Lordship of Ireland

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Lordship of Ireland
Banner Coat of arms
Ireland in 1300 showing the Lordship's maximum extent (dark).
Capital Dublin, Carlow (1361-1398)
Language(s) Irish, English, French, Old Norse
Government Monarchy
Lord of Ireland
 - 1171–1189 Henry II Plantagenet
 - 1509–1541 Henry VIII Tudor
Lord Lieutenant
 - 1528–1529 Piers Butler
 - 1540–1548 Anthony St Leger
Legislature Parliament of Ireland
 - Upper house Irish House of Lords
 - Lower house Irish House of Commons
 - Established 1171
 - Disestablished 1541

The Lordship of Ireland (Irish: Tiarnas na hÉireann) was a feudal lordship existing in the island of Ireland during the Middle Ages. It was created in the wake of the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169—71, and existed until 1541 when it was succeeded by the Kingdom of Ireland, as the Tudor dynasty brought about centralisation. It was governed from Dublin by the Parliament of Ireland and the Lord of Ireland, being the King of England, was represented locally by the King's Lieutenant more popularly known as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

The feudal system allowed a significant amount of practical autonomy for the Hiberno-Norman noble houses who carved earldoms out for themselves — they had almost as much authority as some of the local Gaelic-Irish kings. While the Lordship was nominally representing the whole island, several parts of it were never conquered by the Normans, for instance Thomond and Desmond in ancient Munster, or Tyrconnell and Tyrone in ancient Ulster, amongst others. These remained separate sovereign entities until the Tudor era.


Propaganda of Bernard de Clairvaux

The ideological groundwork of the Norman invasion of Ireland was precipitated in no small part by the Frankish Party within the Latin Church under Rome. Malachy of Armagh, a native Irishman and an Archbishop of Armagh (also known for his Prophecy of the Popes) was in contact with Bernard of Clairvaux and purportedly was inspired by the Frankish model of monastic life, wishing to import this into Ireland. Around this time the Church was becoming more centralised and Latinised under the leadership of Germanic peoples such as the Franks (within the last century, the Great Schism with the Orthodox Church had occured, seeing the Roman Patriarchate split).

Malachy suddenly died while at Clairvaux in 1148 on his way to visit Pope Eugene III (another Cistercian) in Rome. Following this Bernard wrote a biography, the Life of St. Malachy: in it he claimed that the Irish had relapsed into a de facto pagan state, with Bernard claiming something needed to "be done" about it, to enforce a "reform".[1] While blaming Bernard exclusively for the Norman conquest is perhaps a stretch, the rhetorical arguments he developed would later be used, it is argued by some, by people such as the chronicler Giraldus Cambrensis as a means to delegitimise the status and dignity of Ireland within Christendom.[2]


Ireland had remained a tribal country, and Dublin and its modern county lands (sometimes referred to as The Pale) were in the possession of the Norsemen who had built a walled city and seaport there. They would frequently raid parts of Ireland and retreat back into their domains. However, in 1014, at the Battle of Clontarf the Norsemen were finally crushed, although they remained as before in possession of Dublin and the sea-board towns which they had created on the east and south coasts. This marked an important epoch in Irish history and Ireland was free from interference with by any external power for a century and a half.[3] The permanent inter-tribal warfare, however, continued, and in 1155, three years after the Synod of Kells, Pope Adrian IV (possibly influenced by others such as St.Bernard de Clairvaux) published the Papal Bull Laudabiliter, which was addressed to Henry II Plantagenet, King of England and Duke of Normandy. He urged Henry to invade Ireland to bring its church fully under the Roman system and to conduct a general reform of governance and society throughout the island.

