(1108–1193), anglicized as Derval
, was a daughter of Murchad Ua Maeleachlainn, king of Meath, and of his wife Mor (died 1137), daughter of Muirchertach Ua Briain. She is famously known as the "Helen of Ireland" as her abduction from her husband Tigernán Ua Ruairc
Tighearnán Mór Ua Ruairc , anglicized as Tiernán O'Rourke ruled the Kingdom of Bréifne as the 19th king in its Ua Ruairc dynasty...
by Diarmait Mac Murchada, king of Leinster, in 1152 played some part in bringing the Anglo-Normans to Irish shores, although this is a role that has often been greatly exaggerated and often misinterpreted.
Unlike many other women, she is mentioned no less than five times in contemporary annals: her abduction by Diarmait in 1152 (Annals of Clonmacnoise), (although by the end of the next year she had left Leinster and returned to her family's lands in Meath, possibly after negotiations with her father's family); her donation to the Cistercian abbey of Mellifont of altar cloths, a gold chalice, and 60 ounces of gold during the consecration ceremony in 1157 (Annals of the Four Masters); her completion of the Nuns' Church at Clonmacnoise
The monastery of Clonmacnoise is situated in County Offaly, Ireland on the River Shannon south of Athlone....
in 1167 (Annals of the Four Masters); her retirement to Clonmacnoise in 1186 (Annals of Ulster, Annals of Loch Ce); and her death in Clonmacnoise in 1193 (Annals of Ulster, Annals of the Four Masters).
Tigernán Ua Ruairc had three children, Melaghlin (died 1162), Aed, described as crown prince of Breifne, killed by the Anglo-Normans (died 1171) and Dowchawley (died 1171), wife to Ruaidri Ua Conchobair
Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair , often anglicised Rory O'Connor, reigned as King of Connacht from 1156 to 1186, and from 1166 to 1198 was the last High King before the Norman invasion of Ireland .Ruaidrí was one of over twenty sons of King...
, high king of Ireland, but whether or not Derbforgaill was their mother is less certain.
The abduction episode of 1152 has been variously interpreted. It seems that Derbforgaill went willingly, and that she took her cattle and chattels with her, all at the persuasion of her younger brother Maeleachlainn. It has been suggested that this was an attempt on the part of her paternal family, the royal family of Meath, to forge a new alliance through marriage, with Diarmait Mac Murchada. Formalising treaties through marriage seems to have been standard practice in twelfth-century Ireland, witness Diarmait Mac Murchada's betrothal of his daughter Aoife
Aoife, earlier Aífe , is an Irish feminine given name. The name is probably derived from the Irish aoibh, meaning "beauty", "pleasure" or "radiant goddess", although the name has also be associated with the Gaulish goddess Esuvia. The name is sometimes Anglicised as Eva...
The term Strongbow may refer to:*Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, a Norman earl also known by the nickname "Strongbow"*Strongbow Cider*Beleg Cúthalion , a character in JRR Tolkien's Quenta Silmarillion...
, while in 1165 the king of Uladh's daughter was taken hostage by the high king presumably just to prevent her father using her cement a new alliance.
Most historians are agreed that there was no romance involved, and that dynastic politics were at the base of the dispute. However, it does seem that Tigernán held the grudge, insisting on claiming legal compensation of 100 ounces of gold from Diarmait in 1167, which was enforced by Ruaidri Ua Conchobair.
- Flanagan, Marie-Therese, Irish Society, Anglo-Norman Settlers, Angevin Kingship, Oxford, 1989.
- Ni Ghradaigh, Jenifer, ' 'But what exactly did she give?' Derbforgaill and the Nuns' Church', in Clonmacnoise Studies II, ed. H. King, Dublin, 2003, pp.175-207.