Medieval Kings in Ireland

Society has always been fascinated with the lives of great Kings. What makes them so great? How were they raised and how did the keep their kingdom? What kings are spoken about in legendary Irish texts and do we still find them great by today's standards? All of these questions and more will be answered in this section about kings in medieval ireland. The word for a king in medieval Ireland is Rí because a king exerts (riges) the power of correction over the members of his túath. This definition is found in the Crith Gablach, an ancient Irish Law code text translated by Eoin MacNeill called Ancient Irish Law: The Law of Status or Franchise (Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 1923) which describes the worth of a king and how laws applied to him in medieval Ireland. This text also describes the three classes of king where each class is based on who they rule over; see Rí ruriech, Rí túath, and Rí túaithe in our Glossary of Terms page for a more precise definition.

Please feel free to roam through our subpages listed below:

Becoming a king

Raising a king

Types of Kings

The Value of a king

Táin Bó Cúailnge

Losing a throne

Facts about kings and archaelogical artifacts:
Kings of Medieval Ireland did not wear crowns, but instead wore torques around their necks. Here is a torque dated to the early first century B.C. found in Ireland, and is an example of what a torque symbolizing the status of a king would have looked like. Citation for this image comes from Boltin, Lee (ed.) 1977. Treasures of Early Irish Art, 1500 B.C. to 1500 A.D.: From the Collections of the National Museum of Ireland, Royal Irish Academy, Trinity College, Dublin. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. This image was found on the website here.


This image is of the Tara broach, which was found on the sea coast of Meath and not actually in Tara. It has been dated to the eight century, and based on its elaborate design may have adorned the garments of a person from the noble class, or even a king. This image was found on the website here.