Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill

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Mael Sechnaill
A sculpture of Máel Seachnaill II in Trim, Co. Meath, by James McKenna.jpg
An imaginative sculpture depicting Máel Seachnaill
High King of Ireland
Reign980 – 1002 (first reign)
PredecessorMuirchertach mac Mael Sechnaill
SuccessorBrian Boru
King of Mide
Reign976 – 2 September 1022
PredecessorMuirchertach mac Mael Sechnaill
SuccessorMael Sechnaill Got mac Mael Sechnaill
Died2 September 1022
Lough Ennell, County Westmeath
SpouseGormflaith ingen Murchada
Máel Muire ingen Amlaíb
Murchad Rua
Colmán/Coloman of Stockerau
HouseUa Néill
FatherDomnall Donn[1][2]

Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill (Modern Irish: Maolsheachlann mac Domhnaill), also called Máel Sechnaill Mór, Máel Sechnaill II (949[3] – 2 September 1022), was King of Mide and High King of Ireland. His great victory at the Battle of Tara against Olaf Cuaran in 980 resulted in Gaelic control of the Kingdom of Dublin.

First reign as High King[edit]

Máel Sechnaill belonged to the Clann Cholmáin branch of the Uí Néill dynasty. He was the grandson of Donnchad Donn, great-grandson of Flann Sinna and great-great-grandson of the first Máel Sechnaill, Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid. The Kings of Tara or High Kings of Ireland had for centuries alternated between the various Uí Néill branches. By Máel Sechnaill's time this alternating succession passed between Clann Cholmáin in the south and the Cenél nEógain in the north, so that he succeeded Domnall ua Néill in 980. This system had survived previous challenges by outsiders including the kings of Ulster, Munster and Leinster, and the Viking invasions.

Defeat of Olaf Cuaran at the Battle of Tara[edit]

In 980, Olav Cuarán, King of Dublin, summoned auxiliaries from Norse-ruled Scottish Isles and from Mann and attacked Meath, but was defeated by Máel Sechnaill at Tara. Reginald, Olaf's heir, was killed. Máel Sechnaill followed up his victory with a siege of Dublin which surrendered after three days and nights. When Maél Sechnaill took Dublin in 980, according to Chronicon Scotorum, he freed all the slaves then residing in the city.[4]

Battle of Glenmama[edit]

In 997, at a royal meeting near Clonfert, Máel Sechnaill met with his long-time rival Brian Boru, King of Munster.[5] The two kings made a truce, by which Brian was granted rule over the southern half of Ireland, while Máel Sechnaill retained the northern half and high kingship.[5] In honour of this arrangement, Máel Sechnaill handed over to Brian the hostages he had taken from Dublin and Leinster;[5] and in 998, Brian handed over to Máel Sechnaill the hostages of Connacht.[5] In the same year, Brian and Máel Sechnaill began co-operating against the Norse of Dublin for the first time.[5]

Late in 999, however, the Leinstermen, historically hostile to domination by either the Uí Néill overkings or the King of Munster, allied themselves with the Norse of Dublin and revolted against Brian.[5] The Annals of the Four Masters records that Brian and Máel Sechnaill united their forces,[6] and according to the Annals of Ulster, they met the Leinster-Dublin army at Glenmama on Thursday, 30 December, 999.[7] Glenmama, near Lyons Hill in Ardclough, County Kildare in AD 999[8][9][10] between Windmill Hill and Blackchurch.[11] was the ancient stronghold of the Kings of Leinster.[12] The Munster-Meath army defeated the Leinster-Dublin army. Ó Corráin refers to it as a "crushing defeat" of Leinster and Dublin,[5] while The dictionary of English history says the battle effectively "quelled" the "desperate revolt" of Leinster and Dublin.[13] Most importantly, the defeat left the road to Dublin "free and unimpeded for the victorious legions of Brian and Mael Sechlainn".[14]

Overthrow and Restoration[edit]

The system of alternating succession between the various Uí Néill branches was ended by Brian Boru's so-called overthrow of Máel Sechnaill in 1002. In fact this was a bloodless shift resulting from the failure of the Northern Uí Néill, his kinsmen, to support Máel Sechnaill against the aspirations of the extremely militarized overlord of Munster. Brian would have little more success with them himself.

