View Full Version : Ireland's Millennia

Saturday, February 26th, 2005, 06:29 AM
Brief summary of Irish history.


The Horned God
Tuesday, March 1st, 2005, 10:39 AM
I found the tone of some of the passages concerning the famine to be rather consiliatory towards the British, but generally a concise and clear account of a complex subject.

The Horned God
Tuesday, March 8th, 2005, 12:34 PM
Here is part of a post from Skadi which in my opinion gives a more in-dept and accurate account of the Irish potato famine.

Ch. 10. An Gorta Mor, a.k.a Great Hunger, a.k.a Potato Famine (1845-1849).

The holocaust formerly called "Potato Famine" was not a genuine "famine" at all, because only the potato crop was affected, while the vast majority of farmland was planted to other crops and foodstuffs which were grown in sufficient quantities -- or at least nearly sufficient quantities* -- to feed the populace. Hence the human tragedy -- one million dead -- is now more accurately called the "Great Hunger" ("An Gorta Mor" in Irish/Gaelic). Whatever it is called, the disaster resulted from (1) the fungus that totally ravaged the potato crop in 1845, 1846 and 1848, and partially ravaged it in 1847, and (2) government indifference. It not only devastated the Irish people of 1845-49, it had profound long term effects on Ireland, effects that remain to this day. Specifically:

--Before the Great Hunger, the population of Ireland was 8.5 million. Afterwards, the population was only 6.5 million, a decline of two million (23.5%) in four years. About half of the decline was due to death by starvation or some associated disease (cholera, typhus) which became fatal in the conditions of malnutrition. The other half of the population decline was due to emigration, principally to the United States, but even among those officially classified as "emigrants", a staggering number actually died at sea on the "coffin ships"**. Even after the famine, emigration continued, as Irish newly arrived in the United States urged family and friends to follow them. By 1881, the Irish population had declined to 5 million; by 1921 (partition), to slightly over 4 million.

--Before the Hunger, Gaelic was the principal language among Catholics. Afterwards, English became the predominant language, largely because death and emigration hit hardest in the poorest areas where Gaelic was most common; the Gaelic speaking Counties of Mayo and Kerry, for example, lost half their populations.

--Before the Hunger, early marriages and large families were integral to Irish culture. Afterwards, late marriages and smaller families became the norm. It became an axiom that man should not marry and have children until he had saved sufficient money to weather a disaster.

--The trend toward late marriage dove-tailed with a "devotional revolution" characterized by greater compliance strict Catholic teaching on sexual morality, increased attendance at Catholic mass, expanded church building, and a dramatic increase in the number of priests and nuns.

–Before the Hunger, a full 45% of farmland was held in inefficient farms of 5 acres or less, while only 7% was in farms of 30 acres or more. Afterwards, sub-5 acre farms dropped to 15%, while the more efficient farms of 30 acres or more increased to 26%. Thus the Hunger forced a much more efficient agricultural economy, but at the terrible price of one million dead and even more emigrated.

--Before the Great Hunger, political sentiment ran towards abstract ideas, such as repeal of the Union. Afterwards, the electorate focused on "bread and butter" issues such as agrarian reform.

The cause of the crop failures, we now know, was a fungus called phytophthora infestans, also known as potato blight. It had struck the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada in 1842, and England in 1845, but had caused no great distress. In Ireland, however, it spelled disaster. In September 1845, the potato blight hit Waterford and Wexford, then spread rapidly until about half the island was affected. It hit hard again in 1846, less hard in 1847, then again destroyed the crop in 1848.

What is shocking about the famine is that throughout this entire four year period of starvation, Ireland was exporting enormous quantities of food. Indeed, up to 75% of the soil was devoted to wheat, oats, barley and other crops which were grown for export, and which were actually exported, all while the populace starved.

The problem was that about half the population -- all wretchedly poor -- worked on farms not for cash wages, but for the right to grow potatoes on tiny plots. They lived on a subsistence diet consisting almost exclusively of potatoes and milk, with a herring once or twice a year. When the potato crop failed, these peasants had neither food for their families, nor cash to buy other food***. Initially, only the poor died, victims of starvation. Then as typically happens in conditions of starvation, epidemics of typhus and cholera broke out, felling the affluent along with the poor. In toto, about one million died.

