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High Kingship of Ireland
The Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) and symbol of sovereignty on the Hill of Tara.
StyleArd-Rí na hÉireann
Rí Érenn Uile
First monarchSláine mac Dela (mythical)
Máel Sechnaill I (historical)
Last monarch
Formation1934 BC (by tradition)
Abolition1198 AD
ResidenceHill of Tara
Pretender(s)Brian Ua Néill/Edubard a Briuis (claimant)

Medieval Irish historical tradition held that Ireland had a High King (Ard Rí) based at Tara since ancient times, and compilations like the 11th-century Lebor Gabála Érenn, followed by Early Modern works like the Annals of the Four Masters and Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, purported to trace the line of High Kings. John T. Koch explains: "Although the kingship of Tara was a special kingship whose occupants had aspirations towards supremacy among the kings of Ireland, in political terms it is unlikely that any king had sufficient authority to dominate the whole island before the 9th century".[1] Máel Sechnaill I is often considered the first historical High King, although he faced some opposition. Applying the title to earlier kings is considered anachronistic, while kings from before the 5th century are generally considered legendary. The traditional list of High Kings is thus a mixture of historical facts and legend.

The annals describe some later High Kings as rígh Érenn co fressabra ("Kings of Ireland with opposition"), which is a reference to the instability of the kingship of Tara from the death of Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill in 1022. He had been overthrown by Brian Boru in 1002, and restored in 1014 following Brian's death, but Brian's example was followed by many other dynasties in the century following 1022. The High Kingship was effectively ended in the 1170s after the Anglo-Norman invasion, its last holder being Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair.

Legendary kings

Kings in the Baile Chuind

The earliest-surviving list appears in the Baile Chuind (The Ecstasy of Conn), a late-7th-century poem in which Conn of the Hundred Battles experiences a vision of the kings who will succeed him. Many of these kings appear to correspond with the kings of later traditions, although the order is different, and some of the kings cannot be identified. The last four kings following Snechta Fína (Fínsnechta Fledach) do not correspond with any of the kings in later lists. The poem is therefore presumed to have been written during his time, and the kings who follow him are presumed to be fictional.[2]

With few exceptions, kings belong to Dál Cuinn (the Connachta and Uí Néill). Understood as a list of kings of Tara, it is not considered to be inclusive. A number of well-known kings from the Laigin, Érainn, Ulaid and Cruthin, are missing. The chief rivals of Dál Cuinn after Conn's floruit (and others for a few centuries before) were the Dáirine (usually the Corcu Loígde during Dál Cuinn's era), two or three of whom are listed, but whose overkingdom in the south of Ireland collapsed in the 6th century. They were outmanoeuvred and replaced by the related Eóganachta, who established the Kingship of Cashel, soon to periodically rival Tara. The poem itself in its closing language probably mentions Cathal mac Finguine when young, and this can also be used to date the Baile Chuind to the late 7th or early 8th century.

Name Presumed identity Notes
Not named Conn Cétchathach The list recounts Conn's vision of the kings who will follow him
Art Art mac Cuinn Dál Cuinn
Mac Con moccu Lugde Loígde Lugaid Mac Con Dáirine
Corbmac Cormac mac Airt Dál Cuinn
Corpre Cairbre Lifechair Dál Cuinn
Fiechri Fiachrae Cássan Cruthin and/or Airgialla?
Dáire Drechlethan likely Dáire Doimthech Dáirine
Fécho Fíacha Sroiptine? Dál Cuinn
Muiredach Tirech Muiredach Tírech Dál Cuinn
Crimthand Crimthann mac Fidaig Eóganachta/Dáirine
Níell Niall Noígíallach Dál Cuinn
Loígaire Lóegaire mac Néill Dál Cuinn/Uí Néill
Corpri Coirpre mac Néill (d. c. 463) Dál Cuinn/Uí Néill
Ailill Ailill Molt (d. 482) Connachta/Uí Fiachrach
Lugid Lugaid mac Lóegairi (d. c. 507) Uí Néill
Mac Ercéni Muirchertach mac Ercae (d. c. 536) Uí Néill/Cenél nEógain
Óengarb Túathal Máelgarb (d. c. 544) Uí Néill
Aíd probably Áed mac Ainmuirech (d. 598) Uí Néill/Cenél Conaill; seemingly misplaced chronologically
Aíd Olláin probably Áed Uaridnach (d. 612) Uí Néill/Cenél nEógain; seemingly misplaced chronologically
Diermait Diarmait mac Cerbaill (d. c. 565) Uí Néill? Origins obscure.
Feáchno Fiachnae mac Báetáin (d. 626), or perhaps Fiachnae mac Feradaig, father of Suibne Menn Cruthin/Dál nAraidi, or Uí Néill/Cenél nEógain
Suibne Suibne Menn (d. 628) Uí Néill/Cenél nEógain
Domnall Domnall mac Áedo (d. c. 642) Uí Néill/Cenél Conaill
Blathmac and Diarmaid grandson of the other one Blathmac mac Áedo Sláine & Diarmait mac Áedo Sláine (both d. 665) Southern Uí Néill
Snechta Fína Fínsnechta Fledach (d. c. 695) Uí Néill/Síl nÁedo Sláine
(Cathal mac Finguine) (d. 742) Eóganachta/Eóganacht Glendamnach

