Kings of Osraige

Map of Osraige (circa 900)

The kings of Osraige (alternately spelled Osraighe and Anglicised as Ossory) reigned over the medieval Irish kingdom of Osraige from the first or second century AD until the late twelfth century. Osraige was a semi-provincial kingdom in south-east Ireland which disappeared following the Norman Invasion of Ireland. Except for a period in the sixth century, the kingdom was ruled continuously by a single dynasty which is known to history by several names: Dál Birn being the first general term for the native ruling lineage of Osraige, and later adopting the surname Mac Giolla Phádraig by the end of the tenth century. This same dynasty eventually outlived the collapse of the kingdom into a lordship, and remarkably continued into the first half of the 20th century as landed gentry of varying rank. Thus, the kings of Osraige form one of the oldest continuous dynasties in Western Europe. By 1541, the Mac Giolla Phádraig clan had adopted the surname Fitzpatrick, which is still in use today.


Main article: Osraige

Osraige was largely a buffer state between the provincial kingdoms of Leinster and Munster. It was bounded to the south by the rivers Suir and Barrow, though it originally extended to the sea and its rulers had some influence over the Norse kings of Waterford. In the north, it may have once stretched over the Slieve Bloom mountains and reached the River Shannon, but in the historic era it generally stayed to the south of these mountains, the boundary generally being the river Barrow.

In a clockwise direction (starting at 12:00) it was bordered by the kingdoms or lordships of Éile, Ui Duach, Loigis, Ui Drona, Uí Cheinnselaig, Desi Mumhain, and Eóganachta Caisel. Its main town and dynastic capital was Kilkenny. The name Osraige is said to be from the Usdaie, a tribe that Ptolemy's map of Ireland places in roughly the same area that Ossory would later occupy. Other tribes in the vicinity were the Brigantes and the Cauci. The Osraighe themselves claimed to be descended from the Érainn people. Modern day County Kilkenny and part of west County Laois comprise the core area of what was this kingdom.

Genealogy and Succession

A number of important royal Ossorian genealogies are preserved. Notably, is MS Rawlinson B502, tracing the medieval Mac Giolla Phádraig dynasty back through Óengus Osrithe, who supposedly flourished in the first or second century.[1][2] Another is a king list from the Book of Leinster (also known as "Lebor na Nuachongbála").[3][4] Recent analysis of ninth and tenth century regnal succession in Osraige has suggested that in peaceful times, kingship passed primarily from eldest to youngest brother, before crossing generations and passing to sons and nephews.[5]

Early Kings of Osraige

The following kings are listed in all major genealogies, but originate from an early period in Irish protohistory, and likely stem from oral tradition.[6]

Kings of Osraige to 1103

The following is a synchronism of the kings of Osraige from historic times until the death Gilla Patraic Ruadh in 1103, after which the kingdom experienced some political fracturing.[7]

Kings of Osraige from 1103 to the Norman Invasion

Upon the death of king Gilla Patráic Ruadh in 1103, two smaller portions of the kingdom broke away from the central polity of Osraige; the area of Mag Lacha in the far north of Osraige became independently ruled by the Ua Caellaide clan, and Desceart Osraige ("South Osraige") in the very southern area of Osraige, ruled intermittently by rival members of the Mac Giolla Phádraig clan.

Kings of Osraige from the Normans to the Tudors

The kingdom of Osraige did not fully disappear after the arrival of Norman mercenaries in Ireland, though it was greatly reduced in size. The lineage of Osraige's kings remained in power in the northern third of their original territory, having been pushed back through the arrival of William Marshal who sought to consolidate his wife's huge claim to Leinster, including Osraige. The lords who ruled this area were sometimes also known in the annals as "Princes of Ossory", kings of Upper Ossory, North Osraige or kings of Slieve Bloom. They maintained their independence from the Crown or any shire until the final submission of Barnaby McGillaPatrick in 1539 and his subsequent elevation to the title of 1st Baron Upper Ossory in 1541. However, because of the tumultuousness of the period, the record of succession is often ambiguous. The following list may include powerful members of different lines of the family, who may or may not necessarily have been inaugurated as king of Osraige per se, but who were likely recognized nonetheless as the de facto ruler or potential heir, and noteworthy enough for reference by the annalists.[16]

See also


  1. Genealogies from Rawlinson B 502; CELT:
  2. Digital images of Rawlinson B502 folios from Oxford Bodleian Library (Ossorian Genealogy is found on folio 70v):
  3. Book of Leinster, formerly Lebar na Núachongbála, online through CELT:
  4. Reges Ossairge ; 41 a (p. 191), found here:
  5. Early Irish Regnal Succession: A Case Study; by Jim Reid.
  7. From the Book of Leinster king lists and various Irish annals.
  8. According to the sources, Feredach Finn and his son Colmán were the last of a line of Corcu Loígde kings of Osraige. At the same time there were Osraige kings of Corcu Loígde. The two kingdoms appear to have been closely allied, however relations had spoiled causing the Osraige to kill Feradach. See FA4 (583)
  9. Medieval Ireland: An Encyclopedia (ed. Seán Duffy) Cerball mac Dúnlainge entry by Clare Downham:
  10. The Annals of Tigernach, T1003.3
  11. T1039.7
  12. T1119.5
  13. T1146.3
  14. T1168.2
  15. Annals of Loch Cé 1193.13, Four Masters 1194.6
  16. Carrigan, William (1905-01-01). The history and antiquities of the diocese of Ossory. Sealy, Bryers & Walker.
  17. Ware, Sir James (1809-01-01). Ancient Irish Histories: The Works of Spencer, Campion, Hanmer, and Marleburrough. Reprinted at the Hibernia Press.
  18. Annals of CLonmacnoise, 1249
  19. McFirbis's annals


External links

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