Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke

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Richard FitzGilbert de Clare
Richard Fitz Gilbert de Clare as depicted by Gerald of Wales in his work Expugnatio Hibernica (The Conquest of Ireland).
Died(1176-04-20)20 April 1176 (age 45/46)
Resting placeChrist Church Cathedral, Dublin
Other namesStrongbow (Arc-Fort)
SpouseAoife Ní Diarmait
ChildrenGilbert de Clare, 3rd Earl of Pembroke
Isabel de Clare, 4th Countess of Pembroke
Parent(s)Gilbert de Clare, 1st Earl of Pembroke
Isabel de Beaumont

Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, Lord of Leinster, Justiciar of Ireland (1130 – 20 April 1176), also known as Richard FitzGilbert, was an Anglo-Norman[1] nobleman notable for his leading role in the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. Like his father, Richard FitzGilbert has since become commonly known by his nickname Strongbow (Norman French: Arc-Fort).[a]

His son and heir Gilbert de Striguil died unmarried before 1189, and the earldom passed via his daughter Isabel to her husband William Marshal.[1]

Cognomen (nickname)[edit]

FitzGilbert's nickname Strongbow has become the name he is best known by, but it is unlikely that he was called that during his lifetime.[citation needed] Nicknames of other Cambro-Norman and Norman lords were exclusively Norman-French as the nobility spoke French and, with few exceptions, official documents were written in Latin during this period. The confusion seems to have arisen when Richard's name was being translated into Latin.[2] In the Domesday Exchequer annals between 1300 and 1304 (over 120 years after his death) it was written as "Ricardus cognomento Stranghose Comes Strugulliae (Richard known as Stranghose earl of Striguil)." This chronicler erroneously has attributed Stranghose (foreign leggings) as a nickname, where it is much more likely a variant spelling or mistranscription of Striguil (i.e. Chepstow), which is called Strangboge, Stranboue or Stranbohe in other transcriptions. It is in the fourteenth century that we have Richard's name finally rendered as Strongbow: "Earl Richard son of Gilbert Strongbow [earl of Shropshire]."[3]

Early life[edit]

Seal of Richard de Clare

Richard FitzGilbert de Clare was the son of Gilbert de Clare, 1st Earl of Pembroke. His mother, Isabel de Beaumont, was the daughter of Robert de Beaumont,[4] and a mistress of King Henry I.[5] He had a sister named Basilea de Clare.[6]

FitzGilbert's father died in about 1148, when he was roughly 18 years old, he inherited the title 'count of Strigoil' Earl of Pembroke. It is probable that this title was not recognized at Henry II's coronation in 1154.[7] As the son of the first 'earl', he succeeded to his father's estates in 1148,[8] but was deprived of the title by King Henry II of England in 1154 for siding with King Stephen of England against Henry's mother, the Empress Matilda.[9]

Richard was, in fact, called by his contemporaries Count Striguil, for his marcher lordship of Striguil where he had a fortress at a place now called Chepstow, in Monmouthshire on the River Wye.[10]


FitzGilbert saw an opportunity to advance himself in 1167 when he met Diarmait Mac Murchada, the deposed King of Leinster.[11][12]

Dispossession of the King of Leinster[edit]

Leinster (Laighin) among the other kingdoms of Gaelic Ireland

In 1167, Diarmait Mac Murchada was deprived of the kingship of Leinster by the High King of IrelandRuaidrí Ua Conchobair. The grounds for the dispossession were that Mac Murchada had, in 1152, abducted Dervorgilla, the wife of the King of Breifne, Tiernan O'Rourke (Irish: Tighearnán Ua Ruairc).

To recover his kingdom, Mac Murchada solicited help from the King of England – Henry II. The deposed king embarked for Bristol from near Bannow on 1 August 1166.[13] He met Henry in Aquitaine in the Autumn, but Henry would not help him at this time, instead providing a letter of support. On his return to Wales, Mac Murchada failed to rally any forces to his standard, but he eventually met Strongbow and the other barons of the Welsh Marches. Mac Murchada came to an agreement with de Clare: for his assistance with an army the following spring, he could have Aoife (Irish: Aífe), Mac Murchada's eldest daughter in marriage, and the succession to Leinster.[14][8]

As Henry's letter of support was only general in nature, de Clare thought it prudent to obtain Henry's specific consent to travel to Ireland, but he waited two years to ask.[15] Because no formal permission was granted, de Clare raised the issue at court in 1168 and was not refused. On 23 August 1170, however, when he embarked on his ships at Milford Haven, a royal messenger arrived to forbid the enterprise. de Clare set sail anyway, in defiance of the king.[16]

