Women under English law

Many Old English lived in tower houses in 1500 but the wealthy and powerful lived in large castles with impressive fortifications. They had stables, gardens, orchards, fishponds, and mills. They imported furniture, tapestries, clothes, jewellery, ornaments and wine from the Continent and many employed Gaelic bards and harpists to entertain and impress their guests.

Rich women enjoyed many privileges but political, economic, legal and religious aspects of life were male centred.


  1. The Old English were descendants of the ____ who arrived in Ireland in the ___th and ___th centuries.
  2. Write a brief note on the Fitzgeralds of Kildare, the Fitzgeralds of Desmond and the Butlers of Ormond.
  3. Discuss briefly any two aspects of Old English society in Ireland that appear to have been male-centred.
  4. Write a paragraph on the consequences for women of descent in the male line.
  5. Write a paragraph on the consequences for men of primogeniture.
  6. In what circumstances might the birth of daughters be greeted with especial dismay?


  1. Research one of the larger castles in Ireland.
  2. Organise a class visit to a large castle.
  3. Research any Old English family.
  4. Research marriage settlements.
  5. Research the topics of bride-price, dowry, jointure.
  6. 'The birth of a daughter was often greeted with dismay.' Suggest three of the most important changes that have occurred in Ireland so this is no longer the case.
  7. Research a country in our own time where the birth of a baby girl is still greeted with dismay. Suggest the social or economic conditions that appear to lead to this reaction.
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