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The Anglo-Normans

The Anglo-Normans
-- (so called because of the mix of the Anglo-Saxons - Germanic tribes that would become known as the English and the Norman's - a Norse people who conquered Normandy in France and from there latter launched a successful invasion on England before they reached Ireland.)

In 1169 A.D. the Norman troops under Robert Fitzstephen landed near Wexford. The following day he was joined by Maurice de Prendergast, a Flemish mercenary. These Normans introduced a new style of warfare to Ireland. The Irish fought in the same basic style as they had for hundreds of years. The Normans used such improvements as metal helmets, chain mail, the long bow and siege machines. These innovations were developed in part during the Crusades, in which the Normans took a leading role. Additionally, the Normans of the mainland had been among the first to seize on the gains from new economic methods which tied ownership of land to accumulation of wealth. For over two hundred years they had been raising and training armies of professional soldiers, skilled in weaponry and innovative in their own right toward developing new techniques of warfare.

Dairmait joined the Normans and together they took Wexford. During the next several weeks, Dairmait and his Norman allies retook virtually all his former territory. Thereafter, Dairmait made a secret peace treaty with the Ard RÝ that should have sent the Normans home. However, Maurice Fitzgerald then arrived, ready for conquest, and the peace accord disappeared. Now Dairmait set his sights on the Ard RÝ itself, and attacked RuadrÝ Ua Conchobair at his stronghold in Limerick. Dairmait sent for Strongbow for assistance. Strongbow sent his kinsman, Raymond Le Gros, another Geraldine, who was a brilliant tactician, bold and bloodthirsty. Le Gros laid waste to the territory around Waterford, despite being greatly outnumbered.

Ignoring last minute orders from Henry not to leave Wales, Strongbow sailed to Waterford and joined Le Gros. The date was described as the 'beginning of the woes of Ireland' in the Annals of Ulster. Strongbow and Le Gros quickly captured Waterford, mercilessly executing prisoners. In the wake of this victory, Dairmait brought Aifa, who learned of the marriage promise for the first time shortly before meeting Strongbow, and initially refused. Fortunately for Dairmait, she was so taken with Strongbow's commanding presence that she changed her mind. They were married in the Waterford cathedral while the city still smoked from the battle. The Norman Geraldines had now established family ties with the Irish - they had taken permanent residence.

Dairmait & Strongbow now marched on Dublin which was momentarily guarded by RuadrÝ Ua Conchobair. They outflanked the Ard RÝ and took the city by stealth and by force.

The last chance for the Irish to rid themselves of the Norman invaders arose during the summer of 1171 as Strongbow and the Geraldines held out at Dublin. RuadrÝ Ua Conchobair led an army of nearly 30,000, together with kings from all parts of Ireland, including Dairmait's nephew, Muirchertach with Leinster forces, and Viking Ostmen from the Irish-Viking towns and from the Isle of Man. Once again, though, the higher technology of the Normans proved the difference. Under cover of darkness, Strongbow and Maurice Fitzgerald sent out three divisions, totaling only 600 men. These heavily armored riders outflanked the encamped Irish, and surprised and captured RuadrÝ along with hundreds of his followers while they bathed in the river. The greatly outnumbered Normans thoroughly routed the Irish force. Up to this point, all the Norman invaders were Geraldines, and owed their allegiance, more or less, to Strongbow. Henry, not wishing an independent and strong Norman nation on his borders, decided it was time to call in the reins. He demanded Strongbow's return, but got only assurances. Only after assembling a massive force did Henry finally succeed in getting Strongbow to attend to him in Normandy and submit to the Crown.

16 August 1171 Henry II invades Ireland. Henry took his army in 400 boats and sailed for Crook, and set up Court in Waterford. Henry brought over 500 knights and 3000 archers, as well as portable siege and castle-building towers. Technically, Henry invaded Ireland, but, he never had to fight a single battle. The Irish and Normans alike had no desire to challenge this well-equipped and highly professional force. The Normans came, led by Strongbow, who received Leinster in return for his formal surrender. Next came Irish chiefs, starting with Dairmait Mac Carthaigh [Dermot MacCarthy] of Desmond, king of Cork, who voluntarily submitted to Henry, giving hostages. Henry left Waterford and made a grand progress through Ireland, receiving the submission of most of the important kings. Even RuadrÝ Ua Conchobair met with Henry's envoys, although he would not come to Henry in person. Henry entered Dublin and constructed an Irish style palace of mud and wattle, where he held Court for several months.

In 1172, Henry sailed for Normandy. Although he never returned, Henry managed to divide the Norman forces by appointing his own man, Hugh de Lacy, as his justiciar (highest officer), granting him Meath and the constabulary of Dublin. Henry sought by this means to counter the power held by Strongbow. Despite his triumphant progress, though, and despite the submission of countless native kings, when Henry left Ireland it was unconquered. Strongbow held Leinster, and de Lacy held Meath, but the rest of Ireland remained in the power of RuadrÝ Ua Conchobair and the loosely bound indigenous leaders.

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