List of High Kings of Ireland

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Medieval Irish historical tradition held that Ireland had been ruled by an Ard or High King since ancient times, and compilations like the Lebor Gabála Érenn, followed by early modern works like the Annals of the Four Masters and Geoffrey Keating's Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, purported to trace the line of High Kings. The corpus of early Irish law does not support the existence of such an institution, and scholars now believe it is a pseudohistorical construct of the eighth century AD, a projection into the distant past of a political entity which did not become a reality till the Normans. Rulers like Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid declared themselves as King of All Ireland but such claims did not gain the political support of other kingdoms (i.e. Munster), the Norse and Norse-Gaels and was unable to maintain peace with his own Uí Néill kinsmen. The traditional list of High Kings of Ireland is thus a mixture of fact, legend, fiction, and propaganda. The individuals appearing prior to the fifth century AD are generally considered legendary, and the application of the title to individuals before the ninth century is considered anachronistic.

The annalists frequently describe later high kings as rígh Érenn co fressabra ("Kings of Ireland with Opposition"), which is a reference to the instability of the kingship of Tara from the death of Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill in 1022. Máel Sechnaill had been overthrown by Brian Boru in 1002, and restored in 1014 following Brian's death, but the example of Brian's coup was followed by numerous other families in the century following 1022, and the High Kingship was effectively ended by the Norman quasi-conquest of Ireland in 1171.

Legendary kings[edit]

Kings in the Baile Chuind[edit]

The earliest surviving list appears in the Baile Chuind (The Ecstasy of Conn) a late seventh century poem in which Conn of the Hundred Battles experiences a vision of the kings who will succeed him. Many of these kings appear to correspond with the kings of later traditions, although the order is different, and some of the kings cannot be identified. The last four kings following Snechta Fína (Fínsnechta Fledach) do not correspond with any of the kings in later lists. The poem is therefore presumed to have been written during his time, and the kings who follow him are presumed to be fictional.[1]

With few exceptions, kings belong to Dál Cuinn (the Connachta and Uí Néill). Understood as a list of Kings of Tara, it is not considered to be inclusive. A number of well known kings from the Laigin, Érainn, Ulaid, and Cruthin, are missing. The chief rivals of Dál Cuinn at the time of Conn's supposed floruit were the Dáirine, alias Corcu Loígde, two of whom are listed, but whose overkingdom in the south of Ireland collapsed in the 7th century. They would be replaced by the Eóganachta, who established the Kingship of Cashel, later to rival Tara.

NamePresumed identityNotes
Not namedConn CétchathachThe list recounts Conn's vision of the kings who will follow him
ArtArt mac CuinnDál Cuinn
Mac Con moccu Lugde LoígdeLugaid Mac ConDáirine
CorbmacCormac mac AirtDál Cuinn
CorpreCairbre LifechairDál Cuinn
FiechriFiachrae CássanCruthin and/or Airgialla?
Dáire Drechlethanprobably Dáire DoimthechDáirine, but precedes Conn Cétchathach, so misplaced
FéchoFíacha Sroiptine?Dál Cuinn
Muiredach TirechMuiredach TírechDál Cuinn
CrimthandCrimthann mac FidaigEóganachta, or possibly Érainn (Dáirine?)
NíellNiall NoígíallachDál Cuinn
LoígaireLóegaire mac NéillDál Cuinn/Uí Néill
CorpriCoirpre mac Néill (d. circa 463)Dál Cuinn/Uí Néill
AilillAilill Molt (d. 482)Connachta/Uí Fiachrach
LugidLugaid mac Lóegairi (d. circa 507)Uí Néill
Mac ErcéniMuirchertach mac Ercae (d. circa 536)Uí Néill/Cenél nEógain
ÓengarbTúathal Máelgarb (d. circa 544)Uí Néill
Aídprobably Áed mac Ainmuirech (d. 598)Uí Néill/Cenél Conaill; seemingly misplaced chronologically
Aíd Olláinprobably Áed Uaridnach (d. 612)Uí Néill/Cenél nEógain; seemingly misplaced chronologically
DiermaitDiarmait mac Cerbaill (d. circa 565)Uí Néill? Origins obscure.
FeáchnoFiachnae mac Báetáin (d. 626), or perhaps Fiachnae mac Feradaig, father of Suibne MennCruthin/Dál nAraidi, or Uí Néill/Cenél nEógain
SuibneSuibne Menn (d. 628)Uí Néill/Cenél nEógain
DomnallDomnall mac Áedo (d. circa 642)Uí Néill/Cenél Conaill
Blathmac and Diarmaid grandson of the other oneBlathmac mac Áedo Sláine & Diarmait mac Áedo Sláine (both d. 665)Southern Uí Néill
Snechta FínaFínsnechta Fledach (d. circa 695)Uí Néill/Síl nÁedo Sláine

