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 Irish History - Normans

The Normans arrived in Ireland in the year 1169. The Normans or (Anglo-Normans) had become the Norman-French rulers of Britain. The Normans were not ethnically British. They were of French and Viking ancestry. The Normans were actually Vikings who had invaded and settled in the Normandy region of France for a few centuries.

Richard Fitzgilbert de Clare known as Strongbow was a Norman Lord who came from England to Ireland at the urging of Diarmaid Mac Murchadha. Diarmaid was the King of Leinster who had fled to Britain. He left his kingdom because he backed the losing contender for the high kingship of Ireland. To add fuel to the fire Diarmaid had an affair with one of the regional king's wives on his way out. Needless to say he was not very well liked.

Diarmaid went to Britain and began groveling to the king and his constituents about his dilemma. The king told him he was not interested in getting involved in his petty affairs. However, he did give Diarmaid his blessings to seek assistance with his men. Diarmaid continued his whining, promised part of his kingdom to those who would help. Eventually, he caught the attention of a young Norman Lord known as Strongbow. He convinced Strongbow and his men to give him a hand in Ireland. Diarmaid introduced his pretty young daughter Aoife to Strongbow. Aoife caught the fancy of Strongbow and they were soon married.

Strongbow and his men restored Diarmaid's Kingdom. From there they were in a position to make other advances in Ireland for the Crown. However, the Normans had a way about them. The Irish took a bit of liking to the Normans (much more so than the English) and the Normans did not think the Irish where to bad either. The Irish and the Normans go along pretty well and the Normans were able to make some pretty significant contributions to Irish society. They successfully centralized the government, introduced the intensive cultivation of land and initiated the building of many castles and other fortifications.

However, the Crown became increasingly concerned about the loyalties of the Normans. Many Normans had married into Irish families, and adopted Irish dress and culture. They even Galelicized their names. It was becoming increasingly evident that the Normans were tiring of the Crown. The situation became so grave that in 1366 a special session of parliament was convened in Kilkenny. The Duke of Clarence (the son of Edward III) presided over the assembly that passed the Statutes of Kilkenny.

The Statutes of Kilkenny disallowed the Normans to marry a native Irish person, dress in an Irish manner, adopt Irish law or names and even engage in the Irish sport of hurling. However, at this point it was too late. The Normans had been effectively assimilated into Irish society and the measures were ignored. The Normans had become so intertwined with the native Irish that it is said they became 'more Irish than the Irish themselves'. Therefore, the Statutes did nothing more than foster hard feelings.




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