Why Bristol people have a Royal right to live in Dublin
The people of Bristol – who voted nearly 62 per cent to remain in the EU in last year’s referendum – learned last month that they actually have an 846- year-old “right” to live in Dublin, courtesy of a five inch by six and half inches Royal Charter kept in Dublin’s City Archives.
The existence of the charter was disclosed to South Bristol MP Karin Smyth last week in the Commons just before Christmas. It dates back to 1170 and Richard de Clare, better known as ‘Strongbow’ who seized Dublin Castle.
The King of England and Ireland, Henry II, feared he would declare an independent Irish kingdom so went to Bristol, which had close trading links with Dublin, and persuaded its merchants to financed a fleet of ships to travel to Ireland as a show of force.
He held court in Dublin from November 1171 to February 1172 during which time he proclaimed as a reward to the people of Bristol, in his Royal Charter, that from that day forth, anyone living in Bristol also had the right – bestowed by the Crown – to live in Dublin.
It effectively made Dublin a colony of Bristol. It meant Bristol’s merchants could establish trading posts in their major trading partner and, more importantly for Henry, wield some influence over Strongbow. Both were cities of similar size of approximately 10,000 people.
Today Bristol is a city of some 450,000 people. Today Dublin City and County has a population of 1,273,069 or 1.8 million people if you count the Greater Dublin Area, a region comprising Dublin and the counties of Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. This is set to grow to 2.2 million by 2031.
Although Ireland broke away from Britain in 1922 and from the Commonwealth in 1949 the charter has never actually been rescinded.
Dublin city Archives says: “The charter is written right through, leaving no room for additions, a measure taken to prevent fraud. “It is truly remarkable that such a small and fragile document has survived eight centuries of use.
“The most likely explanation is the charter’s evidential value in legal cases and the reverse is covered with annotations relating to cases where the charter was submitted to prove a point.
“It now resides in a purpose- made case in the Special Strongroom at Dublin City Library & Archive.”