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Brian Boru - the Last Great High King of Ireland
line between Irish Legend and Irish Myth has often been blurred, especially
as the retelling of heroic deeds has been passed on through generations.
Brian Boru was no legend although his life deeds were legendary. He was
very much a real man and was in fact the last great High King of Ireland
and perhaps the greatest military leader the country has ever known.
From this point onwards Brian held Munster as his own, including the
pivotal trade-centre of Limerick. He marched into Connaught and Leinster
and joined forces with Mael Sechnaill II in 997. Together they divided Ireland
The Norse settlers in Dublin especially ranged against Brian but were
defeated at Glen Mama where the King of Leinster was captured. The King
of Dublin, Sitric Silkenbeard, was soon defeated too.
He earned his name as 'Brian of the Tributes' (Brian Boru) by collecting
tributes from the minor rulers of Ireland and used the monies raised to
restore monasteries and libraries that had been destroyed during the invasions.
Battle of Clontarf The Norsemen were not done yet however, and once more waged war on Brian
Boru and his followers at Clontarf in Dublin on the 23rd April 1014. The King of Connaught,
Tadhg O' Conor refused to ally with Brian against the Ostermen although
UĂ Fiachrach Aidne and UĂ Maine did join with him.
Despite the lack of backing from the men of Connaught, the Munstermen
won the day but lost Brian Boru in the battle. This battle was a major turning
point as it finally subjugated the Norse presence in Ireland. The Norsemen
henceforth would be considered subordinate to the Kingships of Ireland.
Their military threat had been ended and they retreated to the urban centres
of Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Wexford, and Cork. They eventually became
completely Hibernicised and became integrated into Gaelic culture.
After his death and the death of one of his sons, his remaining sons,
Tadg and Donnchad, were unable to assume the kingship which was assumed
by Mael Sechnaill. He died in 1022 after which the role of High King of
Ireland became more of a position in name only, rather than that of a powerful
Perhaps the best that should be said of Brian Boru therefore, is that
he was the last great High King of Ireland.