Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland

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The result of the Norman Invasion of Ireland a century-and-a-quarter later. Over the course of the century following the date of this map, the majority of Ireland would be reclaimed as Gaelic territory, with the notable exception of Dublin.

The Norman invasion of Ireland (or the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland) was a military expedition to Ireland that took place on May 1, 1169 at the behest of Dermot MacMurrough, the King of Leinster. It was partially consolidated by Henry II on October 18, 1171 and led to the eventual entry of the Lordship of Ireland into the Angevin Empire. The invasion had the Pope's blessing because Irish Christianity did not conform to Rome's rules. Therefore, Ireland could be pacified and brought under the authority of the Pope. Later, papal blessing would sanction the imperial projects of Spain and Portugal. Immediate consequences were the end of the Irish High Kingship and the beginning of English rule in Ireland, which continued until 1922.

Irish history and culture developed differently as a result of the Norman invasion. Irish rulers regained territory during the thirteenth century but subsequent English kings reversed this, until the whole island was a British colony. Henry II also settled some of his barons in Ireland, beginning a settlement process that later rulers continued. This resulted in the Partition of Ireland in 1922 as the North's population of settler descent chose to remain part of the United Kingdom. Yet a love-hate relationship developed between the people of England and of Ireland.

The Irish produced such exquisite poetry and literature in English that they actually turned their oppressors' language into a tool that challenged English mastery of their own tongue, let alone their assumption of cultural superiority. For centuries, the Irish starved while a tiny settler-elite prospered. When, after World War II, territorial rivalry in the European space gave way to the idea of creating a common home, new relations based on respect for human rights and justice developed between these former foes. Only when people find ways to heal old wounds can the human race hope to exchange division for unity. Only then can a world of peace and plenty for all replace one in which a few flourish while many perish.

Invasion of 1169

Dermot MacMurrough

After losing the protection of Tyrone Chief, Muirchertach MacLochlainn, High King of Ireland, who died in 1166, Dermot MacMorrough was forcibly exiled by a confederation of Irish forces under the new High King, Rory O'Connor.

MacMurrough fled first to Bristol and then to Normandy. He sought and obtained permission from Henry II of England to use the latter's subjects to regain his kingdom. By 1167 MacMurrough had obtained the services of Maurice Fitz Gerald and later persuaded Rhys ap Gruffydd Prince of Deheubarth to release Fitz Gerald's half-brother Robert Fitz-Stephen from captivity to take part in the expedition. Most importantly he obtained the support of the Earl of Pembroke Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow.

The first Norman knight to land in Ireland was Richard fitz Godbert de Roche in 1167, but it was not until 1169 that the main body of Norman, Welsh and Flemish forces landed in Wexford. Within a short time Leinster was regained, Waterford and Dublin were under Diarmait's control. Strongbow married Diarmait's daughter, Aoife, and was named as heir to the Kingdom of Leinster. This latter development caused consternation to Henry II, who feared the establishment of a rival Norman state in Ireland. Accordingly, he resolved to visit Leinster to establish his authority.

The following collaborated with Dermot MacMorrogh during the Invasion of 1169

  • Maurice de Prendergast
  • Robert Barr
  • Meiler Meilerine
  • Maurice Fitz-Gerald
  • Robert FitzHenry
  • Meiler FitzHenry
  • Redmond nephew of Fitz-Stephen
  • William Ferrand
  • Miles de Cogan (Cogan)
  • Gualter de Ridensford
  • Gualter and Alexander sons of Maurice Fitz-Gerald
  • William Notte
  • Richard Caddell (Progenitor of the Blake family)
  • Robert Fitz-Bernard
  • Hugh Lacie
  • William Fitz-Aldelm
  • William Macarell
  • Hemphrey Bohun
  • Hugh De Gundevill
  • Philip de Hasting
  • Hugh Tirell
  • Walter de Barât
  • Henry de Barât
  • David Walsh
  • Robert Poer (First Poer le Poer in Ireland)
  • Osbert de Herloter
  • William de Bendenges
  • Adam de Gernez
  • Philip de Breos
  • Griffin nephew of Fitz-Stephen
  • Raulfe Fitz-Stephen
  • Walter de Barry
  • Philip Walsh
  • Adam de Hereford
  • Tommy De Downes

Others who claimed to have been present during the Invasion of 1169

  • John Courcy
  • Hugh Contilon
  • Redmund Fitz-Hugh
  • Miles of St. David's Walynus, a Welshman who came to Ireland with Maurice Fitzgerald
  • Sir Robert Marmion, with Strongbow

Arrival of Henry II in 1171

Pope Adrian IV, the first English pope, in one of his earliest acts, had already issued a Papal Bull in 1155, giving Henry authority to invade Ireland to bring the Irish Church into conformity with Roman practice. Little contemporary use, however, was made of the Bull Laudabiliter since its text enforced papal suzerainty not only over the island of Ireland but of all islands off of the European coast, including England, in virtue of the Constantinian donation. The relevant text reads:

There is indeed no doubt, as thy Highness doth also acknowledge, that Ireland and all other islands which Christ the Sun of Righteousness has illumined, and which have received the doctrines of the Christian faith, belong to the jurisdiction of St. Peterand of the holy Roman Church.[1]

Due to differences of practice and possibly in belief between the Irish Church and the Church of Rome, as well as to the continued presence of paganism in Ireland, the Irish were regarded as "beyond the pale". They needed to be Christianized, to be brought under the authority of, and to financially support, the Roman Catholic Church. This was the task entrusted Henry by the English pope.

