Gaelic Ireland

Infobox Former Country
native_name = "Éire"
conventional_long_name = Ireland
continent = Europe
common_name = Ireland
region = British Isles
country = Ireland
year_start = prehistory
year_end = 1607
date_end = September
event_end = Flight of the Earls
event1 = Norman invasion
date_event1 = 1 May 1169
s1 = Lordship of Ireland
flag_s1 = Flag_of_Lordship_of_Ireland.pngs2 = Kingdom of Ireland
flag_s2 = Flag_President_of_Ireland.svg

symbol_type = Arms attributed to the Kings of Ireland in 12801

common_languages = Irish
title_leader = High King
government_type = Monarchy
capital = Hill of Tara (ceremonial)
leader1 = Brian Boru
year_leader1 = 1002—1014
leader2 = Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair
year_leader2 = 1151—1154
leader3 = Edward Bruce
year_leader3 = 1316—1318
footnotes = 1 The "Wijnbergen Roll" dating from c.1280 attribute these arms to the King of Ireland ("le Roi d'Irlande"). Rev. J. F. M. French in " [;jsessionid=FE239717348B56F63BAD05094F732A35 The Arms of Ireland] " speculated c.1900 that a yellow lion on a green field symbol may predate the Norman Lordship.

Gaelic Ireland was the political order that existed in Ireland prior to the Norman invasion and that ran in parallel to the subsequent nominal Lordship of Ireland throughout most of the country until the establishment of the Kingdom of Ireland. It was ruled as a, often theoretical, elective monarchy, with a High King nominated from among the kings of the patchwork of kingdoms that made it up. In actuality those who became kings generally did so by force.

Political structure

The Gaelic order in Ireland, rather than a single unified kingdom in the feudal sense, was comprised of a patchwork of kingdoms, which grew and shrank with the relative powers of their rulers. Since the 8th century these were nominally subservient to the rule of a High King; however, it was not until the eleventh century, with the high kingship of Brian Boru, that the office of the high king began to resemble a "national" king in a sense similar to that in continental Europe. This process has been steadily moving with the title of high kingship passing between a small number of compact families (O Brien of Munster, MacLochlainn of the North, O Connor of Connacht) who intermarried and competed against each other on a national basis. On the eve of the Anglo-Norman incursion of 1169, the agglomeration-cum-consolidation process was complete and the provincial kingdoms divided and transformed into fiefdoms.

Clan structure and lineage

Lineage was based on the practice of tanistry whereby a relative was elected prior to the death of a ruler as his successor (tanaiste), and was not based on primogeniture. To be eligible for election, a man had to be at most a great-grandson of a former chief or king, and this group of electable cousins was known as a "derbfine". The clan system formed the basis of polity. Often, these are thought of as based on kinship; in fact, as Nicholls describes, these would be better thought of as akin to the modern-day corporation. Clans took many shapes and sizes. Their ruling structure, whether ruled by a single lord or a council, changed according to needs and the qualities of their membership. As with a modern corporation, the power of clans grew and shrank. Once-powerful clans could in time decline in stature and be amalgamated into once-smaller ones. How this "merger" would be dealt with would be a matter of negotiation based on the respective power of each party.

Professional classes

The professional classes included hereditary jurists, physicians, harpers and poets and were exempt from military service to their Lord. Although most families of the professional classes practiced only one profession, some exercised more than one; for example the Magraths of Muster were both poets and historians, while the O Duigenans were both historians and musicians. Most at some time turned their hand to the craft of the poet. Fact|date=October 2007 The official head of each learned profession within a particular territory was titled the ollave ("ollamh"), such as "ollave in law" or "ollave in medicine", and was appointed by, and served directly, the lord of the territory.

Of these learned classes, the profession of the poet was by far the most ancient.Fact|date=October 2007 While the learned families in other professions begin to emerge from the 11th century onwards, the class of the poet ("aos dana" or "filleadha") is an extraordinary survival from pre-Christian Celtic life. While often some of his verses are known as satires ("áer"), "their purpose was magical harm, not ridicule." [Nicholls, K W, 2003, "Gaelic and Gaelicized Ireland in the Middle Ages", Lilliput Press: Dublin] Poets formed a different class from mere bards, who were inferior to them, although a bard would often be in the employ of a poet to act as an assistant. Fact|date=October 2007 Female bards were not unheard of. The delivery of a poem, be it a eulogy, praise or a curse, would often also require the work of a professional reciter ("reacaire"), while a harpist provided accompaniment.


