Online Encyclopedia

STATUTE OF KILKENNY

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V15, Page 794 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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STATUTE OF KILKENNY, the name given to a body of laws promulgated in 1366 with the object of strengthening the English authority in Ireland. In 1361, when Edward III. was on the English throne, he sent one of his younger sons, Lionel, duke of Clarence, who was already married to an Irish heiress, to represent him in Ireland. From the English point of view the country was in a most unsatisfactory condition. Lawless and predatory, the English settlers were hardly distinguishable from the native Irish, and the authority of the English king over both had been reduced to vanishing point. In their efforts to cope with the prevailing disorder Lionel and his advisers summoned a parliament to meet at Kilkenny early in 1366 and here the statute of Kilkenny was passed into law. This statute was written in Norman-French, and nineteen of its clauses are merely repetitions of some ordinances which had been drawn up at Kilkenny fifteen years earlier. It began by relating how the existing state of lawlessness was due to the malign influence exercised by the Irish over the English, and, like Magna Carta, its first positive provision declared that the church should be free. As a prime remedy for the prevailing evils all marriages between the two races were forbidden. Englishmen must not speak the Irish tongue, nor receive Irish minstrels into their dwellings, nor even ride in the Irish fashion; while to give or sell horses or armour to the Irish was made a treasonable offence. Moreover English and not Breton law was to be employed, and no Irishman could legally be receivd into a religious house, nor presented to a benefice. The statute also contained clauses for compelling the English settlers to keep the laws. For each county four wardens of the peace were to be appointed, while the sheriffs were to hold their tourns twice a year and were not to oppress the people by their exactions. An attempt was made to prevent the emigration of labourers, and finally the spiritual arm was invoked to secure obedience to these laws by threats of excommunication. The statute, although marking an interesting stage in the history of Ireland, had very little practical effect. The full text is published in the Statutes and Ordinances of Ireland. John to Henry V., by H. F. Berry (1907).
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