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 until 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.

Name Presumed identity Notes
Not named Conn Cétchathach The list recounts Conn's vision of the kings who will follow him
Art Art mac Cuinn Dál Cuinn
Mac Con moccu Lugde Loígde Lugaid Mac Con Dáirine
Corbmac Cormac mac Airt Dál Cuinn
Corpre Cairbre Lifechair Dál Cuinn
Fiechri Fiachrae Cássan Cruthin and/or Airgialla?
Dáire Drechlethan probably Dáire Doimthech Dáirine, but precedes Conn Cétchathach, so misplaced
Fécho Fíacha Sroiptine? Dál Cuinn
Muiredach Tirech Muiredach Tírech Dál Cuinn
Crimthand Crimthann mac Fidaig Eóganachta, or possibly Érainn (Dáirine?)
Níell Niall Noígíallach Dál Cuinn
Loígaire Lóegaire mac Néill Dál Cuinn/Uí Néill
Corpri Coirpre mac Néill (d. circa 463) Dál Cuinn/Uí Néill
Ailill Ailill Molt (d. 482) Connachta/Uí Fiachrach
Lugid Lugaid mac Lóegairi (d. circa 507) Uí Néill
Mac Ercéni Muirchertach mac Ercae (d. circa 536) Uí Néill/Cenél nEógain
Óengarb Túathal Máelgarb (d. circa 544) Uí Néill
Aíd probably Áed mac Ainmuirech (d. 598) Uí Néill/Cenél Conaill; seemingly misplaced chronologically
Aíd Olláin probably Áed Uaridnach (d. 612) Uí Néill/Cenél nEógain; seemingly misplaced chronologically
Diermait Diarmait mac Cerbaill (d. circa 565) Uí Néill? Origins obscure.
Feáchno Fiachnae mac Báetáin (d. 626), or perhaps Fiachnae mac Feradaig, father of Suibne Menn Cruthin/Dál nAraidi, or Uí Néill/Cenél nEógain
Suibne Suibne Menn (d. 628) Uí Néill/Cenél nEógain
Domnall Domnall mac Áedo (d. circa 642) Uí Néill/Cenél Conaill
Blathmac and Diarmaid grandson of the other one Blathmac mac Áedo Sláine & Diarmait mac Áedo Sláine (both d. 665) Southern Uí Néill
Snechta Fína Fínsnechta 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]

These kings are considered to be legendary.

LGE FFE AFM
Sláine   1514–1513 BC 1934–1933 BC
Rudraige mac Dela   1513–1511 BC 1933–1931 BC
Gann and Genann   1511–1507 BC 1931–1927 BC
Sengann   1507–1502 BC 1927–1922 BC
Fiacha Cennfinnán   1502–1497 BC 1922–1917 BC
Rinnal   1497–1491 BC 1917–1911 BC
Fodbgen   1491–1487 BC 1911–1907 BC
Eochaid mac Eirc   1487–1477 BC 1907–1897 BC

Tuatha Dé Danann High Kings[edit]

These kings are considered to be legendary.

LGE FFE AFM
Bres   1477–1470 BC 1897–1890 BC
Nuada   1470–1447 BC 1890–1870 BC
Lugh   1447–1407 BC 1870–1830 BC
Eochaid Ollathair   1407–1337 BC 1830–1750 BC
Delbáeth   1337–1327 BC 1750–1740 BC
Fiacha   1327–1317 BC 1740–1730 BC
Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine   1317–1287 BC 1730–1700 BC

Milesian High Kings[edit]

These kings are considered to be legendary.

