Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke

Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (of the first creation), Lord of Leinster, Justiciar of Ireland (1130  20 April 1176) was an Anglo-Norman[1] nobleman notable for his leading role in the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. Like his father, Richard fitz Gilbert has since become commonly known by his nickname Strongbow (Norman French: Arc-Fort), which may be a mistranscription or mistranslation of "Striguil."

Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare
Illustration of Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke in Gerald de Barri's Expugnatio Hibernica.
Died(1176-04-20)20 April 1176 (age 45/46)
Resting placeChrist Church Cathedral, Dublin.
Other namesStrongbow (Arc-Fort)
Spouse(s)Aoife Ní Diarmait
ChildrenGilbert de Clare, 3rd Earl of Pembroke
Isabel de Clare, 4th Countess of Pembroke
Parent(s)Gilbert de Clare, 1st Earl of Pembroke
Isabel de Beaumont

His son Gilbert de Striguil (or de Strigoil) died unmarried before 1189 and the earldom passed via Richard's daughter Isabel to her spouse William Marshall.[1]


Richard's cognomen Strongbow has become the name he is best known by, but it is unlikely that he was called that at the time. Cognomens of other Cambro-Norman and Norman lords were exclusively Norman-French as the nobility spoke French and, with few exceptions, official documents were written in Latin during this period. The confusion seems to have arisen when Richard's name was being translated into Latin.[2] In the Domesday Exchequer annals between 1300 and 1304 (over 120 years after his death) it was written as "Ricardus cognomento Stranghose Comes Strugulliae (Richard known as Stranghose earl of Striguil)." This chronicler erroneously has attributed Stranghose (foreign leggings) as a cognomen, where it is much more likely a variant spelling or mistranscription of Striguil, which is called Strangboge, Stranboue or Stranbohe in other transcriptions. It is in the fourteenth century that we have Richard's name finally rendered as Strongbow: "Earl Richard son of Gilbert Strongbow [earl of Shropshire]."[3]


Richard was the son of Gilbert de Clare, 1st Earl of Pembroke and Isabel de Beaumont.[4] Richard's father died in about 1148, when he was roughly 18 years old, and Richard inherited the title 'count of Strigoil' Earl of Pembroke. It is probable that this title was not recognized at Henry II's coronation in 1154.[5] As the son of the first 'earl', he succeeded to his father's estates in 1148,[6] but was deprived of the title by King Henry II of England in 1154 for siding with King Stephen of England against Henry's mother, the Empress Matilda.[7] Richard was in fact, called by his contemporaries Count Striguil, for his marcher lordship of Striguil where he had a fortress at a place now called Chepstow, in Monmouthshire on the River Wye.[8] He saw an opportunity to reverse his bad fortune in 1168 when he met Diarmait Mac Murchada, the deposed King of Leinster.[9]

Dispossession of the King of Leinster

In 1167, Diarmait Mac Murchada was deprived of the Kingdom of Leinster by the High King of IrelandRuaidrí Ua Conchobair. The grounds for the dispossession were that Mac Murchada had, in 1152, abducted Dervorgilla, the wife of the King of Breifne, Tiernan O'Rourke (Irish: Tighearnán Ua Ruairc). To recover his kingdom, Mac Murchada solicited help from the King of England – Henry II. The deposed king embarked for Bristol from near Bannow on 1 August 1166.[10] He met Henry in Aquitaine in the Autumn of 1166. Henry could not help him at this time, but provided a letter of comfort for willing supporters of Mac Murchada's cause in his kingdom. However, after his return to Wales, he failed to rally any forces to his standard. He eventually met the count of Striguil (nicknamed "Strongbow") and other barons of the Welsh Marches. Mac Murchada came to an agreement with Richard de Clare: for the Earl's assistance with an army the following spring, he could have Aoife, Mac Murchada's eldest daughter in marriage and the succession to Leinster.[11][6] As Henry's approval or licence to Mac Murchada was a general one, the count of Striguil thought it prudent to obtain Henry's specific consent to travel to Ireland: he waited two years to do this.[12] The licence he got was to aid Mac Murchada in the recovery of his kingdom of Leinster.[7]

