[from W Ralph Hall Caine Isle of Man]



CHRISTIANITY was probably re-introduced by some ambulatory Bishop in the eleventh century. The first monastic settlement of which we have any definite knowledge belonged to the Cistercians at Furness. Rushen Abbey, of which the ruined walls may still be seen, was established by them about 1135.

The Cistercians were, by virtue of their Papal charter, freed from all episcopal rule. An Abbot yielded obedience to those of his own Order. As a community the Cistercians were subject to the Pope alone. Thus arose our earliest connection with the Apostolic See.

Absence from the sea and increasing comfort seem to have demoralized our conquerors. Besides, great and ever-growing powers were in process of development on every side. Kings in Man found it necessary to conciliate these mercenary powers, whether civil or religious. Large tracts of land were granted to the White Monks.

Olaf II., King and Saint, having established Christianity in Norway by his last desperate battle of August 31, 1030, the island came within the ecclesiastical authority of Norway. The diocese, which was first known as Sodor, or Southern Isles, and included the Hebrides, Arran, and Man, had as its metropolitan head the Archbishop of Trondhjem.

The Hebrides and the smaller western isles of Scotland were separated from us in 1266. Thereafter it is nearly impossible to follow the confusion that arose, a confusion in which Tynwald itself seemingly lapsed into oblivion.

When Man was united with Dublin under one crown, the diocese found itself in the Archiepiscopate of Canterbury. Then York was the fountain-head of spiritual authority. But not till the fifteenth century was the last link with Norway finally severed.

Our national emblem, the familiar Three Legs of Man, is traced to our Viking conquerors. Originally the sign was probably a complete circle, from which radiated innumerable shafts, some of them forked, representing the sun casting gleams of light on every side. But, sun-worshippers though they were, they did not invent the device. It may have been an ogham cross, one of the mysterious hieroglyphics in use among the Irish and other Celtic nations.

Oghams were once reputed to be of Persian or Phoenician origin, but no modern scholar supports that theory. One authority makes the deduction that the Celts of these islands wrote their language before the fifth century, the time at which Christianity was supposedly introduced into Ireland, while another finds points of resemblance between the oghams of the Celts and the runes of the Norsemen.

If the oghams came from Scandinavia, we seem to have barely begun our learning of that period of our history. On the other hand, our invaders may have brought the familiar sign from Sicily, where it was already a fully-formed device for perhaps a thousand years or more.

Or (and my last explanation is the most interesting and the most reasonable) it may have been already familiar to them in a slightly altered form. The three-forked device may be only a crude representation of the Svastika or Swastika, a very old religious symbol among Aryans from Persia to Scandinavia. Sometimes the sign was displayed like two geometrical figures in combination: a plain upright cross set in a square with parts of the latter cut away. Sometimes the symbol was shown as an upright cross cast in a ring, the bend at the knee being absorbed in the enclosing circle. (The Three Legs of Man used to be always shown in a circle.) Both were identical, and as a sacred representation of the Sun they are always found in connection with Sun-gods like Apollo and Odin (or Woden), the Great All-Father and giver of life to our Viking ancestors.

The motto which now surrounds the sign Quocunque Jeceris stabit (Whichever way you throw me, I stand) has neither history nor merit to recommend it.

The Three Legs, clad in armour and with spurs on the heels (those of Man, following the rule of Sicily, should be naked), are engraved on our ancient sword of state, attributed to the thirteenth century. A quaint representation of the Three Legs, not clad in armour, but with what seems like a spur attached to one heel, is still discernible in the carved cross which stands in the open, near the entrance to Kirk Maughold churchyard. The Maughold cross is attributed to the fourteenth century.

Of the other bearing of the island, that of a ship in ruff sables and the inscription Rex Manniae et Insularum (King of Man and the Isles), no more satisfactory account can be given.

One old-fashioned writer credits us with a Prince who, reigning in Man in the tenth century, used this crest. For refusing to do homage to Edgar, his English Overlord, we are told he was deprived of his throne. Restored to favour, he was made Admiral of the fleet and swept the seas of his lord's enemies. The seal of King Harald of Man in 1245 was a Viking ship, with furled sails and the same motto, from which it has been assumed that this was the earliest bearing of the island.

