Tag Archives: Henry II

Diamait Mac Murchada, the man who invited the Normans to Ireland.


The island of Ireland’s history is a turbulent one and one that has to be treated delicately.  Again it is a topic that Henry II just couldn’t keep away from, holding the title of Lord of Ireland at different points of his reign.  Asked to help the disposed King of Leinster Diarmait Mac Murchada Henry began English involvement in what was and would become even more a hotbed of trouble for the smaller of the large islands within the British Isles.  It is this man Diamait Mac Murchada that interests me, and I hope to find out who he was and what led him in more detail to seek Henry’s help.

Diamait was born around 1110, the son of Donnchad  mac Murchada, King of Leinster and Dublin.  His father’s grandmother was Dervorgilla, who was a daughter of Donnchad King of Munster and therefore a great granddaughter of Brian Boru , King of Ireland between 1002-14.  Diamait had two wives as allowed by Brehon Laws.  His first wife was Sadb of Ui Faelain and they had a daughter called Orlaith who married Domnall Mor, King of Munster.  His second wife was Mor Ui Tuathail.

His father died in battle in 1115 killed by his cousin Sigtrygg Silkbeard the king of the Dublin Vikings.  Then his elder brother, Enna mac Donnchada Mac Murchada, Diarmait became king of Leinster.  Although this was opposed by the High King of Ireland Toirdelbach Ua Conchobair who feared Diamait could become a rival.  Toirdelbach enlisted the help of Tigernan Ua Ruairc to attempt to conquer Leinster.  Ua Ruaric slaughtered all the livestock of Leinster trying to starve the population.   Diamait initially lost Leinster but with the aid of the clans in 1132 won back the province.  This then lead to an uneasy peace between Ua Conchobair and Diamait for the next two decades.

In 1166 the current High King Muirchertach Ua Lochlainn and Diamait’s only real ally fell and a large coalition led by Ua Ruairc attacked Leinster once more.  Diamait lost the throne once more and fled to Wales then to England and eventually to France.  He requested help from Henry who allowed Diamait to try and recruit soldiers and support from the Lords of Henry’s kingdoms.  Those who agreed were Richard de Clare and the half-brothers Robert FitzStephen and Maurice FitzGerald.  De Clare was handed Aoife, Diamait’s daughter from his second marriage as a bride.  He was also promised Kingship of Leinster of Diamait’s death.

They first returned to Wales were FitzStephen assisted in gathering a combined force of Norman and Welsh mercenaries.  They landed at Bannow Bay in Wexford, laying siege to Wexford itself.  Wexford fell in May 1169.  Consolidating themselves they then launched raids against the territories of Ui Tuathail, the Ui Broin and the Ui Conchobhair.  Then Diamait led the army marching on Tara the political capital at the time to attempt to oust Turlough Mor O’Connor the current High King of Ireland.

With the aid of the church the leaders on both sides began negotiations at Ferns.  An agreement was reached where Diamait was allowed to remain as King of Leinster as long as he then recognised Ua Conchobhair as the High King.  In May 1170 Maurice FitzGerald landed in Wexford with a force of 10 knights, 30 men-at-arms and a hundred archers and foot soldiers.  Diamait and FitzGerald then marched on Dublin which surrendered and it didn’t take long to subdue in unrest within the whole of Leinster.

Under the influence of both FitsStephen and FitzGerald persuaded Diamait to write to de Clare asking for assistance with his mind moving towards the High Kingship for himself.  de Clare sent Raymond le Gros with an advance party and arriving later in 1170 himself at Waterford.  The marriage of de Clare and Aoife then took place and de Clare claimed all the lands that were his under Norman law.  Diamait retreated himself back to Ferns where he died a couple of months later in 1171.

de Clare’s successful land grab led to Henry’s larger invasion in 1171 to ensure his control over his Norman subjects.  He accepted the submission of the Irish kings in Dublin in November 1171.  In 1172 the papal bull Laudabiliter was reconfirmed by Pope Alexander III and he then added ‘Lord of Ireland’ to his many titles.  Before he could consolidate his new lands he had to return to France to deal with his son’s rebellion in 1173.

As mentioned Ireland in complicated and from reading and writing about the first major involvement of the English it is easy to see that even before they steped foot in Ireland it was already a very complex island with many local leaders all trying to oust each other for the claim of High King.

Although mainly it’s Henry’s story that we are following at the moment, and next it will be to France and rebellion.

Four Knights to kill a priest



How can you talk about Henry II of England and not mention Thomas Becket? ‘Will no one rid of this turbulent priest?’ are the most commonly quoted words uttered by Henry that sent four knights on their way to commit murder under the presumption of royal command. It is those four knights that I want to look at a little closer, and find out if it was Henry that gave the seed of thought who where the real murders of Thomas Beckett.

