England’s ‘fivefold right’ to Ireland

Published in Features, Issue 6 (November/December 2013), Volume 21

Above: This map of Europe, accompanying Gerald’s Topography of Ireland and Conquest of Ireland in a c. 1200 manuscript, shows Ireland’s proximity to Spain (bottom right). The alleged Basque origin of the Irish played a vital role in Gerald of Wales’s arguments (‘rights’ 1 and 3) that the English crown had the right to rule Ireland. (NLI)

Above: This map of Europe, accompanying Gerald’s Topography of Ireland and Conquest of Ireland in a c. 1200 manuscript, shows Ireland’s proximity to Spain (bottom right). The alleged Basque origin of the Irish played a vital role in Gerald of Wales’s arguments (‘rights’ 1 and 3) that the English crown had the right to rule Ireland. (NLI)

In Conquest of Ireland Gerald of Wales asserts the English crown’s ‘fivefold right’ to Ireland.
(1) The Irish came from Spain, specifically the Basque country, and were given Ireland by Guirguntius, an ancient British king.
(2) The Irish King Gillomar paid tribute to Arthur, ‘that famous king of Britain’.
(3) English dominions now include Bayonne, capital of the ancestral Basque homeland of the Irish.
(4) The Irish princes freely submitted to King Henry II and cannot break that bond, though their fickleness may prompt them to try.
(5) ‘The added weight of the authority of the supreme pontiffs, who have responsibility for all islands by reason of their own peculiar rights.’

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