LGE FFE AFM
Eber Finn and Érimón   1287–1286 BC 1700 BC
Érimón   1286–1272 BC 1700–1684 BC
Muimne, Luigne and Laigne   1272–1269 BC 1684–1681 BC
Ér, Orba, Ferón and Fergna   1269 BC 1681 BC
Íriel Fáid   1269–1259 BC 1681–1671 BC
Ethriel   1259–1239 BC 1671–1651 BC
Conmáel   1239–1209 BC 1651–1621 BC
Tigernmas   1209–1159 BC 1621–1544 BC
      Interregnum 1544–1537 BC
Eochaid Étgudach   1159–1155 BC 1537–1533 BC
Cermna Finn and Sobairce   1155–1115 BC 1533–1493 BC
Eochaid Faebar Glas   1115–1095 BC 1493–1473 BC
Fíachu Labrainne   1095–1071 BC 1473–1449 BC
Eochu Mumu   1071–1050 BC 1449–1428 BC
Óengus Olmucaid   1050–1032 BC 1428–1410 BC
Énna Airgdech   1032–1005 BC 1410–1383 BC
Rothechtaid mac Main   1005–980 BC 1383–1358 BC
Sétna Airt   980–975 BC 1358–1353 BC
Fíachu Fínscothach   975–955 BC 1353–1333 BC
Muinemón   955–950 BC 1333–1328 BC
Faildergdóit   950–943 BC 1328–1318 BC
Ollom Fotla   943–913 BC 1318–1278 BC
Fínnachta   913–895 BC 1278–1258 BC
Slánoll   895–880 BC 1257–1241 BC
Géde Ollgothach   880–863 BC 1241–1231 BC
Fíachu Findoilches   863–833 BC 1231–1209 BC
Berngal 7th century BC 833–831 BC 1209–1197 BC
Ailill mac Slánuill 7th century BC 831–815 BC 1197–1181 BC
Sírna Sáeglach 7th century BC 814–794 BC 1181–1031 BC
Rothechtaid Rotha 7th century BC 794–787 BC 1031–1024 BC
Elim Olfínechta 7th century BC 787–786 BC 1024–1023 BC
Gíallchad 7th century BC 786–777 BC 1023–1014 BC
Art Imlech 7th–6th century BC 777–755 BC 1014–1002 BC
Nuadu Finn Fáil 7th–6th century BC 755–735 BC 1002–962 BC
Bres Rí 7th–6th century BC 735–726 BC 962–953 BC
Eochu Apthach 6th–5th century BC 726–725 BC 953–952 BC
Finn mac Blatha 6th–5th century BC 725–705 BC 952–930 BC
Sétna Innarraid 5th century BC 705–685 BC 930–910 BC
Siomón Brecc 5th century BC 685–679 BC 910–904 BC
Dui Finn 5th century BC 679–674 BC 904–894 BC
Muiredach Bolgrach 5th century BC 674–670 BC 894–893 BC
Énna Derg 5th century BC 670–658 BC 893–881 BC
Lugaid Íardonn 5th century BC 658–649 BC 881–872 BC
Sírlám 5th century BC 649–633 BC 872–856 BC
Eochu Uairches 5th century BC 633–621 BC 856–844 BC
Eochu Fíadmuine and Conaing Bececlach 5th century BC 621–616 BC 844–839 BC
Lugaid Lámderg and Conaing Bececlach 5th century BC 616–609 BC 839–832 BC
Conaing Bececlach (alone) 5th century BC 609–599 BC 832–812 BC
Art mac Lugdach 5th century BC 599–593 BC 812–806 BC
Fíachu Tolgrach   593–586 BC 806–796 BC
Ailill Finn 5th–4th century BC 586–577 BC 796–785 BC
Eochu mac Ailella 5th–4th century BC 577–570 BC 785–778 BC
Airgetmar 4th century BC 570–547 BC 778–748 BC
Dui Ladrach 4th century BC 547–537 BC 748–738 BC
Lugaid Laigdech 4th century BC 537–530 BC 738–731 BC
Áed Rúad 4th century BC 530–509 BC 731–724 BC
Díthorba 4th century BC 509–488 BC 724–717 BC
Cimbáeth 4th century BC 488–468 BC 717–710 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 BC 468–461 BC 661–654 BC
Rechtaid Rígderg 4th–3rd century BC 461–441 BC 654–634 BC
Úgaine Mor 3rd century BC 441–411 BC 634–594 BC
Raighan   551 BC 594 BC
Cineth   524 BC 551 BC
Flann Da Congall   480 BC 524 BC
Heremon   435 BC 480 BC
Bodbchad   411 BC 435 BC
Lóegaire Lorc 3rd century BC 411–409 BC 594–592 BC
Cobthach Cóel Breg 3rd century BC 409–379 BC 592–542 BC
Labraid Loingsech 3rd century BC 379–369 BC 542–523 BC
Meilge Molbthach 3rd century BC 369–362 BC 523–506 BC
Mug Corb 3rd century BC 362–355 BC 506–499 BC
Óengus Ollom 3rd century BC 355–337 BC 499–481 BC
Irereo 3rd century BC 337–330 BC 481–474 BC
Fer Corb 3rd century BC 330–319 BC 474–463 BC
Connla Cáem 3rd century BC 319–315 BC 463–443 BC
Ailill Caisfiaclach 3rd–2nd century BC 315–290 BC 443–418 BC
Adamair 3rd–2nd century BC 290–285 BC 418–414 BC
Eochaid Ailtlethan 3rd–2nd century BC 285–274 BC 414–396 BC
Fergus Fortamail 2nd century BC 274–262 BC 396–385 BC
Óengus Tuirmech Temrach 2nd century BC 262–232 BC 385–326 BC
Conall Collamrach 2nd century BC 232–226 BC 326–320 BC
Nia Segamain 2nd century BC 226–219 BC 320–313 BC
Énna Aignech 2nd century BC 219–191 BC 313–293 BC
Crimthann Coscrach 2nd century BC 191–184 BC 293–289 BC
Rudraige mac Sithrigi 2nd–1st century BC 184–154 BC 289–219 BC
Finnat Már 2nd–1st century BC 154–151 BC 219–210 BC
Bresal Bó-Díbad 2nd–1st century BC 151–140 BC 210–199 BC
Lugaid Luaigne 2nd–1st century BC 140–135 BC 199–184 BC
Congal Cláiringnech 1st century BC 135–120 BC 184–169 BC
Dui Dallta Dedad 1st century BC 120–110 BC 169–159 BC
Fachtna Fáthach 1st century BC 110–94 BC 159–143 BC
Eochu Feidlech 1st century BC 94–82 BC 143–131 BC
Eochu Airem 1st century BC 82–70 BC 131–116 BC
Eterscél 1st century BC–1st century AD 70–64 BC 116–111 BC
Nuadu Necht 1st century 64–63 BC 111–110 BC
Conaire Mór 1st century 63–33 BC 110–40 BC
  interregnum (5 years)   interregnum
40–33 BC
Lugaid Riab nDerg 1st century 33–13 BC 33–9 BC
Conchobar Abradruad 1st century 13–12 BC 9–8 BC
  Cairbre Cinnchait 1st century Crimthann Nia Náir 12 BC – AD 5 Crimthann Nia Náir
8 BC – AD 9
  Feradach Finnfechtnach 1st century Feradach Finnfechtnach
AD 5–25
Cairbre Cinnchait
AD 9–14
  Fíatach Finn 1st century Fiatach Finn 25–28 Feradach Finnfechtnach 14–36
  Fíachu Finnolach 1st century Fiacha Finnfolaidh
28–55
Fiatach Finn 36–39
  Elim mac Conrach 2nd century Cairbre Cinnchait
55–60
Fiacha Finnfolaidh
39–56
    Elim mac Conrach
60–80
Elim mac Conrach
56–76

