Triumph! of the Norman Irish

(The Marriage of Strongbow and Aiofe, Nat’l Gallery of Ireland)

In 1167 AD, Diarmait mac Murchada (Dermot MacMurragh) , the king of Leinster, was deposed by the High King of Ireland, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair (Rory O’Connor).  Dermot traveled to Brittany for an audience with King Henry II of England, offering vassalage in return for assistance in recovering his throne.  Occupied with affairs in France, Henry authorized Dermot to recruit his Ango-Norman Marcher Lords in Wales.  In May 1169, Anglo-Norman mercenaries landed in Ireland and were able to restore Dermot to his throne, and then commenced raiding the neighboring Irish kingdoms. 

Anticipating a strong response by the High King, Dermot made an alliance with Richard de Clare (aka Richard FitzGilbert), the 2d Earl of Pembroke, by promising the hand of his daughter Aiofe in marriage and right of de Clare’s heirs to succeed Dermot to the kingship.  De Clare landed a small army in Ireland in 1170, seizing the towns of Dublin, Waterford and Wexford, and holding them against attacks by the High King.  When Dermot died in May 1171, De Claare claimed his throne as King of Leinster.

At some point, King Henry II realized that de Clare, who has become known to history as “Strongbow.” had set himself up as a powerful and semi-independent lord in Ireland.  Taking matters in hand, Henry landed in Oct. 1171 with his own large army.  De Clare and the other Norman and many Irish lords bent the knee to Henry, who declared the Norse-Irish towns to be crownland, granted Leinster to de Clare in fiefdom, and awarded the Kingdom of Meath to Hugh de Lacy to serve as a check on de Clare’s expansionistic tendencies.

After Henry’s departure, the Norman lords continued their inroads on the Irish-held kingdoms, and despite the Treaty of Windsor in 1175 in which many Irish kings submitted as vassals to Henry, this trend continued.  In 1177, Henry declared his son John the Lord of Ireland and authorized the Norman lords to conquer as much Irish land as they could.   At this juncture and in the years that followed, a new wave of English colonization occurred, resulting in the creation of a region directly controlled by the English crown centered on Dublin that became known as The Pale.  This is the army list represented in Triumph by the Anglo-Irish (1293-1515 AD).   The Norman lords, many of whom had been assimilated through marriage and alliance with the leading Irish kings after 1300, became known as the Olde English, and many joined their fellow Irish lords in resisting further English expansion “beyond the Pale.”

It is these transplanted Norman lords, especially Richard de Clare, that I wanted to represent with my Norman-Irish army.  It was composed of figures hand-picked by William Hupp from his Thistle and Rose and Feudal Castings ranges, and painted by Paul Potter, who is also painted my Norse Irish.   In the Triumph! rules, the army is comprised as follows:

Here is Richard de Clare, bearing the blazon of the Earldom of Pembroke on his shield in a suitably dramatic pose by Paul Potter, along with his Norman knights.

Supporting Strongbow are the Norman foot soldiers who accompanied him from Wales, and who later represent the armed Norman and Welsh colonists settled in Leinster.  They are classed as Spear.

De Clare also had the support of his Norman and Welsh subjects armed with the bow and classed as Archers.  

I modeled two elements as Norman colonists (top) and two elements as Welsh mercenaries (bottom).

Also note that the Triumph! Norman Irish list includes a Battle Card option allowing the archers to be fielded as Mobile Infantry. The mounted versions are depicted behind the Archer bases and would be swapped out during any tactical move.

De Clare and other Norman lords could call for a rising out of the Irish kern who lived within the Norman-controlled lands, who are represented in Triumph as Light Foot.

De Clare also employed subject Ostmen from the Norse-Irish towns located in Leinster (Left) and many Norman Lords contracted mercenary Islemen from Scotland, who were attracted by the opportunity to acquire land and plunder.  The Ostmen are represented here as Heavy Foot with the traditional Viking round shields.  The Sersenaigh are Elite Foot and bear heavy axes.

I am very pleased with this army, which provides a historical foe for my Norse Irish and any future Scots Common army I may acquire.  Strongbow is a fascinating historical figure — both a strong military leader and capable political opportunist.   Through assimilation, the “Olde English” also became an important part of Ireland’s history and culture, retaining their Catholic roots, and adding many prominent surnames to the Irish lexicon including Butler, FitzMaurice, Fitzgerald, Fitzimmons, Logan and more.


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