Southern Anthology

Families on the Frontiers of the Old South

Richard FitzGilbert de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke

Richard FitzGilbert de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke[1]

Male 1130 - 1176  (46 years)

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  • Name Richard FitzGilbert de Clare 
    The Marriage of Aoife and Strongbow
    The Marriage of Aoife and Strongbow
    Daniel Maclise (1854)
    Arms de Clare
    Arms de Clare
    Suffix 2nd Earl of Pembroke 
    Nickname Strongbow 
    Born 1130  Tonbridge, Kent Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 20 Apr 1176  Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Buried The Cathedral Church of St Edan, Ferns, Wexford, Ireland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • CLARE, RICHARD de, or RICHARD STRONGBOW, second Earl of Pembroke and Strigul (d. 1176), was son of GILBERT STRONGBOW, OR DE CLARE, whom Stephen created earl of Pembroke in 1138, and grandson of GILBERT DE CLARE, d. 1115? [q. v.] (Ord. Vit. xiii. 37). His mother was ELIZABETH, DAUGHTER OF ROBERT DE BEAUMONT, earl of Leicester and Mellent (Will. of Jumièges, viii. 37; Dugdale, i. 84). He appears to have succeeded to his fathers estates in 1148 (Marsh, p. 55; Dugdale, i. 208) ; but the name of "Richard, count of Pembroke," first appears among the signatures to the treaty of Westminster (7 Nov. 1153), which recognised Prince Henry as Stephen?s successor (Brompton, 1039n. 60). It appears that he was allowed to retain his title even aft er the accession of Henry II, when so many of Stephen's earldoms were abolished; but according to Giraldus Canibrensis he had either forfeited or lost his estates by 1167-8 (Expugn. Hib. i. cxii). We learn from Ralph de Diceto (i. 330) that he was one of the nobles who accompanied Princess Matilda on her marriage journey to Minden in Germany early in 1168.

      According to the Irish historians it was in 1166 that Dermot [see MacMurchada Diarmid], driven from Leinster by the combined forces of Roderic O'Connor, king of Connaught, and Tighernan O?Ruarc, of Breifni, appealed to Henry for aid in the recovery of his Kingdom (Annals of Four Masters, i. 1161). This date, to Giraldus, seems two years too early. Henry gave letters empowering any of his subjects to assist the dethroned monarch, who secured the services of Earl Richard, pilqgiising in return for his assistance to give his eldest daughter in marriage, together with the succession to Leinster (Gib. Camb. v. 227-8; Anglo-Norman Poet, l1. 328, &c.) The earl engaged to cross over with an army in the ensuing spring; but stipulated that he must have express permission from Henry before starting (Gir. v. 228; Anglo-Norman Poet, ll. 356-7). Earlier aid was promised by Robert FitzStephen and Maurice FitzGera1d, who appear to have crossed over to Wexford about 1 May 1169 Gir. 230; A. F. M. i. 1173). If this date correct, the meeting of Dermot and the earl must have taken place about July 1168, to which year Hoveden assigns the invasion of Ireland (i. 269; Gir. 229, with which cf. A.-N. P. pp. 16-19). In the conquest of Wexford and the expeditions against Ossory and Dublin Earl Richard took no part; but according to Giraldus he was represented in this campaign by his nephew, Hervey de Mountmaurice.

