A short history of the Irish harp

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A short history of the Irish harp

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With St Patrick’s Day just around the corner, it will soon be time to celebrate all things Irish.

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Ireland has a rich and varied history with a number of cultural symbols that are recognised throughout the world as being intrinsically Irish. Amongst leprechauns, shamrocks and pints of Guinness is a slightly more sophisticated symbol of Irish heritage – the Irish harp.

Otherwise known as the Celtic or Gaelic harp, the Irish Genealogy Toolkit identifies the harp as the official emblem of Ireland and something that has been around for over 1,000 years. Let’s take a look at the history of this important symbol of Irish culture.

High society

Although the origins of the Irish harp have long been lost, there is evidence to suggest that it dates back over 1,000 years. During the 12th century, the harp was a sign of social status in both Scotland and Ireland. Many kings and noblemen would employ harpists in their courts as a form of entertainment, often working alongside poets to create performances of high culture designed to impress and engage the audience.

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A move to England

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the harp gained in popularity in the royal court in England. Although the style changed slightly to incorporate the typical English musical trends of the time, the allure of the foundation of the Irish harp remained prominent. For this reason, harp or harp-themed items from a stockist such as https://www.shamrockgift.com/st-patricks-day would make iconic St Patricks Day gifts.

A notable symbol throughout history

During the reign of Henry VIII, the symbol of the heart was added to Irish coins. It was also used on the Royal Coat of Arms in 1603 and later became a sign used on military badges. Fast-forward to the 18th century and a winged-maiden harp became a symbol used in a number of political movements, including the Society of United Irishmen. It was also used by notable figures in literature and music as a metaphor for the social troubles of the time.

The symbol of the harp is something with deep-rooted history and emotion for the Irish. As such, they want it to be a national symbol of their country – so much so that it now features on the president’s seal of office.

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