The re-taking of Leinster[edit]

Detail of Strongbow from Maclise' painting below

Mac Murchada and Richard de Clare raised a large army, which included Welsh archers and arranged for Raymond FitzGerald (also known as Raymond le Gros) to lead it. The force took the Ostman towns of Wexford, Waterford, and Dublin[b] in rapid succession between 1169 and 1170.[17] Richard de Clare, however, was not with the first invading party and arrived later, in August 1170.[18]

In May 1171, Diarmait Mac Murchada died and his son, Donal MacMurrough-Kavanagh (Irish: Domhnall Caemanach mac Murchada), claimed the kingdom of Leinster in accordance with his rights under the Brehon Laws. Richard de Clare also claimed the kingship in the right of his wife. At this time, Strongbow sent his uncle, Hervey de Montmorency, on an embassy to Henry II. This was necessary to appease the King who was growing restive at the count's increasing power. Upon his return, de Montmorency conveyed the King's terms – the return of Richard de Clare's lands in France, England, and Wales but leaving him in possession of his Irish lands.[19] In return, Richard de Clare surrendered Dublin, Waterford, and other fortresses to the English king.[20] Henry's intervention was successful and both the Gaelic and Norman lords in the south and east of Ireland accepted his rule;[21] Richard de Clare also agreed to assist Henry II in his coming war in France.

Henry crossed over to Ireland in October 1172 and stayed in Ireland for six months. He put his own men into nearly all the important places, Richard keeping only Kildare. In 1173 Richard went in person to France to help Henry II during the rebellion of his sons, being reinstated in Leinster as a reward. In 1174 he advanced into Munster and was severely defeated, but subsequently Raymond FitzGerald re-established his supremacy in Leinster.[8]

Marriage and issue[edit]

The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife (1854) by Daniel Maclise, a romanticised depiction of the union in the ruins of Waterford

By an unknown mistress, Richard de Clare fathered two daughters:

  • Aline de Clare,[c] who married William FitzMaurice FitzGerald, baron of Naas[22]
  • Basilia de Clare, who married Robert de Quincy, Constable of Leinster[22]

On about 26 August 1171 in Reginald's Tower, Waterford, Richard de Clare married MacMurrough's daughter, Aoife MacMurrough.[23] Their children were:

King Henry II had promised Sir William Marshal that he would be given Isabel as his bride, and his son Richard I upheld the promise one month after his ascension to the throne. The earldom was given to her husband as her consort.[26] Marshall was the son of John the Marshal, by Sibylle, the sister of Patrick, Earl of Salisbury.

Richard de Clare died in June 1176 of some type of infection in his leg or foot. He was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Dublin with his uncle-in-law, Lorcán Ua Tuathail, Archbishop of Dublin, presiding. King Henry II took all of Strongbow's lands and castles for himself and placed a royal official in charge of them. He protected the inheritance of Isabel. Aoife was given her dower rights and possibly held Striguil [Chepstow] as part of those dower rights until the Welsh rebellion of 1184/85. There is a record of Aoife confirming a charter in Ireland in 1188/89 as "comtissa de Hibernia".


Strongbow's tomb, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

Richard de Clare was first interred in Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral where an alleged effigy is located.[27] Richard de Clare's actual tomb-effigy was destroyed when the roof of the Cathedral collapsed in 1562. The one on display dates from around the 15th century and bears the coat of arms of an unknown knight,[28] and is the effigy of another local knight. Richard de Clare was buried in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin within sight of the cross according to an eyewitness, Giraldus Cambrensis. There is little evidence to support the tradition that he was buried either in St Edan's Cathedral, Ferns,[29] Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford or Dominican priory, Kilkenny. References to 'de Clare' being buried in Gloucester cathedral refer to his father, while those to 'Strongbow' in Tintern abbey refer probably to Walter or Anselm Marshall, both of whom died in 1245.

