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Strongbow’s Arrival into Ireland

March 20, 2009

Strongbow is a name that’s known in popular culture (or I seem to think it is). Strongbow’s real name is Richard Fitz Gilbert de Clare. Fewer know the story of how he was actually invited to invade Ireland thus bringing the Normans into the Celtic mix. One of the things I so enjoy about Ireland’s history is how it offers both interesting surface material and incredible depth. You could take any one of these threads and easily spin a narrative out of it.

This particular story begins, more or less, with fighting between two rival kings in Ireland. The two kings Dermot MacMurrough, king of Leinster, and Tiernan O’Rourke, king of Leitrim, were engaged in their own struggle for control over the island, each other and a woman. The battle was, as one source notes, “fitting for the plot of a modern soap opera.”[i] MacMurrough “kidnapped” O’Rourke’s wife. Some sources suggest she left O’Rourke for MacMurrough and the kidnapping spin was O’Rourke’s. Nonetheless, enraged at the indignity, O’Rourke recaptured his wife a year later and brought MacMurrough’s castle to the ground in 1166.  In a desperate effort to save his life and get his kingdom back, MacMurrough fled the island and invited not only Henry II but Richard FitzGilbert de Clare (Strongbow) to Ireland in exchange for a portion of his kingdom and his daughter’s hand in marriage. Strongbow would arrive in 1170, and Henry II would arrive in 1171.  It would remain in a state of civil war for the better part of two centuries.[ii]

[i] Hatchey, Hernon, Jr., and McCaffrey, The Irish Experience, 8.

[ii] Ibid, 10.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 25, 2009 4:14 am

    Hi, I have been trying to figure out a little about Strongbow, isn`t he the g/son of Ascelme Goelor Gohelde Berchehivale alias Govel de Percival? There is a line of this Percival that branched out into the Percival of Knightsbrooke. I was trying to back paddle a little and see if any thing came up. I see his father was de Clare. hmmm they updated names as they got lands I am assuming. This Knightsbrooke Percivals a bit difficult to track down and I have copies of original lineage. wheres my glasses again. Nice work 🙂

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