Godred II Olafsson - King of Dublin?

King of Dublin?

Dublin's 12th century population was a Norse-Gaelic hybrid, neither Scandinavian or Irish in character. Although the descendants of Scandinavians had lived in the region for hundreds of years, they were still considered cultural "foreigners" by the native Irish. According to Gerald of Wales, the Dubliners were known as "Ostmen", a term most likely derived from an Old Norse word meaning "easterner". Dublin was by far the wealthiest city in Ireland, and had at its disposal a powerful military force. Control of the military might and wealth of Dublin was thus hotly contested by numerous 12th century Irish and Norse-Gaelic kings as well as local warlords.

According to the Chronicle of Mann, early in Godred's reign, the citizens of Dublin requested that Godred become their king. The chronicle relates how he then assembled a large force of men and ships and sailed to the port-city. He was openly welcomed by the citizens, then after some deliberation, proclaimed King of Dublin. However, the chronicle notes that when Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn, King of Cenél nEógain, High King of Ireland, learned of these events, he assembled a large army and hastened to Dublin with the intent of driving Godred out. Muirchertach is said to have arrived at a town called Cortcelis, where he halted and pitched camp. The identity of this town is uncertain, one suggestion is that it may refer to Kells (located in what is today County Meath). The chronicle goes on to record that Muirchertach selected 3,000 horsemen under the command of his uterine brother, "Osiblen", and sent them forward towards the city to parley with the Dubliners. However, on the approach of the Irish cavalry, Godred's forces, together with those of the Dubliners, are said to have let loose a shower of arrows that drove back Osiblen's men. The chronicle states that Osiblen was surrounded and slain alongside many of his followers, and when Muirchertach heard of his death, he ordered his army to return home. The chronicle notes that a short while later Godred also returned home, and disbanded his forces by allowing his chiefs to depart for their own islands.

Prima facie, Godred's activities in Dublin are not confirmed by Irish sources. However, the chronicle is known to be suspect in many its dates and scholars have noted that certain events recorded in Irish sources for the year 1162 are similar to the chronicle's version of events. For example, the Annals of Ulster state that an army of Muirchertach's went to Mag Fitharta, and spent a week there burning the corn and townlands of the "foreigners". The identity of Mag Fitharta is uncertain, although one suggestion places it in what is today the north of County Meath or County Louth, and thus not far from Kells as mentioned above. The annals continue by stating that the "foreigners" then defeated Muirchertach's horsemen, killing six or seven of them, such that the objectives of Muirchertach's army were not met. The events depicted in the chronicle and the Annals of Ulster appear to record a single attempt by Godred to annex the Kingdom of Dublin, and also of Muirchertach's feeble attempt to prevent such a takeover.

Furthermore, the Annals of the Four Masters appear to confirm events depicted in the chronicle. This source records that Muircheartach led an army, accompanied by men from the north of Ireland, from Meath and from Connaught, to Dublin where they laid siege to the city. Muircheartach is said to departed without fighting whereupon the Leinstermen and Meathmen were left to battle the "foreigners". The annals record that a truce was afterwards concluded between the "foreigners" and the Irishmen, with six score ounces of gold given by the "foreigners" to Muircheartach. This source appears to show that in the end, an agreement was negotiated between the Irish and the Dubliners, and that the latter decided to pay off the powerful Muircheartach, rather than insist on Godred's rule.

Godred is known to have later married Fingola, a grand-daughter of Muirchertach, and it has been suggested that this marriage was an attempt to restore relations between the two kings. Another Irish source, the Annals of Tigernach, records that in 1162 an army of the son of Mac Lochlainn, together with the men of Ireland, engaged the "foreigners of Dublin" in order to take vengeance upon them for the violation of his wife, although the armies separated without peace and without having battled. The only certainty surrounding Godred and Fingola's marriage is that it was formally sanctioned in 1177, although the possibility of an earlier liaison between the two has been suggested.

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