Lacy, Hugh de (I) (a. 1140–1186), lord of Weobley , Herefordshire, and lord of Meath , son of Gilbert de Lacy, was a significant magnate in the Welsh marches centred on Ludlow castle, who came to Ireland with Henry II (qv) in October 1171. Giraldus (qv) says that he was sent by the king to receive the submission of Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair (qv), king of Connacht, in early 1172.
In an attempt to balance the great Leinster lordship held by Richard de Clare (qv) (Strongbow), earl of Strigoil, Henry II ignored de Clare's claims to Meath and granted the lordship to de Lacy, to hold by the service of fifty knights. The king also ignored previous subdivisions of the kingdom of Meath and granted it to de Lacy to hold as Murchad Ua Máelshechlainn (qv), king of Meath, held it in 1153. In addition, the king gave the custody of Dublin and the charge of its garrison to de Lacy, who started to encastellate his lordship, choosing Trim as his caput, and colonised Meath with men from England and Wales. He also had to defend it from encroachment by neighbouring Gaelic kings such as Tigernán Ua Ruairc (qv), king of Bréifne, who died in 1172 when a meeting between the two ended in violence. De Lacy returned to England in 1172, but was in Ireland when summoned by the king for service in Normandy in 1173. He was given custody of the castle of Verneuil, where he was besieged for a month by the French before surrendering.
De Lacy remained in France while Strongbow was sent back to Ireland to recruit more troops for the king, and later returned to England, where he was a witness to the treaty of Windsor (October 1175). He returned to Ireland after the council of Oxford (May 1177), and was again entrusted with the custody of Dublin. De Lacy is usually considered to be an early chief governor of Ireland, on the basis of his two periods as custodian of Dublin, but it is unclear whether the office of justiciar had been created for the lordship in this period. He was active in the pacification and encastellation of both Meath and Leinster, and after the death of Strongbow (1176) he was undoubtedly the foremost magnate in Ireland. His pre-eminence there aroused the suspicions of the king; rumours that he intended to make himself king of Ireland were given strength when he married (1180) a daughter of Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, and he was summoned to England to account for his actions. He convinced the king of his loyalty, was allowed to return to Ireland, and was given back custody of Dublin, retaining it till he was replaced by Philip of Worcester (September 1184). When John (qv), lord of Ireland, came to Ireland in 1185, he complained that de Lacy would not allow him to demand tribute or hostages from the Irish kings.
De Lacy's career ended abruptly on 25 July 1186 when he was murdered while inspecting the construction of a castle at Durrow, Co. Offaly. His body was originally buried at Durrow before being translated (1195) to Bective abbey in Meath; his head rested in St Thomas's abbey in Dublin, where his body was moved in 1205 after a lengthy legal dispute with Bective. De Lacy's death gave Henry II (who was said, by William of Newburgh, to have been overjoyed at the news) a chance to assert royal control over Ireland by sending John on a second visitation. However, these plans were overtaken by events on the Continent. John did not return to Ireland till 1210, and in the meantime a new generation of Anglo-Irish magnates emerged. De Lacy's eldest son, Walter (qv), son of his first wife, Rose de Baderon of Monmouth, inherited his English lands; but the king withheld the Irish lands, and the lordship of Meath was not restored till 1194.