A True History of the Isles Vol II Chapter 10. Ireland- One Way of Being Independent In The Middle Ages.

 

Overview

The history of Ireland had been much affected by the circumstance in which they managed to fit one hundred and fifty kingdoms into such small place. What with a king, his family, his nobles and their families it must have been difficult at times to find enough servants and subjects to make the whole business worthwhile. However, the sheer number does suggest there must have been a certain level of equal opportunity around.

Vikings

All might have worked out reasonably well with everyone squabbling and marrying each other until there would have been just one sprawling royal family. This domestic process was interrupted however as were most things in those times by the arrival of the Vikings. As it was discussed in the previous volume this caused another layer of quarrelsomeness, marrying etc, until the Vikings were finally officially removed around about 1000 or 1100 if one is picky about who was Viking and who was not.

Normans

Matters were not allowed to settle down because of events which had taken place in England. The events being The Normans who were Vikings who had decided they preferred to be sort of French(ish) and in consequence were so successful at it they invaded England (and Scilly, which doesn’t come into this narrative, much). The England Venture proved to be another efficacious decision, and it is not surprising that sundered Normans or descendants of Normans having conquered everything English looked about a bit and noticed Ireland. At the same The Irish noticed them and some Irish invited some Normans over to help them (the Irish that is) fight other Irish. (The Celtic Mistake- See Previous Chapter)

This was a rather messy business for not only did Normans turn up, but so did Cambro-Normans (Normans who been so long in Wales they could appreciate the artistic). To make things even more confusing some Normans liked Ireland so much they became Hiberno-Normans and were renowned for being so Irish that other Normans attacked them out of preference

Who Ruled What and How

The Plantagenet Idea

Henry (The I) of England thought since he was there he could try and say Ireland was his and so have a place to send restless nobles and sons to as there was always someone to fight over something. This may (or may not) have been supported by Pope Adrian VI in 1155 because the Irish Church was going about the place appointing its own bishop without asking Rome Henry therefore appointed a Lord Lieutenant who was to tell the Irish what the king wanted them to do, or so he thought.

The Irish Reality

Whereas there was a Lord Lieutenant there were also Irish, Norman, Cambro-Norman and of course Hiberno-Norman lords as well as Irish Chiefs and Chieftains and fellows who insisted they were kings. If this was not confusing enough early on there was still The High King who claimed everyone should kneel to him and not someone across the sea. This was sorted out on 14th May 1260 when Brian mac Néill Ruaidh Ó Néill also known as Brian O’Neill by those of a lazy disposition was killed at the Battle of Durim Dearg by other Irish in the pay of various Normans who wisely stood about. He did get a lament for his troubles while his head was sent to Henry III who being pious was not sure what to do with it.

This did not solve the problem of everyone fighting everyone else nor that various Lords Lieutenants kept getting involved in the politics of who should be king of England or not and subsequently being replaced, in some cases due to losses of heads. The Normans (Cambro etc) didn’t help matters as they allowed poor folk to arrive who spoke welsh, english (sort of) or flemish and also confusing the cultural subject even more by calling the natives ‘Mere’ Irish which as far as the Normans (of all sorts) were concerned meant ‘Pure’, so what were the Natives complaining about? Not surprisingly nothing settled down and young irish lads often found employment as mercenaries.

Examples of the Business   

Kingdom of Connach had a very fractious ruling family who quarrelled amongst itself so much that quite exhausted it collapsed in 1230. This allowed a smaller bit named Ui Maine to be quite kingish and have the reasonably famous King Ruaidri Ó Cellaigh who ruled between 1332-1339. This sort of thing was going on all over Ireland.

The Normans Fail and Decline

The Normans of various shapes and sizes became so inept at ruling that they either became Irish (See Hiberno-Normans) or hid in Dublin where they fell into superstitious ways and believed they were protected by a Great Snail which kept all the Irish away and beyond it. It was only when The Church got involved and explained through theology that it was God who protecting every Norman and scaring the Irish off so much they became quite Beyond The Pale that this myth was dispelled.

The Scots Get Involved

Robert and various other Bruces in the endeavour to make Scotland independent invaded Ireland in 1315. Robert who was obliged to stay in Scotland defending it from The English and other scots who didn’t agree with him left the Irish Question with his brother Edward. Edward tried to rally the Irish lords, kings, chiefs etc by claiming he was now the High King. This upset many folk, so in his conceit he started the Irish Bruce Wars; which finished in 1318 when he was killed by either some Irish or Hiberno-Normans or both on 14th October at Faughart. Anyway, apparently there were a lot of them and they chopped his body into little bits so every town could see a piece. This was a silly scheme as naturally being king Edward (The II) got the head so no one could really tell if the other bits were genuine or not and understandably probably didn’t want to see them anyway.