When the first signs of the crop failure appeared in 1845, Britain's Tory government under Prime Minister Robert Peel took modest initiatives to alleviate the distress. It paid half the cost of jobs for about 140,000 family heads on public works, which (to protect English business) were required by law to be non-productive, and it matched local voluntary contributions to hunger relief. It also imported large quantities of Indian corn and meal from the United States; incredibly, however, the government refused to distribute this food free, instead placing it on the market at low prices to prevent artificial increases in food prices.

Peel firmly opposed more radical measures. The starvation very likely could have been averted entirely by legislation prohibiting the export of food from Ireland; and any hardship on growers could have been avoided by legislation authorizing purchase of their grain using borrowed money, with repayment to be made over a period of years from increased agricultural taxes. But feeding the populace by interfering with exports was never seriously considered by Peel's government, in part because the expense might fall on the growers and/or the public treasury. Instead, Peel used the famine as an opportunity to push through his favored but controversial proposal: Repeal of the protectionist "corn laws", which imposed stiff tariffs on grain (including but not limited to corn) brought in from outside the United Kingdom. Repeal of the "corn laws" reduced food prices (as Peel intended), but did nothing to alleviate the hunger, since the starving poor could not afford food whatever the price.

The controversial repeal of the "corn laws" helped topple Peel's Tory government in June 1846. The Tories were replaced by an even less compassionate Whig government under Lord John Russell, who delegated the potato blight problem to Charles Trevelyan, the career civil service Head of Treasury. At this point, although people were hungry, no one yet had died. But the Whigs (and Trevelyan personally) were committed to the trendy Manchester school of economics, which regarded the suffering of the poor as part of the natural order of things, and prohibited government meddling in the operation of otherwise free markets. The Whig government decided that in the event of another crop failure, there would be no direct relief from the British treasury; instead, relief would be limited to public works jobs funded entirely by Irish self-taxation.

There was indeed a second failure, in autumn 1846, and this time it was complete. Making matters worse, the winter of 1846-47 was the harshest in living memory. Now the dying began. The suffering reached its peak in February 1847, when hundreds of thousands of homeless, freezing and starving peasants left the farms for the towns, hoping for employment in public works, which already had hired 500,000 family heads. Cholera and typhus then broke out, and some died from disease, some of starvation, and some froze to death, hundreds of thousands in all. Finally, the Whig government was forced to relent and extend some direct aid through the "Soup Kitchen Act" providing free soup to the starving. This was augmented by charity from the Quakers and other private groups. The aid was too little and too late, as hundreds of thousands more perished, and Ireland literally ran out of coffins. When sailing weather arrived, panic emigration started in earnest.

Blight hit less hard in the autumn of 1847, but this simply furnished the British government with a convenient excuse for closing down the soup kitchens. Trevelyan wrote: "The only way to prevent people from becoming habitually dependent on the government is to bring operations to a close" [1846] "too much has been done for the people. . . we must now try what independent exertion can do" [1847]. He announced that the government had already done everything it was going to do, even if blight and starvation returned.

Blight indeed did return with the harvest of October 1848, and it destroyed virtually the entire potato crop. And with no government assistance at all, 1848-49 proved to be just as bad, if not worse, 1846-47. Hundreds of thousands more perished, routinely falling dead on the streets; and in the extreme conditions of starvation and illness, their bodies sometimes were left unburied for weeks at a time. One road inspector reported burying 140 corpses scattered along his route. The magnitude of fatalities was so overwhelming that authorities were unable to record the precise number of deaths, but fatalities certainly approached one million.

Finally, with the 1849 harvest, the potato blight and the famine were over. But Irish culture would never be the same. Long standing animosity towards England now became a genuine hatred (called "Anglophobia" by some commentators). Further, a grim "never again" mentality, similar to that of Jewish survivors of Auschwitz a century later, took root among famine survivors who felt embarrassment over a culture that allowed family members to die passively rather than forcibly expropriate food grown on Irish land which (prior to the British) was the common property of society. In the century that followed, otherwise law abiding Irishmen found themselves supporting anti-British terrorist groups, such as the IRA.

In retrospect, no one can be blamed for the potato blight itself, which like earthquake or flood, was a natural disaster; but the British response was wrongheaded, indifferent and utterly devoid of common sense and compassion. The tragedy likely could have been avoided entirely by appropriate legislation which fed the populace with food grown for export. Some commentators have equated the government's non-action with genocide, but a better analysis would be a callous indifference towards an unsupportive ethnic group long perceived as less than 100% human, coupled with an unwillingness to spend taxpayer money on such undeserving and ungrateful people.


