Norman Ireland

Norman Ireland

The later medieval period in Ireland ("Norman Ireland") was dominated by the Cambro-Norman [Seán Duffy in "Medieval Ireland" observes that 'there is no contemporary depiction of it [the invasion] as Anglo-Norman or Cambro-Norman, or, for that matter, Anglo-French or Anglo-Continental. Such terms are modern concoctions, convenient shorthands, which serve to emphasize the undoubted fact that those who began to settle in Ireland at this point were not of any one national or ethnic origin' (pp 58-9). ] invasion of the country in 1171. Previously, Ireland had seen intermittent warfare between provincial kingdoms over the position of High King. This situation was transformed by the intervention in these conflicts of Norman mercenaries and later the King of England. After their successful conquest of England, the Normans turned their attention to Ireland. Ireland was made a Lordship of the King of England and much of its land was seized by Norman barons. However, with time Hiberno-Norman rule shrank to a territory known as pale (""the" Pale") stretching from Dublin to Dundalk.Fact|date=August 2007 The Hiberno-Norman lords elsewhere in the country became Gaelicised and integrated in Gaelic Irish society.

The coming of the Normans, 1167–1185

By the 12th century, Ireland was divided politically into a shifting hierarchy of petty kingdoms and over-kingdoms. Power was concentrated into the hands of a few regional dynasties contending against each other for control of the whole island. The Northern Uí Néill ruled much of what is now Uladh (Ulster). Their kinsmen, the Southern Uí Néill, were Kings of Breaga (Meath). The kingship of Laighean (Leinster) was held by the dynamic Uí Chinnsealaigh dynasty. A new kingdom rose between Leinster and Mumhan (Munster), Osraighe, ruled by the family of Mac Giolla Phádraig. Munster was nominally controlled by the Mac Cárthaigh, who were however in reality often subject to the Uí Bhriain of Tuadh Mumhan (Thomond). North of Thomond, Connachta Connacht's supreme rulers were the Uí Chonchobhair.

After losing the protection of Tír Eoghain (Tyrone) Chief, Muircheartach Mac Lochlainn, High King of Ireland, who died in 1166, Dermot MacMurrough (Irish "Diarmaid Mac Murchada") , was forcibly exiled by a confederation of Irish forces under the new High King, Ruaidhrí Ó Conchobhair.

Diarmaid fled first to Bristol and then to Normandy. He sought and obtained permission from Henry II of England to use the latter's subjects to regain his kingdom. By 1167 MacMurrough had obtained the services of Maurice Fitz Gerald and later persuaded Rhŷs ap Gruffydd Prince of Deheubarth to release Maurice's half-brother Robert Fitz-Stephen from captivity to take part in the expedition. Most importantly he obtained the support of Cambro- Norman Marcher Lord Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke known as Strongbow.

The first Norman knight to land in Ireland was Richard fitz Godbert de Roche in 1167, but it was not until 1169 that the main forces of Normans, along with their mercenaries which consisted of Welsh and Flemings landed in Loch Garman Wexford. Within a short time Leinster was regained, Port Láirge Waterford and Baile Átha Cliath Dublin were under Diarmaid's control, and he had Strongbow as a son-in-law, after offering his eldest daughter Aoife to him in marriage in 1170, and named him as heir to his kingdom. This latter development caused consternation to King Henry II of England, who feared the establishment of a rival Norman state in Ireland. Accordingly, he resolved to visit Leinster to establish his authority.

The Papal Bull and Henry's invasion

Pope Adrian IV (the first English pope, in one of his earliest acts) had already issued a Papal Bull in 1155, giving Henry authority to invade Ireland as a means of curbing ecclesiastical corruption and abuses. Little contemporary use, however, was made of the Bull "Laudabiliter" since its text enforced papal suzerainty not only over the island of Ireland but of all islands off of the European coast, including England, in virtue of the Constantinian donation. The relevant text reads: "There is indeed no doubt, as thy Highness doth also acknowledge, that Ireland and all other islands which Christ the Sun of Righteousness has illumined, and which have received the doctrines of the Christian faith, belong to the jurisdiction of St. Peter and of the holy Roman Church". References to "Laudabiliter" become more frequent in the later Tudor period when the researches of the renaissance humanist scholars cast doubt on the historicity of the Donation of Constantine. Henry landed with a large fleet at Waterford in 1171, becoming the first King of England to set foot on Irish soil. Both Waterford and Dublin were proclaimed Royal Cities. Adrian's successor, Pope Alexander III ratified the grant of Irish lands to Henry in 1172. Henry awarded his Irish territories to his younger son John with the title "Dominus Hiberniae" ("Lord of Ireland"). When John unexpectedly succeeded his brother as King John, the "Lordship of Ireland" fell directly under the English Crown.

