Norman involvement in Ireland began in the second half of the 12th century after they were invited to the country by an Irish king.
Below is a timeline of the key events that took place in Ireland during and following the Norman Invasion.
1160s – King of Leinster Diarmait MacMurrough was ousted by a rival king and forced to flee to Britain in search of help from King Henry II.
Unable to help due to other commitments, Henry gave MacMurrough permission to recruit help from his barons. One of these barons was the Earl of Pembroke Richard Fitzgilbert de Clare, aka Strongbow.
1167 – MacMurrough returned to Ireland with a small group of Normans and reclaimed Leinster.
1169 – A larger group of Normans arrived in Ireland, helping MacMurrough to consolidate his power.
1170 – Strongbow captured three key towns of Dublin, Waterford and Wexford. Strongbow also married the daughter of MacMurrough.
1171 – MacMurrough died and Strongbow became King of Leinster. Strongbow and Henry II agreed that Strongbow would retain the position of King of Leinster. Meanwhile, the towns of Dublin, Waterford and Wexford would be ruled by the English crown.
1177 – King Henry II made his youngest son, John, the first Lord of Ireland.
1185 – John travelled to Ireland. He was 18 years old at the time. He insulted the Irish Chieftains and alienated himself from the Irish people.
1199 – John’s brother Richard died and he became King of England. This made him the first person to hold the highest position in both Ireland and England.
Throughout John’s reign he looked to exert his authority over the leaders in Ireland, both Irish and Norman. He didn’t like the idea of any individual having a level of power that could threaten him.
1210 – John even went so far as to murder the wife and baby of William da Braose, a Norman leader who had angered him.
13th century – Many of the castles in Ireland came under the control of the English crown and Dublin castle became the administrative centre for Norman Ireland. Dublin became a centre for trade and manufacture. However, only the English, and later European guests, were granted relevant licences to trade, not the Irish.
By 1297, Normans had conquered two thirds of Ireland and the Norman areas were governed by English law. They introduced the English system of ‘shires’ with the chief law enforces known as a ‘shire-reeve’, which would later evolve into a ‘sheriff’.
The Norman grip over Ireland couldn’t last and in the 14th century several factors led to their demise.
Start of the 14th century – English King Edward I was constantly at war with the Scots and the Welsh. This meant he needed to call on Irish resources, which weakened Norman control over the country.
1315-18 – A devastating famine hit Europe. It affected the Normans more than the Irish because the Normans were based in port towns. One of their key sources of food was imports from Europe. During the famine these dried up and the Normans suffered greatly.
1315-18 – Scottish nobleman Edward Bruce looked to conquer Ireland and seize power from the Normans. Edward and his forces severely weakened the Normans but he was ultimately unsuccessful. This was partly due to the European famine, which caused the Scottish soldiers to take food from the Irish. This made the Scots ever more unpopular and they lost the support of the Irish.
1347- The Bubonic Plague, or the Black Death, originated in China and spread across the European trade route.
1348 – The plague arrived in Ireland. It affected the Normans far more than the Irish as it came in to the country from the ports, which were Norman towns. The towns were densely populated with Normans, which made it far easier for the plague to spread than in the rural areas where the Irish lived.
Second half of the 14th century – Irish kings began to take back control of the country until the only part still ruled by the English crown was an area called ‘The Pale’. The Pale consisted of Dublin and the surrounding area.
In the rest of Ireland the Normans integrated with the Irish and eventually became thought of by the English as being ‘More Irish than the Irish’.