In August 1166 Diarmaid MacDonnchada MicMurchada (usually referred to as Dermot MacMurrough)(d.May 1, 1171), King of Leinster and Dublin "and The Foreigners" (Norsemen), after decades of the usual Irish intercine warfare, was expelled from Ireland by Tiernan O'Rourke. Dermot's son and heir, Enna, did not escape and was caught and blinded.[4]

Dermot asks for help

Dermot, with a few followers, sailed across the Irish Sea to Bristol in England, where they were entertained at the home of Robert Fitz-Harding[5], who had supported Robert, Earl of Gloucester, and the Empress Matilda, in the struggle with King Stephen. Fitz-Harding and King Henry were close friends from childhood. After a while, Dermot and his followers left for Normandy to hold talks with King Henry, who at the time was on the continent. It seems likely that Dermot was aware the Normans were thinking of invading Ireland and had perhaps even heard of Pope Adrian's Bull. Henry granted an audience to Dermot who "very courteously saluted him" and then made a speech, in which he urged Henry's support "to avenge my shame and my misfortune" and to invade Ireland, after which Dermot promised he would be "your leigeman, all the days of my life" and "shall acknowledge [you] as sire and Lord. I swear this in the presence of your barons and earls." Henry could not act immediately but he accepted Dermot's proffered homage and oath of fealty, promised to help him as soon as he could, loaded him with presents[6], and gave him Letters Patent confirming everything.[7] Dermot had also approached, in 1167, Maurice FitzGerald, younger son of Gerald of Windsor, and promised to give Wexford to him and to his half-brother Robert FitzStephen, if they would help him to regain his kingdom, a promise which he duly honoured.[8]


It was in August 1167 that Dermot returned to Ireland from his exile. Though he did not wait for "Stongbow" or FitzStephen, he did not come quite alone. He was accompanied by a knight of Pembrokeshire named Richard Fitz Godebert, a Fleming, and a small body of troops. Dermot at once recovered his hereditary 'kingdom' of Okinselagh. His return was the signal for Rory O'Conor and Dermot's mortal enemy, Tiernan O'Rourke, and others (basically the same combination who had dethroned him and sent him into exile), to take the field against him. Negotiations and skirmishes however took place rather than a pitched battle and Dermot was permitted to remain in Wexford. In the winter of 1168/9 Dermot sent his trusted emissary, Maurice Regan, to Wales, to remind the Normans of their promises to invade. A small force under Robert Fitz Stephen soon embarked, landing at Bannow Bay south of Wexford about 1st May 1169. They were soon joined by two shiploads of others, including "the youths of Wales" and archers, all told maybe 600 men. Dermot soon joined them with 500 men, with local people joining him, and the following day all marched to attack the walled stronghold of Wexford, where the Scandinavians had been for 300 years. It is said 2000 Norsemen sallied forth expecting a fast victory. Instead of a horde of naked Irish kerns armed with pikes and darts and galloglasses, and the odd broad battle-axe, they saw before them an orderly body of men drawn up in even ranks, armed with the bow and flanked on either side by horsemen with long lances, glittering shields and helmets and chain-mail. They fast retreated behind the walls. Negotiations now took place, with two Bishops from the Norman side, and a capitulation was arranged without further violence; the town was henceforth held by the victors. The Norman conquest of Ireland had begun with little immediate bloodshed.[9]

Early Parliaments

During his visit to Ireland in 1210 King John is said by Roger of Wendover to have established the laws and customs of England in Ireland and he appears to have held a magnum consilium (Great Council) of the Irish magnates at Dublin, which is referred to in two ordnances of King Henry III in 1228 & 1233. However until the end of the 13th century English statutes were put into force in the island by Royal ordinance. Laws passed in England, such as the Statutes of Gloucester, Mortmain and Westminster, were made applicable to Ireland by Royal Writ in 1286 and the same with the Statute of Winchester in 1307.

The first Parliament recorded as such in Ireland was held in 1264 at Tristeldermot (i.e: Castledermot, co.Kildare) and another appears to have met in Dublin in 1296, when a statute for regulating weights and measures is said to have obtained the consent of all the magnates and the whole community. Other Parliaments met during the first years of Edward 1st’s reign, but it was not until 1297 that, so far as is known, knights were summoned for the first time to represent the counties and liberties at a Parliament held at Dublin. Writs of Summons were issued individually to the Comitibus, Baronibus et aliis optimaatibis terre hujus but no roll of the magnates who attended is extant, although Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, the only Irish Earl at that time, is recorded to have been present. This parliament enacted 12 statutes, most which dealt with the maintenance of order, and the defence of the frontier. In addition, Writs were issued to the cities and boroughs to send representatives for the Easter 1300 Parliament in Dublin.