Reginald FitzUrse

Reginald FitzUrse was born in 1145 and was the eldest son of Richard FitzUrse. FitzUrse translates as ‘son of bear’, Fitz taken from the Norman-French ‘fils de’ meaning ‘son of’ and Urze from the latin ‘ursus’ meaning ‘bear’. Reginald’s shield bore the cognizance of a bear. On the death of his farther in 1168 Reginald inherited the manor of Wiliton in Somerset. He also held land at Barham in Kent which took its name from Reginald ‘Bar’ from the word bear and ‘ham’ from hamlet. Reginald was a knight attendant to Henry II.
It is believed that FitzUrse could have been the ringleader during the assignation of Thomas and it is said he delivered the first but non-fatal blow during the attack to Becket’s head. After the assassination Reginald escaped to Scotland with the other knights and onto Morville’s castle at Knarsborough where he stayed for a year. All four were excommunicated and ordered by the Pope to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land for 14 years. It is believed that none returned although some legends state that FitzUrse fled to Ireland and fathered the McMahon clan.

Hugh de Morville

Hugh de Morville is believed to be the eldest son of Hugh de Morville, Lord of Cunningham and Lauderdale and appears in the services of Henry II from 1158. His mother was Beatrice de Beauchamp. It is believed also that Hugh the younger held the title of Lord of Westmorland.
After the assassination de Morville assisted with the building of a church at Alkborough in today’s North Lincolnshire. This didn’t do enough to impress Pope Alexander III who still excommunicated all four knights and after an audience with the Pope they were exiled to fight ‘in knightly arms in The Temple for 14 years’ in Jerusalem.

The Lordship of Westmoreland passed to Hugh’s sister Maud in 1174 and it is believed that he must of died before 1202/03 as his lands were then in the hands of co-heiresses.

William de Tracy

William de Tracy was the great grandson (through the illegitimate William I de Tracy) of King Henry I. Henry granted William I the feudal barony of Brandninch in Devon. His parents were John de Sudeley and Grace de Tracy and he had a brother called Ralph de Sudeley. William took his mother’s name and also inherited her lands at Brandninch. William passed these lands onto his son William III and then it passed to his grandson Henry who lost the lands by 1202.
Like the other knights William was excommunicated on Maundy Thursday 25th March 1171 and sentenced to give 14 years of service in the holy land. There is speculation as to what happened to William next. Herbert of Bosham says that de Tracy died of leprosy at Cosenza in Southern Italy in 1174. Romwald, Archbishop of Salerno confirms de Tracy’s journey east and also by Roger Hovenden who stated that the Pope instructed the knights, once their duties were fulfilled, to visit the Holy Places barefoot and in hairshirts and then to live alone for the rest of their lives on the Black Mountain near Antioch, spending all their time there in vigils, prayers, and lamentations. It is thought that de Tracy retired to a hermitage there.

Richard le Breton

Richard le Breton was the son of Simon le Bret or Simon Brito of Sampford Brett in Somerset and where neighbours to the FitzUrses. He served in household of William X, Count of Politou brother to Henry II. It is believed that the le Breton’s received the land at Sanford in Somerset due to the service of Auvrai Le Breton at the Battle of Hastings.
According to the account of the assassination by Edward Grim de Breton is meant to have broken his sword when chopping at Becket’s head. After the service in the holy land following excommunication it is believed that de Breton may have retired to Jersey. One of his descendants is said to possibly be Lillie Langley a mistress of King Edward VII

Henry II, from Civil War to Empire.

So I have had a little block recently, and some real life events have put me on hold.  February has been a bit of a wash out for the blog but hopefully things will begin to get a little bit better and I can continue on with my quest.

Henry II is the next King on my list of Plantagenet’s and I suppose this is maybe not helped me, the question is with Henry II where to start?

It looks like even before he became King he led a busy life.  Securing lands in France, helping his mother against Stephen and securing the crown of England for himself.  So to begin with I have decided to take this piece from the Treaties of Wallingford and Winchester where he finally managed to succeed in securing his succession to the throne of England.

Henry was now the adopted son of Stephen who accepted him as his rightful successor to the throne.  Stephen promised to listen to Henry but retained all his Royal powers and castles.  William, Stephen’s ‘other’ son would do homage to Henry renouncing his claim to the throne for promises that his lands were safe.  The agreement was sealed with a kiss of peace at Winchester Cathedral.  Although following the agreement peace remained precarious and after rumours of a plot to assassinate Henry he returned to Normandy.

Stephen fell ill of a stomach disorder and died on 25th October 1154.  Once news reached Henry he returned to England to take oaths of loyalty from some of the barons.  He was crowned at Westminster alongside Eleanor on the 19th December 1154.  During the civil war known as ‘The Anarchy’ much of England had suffered some form of destructive action.   Henry upon receiving the crown set to trying to establish normality.  The king’s income had declined dramatically and the royal control over the mints remained limited.

Henry II

Henry presented himself as the legitimate heir to Henry I his grandfather through his mother Empress Matilda.  He tried to begin by rebuilding the kingdom in his grandfather’s image.  Although the majority of this work had to be carried out at a distance as he spent six and a half of the first eight years of his rule in France.  Despite this work was carried out to demolish unauthorised castles that had sprung up during the civil war.  Efforts were made to restore the royal justice system and royal finances and Henry invested heavily on the construction and renovation of new royal buildings.

