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Kilkenny castle

Irish history

Timeline, Kilkenny castle

• The
Anglo-Norman "invasion" commenced in 1169 — about 200 soldiers landed in the southeast, at Wexford.

Around 1172, Richard de Clare (Strongbow) built a wooden tower on the current site of the Kilkenny castle. This was likely of the "motte-and-bailey" format typical in the Norman method of incursion.

• A native clan expelled the Normans from the riverside hilltop, and from the area, in 1173. There is no record of their return for nearly 20 years.

• In 1177 King Henry II of England deemed Theobald Fitzwalter the chief butler of Ireland. The honor conferred upon Fitzwalter the right to charge a levy upon all imported wine. The title was the origin of the name Butler, a family that would later own the castle for centuries.

• In 1192, the Normans returned to Kilkenny. By this time they had moved through and conquered most of the eastern and northern territories of the island. In Kilkenny, they recommenced construction at the site of their original fortification. The record is unclear whether in this year they began work on a stone castle or re-established the stronghold with another motte-and-bailey compound.

• Strongbow's son-in-law William Marshall built a stone castle in the next few decades. The dates are uncertain, but construction began sometime in or after 1192, and was completed by the 1220's.

• In 1314, Gilbert de Clare died in the Battle of Bannockburn (Scotland.) He was the last earl of de Clare — the last of the heritable (male) de Clare line. In 1317, Gilbert's property was divided between his three sisters.

• In 1317, the de Clare family sold the Kilkenny castle to Hugh Despenser. The Despensers were absentee landlords, and their Irish holdings became a greater burden than their worth.

• In 1391 the Despensers sold the castle to the Butlers, earls and dukes of Ormonde. The family occupied the castle from 1391 until 1935.

The castle suffered extensive damage in Oliver Cromwell's siege of 1650. The missing fourth of the three remaining towers fell, as did the southeast curtain wall. The longest expanse by degrees, this wall's absence now lays open the squared, splayed-U shape of the modern castle to the former demesne, now a 50-acre grassen and forested urban park of superlative quality.

• After the Restoration of 1660, there was a major rebuilding of the old castle.

• In 1826, another remodelling of the castle began.

• On the second of May, 1922, republican forces occupied the castle. This was during the period of civil war in Ireland, after the compromise partition of the island into the 26 counties of the Republic and the 6 of the north. State troops subdued the insurgents with only material damage and no human injury, over the period of two days.

• The fortunes of the Butler family declined in the early 20th century. The impetus was a decrease in property values, the commensurate loss of rental income, the palliative sale of holdings, and the resulting further decrease in rental income.

• In 1935, the Butler family held a great auction, selling all of the castle's furnishings.

• In 1967, Arthur Butler sold the castle to the city of Kilkenny for a symbolic 50 pounds — the price of about 400 pints* of stout in a public house.

• In 2001, I visited the castle grounds for the first time.

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* Prices in modern Ireland are most-frequently compared to the cost of a pint in the pub. This practice, however, applies only to small amounts of cash in the discussion. You wouldn't talk about the price of anything being worth 400 pints. I am only using this adaptation of the local custom because I think it's funny to do so.

The figure that I calculated comes from a citation in a 1967 Irish statute book that stipulates the maximum allowable charge for a pint of stout as 2 shillings 4 pence.

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