      It was apparently towards the close of this year that Dermot, despairing of the arrival of the Earl of Strigul, offered his daughter to Robert FitzStephen and Maurice FitzGerald, and on their refusal sent a pressing invitation to the earl: "The swallows have come and gone, yet you are tarrying sti1l." On receiving this letter, Earl Richard, "after much deliberation," crossed over to Henry and received the requisite permission to carve out a heritage for himself in foreign lands; but, according to Giraldus, the king granted his request ironically rather than seriously (246-8). A much later writer, Trivet (c. 1300), has preserved a tradition that the earl had been an exile in Ireland previous to this (Trivet, 66-7). Before crossing to Ireland himself, Earl Richard sent forward a small force under one of his own men, Raymond le Gros, the nephew of FitzStephen and FitzGerald. Landing near Watertford about the beginning of May 1170, he was immediately joined by Herve de Mountmaurice (Gir. 248, &c.; A.-N.P. pp. 67, &c.) According to the Anglo-Norman Poet, Earl Richard crossed very soon alter' (ll. 1500-3); both accounts agree that he apeared before Waterford with from twelve to teen hundred men on St. Bartholomew's eve (23 Aug.) Within two days the city had fallen; but Dermot, accompanied by Maurice and Robert, came up in time to save the lives of the captives. The marriage between Eva and the earl was celebrated at once, and the whole army set out for Dublin, after setting an English guard at Waterford {A.-N.P. 11. 1508-1569; Gib. 265-6). If the Anglo-Norman Poet may be trusted, there were from four to five thousand English who took part in the march to Dublin, before which town they arrived on 21 Sept. (1. 1626). Meanwhile, Koderic of Connaught had mustered thirty thousand men for its relief. While peace negotiations were going on, Milo de Cogan and Raymond le Gros took the city by assault, wimout the consent of either Dermot or the earl (A.N.P. 11. 1680-2 ; Gir. 266-7). Asculf MacTurkill, the Danish ruler, was driven into exile, and his town handed over to Earl Richard, who appears to have resided here till the beginning of October, when he started to attack O'Ruarc in Meath, leaving Dublin in charge of Milo de Cogan (Gib. 257; A.-N.P. 11. 1709-23; A.F.M. 1171). From Meath he seems to have withdrawn to Waterford for the winter; while Dermot took up his abode at Ferns, where he died on 1 May 1171 (Gib. 263 ; A.-N.P. 1724-31).

      Meanwhile, Henry II, who had grown jealous of his vassal's success, had forbidden the transport of fresh forces to Ireland, and ordered all who had already crossed to return by Easter 1171 (28 March). To prevent the enforcement of this decree, the earl despatched Raymond le Gros to the king in Aquitane, with instructions to place all his conquests at the king's disposal (Gib. 259).

      On the death of Dermot there was a general combination against the English. All the earl's allies, excepting some three or four, (A.-N.P. 11. 1732^3), deserted him, and a force of sixty thousand men was collected under Roderic O'Connor to besiege Dublin about Whitsuntide (16 May) 1171. Earl Richard, to whose assistance Raymond le Gros had already returned, sent for aid to FitzStephen at Wexford, from which place he received a reinforcement of thirty-six men, a step which so weakened the Wexford garrison, that it had to surrender later (P c. 1 July). On hearing of this disaster the earl, fearing starvation, offered to do fealty to Roderic for Leinster. Roderic, however, refused to concede more than the three Norse towns, Waterford , Dublin, and Wexford ; if these tetms were rejected, he would storm the town on the morrow (A.-N.P. pp. 85-9; Gib. 266, &c.^ In this emergency the earl ordered a sudaen sally in three directions, led by Milo, Raymond, and himself. A brilliant success was achieved ; the siege was raised, and the earl was left free to set out to the relief of FitzStephen, whom the Irish had shut up in the island of Becherin. Dublin was once more entrusted to Milo de Cogan. On his march through Idrone he was attacked by O'Ryan, the king of this district; but hearing that the Irish had left Wexford for Becherin, he proceeded to Waterford, whence he sent a summons to his brother-in-law, the king of Limerick, to aid in an attack on MacDonchid, the king of Ossory. The 'Anglo-Norman Poet' (pp. 97-101) says that it was only the chivalrous honour of Maurice de Prendergast that now prevented the earl from acting with the utmost treachery to the latter king. The earl then departed for Ferns, where he stayed eight days before going in pursuit of Murrough O'Brien, who was put to death at Ferns, together with his son. About the same time, acting as the over-king of Leinster, he confirmed Muirchertad ('Murtherdath') in his kingdom of Hv-Kinsellagh (near Wexford), and gave the 'pleis' of Leinster to Donald Kevenath, the faithful son of Dermot (A.-N.P. pp. 103-5).

