'Lebor na gCeart' - The 'Book of Rights'


Lebor na gCeart, the "Book of Rights", details the rents and taxes paid by the King of Cashel to various others in Ireland.  The original manuscripts date to the 11th or 12th century, and it contains a treasure trove of references to the customs and practices of Irish nobility in the Middle Ages.  This collection of manuscripts was edited and translated into English by Miles Dillion in 1962, and published for the Irish Texts Society.

Lebor na gCeart can be downloaded free of charge in multiple file formats HERE, including PDF, Kindle, ePub.

The following is an excerpt from Lebor na gCeart, section VI:








"When the king of Tara is not king of Ireland, he is entitled to a hundred swords, a hundred shields, a hundred horses, a hundred coloured cloths, and a hundred coats of mail. That is from the king of Ireland to the king of Tara. Now from the king of Tara to his kings and to the tribes of Meath: twenty horns, twenty swords, twenty slaves, and twenty hounds to the king of Brega. Five shields, five swords, five cloaks, five horses, and five hounds to the king of Mag Lacha. Ten horses, ten slaves, ten women and ten horns to the king of Laegaire. Seven shields, seven horses, seven slaves, seven women, and seven hounds to the king of Ardgal. Seven horses, seven swords, seven horns, and seven cloaks to the king of Fir Chell. Six horses, six swords, six shields, and six slaves to the king of Fir Thulach. Eight shields, eight swords, eight horns, and eight horses to the king of Fir Thethba. Six shields, six horses, six cloaks, six slaves, and six horns to the king of Cuircne. Five horses, five swords, and five cloaks to the king of Uí Beccon. Five women, five horses, five horns, and five shields to the king of Coill Fallamain. Eight slaves, eight women, eight horses, eight shields, and eight swords to the king of Delbna Mór. And it is for them that Benén sang:

Recount the rights of the king of Tara which gracious Benén has told; what is due to him at Tara has been memorised by a Latin scholar.

The king of Tara of the princes is entitled to a hundred swords and a hundred shields, a hundred suits and a hundred horses, a hundred mantles and a hundred coats of mail.

The fair king of the realm of Brega is entitled to twenty horns, twenty swords, twenty hounds, and twenty slaves as stipend from the king of Tara.

The king of Mag Lacha is entitled to five shields, five fighting swords, five fleecy cloaks, five horses, and five white hounds in fine array.

The swift king of Laegaire is entitled to ten sturdy horses in his tribe land, ten slaves, ten full-grown women, ten hounds, and ten horns for the drinking-feast.

The stipend of the noble king of Ardgal is seven shields, seven horses from Scotland, seven full-grown women, seven slaves, and seven hounds.

The king of Coill Echach is entitled to seven strong horses from the king of tribes, seven swords for battle, seven horns and seven coloured cloaks.

The strong king of Fir Thulach is entitled to six horses from overseas (?), six swords, six red shields, and six foreign slaves without speech.

The stipend of the king of Fir Thethba is eight shields, eight fighting swords, eight horns, eight mantles, and eight worthy slave women.

The king of Curcne of the fen is entitled to six shields, six horses,six cloaks, six slaves,and six horns for ready service.

The stipend of the king of Uí Beccon is five horses that are fast away,five brilliant cloaks of lasting colour, and five swords for battle.

The king of Coill In Ollaim is entitled to five shields, five horns for his treasure, five horses brought in well-laden ships, and five worthy woman slaves.

The king of festive Delbna is entitled to eight swords, eight shields from across the sea, eight horses with slender legs,eight slaves, and eight slave women.

That is the tradition of the kings of Tara — not every prattling bard can tell it — it befits not the bard but only the file to know the rights of every king."


Check out more Wild Geese content about the history of Ireland.


Views: 2500

Tags: History of Ireland, Literature, Preservation

Comment by Rose Maurer on October 18, 2013 at 11:04am

Oh to have been a king in those times! Congratulations to Miles Dillion for what must have been both an arduous and rewarding endeavour.

Comment by DJ Kelly on October 27, 2013 at 9:12am

Oh dear, though. They kept slaves.  Still, I suppose the practice was widespread back then.


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