Why 1014 Retold starts with #Gormlaith
Our Twitter retelling of the Battle of Clontarf takes the unusual step of starting with the perspective of a woman: #Gormlaith.
During our research, we discovered that she had pivotal relationships with all the key players in the Battle of Clontarf (more on these relationships here), and so we decided to raise the profile of this remarkable woman so little spoken of in traditional retellings.
The history books have cast Gormlaith in various roles:
“she was endowed with great beauty… [but] was utterly wicked.”
“…an ambitious woman, who seeing that her own children by Brian had no chance of the crown of Ireland while his sons by a former marriage stood in the way, resolved to stir up a revolution…”
(RIA Manuscript 23 E 4, p 48. Currently on display in Royal Irish Academy)
Gormlaith’s son, King Sitric, is purported to have offered his mother’s hand in marriage as a victory spoil to both Sigurd from the Orkney Isles and Brodir from the Isle of Man. (What would have happened if Sitric’s side had won, and both men had survived?!)
Was Gormlaith just a pawn in the game of thrones that was the fight for leadership of Ireland?
Or was she the instigator?
Or maybe something in between…
Whatever role she may have played, there are only a handful of articles and books about her in the National Library of Ireland‘s collection.
In recent times though, the number of historians that are taking up the Gormlaith baton to research and write about her is growing. It was great to see a feature on Gormlaith in History Ireland this month as part of the Battle of Clontarf issue.
Here’s a few other sources that we’ve uncovered in our 1014 travels…
- ‘Who was Gormlaith’s mother? A detective story.‘ by Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin. In: Lost and Found II – Rediscovering Ireland’s past. (Ireland, 2009), pp. 83-94.
- ‘Tales of three Gormlaiths in early Irish literature‘ by Máire Ní Mhaonaigh. In Ériu 52 (2002), pp. 1-24.
- ‘Viking Age Queens and Identity‘ by Shannon Lewis-Simpson. In The Viking Age: Ireland and the West, Proceedings of the Fifteenth Viking Congress (Cork, 2005), John Sheehan & Donnchadh Ó Corráin (eds), pp.217-226.
- ‘Gormflaith, the Queen‘ by L. M. McCraith. In: Romance of Irish Heroines (Dublin) pp.42-50.
- ‘Gormflaith and the Northmen of Dublin‘ by G. C. Stacpoole. In: Dublin Historical Record, Vol. XX, No. 1, December (1964) pp. 4-18.
- ‘Gormlaith ingen Murchada ben Briain‘ by Catherine Swift. From: Brian Boru Lecture Series, Mary Immaculate College.
- Contextualizing Gormlaith: Portrayals and Perceptions of a Medieval Irish Queen by Christina Wade. Unpublished M.Phil Dissertation, 2012.
- Queen Gormlaith, Brian Boru and the Northmen by Howard B Clarke, Dublin City Hall Lunchtime Lecture Series, 8th April, 2014.
- Gormflaith – A Naas Woman? by James Durney, Co. Kildare Online Electronic Journal, 16th February, 2008.
- A Game of Thrones: Leinster v Munster at the Battle of Clontarf by James Durney, Co. Kildare Online Electronic Journal, 27th March, 2014,
If you have researched or written about Gormlaith, we’d love to hear from you and add to this list. Leave a comment below, or email us with a link to your findings.