As part of our look at Kings and Queens of Ireland, we discovered a strong portfolio of brave and important queens who existed in Ireland many years ago.
From protecting Ireland against invaders to standing their own ground, Ireland’s queens really knew how to hold their own at a time when the country’s leadership would have been male-heavy.
Discover below the five queens who made their mark on Ireland.
The warrior queen of Connacht, Queen Maeve (or Medb, the old Irish spelling) is most famous for battling it out at the Tain Bo Cuilnge (Cattle Raid of the Cooley), a story told as part of the Ulster Cycle. She was supposedly born in Rathcroghan (in Irish Ráth Cruachan, meaning ‘fort of Cruachan’), County Roscommon and legend has it that she died and was buried in Knocknarea. Today, visitors can take the Queen Maeve Knockerea Trail and see the site of her supposed burial place.
In the many stories cataloging Maeve’s life, she is described as a goddess and brave queen, but in others as feisty and difficult. You can make up your own mind about Maeve on a visit to the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre in Tulsk, County Roscommon, where an exhibition will take you through the story of Maeve and how she ruled over Connacht.
Check out Maeve’s 2-Day Itinerary on the Kings and Queens website as part of a trip to the west of Ireland.
Born in Naas, County Kildare, in 960 AD, Gormlaith ingen Murchada was the daughter of Murchad mac Finn, a king of Leinster of the Uí Fhaelain line, and sister to Máel Mórda. Gormlaith’s first marriage was to Óláfr Sigtryggsson (known as Amlaíb in Irish sources), Norse king of Dublin and York, with whom she had a son, Sitric Silkbeard.
Gormlaith was also married to the great Irish king Brian Boru and had a son, Donnchadh.
Many stories referencing Gormlaith can be found in the Book of Leinster and ancient sagas. The Book of Leinster exists in the Trinity College, which can be visited as part of the 2-Day Dublin and Kildare Itinerary we have devised for Gormalith.
Quite the trailblazer, Grace O’Malley was the first queen of Ireland to have an audience with the Queen of England (Queen Elizabeth I). Born in 1530 to an Irish chieftain of the O’Malley family in Connacht, Maeve went on to protect her native Ireland from English rule. In the process of doing so, she was punished by Sir Richard Bingham, an Englishman sent to govern over this part of Ireland.
The British Crown has in its possession letters detailing correspondence between Grace and Queen Elizabeth I. The letters show a plea Grace made to the queen about her situation with Bingham. The queen is said to have been sympathetic to Grace’s position and even warmed to the rebellious Irish queen.
Find out more about Grace and discover the many places she is known to have roamed hundreds of years ago with our 2-Day Mayo Itinerary.
Aoife MacMurrough was the daughter of the King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurrough, and the wife of Richard de Clare, more commonly known as Strongbow. Following the death of her father, Strongbow was appointed as King of Leinster, and Aoife naturally became his queen.
Aoife earned a reputation as being an educated, wise and capable warrior, leading troops into several battles as queen. Her and Strongbow had three children – two boys and a girl.
Find out more and follow Aoife’s journey as part of our 3-day Laois to Waterford itinerary.
Máel Muire Ingen Amlaíb
Máel Muire Ingen Amlaíb was the daughter of Gormlaith (above) and Óláfr Sigtryggsson (known as Amlaíb in Irish sources), King of Dublin and previously King of York. She is known as the first known queen of Norse descent. Her story is detailed in the Annals of Clonmacnoise, an ancient catalogue of Irish history.
Máel married Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, King of Mide (Meath) and High King of Ireland, in late 900 AD. He was eventually overthrown by Brian Boru but since Boru was not recognised, he was High King until 1002.
Máel Muire is said to have died in 1021, a year before her husband Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill.