about the beginning of February; another engagement took place on the 24th of June, in which the northerns were again defeated.
Cardinal Vivian now proceeded to Dublin, where he held a synod. The principal enactment referred to the right of sanctuary. During the Anglo-Norman wars, the Irish had secured their provisions in the churches; and it is said that, in order to starve out the enemy, they even refused to sell at any price. It was now decreed that sanctuary might be violated to obtain food; but a fair price was to be paid for whatever was taken. It is to be feared these conditions were seldom complied with. The Abbey of St. Thomas the Martyr was founded in Dublin about this time, by FitzAldelm, at the command of Henry II., one of his many acts of reparation. The site was the place now called Thomas Court. The Viceroy endowed it with a carnucate of land, in the presence of the Legate and St. Laurence O’Toole. After the settlement of these affairs, Cardinal Vivian passed over to Chester, on his way to Scotland.