The Norman Invasion Of Ireland
The first wave of the Norman invasion of Ireland happened in 1169.
Norman Ireland saw the building of countless castles. This is King John's Castle in Limerick, built just after 1210 to safeguard the Shannon estuary after the Norman invasion of Limerick.
(Earl of Pembroke Richard De Clare) had been invited by the exiled King of
Leinster Dairmait Mac Murrough to help recapture his kingdom.
Murrough refused to accept the Irish High Kings authority when he was exiled
and had his lands confiscated after abducting a rival king’s, Ua Ruairc's, wife
This abduction was part of a longstanding conflict between
Mac Murrough and Ua Ruairc. It was also part of the larger picture of Gaelic
chieftains being at conflict with one another. The Irish High Kings remained
virtually powerless in the face of Gaelic chieftains all fighting amongst
themselves. As a result, there was no strong unified Irish force ready
to defend the country.
Mac Murrough rallied support for his case in England
which he eventually found in Strongbow. Strongbow had been deprived of his
aristocratic title by Henry II and had lands confiscated in Normandy. He was
looking for ways to increase his influence and power. Mac Murrough’s request
came at the right time. A pact was negotiated whereby, upon conquest of
Leinster, and reinstatement of Mac Murrough as King of Leinster, Strongbow
would marry Mac Murrough’s daughter Aoife and thus would become heir to all
of Leinster under Norman law.
The Normans that invaded Ireland came from England, but
originally the Normans had been Vikings (the word ‘Norsemen’ became
Norman) who had conquered the Normandy in France. In 1066 they invaded England.
The Normans who followed Strongbow to Ireland came in loosely organised
groups led by knights.
In the Norman invasion of Ireland was very successful. The
first Normans landed on May 1st 1169 at Bannow near Wexford led by Robert Fitz
Stephen and Maurice de Prendergast, the second wave a year later at Bagibun
near Wexford led by Raymond le Gros.They erected a fort at Bagibun and awaited
the arrival of Strongbow on the 23rd of August of the same year. While
stationed there, they were attacked by both Viking and Irish warriors in a combined
effort to drive them off, but fought them off successfully. After Strongbow's
arrival they took the City of Waterford on August 25th 1169.
They were interested in grabbing large tracts of land
and that is just what they did. Their superior military
technology helped them along, so did the fact that there was no unified
Irish force opposing them. Leinster was captured in a short space of time.
Colm dressed up as a Norman knight at Athenry Heritage
Centre, County Galway. Note the large metal shield, the protective helmet,
and the very long, powerful sword.
Facts About The Normans In Ireland:
- Unlike the clan-based Irish Gaelic tribes, the Normans in
Ireland had a feudal system in place with aristocratic titles, where the
property was usually passed on to the eldest son who would inherit the title as
- The Normans recognized the English king as their ruler
which set them apart from the Gaelic chieftains.
- Normans spoke a cocktail of languages such as French,
Flemish, Welsh and English. The Normans were very adaptable. Wherever they went
they adopted the existing culture and blended in. Soon after their arrival
here, some Normans started adopting Irish customs and the Irish language. You
may have heard the phrase: ‘More Irish than the Irish themselves.’,
which was originally used referring to the Normans. Once settled in Ireland,
they became referred to as Anglo-Normans.
- The Normans loved hunting which was one of their favourite
pastimes. When they arrived in Ireland, they found no deer here. But no problem
to the Normans. They set about importing deer by boat, and setting them free in
Ireland to be hunted. That was how Ireland came to have a deer population.
How Some Normans Fell From Grace
The Normans were loyal to the English crown. However, one
has to remember that the Normans themselves did not consider themselves
English. Most never spoke English, but rather stuck with their native tongues,
most notably Norman-French and Welsh.
During the 17th century the prime conflict became about Catholic
versus Protestant and it was during this time that some Normans rebelled
against the English crown.
A lot of Normans remained Catholics after the reformation,
and during the Cromwellian
invasion of Ireland in 1649, many chose to oppose the Puritan
Protestant Cromwell. Galway is a good example for this.
Medieval Galway was an entirely Norman town with
English as the prime spoken language. Galway fought and held out against
Cromwell for nine months. In fact, it was the third last town in all of
Ireland, Wales and Scotland to be conquered by Cromwell. Some Normans in Galway refused to sign
the articles of surrender and lost all of their lands as a result.
The Legacy Of The Norman Invasion
The main legacy of the Norman invasion was the import of
new technologies such as cut-stone building of fortified castles.
Evidence of their presence survives also in Norman
surnames, such as Burke (originally De Burgo), Butler,
Cantwell, Lynch, Richardson, Tyrell, Taaffe, Dillon, Hussey, Fitzpatrick,
Fitzsimons, Fitzwilliam, Fitzmaurice, Tobin, Molyneux, Devereux and many more.
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Regards, Susanna and Colm
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