Robin Chapman Stacey

title.none: Edwards, ed., Regions and Rulers in Ireland (Robin Chapman Stacey)

identifier.other: baj9928.0605.006 06.05.06

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Robin Chapman Stacey, University of Washington,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Edwards, David, ed. Regions and Rulers in Ireland, 1100-1650: Essays for Kenneth Nicholls. Series: Cork Studies in Irish History, vol. 4. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2004. Pp. 288. $65.00 (hb). ISBN: 1-85182-742-0.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.05.06

Edwards, David, ed. Regions and Rulers in Ireland, 1100-1650: Essays for Kenneth Nicholls. Series: Cork Studies in Irish History, vol. 4. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2004. Pp. 288. $65.00 (hb). ISBN: 1-85182-742-0.

Reviewed by:

Robin Chapman Stacey
University of Washington

It would be impossible to enumerate fully the ways in which the scholarship of Kenneth Nicholls has enlarged our knowledge of Gaelic and Gaelicised politics in the centuries following the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. Few know the archives more intimately, and fewer still possess the imagination and breadth of knowledge necessary to spin dry genealogies and land deeds into historical gold in the way Nichols has done throughout his lengthy career. As impressive as his scholarly output has been the wide range of subjects in which he has interested himself: not merely politics and law, for which he is perhaps most well known, but place names, genealogies, ecclesiastical politics, women, landholding, and more besides.

To capture all the many different aspects of the scholarship of Kenneth Nicholls in a single volume of tribute would seem a massive task indeed, and David Edwards is therefore to be applauded for having done just that in his new collection of essays, Regions and Rulers in Ireland, 1100-1650. The scope and uniformly high quality of this volume are remarkable, a reflection of the breadth and excellence of the honorand himself. Nicholls' interest in Irish ecclesiastical politics, for example, is well represented by three important articles. Donnchadh Ó Corráin situates the provisions of the 1101 Synod of Cashel thoroughly within the Gregorian program of reform, demonstrating that "the fathers of Cashel" were neither conservative nor backwards in their approach to the international reform agenda but, on the contrary, "knew well what they were about". (13) Conleth Manning examines the origins and associations of Temple Finghin at Clonmacnoise, arguing for its original construction as a nunnery church and its later association with the king of Desmond Finghin MacCarthaigh as part of thirteenth-century attempts to revive the flagging fortunes of Clonmacnoise. Paul MacCotter probes the early fifteenth-century abandonment of Munster by the Dublin colonial administration and its impact on ecclesiastical lands and appointments in that area. Among the lordly families moving into the power vacuum left by Dublin's withdrawal, he argues, were the Geraldine deans of Cloyne, not the least of whom was the immensely colorful Sir John Fitz Edmund of Cloyne, who between 1583 and 1597 amassed a barony of 42,000 acres (less by the acquisition of forfeited rebel lands, as has previously been assumed, than by purchase, mortgage and what the author calls just "plain theft").

Nicholls' interest in family politics, genealogy, and the manipulation of pedigrees is taken up by several scholars, most notably by David Sellar, who in a note links several hitherto unidentified proper names appearing in the Scottish and Irish sources (Forflissa, Fernelith/Fornfleth, Hvarflöd) to the high status Gaelic name Forbflaith. Bernadette Cunningham reconstructs the pseudo-historical and scientific interests of the sixteenth-century Connacht scholar Pilib Ballach Ó Duibhgeannáin. Katharine Simms addresses the long contentious issue of the origins of the Mac Mathghamhna (MacMahon) family of Monaghan, arguing convincingly that they were in origin a collateral branch of the Ó Cearbhaill dynasty of Fearnmhagh for whom pedigrees were later deliberately falsified in order to validate their claims to the high-kingship of Oirghialla. And Seán Duffy traces the fortunes of Scottish families transplanted to Ulster in the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. His particular focus is the Bisset family, one of only a very few such families to make the transition successfully; interestingly, he argues that what scuttled the chances of other, less successful Scottish transplants were the machinations not of the native Irish, but of Hugh de Lacy himself.

Internal politics and crown policies towards Ireland constitute other important themes in the volume. Edwards and Empey take the long view of power relations in Ireland in their study of the remarkably long-lived liberty of Tipperary held by the Butlers, earls of Ormond, well into the sixteenth century. And among the most important papers in the collection is Fiona Fitzsimons' reassessment of crown policy during and immediately after Wolsey's ascendancy. Arguing against Elton, Bradshaw and Ellis, Fitzsimons demonstrates the inherent coherence of crown policy in this period, arguing that actions taken after the cardinal's death were not the result of a faction fight among notables at court, but rather visibly consistent with Wolsey's own approach. Events surrounding 1603 figure prominently in a number of essays. In a fascinating article, Elizabeth FitzPatrick surveys the abandonment of traditional inauguration rituals and royal assembly sites by Ó Néill and Ó Domhnaill in the course of the Nine Years War. Jerrold Casway's paper on the location of the prime residence of Art MacBaron, illegitimate half-brother of Hugh Ó Néill, sheds valuable light on the complexity of identities and relations in the years leading up to the flight of Tyrone in 1607. And Ciaran Brady's important study of the collapse of the O'Reilly lordship between 1584 and 1610 documents the tangled web of alliances and rivalries that lay behind that collapse, and argues for an essential continuity between the resettlement schemes of 1610 and those of the Elizabethans some twenty-five years before.

Kenneth Nicholls' expertise in the field of Irish law and legal practices in the Early Modern era is legendary, and two excellent papers in the volume speak to that aspect of his legacy. Bríd McGrath documents the large number of Irishmen, Protestant and Catholic, attending the inns of court in London in the first half of the seventeenth century. As she demonstrates, different inns catered to different religious persuasions, and the privileges enjoyed by Protestants were often not shared by their Catholic brethren; students of both persuasions, however, found the inns of court a valuable "alternative university". And David Edwards, in a particularly thoughtful piece, examines the Downing trial of 1606 and its implications for the policy of martial law as an instrument of government control.

Regions and Rulers in Ireland is a superb tribute to a meticulous and imaginative scholar--who, characteristically, read and corrected every article in the collection before the volume went to press.