Of the 87 secular persons summoned by Writ to the Kilkenny Parliament of Feb 1309/10 only 11 can be described with certainty as tenants-in-chief, and 34, including 9 doubtfuls, can be proved to have been sub-tenants of the great feudatories. Those barons whose holdings meant that they had to provide 13 1/3 knights fees or more were not summonsed, although they obviously had a right to attend. Examples are Edmund Butler (father of the 1st Earl of Ormond), who held his estates in Tipperary by service of 22 knights, and Theobald de Verdun, who held the western moiety of the liberty of Meath. Another Parliament took place in Dublin at Easter 1324, attended by the 3 Earls of Ulster, Kildare and Louth, and by Maurice FitzThomas, later 1st Earl of Desmond, and by 7 other magnates. Irish magnates had been summoned to Parliament by Writs issued individually. However, from 1377, the doctrine of the Modus tenedi Parliamentum, which made tenure by barony the qualification for the summons of a lay magnate to Parliament, was adopted. Fines for failure to attend a Parliament were inflicted on magnates as early as the end of the 13th century. It appears that the Irish Parliament was not unicameral, at least until the reign of Henry VI. There is evidence that the Lords and the ministerial members of the Council sat apart in the frater of Christchurch, where Parliament met at Dublin, while the Commons had their 'common house' in the cathedral.[10]