In popular culture[edit]

The English cider brand Strongbow is named after him.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This may be a mistranscription or mistranslation of "Striguil", see Cognomen section below.
  2. ^ These were longphorts where the Viking raiders settled, marrying Gaelic women and slightly acculturating to Gaelic customs (such as naming practices, MacGiollamhuire, MacTurkill, etc.), Dublin being the most famous. See: James F. Lydon, The Making of Ireland: From Ancient Times to Present (London; New York: Routledge, 1998), p. 21.
  3. ^ Aline was born well before her father married Aoife, daughter of Dermot. That both she and her unnamed sister were illegitimate is indicated by the fact that neither inherited anything from their father's great holdings. See: Cokayne, CP, X, Appendix H, 103



  • Cokayne, George Edward; Doubleday, H. A.; White, Geoffrey H.; Howard de Walden, Thomas Scott-Ellis, 8th Baron, eds. (1945). The Complete Peerage; or, A History of the House of Lords and All its Members from the Earliest Times. Vol. X: Oakham – Richmond (2nd ed.). London: St. Catherine Press.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: editors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: editors list (link)
  • Altschul, Michael (2019), A Baronial Family in Medieval England: The Clares, 1217-1314, Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 978-1421436173
  • Orpen, Goddard Henry (1911). Ireland under the Normans, 1169–1216. Vol. I. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  • Warren, Wilfred Lewis (1973). Henry II (1st ed.). Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520022829. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  • Warren, Wilfred Lewis (2000). Henry II (2nd ed.). New Haven; London: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300084740. OCLC 44694567.
  • Kostick, Conor (2013). Strongbow. Dublin: O'Brien Press. ISBN 9781847172006.


  1. ^ a b "Richard FitzGilbert, 2nd earl of Pembroke | Anglo-Norman lord". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  2. ^ Goodrich Castle and the families of Godric Mapson, Monmouth, Clare, Marshall, Montchesney, Valence, Despenser and Talbot
  3. ^ Brut y Tywysogyon or The Chronicle of the Princes. Peniarth Ms. 20 version, ed. and trans. T. Jones [Cardiff, 1952], 65. Richard vabGilbert Stragbow[iarll Amhwydic], Brenhinedd y Saeson or The Kings of the Saxons, ed. and trans. T. Jones [Cardiff, 1971], p. 170.
  4. ^ Cokayne 1945, p. 352
  5. ^ Altschul 2019, p. 21.
  6. ^ "Clare, Richard de". Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  7. ^ M.T. Flanagan, 'Clare, Richard fitz Gilbert de, second earl of Pembroke (c. 1130–1176)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press (2004)
  8. ^ a b c d Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pembroke, Earls of" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 78.
  9. ^ Warren 1973, p. 193
  10. ^ Orpen 1911, pp. 85–89
  11. ^ Warren 1973, p. 114
  12. ^ Kostick 2013, p. 94
  13. ^ The Oxford Illustrated History of Ireland, ed. R. F. Foster (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 57
  14. ^ Orpen 1911, p. 91
  15. ^ Orpen 1911, p. 93
  16. ^ Kostick 2013, pp. 142-143
  17. ^ Orpen 1911, p. 184
  18. ^ John Davies, A History of Wales (London: Penguin Group, 1993), p. 126
  19. ^ A J Otway-Ruthven; Kathleen Hughes, "A History of Medieval Ireland", (London: Ernest Benn Limited; New York: Barnes & Noble Inc., 1968), p. 48
  20. ^ Warren 2000, p. 197
  21. ^ Warren 2000, p. 200
  22. ^ a b Cokayne 1945, Appendix H, p. 103
  23. ^ Cokayne 1945, p. 356
  24. ^ Cokayne 1945, p. 357
  25. ^ Cokayne 1945, pp. 358–64
  26. ^ Thomas B. Costain The Conquering Family (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962), p. 267
  27. ^ Alfred Webb, A compendium of Irish biography (Dublin: M.H. Gill & Son, 1878), p. 130
  28. ^ James Graves, 'Armorial bearings of Strongbow', Gentleman’s magazine and historical review, ccxvi, 1 (March 1864), 362–3; 'On the arms of Richard de Clare', Gentleman’s magazine and historical review, ccxviii, 1 (April 1865), 403–8; ccxvix, 2 (July 1865), 3–11; (August 1865), 207–8;(November 1865), 551–63 gives the best summary.[original research?] Stuart Kinsella summarised the most recent work in a lecture to the conference on 'Monuments and Monumentality in Later Medieval and Early Modern Europe' in Stirling University in August 2011[original research?]
  29. ^ John Finlayson, Inscriptions on the monuments, mural tablets &c, Christ Church Cathedral (Dublin: Hodges, Foster, & Figgis, 1878), p. 66 notes no more than a 'fearful malediction ... pronounced against him by a Bishop of Ferns' citing King's Church History, ii, 622 and Haverty's 'History of Ireland', p. 256.
  30. ^ "About Strongbow".

External links[edit]

Political offices
New office Justiciar of Ireland
Peerage of England
Preceded by Earl of Pembroke
Succeeded by