      Probably about the middle of August Hervey de Mountmaurice returned from a second mission to the king, and urged the earl to lose no time in makingpeace witn Henry personally (Gib. 273; A.-N, P. pp. 105). After entrusting Waterford to Gilbert de 6orard, Strongbow crossed over to England with Hervey, found the king at Newnham in Gloucestershire, and, after much trouble, succeeded in pacifying him, by the resignation of all his castles and maritime cities. On 18 Oct. the king reached Waterford, which was at once handed over to Robert FitzBernard (Gib. 273 ; Bened. i. 24, &c.; A.-N. P. 126). From Waterford the king marched through Ossory to Dublin, receiving the homage of the Irish princes as he went. He spent Christmas at Dublin, which on his departure he gave in charge to Hugh de Lacy (A.-N.P. 11. 2713-16). It would seem that during the greater part of the six months Henry spent in Ireland Earl Richard kept his own court at Kildare.

      A Dyvelin esteit li reis Henriz
      Et à Kildare li quens gentils
      (11. 2695-6).

      That the king to some extent distrusted the intentions of hb great vassal is evident by the steps he took to weaken the earl's party and power (Gib. 284).

      Towards the beginning of Lent (c. 1 March 1172) Henry reached Wexford. Three or four weeks later came the news of the threatened rebellion of his sons; but his passage to England was delayed till Easter Monday (17 April). Before leaving Ireland he had made Hugh de Lacy lord of Meath, and entrusted Wexford to William FitzAldhelm. Meanwhile, Earl Richard withdrew to Ferns, where he married his sister Basilia to Robert de Quenci, who was given the constableship of Leinster (Bened. i. 25; Gir. 287; A.-N.P. ll. 2741-50).
      For the next two years Kildare seems to have been Earl Richard?s headquarters (ll. 2760-72), whence he appears to have made forays on the district of Offaly. On one of these expeditions Robert de Quenci was slain, upon which Raymond le Gros demanded the widow in marriage. This request, which implied a claim to the constableship of Leinster and the guardianship of Basilia's infant daughter, was refused, allthough the refusal seems to have cost the earl ?the services of Raymond and his followers, who at once retumed to Wales (A.-N.P. pp. 133-6 ; but cf. (Gir. 310).

      On the breaking out of the rebellion of 1178 (c. 15 April 1173) Henry summoned the earl to his assistance in Normandy, where, according to the ?Anglo-Norman Poet,? he was given the castle of Gisors to guard. From Ralph de Diceto we know that he was present at the relief of Verneuil (9 Aug.) (cf. Eyton, 172, l76). 1[e was apparently dismissed before the close of the first year of war, and as a reward of his fidelity received the restoration of Wexford, Waterford, and Dublin. On reaching Ireland he atonce despatched Robert Fitzllernard, FitzStephen, and others tn aid against. the rebels in llngland, where, if we may trust, the Anglo-Norman Poet, the Irish forces were present at the overthrow of the Earl of Leicester (17 Uct.) at- Bury St.. Edmunds (A.-N.P. pp. 130-4l; Diceto, i. 375, 377; Gir. 298, but cf. remarks in list of authorities at end of article).

