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(6) Norman motte An Anglo-Norman motte at the Loughan near Coleraine - 64k

After a treaty with a Frankish king in 911, Vikings settled in the area round Rouen in France, adopting the French language and religion. From this small duchy of Normandy on the fringe of the French kingdom, Norman power rose spectacularly. In 1066, William, duke of Normandy, invaded and conquered England. By the time of his death in 1087, the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy there only retained about 8% of the land.

In May 1169 a Norman army was sent by Richard fitzGilbert de Clare (Strongbow) from Wales to assist Diarmait Mac Murchada in Ireland. In October 1171, partly to restrain the power of Strongbow, Henry II arrived with a formidable army of about 500 knights and up to 4000 archers. Henry had been born in Normandy and spoke Norman French. He was the most powerful monarch in the western world, controlling the Angevin empire in England and France, with colonies in South Wales and Scotland.
"Henry king of England, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, gives his greeting to all his faithful subjects ... When you receive this present letter, be advised that we have admitted into our most intimate grace and favour Diarmait, prince of Leinster."
- letter recorded by
Gerald de Barri,

In 1177, John de Courcy invaded Ulster and for about the next 150 years a succession of Norman knights such as Hugh de Lacy, Walter de Burgo, Richard de Burgo (the Red Earl) and William de Burgo (the Brown Earl) consolidated and extended the earldom. The Earls of Ulster did not just have to contend with battles with Irish kings - in 1210, King John arrived in Carrickfergus to defeat Hugh de Lacy, and de Lacy was only able to return in 1223 with the help of Áed Méith Ua Néill, king of Tír Eóghain.

At times of crisis, Normans were able to fall back to their main castles of Carrickfergus and Dundrum. Carrickfergus and Coleraine were the main ports, and each of the bailiwicks (counties) had a county court. Perhaps partly to make amends for the churches that they had burnt during their campaigns, the Normans founded a number of new abbeys, and granted Down to the church, renaming it Downpatrick.

By 1305, Norman controlled area reached along the coast from Downpatrick to the newly built castle of Northburgh (Greencastle) in Inishowen, but Cenél Eóghain and Cenél Conaill still retained control of their lands in Tír Eóghain and Tír Conaill. In 1315, a famine and an invasion by a Scottish army led by Edward Bruce (brother of Robert Bruce) marked the start of the decline of the Norman colony. By 1333, the Norman territory west of the Bann was mostly lost, and the earldom consisted of five bailiwicks: Twescard (Coleraine and the Bush valley), Antrim, Carrickfergus, Blathewyc (Newtownards) and Down.

See also:
Angevin Monarchs

(5) Vikings
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