Text: “Trí coróna i gcairt Shéamais”

Ferghal Óg Mac an Bháird (c.1550-c.1616) was a member of a learned family in Donegal, Ireland. He composed the following poem in 1603 in hopes that the succession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England (and Ireland) would be an improvement for the Gaels of Ireland, given the new king’s own Gaelic lineage.

The following text was adapted by Michael Newton from the edition and translation of McKenna, Aithdioghluim §44.


§ 1. James’s charter has three crowns in it – have you not seen the three of them well? – they are the subject which I shall relate to you who seeks to know.

§ 2. Three crowns – he thinks it appropriate – will be placed on James’s head; what the books say is no secret and can be readily proven.

§ 3. It is proper to remember that the crown of rich-earthed Scotland is the first that God gave him; who can imagine a king like him?

§ 4. I know this, that the Saxon’s crown shall be the second placed on the powerful king of Scotland, a gentle, blue-eyed pure prince.

§ 5. The young prince of high spirit, James Stewart, will have Ireland’s wondrous crown: I know that this is an honour that he well deserves.

§ 6. As it is now time to declare it, I will say it: the three royal crowns in the charter of the king of the Gaelic and non-Gaelic peoples.

§ 7. If he would permit himself to listen to me I will first tell this prince, this dispeller of dissension, of the right that he has for fair Scotland of the smooth lands.

§ 8. His ancestors have had it for three hundred years – it is lasting substance! – it is no surprise that Scotland’s prince claims that land of clean-edged high lands!

§ 9. Smooth-soiled Scotland was held by nine of his ancestors before him – nothing can be said against them! I shall enumerate them.

§ 10. Two Roberts held rich Scotland of the blood-red weapons before him who grew from the same root – the authorities do not dispute it.

§ 11. Besides these two, five Jameses ruled Scotland of the dun yew trees; this is not faulty knowledge, I have counted them.

§ 12. Your own father, Henry Darnley, was the eighth of them according to the accurate book of Scotland – it is my duty to make a careful account.

§ 13. To the mother of the noble high-king (James’s mother, Mary) belonged Scotland from sea to sea; she put the crown on her head, a never-ending honour. […]

§ 16. O prince of the smooth, fair hand, I must also explain your right to the Saxon’s land with its shapely fields, dark ships, and bright sorrel.

§ 17. According to the tale told in the ancient books, I have learned that your great-grandmother – noble her ancestry! – was the daughter of the king of the Saxon’s land [i.e., England]. […]

§ 21. O prince whose hand gives unerring judgments, let me now state this: do not aim for taking in new lands, as you already have proper rights to red-weaponed Ireland.

§ 22. The royal crown of Ireland is in the court of England of the tapering streams; it causes depression of heart for it to be in that land under the authority of the warriors of London.

§ 23. England was prophesied for you long ago – that knowledge is well-known – likewise you are heir to Ireland; all signs indicate that you are her spouse.

§ 24. Therefore, o son of Henry of the hot battles, the three islands bound together are rightfully yours, beyond question. […]

§ 29. Your rule has been granted the congenial wisdom of Solomon; o prince of the goodly ancestry from whom there is an ample stream; you are acknowledged as the supreme authority.

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