Now King of England Henry’s troubles did not end there.  Throughout the 1150’s Henry was continually at conflict with different Kings, Counts, Dukes and overlords from different areas of France and the British Isles.  In 1157 Henry through continuing pressure managed to make a young Scots King Malcolm to return the lands in the north of England that had been taken during the Anarchy.  Welsh princes were a little harder to subdue.  Henry had to fight two different campaigns one in the north and one in the south of Wales.  In 1157 and 1158 both Owain Gwynedd and Rhys ap Gruffydd submitted to Henry’s rule returning to pre-civil war borders.

Henry continued to have problems with Louis VII of France throughout the 1150’s that led to the disputes drawing in other powers from the region.  Henry also had the greater resources at the time after his succession in England.  Theirry the Count of Flanders signed a military alliance with Henry albeit with a clause that stopped him being forced to fight against Louis.  Theobald V, Count of Blois also became allied with Henry.  On returning to France from England Henry looked to squash any possible rebellion with the French Lords.  As a result the peace treaty of 1154 between Henry and Louis was signed.  Clauses of the peace treaty stated that Henry bought back Vermon and Neuf-Marche from Louis.  The treaty was shaky and tensions remained high as Henry hadn’t paid homage to Louis for the Dukedoms in France.  In an attempt to improve the situation Henry met Louis at Paris and Mont-Saint-Michel in 1158.  They agreed to betroth Henry’s eldest son the ‘Young Henry’ to Louis daughter Margaret.  Part of the marriage arrangement was that Louis would betroth the disputed territory of Vexin to Margaret upon the marriage.  Although this ultimately gave the lands to the Henrys it also implied that Vexin was Louis to give away in the first place.

Henry also had turned his attention to the Duchy of Brittany.   The Breton dukes held little power across the duchy and most of the power was with local lords.  In 1148 Conan III died, leaving a power vacuum which lead to civil war.  Henry claimed himself overlord of Brittany on the basis that the duchy had previously owed loyalty to Henry I.  Henry ruled Brittany through proxies and backed the claim of Conan IV’s claim to the majority of the area because of Conan’s strong English ties.  Conan’s uncle Hoel continued to rule in the county of Nantes until he was deposed by Henry’s brother Geoffrey in 1156.  Geoffrey then died in 1158 and Conan annexed Nantes into the control of the overall duchy.  Louis made no moves to stop Henry’s power within Brittany from growing.

Henry hoped to make a similar move for control of Toulouse in southern France.  Toulouse was part of the Duchy of Aquitaine but had become increasingly independent and was ruled by Count Raymond V.  Encouraged by Eleanor, Henry allied himself with Raymond’s enemy Raymond Berenguer of Barcelona.  In 1159 Henry threatened to invade himself to dispose of Raymond.  Henry did invade Toulouse but found Louis visiting Raymond who was married to Louis sister Constance.  Not willing to attach whilst Louis was in attendance in case it looked like a move against Louis himself Henry backed off.  Henry then ravaged the surrounding county, seizing castles and taking the province of Quercy.  Toulouse would be a long running dispute between Henry and Louis and the chronicler William of Newburgh called it ‘the forty year war’.

Henry and Eleanor holding court.

Henry and Eleanor holding court.

After Toulouse Louis tried to repair relations with Henry and in 1160 a further peace treaty was signed that stated that Henry was promised the lands of his grandfather Henry I.  It also reaffirmed the betrothal of Margaret and Young Henry, with the Young Henry giving homage to Louis for his lands in France and reinforcing his position as heir to Louis through the marriage.  Louis thou quickly moved his position after the death of his wife Constance.  Louis married Adele the sister of the Count of Blois and Champagne.  Louis then betrothed his two daughters Marie and Alix to Theobold of Blois’ sons.  Henry was not happy.  He had custody of Margaret at the time and managed to persuade Papal legates into marrying the two children although they were only five and three.  He then seized Vexin to conclude the previous promised marriage arrangement.  This then made Louis unhappy and he declared the treaty from 1160 broken in spirit by Henry’s actions.

This lead to increased tensions in the area and Theobald mobilised his forces along the border of Touraine.  Henry then attached Chaumont in Blois in a surprise attack taking the castle.  In 1161 it seemed likely that war would ravage across the region, but a fresh peace was negotiated in Freteval and a second agreement in 1162 that was overseen by Pope Alexander III.

Henry now controlled more of France than any man had since the days of the Carolingians.  These lands with his possession’s in England, Wales, Scotland and most of Ireland was vast and referred by historians as the Angevin empire.  His mother now in her early sixties I am sure would have been very proud and happy with how he had grown his lands and established his empire.  He ruled in England for another 27 years after the agreement overseen by Pope Alexander III and the as the early part of his life and reign this time was also never quiet with lots of significant events but we will pick these up later.  As I mentioned at the beginning with Henry it was always a question of where to start as so much happened within his life, but it must be said the Empire he grew surely rivalled anything previously seen in Western Europe.  The Plantagenet’s were truly now on the map.