Llansteffan Castle

Llansteffan is located on the south coast of Wales, It was built by the Normans as part of their conquest of South Wales. The site itself has been occupied since the Iron Age, since it provides commanding views of the Tywi estuary. Even today the original earthwork fortifications can still be seen, and they were incorporated into the defenses of the later Norman construction. As it exists today, the castle is very much a ruin, consisting of a curtain wall and towers, all dating to the 12th and 13th centuries. After the Normans completed their conquest of Wales, it fell into ruin and by 1367 was what Wikipedia describes as “a poor state”. I was excited to visit the castle because some of the people who fought over the castle, both Norman and Welsh, appear in my Gareth and Gwen Read more…

Trim Castle

Trim Castle is located on the Boyne River at the edge of The Pale–the border between Norman controlled Ireland and Gaelic Ireland. One of the largest castles in Ireland, it was built by Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter in the 12th and 13th centuries. The first Norman conquest of Ireland began in 1171 with the arrival of King Henry II, determined to rein in the power of Strongbow, who had arranged for himself to be King of Leinster by marrying the current king’s daughter. The Normans very quickly carved out a portion of Ireland for themselves, called ‘The Pale’, which included the area from Dublin to the Boyne River. Hugh de Lacy, as one of these original magnates, was granted the Lordship of Meath and effective rule over much of Norman-controlled Ireland. It continued to be a powerful Read more…

Roche Castle

Roche Castle is located in Ireland, northwest of Dundalk. It was built by the Verdun family in 1236 as part of the Norman conquest of Ireland that began in 1169. Bertrum de Verdun arrived in Ireland for the first time with Prince John, son of Henry II, before he became king. John had been declared Lord of Ireland by his father in 1177, though he didn’t arrive in Waterford until 1185, at which point Verdun was granted lands and built his first castle. John’s visit did not go well, mostly because John managed to offend all the native Irish leaders by laughing at their looks and promising his Norman barons their land. In addition, he developed an antagonism for Hugh de Lacy, who held the Lordship of Meath and was the most powerful Norman in Ireland. The Verduns managed to Read more…

Norman-Irish Christianity

Is Norman-Irish Christianity different from just plain Norman? It is different in the sense that the Normans didn’t conquer parts of Ireland until a hundred years after they conquered England. Dan: I don’t recall talking about the Norman conquest of Ireland last year. Weirdly, we didn’t really, or at least not very much. So, in a nutshell, in 1169 Richard de Clare, known to history as Strongbow, who was the Earl of Pembroke in Wales, took it upon himself to aid Diarmait, the King of Leinster, against his enemies. In exchange, Diarmait promised to give Richard his daughter in marriage as well as the throne of Leinster upon Diarmait’s death. The glitch in this plan was that King Henry of England did not think that one of his vassals should become a king in his own right. As a result, Read more…

The Norman Conquest of Ireland (part 1)

The Normans were conquerors. Even more, they conquered. It was what they did. It was only natural, then, that eventually one of them would set his sights on Ireland.  That someone, in this case, was Richard de Clare, otherwise known as Strongbow. Now, Strongbow wasn’t entirely at fault for what came next. In fact, in 1169 he was invited into Ireland by the ousted king of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada. Murchada had been removed from power by the High King of Ireland, Rory O’Connor, and, naturally, he wanted his lands back. He knew about Norman military prowess and looked to south Wales, where Clare was the Earl of Pembroke, for assistance. And what did Clare get out of it? Murchada had no male heir, so he promised Clare his daughter and the kingship of Leinster if they succeeded. For Clare, that Read more…