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 The Battle of Clontarf

The struggle for power among provincial kings went on, in spite of the Viking invasions. By the end of the 900's, Brian Boru, the king of a small state in Clare called Dal Cais, had conquered his greater neighbours and made himself the strongest king in the southern half of Ireland. Brian Boru had set aside his troublesome wife Gormlaith, a 'bartered' princess of Leinster. By an earlier marriage she was mother to Sitric Silkbeard, King of Viking Dublin. The name Boru is a shortened version of Brian Boroimhe, meaning Brian of the tributes referring to his tendency to exact tributes by taking hostages from defeated enemies, this was a practice in which most rulers of the time engaged.

Gormlaith, and her brother Maelmora, encouraged Sitric to rally their Viking allies from Scandinavia and overthrow the powerful Boru, thus completing their conquest of Ireland. Maelmora made an alliance with Sitric, who got help from the Vikings of the Orkney Islands and the Isle of Man. Boru, in the meantime, sent word to his allies in Ireland, both his Viking allies and the great Gaelic clans. Amongst those who responded were the O'Kellys of Uí Maine who, under their chieftain Tadhg Mór O'Kelly, marched to Clontarf to side with Boru.

The powerful O'Kelly chieftain and his army were the only Connacht chieftain to rally with Boru. A great battle was fought at Clontarf, near Dublin, on Good Friday, 1014. It ended in victory for Brian's army, at this time he was an old man, prior to the battle he addressed his assembled troops with great eloquence, exhorting them to fight for their freedom and rid their country of foreign repression, Brian himself was killed after the battle by fleeing Vikings who came upon his tent by chance.

Brian's remains were conveyed to Armagh. With Brian, some accounts say, went also the bodies of Murrough (Brian's son), Conaing, and Moltha. The body of Brian was deposited in a stone coffin on the north side of the high altar in the great cathedral, the body of Murrough, it is said, being interred on the south side of the church.

Other sources report that Prince Murrough was buried in the west end of a chapel in the cemetery of Kilmainham. Over his remains was placed a stone cross on which his name was engraved. It is said that this cross fell from its pedestal in 1798. Under the base were found Danish coins and a sword in a good state of preservation, supposed to be that which the prince Murrough used at the battle of Clontarf.

In 1843 this sword hung in the headquarters of the commander of the forces at Kilmainham.

 For a hundred years after the death of Brian, rulers of powerful provincial kingdoms fought, bitterly for supremacy. But none of them had any lasting success.

In 1106, Turlough O'Connor became king of Connacht, he was a skillful warrior, and strengthened his kingdom by building fortresses and bridges over the River Shannon, enabling him to launch lightening attack the other provinces, in this he made great use of his naval fleet non the Shannon. He astutely tried to weaken his rivals by dividing their kingdoms. He partitioned Munster and Meath among a number of petty kings.

For a time, he was the most powerful king in Ireland.

Brian's pre battle speech.

See Brian in famous people

Other Irish Battles