Irelands Game of Thrones History

Many of the local people of County Wexford in Ireland are, like so many people worldwide, huge fans of the HBO television series Game of Thrones. But here we watch in added fascination as we recognise many of the characters and the tales seems almost familiar thanks to our own history. So we invite you to discover our history and see for yourself, that even without the White Walkers and Dragons, our story is just as gripping!

It all started in Ferns, this was the seat of the King of Leinster, Diarmuid Mac Murragh. (Dermot Mac Murra) A Celtic King with a fearsome reputation, for both fighting and women. Long red hair, a full beard and plenty of battle scars. Imagine a guy who looked a little like Thurmond Giantsbane. He was considered to be quite handsome in a rough and ready kind of way and he certainly had no problems finding a woman, even with two wives at home. But the trouble started when he took up with another Kings wife, a woman called Dergavolla.

Dergavollas was married to Tiernan O’Rourke, the region he ruled is now Leitrim and Cavan, near the north of Ireland. Dergavolla and Dermot enjoyed a full 9 months of bliss before Tiernan caught up with them.

Thurmond Giantsbane a little softer and gentler than Diarmiud MacMurragh!

Dergavollas was married to Tiernan O’Rourke, the region he ruled is now Leitrim and Cavan , near the north of Ireland. Dergavolla and Dermot enjoyed a full 9 months of bliss before Tiernan caught up with them.

What should have happened is Dermot sends Dergavolla home, says sorry and pays a fine as decided by the ancient Brehon Laws. The laws of the land were quite strict about this sort of thing!

Instead, Dermot refused to follow any of the laws and found himself being kicked out of the country after the High King Rory O’Connor came down from his Royal Palace at the Hill of Tara in Meath and seized everything!

So off they sailed; Diarmuid, His wife, Mór and their daughter Aoife, leaving not far from where Cahore Pier stands today. A great place for a seafood platter today by the way!

Arriving in England first, they moved on to Norman France. Where eventually he caught up with the Norman King Henry the 2n A strong and very competent King he had amassed huge lands and wealth during his reign. Imagine a character like Tywin Lannister as King.
So Dermot explained his tale of woe and the King listened with caution. He had considered coming to Ireland previously, but our reputation for fighting and general wildness, had kept him away up to this point. So he was interested but very cautious and did the sensible thing. He gave him permission to Diarmuid to recruit a few knights and foot soldiers to take back his lands. Thinking, if it goes terribly, he’s only lost a few soldiers, if it goes well, he’s gained a new territory.
Henry 2nd had a lot in common with Tywin Lannister
Dermot headed back to England, delighted with himself and set about recruiting.
But he had trouble getting anyone interested. To understand why consider what Jaime Lannister of season one might have said to the idea of going North.
But if there was one thing Dermot was, it was persistent! Eventually, he ended up in the Welsh castle of a slightly down on his luck, Knight called Richard De Claire, better known today by his nickname Strongbow.
Strongbows family had backed the wrong side in a fight between King Henry’s mum Matilda and her cousin Stephen as they fought for the Throne of England.
Matilda won, her son now sat on the Throne, and so Strongbows family found themselves shunned from the Royal Courts.
But in Dermots proposition, the young Knight saw an opportunity!
Between them they knocked out a deal. Strongbow would gather an army, he would marry Aoife and so when Dermot died, he and his heirs would inherit the Kingship and all the lands.
Now, a word about Aoife. In the Irish National Gallery in Dublin you will find, in the Shaw Room a simply huge painting called “The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife”
Aoife is depicted as being a gentle sweet young girl, wearing a yellow gown, her father’s hand on her back and Strongbow in full armour in front of her. In reality, Aoife was nothing like this. She had much more in common with Ygritte and was called Aoife Rua, or Red Aoife. That may have been from her hair, which was “Kissed by Fire” like her fathers and said to be as red as a summer sunset, or it could be from her high kill rate!
An extremely accomplished warrior, she had previously led many troops into battle. When her father was banished, she could have played it safe, found a nice monastery and become a Nun. But instead, she chose to follow her father to foreign lands in search of assistance.
According to the ancient Brehon laws a woman had to consent to a marriage, and though Dermot had plainly shown how little respect he had for the old laws, this one he might have heeded. But it seems Aoife was happy herself with the idea and agreed to marry him, once the city of Waterford was taken.
Now, this whole process didn’t happen over a couple of weeks, Strongbow had to raise an army, find ships, weapons and more. Diarmuid was gone for a few years, and back home, life had continued as normal. He was almost forgotten until…
Early one morning, in May, strange ships were spotted off the coast. The first landed in Bannow Bay, followed a little later by two more at Baginbun, which were set on fire once they landed.
At is is at Baginbun, where we meet our Brienne of Tarth.

