Brian Boru

Brian Boru – J.-H. Janßen – cc
Brian Boru – J.-H. Janßen – cc

Known for his victories over the Vikings and his conquest of supreme power on the island of Ireland, Brian Boru distinguished himself throughout his life in a battle between the great Scandinavian families and the Celtic families. Ambitious and a fine strategist, his talent for the art of warfare enabled him to achieve his ends. This is how…

Biography of the King of Ireland, Brian Boru

A King in Quest of the Supreme Power

Brian Boru, (known as Brian Mac Cenneidigh in Irish Gaelic) was born in Killaloe, County Clare, in 941. He was a powerful king of Ireland (Ard ri Erenn) at the beginning of the 11th century.

Son of King Cenneidigh of Dal Cais (co. of Clare) and Be Binn, he officially became king of the Clare region in 976, following the assassination of his elder brother. But Brian Boru is ambitious and dreams of power… He wants to become the Supreme King of Ireland, and thus control all the Irish regions until then ruled by the Scandinavian kings (because of the Viking Invasions)…

For this, he led several wars to conquer the different Irish regions to end the domination of other kings over other counties. Among these warlike acts, the following dates were the most significant in the stages of his conquest of the island:

  • 978: Brian Boru declares war on the Scandinavian King Ivar of Limerick, which he wins without difficulty and crowns him King of Munster
  • 997: Brian Boru attacks the King of Tara, Mael Seachlainn II Mór, who fights for 6 years before abdicating to Clonfert in 1003, giving him the entire south of Ireland.
  • 999: Brian Boru witnesses that year the birth of a revolt, a revolt fomented by Vikings and warriors sent by the Kings of Leinster. Brian Boru disturbs and worries: the surrounding Kings seem worried and challenge his authority. But King Boru crushes this revolt during the battle of Glenn Mama.
  • 1003 is a most crucial date for Brian Boru: the abdication of the King of Tara, Mael Seachlainn II Mór makes him the “Supreme King” of Ireland (Ard ri Érenn in Gaelic). From now on, he has all the power on the island of Ireland.

He promotes cultural and religious knowledge by building many monasteries

Now supreme king, Boru’s wish is to enhance the value of the knowledge of the time. He therefore ordered the construction of monasteries and libraries (the old places of knowledge were destroyed by the Vikings). In this way, he wanted to promote Gaelic culture and to spread his cultural and religious knowledge beyond the borders of Ireland.

These actions are not without displeasure to Mael Morda, King of Leinster, who decides to organize a revolt, helped by the Danes of Sigurd.

The battle of Clontarf on April 23rd 1014 is then decisive: Brian Boru’s warriors manage to defeat the Danes, confirming Boru’s power. However, one warrior managed to murder Brian Boru at the scene of the battle, while he was praying in his tent on Good Friday.

In the history of Ireland, Brian Boru is still today the most emblematic king of the Irish past. His conquests and courage made him a heroic figure, often described in historical and mythological accounts.