King Diarmuid MacMurchada
King of Leinster
The 900 year occupation of Ireland by England started in 1169 when King Diarmuid MacMurchada asked King Henry II to help get his kingdom back. The Normans came to help, but never left.
The King of Leinster for years had trouble with neighboring kings of Meath and was finally defeated in battle by the native Irish Kings. Having no reliable allies in Ireland, in 1166 he asked King Henry II of England for help.
Military help was offered by the Earl of Pembroke who had a private army. He became known better in Ireland as Strongbow. Strongbow agreed to help only if he were named heir to Leinster and if he could marry the Kings daughtor, Isabel (Elizabeth) deBeaumont.
In 1169, a party of Normans from Wales led by Robert FitzStephen landed in Bannow Bay, Wexford. A year later Strongbow landed with his heavy cavalry near Waterford. The army quickly conquered the Viking bases at Waterford and Dublin exiled the Danish king. Then they conquered Leinster and gave it back to King Murchada.
In 1171, Mac Murchada died and Strongbow became King of Leinster. Other Norman Barons were loosed to seize other territories. De Lacys held lands in Meath and Westmeath and the De Burghs controlled some areas of Connaught. Always under attack by irish Kings, he subsequently repelled attacks by the High King Rory O'Connor of Connacht, then when stronger he attacked the Kings of Meath and Westmeath. Strongbow defeated every king in Ireland except O'Neill from the north and O'Conor and O'Kelly from Connaught.
Normans in remote areas began to adopt the language and customs of their Irish neighbors. Some Norman families adopted Irish name forms. The De Burgh family took the name Burke; the Barry family, MacAdam; and the Staunton family, McEvilly.
In 1366, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, son of King Edward III, summoned a parliament at Kilkenny that passed laws forbidding the Normans to adopt Irish customs. The Statutes of Kilkenny, as these laws were called, also forbade the Normans to intermarry with the Irish, to speak the Irish language, or to wear Irish dress. But in spite of these laws the number of Gaelicized Normans continued to increase.
After that Strongbow consolidated their new lands by building motte-and-bailey castles, setting up market towns and engaging in large-scale colonization, although they did not move the native Irish from their land in any major way. Strongbow died in 1176.
While most Irish Kings had earlier submitted without a fight, the general population kept the Normans constantly under attack. Strongbow had to put down a series of rebellions before peace returned.
John de Courcy invaded Ulaid (modern eastern Ulster) and set up a new lordship there which he called Ulster and built a castle at Carrickfergus. In the 1180s to 1200s, south-western Ireland was added to the colony. 1226 to 1235 saw further failed attempts to conquer Connaught.
The mid 1200s saw a large Irish rebellion that began with O'Neill of Ulster and swept Norman settelers from farms and castles all the way to Munster. The Irish burned colonists homes and ransacked their lands. But the rebellion could not be maintained and fizzled out by 1261.
By this time, most of Ireland was ruled by Norman overlords with the exception of the north, the midlands and several areas of the west coast, lower Leitrim and UiMaine, the land of O'Kelly.
After 1350, the Irish chieftains began to recover their territories. They had acquired many of the weapons used by the Normans, and used some of their tactics. They also hired Scottish soldiers known as gallowglass, who were more than a match for the Normans.
The MacCarthy regained power in Munster, Art MacMurrough Kavanagh became King of Leinster, and the O'Neill and O'Donnell families established strong kingships in Ulster. Finally, the area under the effective control of the English in Ireland was confined to a narrow stretch of territory on the east coast called the Pale or the English Pale.
The Pale stretched from Dundalk to Dalkey, south of Dublin, and extended inland for about forty miles. The lord deputy, who was the king's representative, ruled over the Pale, and a parliament in Dublin passed laws for its people from time to time. Irish savages inland were referred to as those beyond the pale.
Everyday life for those who lived in towns was a cramped, unsanitary but exciting affair with narrow streets, town walls and bustling markets. In the countryside, peasants lived in villages where they tilled land granted to them by their lord. Each family lived in a one-room wooden house which they shared with animals at night. Probably quite poor, the peasants did not have many possessions and little adequate clothing. These conditions were the same for Irish and English peasant colonists.