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DianneWoollie
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20-07-2021, 07:10 PM
21

Re: Journal he calls it but History...

Chapter V: A plague on both your Houses:
The Black Death, the War of the Roses and the rise of Kildare.

Timeline: 1348 - 1512

The Pale


As already related, the power of the English Crown did not establish itself much beyond a few small kingdoms – the counties of Waterford, Wexford and Dublin basically – and anywhere inside that small region controlled by the King was denoted the Pale, or often the English Pale. This word seems to have come from an old word for fortress or stronghold, though there are some differing accounts of its origins. However we can probably best think of it as the equivalent of the Green Area in Iraq, an area wherein the occupying force was located, and which was considered his stronghold. Outside the Pale, the Irish lords ruled, and from this state of affairs comes an old Irish phrase, still occasionally in use today: “beyond the Pale” has come to mean anything that is beyond the bounds of normality or anything that is hard to believe: “You got the promotion instead of me? Ah, that's a bit beyond the Pale now!” and so on. It is often used colloquially to refer to any area outside Dublin as being “outside the Pale”.

As the Norman settlers were left increasingly isolated, the king turning his attention to more important matters such as wars with France, and later, within his own power structure, the Pale slowly shrunk, until by the mid-fifteenth century it comprised a relatively small area which took in Dublin, Louth, Meath and Kildare, and indeed, not all of those counties (see map above), and was shrinking fast. Even within the Pale, while the lords and landowners may have been English and mostly acted as such, the common folk were all Irish, speaking the Irish language and reverting to Irish customs, in spite of the Statues of Kilkenny, which really, nobody obeyed anyway. The fortification and concentration of Dublin and other Norman towns ironically left them more exposed to the great sickness which would soon reach sticky black fingers down from Europe to touch every part of Ireland.

Although it's not strictly part of the history of Ireland specifically, the Black Death did significantly impact the island, as it did just about everywhere else, and is a part of the tapestry of the history of Ireland, if only a relatively small thread. Nonetheless, to understand fully its implications for Ireland I think it's necessary to turn the microscope on that small thread and examine it more closely in respect to the rest of the world.



Believed to have originated in China in the fourteenth century, the Black Death, also called the Plague, the Black Plague, the Great Plague and, later, Bubonic Plague, swept across Europe and successfully wiped out what is reckoned to be around forty percent of its population. That's approximately seventy to two hundred million people, over a period of seven years, more than all the deaths in the two world wars of the twentieth century combined. Lack of medical knowledge, as well as poor hygiene practices and the total lack of, or understanding of quarantines, led to the disease having free rein across the world, and by the time it had finished its first attack it had infiltrated and wrought massive death tolls in virtually every country, from Asia and Africa to the Middle East and from Russia to all of Europe, including of course Ireland. Later, in the nineteenth century, a resurgence of the Plague would reach Australia and even at the beginning of the twentieth century it would surface in the USA.

Carried by fleas infesting black rats, which came over on ships from China or along the main trade route, the Silk Road, the Plague spread to Europe and nobody had any idea what it was, where it came from, much less how to combat it. What was certain was that it was almost one hundred percent contagious, and once one member of a family was infected, the rest of the family would likely follow. Houses were often boarded up and marked with a red “X” in an extremely crude form of quarantine, though this did not stop the spread of the disease, as the fleas simply hopped through cracks in walls and floorboards and through windows in search of new hosts. Theories abounded (all wrong), from alignment of the planets to bad water, to the famous “miasma” theory, where it was held that the Plague was airborne, carried on a dark evil wind, and that in order to avoid being infected you should avoid the “bad air” outside and remain indoors. Naturally, this only helped to incubate the disease more quickly and led to more deaths.

Many believed the Black Death to be a curse from God, and who could blame them? If you've read my review of Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal in The Couch Potato, or seen the movie, you'll agree that it must have seemed to the people of the time that the world was coming to an end. Nobody could stand against this Plague, and kings and popes were cut down as easily as commoners. Poor suffered with rich, and no amount of barring your door or isolating yourself could stay the dark hand of death, nor could it be bargained with. As we always do in times of crisis, people looked around for scapegoats, culprits, someone to blame, and as would be the case throughout most of recorded history, the Jews became a target, accused of poisoning wells, and lepers and gypsies were also attacked. But perhaps the saddest of all these incorrect accusations was the blame levelled on cats.

