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I made light of the assimilation of the Norman (Anglo-Irish) into the Irish way of life in the 14th Century, and I have just been reading up on material which puts the whole thing in a very different perspective.
Essentially, from the point of view of the Anglo-Irish lords, and everybody else it seems, the fourteenth century was a horrendous period.
First of all, around 1315, the weather across the northern hemisphere took a massive dip for the worse, after years and years of good harvests and plenty. This caused a famine of epic proportions across Europe.
Co-incidentally the Scots, under Edward the Bruce, decided to invade Ireland but conditions were severe for all concerned, and the campaign lead to an utter devastation of the northern half of the island. It is known today as the Bruce Devastation. (This is something we never heard about in our school textbooks). Most of the major towns of the time were left in ruins and abandoned.
Also, around 1345, the Black Death arrived, and it is believed that 50% of the population of the time were killed by the bubonic plague.
To many Anglo-Irish, the situation was untenable. They retreated west towards Dublin (the Pale) and back to England. The lords who remained probably had little choice but to assimilate into the Irish way of life, as their conditions were little better than that of their subjects.
Very good article, Woodpigeon - nicely done.
Could you be history teacher and help me with a couple of points, though?
Do you know what the background is to William of Orange getting involved (being Dutch and all)? All I remember from school is that this was a v. confusing time in Europe (religious loyalties overriding and conflicting with nation-state loyalties; Spain, France, Netherlands, Scotland and England all getting up each others noses etc.)
Amd what was the purpose of the abortive French invasion in the late 1700s?
The importance of William arose because he was married to Mary, the daughter of King James II of England. King James was Catholic, but the parliament of England at the time was Protestant. He tried unsuccessfully to bring England back to the Catholic fold, which deepened his unpopularity. This lead to a bid, in 1688 I think, to depose him and bring Mary into his place. Mary was living in the Netherlands with her husband William, and when they arrived in England, James fled to France, and Mary became queen, with William as the Regent.
James arrived in Ireland with a large French army in 1690 in a bid to recapture the throne from Mary and William. He was supported by the Scots, who had quite a few scores to settle with the English. William landed in Ireland with a large force, and after a few battles, culminating in the Battle of the Boyne, William defeated James, who fled back to France, and this time he stayed there. William and Mary were confirmed as joint rulers of England shortly afterwards, I think - William taking the title William III of England.
Regarding the late 1700's, the period has to be seen to a certain extent in the context of the French Revolution, where the French monarchy was executed and "commoners" took power. This scared the British, who were still strongly monarchist. One such commoner, Napoleon (well, he was actually a minor noble), took power shortly after the French revolution in 1789 and started to export his brand of republicanism throughout Europe, and bringing large parts of Europe under French rule. This lead to England declaring war on France, and for the next 22 years intense hostilities reigned between the two countries, culminating with the defeat at Waterloo.
In Ireland at the time, there were huge tensions building up between the Anglo-Irish rulers and the local Catholics and Presbyterians who had been largely disposessed during that century. They joined together as the United Irishmen, and initiated plans to drive out the English, and to set up Ireland as a republic along French lines. France gave them some (relatively lacklustre) support, but it was far too little, and they and the Irish got badly beaten in the ensuing rebellion of 1798. The rebellion was mainly an Irish / British issue. The invasion of Ireland was never really a major component of French political thinking.
That's about the size of it, but others might know some more. I can't say I'm a great expert about these times.
(Not a great expert.....?!)
It also worth noting that the French General who commaned the invasion force (Humbert) was chosen over one of his rivals- one Napolean Bonaparte.