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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Norse-Gaels

The Norse-Gaels were a people who dominated much of the Irish Sea region and western Scotland for a large part of the Middle Ages, whose aristocracy were mainly of Scandinavian origin, but as a whole exhibited a great deal of Gaelic and Norse cultural syncretism. They are generally known by the Gaelic name which they themselves used, of which "Norse-Gaels" is a translation. This term is subject to a large range of variations depending on chronological and geographical differences in the Gaelic language, i.e. Gall Gaidel, Gall Gaidhel, Gall Gaidheal, Gall Gaedil, Gall Gaedhil, Gall Gaedhel, Gall Goidel, etc, etc. The terminology was used both by native Irish and native Scots who wished to alienate them, and by the Norse-Gaels themselves who wished to stress their Scandinavian heritage and their links with Norway and other parts of the Scandinavian world. The nativised presence of Norsemen in Ireland also lent at least one self-reference, that of Ostmen. Other modern translations used include Scoto-Norse, Hiberno-Norse and Foreign Gaels.

The Norse-Gaels originated in Viking colonies of Ireland and Scotland who became subject to the process of Gaelicization, whereby starting as early as the ninth century, most intermarried with native Gaels (except for the Norse who settled in northwest England) and adopted the Gaelic language as well as many other Gaelic customs, such as dress. Many left their original worship of Norse gods and converted to Christianity, and this contributed to the Gaelicization. Gaelicized Scandinavians dominated the Irish Sea region until the Norman era of the twelfth century, founding long-lasting kingdoms, such as the Kingdoms of Man, Argyll, Dublin, York and Galloway. The Lords of the Isles, a Lordship which lasted until the sixteenth century, as well as many other Gaelic rulers of Scotland and Ireland, traced their descent from Norse-Gaels. The Norse-Gaels settlement in England was concentrated in the North West.

Iceland and the Faroes

It is recorded in the Landnamabok that there were papar or culdees in Iceland before the Norse, and this appears to tie in with comments of Dicuil. However, whether or not this is true, the settlement of Iceland and the Faroe islands by the Norse would have included many Norse-Gaels, as well as slaves, servants and wives. They were called "Vestmen", and the name is retained in Vestmanna in the Faroes, and the Vestmannaeyjar off the Icelandic mainland, where it is said that Irish slaves escaped to. ("Vestman" may have referred to the lands and islands "west" of mainland Scandinavia.)

A number of Icelandic personal names are of Gaelic origin, e.g. Njáll Þorgeirsson of Njáls saga had a forename of Gaelic origin - Niall. Patreksfjörður, an Icelandic village also contains the name "Padraig".

According to some circumstantial evidence, Grímur Kamban, seen as the founder of the Norse Faroes, may have been a Norse Gael.

"According to the Faereyinga Saga... the first settler in the Faroe Islands was a man named Grímur Kamban - Hann bygdi fyrstr Færeyar, it may have been the land taking of Grímur and his followers that cauysed the anchorites to leave... the nickname Kamban is probably Gaelic and one interpretation is that the word refers to some physical handicap, another that it may point to his prowess as a sportsman. Probably he came as a young man to the Faroe Islands by way of Viking Ireland, and local tradition has it that he settled at Funningur in Eysturoy."

Genetics

The Vikings’ prolific expansion is still exhibited in modern genetics. Relatively high frequencies of Haplogroup R1a1 are found in Northern Europe, the largest being 23% in Iceland, and it is believed to have been spread across Europe by the Indo-Europeans and later migrations of Vikings, which accounts for the existence of it in, among other places, the British Isles.

The Duchy of Normandy stems from various Danish, Hiberno-Norse, Orkney Viking and Anglo-Danish (from the Danelaw) invasions of France in the 8th century. A fief, probably as a county, was created by the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in 911 out of concessions made by King Charles, and granted to Rollo, leader of the Vikings known as Northmen (or in Latin Normanni).

Originally encompassing the province of Neustria and a portion of Breton territory on the Northern Coast and interior of France, it is now divided between territory in mainland France and the Channel Islands, which are Crown dependencies of the British Monarchy. The British sovereign is still known informally as the Duke of Normandy in the Channel Islands.

See Normandy for this region in modern France and more of the geography and culture of the region.

When the Norse-speaking settlers spread out over the lands of the Duchy, they adopted the Gallo-Romance speech of the existing populations — much as Norman rulers later adopted in England the speech of the administered people. In Normandy, the new Norman language formed by the interaction of peoples inherited vocabulary from Norse. In England the Norman language developed into the Anglo-Norman language. The literature of the Duchy and England during the period of the Anglo-Norman realm is known as Anglo-Norman literature.

Duke of Normandy

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is the current Duke of Normandy.

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