      On Raymond's departure Earl Richard gave the eoustableship to llervey de Mountmaurice (Gir. 308). Dissatisfied with his generalship, the troops clamoured for the reappointment of Raymond, whom Henry had sent back to Ireland with the earl, and their request was granted (ib. 298). About the latter part. of 1174 the earl led his army into Munster, against Ronald of Limerick, and met with the great disaster that forced him back to Waterford, where he was closely besieged by the Irish, while Roderic O'Connor advanced to the very walls of Dublin. In this emergency the earl sent over a messenger begging that Raymond would come to his aid, and promising him his sister's hand. The two nobles met in an island near Waterford. Earl Richard was brought back to Wexford, where the marriage was celebrated. On the next day Raymond started to drive the of Counaught out of Meath (A.F.M. ii. 15-19, with which cf. Gib. 310-12; A.-N.P. pp. 142-4). It was now that, at Raymond?s suggestion, the earl gave his elder daughter Alina to William Fitzmaurice. To Maurice himself he Wicklow Castle; Carbury to Meiler FitzHenry, and other estates to various other knights. Dublin was handed over to the brothers from Hereford. With his sister Earl Richard granted Raymond Fothord, Idrone, and Glaskarrig (Gir. 314; for full list, see A.-N.P. pp. 144-8). It appears that the earl was now supreme in Leinster, having hostages of all the great Irish princes (ll. 3208, &c.)
      It was robably in 1175 that Earl Richard was called) upon to relieve Hug; de Lacy?s newly built castle of Trim. After this success he withdrew to Dublin, having determined to send his army under Raymond against Donald O?Brien of Limerick. He does not seem to have taken any personal share in the latter expedition (c. 1 Oct. 1175), and indeed may possibl have been in England in this very month (Eyton, 196). After the fall of Limerick Hervey persuaded the king to recall his rival Ra ond, whom, however, the peril of the English garrison detained in Ireland long after the receipt of the summons, since the earl's men refused to advance under any other leader. On Tuesday, 6 April 1176, Raymond once more entered Limerick, from which town he soon started for Cork, to relieve Dermot Macarthy, rince of Desmond. While thus engaged he received a letter from his wife, Basilia, informing him that "that huge grinder which had caused him so much pain had fallen out." By this phrase be understood that Earl Richard was dead (c. 1 June according to Giraldus; but 5 April according to Diceto). After Raymond`s arrival the earl was buried in the church of the Holy Trinity, where his tomb is still shown. Other accounts make him buried at Gloucester (A.-N.P. 11. 3208, &c.; Giraldus; Diceto, i. 407).

      Earl Richard seems to have left an only daughter, Isabella by name. At the age of three she became the heiress to her father's vast estates, and was married by King Richard to William Marshall in 1189. (Hoveden, iii. 7; Dicento, i. 407). The question as to whether he had other issue has been fiercely contested by genealogists; but there seems to be no reason for doubting that he was married before espousing Dermot's daughter. The earl's daughter, Alina, mention above, cannot well have been his child by Eva. In the Irish Annals we read (a.d. 1171) of a predatory expition led into Kildare by the ear1's son (A.F.M. 1185). A Tintern charter granted by the younger William Marshall, and dated Strigul 22 March 1206, makes mention of "Walter, filius Ricardi, filii Gilberti Strongbowe, avi mei" (Dugdale, v. 267). But even this evidence can hardly be considered to confirm the current story as to how the earl met his son fleeing before the enemy and, enraged at such cowardice, clave him asunder with his sword. A tomb is still shown in Christ Church, Dublin, which passes for that of Richard Strongbow. This monument, which is described as displaying "the cross-legged effigy of a knight," is said to have been restored by Sir Henry Sidney in 1570. On the left lies a half-figure "of uncertain sex," which is popularly supposed to represent the earl's son. On it are inscribed the lines: Nate in te mihi pugnanti terga dedisti:Non mihi sed genti, regno quoque terga dedisti." [O son, you have given me to fight back: It is not me, but to the nation, the kingdom of his back, too, you have given.]

      But there is no evidence as to the original state of this monument or the extent of Sir Henry's 'restorations.' The whole legend was well known to Stanihurst in 1584; but it may date much further back than the sixteenth century (Marsh, 62).

