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Chronicle of Mann

Compiled at Rushen Abbey on the Isle of Man, this chronicle records events from 1016 to the 14th century on and around the island whose thousand-year-old parliament, Tynwald, is the world's oldest continuous ruling body

Chronicle of Mann, 1261

Chronicle of Mann, 1261
Cotton Julius A.VII, ff.44v-45
Copyright © The British Library Board

 

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What is the status of Man?

With its population of 80,000, the Isle of Man, roughly midway between Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, is a self-governing dependency of the British crown. It is not part of the United Kingdom, or the European Union; but its defence, foreign policy, and ultimate governance, are the UK's responsibility.

The island was a Celtic community which came for a while under the rule of the Vikings in 1079. The word for the Manx parliament, Tynwald, shows the Norse influence (from 'thing', or 'assembly'). The parliament has been in continuous existence since 979 or earlier, making it the oldest continuously governing body in the world.

Its historic language, Manx, is strongly related to Irish and Scots Gaelic. The last native speaker died in 1974 but the language is kept alive by enthusiasts. The Manx term for the isle is 'Ellan Vannin'.

What does the Chronicle contain?

The main part of the manuscript was probably compiled in 1261 or 1262 at Rushen Abbey on the island. The Chronicle is a year-by-year account of major historical events on Man, and in the British Isles. Written in Latin, it records the island's role as the centre of the Norse Kingdom of Mann and the Isles, the influence of its kings and religious leaders, and talks about Rushen Abbey itself.

What are some typical entries?

Early on, details are sketchy ('1036, 1037, 1038, 1039, 1040, 1041, 1042, 1043, 1044: Nothing to remember') or brief and to the point ('In the year 1047... William the Bastard conquered England, killed King Harold, and reigned in his place, reducing the English to permanent slavery. He ruled the English for 20 years 11 months, and was succeeded by his son.') As with the Norse sagas, they are mostly a running list of names, dates, facts and places, rather than ornate mythology. However, more recent events (from the writer's point of view) are covered at some length.

Why is the Battle of Hastings claimed to be in 1047?

Sources for the dates before 1100 were unreliable. Some of the earlier ones for example were taken from the Chronicle of Marianus Scotus, who tried to date the Incarnation to the year 19 BC, giving the 19-year discrepancy between 1066 and 1047. From 1102 most of the dates are correct.

What does this page say?

The pages illustrated here record the eventful meeting of all the islanders at the Tynwald on 25 October 1237. ('Anno MCCXXXVII', halfway up the left-hand page.) Amid tensions resulting from inter-clan feuds, the meeting broke up without agreement. As the meeting finished, violent scuffles broke out, resulting in at least two deaths.

Halfway up the right hand page, beginning near the left margin, the Latin (heavily abbreviated by the scribe to save space) is as follows.

'In ipsa igitur contione, cum diu in alterutrum inimicicie verba iactarent, et acri verborum certamine litigarent, nec ullatenus ad concordiam flecti possent, de conventu populi exilierunt, et in alterutrum hostiliter irruerunt'.

('In the resulting tension, with a lot of unpleasant words being thrown around, and disputes being bitterly contested, they couldn't come to any agreement, and the people rushed out of the meeting, and fighting broke out.')

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