Specifically, witches. Cats were seen as the familiars, or companion demons, of witches, and had been since the early Dark Ages. Any cat therefore was seen as an agent of the devil, and thousands were burned on pyres in an effort to expel the devil and lift the curse. The irony being, of course, had the cats been left to their natural devices they would in all likelihood have killed the rats who were carrying the fleas. Of course, the fleas if they survived would then just transfer to the cats, so maybe that would not have been such a solution. But because nobody back then even understood how diseases could be transmitted from one person to another, the lack of knowledge worked against them. If knowledge is power, then it probably follows that in most cases, ignorance is weakness and impotence, and the world at large was completely impotent in the face of this inexplicable horror.

Imagine the terror: seemingly all of a sudden, out of nowhere you start to hear of people dying in far-off cities, and then nearer ones. Then outbreaks are reported in your own country. With little in the way of communication there would of course be a dearth of news, but travellers would bring the tales of the death they had seen, and armies and ambassadors, priests and pedlars, sailors and adventurers would all carry news of this great blight advancing across Europe. And then the dread when one of your neighbours died, and the Black Death was suddenly in your town, your village, your city. Or even your castle. And there was no stopping it. Medical science offered no solution, no hope. The word “quack” to describe a doctor has come about from the practice medical men had of wearing long, conical masks over their faces stuffed with flowers and herbs to ward off the disease, a very crude form of facemask. But all they could do was bring comfort to the patient; there was no way they could save them. They simply did not even know where to start.

The Black Death arrived in Ireland (no I haven't forgotten what I'm writing about) in 1348, two years after it had reached its peak in Europe and five years since it had begun its deadly trip from Central Asia, and was a disaster for the Normans. Already reeling from rebellions, civil wars and the recent European famine, and bereft of any support from the Crown, as the king was busy fighting the French in the Hundred Years's War, the Normans (now beginning to be called Anglo-Irish) found that their fortified cities and towns, while superior for defence and protection, were the kind of breeding ground for the Plague than the more scattered, rural habitations of the native Irish, and as a consequence the Black Death took a heavier toll on the Normans than the Irish.

With their enemy weakened, and no reinforcement looking possible from across the water, the Irish chieftains moved. The first real challenger was Art McMurrough Kavanagh, a descendant of Diarmuid MacMurchada (remember him?) and also, like his ancestor, heir to the throne of Leinster, which he assumed in 1370. For the next forty years he harrassed the Normans, even advancing on Dublin, though he did not take it. In 1394, able to take a break from the Hundred Years' War, King Richard II paid a personal visit to Ireland at the head of an army which has been variously reported as being between five and ten thousand strong. Even at the lower end of the scale of estimates, this still makes it the largest armed force to land on Irish soil in the medieval period. Needless to say, the king quickly quelled all revolt against his authority and all the Irish chieftains swore fealty to him, only to renounce it once he had been recalled to England. He returned five years later but was unable to stay, as he had to return to meet the challenge of the man who would go on to kill him and take his crown, Henry Bolingbroke, who would become King Henry IV.


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20-07-2021, 07:18 PM
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Re: Journal he calls it but History...

Into this power vacuum stepped three influential Irish families: two branches of the powerful Fitzgerald dynasty, the Earls of Desmond who controlled much of Kerry and Cork, while the Earls of Kildare were based, obviously, in the county of Kildare. Between their lands, all other southeastern territories were the jurisdiction of the Butlers, Earls of Ormond. These three families stepped up to add their weight to supporting each faction as the Hundred Years War ended and, in historic terms, the War of the Roses almost immediately begun. Unfortunately for Ireland, we picked the wrong side, with the Fitzgeralds betting on the House of York, while the Butlers supported the House of Lancaster. When Edward IV then won for the House of York initially, he in gratitude granted the governorship of Ireland to the Earl of Desmond, who was later defeated by the O'Connors, and executed by his successor, Lord Tiptoft. In revenge, his brother Geraoid rose in rebellion, and at the end of a bloody campaign Gearoid Mor Fitzgerald, eighth Earl of Kildare, was pronounced Governor of Ireland.
This then began the rise to power of an already powerful family, as Fitzgerald consolidated his power. Even when the final victory in the War of the Roses fell to the House of Lancaster, and Henry VII took the throne, Fitzgerald proved immovable from his position. Despite having been, and remaining, a staunch supporter of the York family, he had too much popular support in Ireland to allow the new king to remove him and replace him with an Englishman, and so, for the sake of peace and to keep the Irish quiet, Henry allowed Geraroid Mor to remain in charge of Ireland, effectively a High King, though nominally subservient to the Crown. This leeway from the English king did not prevent Fitzgerald from supporting two separate pretenders to the English throne as he struggled to unseat his old enemy.

