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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Edward the Bruce Appointed High King of Ireland

grave-of-king-edward-de-bruceEdward Bruce of Scotland is crowned High King of Ireland at Dundalk on May 2, 1316. He is the younger brother of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland. He is also sometimes known as Edward de Brus or Edward the Bruce.

Edward is the second of five sons of Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale and Marjorie, Countess of Carrick. His date of birth, believed to be around 1280, is unknown but King Robert is obviously the firstborn. He has eleven siblings, of whom nine survive childhood. One of his older sisters, Lady Christina Bruce, also plays an active role in the wars of independence against England.

By 1307 Edward fights alongside Robert throughout his struggle for the Scottish throne and accompanies him during his flight from Scotland and subsequent guerilla campaign against the English. The three younger Bruce brothers Nigel, Thomas, and Alexander are all captured and executed by the English during this period. Some time between 1309 and 1313, Edward is created Earl of Carrick, a title previously held by his maternal grandfather Niall of Carrick, his mother and his elder brother.

As the Scots become more dominant, Edward commands a number of successful sieges of English-held castles across the country. By November 1313 he commands the siege of the last remaining English outpost in Scotland, Stirling Castle. Without Robert’s knowledge, he makes a deal with the English Constable of the castle that should an English army not arrive to relieve it by June 24, 1314, the castle will surrender, so making an aggressive siege unnecessary. Robert is deeply unhappy, but has little choice but to confront the English army sent by Edward II to relieve Stirling in June 1314. The armies meet at the Battle of Bannockburn, and the result is a decisive victory for the Scots which leaves Robert in fairly unopposed control of Scotland.

Robert decides to open a second front against the English and dispatches an army of 6,000 men under the command of Edward to Ireland. The aim is to challenge English dominance of the British Isles by drawing together Scottish and Irish interests. Scottish and Irish forces are initially successful in defeating the English and on May 2, 1316 Edward is appointed High King of Ireland.

A famine in 1317 proves a setback to Edward and greatly reduces his popularity. This allowed time for an English army under John de Bermingham to be assembled. The English army meets the Scots-Irish army under King Edward Bruce at the Battle of Faughart on October 14, 1318. The Scots-Irish army is badly defeated by de Bermingham’s forces. Edward is killed, his body being quartered and sent to various towns in Ireland, and his head being delivered to King Edward II.

Edward Bruce is the last High King of Ireland.

(Pictured: Grave of King Edward De Bruce, located in Faughart Cemetery)


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The Battle of Skerries

battle-of-skerriesThe Battle of Skerries, also named the Battle of Ardscull, a battle in the Bruce campaign in Ireland and part of the First War of Scottish Independence, is fought on January 26, 1316, resulting in a Scottish victory. It is part of the Irish campaign of Edward Bruce, brother of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland. The site of the battle is Skerries near Ardscull in County Kildare.

Edward Bruce, Earl of Carrick, lands in Ireland in May 1315 and is proclaimed king of the island in June. Bruce continues on his march south, when on January 26, 1316 the Scottish army is advancing from Castledermot when it encounters the English. The Hiberno-Norman forces, summoned by the justiciar of Ireland, consists of men such as John FitzThomas FitzGerald, Maurice FitzThomas FitzGerald, Thomas FitzJohn FitzGerald, John and Arnold Poer, Maurice de Rocheford and Miles and David de la Roche. Though these forces heavily outnumber those of Bruce, internal strife breaks out in the Anglo-Irish ranks, a fact that Bruce can take advantage of. Though suffering heavy losses, the Scots hold the battlefield, effectively winning the battle.

The official English account of the battle blames unfortunate terrain and bad luck for the government forces’ loss, not an entirely convincing explanation. The same account also claims that the Scots lost many of their greatest men, while their opponents only lost one man.

After the battle the Scots plunder the nearby town of Athy before withdrawing to Leix, while the Anglo-Irish forces keep them under surveillance from nearby Castledermot, while their leader withdraws to Dublin. Here John Hotham, the king’s envoy to Ireland, makes a great effort to ensure the loyalty of the Irish nobles. By May, however, Bruce has returned to his safe base in Ulster, while Hotham has returned to his new position in England as Bishop of Ely.


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Passage of the Statutes of Kilkenny

lionel-of-antwerpThe Statutes of Kilkenny, a series of thirty-five acts aiming to curb the decline of the Hiberno-Norman Lordship of Ireland, are passed at Kilkenny on February 18, 1366.

By the middle decades of the 13th century, the Hiberno-Norman presence in Ireland is perceived to be under threat, mostly due to the dissolution of English laws and customs among English settlers. These English settlers are described as “more Irish than the Irish themselves,” referring to their taking up Irish law, custom, costume, and language.

The statutes attempt to prevent this “middle nation,” which is neither true English nor Irish, by reasserting English culture among the English settlers.

