The Norman Invasion of Ireland

Essay by hanno October 2004

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"The Anglo-Norman invasion... has left an indelible mark on the face and character of the country... No other event except the preaching of the gospel by Saint Patrick and his companions has so changed the destinies of Ireland"

Today many of Ireland's customs, placenames, towns, and even faces still act as a daily reminder to us of the influence that the Normans had on Ireland. Few Irish people are unfamiliar with the names of men such as Strongbow and Henry II. From numerous sources (such as the annals, Gerald of Wales' account of the invasion, correspondences of the popes at the time, even architecture and art-such as the fresco painting of the marriage of Strongbow to Aoife in Westminster) we can get a fairly clear idea of the chronological order of Normans intervention in Ireland. However, the reasons for the colonial enterprise are not so clear cut and precise, although the motives for the invasion are as important as the events themselves.

This essay will examine why King Henry II's intervention to control his own subjects who had gone to Ireland, turned into a colonial enterprise. It will explore two theories, within which an explanation for the development of the colonial enterprise might lie; firstly that it had always been the intention of King Henry to invade Ireland, and secondly that the Norman invasion came about by chance, as the result of coincidental circumstances.

Perhaps the activities of Henry's subjects in Ireland were, from the start, part of a planned invasion of Ireland on his part. If this is the case, then Henry's coming to Ireland never turned into, but was, from the start, a planned step in a colonial enterprise. There is evidence that would seem to suggest that King Henry always intended to extend his rule...