1366 – The Statutes of Kilkenny

The Statutes of Kilkenny were a set of laws created under Edward III to keep English settlers in Ireland from adopting Irish culture. English citizens were meant to control the native Irish population, to suppress and overrun them in order to maintain British rule. However, many English settlers began to mix with the native Irish people and adopt some of their customs such as dress, manners, sports, and even language. There was even some worry that they were becoming “more Irish than the Irish.” This was seen as a descent into inferiority, so a parliament was assembled in 1366 to ensure that English citizens remained English in all ways passing the Statutes of Kilkenny.

The laws were comprised of thirty-five articles that ordained “proper” English behavior in an attempt to control the cultural assimilation of English immigrants in Ireland. Among the general laws on such things as inheritance and property were a number of specifically anti-Irish culture articles. Hurling was prohibited, being an Irish sport. Englishmen were forbidden to ride horses bareback in the Irish style, only with a proper English saddle. There were strict warnings not to allow untrustworthy “Irish agents” into English circles . Even in times of peace, no Englishman was allowed to sell horses or armor to an Irishman due to the assumption that any Irishman with the ability would try and attack English forces. Absolutely no inter-marriage was allowed between Irish and English citizens. Even further than that, any intimate connection between English and Irish citizens, such as fostering children or concubinage, was forbidden.

The Irish language also came under attack, first by a statute declaring that all English children were to be named with a traditionally English name, nothing Irish-sounding, and secondly by a harsh law that stated that if an Englishman spoke Irish to any other Englishman his lands would be seized. This is a large factor in English becoming the dominant language in Ireland. The original Statute of Kilkenny itself happens to ironically be in French, seeing as that was the language used for official documents and high society at the time.

The laws were also created in order to try and keep the Anglo-Norman Lords of Ireland loyal to the British Crown, and their lands under the Crown’s control. They were mostly directed towards the higher-ranked citizens, but applied to every English person residing in Ireland at the time. Despite this, many citizens ignored most of the laws or found ways around them, and the Statutes of Kilkenny gradually faded into practical nonexistence.