The re-taking of Leinster

Mac Murchada and Richard de Clare raised a large army, which included Welsh archers and arranged for Raymond FitzGerald (also known as Raymond le Gros) to lead it. The force took the Ostman towns of Wexford, Waterford, and Dublin[lower-alpha 1] in rapid succession between 1169 and 1170.[13] Richard de Clare, however, was not with the first invading party and arrived later, in August 1170.[14]

In May 1171, Diarmait Mac Murchada died and his son, Donal MacMurrough-Kavanagh (Irish: Domhnall Caemanach mac Murchada), claimed the kingdom of Leinster in accordance with his rights under the Brehon Laws. Richard de Clare also claimed the kingship in the right of his wife. At this time, Strongbow sent his uncle, Hervey de Montmorency, on an embassy to Henry II. This was necessary to appease the King who was growing restive at the count's increasing power. Upon his return, de Montmorency conveyed the King's terms – the return of Richard de Clare's lands in France, England, and Wales as well as leaving him in possession of his Irish lands.[15] In return, Richard de Clare surrendered Dublin, Waterford, and other fortresses to the English king.[16] Henry's intervention was successful and both the Gaelic and Norman lords in the south and east of Ireland accepted his rule;[17] Richard de Clare also agreed to assist Henry II in his coming war in France.

Henry crossed over to Ireland in October 1172 and stayed in Ireland six months. He put his own men into nearly all the important places, Richard keeping only Kildare. In 1173 Richard went in person to France to help Henry II during the rebellion by his sons, being reinstated in Leinster as a reward. In 1174 he advanced into Connaught and was severely defeated, but subsequently Raymond FitzGerald re-established his supremacy in Leinster.[6]

Marriage and issue

By an unknown mistress, Richard de Clare fathered two daughters:

  • Aline de Clare,[lower-alpha 2] who married William FitzMaurice FitzGerald, baron of Naas[18]
  • Basilia de Clare, who married Robert de Quenci, Constable of Leinster[18]

On about 26 August 1171 in Reginald's Tower, Waterford, Richard de Clare married MacMurrough's daughter, Aoife MacMurrough (anglicised as "Eva").[19] Their children were:

King Henry II had promised Sir William Marshal that he would be given Isabel as his bride, and his son Richard I upheld the promise one month after his ascension to the throne. The earldom was given to her husband as her consort.[22] Marshall was the son of John the Marshal, by Sibylle, the sister of Patrick, Earl of Salisbury.

Richard de Clare died in June 1176 of some type of infection in his leg or foot. He was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Dublin with his uncle-in-law, Lawrence, Archbishop of Dublin, presiding. King Henry II took all of Strongbow's lands and castles for himself and placed a royal official in charge of them. He guarded well the inheritance of Isabel. Eve was given her dower rights and possibly held Striguil [Chepstow] as part of those dower rights until the Welsh rebellion of 1184/85. There is a record of Eve confirming a charter in Ireland in 1188/89 as "comtissa de Hibernia".

Richard de Clare's widow, Aoife, lived on and was last recorded in a charter of 1188.

There are no known extant records of the personal lives of Richard de Clare and Eve. We know that this young red-haired son of Gilbert de Clare Earl of Pembroke survived the years of being deprived of his rightful inheritance. He took the gamble that Dermot MacMurchada offered. He conquered and re-constituted his inherited lordship of Leinster, married the golden-haired Eve, and re-gained the respect of king Henry II. Two interesting questions arise for which there is no known extant contemporary records. Did Richard de Clare perhaps meet the man who would be his daughter's husband in the 1173 rebellion of the young King Henry? Would Richard de Clare have approved of the knight William Marshal who married his daughter Isabel and not only regained all the land, castles and titles that Richard de Clare should have inherited, but added greatly to them?[23]


Richard de Clare was first interred in Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral where an alleged effigy can be viewed.[24] Richard de Clare's actual tomb-effigy was destroyed when the roof of the Cathedral collapsed in 1562. The one on display dates from around the 15th century, bears the coat of arms of an unknown knight,[25] and is the effigy of another local knight. Richard de Clare was buried in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin within sight of the cross according to an eyewitness, Giraldus Cambrensis. There is little evidence to support the tradition that he was buried either in St Edan's Cathedral, Ferns,[26] Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford or Dominican priory, Kilkenny. References to 'de Clare' being buried in Gloucester cathedral refer to his father, while those to 'Strongbow' in Tintern abbey refer probably to Walter or Anselm Marshall, both of whom died in 1245.

