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1169 | Anglo Norman Conquest Of Ireland


After done deal, along came another tradition of invasions. At the beginning of May 1169, three single-masted longships beached at Bannow Bay, County Wexford on the west coast of Ireland. They had sailed from Milfordhaven in Wales, and on board were Normans, Welshmen and Flemings. Their leader was Robert FitzStephen, a Welsh warlord, and they made camp on Bannow Island, separated from the mainland by a narrow channel which has since silted up. Later, two further ships arrived under the command of Maurice de Prendergast, bringing their numbers to around 600.  They were soon joined by 500 Irish warriors led by Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster. A century had passed since the Battle of Hastings, when William the Conqueror had launched the Norman invasion and systematic colonisation of England. The Anglo Norman conquest of Ireland had begun.


1169 Images

1169 Norman Warriors       1169 Norman Warrior       1169 Irish Warrior       1169 Norman Castle strongbow


Immediate Aftermath Of 1169

After the Norman invasion, Ireland alternated from being under the control of the King of England and by Norman lords. Prior to 1169, there had been  intermittent fighting between provincial kingdoms over the position of High King and this situation was transformed by intervention in these conflicts by the English crown and Norman mercenaries. After 1169, Ireland was made a Lordship of the King of England and most of it's land was taken by Norman barons. As time passed, Hiberno Norman rule shrank to a territory known as The Pale, (area between Dublin and Dundalk). The Hiberno Norman lords became Gaelicised and integrated in Gaelic Irish society, elsewhere in the country.

Prior to 1169, Ireland was divided into a hierarchy of petty kingdoms and over kingdoms. Real power was concentrated in the hands of a small few regional dynasties contending against each other for control of the whole country. Notables such as the O'Neills ruled the center and west and of Ulster, and most of Muster being controlled by the McCarthy. When Dermot MacMurrough was forcibly exiled by a confederation of Irish forces, he fled to Bristol and then subsequently to Normandy. He sought assistance in the recapture of his territory, specifically from the Cambro Norman Lord Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (otherwise known as Strongbow).

In 1169 that the main Norman forces of Normans, along with their mercenaries landed in Wexford and in a short time, Leinster was regained. Dermot's eldest daughter Aoife married Strongbow in 1170 and this  development caused consternation to King Henry II of England, who feared the establishment of a rival Norman state in Ireland.


Henry's invasion after 1169

Pope Adrian IV issued a Papal Bull in 1155, which gave Henry authority to conquer Ireland as a means of curbing ecclesiastical corruption and abuses. Henry landed  at Waterford in 1171 with a large fleet. He became the first King of England to set foot on Irish soil. Both Dublin and Waterford were proclaimed Royal Cities. Henry awarded Irish territories to his youngest son John with the title Lord of Ireland. When John succeeded his brother as King John, the "Lordship of Ireland" fell under the English Crown.

Henry was accepted by many of the Irish Kings who saw in him a chance to curb the expansion of both the Leinster and the Hiberno Normans. However, John de Courcy invaded and gained most of east Ulster, while the other Norman families such as fitz Gerald, Prendergast, fitz Stephen,  fitz Henry, de Ridelsford, de Cogan, and le Poer were actively carving out kingdoms for themselves.


Early Consequences of 1169

The Cambro Normans built walled borough towns, numerous castles and churches, imported tenants and brought about an increase in agriculture and commerce. The Normans altered Gaelic society after 1169 with efficient land use. The old Irish method of bartering was to be progressed to cash payments in farming. Some Normans living further away from Dublin and the east coast spoke the Irish language and immered themselves in the customs. They also intermarried. Many Irish people today bear Norman derived surnames such as Burke, Power and Roche.

Counties was introduced obver a century after 1169. As in England, the Normans mixed the continental European county with the English shire. There the king's chief law enforcer was the sheriff. Towns were the Normans' greatest contribution. Royal charters were issued to develop trade and to give extra rights to townspeople.

The church attempted to organise congregations on the parish and diocese format and built hundreds of new churches after 1169. The traditional Irish legal system, called the "Brehon Law", continued in areas outside the centre of control. While the Norman political impact was considerable, it was not uniform, and the stresses on the Lordship meant that de facto control of much of Ireland slipped from its grasp for over two centuries.


Gaelic resurgence after 1169

Pushed away from the fertile land areas, the native Irish were forced to eke out a subsistence living on marginal lands. This left them with no safety net during poor ad harvest years or in a year of famine (this occurred during the entire period of 1311 to 1319).

Outside the Pale, the Hiberno Norman lords adopted the Irish customs and language. They then became known as the Old English, or "more Irish than the Irish themselves." Over the subsequent centuries they sided with the native Irish in political and military conflicts with England and generally remained Catholic after the Reformation.

The rulers in the Pale grew worried about the "Gaelicisation" of Ireland. In 1367 at a parliament in Kilkenny, they passed special legislation (which became known as the Statutes of Kilkenny) banning those of English descent from speaking the native Irish language, wearing Irish clothes or inter marrying with the native Irish. Since the government in the Pale had little real authority, the Statutes did not have much effect.

The central government authority in the Pale steadily diminished and direct English involvement in Ireland was reduced significantly. Successive kings of England proceeded to delegate their constitutional authority over the lordship to the powerful Fitzgerald earls of Kildare, who held the balance of power by means of both military force and widespread alliances with lords and clans. The English Crown became even more remote to the realities of Irish politics. At the same time, local Gaelicised as well as Gaelic lords expanded their powers at the expense of the central government in Dublin's Pale. This was not fully reversed until the successful conclusion of the Tudor conquest.

Please also visit the 1916 Easter Rising Video Page to learn about the rebellion that changed the political landscape of Ireland. We hope you enjoyed this 1169 page.