Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Aliz D'Eberveni

I wonder how many Welsh folk are like me and look up Wales in the index pages while browsing in bookshops. You'll rarely find anything, even when there is plenty to say, since English historians tend to block out Wales in much the same way as Salopians and Herefordians block out the Welsh element in their county histories. How many inhabitants of those border counties know that a Celtic language continued to be spoken in some of their parishes long after proud Cornwall had lost its native tongue?

The Irish are little better with their ghastly lumping together of their neighbours, even the inhabitants of the Gaelic Western Isles, under the catch-all term Brits - a term that historically would be better applied to the Welsh alone. Anyway I did manage to see a recent episode of the BBC series The Story of Ireland with Fergal Keane. Far from breaking new ground the episode that I saw resembled nothing more than a school textbook retelling, and a pretty dull and unquestioning textbook at that.

From a Welsh point of view the episode was particularly annoying - the Norman conquest of Ireland was seemingly achieved by the English or, at best, the Anglo-Normans. A better term for these half-Welsh conquerors, few of whom would have even been able to speak English, is Cambro-Normans. Frustrated by their failure to make progress in Wales these descendants of Princess Nest turned to a more profitable field of conquest. I suppose Irish pride is better served by blaming the English rather than admitting the role of men like Robert Fitz Stephen who boasted of his Trojan, that is his Welsh blood:

"We derive our descent, originally, in part from the blood of the Trojans, and partly we are of the French race. From the one we have our native courage, from the other the use of armour. Since, then, inheriting such generous blood on both sides, we are not only brave, but well armed."

If the Cambro-Norman element in the conquest of Ireland is ignored then I suppose it is not surprising that Keane gave a new name, Alice the Vicious, to the murderous lady who axed 70 Irish prisoners to death. Her story is found in the French verse chronicle Chanson de Dermot et du comte where she is know as Aliz D'Eberveni or Alice of Abergavenny. If only she had been called something like Alice of Guildford she might have more easily fitted the victim agenda that the BBC claim the series avoids.

By the way this is a lively discussion site for keeping up with Irish happenings, history, prejudices etc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more with you Radnorian. The epsiode you describe is the only one of the series I have seen but it has done little to encourage further viewing. Strongbow et al could be described in many ways - Norman, Cambro-Norman or even French. But they were not Anglo-Normans, still less English.