Synthetic lists[edit]

The Lebor Gabála Érenn, dating to the 11th-12th century, purports to list every High King from remote antiquity to the time of Henry II's Lordship of Ireland in 1171. The High Kingship is established by the Fir Bolg, and their nine kings are succeeded by a sequence of nine kings of the Tuatha Dé Danann, most if not all of whom are considered euhemerised deities. After the Milesian (Gaelic) conquest the High Kingship is contested for centuries between the descendants of Eber Finn and Érimón, sons of Míl Espáine. The original compilation stopped at the reign of Tuathal Techtmar. The kings of the Goidelic dynasties established by Tuathal were added by other editors. Later editions of the Lebor Gabála tried to synchronise its chronology with dateable kings of Assyria, Persia, and Ptolemaic Egypt and Roman emperors.[2]

Early modern works like the Annals of the Four Masters[3] and Geoffrey Keating's Foras Feasa ar Éirinn[4] continued this tradition based on later Irish annals. Keating's chronology, based on reign lengths, is longer than the synchronised chronology of the Lebor Gabála, and the Four Masters' chronology is even longer.

Fir Bolg High Kings[edit]

LGEFFEAFM
Sláine 1514–1513 BC1934–1933 BC
Rudraige mac Dela 1513–1511 BC1933–1931 BC
Gann and Genann 1511–1507 BC1931–1927 BC
Sengann 1507–1502 BC1927–1922 BC
Fiacha Cennfinnán 1502–1497 BC1922–1917 BC
Rinnal 1497–1491 BC1917–1911 BC
Fodbgen 1491–1487 BC1911–1907 BC
Eochaid mac Eirc 1487–1477 BC1907–1897 BC

Tuatha Dé Danann High Kings[edit]

LGEFFEAFM
Bres 1477-1470 BC1897-1890 BC
Nuada 1470-1447 BC1890-1870 BC
Lugh 1447-1407 BC1870-1830 BC
Eochaid Ollathair 1407-1337 BC1830-1750 BC
Delbáeth 1337-1327 BC1750-1740 BC
Fiacha 1327-1317 BC1740-1730 BC
Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine 1317-1287 BC1730-1700 BC

Milesian High Kings[edit]

