[from D. Robertson, Tour, 1794]



To trace the origin of nations, to elucidate their progress from barbarity to civilization, and, in a page illumined with the flame of genius, to give immortality to their patriots and heroes, is the office of the historic muse: but this dignity not corresponding with my present design, I shall promise little more than a chronological view of the kings of Man; with a sketch of the characters of those, rendered conspicuous by their crimes, or virtues.

The Isle of Man was known to the ancients by various names[*1]. Caesar distinguishes it by that of Mona(1). Ptolemy calls it Moneoda, or the more remote Mona; Pliny Monabia, and others Eubonia. Buchanan stiles it Mana, the natives Manning, and the English Man; which appellation, Bishop Wilson derives from the Saxon word Mang(2); this Island being literally among the neighbouring kingdoms.

The original inhabitants most probably migrated from Britain; and as their chief employment was hunting, they lived in tribes, and their primitive government was patriarchal. To this form succeeded the civil and religious institutions of the Druids[*2]; a race of sacred and venerable legislators, who, after the general massacre of their brethren in Anglesea, reigned over the affections of the natives of Mona, till the close of the fourth century; when the light of Christianity penetrating the gloom of their umbrageous oaks, their admirable fabric of religion and morality gradually yielded to a system, which,in some of its most important doctrines, resembled, yet infinitely surpassed, their own (3).

By embracing Christianity, the legislative dignity of the Druids was not immediately affected for according to the Manks tradition, they and their descendants, continued, for several years,the teachers and rulers of the people(4). But at length an irruption of northern Barbarians, spreading anarchy and devastation through the country, overthrew their dominion: and a long period ensued, in which the history of this Island is involved in darkness and fable, till the descent of


in the tenth century[*3].

This Prince was of the Danish line, and after subduing the Orcades and Hebrides, at last established his throne in Mona. Though he assumed the government by violence, his reign was undisturbed by any domestic commotion: and to his polity the Manks are indebted for the origin of their Constitutional Representatives; who for several succeeding ages sometimes feebly opposed, but more frequently sanctioned regal oppression. After a long reign, ORRY was succeeded by his son,


A Prince who devoted his attention to the welfare of his subjects: He erected the noble relic of Danish architecture, Castle-Rushen; and in that durable monument of his regal grandeur lies obscurely buried[*4].

The third Prince of the Danish line was REGINALD, who sacrificed the dignity of his character to lust and intemperance. His vices accelerated his ruin: for having seduced a lady whose brothers were soldiers of fortune, they revenged her dishonour by the death of her seducer. On this event, OLAVE, having assumed the crown, without the approbation of the King of Denmark, was with much apparent friendship invited to his court: but on his arrival was arraigned, and executed as a traitor to the supremacy of the Danish throne. His brother OLAIN, succeeded him, who, after an equitable reign, died in Ireland, and had for his successor ALLEN; whose memory has been branded with every crime. He was poisoned by his Governor, and most probably succeeded by


a gallant Prince, who, for refusing homage to the English crown, was deprived of the diadem of the Isles. It was however soon afterwards restored to him with a plenitude of honour. He was created by the English Monarch, Admiral of a numerous fleet, with which he annually circumnavigated the British Isles; to guard them from the rapine and barbarity of the Scandinavian pirates, who, at this period, were a terror to the neighbouring kingdoms. It is uncertain how long he reigned by whom he was succeeded: but in the eleventh century,


a Norwegian hero[*5], having accompanied his king in the invasion of England, and being there defeated, sought an asylum in this Island, where he was hospitably received by the natives. The reigning Prince of Man at this period was Godred the son of Syrric, who from his cowardice, barbarity, and in justice, became odious to his subjects. With a penetrating eye Godred Crovan observed the discontents of the people; and animated by regal ambition, formed the daring project of dethroning the King. But this ambitious plan he concealed from the inhabitants, till he should be invested with force sufficient to commend success. To obtain this, he withdrew to his native country; and arming a numerous fleet, with great expedition returned to this Island. In his absence the tyrant died, and


his son, was seated on the throne; from whose youth, mildness, and generosity, the Manks promised themselves many blessings. The virtues of this Prince, inspiring his subjects with heroic loyalty, for some time frustrated the hopes of the invader; who, being twice repulsed, effected by stratagem what he could not accomplish by violence. In a dark night he concealed in a wood, under a hill near Ramsay, three hundred of his troops; and on the morning landed the remainder of his forces; which, being opposed by the Manks with their usual heroism, were again almost vanquished. But in the moment of supposed victory Godred vigorously renewing the combat, the troops that formed the ambuscade now burst upon the rear of the Manks army[*6]. A well-disputed conflict ensued: and at length the tide of conquest turned against the Manks. Their King with the prime of his nobility fell in the battle, and the residue yielded to the generosity of the Conqueror.


1: The Mona of Tacitus is Anglesea.

2: Signifying among,

3: See Chap. XII.

4: During this period, the Isle of Man, according to Boetius and other writers, was the fountain of all pure learning; the residence of the Muses; and a literary retirement for the heirs of the crown of Scotland. From this it may be presumed, that the erudition, genius, and virtue of the Druids for some ages survived their religious establishment in this country.

5: Ninnius mentions the invasion of this Island by one Binle'a Scot; and other Writers its reduction by Edwin, King of Northumberland: but these were temporary ravages, and not conquests.


Back index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000