Synthetic lists

The Lebor Gabála Érenn, dating to the 11th–12th century, purports to list every High King from remote antiquity to the time of Henry II's Lordship of Ireland in 1171. The High Kingship is established by the Fir Bolg, and their nine kings are succeeded by a sequence of nine kings of the Tuatha Dé Danann, most if not all of whom are considered euhemerised deities. After the Milesian (Gaelic) conquest the High Kingship is contested for centuries between the descendants of Eber Finn and Érimón, sons of Míl Espáine. The original compilation stopped at the reign of Tuathal Techtmar. The kings of the Goidelic dynasties established by Tuathal were added by other editors. Later editions of the Lebor Gabála tried to synchronise its chronology with dateable kings of Assyria, Persia, and Ptolemaic Egypt and Roman emperors.[3]

There are a handful of sources slightly predating the Lebor Gabála Érenn covering significant portions of essentially the same list of Milesian High Kings (though following a discrepant chronology), starting with the Laud Synchronisms estimated to have been compiled c. 1021 (part of Laud 610). The oldest section of the Lebor Gabála Érenn "Roll of Kings" is taken from the poems of Gilla Cómáin mac Gilla Samthainde, written c. 1072.[4]

Early Modern works like the Annals of the Four Masters[5] and Geoffrey Keating's Foras Feasa ar Éirinn[6] continued this tradition based on later Irish annals. Keating's chronology, based on reign lengths, is longer than the synchronised chronology of the Lebor Gabála, and the Four Masters' chronology is even longer.

Fir Bolg High Kings

These kings are considered to be legendary.

Sláine mac Dela   1514–1513 BC 1934–1933 BC
Rudraige mac Dela   1513–1511 BC 1933–1931 BC
Gann and Genann mac Dela   1511–1507 BC 1931–1927 BC
Sengann mac Dela   1507–1502 BC 1927–1922 BC
Fiacha Cennfinnán mac Starn   1502–1497 BC 1922–1917 BC
Rinnal mac Genann   1497–1491 BC 1917–1911 BC
Fodbgen mac Sengann   1491–1487 BC 1911–1907 BC
Eochaid mac Eirc   1487–1477 BC 1907–1897 BC

Tuatha Dé Danann High Kings

These kings are considered to be legendary.

Bres   1477–1470 BC 1897–1890 BC
Nuada   1470–1447 BC 1890–1870 BC
Lugh   1447–1407 BC 1870–1830 BC
Eochaid Ollathair (The Dagda)   1407–1337 BC 1830–1750 BC
Delbáeth   1337–1327 BC 1750–1740 BC
Fiacha   1327–1317 BC 1740–1730 BC
Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine   1317–1287 BC 1730–1700 BC

Milesian High Kings

These kings are considered to be legendary.