*Experts agree that one acre can sustain 2 people if planted to wheat, or 4 people if planted to potatoes. Ireland had 6,000,000 tillable acres in 1845, on the eve of the Hunger. Professor Edmund Curtis (in A History of Ireland) states that 75% (4,500 acres) was planted to crops other than potatoes, while Professor Cormac O'Grada (in The Great Irish Famine) estimates two-thirds (4,000 acres). If Curtis' 4,500 acres is accepted, there was grown enough non-potato food for 9 million people, or 500,000 more than the population, and this does not even include fish taken from the sea or the minimal percent of the potato crop which survived. If O'Grada's 4,000 acres is accepted, there was grown enough food for 8 million people, about 500,000 fewer than the 1845 population, but this does not include fish from the sea or the unaffected potatoes. It must be remembered, however, that distribution is never perfect - there always will be some who discard surplus food while others starve.

**On the seven week ocean voyage to the United States and Canada, the ships' crews typically protected themselves from cholera, which was rampant in Ireland, by nailing the ships' holds shut to keep the emigrants in the unbelievably crowded and unhealthy squalor below board. Based on Canadian statistics, it is estimated that in these unhealthy conditions, about 20% of passengers died at sea, while another 20% arrived sick with fever, so sick that they probably died within weeks. Hence the name "coffin ships".

***Food from Britain and elsewhere in Europe certainly would have found its way to Ireland if the starving peasants had had the cash to purchase it. But the peasants had no cash, so they died. For this reason, some historians and economists regard the Irish holocaust as more of a poverty crisis than a food crisis.

The Horned God
Tuesday, March 8th, 2005, 12:58 PM
Here is a section detailing the Viking period in Ireland which may be of more interest to people here.

Notice that the Viking area of influence (thin green line) was much larger than the area of settlement (dark green filled areas).I presume they must have been using mounted cavalry to control such a large area, but I haven't heard any references to that.

Ch. 3. Brian Boru, the Viking Tyranny and the Aftermath (795-1168).

A. The Vikings, Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf (795-1014).

Although Ireland flourished during the European Dark Ages (410-800), it thereafter suffered its own dark period, the Viking Tyranny (795-1014), when the infamous Vikings -- those barbarian sailor-warriors from Norway and Denmark -- took to the sea in their magnificent ships, invading and sometimes settling virtually all parts of the Western World.

They Viking tyranny over Ireland began in 795 when Viking vessels from Scandinavia* landed on the Gaelic-controlled island of Iona and plundered the monastery founded by Colmcille. They returned for a further monastery raid in 802 and came again in 806, killing 68 unarmed monks. By the early 800s, the Vikings were plundering Ireland itself, and doing so on a regular basis. The Vikings did not regard manuscripts as valuable plunder -- they were illiterate, after all -- but manuscripts were destroyed nonetheless when the Vikings routinely burned monasteries, with manuscripts in them, to demonstrate dominion over the natives.

For the first 40 years, the Vikings were interested only in rape, pillage and plunder, coming in single ships, or small groups of ships, and quickly departing with their loot. All of that changed in 831, when Thorburngest arrived to subjugate Ulster, Connacht and Meath. In 837, at least 60 Viking vessels arrived, loaded with warriors intent on seizing land for settlement. By 841, Vikings had established small but well fortified settlements in Louth and at a site near what is now Dublin. The expansion continued aggressively through 873, particularly in the southeast coastal areas that were most important to the seafaring Vikings. In 852, Olaf the White and Ivar "Beinlaw" landed in Dublin Bay and fortified the hill above Dublin; shortly thereafter, Olaf declared Dublin to be a separate state, and eventually it was developed into a walled city.

In 914, exactly 100 years before the celebrated Battle of Clontarf, the Vikings commenced their most ambitious expansion. They captured Waterford and built a fortress there, then reimposed Viking sovereignty on Dublin. This triggered a major response from the Ui Neill high king, Niall Glundubh, who in a rare cooperative effort was able to raise an army from all over the island. Niall met the Vikings at the Battle of Dublin (919), where the Vikings easily prevailed, thereby establishing their dominance of the entire island. The Vikings then established a virtual chain of fortified settlements around the southern perimeter of the island, including settlements at Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork and Limerick. In 944, Olaf "Cuaran" ("of the sandals") became king of the Viking State of Dublin, and shortly thereafter, the Vikings defeated the Eoganachti, who historically had ruled the southern half of the island. Then they subjugated all of Munster, including Cashel. Shortly thereafter, they conquered Meath and imposed a tyranny so severe that the Gaels called it a "Babylonish captivity". By this time, Vikings were marrying into Gaelic families.