Little is known of Alice of Abergivanny, but her name and the fact she arrived her at Baginbun as part of the initial invasion party led Raymond Le Gros

Raymond Le Gros and Strongbows uncle Harvey de Montmorency were the first to arrive With them, a small army of Archers and Knights. They quickly established a fortified camp at Baginbun, just outside Fethard on Sea.

And amongst them was Alice.

Not long after they had established the camp and fortified it, the camp was attacked by Viking (Wildling!) forces that had marched from Wexford and Waterford.
Inside the company knew they were outnumbered and in trouble. One thing they did have was cattle though! Commandeered from local tribal farmers to feed the troops.
Raymond ordered that they be corralled just inside the gates to the fort. Watching the Vikings come closer he shouted down instructions to the men and woman (!) that they should start to whip and beat the cows, make them panicked and frightened, he ordered. As the Vikings made their approach, weapons raised, roaring as they rushed the fort, the gates were opened and the frightened and angry cattle stampeded out!
The Knights followed behind, slashing and dicing as they rode through the bewildered Viking Forces. Raymonds tactics had worked, the cattle stampede had given them the upper hand. In the aftermath, 70 Vikings were taken hostage alive and led into the camp. It was here they awaited their fate.
Raymond, it was said, argued that they should be released, others suggested they be bartered, and others still said they could be used as a human shield to protect them from further attacks until the rest of Strongbows army arrived.
However, Alice made up their minds for them.
Driven mad with grief, she had found her lover lying dead on the battlefield. Only a few hours earlier they had been together, making plans for their future, laughing and joking about this strange wild place they had landed in.
Now she wanted nothing more but to avenge his death! Taking the 70 men, chained together in shackles she led them to the edge of the headland, a good 30 feet below her lay the rough Celtic Sea, scattered with rocks, jagged and blackened.
Forcing the men to their knees, she beheaded each in turn, throwing their lifeless bodies into the sea below her.
Sadly we do not know what happened next for Alice. There is no other mention of her in the records, but for that gruesome act alone Bloody Alice is still remembered in Wexford.
Baginbun Beach just outside Fethard Village in Wexford
A Fort like this one could be built in hours
How would Brienne react if she lost her lover?!
Over the next few weeks and months, Strongbow and Diarmuid laid waste to Wexford and the surrounding areas. They battled with the Vikings in Wexford Town and Waterford City, Strongbow and Aoife married and Dermot’s dastardly plans were working out perfectly!
But for poor auld Dermot, things began to go wrong, first his favourite son, that’s the one he hadn’t blinded for fear of him taking Dermot’s Throne, was killed in battle and then he became very ill.
He retired to Ferns to try and recover but died a horrific death. It was recorded in the Annals of Ireland that his insides turned to liquid and ran freely from every orifice. Delightful! So only a year after the Normans had arrived, Strongbow had his Kingdom.
You’ll find Dermots grave easily today. Vandalised at some point in history, it was once a High Cross, but today it is a stone stump and it sits just to the side of the Smallest Cathedral in Europe in Ferns Village.
So Strongbow inherited everything and it was all going so well, there was suggestions that perhaps he should just go for it, and maybe take the High Kings Throne while he was at it!
That was enough for Henry the 2nd. On hearing this bit of gossip he gathered his troops, a huge show of force, Sailing down the Waterford estuary, past where Hook Lighthouse was yet to be built, he brought with him 500 mounted knights, 4000 archers and 100s of men-at-arms. The ships sailing past must have been some sight, considering they had even brought pre built siege towers!
He eventually ended up in Selskar Abbey in Wexford Town, were he stayed for lent to pay penance for having his own archbishop Thomas Beckett assassinated by accident!
But it during this time that Strongbows family’s history was forgiven and in recognition of his great works he was awarded the fiefdom of Dermot’s old lands, while Henry declared Ireland was now part of his Kingship, stretching across the British Isles and into France.
Strongbow and Aoife didn’t have much time together, Strongbow himself died in 1176 only 5 years or so after arriving in Ireland. But the managed to have 2 children in that time, a son and daughter.
Aoife dedicated her life to her children, but their son, Gilbert died and Aoife not long afterwards. Aoife was killed as she had lived, in Battle. While discussing battle tactics with a general, a Sniper from the Quinn Tribe shot an arrow through her throat.
She was buried either in Tintern Abbey or Kilkenny Castle. We’re not sure exactly. So that left Isabel, aged 16 years, to inherit everything. All of the Irish lands and her Dads Welsh lands. This made her one of the wealthiest women in Christendom. For her own protection, she was brought to the Tower of London where she waited to discover who she would marry, (Norman laws were a little different in this regard!) and what sort of future she could expect.
You can hear this story with all the little “side stories” along with visits to the sites that feature in it on the Stormin Norman Tour, because the tale doesn’t end there. Aoife’s Daughter Isabel and her husband William Marshall aka Sir Barriston Selmy and real life Kings Guard, have their story to tell too!