Do you know your Irish history? How about the ancient kings and queens of Ireland? You may be familiar with Brian Boru, Queen Maeve, or the pirate queen Grace O’Malley, but what about the other kings and queens who roamed these lands?
With help from local historians, we brought to life some of the stories of Ireland’s kings and queens through our website on Kings and Queens of Ireland. Below you can discover some of the lesser-known kings and queens we featured and how it is possible to travel to some of the places they would have been associated with.
Born in Naas, County Kildare in 960 AD, Gormlaith become a queen in the late 10th and early 11th Centuries. She was the daughter of Murchad mac Finn, a king of Leinster of the Uí Fhaelain line, and sister to Máel Mórda who eventually became King of Munster. 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.
In 997, Gormlaith went on to marry one of Ireland’s most famous kings, Brian Boru. Gormlaith and Brian had a son, Donnchadh, who eventually became King of Munster. It is said that Gormlaith is partly responsible for the demise of Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf, after their separation, by encouraging her brother, Máel, and son, Sitric, to fight against him.
Conchobar Mac Nessa
A king who features highly in the Ulster Cycle, Conchobar is a king whose existence would only be known to those who have read these ancient Ulster stories.
Conchobar was King of Ulster and at one point married the now famous Queen Maeve, the daughter of Eochaidh Feidhleach, King of Tara. However, this marriage didn’t end well, and Maeve eventually returned to Tara. Despite his failed marriage, Conchobar went on to be known as a wise and consistently good king and reportedly ended up marrying three of Maeve’s sisters – Clothre, Eithne and Mughain.
A trip to Armagh, as part of our three-day Armagh and Down itinerary, will provide lots of opportunities to find out about the mighty king of Ulster.
It would be interesting to know just how many of us have heard of Rory O’Connor, the last known King of Ireland.
Rory reigned as King of Ireland from 1166 to 1193 and before that as King of Connacht after succeeding his father, King Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair (Turlough O’Connor).
Rory is thought to have ruled over Ireland until 1193 and was the last Irish king before Henry II invaded Ireland and set about implementing British Rule.
Aoife Mc Murrough
Known as Eva of Leinster to historians, Aoife MacMurrough was the daughter of the King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurrough (below). She was also married to Richard de Clare, or “Strongbow” as he is most famously known. Aoife became the Queen of Leinster upon Strongbow’s appointment as King of Leinster, following the death of her father Dermot in 1171.
Aoife earned a reputation as a capable warrior and is said to have led troops into several battles. This earned her the name of Aoife Rua – Red Eva. Aoife and Strongbow are believed to have had three children – two boys and one girl.
Born around 1100, Dermot MacMurrough eventually became the King of Leinster and during his reign would have fought against Tiernan O’Rourke, the King of Breifne (Leitrim and Cavan), and Rory O’Connor, the last King of Ireland, who both attempted to overthrow him. These battles resulted in MacMurrough stepping down from his throne and fleeing for several years to Wales, England and France.
During this exile, MacMurrough sought help from the English and King Henry II, and as a result is remembered as the king who brought the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, and a period of British Rule. This earned Dermot the nickname of Dermot na nGall – Dermot of the Foreigners.
Máel Muire Ingen Amlaíb
Máel Muire Ingen Amlaíb was the daughter of Gormlaith (featured above) and Óláfr Sigtryggsson (known as Amlaíb in Irish sources), King of Dublin and previously King of York. She is the first known queen of Norse descent.
Máel married Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, King of Mide (Meath) and High King of Ireland in late 900 AD. It is thought that Máel Muire would have been Queen of Meath (the ancient fifth province of Ireland) and Queen of Tara during her lifetime. Ancient stories have also styled her as Queen of Ireland because of her marriage to Máel Sechnaill.
We are told that Máel Muire died in and around 1021.
DO YOU Have a favourite Irish king Or queen?
Tell us about your favourite Irish king or queen in the comment section below.