An English invasion, 1169?

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2019), Letters, Volume 27

Sir,—Permit me two observations on your excellent last issue on Strongbow and his companions (HI 27.3, May/June 2019). Prof. Seán Duffy’s Platform piece and your deliberately provocative editorial proclaiming the invaders to be English has surely garnered much reaction.

But I fail to see how a mixed band of Norman, Welsh, Flemish and, yes, some English knights can all be categorised as English. Even in England in the 1160s, the social and cultural assimilation of the Norman conquerors of 1066 with the vanquished Anglo-Saxon peoples was not complete. The modern-day England and Englishman were still on the brew in the melting pot. These early invaders into Ireland had Continental, not English, mannerisms. Indeed, most of them could not even speak English but spoke Norman-French instead. Even Richard the Lionheart is reputed not to have spoken English. It is surely stretching the point, therefore, for you to categorically describe a body of people with mostly French manners, customs and language as English. Indeed, in his excellent contribution to the Invasion 1169 conference in Trinity College, Dublin, Prof. Duffy seemed to argue this very point in his extended assessment of the Flemish cohort—in apparent contradiction to his own article.

Also, it seems premature for your columnist and accomplished genealogist Fiona Fitzsimons to pronounce Augustino de Cruce as the ‘progenitor’ of the name in Ireland. Augustino was probably not a member of the family but an ecclesiastical figure (‘of the Cross’) and not a knight. The earliest confirmed Cruise in Ireland is Stephen de Crues, who held the manor of Naul in 1185, as recorded in Archbishop Alen’s Register. The Cruises flourished for 500 years in Naul and Nobber in Meath before being dispossessed by Cromwell. Their origins could be Norman or Flemish—the surname de Cruys is popular in the Low Countries to this day. It seems certain they came to Ireland via Cruwys Morchard (‘Big Wood of the Cruises’) in Devon; the arms of the two families are practically identical. Both bear the escallop, an armorial device signifying either a Crusader or participation in the Camino de Santiago. Interestingly, the patron saint of Cruicetown parish, Co. Meath, is St James.

To finish by way of return to my original point, Devon native and English landscape historian W.G. Hoskins wrote that the Cruises came to Cruwys Morchard in the mid- to late twelfth century, scarcely twenty years before their arrival in Ireland. Enough time to become culturally English? Je pense que non.—Yours etc.,

Celbridge, Co. Kildare

<>The earliest confirmed ancestor of the Cruise family of the Naul in Dublin/Nobber in Meath is Stephen de Crues in 1185 (Archbishop Alen’s Register). However, I still assert that Augustino de Cruce is the earliest record of this name in Ireland and possibly the first of the Cruise family on record here (J.T. Gilbert [ed.], Register of the Abbey of St Thomas, Dublin [London, 1889], 370). In the recent Invasion 1169 conference, Prof. Marie Therese Flanagan used prosopography, a popular methodology in family history, to throw some light on Strongbow’s inner circle in Ireland. A small number of Strongbow’s charters relating to Ireland survive. They show a small group of intimates gathered around de Clare, drawn mainly from his chief tenants, his backers who financed the invasion, and a couple of State officials keeping an eye on proceedings. Prof. Flanagan and a later speaker, Prof. David Bates, maintained that Ireland at the time of the invasion was a land of opportunity. The invaders recruited first their chief tenants and then, more widely, anyone who could afford to keep a retinue for years in Ireland to realise the profits of war. Given the small, closed community that took part in the invasion, it’s possible that Augustino de Cruce and Stephen de Crues were related, although, I grant you, the connection is not documented.

As for the ethnicity of the invaders, the two major sources of the invasion, Giraldus Cambrensis’s Latin Expugnatio Hibernica and the French-language Song of Dermot and the Earl consistently refer to the invaders as Angli and Engleis respectively. And well done on making the connection between the two coats of arms. I haven’t seen that done before.—Fiona Fitzsimons, Eneclann


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