The Statutes of Kilkenny

The Norman rulers were alarmed by a situation that saw their people becoming immersed in Irish ways and society. Their influence was dwindling and they attempted to halt this Gaelicisation by introducing the Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366.

The Statutes were a series of laws enacted by Parliament, meeting in Kilkenny, and aimed primarily at the Normans in the hope of checking assimilation. The wearing of Irish dress, the use of the Brehon Laws and the speaking of the Irish language were all banned. Various other measures were included with the intention of keeping the two peoples apart.

However, despite measures both cultural and military, the Gaelic resurgence continued and the English crown, faced with the cost of a military campaign in Scotland and the Hundred Years War (1338-1453) against France, decided that Ireland for the greater part would have to fend for itself.

The Statute remained inoperative; and although Richard II, king of England, made expeditions into Ireland with large forces later in the fourteenth century, he failed to achieve any practical result. The power and influence of the natives increased so much at the time of the Wars of the Roses that the authority of the English Crown became limited to the area known as the English Pale, a small coastal district around Dublin and the port of Drogheda. Throughout the Wars of the Roses, Ireland supported the ultimate loser – The House of York.

Elsewhere, the English and Normans came together through the necessity of living side by side and also through marriage. Many of the rank and file Normans, and their French colleagues, had little option but to mix in with their English neighbours, leaving their noble masters to carry on the illusion of being truly French.

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