Norman Power in Ireland

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How did the Normans become powerful in Ireland?

King Henry II, the Norman king of England and also part of France, came to Ireland in 1171. He allowed Strongbow to keep the rule of Leinster and he gave Meath to another Lord called Hugh de Lacy. Many of the important Irish leaders were afraid that they might be attacked by the Normans so they made friends with King Henry II and agreed that he would be their overlord and protector in return for certain deals and promises. King Henry left Ireland in 1172 but called himself the supreme lord of Ireland.

The Norman lords soon took over some of the lands belonging to Irish clans. They were able to keep control because they had good weapons such as crossbows and were well protected by the armour they wore in battle and also by their castles. They built their castles on high ground. The castles were initially made of timber and later made of stone. These strong castles made it difficult for Irish clans to attack the Normans. The Normans mainly had control on the east of Ireland. They never conquered the whole country.

Norman Building

One of the most important Norman castles was in Trim, Co. Meath, where Hugh de Lacy lived. Trim Castle was the main castle of the Normans in Ireland. Some other Norman lords were also very powerful and built other large castles such as Carrickfergus Castle, which was owned by John de Courcy. The Normans invited poorer people from England and Wales to come to Ireland and live on their new lands. They wanted these workers to grow crops and pay them rent.

The Normans were Christians and built many cathedrals. The cathedrals were usually built in places where there was already a monastery. However, the Normans also established their own new monasteries. These were much larger than the earlier Irish monasteries. The Normans also tried to build towns such as Carlow, Carrickfergus and Drogheda. They built walls around the towns to prevent attack. These walls had gates that could be closed. They also had towers for look outs.

Norman Names

Other Norman families soon arrived in Ireland and many new names were introduced. For example FitzGerald, FitzMaurice, Power and Prendergast. These Norman surnames seemed strange to Irish people at the time as most Irish names began with O (which meant 'from the family of') and Mac (which meant 'son of').