References to Laudabiliter become more frequent in the later Tudor period when the researches of the Renaissance humanist scholars cast doubt on the historicity of the Donation of Constantine, that is, the document cited by successive popes to support their claim to political or temporal power, which they claimed was gifted them by Constantine I.[2] When popes vested kings such as Henry the right to rule "pagan" territory, this was justified with reference to the Donation, which also lies behind the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) that more or less divided the world between Portugal and Spain. The Bull was renewed by Pope Alexander III in 1171, and approved by a Synod of Irish bishops.

Henry landed with a large fleet at Waterford in 1171, becoming the first King of England to set foot on Irish soil. Both Waterford and Dublin were proclaimed Royal Cities. In November Henry accepted the submission of the Irish kings in Dublin. Adrian's successor, Pope Alexander III ratified the grant of Ireland to Henry in 1172, and it was approved by all the Irish bishops at the synod of Cashel. Henry granted the unconquered kingdom of Meath to Hugh de Lacy.

Henry was happily acknowledged by most of the Irish Kings, who saw in him a chance to curb the expansion of both Leinster and the Hiberno-Normans. This led to the ratification of the Treaty of Windsor in 1175 between Henry and Ruaidhrí. However, with both Diarmuid and Strongbow dead (in 1171 and 1176 respectively), Henry back in England and Ruaidhrí unable to curb his nominal vassals, within two years it was not worth the vellum it was inscribed upon.

In 1177, Henry adopted a new policy. He awarded his Irish territories to his younger son, John, with the title Dominus Hiberniae ("Lord of Ireland"). He declared his son John to be the "Lord of Ireland" (i.e. claiming the whole island) and authorized the Norman lords to conquer more land. John de Courcy invaded and gained much of east Ulster in 1177, Raymond le Gros had already captured Limerick and much of north Munster, while the other Norman families such as Prendergast, fitz Stephen, fitz Gerald, fitz Henry and le Poer were actively carving out virtual kingdoms for themselves.

The MacCostellos (Mac Oisdealbhaigh) were one of the first Norman families in Connacht, settling in Mayo in what became the Barony of Costello, which originally included part of neighboring County Roscommon (their sixteenth-century seat was near Ballaghadereen, now in Roscommon). They were the first of the Norman invaders to adopt a Gaelic name, which marks their descent from Oisdealbh, son of the famous Gilbert de Nangle (Latin: de Angulo), who was one of the first Cambro-Norman invaders. His family, the de Angulos, obtained vast estates in Meath, where they were Barons of Navan. The family thence spread into Leinster and Connacht, where the leading family adopted the Gaelic patronymic Mac Oisdealbhaigh, as we have seen. Those in Leinster, and those in Connacht that did not adopt this form, became Nangles (de Nogla); while those in Cork became Nagles. The Waldrons (Mac Bhaildrin) are a branch of the MacCostellos in Mayo.


MacMurrough's request for help from Henry had very negative consequences over many centuries. It led to a people's oppression, to centuries of colonial domination and to the denial of their freedom. Although most of Ireland was reclaimed by Irish rulers in the century after Henry's death, English rule was subsequently restored by Henry VIII of England. Irish history and culture developed differently as a result of the Norman invasion. Some Norman barons settled in Ireland, building roads, churches, Abbeys and even convening the first parliament in 1297. In the years that followed, the English gradually extended rule over the whole island. Territory over which English rule was not yet established was known as "beyond the pale." Irish who lived beyond the pale were "forbidden from marrying anyone of English descent." Those of English descent were forbidden from "wearing Irish clothes or from learning the Irish language."[3] In this way, the suppression of Celtic and of Irish culture began. Successive British rulers and governments privileged English settlers over native Irish. English settlers and their descendants ruled; the Irish labored in the fields and served the English elite. The former often starved while the latter prospered.

Following England's conversion to Protestantism under Henry VIII, who reasserted English rule in Ireland, Irish Catholics suffered from legal restrictions. Protestants were encouraged to settle on Ireland. It became almost impossible for Catholics to buy land, which meant that the land they did own was usually sub-divided among their heirs. This resulted in smaller and smaller holdings producing insufficient food.[4] Later, this led to famine and mass starvation. Many Scottish Protestants settled in the North of Ireland, which caused the Partition of Ireland in 1922. As Britain -after many anti-British rebellions - finally granted home rule to Ireland, Northern Protestants refused to be part of a Catholic majority state. Forming a minority in the North, the "partition" solution was applied, similar to the solution later applied to Hindu-Muslim tension in India (in 1947). Yet a love-hate relationship existed between the English and the Irish; the latter produced such exquisite poetry and literature in English that they turned their oppressors' language into a tool to challenge English mastery of their own tongue, let alone their assumption of cultural superiority.


  1. Pope Adrian's Bull Laudabiliter and Note Upon It. Library Ireland. Retrieved May 20, 2024.
  2. The Donation of Constantine. Medieval Sourcebook. Fordham University. Retrieved May 20, 2024.
  3. Clinton Bennett, In Search of Solutions: The Problem of Religion and Conflict (London, UK: Equinox Pub., 2008, ISBN 9781845532390), 52.
  4. Bennett, 54.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Adams, John Quincy, Martin J. Burke, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, and Olivia Hamilton. Dermot MacMorrogh, or, The Conquest of Ireland: An Historical Tale of the Twelfth Century in Four Cantos. Dublin, IE: Maunsel & Co., 2005. ISBN 9781930901377
  • Bennett, Clinton. In Search of Solutions: The Problem of Religion and Conflict. London, UK: Equinox Pub., 2008. ISBN 9781845532390
  • Cunningham, Bernadette. The Annals of the Four Masters. Four Courts Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1846825385
  • Hackett, Francis. The Story of the Irish Nation. Legare Street Press, 2022. ISBN 978-1018310565
  • O'Byrne, Emmett. War, Politics, and the Irish of Leinster, 1156-1606. Dublin, IE: Four Courts, 2003. ISBN 9781851826902


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