The Normans

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The coming of the Anglo-Normans to Ireland in the 1170s has become know as the Norman Invasion. The Normans had originally come to England and Wales from Normandy in France. A new monastic order, the Cistercians from France, had been invited to Ireland in 1142 even before the Normans arrived, and founded the Cistercian Mellifont Abbey in County Louth.

Cistercian Mellifont, Co. Louth
Photo by Brian T McElherron.

Some Cistercian monks were sent from France to train Irish monks. They spoke French so if you were learning to be a Cistercian at that time you would have heard a mixture of French, Irish and Latin.

Many of the newly arrived Norman knights also spoke French while others spoke English. The Normans were Christian and so they built even more abbeys and monasteries. Monastic schools continued. French and English would have thrived in schools in Ireland too.

Over time, however, the Normans did not behave like a foreign conquering army. They learned to speak Irish. They could also write and read Irish and many adopted the Irish custom of fosterage as well as Irish clothing customs. They also sent their children to schools for poets and lawyers.

They then became patrons of Irish bards and poets. If you were a newly trained bard at that time you might have played your harp in front of an Anglo-Norman lord. The Statutes of Kilkenny of 1366 forbade the use of Irish language or customs by the Anglo-Normans

Ennis Abbey, Co. Clare.

An example of the great abbeys erected after the Anglo-Norman Invasion. Founded by Irish chief, Donogh Cairbreach O' Brien in 1240.

Courtesy of 'A social history of ancient Ireland'.

  but these laws did not make much difference.