King Henry II of England Invades Ireland

King Henry II

As Richard de Clare (Strongbow) enjoyed life in Ireland, married into Irish Kingship and gaining land, King Henry II of England became unnerved that some of his loyal subjects were becoming too accustomed to Ireland’s way of life. The only solution was for King Henry to invade Ireland himself.

The arrival of King Henry II in Ireland

King Henry of England organized a large fleet of 400 ships to transport his army and weapons, its believed he had as little as 500 mounted knights and 4,000 men-at-arms along with archers. They set sail from Wales landing on Irish shores in October of 1171, the first time a King or Queen of England set foot in Ireland.

When King Henry II arrived in Ireland they already settled Normans submitted to remain loyal and handed over any land they gained from their previous invasion. Richard de Clare (Strongbow) promised to remain loyal to King Henry II if he was allowed to keep what he had already gained in Ireland. Irish Kings would also have to make an oath to the King of England and pay a tax, most Irish Kings agreed but others wouldn’t.

The construction of castles

During his time Henry II set about constructing castles in Ireland to better protect his newly conquered territories and he built some of the finest examples of castles such as Ashford Castle which was built by the de Burgo’s in 1228.

The majority of castles would be built as fortified homes to protect the Lords and most powerful Anglo-Normans in Ireland at the time. These fortifications would be typical in design, a strong-wall surrounding a tower-house, and would prove very effective.


  • A New History of Ireland, Volume II: Medieval Ireland 1169–1534. Francis Xavier Martin (2008).
  • The Deeds of the Normans in Ireland: La Geste Des Engleis En Yrlande by Evelyn Mullaly
  • A Military History of Ireland By Thomas Bartlett, Keith Jeffery

Last updated March 2, 2020.

About the Author

Brian O’Neill
Camera shy Brian is a proud Donegal man and regular contributor to our site.