If you’re from this British city you have the right to live in Dublin thanks to an 850-year-old law which still applies
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If you’re from this British city you have the right to live in Dublin thanks to an 850-year-old law which still applies

PEOPLE from Bristol are entitled to live in Dublin thanks to a charter written by King Henry II almost 850 years ago – which has never been repealed.

The parchment – which has gone on public display in the Dublin City Archives – was penned between 1171-72 and grants Bristolians the right to live in the Irish capital.

Henry II made the proclamation after a rebellious Norman baron called Richard ‘Strongbow’ de Clare seized Dublin Castle.

The King was worried that de Clare was going to declare an independent kingdom on the island of Ireland and decided to pay him a visit – along with his fleet of ships – to assert his authority.

Henry went to Bristol, which had close trading links with Dublin at the time, and financed his expedition with the help of a number of wealthy Bristolian merchants.

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The monarch set up court in a huge tent in Ireland’s capital and ruled his kingdom from there for the whole winter – arriving in November 1171 and leaving in February 1172.

During his stay in Ireland, he enacted the 5 by 6.5 inch charter, which grants anyone living in Bristol the right to live in Dublin to this day – as the law has never been officially revoked.

The proclamation was a reward to the people of Bristol for their help in getting Henry across the Irish Sea and cemented Dublin as an affective colony of the English monarchy – at least for the time being.

It states: “Know ye that I have given and granted and by the present charter have confirmed to my men of Bristol my city of Dublin to inhabit”.

It adds that Bristolians can live in Dublin “with all the liberties and free customs which the men of Bristol have at Bristol and throughout all my land.”

Henry II wrote the law 846 years ago while visiting Ireland to curb the power of Richard 'Strongbow' de Clare [right] in Dublin.
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Dublin City Library and Archive have put the little-known charter on display after historians confirmed it has never been directly overturned in law.

“It is truly remarkable that such a small and fragile document has survived eight centuries of use,” an article on the archive’s website states.

“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.

“In the wake of the Norman Invasion of Ireland, Dublin was seized in 1170 by Richard de Clare, better known as Strongbow.

“His overlord, King Henry II, was alarmed as it seemed likely that a separate and independent kingdom might be established in Ireland.

“Accordingly he decided to visit in person to assert his authority, and his journey was financed by the merchants of Bristol”.

During Henry’s stay in Dublin, the High Kings of Ireland submitted to him in person.

His 846-year-old charter is the oldest document in the entire Dublin City Archives.

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It is also believed to be the earliest ever law to confer the rights of people in either Britain or Ireland to live in each other’s countries.

“This gave to the men of Bristol the right to live in the city of Dublin ‘ad inhabitanda’,” the archive added.

“The tiny parchment measures 121 mm x 165 mm and a fragment of the seal remains in green wax.

“The charter is written right through, leaving no room for additions - a measure taken to prevent fraud.”

The law is attracting considerable attention almost 850 years after it was written as some see it as a potential loophole in Britain’s departure from the European Union.

It is speculated that the charter could give Bristolians – who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU – a route by which to hold onto their EU citizenship post-Brexit.