I was watching the England-Wales rugby march today (it happened yesterday, and I recorded it) and noticed something unusual. It was attended by a British princeling - I think it was the one called Prince William - and whenever Wales scored, he stood up, cheered and applauded. Now, I understand that PW is a patron of the Welsh Rugby Union and that his full title is Prince William of Wales. But I think it goes deeper than this: I'm persuaded that he actually believes he is Welsh. His father, of course, as well as being the Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Chester, Earl of Carrick, Baron Renfrew and Lord of the Isles is the Prince of Wales. But he's not exactly Welsh, really, being of direct descent from a German aristocratic family into which occasional vials of English and Scottish DNA have been mixed. William has a spot of Irish, since his grandmother was a Roche whose people hailed from Cork a while back. But there's very little Welsh in the PW family line, at least not since Henry VII (d. 1509), who was born in Wales of a Welsh family. The Welshness of the Waleses is of quite recent vintage: it was that old Cambrian dog Lloyd George who dreamed up the idea of an investiture ceremony in Caernarfon Castle in 1911 for the future Edward VIII and even taught the young prince a few words of his thrust-upon-him native language. The present occupant of the post went through a similar pageant in 1969, for which he studied somewhat more intensively than his great-uncle. PW is thus only the most recent in an invented tradition of Welshification (or maybe mascotification).
I was thinking about this while reflecting on how people became Irish. The DIB, as we've already seen, is full of various arrivistes. This isn't surprising: Ireland is a small place, close to lots of big places, and you'd expect there to be lots of race-mixing to and fro. In fact, despite continuing self-identity as a highly homogeneous people, the Irish are as mongrelized as any: in my own family tree, other than the Hungarians on my father's side (and leaving aside the Greek gods of which I've previously spoken), I'm aware of Huguenot and Scottish heritage diluting my pure Paddytude, and there are probably other, unknown, miscegenating strains. This is fine by me and completely typical. But at the same time, reading Irish lives makes you very aware of those who elbowed their way in, particularly since so many make the kind of impact that gets them an entry in a dictionary of biography.
the artist Edith Blake lived in his house near Youghal.) Boyle set about building up his fortune again, breaking Raleigh's leases, either to squeeze more money from the tenants or to put in new ones, usually English soldiers and entrepreneurs keen to loot Munster's rich natural resources. Boyle used the money to buy even more estates in Ireland and England; he also obtained the usual titles to go with his wealth and influence - first a knighthood, then a barony and finally an earldom. Hie second wife obliged him with 15 children of which at least 11 seem to have survived to adulthood. Boyle was energetic in obtaining them wealth and preferment, too, building estates and seeking out advantageous marriages. He lived to the age of 74 and died of natural causes. His family motto was "God's providence is my inheritance." I'm not sure what God had to do with it: the substantial inheritance of his family depended in great part on Boyle's dark genius for business, including a filing system that could keep him up to date on his tenants and their payments "at a moment's notice."
Mick on the Make, to use Roy Foster's terminology. He left Tipperary at the age of 14, moved to Australia and seems to have spent the rest of his life lying about everything. Less important than the many who disliked and mistrusted him was the small number of influential people - notably, Winston Churchill - who liked him immensely. He ended up a cabinet minister, chairman of the Financial Times and all-round political fixer and charmer, despite an appearance that combined a "mop of read hair and pale freckled skin" with "black teeth". He reaped the usual rewards, including a viscountcy. He downplayed his connections to his father, a monumental sculptor and founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association, as well as all things Irish, although he once produced his birth certificate to refute the claim that he was a Polish jew: in the British society that he embraced there were, after all, some things worse than being Irish. From the non-Welsh Welsh to the non-English English: this identity thing is very complicated.