During this period, Ireland was not alone in its inability to fend off the Vikings, but other countries were mounting better responses, principally by using feudal type centralized governments to raise unified armies. But Gaelic society resisted centralized government and unified armies. In the absence of unified resistance, the Vikings were able to succeed by attacking one or two vulnerable Gaelic lords at a time.

Meanwhile, during the entire Viking period (795-1014), the Gaelic lords were busy fighting among themselves. Generally speaking, the Ui Neill, ruling from Tara, dominated the northern half of the island ("Conn's Half"), while the Eoganachti, ruling from Cashel, controlled the south ("Mogh's Half"). The Leinster lords constituted a third major force. Centuries earlier, the Leinstermen had lost their land to the Ui Neill and Eoganachti, but they were constantly plotting to regain their land and power. After centuries of subordinate status, the Leinstermen, led by Flann Sinna, skewed the balance of power in 908 at Ballaghmoon, when they defeated and slew Cormac MacCullenan, the most prestigious priest-king in Eoganachti history. While this did not significantly empower the Leinstermen, it dealt the Eoganachti Dynasty a devastating blow from which they never recovered.

Finally, in those darkest days before the dawn, three remarkable men emerged to liberate Ireland from this Viking tyranny: In the south (Munster), it was the brothers Mahon and Brian Boru; in the north, it was Malachy. A major manipulative role was played by Gormflath, daughter of a Leinster king, who successively married Olaf "Cuaran" (the Viking), then Malachy and finally Brian.

In Munster, it was the decline of the Eoganachti that led to the emergence of a previously obscure clan, the Dalcassions, headed by two brothers, Mahon (925-76) [a.k.a. Mathgamain] and Brian Boru (940-1014) [a.k.a. Brian Boruma], who were the eldest and youngest of 13 siblings. The Dalcassions had been driven into County Clare about mid-century, and Mahon and Brian were raised during the worst of the Viking tyranny. When Viking expansion pressed the Dalcassions even further, Mahon favored a negotiated settlement, but Brian insisted upon armed resistance. The brothers raised an army that prevailed in a number of small skirmishes. Then when the Eoghanacti king Donnchad died in 963, Mahon – who had no hereditary right -- audaciously claimed the throne of Cashel.

By themselves, the Eoganachti lacked the strength to challenge Mahon, so two Eoganachti princes, Donovan and Maelmaud, joined forces with the Viking Ivar in an attempt to topple Mahon. At a decisive battle at Sulcoit in 968, however, Mahon and Brian prevailed. Then almost immediately, they marched on to Limerick, capturing it back from the Vikings, and forcing Ivar to flee Ireland.

The Battles of Sulcoit and Limerick thus ended the Viking tyranny in Munster, as well as establishing that the Dalcassions had replaced the Eoganachti as rulers of the south. Mahon then ruled peacefully for eight years from Cashel. In 976, however, Ivar returned from overseas and with help from Donovan and Maelmaud slew Mahon. Brian immediately avenged Mahon's death by slaying Ivar. Brian also sought out Donovan and Maelmaud, and slew them both, thereby extinguishing any immediate Eoganachti claimants to the throne at Cashel. Brian then took the throne at Cashel (976) as undisputed king of Mogh's Half.

In the north, meanwhile, there emerged another extraordinary leader, Malachy (948-1022) [a.k.a. Mael Sechnaill]. A royal son of the Ui Neill, Malachy became king of Meath at an early age. Then in 980, at the Battle of Tara, he inflicted a horrendous defeat on the Dublin Vikings, after which he claimed the high kingship. One year later (981), he marched on Dublin, forced Olaf to surrender and flee to the monastery in Iona (where he died a year later, after converting to Christianity), thus ending the "Babylonish captivity" of Meath and the North. A few years later, Malachy married Olaf's widow, Gormflath. In 994 Malachy installed Sitric, son of Olaf and Gormflath, as ruler of Dublin.

Brian and Malachy had now established themselves as the dominant forces in Ireland. The Vikings, after their successive defeats at Sulcoit (968), Limerick (969), Tara (980) and Dublin (981), remained a factor militarily, but only in the subordinate role of supporting Malachy. A clash pitting Malachy (and his Viking supporters) against Brian seemed inevitable, but in 998 the two reached an agreement under which Brian would be supreme from Dublin south, while Malachy ruled the northern half.