LGEFFEAFM
Eber Finn and Érimón 1287-1286 BC1700 BC
Érimón 1286-1272 BC1700-1684 BC
Muimne, Luigne and Laigne 1272-1269 BC1684-1681 BC
Ér, Orba, Ferón and Fergna 1269 BC1681 BC
Íriel Fáid 1269-1259 BC1681-1671 BC
Ethriel 1259-1239 BC1671-1651 BC
Conmáel 1239-1209 BC1651-1621 BC
Tigernmas 1209-1159 BC1621-1544 BC
   Interregnum 1544-1537 BC
Eochaid Étgudach 1159-1155 BC1537-1533 BC
Cermna Finn and Sobairce 1155-1115 BC1533-1493 BC
Eochaid Faebar Glas 1115-1095 BC1493-1473 BC
Fíachu Labrainne 1095-1071 BC1473-1449 BC
Eochu Mumu 1071-1050 BC1449-1428 BC
Óengus Olmucaid 1050-1032 BC1428-1410 BC
Énna Airgdech 1032-1005 BC1410-1383 BC
Rothechtaid mac Main 1005-980 BC1383-1358 BC
Sétna Airt 980-975 BC1358-1353 BC
Fíachu Fínscothach 975-955 BC1353-1333 BC
Muinemón 955-950 BC1333-1328 BC
Faildergdóit 950-943 BC1328-1318 BC
Ollom Fotla 943-913 BC1318-1278 BC
Fínnachta 913-895 BC1278-1258 BC
Slánoll 895-880 BC1257-1241 BC
Géde Ollgothach 880-863 BC1241-1231 BC
Fíachu Findoilches 863-833 BC1231-1209 BC
Berngal7th century BC833-831 BC1209-1197 BC
Ailill mac Slánuill7th century BC831-815 BC1197-1181 BC
Sírna Sáeglach7th century BC814-794 BC1181-1031 BC
Rothechtaid Rotha7th century BC794-787 BC1031-1024 BC
Elim Olfínechta7th century BC787-786 BC1024-1023 BC
Gíallchad7th century BC786-777 BC1023-1014 BC
Art Imlech7th-6th century BC777-755 BC1014-1002 BC
Nuadu Finn Fáil7th-6th century BC755-735 BC1002-962 BC
Bres Rí7th-6th century BC735-726 BC962-953 BC
Eochu Apthach6th-5th century BC726-725 BC953-952 BC
Finn mac Blatha6th-5th century BC725-705 BC952-930 BC
Sétna Innarraid5th century BC705-685 BC930-910 BC
Siomón Brecc5th century BC685-679 BC910-904 BC
Dui Finn5th century BC679-674 BC904-894 BC
Muiredach Bolgrach5th century BC674-670 BC894-893 BC
Énna Derg5th century BC670-658 BC893-881 BC
Lugaid Íardonn5th century BC658-649 BC881-872 BC
Sírlám5th century BC649-633 BC872-856 BC
Eochu Uairches5th century BC633-621 BC856-844 BC
Eochu Fíadmuine and Conaing Bececlach5th century BC621-616 BC844-839 BC
Lugaid Lámderg and Conaing Bececlach5th century BC616-609 BC839-832 BC
Conaing Bececlach (alone)5th century BC609-599 BC832-812 BC
Art mac Lugdach5th century BC599-593 BC812-806 BC
Fíachu Tolgrach 593-586 BC806-796 BC
Ailill Finn5th-4th century BC586-577 BC796-785 BC
Eochu mac Ailella5th-4th century BC577-570 BC785-778 BC
Airgetmar4th century BC570-547 BC778-748 BC
Dui Ladrach4th century BC547-537 BC748-738 BC
Lugaid Laigdech4th century BC537-530 BC738-731 BC
Áed Rúad4th century BC530-509 BC731-724 BC
Díthorba4th century BC509-488 BC724-717 BC
Cimbáeth4th century BC488-468 BC717-710 BC
Áed Rúad (2nd time)  710-703 BC
Díthorba (2nd time)  703-696 BC
Cimbáeth (2nd time)  696-689 BC
Áed Rúad (3rd time)  689-682 BC
Díthorba (3rd time)  682-675 BC
Cimbáeth (3rd time)  675-668 BC
Cimbáeth and queen Macha  668-661 BC
Macha Mong Ruad (alone)4th-3rd century BC468-461 BC661-654 BC
Rechtaid Rígderg4th-3rd century BC461-441 BC654-634 BC
Úgaine Mor3rd century BC441-411 BC634-594 BC
Raighan 551 BC594 BC
Cineth 524 BC551 BC
Flann Da Congall 480 BC524 BC
Heremon 435 BC480 BC
Bodbchad 411 BC435 BC
Lóegaire Lorc3rd century BC411-409 BC594-592 BC
Cobthach Cóel Breg3rd century BC409-379 BC592-542 BC
Labraid Loingsech3rd century BC379-369 BC542-523 BC
Meilge Molbthach3rd century BC369-362 BC523-506 BC
Mug Corb3rd century BC362-355 BC506-499 BC
Óengus Ollom3rd century BC355-337 BC499-481 BC
Irereo3rd century BC337-330 BC481-474 BC
Fer Corb3rd century BC330-319 BC474-463 BC
Connla Cáem3rd century BC319-315 BC463-443 BC
Ailill Caisfiaclach3rd-2nd century BC315-290 BC443-418 BC
Adamair3rd-2nd century BC290-285 BC418-414 BC
Eochaid Ailtlethan3rd-2nd century BC285-274 BC414-396 BC
Fergus Fortamail2nd century BC274-262 BC396-385 BC
Óengus Tuirmech Temrach2nd century BC262-232 BC385-326 BC
Conall Collamrach2nd century BC232-226 BC326-320 BC
Nia Segamain2nd century BC226-219 BC320-313 BC
Énna Aignech2nd century BC219-191 BC313-293 BC
Crimthann Coscrach2nd century BC191-184 BC293-289 BC
Rudraige mac Sithrigi2nd-1st century BC184-154 BC289-219 BC
Finnat Már2nd-1st century BC154-151 BC219-210 BC
Bresal Bó-Díbad2nd-1st century BC151-140 BC210-199 BC
Lugaid Luaigne2nd-1st century BC140-135 BC199-184 BC
Congal Cláiringnech1st century BC135-120 BC184-169 BC
Dui Dallta Dedad1st century BC120-110 BC169-159 BC
Fachtna Fáthach1st century BC110-94 BC159-143 BC
Eochu Feidlech1st century BC94-82 BC143-131 BC
Eochu Airem1st century BC82-70 BC131-116 BC
Eterscél1st century BC-1st century AD70-64 BC116-111 BC
Nuadu Necht1st century64-63 BC111-110 BC
Conaire Mór1st century63-33 BC110-40 BC
 interregnum (5 years) interregnum 40-33 BC
Lugaid Riab nDerg1st century33-13 BC33-9 BC
Conchobar Abradruad1st century13-12 BC9-8 BC
 Cairbre Cinnchait 1st centuryCrimthann Nia Náir 12 BC - AD 5Crimthann Nia Náir 8 BC - AD 9
 Feradach Finnfechtnach 1st centuryFeradach Finnfechtnach AD 5-25Cairbre Cinnchait AD 9-14
 Fíatach Finn 1st centuryFiatach Finn 25-28Feradach Finnfechtnach 14-36
 Fíachu Finnolach 1st centuryFiacha Finnfolaidh 28-55Fiatach Finn 36-39
 Elim mac Conrach 2nd centuryCairbre Cinnchait 55-60Fiacha Finnfolaidh 39-56
  Elim mac Conrach 60-80Elim mac Conrach 56-76

