MEDIEVAL IRELAND.

February 06, 2017


As Lord of Ireland, Henry 11 recognized Strongbow as Earl of Leinster but created a counter-weight to Strongbow's power by naming one of his own men, Hugh De Lacy as the Earl of Meath.
Other Anglo-Norman adverturers found a place within the new feudal arrangements, but Henry kept control of the ports in his own hands. So began an ambiguous relationship between the English Crown and the colonists, who alternated between claiming royal protection and attempting to act independently - an alternation that would recur, in various forms, for much of Ireland's history.
Over the following century or so, Anglo-Norman barons expanded their holdings at the expense of the native Irish, backed by military technology and large numbers of land-hungry colonists from England. Meanwhile, royal administrators tried to limit the barons' feudal privileges and impose English-style institutions in Anglo-Norman areas. An Irish parliament was set up, the land was divided into counties, and the legal system and the Church were remodelled. By 1300 the Anglo-Normans controlled most of Ireland except Ulster and the far west. But then their fortunes changed for the worse. The harsh and unyielding struggle between the English and the Scots had a side effect in Ireland when Edward Bruce, brother of the Scottish king Robert Bruce, landed and attempted to make himself king. He was finally defeated and killed in 1318, but by the 1330s there were new upheavals. No longer at a military disadvantage, the native Irish began to regain territory. Colonization went into reverse as the effects of economic decline and a terrible plague, the Black Death, were felt. While the native Irish continued to make gains, intermarriage between the Anglo-Normans and the Irish was said to be making the newcomers 'more Irish than the Irish'. Rightly or wrongly, the Irish Parliament was alarmed enough to counter-attack with the Statutes of Kilkenny (1366), which prohibited colonists from intermarrying with the native Irish or learning their language.
Attempts were made to reassert royal control, notably by Richard 11 in the 1390s. But military expeditions achieved little, and other measures proved impossibly expensive. In the 15th century, weakened by foreign wars and internal problems, royal authority was effectively confined to a small area on the eastern seaboard around Dublin. Its defensive stance was emphasized by the building of a rampart all the way round it. The rampart, or Pale, gave its name to the area under royal control; and the catchphrase 'beyond the Pale' (uncivilized) neatly summarized the longstanding English attitude towards the Irish.
By the late 15th century it was clear that only the great Anglo-Norman magnates - the earls of Ormonde, Desmond and Kildare - were capable of maintaining any sort of order in the king's name, basing their power on wide lands and networks of family connections and alliances; by giving them a free rein, the Crown at least received a nominal allegiance. When the Earl of Kildare became the dominant magnate he was appointed Lord Deputy and, even though he had backed the losing Yorkist side in the Wars of the Roses, the victorious Tudor dynasy found it could not do without him.
(REGINALD'S TOWER, on the quayside at Waterford. Is an imposing 'drum' tower which dates from approximately the 12th or 13th century was reputedly the place where the Norman conquistador Strongbow married Dermot's daughter Aoife and established his claim to the throne of Leinster).


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