In a Word . . .

Indomitable

Flake, from Old English flakka, for ‘flat, level, particle’

Flake, from Old English flakka, for ‘flat, level, particle’

 

Let us remember Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence, who arrived in Dublin as Chief Governor of Ireland in 1361, 660 years ago. Third son of England’s King Edward III, Lionel was just 23, poor boy. What hope had he? It didn’t stop him.

Named after the Belgian city where he was born and possessed of that arrogance which is not just the preserve of youth, he set about making sure the English in Ireland remained, well, English.

Only in Ireland 202 years – following Dermot McMurrough’s kind invitation in 1159 – it was already appalling just how Irish these “guests” had already become.

Can’t have that. Certainly Edward III thought so. He described those original colonists, now “more Irish than the Irish themselves”, as “degenerate English”. So in 1366 Lionel introduced the Statutes of Kilkenny, so-called because they were enacted at a parliament in Kilkenny,which he also attended.

These meant no “degenerate English person” could marry an Irish person, adopt an Irish child, use an Irish name, wear Irish clothes, speak the Irish language, play Irish music, listen to Irish storytellers, play Irish games, let an Irish person join an English religious house, appoint any Irish clergyman to any church in the English settlement in Ireland (the Pale), or ride a horse in the Irish style (without a saddle).

To break any of these provision was treason and punishable by death.

No one took a blind bit of notice. The Statutes were classically “great on paper” stuff. Lionel’s new laws were honoured only in the breach. You just don’t mess with the “indomitable Irishry.”

Lionel was said to have been disgusted and left Ireland in 1368. He died the following year, still only 28. Meanwhile, the “degenerate English” continued to become ever more Irish.

In the 17th and early 18th century another attempt was made through the Penal Laws to force Irish Catholics, and Irish Protestants who were not Anglican, to accept the English State Church.

These laws were described by Edmund Burke as “a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man”.

In time these too failed. Failed better.

Indomitable, from Latin indomitabilis, meaning “cannot be tamed or subdued”.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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