Our Norse conquerors seem to have had a strange fancy for these idle but significant embroideries. They were fond of emblazoning on their ships many strange and wonderful signs. They had a curious regard for the raven. A mighty dragon was an object of interest, while another favourite device was that of two serpentine creatures engaged in fierce combat, their heads facing, and their writhing bodies intertwined at regular and exactly corresponding intervals.

A grave element of uncertainty belongs to almost every statement of the Scandinavian period in Man. The names of Godred, Olaf, Harald, Macon, Reginald, Ivar, and Magnus figure in the list of Kings. The kingship was supposedly subject to the overlordship of Norway. The suzerainty was often frankly of the most shadowy kind.

Reginald, for instance, was prepared to submit himself anywhere, so long as he had efficient protection and was left in peace. He submitted himself to the Crown of England, and when King John made his bow to Rome, he did the same by formal deed, dated October 10, 1219.

But there was a long period in which the island was the toy of rival crowns. Alexander III. of Scotland supported his claim with vigour and success-so much so that when a Princess Mary, as last of an old line, offered to do homage to the King of England, she was answered: ' She must claim it of the King of Scotland, who now holds it.'

By 1290 Edward I., ' the hammer of Scotland,' had made good his authority in Man. In 1313 Lord Robert Bruce, King of Scotland, began his successful incursions, and three years later a party of Irish freebooters had their revenge on the Scottish King-and on us-by a general pillage of the whole island.

Another Mary, a granddaughter of the former, came to England, with her deeds and her charters, and threw herself at the feet of Edward III.

The King promised his aid, and he was even better than his word. He found a husband for the lady, marrying her, we are told, to her own kinsman, Sir William de Montacute, who is sometimes described as ` of the Royal Family of Man,' and as one who was held in the highest esteem by his monarch. Sir William and his lady were also provided with ' soldiers and shipping to make good her right.'

Sir William was apparently unable to defend the island against the Scots. The people themselves longed for any form of settled government, and, to get even one year's brief respite, they agreed to pay their Scottish foes a fine of 300 marks.

Edward III. assented to this bargain, being at that time so fully engaged in war with France. But in 1346 his hands were freer, and with the defeat and capture of King David he practically ended all serious efforts on the part of Scotland to regain possession of the island.

From Sir William Montacute, first Earl of Salisbury, the island passed to his son, whose style was ' Lord of Man.' In 1394 the island, ' with the crowne,' was sold to Sir William Le Scroop, an under-chamberlain of Richard II., who was promptly beheaded on the succession of Henry IV.

All claimants being now dead, or otherwise disposed of, the island was an unencumbered appendage of the British Crown.

Henry IV. made a grant to Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and his heirs of ' the isle, castle, peel and lordship of Man, with all such islands and seignories thereunto belonging as were Sir William de Scrope's, knight, deceased, whom in his life we conquered, and do declare to be conquered,' subject to the service of carrying at every coronation ' that sword naked (which we wore when we arrived at Holderness), called Lancaster Sword.'

A year or two later the Earl rebelled, was defeated and banished, and though the attainder was taken off, he was deprived of the island.

The King now made, in 1405, a fresh grant to Sir John de Stanley for life. The deed was cancelled within a year, and regranted to Sir John Stanley and his heirs, together with the castle and peel of Man, and all royalties, regalities, franchises, etc.,' together with the patronage of the bishopric, in as full and ample a manner as it had been granted to any former King or Lord, to be held of the Crown of England on paying homage, in lieu of all demands and customs whatsoever, and providing a cast of falcons at every successive coronation of a King of England.

James I., by letters patent in 1609, settled the island upon William, the sixth Earl, and Elizabeth his Countess for their lives and the life of the survivor, with remainder to their son and heirapparent, James (afterwards seventh Earl), and his heirs. By an Act of Parliament in 1610 the succession was again varied to the heirs male of James, Lord Stanley, instead of the heirs general. Failing such issue, the island was to pass to the heirs male of William, the final remainder being to the rightful heirs of James, Lord Stanley.

The succession passed to four descendants of William, and then, in 1736, upon the death of James, the tenth Earl, the sovereignty passed to James, the second Duke of Athole, the heir general of James, seventh Earl of Derby.


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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2018