There are also military threats to the Norman presence, such as the failed invasion by Robert the Bruce‘s brother Edward Bruce in 1315, which is defended by the Irish chief Domhnall Ó Néill in his Remonstrance to Pope John XXII, complaining that “For the English inhabiting our land…are so different in character from the English of England…that with the greatest propriety they may be called a nation not of middle medium, but of utmost, perfidy.” Further, there was the de Burgh or Burke Civil War of 1333–1338, which leads to the disintegration of the estate of the Earldom of Ulster into three separate lordships, two of which are in outright rebellion against the crown.

The prime author of the statutes is Lionel of Antwerp, better known as the Duke of Clarence, and who is also the Earl of Ulster. In 1361, he has been sent as viceroy to Ireland by Edward III to recover his own lands in Ulster if possible and to turn back the advancing tide of the Irish. The statutes are enacted by a parliament that he summons in 1366. The following year, he leaves Ireland.

The statutes begin by recognizing that the English settlers have been influenced by Irish culture and customs. They forbid the intermarriage between the native Irish and the native English, the English fostering of Irish children, the English adoption of Irish children, and use of Irish names and dress. Those English colonists who do not know how to speak English are required to learn the language on pain of losing their land and belongings, along with many other English customs. The Irish pastimes of “hockie” and “coiting” are to be dropped and pursuits such as archery and lancing are to be taken up, so that the English colonists will be more able to defend against Irish aggression, using English military tactics.

Other statutes require that the English in Ireland be governed by English common law, instead of the Irish March law or Brehon law and ensures the separation of the Irish and English churches by requiring that “no Irishman of the nations of the Irish be admitted into any cathedral or collegiate church…amongst the English of the land.”

The mistrust the English have of the Irish is demonstrated by Statute XV, which forbids Irish minstrels or storytellers to come to English areas, guarding against “the Irish agents who come amongst the English, spy out the secrets, plans, and policies of the English, whereby great evils have often resulted.”

While the Statutes are sweeping in scope and aim, the English never have the resources to fully implement them. Clarence is forced to leave Ireland the following year, and Hiberno-Norman Ireland continues to gain a primarily Irish cultural identity. Only at the beginning of the 17th century would another attempt to colonise Ireland begin to make appreciable gains. The Statutes of Kilkenny ultimately help to create the complete estrangement of the two “races” in Ireland for almost three centuries.

(Pictured: Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence)


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Passage of the Statutes of Kilkenny

Kilkenny Castle

The Statutes of Kilkenny, a series of thirty-five acts aiming to curb the decline of the Hiberno-Norman Lordship of Ireland, are passed on April 19, 1366.

By the middle decades of the 13th century, the Hiberno-Norman presence in Ireland is perceived to be under threat, mostly due to the dissolution of English laws and customs among English settlers. These English settlers are described as “more Irish than the Irish themselves,” referring to their taking up Irish law, custom, costume, and language.

The statutes attempt to prevent this “middle nation,” which is neither true English nor Irish, by reasserting English culture among the English settlers.

There are also military threats to the Norman presence, such as the failed invasion by Robert the Bruce‘s brother Edward Bruce in 1315. Further, there is the de Burgh or Burke Civil War of 1333–1338, which leads to the disintegration of the estate of the Earldom of Ulster into three separate lordships, two of which are in outright rebellion against the crown.

The prime author of the statutes is Lionel of Antwerp, better known as the Duke of Clarence, and who is also the Earl of Ulster. In 1361, he is sent as viceroy to Ireland by Edward III to recover his own lands in Ulster if possible and to turn back the advancing tide of the Irish. The statutes are enacted by a parliament that he summons in 1366. The following year, he leaves Ireland.

The statutes begin by recognizing that the English settlers have been influenced by Irish culture and customs. They forbid the intermarriage between the native Irish and the native English, the English fostering of Irish children, the English adoption of Irish children, and use of Irish names and dress. Those English colonists who do not know how to speak English are required to learn the language, along with many other English customs. The Irish pastimes of “hockie” and “coiting” are to be dropped and pursuits such as archery and lancing are to be taken up, so that the English colonists will be more able to defend against Irish aggression, using English military tactics.

Other statutes require that the English in Ireland are to be governed by English common law rather than the Irish March law or Brehon law. They also ensure the separation of the Irish and English churches.

The mistrust the English have of the Irish is demonstrated by Statute XV, which forbids Irish minstrels or storytellers to come to English areas, guarding against “the Irish agents who come amongst the English, spy out the secrets, plans, and policies of the English, whereby great evils have often resulted.”

While the Statutes are sweeping in scope and aim, the English never have the resources to fully implement them. Clarence is forced to leave Ireland the following year, and Hiberno-Norman Ireland continues to gain a primarily Irish cultural identity. The Statutes of Kilkenny ultimately help to create the complete estrangement of the two “races” in Ireland for almost three centuries. The Statutes of Kilkenny are repealed in 1983 by the Statute Law Revision Act.