Rory O’Connor (Ruaidhrí Ó Conchobhair) was the last King of Ireland, having ruled from 1166 to 1193. Rory, who was one of over twenty sons of King Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair (Turlough O’Connor) was also the King of Connacht and a warrior who went on many raids along Ireland’s west coast, particularly the Kingdom of Munster. Rory was not the original heir to his father’s throne, this honour fell on his brother Conchobar who was the designated heir. Through his battles, and raids, however, Rory quickly established himself as someone his father could trust, and by the early 1150s, Rory was now positioned as the rightful heir to Turlough’s throne.
Rory would finally fulfil his destiny in 1156 when he succeeded his father as the King of Connacht, before eventually succeeding Muirchertach mac Lochlainn as the King of Ireland in 1166. Rory is thought to have ruled over Ireland until 1193 (although his later years involved periods of British Rule) and was involved in many battles, most notably with Dermot MacMurrough and Strongbow. Rory was the last Irish King before Henry II invaded Ireland and set about a period of British Rule.
View Rory’s itinerary and retrace the journey of Ireland’s last king as you embark on locations connected to the O’Connor clan in Galway and Offaly.
Rory O'Connor was born in 1116 and was one of over twenty sons of King Turlough O'Connor. Rory was the only son that Turlough had with his third wife Cailech, who is believed to have been from the Aidhe region of Ireland (Galway). Rory's father was the King of Connacht from 1106 until his death in 1156, and the King of Ireland from 1120 to 1156.
Along with his brother Aedh, Rory staged a rebellion against his brother Conchobar but was protected by the Archbishop of Connacht.
Rory rebelled against the family once again in 1143, but this time he was arrested and imprisoned by Conchobar. He was however released a year later, and following this release, Rory went from strength to strength as he started to move up in importance within the family ranks.
Rory was very active in the years building up to 1156, and no more was this activity greater than the early 1150s when he attacked parts of Munster, burning Croome in Limerick, and ultimately dividing Munster in half. Future king Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn fought Rory in the years that followed this division, with Rory defeating him at Inishowen, although MacLouchlainn did respond with raids on East Connacht.
Following the death of his father in 1156, Rory became the King of Connacht, an appointment that was reportedly unopposed. Rory's rival Muirchertach MacLochlainn became the King of Ireland following the death of Rory's father. Despite several reported battles, MacLochlainn stayed in power until his death in 1166.
Following the death of Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn in 1166, Rory made the journey to Dublin where he was announced the new King of Ireland, although few would have predicted at this point that Rory would be Ireland's last king. One of Rory's first tasks as king was to conquer Leinster, ousting the then king, Dermot MacMurrough in the process.
Despite still being King of Ireland, Rory was attacked by Strongbow in 1170 and forced to retreat to Connacht. This allowed Dermot MacMurrough to regain his seat as the King of Leinster, a position that Strongbow eventually took up.
Rory agreed on terms of the Treaty of Windsor with King Henry II in 1175 which enabled him to remain as the King of Ireland. This agreement excluded the lands of Leinster, Dublin and Waterford, although this was the beginning of the end of the Irish kingship.
Rory's reign as King of Ireland is thought to have ended around 1193, after which Ireland went through a period of British Rule following an invasion from Henry II.
Rory lived out his final days in relative peace on his estates and died in 1198. Following his death, Rory was rumoured to be buried next to his father Turlough near the altar of the largest cathedral at Clonmacnoise in Offaly.
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