Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke

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Richard de Clare
Richard de Clare as depicted by Gerald of Wales in his work Expugnatio Hibernica (The Conquest of Ireland)
Died(1176-04-20)20 April 1176 (aged 45 or 46)
Resting placeChrist Church Cathedral, Dublin
SpouseAoife MacMurrough
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 (1130 – 20 April 1176), 2nd Earl of Pembroke, also Lord of Leinster and Justiciar of Ireland (sometimes known as Richard FitzGilbert), was an Anglo-Norman nobleman notable for his leading role in the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland.[1] Like his father, Richard is commonly known by his nickname, Strongbow (Anglo-Norman: Arc-Fort).[a]

After his son and heir, Gilbert, died childless before 1189, the earldom passed through Richard's daughter Isabel de Clare and to her husband, William Marshal.[1]


During the Middle Ages, official documents, with few exceptions, were written in Latin; in the Domesday Exchequer annals, written between 1300 and 1304 (that means, over 120 years after Richard's death), he was referred to as "Ricardus cognomento Stranghose Comes Strugulliae", which translates to "Richard, known as Stranghose, earl of Striguil" (modern Chepstow).[2]

In reality, Stranghose is probably a different spelling of Striguil. In the 14th century, the nickname was finally rendered as "Strongbow".[3]

Early life[edit]

Richard de Clare was the son of Gilbert de Clare, 1st Earl of Pembroke and his wife, Isabel de Beaumont, daughter of Robert de Beaumont, Earl of Leicester and mistress of King Henry I.[4][5] Richard also had a sister, Basilea de Clare.[6]

Gilbert died in about 1148, and Richard inherited his father’s possessions when he was roughly 18 years old. It is possible that the title of Earl of Pembroke was never recognized, and in 1154 Henry II deprived Richard of the title for siding against his mother, Empress Matilda, during the Anarchy. In fact, Richard’s contemporaries referred to him as "Count Striguil", for his marcher lordship of Striguil where he had a fortress.[7][8][9][10]



Leinster (Laighin) among the other kingdoms of Gaelic Ireland

In 1167 the King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurrough, was deprived of his title by Rory O'Connor, the High King of Ireland, for having abducted Dervorgilla, the wife of Tiernan O'Rourke, King of Breifne, 15 years prior. In order to recover his kingdom, Dermot embarked from Bristol on 1 August 1166 to ask for help to Henry II of England. He met the king in Aquitaine, in the autumn, but Henry only sent him a letter and did not offer his military support. On his return to Wales, Dermot tried to rally some forces, but failed. This is when he met Richard De Clare and the other lords of the Welsh Marches.[11][12][13]

Dermot came to an agreement with Richard: if the latter helped the deposed king in the retaking of Leinster, he could have Aoife, Dermot's eldest daughter, in marriage, along with the succession to the crown if it was regained. Since Henry II's letter to Dermot was general in nature, Richard wanted to obtain the king's specific consent to travel to Ireland. In 1168 he raised the issue at court and he was granted permission.[8][14][15]

Campaign in Ireland[edit]

Detail of Strongbow from Daniel Maclise's painting below

Dermot and Richard raised a large army, commanded by Raymond FitzGerald, which included Welsh archers. The army sailed in Ireland and took the Ostman towns of Wexford, Waterford and Dublin[b] between 1169 and 1170. On 23 August 1170, Richard embarked on his ships at Milford Haven to join the force; however, a royal messenger arrived to forbid him to go. Richard sailed anyway and ignored the king's wishes.[16][17][18]

Dermot died in May 1171, and his son Donal MacMurrough claimed the kingdom of Leinster in accordance to the Brehon laws. Richard, in turn, claimed the kingship in the right of his wife. At the same time he sent his uncle, Hervey de Montmorency, on an embassy to Henry II to appease the king who was growing worried with Richard's increasing power. Henry offered to return Richard's lands in France, England and Wales (which he had confiscated) in exchange for the conquered possessions in Ireland. Richard accepted and surrendered Dublin, Waterford and other fortresses to the English king, only keeping Kildare.[19][20][21]

Henry crossed over to Ireland in October 1172 and stayed there for six months, stationing his own men where needed. His rule in Ireland was accepted by both the Gaelic and the Norman lords, and the relationship between him and Richard was restored. Richard, in fact, also agreed to help Henry with the revolt in France in 1173 and as a reward he was given his possession of Leinster back. In 1174 he tried to advance into Munster but was defeated in the battle of Thurles.[8]

Death and succession[edit]

Richard de Clare died in June 1176 of an infection in either his leg or foot. He was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Dublin, together with his uncle-in-law, Laurence O'Toole, Archbishop of Dublin. King Henry II took Richard's possessions for himself and placed a royal official in charge of them, protecting the inheritance of Richard's children. Richard's wife Aoife was given her dower rights and possibly held Striguil until the Welsh rebellion of 1184/85.

Richard was first succeeded by his son Gilbert. When Gilbert died, still a minor, the inheritance passed onto Richard's daughter Isabel. Isabel, on the wishes of Henry II and his son Richard the Lionheart, was given in spouse to William Marshal, who became the Earl of Pembroke for jure uxoris.

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:

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


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.[26] 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,[27] 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,[28] 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.[29]

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.; Scott-Ellis, Thomas, 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.
  • Altschul, Michael (2019), A Baronial Family in Medieval England: The Clares, 1217-1314, Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 978-1-4214-3617-3
  • 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 978-0-520-02282-9. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  • Warren, Wilfred Lewis (2000). Henry II (2nd ed.). New Haven; London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-08474-0. OCLC 44694567.
  • Kostick, Conor (2013). Strongbow. Dublin: O'Brien Press. ISBN 978-1-84717-200-6.


  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. ^ Alfred Webb, A compendium of Irish biography (Dublin: M.H. Gill & Son, 1878), p. 130
  27. ^ 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?]
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ "About Strongbow". Archived from the original on 7 March 2019. Retrieved 28 May 2018.

External links[edit]

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