The Kings of England and How What They Did With (or About) Ireland (if Anything)

In general, the various kings between Henry III & Richard The II (as advertised by Shakespeare) irrespective of whatever else they did or didn’t do had a patchy record when it came to Ireland as will be shown below:

Henry III – He received money from Ireland and a head (see Brian mac Néill Ruaidh Ó Néill). Both events allowed him to give lands to the barons who didn’t know what to do with it, so he gave everything Irish to his son Edward. Being young and faced with all that squabbling he didn’t know where to start, so made an early career of rescuing his father. Thus, everyone in Ireland carried on as before.

Edward I– Being a basically rational fellow Edward concentrated on slaughtering those scots and welsh who didn’t agree with him. This was a sensible move as they were on his borders. He then tried his hands at crusading which was fashionable at the time. He then slaughtered some more scots. He left the running of Ireland to various nobles, as he was an imposing man of fiery temper no one dared tell him they couldn’t keep the blessed place under control.

Edward II– He wanted to put his BFF Gaveston in charge, but the Barons said Gavetson couldn’t because of Parliament and their own personal armies, in fact Gaveston was not allowed to be in Ireland (or England or anywhere). The Barons to show Edward they meant well gave him the head of Edward (Bruce). Edward(II) was never too sure about things after that.

Edward III– Had settled on being king of both England and France, thus spent so much of his time fighting the latter to have much to do with Ireland. One of his sons Lionel travelled over from Antwerp and tried to redress by balance and making an imposing statement by having statues erected in Kilkenny in 1366. There must have been a goodly number as on them were inscribed thirty-five things the Hiberno-Normans couldn’t do without the king giving permission. This gave a loophole for the Cambro-Normans and the native Irish to do as they pleased so the whole scheme came to naught.

Richard II- (as dramatised by Shakespeare). Sometime during his reign Richard went slightly mad and became a tyrant, on finding out that no one in Ireland was paying attention to this he sailed there (with an army) to impose his authority. Because so many people were not listening to him he was obliged to ride and march all over the place, but not achieving much in the process. In the meantime, a Henry who had been born in Lincoln but came from Lancaster by way of France said he had a better claim to the throne by right of blood, primogenitor, Not Salic Law and a large army with lots of nobles. It can be argued thus, because of Ireland, Richard the II (See Shakespeare) lost the crown of England.

Conclusion

Nothing much changed in Ireland during the 13th & 14th centuries and the kings of England didn’t have a lot of say.

 

 

A True History of The Isles Vol II Chapter 1 – Henry III (Part A. – The Major Minority)

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9 thoughts on “A True History of the Isles Vol II Chapter 10. Ireland- One Way of Being Independent In The Middle Ages.

  1. Ah well, good, frolicking, bloody historical fun as usual… My grade 12 World History teacher, Mr. Andres, had a saying he applied as he had us focus on European history from approximately 1850 to the end of WW II: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” If only he’d lived to see the collapse of the Soviet Union… but we were still in the cold war in those days… had to wear parkas and mukluks and mittens even in summer, it was that cold this close to the US border (I’m slightly exaggerating, but then that’s what history is all about) – yes, then he would have seen how right he was, esp. now as we plunge daily deeper into the Dickensian landscape.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly we must now rely on the good works of individuals or small groups of folk trying by acts of love and generosity to make the world better.
      I might ruffle a few feathers by my flippancy to ‘certain’ ‘romantic’ episodes and notions but Nationalism, Racial History are dangerous and toxic potions.

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  2. You’re so right. Not so sure it’s a sad thing though, from my point of view. I “sense” more than I believe that self-empowerment or the power of choice of the individual is going to be how the next civilization is going to develop. Individuals will learn to take responsibility for themselves and their social and natural environment. It won’t be a “return to nature” as some imagine for that too did fail. It will be a spiritual/mental/moral “upgrade” of the species mindset; a growth of empathy along with a definite loss of selfishness (which is always based on fear). Of course, we are looking at a long time (from a man’s point of view), in the neighbourhood of a thousand years for the new way of thinking to anchor into some sort of new civilization. Some day when it’s cold, grey, damp and the outsides are not inviting I’m going to take the time to develop this theory of mine on my blog. The thing I notice with would-be “change agents” is they are so afraid of losing; of not having any effect upon the current debacle, that they readily return to old ways of change-making that have never worked, except perhaps and at best for a short time. To change means to abandon all that has gone before and come up with entirely new ways to interact with each other and our natural environment. That’s why we must face the truly BIG problems squarely on, call a spade a spade, and decide when to ditch the thing completely. Anyway, for another day.

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    • I work from the ‘Something is better than Nothing’ which comes from my working days ( Think ‘Heart of Darkness’ mixed with ‘Catch 22’ and probably Gene Wilder in ‘Willy Wonka’).
      However I will be interested to read that Sha’ Tara. It is a possibility, though I fear it would arise as a result of the shock of much self-inflicted destruction.

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