Henry was happily acknowledged by most of the Irish Kings, who saw in him a chance to curb the expansion of both Leinster and the Hiberno-Normans. This led to the ratification of the Treaty of Windsor (1175) between Henry and Ruaidhrí. However, with both Diarmaid and Strongbow dead (in 1171 and 1176), Henry back in England and Ruaidhrí unable to curb his nominal vassals, within two years it was not worth the vellum it was inscribed upon. John de Courcy invaded and gained much of east Ulster in 1177, Raymond le Gros had already captured Limerick and much of north Munster, while the other Norman families such as Prendergast, fitz Stephen, fitz Gerald, fitz Henry, de Ridelsford, de Cogan, and le Poer were actively carving out virtual kingdoms for themselves.


Lordship of Ireland, 1185-1254

Initially the Normans controlled large swathes of Ireland, securing the entire east coast, from Waterford up to eastern Ulster and penetrating as far west as Gaillimh (Galway) and Maigh Eo (Mayo). The most powerful forces in the land were the great Hiberno-Norman Earldoms such as the Geraldines, the Butlers and the de Burghs (Burkes), who controlled vast territories which were almost independent of the governments in Dublin or London. The Lord of Ireland was King John, who, on his visits in 1185 and 1210, had helped secure the Norman areas from both the military and the administrative points of view, while at the same time ensuring that the many Irish kings were brought into his fealty; many, such as Cathal Crobhdearg Ua Conchobhair, owed their thrones to him and his armies.

Invasion contained

The Normans also were fortunate to have leaders of the calibre of the Butler, Marshall, de Lyvet (Levett), de Burgh, de Lacy and de Broase families, as well as having the dynamic heads of the first families. [ [,M1 Philip de Livet, Calendar of Documents, Relating to Ireland, Great Britain Public Record Office, 1171-1251, H. S. Sweetman, 1875] ] [ [,M1 John Lyvet, Lord, Ireland, 1302, Debrett's Peerage of England, Scotland and Ireland, John Debrett1839] ] [ [ Richard de Burgh, John Livet, Maurice FitzGerald, Calendar of Documents Relating to Ireland, H. S. Sweetman, Great Britain Public Record Office, 1875] ] Another factor was that after the loss of Normandy in 1204, John had a lot more time to devote to Irish affairs, and did so effectively even from afar. However, the Hiberno-Normans suffered from a series of events that slowed, and eventually ceased, the spread of their settlement and power:

Firstly, numerous rebellious attacks were launched by Gaelic lords upon the English lordships. Having lost pitched battles to Norman knights, to defend their territory, the Gaelic chieftains now had to change tactics, and deal with the charging armoured knights. They started to rely on raids against resources, and surprise attacks. This stretched resources of the Normans, reduced their number of trained knights, and often resulted in the chieftains regaining territory. Secondly a lack of direction from both Henry III and his successor, Edward I (who were more concerned with events in England, Wales, Scotland and their continental domains) meant that the Norman colonists in Ireland were to a large extent deprived of (financial) support from the English monarchy. This limited the ability to hold territory. Furthermore, the Norman's position deteriorated due to divisions within their own ranks. These caused outright war between leading Hiberno-Norman lords such as the de Burghs, FitzGeralds, Butlers and de Berminghams. Finally, the division of estates among heirs split Norman lordships into smaller, less formidable units – the most damaging being that of the Marshalls of Leinster, which split a large single lordship into five.

Politics and events in Gaelic Ireland served to draw the settlers deeper into the orbit of the Irish, which on occasion had the effect of allying them with one or more native rulers against other Normans.