Divided into larger (boaire) and smaller (ocaire), these were the bulk of the population, though seldom mentioned in the literature. The labourers or "churls" had the lowest status of freemen. Below them were the slaves.

The Norman invasion and Gaelic re-conquest

Since Ireland became Christianized c.500 CE, it had essentially rejected the role of the Papacy in religious matters and paid no tithes to Rome.Fact|date=October 2007 Pope Adrian IV, the only English pope, had already issued a Papal Bull in 1155 giving Henry II of England authority to invade Ireland as a means of curbing Irish refusal to recognize Roman law. Importantly, for later English monarchs, the Bull, "Laudabiliter", maintained papal suzerainty over the island:

In 1166, after losing the protection of High King Muirchertach MacLochlainn, the King of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada, was forcibly exiled by a confederation of Irish forces under the new High King, Ruaidri mac Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair. Fleeing first to Bristol and then to Normandy, Diarmait obtained permission from Henry II of England to use his subjects to regain his kingdom. By the following year, he had obtained these services and in 1169 the main body of Norman, Welsh and Flemish forces landed in Ireland and quickly retook Leinster and the cities of Waterford and Dublin on behalf of Diarmait. The leader of the Norman force, Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, more commonly known as Strongbow, married Diarmait's daughter, Aoife, and named tánaiste to the Kingdom of Leinster. This caused consternation to Henry II, who feared the establishment of a rival Norman state in Ireland. Accordingly, he resolved to visit Leinster to establish his authority.

Henry landed with in 1171, proclaiming Waterford and Dublin as Royal Cities. Adrian's successor, Pope Alexander III, ratified the grant of Ireland to Henry in 1172. The 1175 Treaty of Windsor between Henry and Ruaidhrí maintained Ruaidhrí as High King of Ireland but and codified Henry's control of Leinster, Meath and Waterford. However, with Diarmuid and Strongbow dead, Henry back in England, and Ruaidhrí unable to curb his vassals, the high kingship rapidly lost control of the country. Henry, in 1185, awarded his Ireland to his younger son, John, with the title "Dominus Hiberniae", "Lord of Ireland". This kept the newly created title and the Kingdom of England personally and legally separate. However, when John unexpectedly succeeded his brother as King of England in 1199, the Lordship of Ireland fell back into personal union with the Kingdom of England.

Gaelic Revival

By 1261, the weakening of the Anglo-Norman Lordship had become manifest following a string of military defeats. In the chaotic situation, local Irish lords won back large amounts of land. The invasion by Edward Bruce in 1315-18 at a time of famine weakened the Norman economy. The Black Death 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. After it had passed, Gaelic Irish language and customs came to dominate the country again. The English-controlled area shrank back to the Pale, a fortified area around Dublin. Outside the Pale, the Hiberno-Norman lords intermarried with Gaelic noble families, adopted the Irish language and customs and sided with the Gaelic Irish in political and military conflicts against the Lordship. They became known as the Old English, and in the words of a contemporary English commentator, were "more Irish than the Irish themselves."

The authorities in the Pale worried about the "Gaelicisation" of Norman Ireland, and passed the Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366 banning those of English descent from speaking the Irish language, wearing Irish clothes or inter-marrying with the Irish. The government in Dublin had little real authority. By the end of the fifteenth century, central English authority in Ireland had all but disappeared. England's attentions were diverted by the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) and then by the Wars of the Roses (1450-85). Around the country, local Gaelic and Gaelicised lords expanded their powers at the expense of the English government in Dublin.