Goidelic High Kings[edit]

Many of these kings are considered to be legendary.

LGE FFE AFM
Tuathal Techtmar 2nd century 80–100 76–106
Mal mac Rochride 2nd century 100–104 106–110
Fedlimid Rechtmar 2nd century 104–113 110–119
Cathair Mór 2nd century 113–116 119–122
Conn Cétchathach 2nd century 116–136 122–157
Conaire Cóem 2nd century 136–143 157–165
Art mac Cuinn 2nd century 143–173 165–195
Lugaid mac Con   173–203 195–225
Fergus Dubdétach   203–204 225–226
Cormac mac Airt   204–244 226–266
Eochaid Gonnat   244–245 266–267
Cairbre Lifechair   245–272 267–284
Fothad Cairpthech and Fothad Airgthech   272–273 284–285
Fíacha Sroiptine   273–306 285–322
Colla Uais   306–310 322–326
Muiredach Tirech   310–343 326–356
Cáelbad   343–344 356–357
Eochaid Mugmedon   344–351 357–365
Crimthann mac Fidaig   351–368 365–376
Niall Noígíallach (generally thought historical)   368–395 376–405
Nath Í (probably did not reign at Tara)   395–418 405–428
Lóegaire mac Néill (historical)   418–448 428–458

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 Molt 459478
Lugaid mac Lóegairi 479503
Muirchertach mac Ercae 504527
Túathal Máelgarb 528538
Diarmait mac Cerbaill 539558
Domhnall and Fearghus 559561
Eochaidh and Baedan 562563
Ainmuire mac Sétnai 564566
Báetán mac Ninnedo 567
Áed mac Ainmuirech 568594
Áed Sláine and Colmán Rímid 595600
Áed Uaridnach 601607
Máel Coba mac Áedo 608610
Suibne Menn 611623
Domnall mac Áedo 624639
Cellach and Conall 640656
Diarmait and Blathmac 657664
Sechnassach 665669
Cenn Fáelad 670673
Fínsnechta Fledach 674693
Loingsech mac Óengusso 694701
Congal Cennmagair 702708
Fergal mac Máele Dúin 709718
Fogartach mac Néill 719
Cináed mac Írgalaig 720722
Flaithbertach mac Loingsig 723729
Áed Allán 730738
Domnall Midi 739758
Niall Frossach 759765
Donnchad Midi 766792
Áed Oirdnide 793817
Conchobar mac Donnchada 819833
Niall Caille 833846 (according to ThePeerage.com)
or Feidlimid mac Crimthainn (according to the Annals of Inisfallen)
832846
836841

Historical High Kings of Ireland[edit]

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

Kings of Ireland 832–1318
Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid (Malachy I) 846860
Aed Findliath 861876
Flann Sinna 877914
Niall Glúndub 915917
Donnchad Donn (Duncan I the Brown-Hair) 918942
Congalach Cnogba 943954
Domnall ua Néill (Donald I) 955978
Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill (Malachy II) 9791002
Brian Bóruma 10021014
Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill (Malachy II, restored) 1014–1022
Donnchad mac Briain (Duncan II) died 1064 (with opposition)
Diarmait mac Maíl na mBó died 1072 (with opposition)
Toirdelbach Ua Briain (Turlough I) died 1086 (with opposition)
Domnall Ua Lochlainn (Donald II) died 1121 (with opposition)
Muirchertach Ua Briain died 1119 (with opposition)
Toirdelbach Ua Conchobair (Turlough II) died 1156
Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn died 1166
Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair died 1198

Later attempts at revival[edit]

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]

  • O'Brien, Michael A., ed.; Kelleher, John V. (intro. in the reprints of 1976 and 2005) (1962). Corpus Genealogiarum Hiberniae 1. Dublin: DIAS. pp. 121–2, 130–3, 139–53, 172–5, 181–7, 414–23, 435–8. ISBN 0901282316. OCLC 56540733. Genealogies for the Dál Cuinn