high kings of Ireland
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Ireland, high kings of
Ireland, high kings of. Despite the popular perception of the importance of the ‘high kingship’ of Ireland, it is clear that early medieval Ireland did not possess a monarch whose rule was effective over the entire island, since the early law tracts (7th–8th cent.) specify only three grades of kingship, the most senior of which is a province king. Nevertheless, the most powerful dynasty in the country, the Uí Néill, who dominated the northern half of the island, were often able to compel most, if not all, of the other province kings to submit to them, so that by the mid-9th cent. at the latest the concept of the high kingship had taken root. Brian Boru, however, destroyed the Uí Néill monopoly of the title and the 11th and 12th cents. were ones in which Ireland generally only had a high king ‘with opposition’, the last of whom was Rory O'Connor, high king at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1169.