Then Malachy made an imprudent move. He discarded Gormflath. She promptly retaliated by persuading her Gaelic brother, Maelmora, to assert his hereditary claim to the kingship of Leinster, to form an alliance with her son Sitric, lord of Dublin, and to challenge both Brian and Malachy. The uprising failed, however. At Glen Mama in 999, Brian's forces easily routed the combined army of Maelmora and Sitric.

Inexplicably, Brian (now age 59 with two sons from a prior marriage) married Gormflath, who bore him another son, Donnchad. As a favor to Gormflath, Brian reinstalled her son, Sitric, to his former position as ruler of Dublin, and her brother, Maelmora, to his former position as King of Leinster.

By 1002 Brian determined that he finally was in a position to claim the high kingship of all of Gaelic Ireland. He met Malachy at Tara and issued an ultimatum: Formally surrender the high kingship to Brian, or meet in open battle. Malachy was given time to decide, but was unable to garner support from the northern Ui Neill for a full scale war against Brian. He submitted to Brian without a battle.

Thus in 1002 Brian Boru became the undisputed Ard Ri of all Gaelic Ireland. (His sway over Viking areas remained clouded, however.) But Brian was still not sure that every Gaelic lord recognized his sovereignty. To formalize his power, Brian instituted a ceremony that later became a ritual among Ard Ri. Brian traversed the island, particularly the North, forcing acknowledgments of his sovereignty. He was welcomed with a pomp never before or after equaled, and indeed his sovereignty was recognized throughout Gaelic Ireland. On his second expedition in 1005, Brian visited the church founded by Saint Patrick at Armagh, where he made an offering of 20 ounces of gold, and expressly acknowledged the ecclesiastical supremacy of the Pope and bishops, thus insuring that his secular sovereignty would not be challenged by the Church.

As Ard Ri, Brian regarded himself as a Gaelic Charlemagne, thinking in terms of institutions for the entire island, and launching programs to restore both the physical infrastructure and scholarly preeminence of the country. He built bridges and roads, rebuilt ruined churches and founded others. He upgraded monastery libraries by sending overseas for books to replace those destroyed during the Viking tyranny. He gave art, literature and culture a new impetus. Brian's 12 year tenure (1002-14) as Ard Ri is one of high points of Irish history. At the same time, Brian's actual control over the island was less than absolute. Without the infrastructure of feudalism or other centralized government, even Brian could not consolidate the degree of power and control that was being exercised by the strong feudal monarchs in other parts of Europe.

Now Brian made the same imprudent move as had Malachy. He discarded Gormflath, who naturally retaliated. Once again, she persuaded Maelmora, her brother, and Sitric, her son, to join together in an effort to conquer the island. The plot gained momentum when the Earl of Orkney, Sigurd the Stout, in return for a promise of Gormflath's hand in marriage, contributed his army of 2,000 Vikings in mail. The combined Leinster-Viking army began the campaign by threatening Malachy, who quickly requested help from Brian. Brian, realizing that his tenuous claim of sovereignty over the Viking towns was at stake, marched on Dublin to confront the upstarts.

At the Battle of Clontarf (April 23, 1014, Good Friday), Brian's forces met and convincingly defeated the combined Leinster-Viking army. It was a fierce and pitched battle with terrible casualties on both sides.

Clontarf sometimes is depicted as a glorious Irish victory in which the Vikings were expelled from Ireland and Brian was confirmed as the first universally acknowledged high king of the entire island. This interpretation is highly misleading. In the first place, although Clontarf marked an end to the Viking tyranny over most parts of the island, it did not totally extinguish their presence or influence. Brian's army, because of extensive casualties, was unable to totally expel the Vikings, many of whom returned to their strongholds in Dublin, Waterford, Wexford and other costal settlements, where they continued to hold sway until the Norman invasion more than 150 years later.

More importantly, those slain at Clontarf included three generations of Dalcassion kings and their heirs apparent, namely Brian himself (then age 74), plus his oldest son Murchad, plus Murchad's young son. Since Brian's younger sons, Tadg and Donnchad, lacked stature, the high kingship passed to Malachy, who served well and peacefully until his death in 1022, after which Ireland slipped back into divided and chaotic government.

As for the Vikings, few visible signs remain today of their 150 year tyranny, neither architecture, nor artwork, nor holidays, nor pagan gods, nor language, nor culture. The most that can be said is that they founded Dublin and other coastal cities (all of which have been totally rebuilt), that a handful of Viking words remain in the language (including the place names Dublin, Waterford, Wexford and Cork), and that some Viking blood runs through the veins of many inhabitants who think of themselves as 100% Gaelic.