Eber Finn and Érimón   1287–1286 BC 1700 BC
Érimón   1286–1272 BC 1700–1684 BC
Muimne, Luigne and Laigne   1272–1269 BC 1684–1681 BC
Ér, Orba, Ferón and Fergna   1269 BC 1681 BC
Íriel Fáid   1269–1259 BC 1681–1671 BC
Ethriel   1259–1239 BC 1671–1651 BC
Conmáel   1239–1209 BC 1651–1621 BC
Tigernmas   1209–1159 BC 1621–1544 BC
      Interregnum 1544–1537 BC
Eochaid Étgudach   1159–1155 BC 1537–1533 BC
Cermna Finn and Sobairce   1155–1115 BC 1533–1493 BC
Eochaid Faebar Glas   1115–1095 BC 1493–1473 BC
Fíachu Labrainne   1095–1071 BC 1473–1449 BC
Eochu Mumu   1071–1050 BC 1449–1428 BC
Óengus Olmucaid   1050–1032 BC 1428–1410 BC
Énna Airgdech   1032–1005 BC 1410–1383 BC
Rothechtaid mac Main   1005–980 BC 1383–1358 BC
Sétna Airt   980–975 BC 1358–1353 BC
Fíachu Fínscothach   975–955 BC 1353–1333 BC
Muinemón   955–950 BC 1333–1328 BC
Faildergdóit   950–943 BC 1328–1318 BC
Ollom Fotla   943–913 BC 1318–1278 BC
Fínnachta   913–895 BC 1278–1258 BC
Slánoll   895–880 BC 1257–1241 BC
Géde Ollgothach   880–863 BC 1241–1231 BC
Fíachu Findoilches   863–833 BC 1231–1209 BC
Berngal 7th century BC 833–831 BC 1209–1197 BC
Ailill mac Slánuill 7th century BC 831–815 BC 1197–1181 BC
Sírna Sáeglach 7th century BC 814–794 BC 1181–1031 BC
Rothechtaid Rotha 7th century BC 794–787 BC 1031–1024 BC
Elim Olfínechta 7th century BC 787–786 BC 1024–1023 BC
Gíallchad 7th century BC 786–777 BC 1023–1014 BC
Art Imlech 7th–6th century BC 777–755 BC 1014–1002 BC
Nuadu Finn Fáil 7th–6th century BC 755–735 BC 1002–962 BC
Bres Rí 7th–6th century BC 735–726 BC 962–953 BC
Eochu Apthach 6th–5th century BC 726–725 BC 953–952 BC
Finn mac Blatha 6th–5th century BC 725–705 BC 952–930 BC
Sétna Innarraid 5th century BC 705–685 BC 930–910 BC
Siomón Brecc 5th century BC 685–679 BC 910–904 BC
Dui Finn 5th century BC 679–674 BC 904–894 BC
Muiredach Bolgrach 5th century BC 674–670 BC 894–893 BC
Énna Derg 5th century BC 670–658 BC 893–881 BC
Lugaid Íardonn 5th century BC 658–649 BC 881–872 BC
Sírlám 5th century BC 649–633 BC 872–856 BC
Eochu Uairches 5th century BC 633–621 BC 856–844 BC
Eochu Fíadmuine and Conaing Bececlach 5th century BC 621–616 BC 844–839 BC
Lugaid Lámderg and Conaing Bececlach 5th century BC 616–609 BC 839–832 BC
Conaing Bececlach (alone) 5th century BC 609–599 BC 832–812 BC
Art mac Lugdach 5th century BC 599–593 BC 812–806 BC
Fíachu Tolgrach   593–586 BC 806–796 BC
Ailill Finn 5th–4th century BC 586–577 BC 796–785 BC
Eochu mac Ailella 5th–4th century BC 577–570 BC 785–778 BC
Airgetmar 4th century BC 570–547 BC 778–748 BC
Dui Ladrach 4th century BC 547–537 BC 748–738 BC
Lugaid Laigdech 4th century BC 537–530 BC 738–731 BC
Áed Rúad 4th century BC 530–509 BC 731–724 BC
Díthorba 4th century BC 509–488 BC 724–717 BC
Cimbáeth 4th century BC 488–468 BC 717–710 BC
Áed Rúad (2nd time)     710–703 BC
Díthorba (2nd time)     703–696 BC
Cimbáeth (2nd time)     696–689 BC
Áed Rúad (3rd time)     689–682 BC
Díthorba (3rd time)     682–675 BC
Cimbáeth (3rd time)     675–668 BC
Cimbáeth and queen Macha     668–661 BC
Macha Mong Ruad (alone) 4th–3rd century BC 468–461 BC 661–654 BC
Rechtaid Rígderg 4th–3rd century BC 461–441 BC 654–634 BC
Úgaine Mor 3rd century BC 441–411 BC 634–594 BC
Lóegaire Lorc 3rd century BC 411–409 BC 594–592 BC
Cobthach Cóel Breg 3rd century BC 409–379 BC 592–542 BC
Labraid Loingsech 3rd century BC 379–369 BC 542–523 BC
Meilge Molbthach 3rd century BC 369–362 BC 523–506 BC
Mug Corb 3rd century BC 362–355 BC 506–499 BC
Óengus Ollom 3rd century BC 355–337 BC 499–481 BC
Irereo 3rd century BC 337–330 BC 481–474 BC
Fer Corb 3rd century BC 330–319 BC 474–463 BC
Connla Cáem 3rd century BC 319–315 BC 463–443 BC
Ailill Caisfiaclach 3rd–2nd century BC 315–290 BC 443–418 BC
Adamair 3rd–2nd century BC 290–285 BC 418–414 BC
Eochaid Ailtlethan 3rd–2nd century BC 285–274 BC 414–396 BC
Fergus Fortamail 2nd century BC 274–262 BC 396–385 BC
Óengus Tuirmech Temrach 2nd century BC 262–232 BC 385–326 BC
Conall Collamrach 2nd century BC 232–226 BC 326–320 BC
Nia Segamain 2nd century BC 226–219 BC 320–313 BC
Énna Aignech 2nd century BC 219–191 BC 313–293 BC
Crimthann Coscrach 2nd century BC 191–184 BC 293–289 BC
Rudraige mac Sithrigi 2nd–1st century BC 184–154 BC 289–219 BC
Finnat Már 2nd–1st century BC 154–151 BC 219–210 BC
Bresal Bó-Díbad 2nd–1st century BC 151–140 BC 210–199 BC
Lugaid Luaigne 2nd–1st century BC 140–135 BC 199–184 BC
Congal Cláiringnech 1st century BC 135–120 BC 184–169 BC
Dui Dallta Dedad 1st century BC 120–110 BC 169–159 BC
Fachtna Fáthach 1st century BC 110–94 BC 159–143 BC
Eochu Feidlech 1st century BC 94–82 BC 143–131 BC
Eochu Airem 1st century BC 82–70 BC 131–116 BC
Eterscél 1st century BC–1st century AD 70–64 BC 116–111 BC
Nuadu Necht 1st century 64–63 BC 111–110 BC
Conaire Mór 1st century 63–33 BC 110–40 BC
  interregnum (5 years)   interregnum
40–33 BC
Lugaid Riab nDerg 1st century 33–13 BC 33–9 BC
Conchobar Abradruad 1st century 13–12 BC 9–8 BC
  Cairbre Cinnchait 1st century Crimthann Nia Náir 12 BC – AD 5 Crimthann Nia Náir
8 BC – AD 9
  Feradach Finnfechtnach 1st century Feradach Finnfechtnach
AD 5–25
Cairbre Cinnchait
AD 9–14
  Fíatach Finn 1st century Fiatach Finn 25–28 Feradach Finnfechtnach 14–36
  Fíachu Finnolach 1st century Fiacha Finnfolaidh
Fiatach Finn 36–39
  Elim mac Conrach 2nd century Cairbre Cinnchait
Fiacha Finnfolaidh
    Elim mac Conrach
Elim mac Conrach