Early Government Officials

  • Hugh de Lacy (k.1186), Lord of Meath (a grant of King Henry II), Justiciar of Ireland and Governor of Dublin April 1172 - April 1173 and again in 1177. Appointed Procurator-General c.May 1177. Re-appointments in the winter of 1181-2. He was married, secondly, to a daughter of Rory O'Conor, 'king' of Connaught and last 'High King of Ireland'.
  • William de Audely, Regis loco et vice, c.April 1173 for about five months.
  • Richard FitzGilbert or de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (d.20 April, 1176 at Dublin), nicknamed "Strongbow". Royal Governor of Ireland c.August 1173. He married, in 1171 at Waterford, Eve (d. after 1186), daughter of Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster (d.1171). Buried in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.
  • Raymond FitzWilliam, appointed provisional Procurator on the death of de Clare.
  • Hervey de Montmorency, first Marshal of Ireland. (Uncle of the 2nd Earl of Pembroke and his Steward in Ireland)).[11]
  • William de Audely (as above), appointed Procurator by King Henry II in June 1176.
  • Prince John created Rex Hiberniae, 1177, by his father, King Henry.
  • William de Burgh (d.1206), Lord of Connaught, Governor of Ireland before 1175, recalled circa 1178.
  • John de Lacy (d.1190), Constable of Chester, appointed joint Governor of Dublin ad curam regiminis with
  • Richard de Pec, both circa 1 May 1181.
  • Philip of Worcester, appointed Procurator c.1 September, 1184.
  • Prince John filius Regis, in Ireland as its Lord, 25 April to 17 December 1185.
  • John de Courcy, accompanied King Henry II to Ireland in 1171 and was Justiciar December 1185 to c1190. He married Affrica, daughter of Godfred, 'King' of the Isle of Man. Buried in Ireland.[12]
  • William le Petit, stated to have been Governor in 1191. Joint Justiciar c1198-9 with
  • Peter Pipard, who was Justiciar of Ireland in 1194.
  • Meiler FitzHenry, was Justiciar of Ireland in July 1199, until 1208.
  • Bertram de Verdun (or Verdon), Steward of Ireland. His daughter Lesceline married:
  • Hugh de Lacy, Earl of Ulster (from 1205), son of Hugh de Lacy (k.1186) by his first wife; Chief Governor for a few months from Autumn 1208. Buried in Ireland in 1242. [13]
  • John de Gray, Bishop of Norwich, Justiciar from winter 1208-9 until maybe 1213.
  • King John, in Ireland 20 June to 25 August 1210.
  • Henry de London, Archbishop of Dublin, appointed Justiciar 23 July 1213.
  • Geoffrey de Marisco (or Marsh), appointed Justiciar 6 July, 1215. Married to Alice, a sister of Hugh de Lacy, Earl of Ulster (above). He was also married to Eve néé de Bermingham, widow of Gerald FitzGerald, feudal baron of Offaly. Geoffrey died in exile in 1245.[14]
  • John Marshal, a relative of the Earl of Pembroke, was made hereditary Marshal of Ireland on Nov 12, 1207. This included the Marshalcy of the Exchequer. His grandson John Marshal was granted it in 1280, but about 1333 it reverted to the Crown.[15]
  • William Marshal, 5th Earl of Pembroke, Justiciar of Ireland 2 May 1224 - 22 June 1226. He and his family made many religious benefactions and foundations in Ireland. Born in Normandy, and died in 1231. He was married [2] to Eleanor, a daughter of King John (1167-1216).[16]
  • Richard de Burgh (son of William, d.1206) appointed King's Lieutenant & Justiciar of Ireland 10th March 1228 to 1232. He died Jan 1243.[17][18]
  • Sir Hubert de Burgh, Knt., Earl of Kent, (brother of William, d.1206)) appointed Justiciar of Ireland 16 June, 1232 for 2 months.
  • Maurice FitzGerald, appointed Justiciar of Ireland, 2 September 1232. Died in 1257 and was buried in Yougal monstery, which he founded.
  • Sir John FitzGeoffrey, Knt. (d.23 Nov 1258), son of the Earl of Essex, was Justiciar of Ireland 1245 - 1256.
  • Sir William Marshal, Knt., of Norfolk, was acting Deputy Marshal in Ireland in November 1236.
  • William de Dene, Justiciar of Ireland, October 1260 -27 July 1261.
  • Richard de la Rochelle, was Justiciar of Ireland in 1264.
  • James de Audely, (b.c1220 - 1272) served as Justiciar of Ireland 1270-72, where he died.[19]
  • Thomas FitzMaurice, Lord of Dungarvan Castle, was Keeper (Custos) of Ireland, 19 Apr to 2 Dec 1295 (in place of a Justiciar).[20] Buried in the Dominican Friary at Tralee.
  • Sir John Wogan, was Justiciar in 1297.
  • Theobald de Verdun (or Verdon), King's Lieutenant in Ireland in 1314; died July 1316.
  • Roger de Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore, Lord of Trim, 1st Earl of March (cr.1328) (b.1287 - executed 1330) appointed Justiciar on 15 Dec 1307; King's Lieutenant of Ireland 23 November 1316 to 7 April 1317; Justiciar 15 March 1318/19 till Jan 1320/1.[21][22]
  • William FitzJohn, Archbishop of Cashel, appointed Governor & Chancellor of Ireland, May 1318.
  • Robert, 2nd Lord Morley (d.1360), was made (in right of his wife, Hawise Marshal) Marshal of Ireland in July 1324,[23] a position he still held in 1341.[24]
  • Sir Ralph de Ufford, Knt., was appointed Justiciar of Ireland on 10th February 1344 and was still in office when he died on 9th April 1346 (Palm Sunday) at Kilmainham, Ireland.
  • Robert de Vere, 9th Earl of Oxford (d.1392), was created Marquess of Dublin, 1385, Duke of Ireland, 1386 (both for his lifetime only). He held "the territory and Lordship of Ireland" from the Crown, "with quasi-regal powers."[25]
  • John de Stanley, K.G., King's Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1386 he was appointed Deputy to Robert de Vere in the government of Ireland, and was appointed Justiciar on 1 August 1389, and was appointed King's Lieutenant of Ireland for six years on 8th June 1413. However, Stanley died at the beginning of 1414 at Ardee, in Ireland.[26]
  • Sir William Alington, Knt., of Horseheath & Bottisham, Cambridgeshire, Treasurer of Ireland 14 July 1403 - June 1413.
  • Thomas, 1st Lord Stanley, K.G., (d.1459) King's Lieutenant of Ireland 1430 until 9 Nov 1436.[27]
  • John de la Pole[28], Earl of Lincoln (13 Mar 1466/7[29]) (b.c1462[30]), was appointed King's Lieutenant and the Chief Governor of Ireland on 21 August, 1484. He was killed at the battle of Stoke in 1487.[31]

