On the evening of 9th November 2012, Manx National Heritage marked the opening of the exhibition ‘The Forgotten Kingdom? The Kingdom of Man and the Isles (1000 – 1300 AD)’. The major exhibition features the return of The Chronicles of the Kings of Man and the Isles displayed alongside six of the magnificent Lewis Chessmen, seen on the Island for the first time.
The VIP opening which took place at the Manx Museum was attended by many special guests, including His Worship the Mayor of Douglas, the Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man, Lloyds TSB who sponsored the exhibition, the local business community and many of those involved in the major project which secured loans from the British Museum, the British Library and National Museums Scotland.
Tony Pass, Chairman of the Trustees of the Manx Museum and National Trust welcomed guests and opened the evening’s events in the National Art Gallery;
“This is a landmark occasion, the launch of a major exhibition devoted to a significant but so far obscure period of our Island story. It tells of a time when we were the capital of a maritime kingdom extending from the Celtic Sea into the North Atlantic, when trade brought wealth, and wealth supported sophisticated art and skilled craftsmanship.”
Speaker of the House of Keys, The Honourable Steve Rodan, declared the exhibition open;
“The Kingdom of Man and the Isles may well be forgotten through the passage of time, but it is the key to the Isle of Man being the way it is today. That we uniquely have our own Legislature, Tynwald, and our own laws and government is thanks to that Viking legacy. The Kingdom deserves to be remembered, and MNH have done an excellent job in reviving that ancient memory before the public, (and not least to academics who should know better), in putting together a superb exhibition which stands comparison for its content and quality of presentation with any museum display anywhere.”
Guests were led to the exhibition gallery, the entrance to which is dominated by two giant pages from the first Manx storybook – The Chronicles of the Kings of Man and the Isles. The manuscript which is on display tells the true accounts of battles fought, indulgent kings and queens; of haunted chieftains, political skulduggery and brutal revenge. Based on information in The Chronicles, the gallery takes you through chapters of the Kingdom, from Queens and Concubines to Wars and Battles to Games.
This special exhibition takes visitors on a journey that began over a thousand years ago when a powerful sea kingdom was formed encompassing the Outer Hebrides, Skye, the Inner Hebrides, Argyll and the Irish Sea. The seat of power was the Isle of Man and from this small island, the Kings of Man and the Isles ruled both the lands and the vital sea route that ran through the heart of what we now know as the British Isles. This trade route brought riches to and from the kingdom.
On display are the precious symbols of wealth and religious power left behind after the Kingdom ended including the exquisitely carved rare chess pieces found on the Isle of Lewis, Viking swords and silver coins with images of kings. There are also Manx artefacts from the time of the Kingdom that are on display for the first time.
The exhibition features an area designed for children, along with handmade costumes designed by local costumier Penny Nuttall for both children and adults to try on! Guests could also buy souvenirs’ in the Manx Museum Gallery Shop, from a replica Lewis Chess set to Lewis Chessmen tea towels!
Chairman Tony Pass introduced the partner project with the Isle of Man Post Office;
‘Apart from visiting the exhibition, you too can possess a part of it. Thanks to Dot Tilbury and IoM Stamps and Coins, there is to be an issue of stamps depicting the Chronicles and the Lewis Chessmen. Therefore from January 13th you can buy an iconic work of art for the trivial sum of 41p or 38p from Post Offices islandwide.’
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by harpist Erica Kelly, a choice fitting for the evening as although little is known about the music of the period the harp is shown on the Island’s stone crosses as is another instrument, the lur. Refreshments were provided by Apple Orphanage which included the very popular Elderflower Kershall. Coastline Catering provided a delectable menu inspired by the Isle of Man and its links with Scotland.
The Forgotten Kingdom? The Kingdom of Man and the Isles (1000 – 1300 AD) is on display until 9 March 2013, open Monday – Saturday 10am to 5pm at the Manx Museum.
Tickets are also available for the next lecture in the ‘The Forgotten Kingdom?’ series. Professor R. Andrew McDonald presents ‘The Manx Sea Kings and the Western Oceans: The Late Norse Isle of Man and its North Atlantic Context 1079-1265’ at the Manx Museum on Friday 7th December, 7.30pm. Tickets are £10 adult, £5 FMNH and child from the Manx Museum Shop and online. Please purchase in advance as places are limited.
The Forgotten Kingdom Exhibition is supported by Lloyds TSB, a leading banking and wealth management firm that provides a wide range of financial services to a substantial and diversified client base including corporations, financial institutions, governments, businesses and individuals. With a history dating back to 1765, Lloyds maintains offices in major financial centres around the world, including the Isle of Man, a major financial centre for international wealth planning. For further information on Lloyds TSB, please visit www.lloydstsb-offshore.com or call into any Lloyds TSB branch.