Thursday, March 17, 2011

Brian Boru, High King of Ireland

Brian Boru was born circa 927 at Kincora, Killaloe, Ireland. He
married Mor. He married Eachraidh Ui Aeda Odba.
He He became king of Munster after the death of his brother Mathgamain in
976. He Having established unchallenged rule over his home Province of
Munster, Brian turned to extending his authority over the neighboring
provinces of Leinster to the east and Connacht to the north. By doing so,
he came into conflict with High King Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill whose
power base was the Province of Meath. For the next fifteen years, from 982
to 997, High King Máel Sechnaill repeatedly led armies into Leinster and
Munster, while Brian, like his father and brother before him, led his naval
forces up the Shannon to attack Connacht and Meath on either side of the
river. He suffered quite a few reverses in this struggle, but appears to
have learned from his setbacks. He developed a military strategy that would
serve him well throughout his career: the coordinated use of forces on both
land and water, including on rivers and along Ireland's coast. Brian's
naval forces, which included contingents supplied by the Hiberno-Norse
cities that he brought under his control, provided both indirect and direct
support for his forces on land. Indirect support involved a fleet making a
diversionary attack on an enemy in a location far away from where Brian
planned to strike with his army. Direct support involved naval forces
acting as one arm in a strategic pincer, the army forming the other arm.
In 996 Brian finally managed to control the province of Leinster, which may
have been what led Máel Sechnaill to reach a compromise with him in the
following year. By recognising Brian's authority over Leth Moga, that is,
the Southern Half, which included the Provinces of Munster and Leinster
(and the Hiberno-Norse cities within them), Máel Sechnaill was simply
accepting the reality that confronted him and retained control over Leth
Cuinn, that is, the Northern Half, which consisted of the Provinces of
Meath, Connacht, and Ulster.
Precisely because he had submitted to Brian's authority, the King of
Leinster was overthrown in 998 and replaced by Máel Morda mac Murchada.
Given the circumstances under which Máel Morda had been appointed, it is
not surprising that he launched an open rebellion against Brian's
authority. In response, Brian assembled the forces of the Province of
Munster with the intention of laying siege to the Hiberno-Norse city of
Dublin, which was ruled by Máel Morda's ally and cousin, Sigtrygg
Silkbeard. Together Máel Morda and Sigtrygg determined to meet Brian's army
in battle rather than risk a siege. Thus, in 999, the opposing armies
fought the Battle of Glen Mama. The Irish annals all agree that this was a
particularly fierce and bloody engagement, although claims that it lasted
from morning until midnight, or that the combined Leinster-Dublin force
lost 4,000 killed are open to question. In any case, Brian followed up his
victory, as he and his brother had in the aftermath of the Battle of
Sulcoit thirty-two years before, by capturing and sacking the enemy's city.
Once again, however, Brian opted for reconciliation; he requested Sigtrygg
to return and resume his position as ruler of Dublin, giving Sigtrygg the
hand of one of his daughters in marriage, just as he had with the Eoganacht
King, Cian. It may have been on this occasion that Brian married Sigtrygg's
mother and Máel Morda's sister Gormflaith, the former wife of Máel
Sechnaill. She was known as Gormflaith MacFinn. He became High King
of Ireland in 1002. He Máel Mórda mac Murchada of Leinster had only
accepted Brian's authority grudgingly and in 1012 rose in rebellion. The
Cogadh Gaedhil re Gallaibh relates a story in which one of Brian's sons
insults Máel Morda, which leads him to declare his independence from
Brian's authority. Whatever the actual reason was, Máel Morda sought allies
with which to defy the High-King. He found one in a regional ruler in
Ulster who had only recently submitted to Brian. Together they attacked the
Province of Meath, where the former High King Máel Sechnaill sought Brian's
help to defend his Kingdom. In 1013 Brian led a force from his own Province
of Munster and from southern Connacht into Leinster; a detachment under his
son, Murchad, ravaged the southern half of the Province of Leinster for
three months. The forces under Murchad and Brian were reunited on 9
September outside the walls of Dublin. The city was blockaded, but it was
the High King's army that ran out of supplies first, so that Brian was
forced to abandon the siege and return to Munster around the time of
He married Dub Choblaig.
Máel Morda may have hoped that by defying Brian, he could enlist the aid of
all the other regional rulers Brian had forced to submit to him. If so, he
must have been sorely disappointed; while the entire Province of Ulster and
most of the Province of Connacht failed to provide the High King with
troops, they did not, with the exception of a single ruler in Ulster,
provide support for Máel Morda either. His inability to obtain troops from
any rulers in Ireland, along with his awareness that he would need them
when the High King returned in 1014, may explain why Máel Morda sought to
obtain troops from rulers outside of Ireland. He instructed his subordinate
and cousin, Sigtrygg, the ruler of Dublin, to travel overseas to enlist
Sigtrygg sailed to Orkney, and on his return stopped at the Isle of Man.
These islands had been seized by the Vikings long before and the Hiberno-
Norse had close ties with Orkney and the Isle of Man. There was even a
precedent for employing Norsemen from the isles; they had been used by
Sigtrygg's father, Amlaíb Cuarán, in 980, and by Sigtrygg himself in 990.
Their incentive was loot, not land. Contrary to the assertions made in the
Cogadh Gaedhil re Gallaibh, this was not an attempt by the Vikings to
reconquer Ireland. All of the Norsemen, both the Norse-Gaels of Dublin and
the Norsemen from the Isles, were in the service of Máel Morda. It should
be remembered that the High King had 'Vikings' in his army as well; mainly
the Hiberno-Norse of Limerick (and probably those of Waterford, Wexford,
and Cork as well), but, according to some sources, a rival gang of Norse
mercenaries from the Isle of Man.
Essentially this could be characterised as an Irish civil war in which
foreigners participated as minor players.
Along with whatever troops he obtained from abroad, the forces that Brian
mustered included the troops of his home Province of Munster, those of
Southern Connacht, and the men of the Province of Meath, the latter
commanded by his old rival Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill. He may have
outnumbered Máel Morda's army, since Brian felt secure enough to dispatch a
mounted detachment under the command of his youngest son, Donnchad, to raid
southern Leinster, presumably hoping to force Máel Morda to release his
contingents from there to return to defend their homes. Unfortunately for
the High King, if he had had a superiority in numbers it was soon lost. A
disagreement with the King of Meath resulted in Máel Sechnaill withdrawing
his support (Brian sent a messenger to find Donnchad and ask him to return
with his detachment, but the call for help came too late). To compound his
problems, the Norse contingents, led by Sigurd Hlodvirsson, Earl of Orkney
and Brodir of the Isle of Man, arrived on Palm Sunday, 18 April, 1014. The battle
would occur five days later, on Good Friday.
The fighting took place just north of the city of Dublin, at Clontarf (now
a prosperous suburb). It may well be that the two sides were evenly
matched, as all of the accounts state that the Battle of Clontarf lasted
all day. Although this may be an exaggeration, it does suggest that it was
a long, drawn-out fight.
There are many legends concerning how Brian was killed, from dying in a
heroic man-to-man combat to being killed by the fleeing Viking mercenary
Brodir while praying in his tent at Clontarf[citation needed]. He is said
to be buried in the grounds of St. Patrick's Cathedral in the city of
Armagh. Legend dictates he is buried at the north end of the church.
He is our ancestor thru two of his sons, Donnchad and Tadhg. Truthfully, this is more for fun as it's hard to prove ancestry this far back.

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