Pretenders to the Throne

With the defeat and death of Richard III, the last king of the house of York was consigned to history, however this did not mean the end of his family, his House or indeed the supporters of that House. The fragility of the claim of Henry VII to the throne, coupled with the outcome of the Hundred Years' War as well as England's seemingly unending enmity for France, meant that it was from there that the plot to unseat Henry and plant a puppet king on the throne of England originated. Coached and groomed by the Duchess of Burgundy, sister to Edward VI, the first king of the House of York, two men were sent to England purporting to be the rightful king and demanding and attempting to enforce the abdication of Henry VII.

Lambert Simnel

No more than a boy of about ten years of age when he became the figurehead for a Yorkist rebellion against the Crown, Simnel was drawn into the plots of older and more devious men when the priest who was schooling him noticed a striking resemblance between him and Edward Earl of Warwick, whom King Richard III had had imprisoned (and some say murdered) in the Tower of London. Being a son of Richard II he had a very good claim to the throne, so when the aid of the Duchess of Burgundy was sought she helped school the boy so that he would be able to pass as a nobleman.

Simnel landed in Ireland in 1487 and was crowned as King Edward VI, after which he set sail with Irish and Flemish troops – the former supplied by Gearoid Mor Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare and the latter by Her Grace the Duchess of Burgundy – to assert his claim. Being only ten years old, he was of course merely a pawn, and when his army was defeated the king recognised this and set him to work in his royal kitchens. Thus the Irish had once again backed the wrong horse in trying to reassert the power of York which, unbeknownst to them, would never again see a member of their House sit on the English throne.


Perkin Warbeck

More of a threat however was Perkin Warbeck, who presented himself at the court of the Duchess of Burgundy, claiming to be in fact Richard, Duke of York, the other prince who had been imprisoned in the Tower by Richard III, and believed killed. With monarchies like the Scots and the French taking up his claim, Perkin represented a real threat to the Tudor king, and though he was beaten and this time hanged, his claim dying with him, he again swayed the vote of the Irish, and Gearoid Mor supported him. As a result of this he was dismissed when Perkin was defeated, and his successor, an English noble called Poynings, passed a law in Ireland which prevented the Irish parliament convening or passing any legislation without the express order and consent of the king, to ensure that never again would a pretender be crowned in Ireland.

Gearoid Mor, however, proved to be too formidable a leader to be displaced for long, and a mere four years later he was back in control of Ireland, the Lord Deputy, but in all but name ruler of Ireland. With so much support back home that his arrest and imprisonment led to revolts and rebellions springing up all over Ireland, and the expense of two major wars to attend to, to say nothing of fighting off pretenders to his crown, Henry VII is said to have observed philosophically, “If all Ireland cannot rule this man, he shall rule all Ireland”, and Gearoid was re-invested. His claim on power was so strong that when he died in 1512, the Lord Deputyship of Ireland passed directly to his son, Gearoid Og, establishing something of a dynasty, a thing Ireland had not had in its history before.

Although on his ascension to the throne, King Henry VIII also confirmed Geraoid Og as Lord Deputy, his future did not bode well for Catholicism, and in the end, he would go down as the king who finally established direct English rule over Ireland, and began its true religious persecution.
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20-07-2021, 07:24 PM
23

Re: Journal he calls it but History...

For Black Death read corona virus today.
Must have been really awful back then not having a clue what was happening. Can see why they would think it’s a curse or some sort of bewitchment.
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20-07-2021, 07:28 PM
24

Re: Journal he calls it but History...

Dianne - just a thought - if hubby is planning on having this published at some point - he should check very carefully. Some publishers will not accept work that has already been put up on the internet - as I found out to my cost a while ago.

What you have shared with us so far is interesting but has already been well documented in many other places. I like your hubby's style of writing though.
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20-07-2021, 11:18 PM
25

Re: Journal he calls it but History...

Hey not my Husband ..he does not read books let alone write..It is a acquaintance the same place as I met Plankton....he is a real full on writer and his so called journals he writes are to my view Novels in the making...
Appreciate your post though...
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21-07-2021, 05:18 AM
26

Re: Journal he calls it but History...

Originally Posted by DianneWoollie ->
Hey not my Husband ..he does not read books let alone write..It is a acquaintance the same place as I met Plankton....he is a real full on writer and his so called journals he writes are to my view Novels in the making...
Appreciate your post though...
Oooops - sorry! I misunderstood.
 
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