The English cider brand Strongbow is named after him.[27]


See also


  1. These were longphorts where the Viking raiders settled, marrying Gaelic women and slightly acculturating to Gaelic customs (such as naming practices, MacGiollamhuire, MacTurkill, etc.), Dublin being the most famous. See: James F. Lydon, The Making of Ireland: From Ancient Times to Present (London; New York: Routledge, 1998), p. 21.
  2. Aline was born well before her father married Eve (Aoife), daughter of Dermot. That both she and her unnamed sister were illegitimate is indicated by the fact that neither inherited anything from their father's great holdings. See: Cokayne, CP, X, Appendix H, 103



  • Cokayne, George Edward; Doubleday, H. A.; White, Geoffrey H.; Howard de Walden, Thomas Scott-Ellis, 8th Baron, eds. (1945). The Complete Peerage; or, A History of the House of Lords and All its Members from the Earliest Times. X: Oakham  Richmond (2nd ed.). London: St. Catherine Press.
  • Orpen, Goddard Henry (1911). Ireland under the Normans, 1169–1216. I. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  • Warren, Wilfred Lewis (1973). Henry II (1st ed.). Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520022829. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  • Warren, Wilfred Lewis (2000). Henry II (2nd ed.). New Haven; London: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300084740. OCLC 44694567.


  1. "Richard FitzGilbert, 2nd earl of Pembroke | Anglo-Norman lord". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  2. Goodrich Castle and the families of Godric Mapson, Monmouth, Clare, Marshall, Montchesney, Valence, Despenser and Talbot
  3. Brut y Tywysogyon or The Chronicle of the Princes. Peniarth Ms. 20 version, ed. and trans. T. Jones [Cardiff, 1952], 65. Richard vabGilbert Stragbow[iarll Amhwydic], Brenhinedd y Saeson or The Kings of the Saxons, ed. and trans. T. Jones [Cardiff, 1971], 170.
  4. Cokayne 1945, p. 352
  5. M. T. Flanagan, 'Clare, Richard fitz Gilbert de, second earl of Pembroke (c.1130–1176)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press (2004)
  6. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pembroke, Earls of" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 78.
  7. Warren 1973, p. 193
  8. Orpen 1911, pp.85–9
  9. Warren 1973, p. 114
  10. The Oxford Illustrated History of Ireland, ed. R. F. Foster (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 57
  11. Orpen 1911, p.91
  12. Orpen 1911, p.93
  13. Orpen 1911, p.184
  14. John Davies, A History of Wales (London: Penguin Group, 1993), p. 126
  15. A J Otway-Ruthven; Kathleen Hughes, "A History of Medieval Ireland", (London: Ernest Benn Limited; New York: Barnes & Noble Inc., 1968), p. 48
  16. Warren 2000, p. 197
  17. Warren 2000, p. 200
  18. Cokayne 1945, Appendix H, p. 103
  19. Cokayne 1945, p. 356
  20. Cokayne 1945, p. 357
  21. Cokayne 1945, pp. 358–64
  22. Thomas B. Costain The Conquering Family (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962), p. 267
  24. Alfred Webb, A compendium of Irish biography (Dublin: M.H. Gill & Son, 1878), p. 130
  25. James Graves, ‘Armorial bearings of Strongbow’, Gentleman’s magazine and historical review, ccxvi, 1 (March 1864), 362–3; 'On the arms of Richard de Clare’, Gentleman’s magazine and historical review, ccxviii, 1 (April 1865), 403–8; ccxvix, 2 (July 1865), 3–11; (August 1865), 207–8;(November 1865), 551–63 gives the best summary. Stuart Kinsella summarised the most recent work in a lecture to the conference on 'Monuments and Monumentality in Later Medieval and Early Modern Europe' in Stirling University in August 2011
  26. John Finlayson, Inscriptions on the monuments, mural tablets &c, Christ Church Cathedral (Dublin: Hodges, Foster, & Figgis, 1878), p. 66 notes no more than a 'fearful malediction ... pronounced against him by a Bishop of Ferns' citing King's Church History, ii, 622 and Haverty's 'History of Ireland', p. 256.
  27. "About Strongbow".

Political offices
Preceded by
New creation
Justiciar of Ireland
Succeeded by
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Gilbert de Clare
Earl of Pembroke
Succeeded by
Gilbert de Clare

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