End of the Gaelic order

From 1536, Henry VIII of England decided to re-conquer Ireland and bring it under crown English control. The Fitzgerald dynasty of Kildare, who had become the effective rulers of the Lordship of Ireland in the 15th century, had become unreliable allies and Henry resolved to bring Ireland under English government control so the island would not become a base for future rebellions or foreign invasions of England. To involve the Gaelic chiefs and allow them to retain their lands under English law the policy of surrender and regrant was applied.

In 1541, Henry upgraded Ireland from a lordship to a full kingdom, partly in response to changing relationships with the papacy, which still had suzerainty over Ireland, following Henry's break with the church. Henry was proclaimed King of Ireland at a meeting of the Irish Parliament that year. This was the first meeting of the Irish Parliament to be attended by the Gaelic Irish chieftains as well as the Hiberno-Norman aristocracy.

With the technical institutions of government in place, the next step was to extend the control of the Kingdom of Ireland over all of its claimed territory. This took nearly a century, with various English administrations in the process either negotiating or fighting with the independent Irish and Old English lords. The re-conquest was completed during the reigns of Elizabeth and James I, after several bloody conflicts.

The flight into exile in 1607 of Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone and Rory O'Donnell, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell following their defeat at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and the suppression of their rebellion in Ulster in 1603 is seen as the watershed of Gaelic Ireland. It marked the destruction of Ireland's ancient Gaelic aristocracy following the Tudor re-conquest and cleared the way for the Plantation of Ulster. After this point, the English authorities in Dublin established real control over Ireland for the first time, bringing a centralised government to the entire island, and successfully disarmed the native lordships.

See also

*For information about the ethno-linguistic group that inhabited Ireland throughout this period, see Gaels
*For information about the society of the Gaels and their expansions, see Scoti
*For information about their languages, see Irish Gaelic and Gaelic languages


External links

* [ The Public Sector, III: Police, Law, and the Courts] (see law and justice in gaelic irish society), by Murray Rothbard

Irish states since 1171

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Anglo and Gaelic Ireland 1367–1536 — Following Edward Bruces failed attempt to reestablish centralized power throughout Ireland, the colony gave rise to a number of important Irish kingdoms and lordships by the late 14th and early 15th centuries. They were:*Connacht. The O… …   Wikipedia

  • Gaelic Athletic Association — Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Formation 1 November 1884 (1884 11 01) (127 years ago) Type …   Wikipedia

  • Ireland (disambiguation) — Ireland may refer to: * Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe, on which are located: ** Republic of Ireland, a present day state, consisting of most of the island ** Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, consisting of the north… …   Wikipedia

  • Ireland — This article is about the island. For the sovereign state of the same name, see Republic of Ireland. For the constituent country of the United Kingdom, see Northern Ireland. For other uses, see Ireland (disambiguation). Coordinates …   Wikipedia

  • Ireland — Irelander, n. /uyeur leuhnd/, n. 1. John, 1838 1918, U.S. Roman Catholic clergyman and social reformer, born in Ireland: archbishop of St. Paul, Minn., 1888 1918. 2. Also called Emerald Isle. Latin, Hibernia. a large western island of the British …   Universalium

  • Gaelic warfare — Indigenous Gaelic Warfare WeaponryGaels employed a variety of weapons in combat including javelins (called sleagh in gaelic), harpoons (gae), darts (birin), slings, spears and swords. Javelins and harpoons were used by the wealthiest among them… …   Wikipedia

  • Gaelic football — (Irish: Peil , Peil Ghaelach , or Caid ), commonly referred to as football , is a form of football played mainly in Ireland. It is, together with hurling, one of the two most popular spectator sports in Ireland today. [] * Bouncing the ball twice …   Wikipedia

  • Gaelic games in County Cork — Gaelic football • Ladies football Hurling • Camogie Handball • Rounders …   Wikipedia

  • Gaelic Football — im Croke Park Gaelic Football (irisch: peil, caid oder peil Ghaelach) ist eine Sportart, welche Elemente des Fußball und Rugby aufweist und hauptsächlich in Irland ausgeübt wird, wo es neben Hurling eine der populärsten einheimischen Sportarten… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gaelic games — are the traditional sports played in Ireland. The two main Gaelic games are Gaelic football and Hurling, both of which are organised by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). Other games organised by the association include Rounders and Gaelic… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.