Mael Sechnaill


Mael Sechnaill @1014retold Battle of Clontarf 1014 Twitter Retelling
  • Title - King of Meath, former High King of Ireland
  • Likes - Being top dog
  • Dislikes - Playing second fiddle
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Mael Sechnaill Mac Domhnall, former High King, now King of Tara, reluctant ally of Boru.

Mael Sechnaill was once one of the most powerful Kings of the O’Neill ruling dynasty, occupying the throne of Tara and effectively exercising control over the southern half of Ireland in a long-established system of rotating kingships.

iIn 980 he defended his kingdom from a challenge by Olaf Cuaran – King of Dublin, husband of Gormlaith, and also Mael Sechnaill‘s own father-in-law – a scenario which demonstrates the complexity of relationships in the ruling classes of the day.

Following his defeat in battle, Olaf fled to the Isle of Iona where he later died. At some point afterwards, Mael Sechnaill himself took up with Gormlaith.

Mael Sechnaill’s rule was greatly compromised by the unstoppable rise of Brian Boru, and he was forced into an uneasy alliance with the Munster ruler. Over time he conceded more and more authority to Brian, ultimately acknowledging him as overlord and High King of All Ireland – a greater title than he himself had ever held.

During this time Mael Sechnaill’s kingdom of Meath was under constant pressure from the Norse of Dublin and Leinster. His armies clashed with those of Sitric and Mael Morda (son and brother-in-law of the defeated Olaf) time and again without any conclusive outcome.

No matter how reluctant he was to be under Brian’s thumb, Mael Sechnaill was certainly enough of a realist to see that he would never bring Dublin and Leinster into line without Brian’s help.

So it was that in early 1014 he mustered his troops and joined Brian on the outskirts of Dublin for what was to be the definitive encounter of the age.

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