      According to Giraldus's rhetorical phrase, Richard de Clare was "vir plus nomims hactenus habens quam ominis, plus genii quam ingenii, plus successionis quam possessionis [The man has had more names than luck, more genius than genius, more than that of succession]." More trustworthy, perhaps, is Giraldus's personal descritption o the earl: "A man of a somewhat orid complexion and freckled; with grey eyes, feminine features, a thin voice and short neck, but otherwise of a 'good stature." He was rather suited, continues the same historian, for the council chamber than the field, and better fitted to obey than to command. He repaired to be urged on to enterprise by his followers; but when once in the press of the fight his resolution was as the standard or the rallying-point of his side. No disaster could shake discourage, and he showed no undue exhilaration when things went well. In the pages of Giraldus the earl appears as a mere foil to the brilliant characters of the Fitzgeralds, and is never credited with any very remarkable military achievement. On the other hand, in the pages of the ?Anglo-Norman Poet? he fills a much more prominent position; he leads great expeditions, and is specially distinguighread at the siege of Dublin. But even in the verse of this writer his special epithets are, "li entils quens," "le bon contur." It is more rarely that we find him styled "li quens vailland."

      [The two principal authorities for the career of Richard Strongbow are Giraldus Cambrensis and a poet who, towards the close of the twelfth century, wrote an account of the conquest of Ireland in Norman-French verse. The narrative of the latter, according to its author?s statement, is largely based on theinformationderived from Dermot?s interpreter or clerk, Maurice Regan. In many points these two writers are not in absolute accord, and the chronology is rendered still more obscure by the fact that the Anglo-Norman Poet gives no yearly dates at all, while Giraldus is not entirely consistent with himself. Each author supplies much that is peculiar to himself; at other times, when they seem to differ it may be that they refer to different occasions. The latter view has been taken in the article in the case of Raymond?s return to England. Giraldus Cambrensis, Expugnatio Hibernica, ed. Dimock (Rolls Series), v.; Anglo-Norman Poet, ed. Wright and Michel (London, 1837); Eyton?s Itinerary of Henry II; Green?s English Princesses, i.; Benedict of Peterborough and Ralph de Diceto, ed. Stubbs (Rolls Series); Trivet, ed. Hog (Engl. Hist. Soc.) ; Dugdale?s Baronage, i., and Monasticon (ed. 1817-1846); William of Jumieges, ap. Migne, cxxxix. col. 906; Brompton?s Chronicon, ap. Twysden?s Decem Scriptores; Annals of the Four Masters, ed. Donovan; Marsh?s Chepstow Castle; Urleric Vitalis (Bohn), iv. 203 ; Journal of Archæological Association, x. 265.]
    Person ID I11104  Dickinson
    Last Modified 28 Oct 2017 

    Father Gilbert FitzGilbert de Clare, 1st Earl of Pembroke,   b. Abt 1100, Tonbridge, Kent Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 6 Jan 1148  (Age ~ 48 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Mother Isabel de Beaumont,   b. Abt 1102,   d. Aft 1172  (Age ~ 71 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Family ID F3128  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Aoife MacMurrough,   b. Abt 1145, Ireland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1188, Wales Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 43 years) 
    Married 26 Aug 1171  Reginald's Tower, Waterford Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    +1. Isabel de Clare, 4th Countess of Pembroke,   b. 1172, Pembrokeshire, Wales Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1220, Pembrokeshire, Wales Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 48 years)  [Birth]
     2. Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke,   b. 1173,   d. Abt 1185  (Age 12 years)  [Birth]
    Last Modified 6 Jul 2014 
    Family ID F3126  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 1130 - Tonbridge, Kent Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 26 Aug 1171 - Reginald's Tower, Waterford Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 20 Apr 1176 - Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - The Cathedral Church of St Edan, Ferns, Wexford, Ireland Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Sources 
    1. [S336463] Medieval Lands: A prosopography of medieval European noble and royal families, Charles Cawley, (Online: The Foundation for Medieval Genealogy at, 20XX),

    2. [S421] The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones, Thomas Asbridge, (New York: HarperCollins, 2014), 208.

    3. [S336351] Dictionary of National Biography, 63 volumes, Sir Sidney Lee, ed., (New York: McMillan and Company, 1885-1900), Public Domain., vol. 10, 390-93.

    4. [S23] The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England, Dan Jones, (New York: Viking, 2012), 73-74.