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Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Bit of Irish History - Part 3

If you are Irish, have you ever been told that you are probably of Viking descent?  One of my very Irish middle school teachers told me once that even though I may have an Irish name, that with all of that blond hair and those blue eyes, that I probably also descended from Vikings who conquered Ireland.  I was probably eleven years old and was not sure what she was talking about.  She was a teacher of history for sure in addition to many other subjects and she did explain some of this to the class.  The Vikings had conquered Ireland along with other areas of the world.

Around 800 A.D. the Vikings invaded Ireland for more than a century.  These invaders were assimilated into the life and culture of Ireland but not without lots of blood shed and violence.  Evidence of the Vikings still exists today.  A good place to see this is at Dublin Castle.  There are various foundations under the current buildings on the premises that have been unearthed.  They were constructed by both the Vikings and Normans alike.

When you think of an invader, enemy or conqueror who dominated Ireland for centuries, many people probably think of the English.  We are getting to them but the Normans were the precursor to the English.  The Normans invaded Ireland around the 12th century.  Strongbow (Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke) led the Norman knights (mercenaries) on May 1, 1169, in an invasion of Ireland in Bannow, County Wexford.  There's those French Irish Normans again (see my post called O'McFitz).  In 1171, Henry II landed a much larger force in Waterford.  Strongbow had made his way to Waterford by about 1170.

When my husband and I toured Ireland in 2004, we visited Waterford and participated in a walking tour of the town.  It was very informative.  We even had the opportunity to play roles in a brief history presentation of Strongbow.  My husband had the priviledge of filling the role of Strongbow, himself.  I was Aoife, an Irish princess.

From what the history books say, it sounds like Strongbow made a deal with Aoife's father.  Her father had been warring against rival kingships and had been expelled from Waterford.  Once Strongbow married Aoife, her father was reinstated as the King of Leinster.  I don't want to go into all of the details here but this did mark a day of neither victory nor defeat for either side.  It was a political and military alliance.  King Henry II put the kabosh on this, however, asserting his control over the Norman forces by 1172.

Because the Normans controlled England during the 12th century, technically, 1169 marked the beginning of direct Norman and later English involvement in Ireland.  Druing the 16th century, after the English Reformation, the English crown asserted control over Ireland.  By the 17th century, Gaelic Ireland was all but defeated.  The role of religion surfaced as the main point of contention in the land.  Irish history is plagued with sectarian conflict from this point on.    

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