Goidelic High Kings

Many of these kings are considered to be legendary. Dynastic affiliations are based on the genealogies of historical dynasties who claimed them as an ancestor.

LGE FFE AFM DynastySept
Tuathal Techtmar 2nd century 80–100 76–106 Connachta (ancestor)
Mal mac Rochride 2nd century 100–104 106–110 Ulaid
Fedlimid Rechtmar 2nd century 104–113 110–119 Connachta (ancestor)
Cathair Mór 2nd century 113–116 119–122 Laigin
Conn Cétchathach 2nd century 116–136 122–157 Connachta (ancestor)
Conaire Cóem 2nd century 136–143 157–165 Clanna DedadSíl Conairi (ancestor)
Art mac Cuinn 2nd century 143–173 165–195 Connachta
Lugaid mac Con   173–203 195–225 DáirineCorcu Loígde
Fergus Dubdétach   203–204 225–226 Ulaid
Cormac mac Airt   204–244 226–266 Connachta
Eochaid Gonnat   244–245 266–267 Ulaid?
Cairbre Lifechair   245–272 267–284 Connachta
Fothad Cairpthech and Fothad Airgthech   272–273 284–285 DáirineCorcu Loígde
Fíacha Sroiptine   273–306 285–322 Connachta
Colla Uais   306–310 322–326 Connachta
Muiredach Tirech   310–343 326–356 Connachta
Cáelbad   343–344 356–357 Ulaid?
Eochaid Mugmedon   344–351 357–365 Connachta
Crimthann mac Fidaig   351–368 365–376 Érainn?
Niall Noígíallach (generally thought historical)   368–395 376–405 ConnachtaUí Néill (ancestor)
Nath Í (probably did not reign at Tara)   395–418 405–428 ConnachtaUí Fiachrach
Lóegaire mac Néill (historical)   418–448 428–458 ConnachtaUí Néill

Semi-historical High Kings of Ireland

These kings are historical figures for the most part, but naming them High Kings of Ireland may be anachronistic or inaccurate in certain cases. Their dynastic affiliations are also uncertain, as some may have been posthumously added to groups they did not belong to.

