Part 22 of The True History of The Isles- Normans and their approach to assimilation (known back then as Conquering

Although the next era is full of very colourful characters and resulting impacts on the Isles it is essential that we consider the effects and affects of The Normans in general.

The Past

To summarise the history to date. The Celts came along and forced out, or subdued or unpleasantly removed the First Folk, The Beaker people. They tried to consign them to legends as big hairy giants, or small furtive creatures or folk of indeterminate natures. Unfortunately for the Celts, The Beaker people had Stonehenge and thus haven’t truly gone away. Once the Celts had spread out so much they started being Britannic, Pitcky, Scots (or Irish) and displayed so much Gall that the Romans invaded; resulting in Romano-Britains. These weren’t up to much and suffered from Galls, Picts, Irish (or Scots) and if that wasn’t bad enough Franks and Saxons and a few Jutes. As Roman was declining the latter two decided to stay but the Saxons decided The Jutes’ territories were jutting out too much and obliged the Jutes to go back to what would become Denmark. As the Saxons advanced the Britons re-invented themselves as Welsh or Cornish, except for a few who stayed North and insisted Strathclyde was theirs; meanwhile the Scots (or Irish) and The Irish or (Scots) argued with the Picts. This was all put on hold when the Vikings arrived and all was jumbled up until memorable kings arose, showed the Vikings they knew a thing or two about slaughtering as well and in the meantime invented Ireland, Scotland and England; the Welsh & Cornish being a couple of centuries ahead of the game. The Normans were about to change all that.

The Norman and Their Cultural Outlook

The Normans had been used to the very cramped conditions of the west of France, which resulted in them arguing amongst themselves as well as folk in Anjou, Brittany, Maine, Aquitaine etc as well as any King of France who tried to insist they should pay attention to him. Thus, when they invaded and conquered the Saxons who had been used to their own angles, they were much pleased to find there was only one kingdom and some folk on the extremities (ie Wales, Scotland Ireland… And The Isle of Mann whose folk had a parliament which ill-informed outsiders didn’t pay attention to).

The Initial Normanisation

Firstly the Normans mixed with the Anglo-Saxons, and some became quite Anglo-Norman; these were looked upon with suspicion by their fellow Normans. As they saw it, the Anglo-Saxons being the subject people should have become Normo-Anglo-Saxons. The Church said this would be too fiddly to translate into Latin, deemed the whole business beneath the concerns of the Ecclesiastic authorities and thus consigned it to The Rather Common Law of the Time. The various kings said it didn’t matter as long as everyone realised they belonged to the King, and recognised him, even if they hadn’t met him.

The Kings had also been quite forceful telling those Anglo-Saxon nobility who hadn’t been correctly slaughtered in battle or found guilty of something that if they knew what was good for them they should seek employment elsewhere. Some took the hint and emigrated to Norse lands where people would understand, others took extravagant (ie costly) oaths (ie bribes) of loyalty, some took the cheaper method and joined the Church.

Why The Normans Had problems With Wales

With such a dearth of nobility many Norman ascended up the Social Ladder and so were entitled to follow the kings about; both Williams as it will be recalled developed a fascination with Wales and The Welsh; so did some of the followers. They stayed only to find they had become Cambro-Normans, which meant they had not only to speak Norman-French but also Welsh and probably some Cornish. They also discovered that Welsh politics was far too complicated. The Norman noble was a simple straightforward fellow; if someone annoyed him or was a rival he attacked them with a retinue (and a big sword or axe). The Welsh went in for betrayals, false alliances and often conducted their politics in a bear-pit. Thus the average Cambro-Norman was inclined to seek out easier options.

Celtic Failures to Understand Normans

Now whereas prior to 1066 all the nobles, kings and their relatives spent a high proportion of their time entering into alliance, breaking them, betraying folk and generally behaving in an unsporting manner, no one really took it personally, as there was always tomorrow when (if you have survived) you could pay them back in the same way. (See above example; Wales) However, the mistake the various Celtic folk were going to keep on making for many centuries was that the Normans didn’t see if that way. They had come to conquer as one large Norman enterprise and by Saint Whoever that was the way it was going to be! (The Celts were still miffed with the Anglo-Saxons so didn’t ask them what it was like to be on the business end of a Norman)

The Irish and the Normans (Or the other way Around)

The first to make this mistake was Dermot MacMurragh ex- king of Leinster. He had been un-kinged by a rival and having heard how good these Normans were at battle, he asked some if they would care to help him get his kingship back in exchange for some portions of land (which were not his to give away actually). The Cambro-Normans were quick to take up this offer and in 1169 Dermot and a lot of Cambro-Normans landed. Although he got his kingship back he found out that the Cambro-Normans were not content with the footly bits of land and began to spread themselves about.

At this time the King of England was Henry II who being a very active fellow was planning on setting up an empire based on Normans and believed thus in the principal The Norman, The Whole Normand and Nothing But The Norman, irrespective whether they were Anglo or Cambro. On hearing, how well the latter were doing in Ireland, he turned up in 1170 with even more Normans (probably Anglo). In this venture, he was assisted by the support of Pope Adrian IV, the ONLY pope so far to have originated from these Isles. Adrian was a very piously dogmatic sort of fellow, that’s when he wasn’t being dogmatically pious. He (and the Vatican) was fed-up with the way the Irish kept being Celtic about their Christianity and thought Henry II was just the one to get them into line and do things properly in Latin. Thus Ireland was properly conquered, as England had been in 1066.

Henry The II went back to England to continue to be very colourful (see future chapters) thinking the Normans (of various sorts) left behind would be sufficient to make Ireland much like England. As he had not spent much time there he didn’t realise this was not how things were done thereabouts. Over the passage of time, liking the general country, the way folks conducted themselves and there being less Latin to learn, both Henry’s Normans and the Cambro-Normans decided they wanted to be Hibro-Normans and thus became more Irish than the Irish. This would cause the Kings (and Queens) of England a lot of problems in later centuries.

The Scottish and Good King David I (if you were on his side that is). All rather jolly to begin with.

As it will be recalled from pervious chapters David the I of Scotland had been quite impressed with the way Normans did things, and since he was having trouble with Morays, Norse-Gaels, Highlanders, Islander, laggardly Vikings who had not got the hint and a few niggling unrepentant Picts he had reckoned the answer was Normans. These settled in bits of Scotland which probably had not been part of Scotland proper but bits of England the Scots had only recently appropriated. With his south secured this allowed David the deal with the Morays, Islanders, Highlanders etc. These Normans were probably not of the best Norman stock as they didn’t do any of the usual conquering, just to showed their appreciation to David by saying they were now Scoto-Normans. It is likely Henry II was not best pleased with this cultural abrogation but since he was being colourfully confrontational with his equally colourful family and a Beckett he didn’t really have the time to say much on the matter.

Thus did the Normans impact upon many parts of The Isles. As there is no record of the Anglo, Cambro, Hibro and Scoto- Normans getting together from time to time for a celebration of things Norman suggests the reverse was also happening.

Next we shall look at a real soap-opera family.

A True History of the Isles Part 21- 1135-1154 Who Is Who and Who is in Charge of England Anyhow?










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