Territories of the Lordship



  1. Bitel 1994, p. 238.
  2. Bartlett 1994, p. 22.
  3. Orpen, 1911, vol.1, pps:20, 25, 28-9.
  4. Orpen, 1911, vol.1, chapter II - Dermot, King of Leinster 1126-66.
  5. Song of Dermot, vol.1, p.221.
  6. Pipe Rolls 12 Henry II
  7. Orpen, 1911, vol.1, chapter III, Dermot Seeks Foreign Aid 1166-7.
  8. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage, edited by H. Arthur Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, & Lord Howard de Walden,, vol.x, London, 1945, p.11-12.
  9. Orpen, 1911/1968, vol.1, chapter v: The First Conquerors 1167-9.
  10. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage, edited by Geoffrey H. White, vol.xi, London, 1949, Appendix A, p.4-5.
  11. Round, J.H., Feudal England, London, 1909, p.523-5.
  12. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage, edited by Geoffrey H. White & R.S.Lea., vol.xii, part ii, London, 1959, p.166-8.
  13. Cockayne, 1959, p.169.
  14. Cockayne, 1945, vol.x, p.13-14.
  15. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage edited by the Hon. Vicary Gibbs, H.Arthur Doubleday, and Lord Howard de Walden, vol.viii, London, 1932, p.525-6 and notes.
  16. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage, edited by H.Arthur Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, and Lord Howard de Walden, vol.x, London, 1945, p.365-8.
  17. Cockayne, 1959, vol.xii, part 2, p.171-2n.
  18. Lodge, John, & Mervyn Archdall, A.M., The Peerage of Ireland, a Genealogical History, Dublin,1789, vol.1, p.119.
  19. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage, edited by the Hon. Vicary Gibbs, vol.1, London, 1910, p.338.
  20. Cockayne, 1916, vol.iv, p.235 and notes.
  21. Orpen, 1911.1968, vol.iv, pps: 192 & 211.
  22. Cockayne, 1932, vol.viii, pps:433-442.
  23. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage, edited by H.Arthur Doubleday, and Lord Howard de Walden, vol.ix, London, 1936, p.212.
  24. Cockayne, 1932, vol.viii, p.526n.
  25. Cockayne, 1945, vol.x, p.228-9 & notes.
  26. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage, edited by Geoffrey H. White., vol.xii, part 1, London, 1953, p.248-9.
  27. Cockayne, 1953, p.250.
  28. Son and heir-apparent of the Duke of Suffolk & Princess Elizabeth, sister of King Edward IV.
  29. A confirmation of this was granted by King Richard III, 14 February 1483/4.
  30. His parents were married in or before August 1461.
  31. Cockayne, G.E., The Complete Peerage, edited by the Hon. Vicary Gibbs, H. Arthur Doubleday & Lord Howard de Walden, vol.vii, London, 1929, p.689.


  • Bartlett, Robert, The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change 950 - 1350, Penguin books, 1994. ISBN 0-1401-54094
  • Bitel, Lisa M., Isle of the Saints: Monastic Settlement and Christian Community in Early Ireland, Cornell University Press, U.S.A., ISBN 0-8014-81570
  • Orpen, Goddard Henry, Ireland Under the Normans 1169 - 1333, in 4 volumes, first published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford, U.K., 1911. Reprinted by Oxford University Press in 1968. This must be regarded as a principal reference for all scholars of this subject.

External links