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From Expugnatio Hibernica

FromExpugnatio Hibernica


Giraldus Cambrensis

In Giraldus's second founding text, he presents the "five-fold" claim to Ireland, long used by the English crown to support their conquest of the island. To the mythical and legendary conquests by "Gurguntius, son of Belinus," and by Arthur, he adds Henry II's intervention and the authority of the twelfth-century popes.

SEE ALSO English Writing on Ireland before 1800

Therefore let the envious and thoughtless end their vociferous complaints that the kings of England hold Ireland unlawfully. Let them learn, moreover, that they support their claims by a right of ownership resting on five different counts, two of long standing and three of recent origin, as is revealed in the Topography. For the British History bears witness to the fact that when Gurguntius, son of Belinus and king of Britain, was returning in triumph from Dacia, he founded the Basque fleet in Orkney, and having provided them with guides, sent them for the first time into Ireland. It also recalls the fact that the kings of Ireland were among the rulers who paid tribute to Arthur, that famous king of Britain, and that Gillomar king of Ireland was present at his court at Caerleon along with other island kings. Besides, the city of Bayonne, which today is included in our province of Gascony, is the chief city of the territory of the Basques from which the Irish originally came. Again, while a man is always free to give up his lawful claims, in our own times all the princes of Ireland, although hitherto not subject to the domination of any overlord, freely bound themselves in submission to Henry II king of England by the firm bonds of their pledged word and oath. For although they may not hesitate to go back on their word within a very short space of time, thanks to that fickleness which comes from their innately unstable temperament, they are not therefore absolved from this bond of their pledged word and oath of fealty. For men are free to make contracts of this sort, but not to break them.

As well as this there is the added weight of the authority of the supreme pontiffs, who have responsibility for all islands by reason of their own peculiar rights, and of the princes and rulers of all Christendom. This should in itself be sufficient to perfect our case and put the finishing touch to it.

Strangers to That Land: British Perceptions of Ireland from the Reformation to the Famine, edited by Andrew Hadfield and John McVeagh (1994), pp. 25–26.

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