Impact of Norman invasion

What eventually occured in Ireland in the late 12th and early 13th century was a change from acquiring lordship over men to colonising land. The Cambro- Norman invasion resulted in the founding of borough towns, numerous castles and churches, the importing of tenants and the increase in agriculture and commerce, these were among the many permanent changes wrought by the Norman invasion and occupation of Ireland. [Richard Roche "The Norman Invasion of Ireland", retrieved 23 September 2008] Normans altered Gaelic society with efficient land use, adding their own feudalism to the existing native tribal-dynastic feudalism. Thus, while it's an established fact that the Normans adopted the Irish language and customs, and absorbed Irish blood, the Irish themselves became irrevocably "normanised". Many Irish people today bear Norman-derived surnames, although these are far more prevalent in the provinces of Leinster and Munster, where there was a larger Norman presence.

Gaelic resurgence, Norman decline 1254–1536

Hiberno-Norman Ireland was deeply shaken by three events of the 14th century.
*The first was the invasion of Ireland by Edward Bruce of Scotland who, in 1315, rallied many of the Irish lords against the English presence in Ireland. Although Bruce was eventually defeated in Ireland at the Battle of Faughart, near Dundalk, his troops caused a great deal of destruction, especially in the densely settled area around Dublin. In this chaotic situation, local Irish lords won back large amounts of land that their families had lost since the conquest and held them after the war was over. A few English partisans like Gilbert de la Roche turned against the English king and sided with Bruce, largely because of personal quarrels with the English monarchy. [ [,M1 Gilbert de la Roche beheaded, Calendar of Patent Rolls, Preserved in the Public Record Office, Great Britain Public Record Office, 1903] ] [ [ Seizure of Gilbert de la Roche estates, forfeited and conveyed over to John Lyvet, Ireland, Calendar of Patent Rolls, Preserved in the Public Record Office, Great Britain Public Record Office, 1903] ]

*The second was the murder of William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster, in June 1333. This resulted in his lands being split in three among his relations, with the ones in Connacht swiftly rebelling against the Crown and openly siding with the Irish. This meant that virtually all of Ireland west of the Shannon was lost to the Hiberno-Normans. It would be well over two hundred years before the Burkes, as they were now called, were again allied with the Dublin administration.

*The third calamity for the medieval English presence in Ireland was the Black Death, which arrived in Ireland in 1348. Because most of the English and Norman inhabitants of Ireland lived in towns and villages, the plague hit them far harder than it did the native Irish, who lived in more dispersed rural settlements. A celebrated account from a monastery in Cill Chainnigh (Kilkenny) chronicles the plague as the beginning of the extinction of humanity and the end of the world. The plague was a catastrophe for the English habitations around the country and, after it had passed, Gaelic Irish language and customs came to dominate the country again. The English-controlled area shrunk back to the Pale, a fortified area around Dublin. Additional causes of the Gaelic revival were political and personal grievances against the Hiberno-Normans, but especially impatience with procrastination and the very real horrors that successive famines had brought. Pushed away from the fertile areas, the Irish were forced to eke out a subsistence living on marginal lands, which left them with no safety net during bad harvest years (such as 1271 and 1277) or in a year of famine (virtually the entire period of 13111319).

Outside the Pale, the Hiberno-Norman lords adopted the Irish language and customs, becoming known as the Old English, and in the words of a contemporary English commentator, became "more Irish than the Irish themselves." Over the following centuries they sided with the indigenous Irish in political and military conflicts with England and generally stayed Catholic after the Reformation. The authorities in the Pale grew so worried about the "Gaelicisation" of Ireland that, in 1367 at a parliament in Kilkenny, they passed special legislation (known as the Statutes of Kilkenny) banning those of English descent from speaking the Irish language, wearing Irish clothes or inter-marrying with the Irish. Since the government in Dublin had little real authority, however, the Statutes did not have much effect.

Throughout the 15th century, these trends proceeded apace and central government authority steadily diminished. The monarchy of England was itself thrown into turmoil during the Wars of the Roses, and as a result English involvement in Ireland was greatly reduced. Successive kings of England delegated their constitutional authority over the lordship to the powerful Fitzgerald earls of Kildare, who held the balance of power by means of military force and widespread alliances with lords and clans. This in effect made the English Crown even more remote to the realities of Irish politics. At the same time, local Gaelic and Gaelicised lords expanded their powers at the expense of the central government in Dublin, creating a polity quite alien to English ways and which was not overthrown until the successful conclusion of the Tudor reconquest.


ee also

*"The Deeds of the Normans in Ireland"
*History of Ireland

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