Did you know that harpers were once persecuted? By the year 1,000, the harp had spread all over Europe. In fact, harp music was a key component in Irish and Scottish national identity. In Ireland, harpers were honored above all other musicians, for they kept oral history alive and entertained the court. They, along with the minstrels and head servants would eat at the same table as the King. When the English took power, they began to insist that the Irish take on English customs and replaced the court harpers with Irish Nobles. Harpers were stripped of their special status, accused of being spies and began to travel from court to court.
In the 1650’s, Oliver Cromwell, ordered all harps to be destroyed. In Dublin, over 500 harps were burned, and harpers were forbidden to congregate. (ok, I was shocked to learn about this—harps had such a powerful status in earlier times). But there is more!!
During her reign, Queen Elizabeth I, ordered Lord Barrymore to hang harpers and burn their harps. It was decreed that anyone who gave a harper hospitality would be put in prison. Luckily, Cromwell was really a secret supporter of harps and within two months of the Queen’s death in 1803–he had his own harper (on record). Are we not blessed to be living in a time when harps are plentiful?–and no one would even think of persecuting a harper!