Further trouble arose with William Outlawe, who was backed by the Chancellor and Treasurer, but the Bishop finally succeeded in beating him, and compelled him to submit on his bended knees. By way of penance he was ordered to hear at least three masses every day for the space of a year, to feed a certain number of poor people, and to cover with lead the chancel of S. Canice's Cathedral from the belfry eastward, as well as the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin. He thankfully agreed to do this, but subsequently refused to fulfil his obligations, and was thereupon cast into prison.
What was the fate of Dame Alice's accomplices, whose names we have given above, is not specifically recorded, except in one particular instance. One of them, Petronilla of Meath, was made the scapegoat for her mistress. The Bishop had her flogged six times, and under the repeated application of this form of torture she made the required confession of magical practices. She admitted the denial of her faith and the sacrificing to Robert, son of Art, and as well that she had caused certain women of her acquaintance to appear as if they had goats' horns. She also confessed that at the suggestion of Dame Alice she had frequently consulted demons and received responses from them, and that she had acted as a " medium" (mediatrix) between her and the said Robert. She declared that although she herself was mistress of the Black Art, yet she was as nothing in comparison with the Dame from whom she had learnt all her knowledge, and that there was no one in the world more skilful than she. She also stated that William Outlawe deserved death as much as she, for he was privy to their sorceries, and for a year and a day had worn the devil's girdle1 round his body. When rifling Dame Alice's house there was found " a wafer of sacramental bread, having the devil's name stamped thereon instead of Jesus Christ, and a pipe of ointment wherewith she greased a staffe, upon which she ambled and galloped through thicke and thin, when and in what manner she listed." Petronilla was accordingly condemned to be burnt alive, and the execution of this sentence took place with all due solemnity in Kilkenny on 3rd November 1324, which according to Clyn fell on a Sunday. This was the first instance of the punishment of death by fire being inflicted in Ireland for heresy.
Whether or not Petronilla's fellow-prisoners were punished is not clear, but the words of the anonymous narrator show us that the burning of that unfortunate wretch was rather the beginning than the end of persecution— that in fact numerous other suspected persons were followed up, some of whom shared her terrible fate, while to others milder forms of punishment were meted out, no doubt in proportion to their guilt. He says : " With regard to the other heretics and sorcerers who belonged to the pestilential society of Robin, son of Art, the order of law being preserved, some of them were publicly burnt to death ; others, confessing their crimes in the presence of all the people, in an upper garment, are marked back and front with a cross after they had abjured their heresy, as is the custom ; others were solemnly whipped through the town and the market-place ; others were banished from the city and diocese ; others who evaded the jurisdiction of the Church were excommunicated ; while others again fled in fear and were never heard of after. And thus, by the authority of Holy Mother Church, and by the special grace of God, that most foul brood was scattered and destroyed".
1 Magical girdles were used for various purposes. Bosc in his Glossaire will have them to be the origin of the magnetic belts, etc. that are so freely advertised at the present day.
Sir Arnold le Poer, who had taken such a prominent part in the affair, was next attacked. The Bishop accused him of heresy, had him excommunicated, and committed prisoner to Dublin Castle. His innocency was believed in by most people, and Roger Outlawe, Prior of Kilmainham, who also figures in our story, and who was appointed Justiciary of Ireland in 1328, showed him some kindness, and treated him with humanity. This so enraged the Bishop that he actually accused the Justiciary of heresy. A select committee of clerics vindicated the orthodoxy of the latter, upon which he prepared a sumptuous banquet for his defenders. Le Poer died in prison the same year, 1331, before the matter was finally settled, and as he was under ban of excommunication his body lay unburied for a long period.
But ultimately the tables were turned with a vengeance. De Ledrede was himself accused of heresy by his Metropolitan, Alexander de Bicknor, upon which he appealed to the Holy See, and set out in person for Avignon. He endured a long exile from his diocese, suffered much hardship, and had his temporalities seized by the Crown as well. In 1339 he recovered the royal favour, but ten years later further accusations were brought to the king against him, in consequence of which the temporalities were a second time taken up, and other severe measures were threatened. However, by 1356 the storm had blown over; he terminated a lengthy and disturbed episcopate in 1360, and was buried in the chancel of S. Canice's on the north side of the high altar, A recumbent effigy under an ogee-headed canopy is supposed to mark the last resting-place of this turbulent prelate.
In the foregoing pages we have only given the barest outline of the story, except that the portions relative to the practice of sorcery have been fully dealt with as pertinent to the purpose of this book, as well as on account of the importance of the case in the annals of Irish witchcraft. The story of Dame Alice Kyteler and Bishop de Ledrede occupies forty pages of the Camden Society's publications, while additional illustrative matter can be obtained from external sources ; indeed, if all the scattered material were gathered together and carefully sifted it would be sufficient to make a short but interesting biography of that prelate, and would throw considerable light on the relations between Church and State in Ireland in the fourteenth century. With regard to the tale it is difficult to know what view should be taken of it. Possibly Dame Alice and her associates actually tried to practise magical arts, and if so, considering the period at which it occurred, we certainly cannot blame the Bishop for taking the steps he did. On the other hand, to judge from the analogy of Continental witchcraft, it is to be feared that De Ledrede was to some extent swayed by such baser motives as greed of gain and desire for revenge. He also seems to have been tyrannical, overbearing, and dictatorial ; according to him the attitude adopted by the Church should never be questioned by the State, but this view was not shared by his opponents. Though our sympathies do not lie altogether with him, yet to give him his due it must be said that he was as ready to be persecuted as to persecute; he did not hesitate to face an opposition which consisted of some of the highest in the land, nor did fear of attack or imprisonment (which he actually suffered) avail to turn him aside from following the course he had mapped out for himself.
It should be noticed that the appointment of De Ledrede to the See of Ossory almost synchronised with the elevation of John XXII to the Papacy. The attitude of that Pope towards magical arts was no uncertain one. He believed himself to be surrounded by enemies who were ever making attempts on his life by modelling images of him in wax, to be subsequently thrust through with pins and melted, no doubt ; or by sending him a devil enclosed in a ring, or in various other ways. Consequently in several Bulls he anathematised sorcerers, denounced their ill-deeds, excited the inquisitors against them, and so gave ecclesiastical authorisation to the reality of the belief in magical forces. Indeed, the general expressions used in the Bull Super illius specula might be applied to the actions of Dame Alice and her party. He says of certain persons that " they sacrifice to demons and adore them, making or causing to be made images, rings, etc, with which they draw the evil spirits by their magical art, obtain responses from them, and demand their help in performing their evil designs."1 Heresy and sorcery were now identified, and the punishment for the former was the same as that for the latter, viz. burning at the stake and confiscation of property. The attitude of this Pontiff evidently found a sympathiser in Bishop de Ledrede, who deemed it necessary to follow the example set by the Head of the Church, with what results we have already shown : thus we find in Ireland a ripple of the wave that swept over Europe at this period.
1 Français, op. cit.
It is very probable, too, that there were many underlying local causes of which we can know little or nothing ; the discontent and anger of the disinherited children at the loss of the wealth of which Dame Alice had bereft them by her exercise of " undue influence" over her husbands,family quarrels, private hatreds, and possibly national jealousy helped to bring about one of the strangest series of events in the chequered history of Ireland.