*Among Vikings who settled in Ireland, the majority came from Norway, but a significant minority of them, including those who settled around Limerick, were from Denmark. The 9th Century Gaels, who had a strong sense of color, used the term "Finn-gall" (or "fair foreigner") to describe the Norwegians, and "Dubh-gall" (or "dark foreigner") for the Danes.

B. From Clontarf to the Normans (1015-1168).

Between Clontarf (1014) and the Norman invasion (1169), very little of historical note occurred within Ireland itself, but in Europe and England, the ascendancy of the Norman Dynasty cast ominous shadows over Ireland.

In Ireland itself, Brian was succeeded as Ard Ri by Malachy, who reigned for eight years. But upon Malachy's death in 1022, there was no clear successor, and Ireland slipped back into divided and chaotic government. There were, of course, self proclaimed high kings, but none was able to garner universal acknowledgment of his sovereignty. Between 1022 and 1069, there were eight different Ard Ri claimants, but each was seriously challenged, leading to a new term, "king with opposition". Among the eight, two were from the Ui Neill and three from Brian's line; later, in the 12th Century, MacLochlainn from Leinster, and two O'Connors, father and son from Connacht, joined the list of claimants to the high kingship.

The Church meanwhile was reforming itself. The Vikings had destroyed monasteries and had fostered a barbaric way of life that had become the norm even in Gaelic society. By 1000 A.D. violence was common, the sacraments were neglected and the ancient brehon law of easy divorce and remarriage was revived. Then, however, a succession of bishops, among whom Saint Malachy was the most prominent, worked with the Pope to rebuild the churches, to expunge the barbaric Viking culture, and even, for the first time in 600 years, to re-institute a conventional diocesan structure of Church administration. By the Synod of Kells in 1152, the Irish Church was in closer alignment with Rome than ever before in Irish history.

The truly important development in this period, however, was the Norman expansion in Europe and England. The Normans originally were Vikings who in the 9th and 10th Centuries settled in western France, intermarried with the natives, and established the Duchy of Normandy, where they developed the feudal form of centralized government and society, and converted to Christianity. Normandy shortly became Europe's most highly organized, militarily efficient, and expansion minded state. Normans already had migrated to England when William, a Norman duke who had a plausible claim to the English Crown, invaded England to press his claim against the half-Danish Harold II, leader of the Anglo-Saxons.

At the Battle of Hastings (1066), William handily defeated Harold and his Anglo-Saxon forces. Commonly known as William the Conqueror, he assumed the English crown as William I in 1066. The Norman Conquest was complete. The Anglo-Saxon governing class was almost totally destroyed, and its culture overwhelmed, except that ordinary people continued to speak English. William moved decisively to install a French speaking military aristocracy to occupy and rule England in accordance with the classic Norman-feudal model, i.e., a strong centralized government under a strong feudal monarch.

William the Conqueror died in 1087, and his Last Will and Testament divided his empire. He bequeathed England to his sons, William II and Henry I. He left Normandy to his eldest son, Duke Robert II (c.1054-1134); but Normandy was seized by Henry I in 1106, became part of the Angevin empire, and was not restored to France until 1206.

The Norman empire expanded quickly and efficiently under William and his second son William II (r. 1087-1100), his third son Henry I (r. 1100-35) and his great grandson Henry II. The powerful Norman military caste settled in and gradually feudalized Scotland. Norman barons also conquered the Welsh border and much of South Wales.

Henry II (r. 1154-89), the great grandson of William the Conqueror, was even more expansion minded than his predecessors. He became the Norman ruler of the vast Angevin empire, which included England, Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Poitou, and Aquitaine, with sovereign claims over Toulouse, Wales and Scotland. Although Henry certainly was King of England, he was French rather than English. He was born in Normandy, reared in France, and spoke Norman French, not English.

As early as 1155, Henry considered an invasion of Ireland. It would appear that at Henry's request Pope Adrian IV, the only Englishman ever to serve as Pope, issued a Bull Laudabiliter authorizing Henry to conquer Ireland and to make himself overlord of Ireland in order to bring the Irish church more into line with Roman standards. (Some historians have doubted this in light of Church reforms already completed by the Synod of Kells.) Henry postponed the invasion of Ireland at that time, but could it be long in coming?