Our Normans hold in common the land of their ancestors, Normandy
in France, and the name involves identification of its inhabitants as North
men. Our alpha ancestor among them is a (probably Danish) man named Rollo,
who around 911 received the land which would become the duchy of Normandy,
and pass through his bloodline. The Norman invasions (the first of which
can be considered the Norman Invasion of France ca 911) involve Rollo and
his direct descendants (also direct to the Within the Vines genealogical
study pages) .
"The Norman Conquest
At the beginning of May 1169, three single-masted longships beached at
Bannow Bay, County Wexford. 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. A day later, two further ships arrived under
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. Now
the Norman conquest of Ireland had
The invasion of 1169 sprang from the
long-standing enmity of Dermot
MacMurrough and Tiernan O'Rourke of
Breifne, a more northerly kingdom.
Dermot had once abducted Tiernan's wife
Dervorgilla, and in 1166 Tiernan sought
revenge. Dermot, forced out of his
headquarters at Ferns, fled to England.
He landed at Bristol, and eventually made his way to Aquitaine in France,
where he appealed to Henry II for help. Although he was King of England,
Henry was a French-speaking Norman much preoccupied with
controlling his French territories. However, he had contemplated an
invasion of Ireland as early as 1155, with the approval of the only English
Pope, Adrian IV, and he readily authorised Dermot to seek allies among
the Norman lords in Britain.
Returning to Bristol, Dermot was initially unsuccessful, so he turned his
attention to Wales, where the Normans were perpetually engaged in
warfare against the native Welsh. Richard FitzGilbert de Clare, Earl of
Pembroke, proved an attentive listener. Pembroke, known as Strongbow,
was an experienced campaigner, but he had fallen out of favour at
Henry's court. Ireland offered an opportunity to restore his standing and
add to his wealth, but he put a price on his assistance. He was to marry
Dermot's daughter Aoife, and in time succeed to the kingship of Leinster.
With Strongbow's approval, Dermot won the support of FitzStephen and
other Welsh-Norman lords, to whom he promised grants of land. He
returned to Ireland with a small army in 1167, but was defeated by his
enemy Tiernan O'Rourke and forced to
pay one hundred ounces of gold in
reparation for the abduction of
Dervorgilla. Two years later, it would be
a different story.
From Bannow the combined armies
headed towards Wexford, a Norse seaport some twenty miles away.
There was a brief skirmish at Duncormick, before the assault on
Wexford's walls. After some resistance, the Norsemen acknowledged the
superiority of the armoured knights and their archers and surrendered
the town. A year later, in response to a plea from Dermot, Strongbow
despatched a small force under Raymond le Gros. It landed at Baginbun,
near Bannow, and immediately routed a strong army of Irishmen and
Norsemen from Waterford, inspiring the couplet: "At the creek of
Baginbun, Ireland was lost and won." Strongbow himself arrived with
1,200 men in August 1170, stormed Waterford, where he married Aoife
MacMurrough, and within a month had captured Dublin.
With Dermot's death in May 1171, Strongbow became King of Leinster,
and his skilful knights and archers continued to defeat larger Irish and
Norse armies. The arrival of Henry II in October 1171 launched a new
phase of the conquest. By grants of land , the King encouraged his
barons to gain control of most of Ireland, marking their advance with
formidable castles. A justiciar or king's lieutenant was appointed to head
a central government in Dublin. Irish parliaments were occasionally
summoned, and from 1297 included elected representatives. However,
Gaelic resistance to the Norman conquest was never wholly eliminated,
and the foundations were laid for eight centuries of Anglo-Irish conflict.
From the Appletree Press title: A Little History of Ireland, click here
more information or here to buy the book from Amazon. Also from
Appletree: A Short History of Ireland, available from Amazon.com. Click
here for more information.
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