Because of the death of Brian Boru, his son, grandson and many other Munster nobles at Clontarf in 1014, Máel Sechnaill succeeded in regaining the titular High Kingship, with the aid of his northern kinsman Flaithbertach Ua Néill, but the High Kingship, albeit with opposition, did not reappear until Diarmait mac Maíl na mBó of Leinster rose to power. Clann Cholmáin provided no further High Kings, but the northern Uí Néill of the Cenél nEógain provided two: Domnall Ua Lochlainn and Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn.

Marriages and issue[edit]

Máel Sechnaill had two known wives:

He also had six known children:[2]

  • Conchobar (d 1030)
  • Flann (d 1013)
  • Congalach (d 1017)
  • Domnall (d 1019)
  • Murchad Rua (d 1049)
  • Muirchertach (d 1049)

His senior descendant, as of the mid-20th century, was Cornelius Frederic McLoughlin, Chief of the Name, born 11 July 1897.


  1. ^ Jaski, Bart (2005).
  2. ^ a b c Benjamin T. Hudson, ‘Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill (948–1022)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  3. ^ Annals of Ulster - Corpus of Electronic Texts
  4. ^ "Battle of Clontarf". Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Ó Corráin, p 123
  6. ^ "Part 10 of the Annals of the Four Masters". Annals of the Four Masters. University College Cork. p. 741. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  7. ^ "Entry for AD 999 of the Annals of Ulster". Annals of Ulster. University College Cork. p. 745. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
  8. ^ The identification of the battlefield of Glenn Máma AD1000 by Joseph H Lloyd, MRIA
  9. ^ The Battle of Glenn Máma, Dublin and the High Kingship of Ireland: a Millennial Commemoration by Ailbhe Mac Shamhráin (Medieval Dublin, edited by Sean Duffy, 2001 pp53-64).
  10. ^ Site of the Battle of Glen-Máma by Goddard H. Orpen: The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Fifth Series, Vol. 36, No.1, (Mar. 31, 1906), pp. 78-80 JSTOR 25507500
  11. ^ The Circuit of Ireland. By Muirchertach na gCochall gCroiceann A.D. 941 by Henry Morris The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland , Seventh Series, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Jun. 30, 1936) , pp. 9-31 JSTOR 25513807
  12. ^ Cusack, Margaret Anne. "King Malachy". An Illustrated History of Ireland. www.libraryireland.com. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  13. ^ The dictionary of English history, p 604
  14. ^ Todd, p cxlvi
  • Breen, Aidan "Coleman" in Dictionary of Irish Biography, page 696, volume two (2009)
  • Brady, John: Kingdom and County of Meath, 6-13. Ríocht na Mídhe I, 2, (1956)
  • Jaski, Bart (2005). "Máel-Sechnaill II (949/950–1022)". In Seán Duffy. Medieval Ireland. An Encyclopedia.

Abingdon and New York. pp. 310–312.

  • Moran, W.: The hereditary lands and Royal Tuath of the O'Melaghlins, 33-44.Ríocht na Mídhe I, 4, (1958)
  • Moran, W.: Uisneagh, Tara and the rise of monarchy, 3-17.Ríocht na Mídhe II, 1, (1959)
  • Cox, Liam: The O Maeleachlainn Kings of Meath, 22-53.Ríocht na Mídhe V, 2, (1972)
  • O'Flynn, Eoin:The career of Máelsechnaill II, Ríocht na Mídhe XX (2009), pp. 29–68
  • Ó Corráin, Donnchadh (1972). Ireland Before the Normans. Ireland: Gill and Macmillan.
Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Muirchertach mac Mael Sechnaill
King of Mide
c. 975 – 1022
Succeeded by
Mael Sechnaill Got mac Mael Sechnaill
Preceded by
Domnall ua Néill
High King of Ireland
Succeeded by
Brian Boru
Preceded by
Brian Boru
High King of Ireland
Succeeded by
Diarmait mac Maíl na mBó