The Norman Conquest of Ireland (part 1)

The Normans were conquerors. Even more, they conquered. It was what they did. It was only natural, then, that eventually one of them would set his sights on Ireland.  That someone, in this case, was Richard de Clare, otherwise known as Strongbow. Now, Strongbow wasn’t entirely at fault for what came next. In fact, in 1169 he was invited into Ireland by the ousted king of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada. Murchada had been removed from power by the High King of Ireland, Rory O’Connor, and, naturally, he wanted his lands back. He knew about Norman military prowess and looked to south Wales, where Clare was the Earl of Pembroke, for assistance. And what did Clare get out of it? Murchada had no male heir, so he promised Clare his daughter and the kingship of Leinster if they succeeded. For Clare, that Read more…

Scots, Scottish, and Gaelic … what’s the difference?

What language were people speaking in 13th century Scotland? Undoubtedly, that is a question that keeps most people up at night. In a nutshell, in 1288, in Scotland, people spoke three local languages regularly.  At the time, they called them:  French, English, and Scottish. What is confusing is that those are not the names used to refer to these languages NOW.  French, was Norman French. Robert the Bruce, a great King of Scotland, descended from the Gaelic Earls of Carrick, and on his father’s side from “ancestors in Brix, in Flanders. In 1124, King David I granted the massive estates of Annandale to his follower, Robert de Brus, in order to secure the border. The name, Robert, was very common in the family. Brought up at Turnberry Castle, Bruce was a product of his lineage, speaking Gaelic, Scots and Norman Read more…

Medieval Planned Communities

When Edward I conquered Wales, he did more than build castles.  He also built townships.  These were villages associated with one of his castles.  In most cases, he imported English people to live in them, ousting the native Welsh.  Caernarfon, Rhuddlan, Conwy, Flint, Harlech and Beaumaris were among these combined castles/villages. “The strategy of building Welsh Medieval Castles was combined with King Edward’s ambition to build and integrate fortified towns with the great castles. These purpose-built townships were designed to predominantly house the English conquerors. The towns were defended by the city walls and, of course, the castles. The Constable of the castle would often perform a dual role as Mayor of the town. Not only did the English have control over the local Welsh population they also had control of commerce and finance. The townships were established as trading Read more…

How did Latin get into English?

It was the Romans right? Well, ultimately, but not necessarily because they conquered Britian in 43 AD. The Romans controlled Britain from 43 AD to when they marched away in the beginning of the 5th century.  During that time, they built roads, towns, forts, and established a government.  Upon their departure, the ‘dark ages’ consumed Britain, with the assistance of several invading groups (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, plus Picts, Scots, Irish). The people who lived in Britain at the time were Celtic and spoke a language that eventually became what we know today as Welsh.  As the story goes, these invading groups pushed the Britons into Wales until a real wall (Offa’s Dyke) permanently created a barrier between them. Latin had been spoken by the Romans, of course, and had entered the Welsh language as a result.  “These borrowed words are Read more…

Welsh Independence (part . . . 227?)

A reader of this blog, Joe, asked me a question the other day.  He said:  “I was recently listening to the audio version of “The Economist” and heard an article about the Welsh vote on devolution. One of the article’s lead sentences was (I’m paraphrasing) : “On a cold day in Cardiff, it’s hard to catch any talk of devolution, and even harder to find anyone who cares much about it”. Do you agree with this assessment? And if so, do you think there’s a historical or cultural aspect to why some people in Wales feel they way they do? (I’m curious because, if I lived in Wales, I think I would be very likely to have a strong opinion on the matter.) —————– I think that the perspective on Welsh devolution varies according to where an individual lives (including Read more…