Invasion of Anglo-Normans

Anglo-Normans at battle

The invasion of Anglo-Normans in Ireland was a turning point in Irish history and is considered an important era.

Although the conquest of the Normans was short lived in Ireland, approx 200 years, their occupation had a huge influence in Ireland some of which is still evident to this day.

When did the Norman arrive in Ireland?

When the King of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada, was stripped of his Kingdom by the High King of Ireland, Ruaidri Ua Conchobair, he turned to King Henry II of England for help.

Mac Murchada pledged an oath of allegiance to King Henry and in return the English King gave permission for his soldiers and mercenaries to help Mac Murchada regain his Kingdom back in Ireland.

Mac Murchada found it difficult rallying enough support in Wales to build a large enough army that could overthrow the High King of Ireland. However, he did manage to create an alliance with Richard fitz Gilbert de Clar, 2nd Earl of Pembroke by offering him an Irish Kingdom at his death but also his hand in marriage to his Irish daughter, Aoife MacMurrough.

On 1 May 1169 the Norman military invasion of Ireland headed by Diarmait Mac Murchada began with Wexford falling first.

Mac Murchada’s new army went on to launching raids in the Kingdom of Ossory, the territories of the Uí Tuathail, the Uí Broin, and the Uí Conchobhair.

The invading force made its way to Tara to remove Conchobair as High King but they underestimated his ruthlessness.

Overthrowing the Irish High King

After the slaughter of hostages, including Mac Murchada’s, Conchobar Mac Murchada both Mac Murchada and Conchobhair met to establish a truce. Mac Murchada would receive his Kingdom back but had to recognise Ua Conchobair as the overall High King of Ireland.

Even though Mac Murchada failed in battle to remove O’Connor and had a truce he sent word to England for Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke come to Ireland and assist with his quest.

By 1170 the 2nd Earl of Pembroke (also known as Strongbow) arrived in Ireland with an almighty force of soldiers armed with the latest advanced weaponry found in Europe. With Strongbows unbeatable army it wasn’t long until the Anglo-Normans had control of Dublin removing the Vikings that already settled in Ireland.

The Ango-Norman & Irish Marriage

On 29 August 1170 Richard fitz Gilbert de Clar (strongbow) married Aoife MacMurrough , the daughter of Ruaidri Ua Conchobair.

According to Anglo-Norman law the marriage would give strongbow rights over land in Leinster but Irish Brehon law would only recognise the transfer of land if it was a transfer of swordland after a conquest.

King Henry II of England invades Ireland

The King of England was furious with Strongbow, a once loyal solider who was now settled in Ireland and gaining ownership of land due to his marriage to the daughter of the King of Leintser.

In 1171 King Henry II sent a large force to Ireland to ensure complete control of his new territory which would become the first time an English King set foot in Ireland.

King Henry already had claim to Ireland but he was now to become Lord of Ireland.

The Treaty of Windsor

By 1175 the treaty of Windsor was made between the High King of Ireland, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, and King Henry II. The treaty was a territorial agreement and oath to the King of England.

As part of the treaty Ua Conchobair got to keep the Kingdom of Ireland, outside the kingdom of Leinster and territory in Waterford. In return Ua Conchobair had to pay Henry II but also had to remain faithful to the King of England as did the other Kings in Ireland.

The Windsor treaty wouldnt last long as the Normans carved out more and more Irish territory for themselves including the invasion of Ulster by John de Courcy.

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.