In 1177 John de Courci, with the countenance of Henry II., set out to the conquest of Ulster.
JOHN DE COURCI (d.
After some years of desultory fighting de Courci established his power over that part of Ulster comprised in the modern counties of Antrim and Down, throughout which he built a number of castles, where his vassals, known as "the barons of Ulster," held sway over the native tribes.
After the accession of Richard I., de Courci in conjunction with William de Lacy appears in some way to have offended the king by his proceedings in Ireland.
De Lacy quickly made his peace with Richard, while de Courci defied him; and the subsequent history of the latter consisted mainly in the vicissitudes of a lasting feud with the de Lacys.
In 1204 Hugh de Lacy utterly defeated de Courci in battle, and took him prisoner.
De Courci, however, soon obtained his liberty, probably by giving hostages as security for a promise of submission which he failed to carry out, seeking an asylum instead with the O'Neills of Tyrone.
There is some indication of his having sided with John in his struggle with the barons; but of the later history of de Courci little is known.
Both de Courci and his wife Affreca were benefactors of the church, and founded several abbeys and priories in Ulster.
A story is told that de Courci when imprisoned in the Tower volunteered to act as champion for King John in single combat against a knight representing Philip Augustus of France; that when he appeared in the lists his French opponent fled in panic; whereupon de Courci, to gratify the French king's desire to witness his prowess, "cleft a massive helmet in twain at a single blow," a feat for which he was rewarded by a grant of the privilege for himself and his heirs to remain covered in the presence of the king and all future sovereigns of England.
This tale, which still finds a place in Burke's Peerage in the account of the baron Kingsale, a descendant of the de Courci family, is a legend without historic foundation which did not obtain currency till centuries after John de Courci's death.
John de Courci left no legitimate children.
"Courci, John de," in Dictionary of National Biography, vol.
The principal building is the castle, originally built by John de Courci towards the close of the 12th century, and subsequently much enlarged.
In 1182, John de Courci, to whom Henry II.