Friday, April 29, 2011

What happened today?

Arthur Wellesley, aka The Duke of Wellington, aka the guy who defeated Napoleon, was born on this day in 1769. Unfortunately (in his eyes nonetheless), he was born in Ireland. 

Now there are many greats in Ireland's history that were born in Ireland but whose parents, or at least one of them, were English. Take some literary figures for example. Swift, Wilde, Yeats and Stoker are not strikingly obvious Irish names (I bet ALL of them are not Irish names), yet we definitely count them in the list of great Irish literary figures. Heck, I'm one of the few who would even count Shakespeare in the list!

But, we don't know for certain which, if any, would actually prefer NOT to be counted in such a list. Wellington definitely did not really regard himself as an Irishman, or if he did, he resented such a tag. We don't care. If he didn't  want to be one of us, we don't want him to be one of us! So there, Wellington!

That's the way I see the 'label' of 'Irishness' - you can claim or deny Irishness, but only with legitimate principles: and "it's St. Patrick's Day, I'm Irish" is not legitimate!

I bring up this issue on today of all days because there's a royal wedding happening in London. It will be watched by a couple billion people around the world, among them many Irish. Nowadays, we Irish have a strange relationship with the British monarchy (a relationship that will get even stranger, I bet, once and after the Queen arrives for a visit) - many Irish bought 'Candle in the Wind' after Diane's death, and, doubtless, thousands have tuned in today to watch the royal wedding. I am not one of them.

 So I wonder if many people in Ireland today have done 'a Wellington'.

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