Saturday, March 17, 2012

Was Mr. Darcy Irish?

by Mairie O'Loideain O'Simonsen

When you hear someone’s last name that starts with the prefix, “Fitz,” as in Fitzgerald, Fitzsimmons, Fitzpatrick, Fitzhenry, etc., you probably assume you are speaking to someone of Irish descent. So it is possible that Fitzwilliam Darcy was descended from a Hiberno-Norman family. And who exactly were the Hiberno (Irish) Normans (French) by way of England people? This group came to Ireland at the request of Diarmaid Mac Murchadha, aka Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, who had been given the heave-ho by TighearnĂ¡n Ua Ruairc. (Try and pronounce that!) These Hiberno-Normans liked what they saw of the Emerald Isle, decided to stay, and freely intermarried with the Irish and became “more Irish than the Irish.”

Saturday, March 10, 2012

High Collars and the Regency Era

As I mentioned in the post below, At Home by Bill Bryson is full of fun historical facts including a paragraph about the clothing worn by the Prince Regent, the future George IV:

"Some of the fashion was dictated by the ever-increasing stoutness of the prince of Wales (or "Prince of Whales," as he was known behind his back). By the time he reached his thirties, the prince had taken on such a fleshy sprawl that he had to be forcibly strapped into a corset... All this pushed his upper body fat upward through the neck hole, like toothpaste coming out of a tube, so the very high collars fashionable in his day were a kind of additional mini corset designed to hide an abundance of chins and the floppy wattle of his neck."

Now you know. :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Clergy - Time for Other Things

I am currently reading At Home, A History of Private Life  by Bill Bryson, and it is chock full of interesting facts including the role of clergy in England: "Piety was not necessarily a requirement or even an expectation. Ordination in the Church of England required a university degree, but most ministers read classics and didn't study divinity at all... Many didn't even bother composing sermons, but just bought a big book of prepared sermons and read one out once a week. Though no one intended it, the effect was to create a class of well-educated, wealthy people who had immense amounts of time on their hands. In consequence, many of them began to do remarkable things:

George Bayldon, a vicar in remote Yorkshire, became a self-taught authority in linguistics and compiled the world's first dictionary of the Icelandic language.
Laurence Sterne vicar of a parish near York, wrote popular novels, including The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy.