The Pale

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The Pale (An Pháil in Irish) or the English Pale (An Pháil Shasanach), was the part of Ireland that was directly under the control of the English government in the late Middle Ages. It had reduced by the late 15th century to an area along the east coast stretching from Dalkey, south of Dublin, to the garrison town of Dundalk.[1] The inland boundary went to Leixlip around the Earldom of Kildare, towards Trim and north towards Kells. In this district, many townlands have English or French names.



The Norman invasion of Ireland beginning in 1169 brought much of Ireland briefly under the theoretical control of the Plantagenet Kings of England. From the 13th century onwards, the Hiberno-Norman occupation in the rest of Ireland at first faltered then waned. Across most of Ireland, the Norman knights, and their servants who were mostly from Wales and Cornwall, increasingly assimilated to Irish culture after 1300. A series of alliances with their neighbouring autonomous Gaelic princes developed. In the long periods when there was no large royal army in Ireland, the Norman lords in the provinces acted as effectively independent rulers in their own areas, as the Gaels continued to do.

The remaining Lordship that was actually controlled by the English king shrank accordingly, and as parts of its perimeter in counties Meath and Kildare were fenced or ditched, it became known as the Pale, deriving from the Latin word "palus", a stake, or, synecdochically, a fence. Parts can still be seen west of Clane on the grounds of what is now Clongowes Wood College. The military power of the crown itself was greatly weakened by the Hundred Years War (1337–1453), and the Wars of the Roses (1455–85). The Irish parliament was created, which often sat at Drogheda, until the Tudors took greater interest in Irish affairs from 1485 and moved it back to Dublin. The Pale generally consisted of fertile lowlands, which were easier for the garrison to defend from ambush than hilly or wooded ground. For reasons of trade and administration, a version of English became the official and common language. Its closest modern derivative is said to be the accent used by natives of Fingal.[citation needed]

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