Kings of Ireland 459–831 DynastySept
Ailill Molt 459–478 ConnachtaUí Fiachrach
Lugaid mac Lóegairi 479–503 Uí NéillCenél Lóegairi
Muirchertach mac Ercae 504–527 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Túathal Máelgarb 528–538 Uí NéillCenél Coirpri
Diarmait mac Cerbaill 539–558 Uí NéillCenél Conaill
Domhnall and Fearghus 559–561 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Eochaidh and Baedan 562–563 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Ainmuire mac Sétnai 564–566 Uí NéillCenél Conaill
Báetán mac Ninnedo 567 Uí NéillCenél Conaill
Áed mac Ainmuirech 568–594 Uí NéillCenél Conaill
Áed Sláine and Colmán Rímid 595–600 Uí NéillCenél Conaill and Cenél nEógain
Áed Uaridnach 601–607 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Máel Coba mac Áedo 608–610 Uí NéillCenél Conaill
Suibne Menn 611–623 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Domnall mac Áedo 624–639 Uí NéillCenél Conaill
Cellach and Conall 640–656 Uí NéillCenél Conaill
Diarmait and Blathmac 657–664 Uí NéillSíl nÁedo Sláine
Sechnassach 665–669 Uí NéillSíl nÁedo Sláine
Cenn Fáelad 670–673 Uí NéillSíl nÁedo Sláine
Fínsnechta Fledach 674–693 Uí NéillSíl nÁedo Sláine
Loingsech mac Óengusso 694–701 Uí NéillCenél Conaill
Congal Cennmagair 702–708 Uí NéillCenél Conaill
Fergal mac Máele Dúin 709–718 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Fogartach mac Néill 719 Uí NéillSíl nÁedo Sláine
Cináed mac Írgalaig 720–722 Uí NéillSíl nÁedo Sláine
Flaithbertach mac Loingsig 723–729 Uí NéillCenél Conaill
Áed Allán 730–738 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Domnall Midi 739–758 Uí NéillClann Cholmáin
Niall Frossach 759–765 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Donnchad Midi 766–792 Uí NéillClann Cholmáin
Áed Oirdnide 793–819 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Conchobar mac Donnchada 819–833 Uí NéillClann Cholmáin
Feidlimid mac Crimthainn (according to the Annals of Inisfallen) 832–846
Uí NéillCenél nEógain
or EóganachtaEóganacht Chaisil

Historical High Kings of Ireland

These kings can be considered genuinely historical High Kings (with or without opposition).

Kings of Ireland 832–1318 DynastySept
Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid 846–860 Uí NéillClann Cholmáin
Áed Findliath 861–876 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Flann Sinna 877–914 Uí NéillClann Cholmáin
Niall Glúndub 915–917 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Donnchad Donn 918–942 Uí NéillClann Cholmáin
Congalach Cnogba 943–954 Uí NéillSíl nÁedo Sláine
Domnall ua Néill 955–978 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill 979–1002 Uí NéillClann Cholmáin
Brian Bóruma 1002–1014 Dál gCais
Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill (restored) 1014–1022 Uí NéillClann Cholmáin
Donnchad mac Briain died 1064 (with opposition) Dál gCais
Diarmait mac Maíl na mBó died 1072 (with opposition) Uí Cheinnselaig
Toirdelbach Ua Briain died 1086 (with opposition) Dál gCaisUa Briain
Domnall Ua Lochlainn died 1121 (with opposition) Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Muirchertach Ua Briain died 1119 (with opposition) Dál gCaisUa Briain
Toirdelbach Ua Conchobair 1119–1156 Uí BriúinUa Conchobair
Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn 1156–1166 Uí NéillCenél nEógain
Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair 1166–1198 Uí BriúinUa Conchobair

Later attempts at revival

See also


  1. ^ Koch, John (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 1663–1664.
  2. ^ Cycles of the Kings Web Project Archived 2008-12-27 at the Wayback Machine: Baile Chuinn Cétchathaigh Archived 2008-11-20 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ R. A. Stewart Macalister (ed. & trans.), Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of the Taking of Ireland Part V, Irish Texts Society, 1956
  4. ^ Trinity University, D.P. McCarthy, Collation of the Irish regnal canon
  5. ^ Annals of the Four Masters vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 at CELT
  6. ^ The History of Ireland by Geoffrey Keating at CELT

Further reading