Goidelic High Kings[edit]

There is debate over the historicity of some of these High Kings.

LGEFFEAFM
Tuathal Techtmar2nd century80-10076-106
Mal mac Rochride2nd century100-104106-110
Fedlimid Rechtmar2nd century104-113110-119
Cathair Mór2nd century113-116119-122
Conn Cétchathach2nd century116-136122-157
Conaire Cóem2nd century136-143157-165
Art mac Cuinn2nd century143-173165-195
Lugaid mac Con 173-203195-225
Fergus Dubdétach 203-204225-226
Cormac mac Airt 204-244226-266
Eochaid Gonnat 244-245266-267
Cairbre Lifechair 245-272267-284
Fothad Cairpthech and Fothad Airgthech 272-273284-285
Fíacha Sroiptine 273-306285-322
Colla Uais 306-310322-326
Muiredach Tirech 310-343326-356
Cáelbad 343-344356-357
Eochaid Mugmedon 344-351357-365
Crimthann mac Fidaig 351-368365-376
Niall Noígíallach (generally thought historical) 368-395376-405
Nath Í (probably did not reign at Tara) 395-418405-428
Lóegaire mac Néill (historical) 418-448428-458

Semi-historical High Kings of Ireland[edit]

These kings are historical figures for the most part, but naming them High Kings of Ireland may be anachronistic or inaccurate in certain cases.

 459-831
Ailill Molt459-478
Lugaid mac Lóegairi479-503
Muirchertach mac Ercae504-527
Túathal Máelgarb528-538
Diarmait mac Cerbaill539-558
Domhnall and Fearghus559-561
Eochaidh and Baedan562-563
Ainmuire mac Sétnai564-566
Báetán mac Ninnedo567
Áed mac Ainmuirech568-594
Áed Sláine and Colmán Rímid595-600
Áed Uaridnach601-607
Máel Coba mac Áedo608-610
Suibne Menn611-623
Domnall mac Áedo624-639
Cellach and Conall640-656
Diarmait and Blathmac657-664
Sechnassach665-669
Cenn Fáelad670-673
Fínsnechta Fledach674-693
Loingsech mac Óengusso694-701
Congal Cennmagair702-708
Fergal mac Máele Dúin709-718
Fogartach mac Néill719
Cináed mac Írgalaig720-722
Flaithbertach mac Loingsig723-729
Áed Allán730-738
Domnall Midi739-758
Niall Frossach759-765
Donnchad Midi766-792
Áed Oirdnide793-817
Conchobar mac Donnchada819-833
Niall Caille 833-846 (according to [1])
or Feidlimid mac Crimthainn (according to the Annals of Inisfallen)
832-846
836-841

Historical High Kings of Ireland[edit]

These kings can be considered genuinely historical High Kings (with or without opposition).

Kings of Ireland832–1318
Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid846860
Aed Findliath861–876
Flann Sinna877914
Niall Glúndub915–917
Donnchad Donn918–942
Congalach Cnogba943–954
Domnall ua Néill955–978
Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill979–1002
Brian Bóruma10021014
Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill (restored)1014–1022
Donnchad mac Briaindied 1064 (with opposition)
Diarmait mac Maíl na mBódied 1072 (with opposition)
Toirdelbach Ua Briaindied 1086 (with opposition)
Domnall Ua Lochlainndied 1121 (with opposition)
Muirchertach Ua Briaindied 1119 (with opposition)
Toirdelbach Ua Conchobairdied 1156
Muirchertach Mac Lochlainndied 1166
Ruaidrí Ua Conchobairdied 1198

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cycles of the Kings Web Project: Baile Chuinn Cétchathaigh
  2. ^ R. A. Stewart Macalister (ed. & trans.), Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of the Taking of Ireland Part V, Irish Texts Society, 1956
  3. ^ Annals of the Four Masters vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 at CELT
  4. ^ The History of Ireland by Geoffrey Keating at CELT

Further reading[edit]