What is the value of a king in Medieval Ireland? What is their function in society?
This page addresses these questions using the law codes and texts avaliable to portray exactly how important a king was to medieval society.

Function of a King
Sick Maintenance of a KingHonor-price of a KingKing's Household

Function of a King

The main function of a king is to defend his tuath from both internal and external problems. By doing so the king plays the role of a military leader and dispute settler.

The first is called Audacht Morainn, edited by Fergus Kelly (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies) and describes the advice Morann is sending to Feradach, a man who seeks to overthrown the current ruler and gain leadership of the land his noble family was executed in. Moran gives specific examples of what is expected of a good king and how a good king should make decisions.

Weekly duties- Sunday- drinking ale, Monday-judgement, Tuesday- playing chess, Wednesday- watching deer hounds at the chase, Thursday- society of his wife, Friday- horseracing, Saturday- judging cases
Pledges- king allowed to make 3 requistions on his tuatha- an assembly, a convention for enforcing authority, and hosting to the border

  • 3 pledges for king to bing to tuatha- hostings, government, treaty
  • 3 hostings for king to bind by pledge to tuatha- within the border inwardly to guard on an external hosting across it, to the bounds of the border to watch over proof and right that he may have battle or treaty, over the border against a tuath that evades him
  • 4 kinds of government he can pledge- common Irish law(Fenechais) which tuath adopts and king compacts, king enforces other 3 kinds, government after defeat in battle, after pestilence, and government of kings over other kings

Sick Maintenance of a King
Kings were given a certain sick-maintenance by the person who injured them depending on the severity of the injury incurred. Rule of nursing- The dire payable for the wound inflicted diminishes by nursing it and healing it. Kings are excluded from the rule of nursing, but the appropriate fee must still be paid. Concerning leeches the Supreme king would receive a grain of wheat, the Superior king a grain of rye, the king of single tribe a grain of siligo. Details about sick maintenance can be found in Bretha Crólige (Royal Irish Academy 1934- 1938) and Bretha Déin Chécht(Royal Irish Academy 1966). For more information the doctors who provided cure during sick maintenance please visit the hospitaller page here.
  • The blood-lying of a king- Twice seven cumals
  • Barring of procreation- For kings over other kings and kings of territories, three sets
  • Break king's bone- (away from home) 7 cumala, ( at home) equivalent of his dwelling and furniture
Supreme king
  • Wound on cheek- (size of grain of wheat) milch cow in silver,
  • Between the brows( size of 2 grains of wheat)- a cumal is due
  • Hollow of the temple( 1 grain of wheat)- unfree henchman armed with a corselet
  • Wound the face of the king- get 3 foreign herbs to help heal, and if not then 3 half ounces of silver are due. If the size of one grain, 5 seoit are due.
Superior king
  • Hollow of the temple(1 grain)- ounce of silver, milch cow, and 5 seoit
  • Between the brows(2 grain)- 2 milch cows,
  • Wound on cheek(2 grain)- 2 in-calf cows
  • Hollow of the temple(2 grain)- 4 milch cows
Tribal king
  • Wound in face(1 grain)- 6 scruples, half of 5 seoit
  • Between the brows(2 grain)- 6 scruples and milch cow
  • Wound on cheek(2 grain)- in-calf cow and 4 scruples
  • Hollow of the temple(2 grain)- 2 milch cows and samaisc

The Honor-price of a King
  • Master over kings(supreme)- 7 cumal for dire, 2 beeves and 2 bacon hogs for the 6 score of his company and 200 cakes. 1 year protection for him.
  • King of one tuath- 30 chattels for honorprice, 80 cakes, 1 month protection
  • King can lower dire if hit in back while fleeing from combat, down to a vassals dire

King's HouseholdDepending on the status of the king, they will receive more occupants in their household. They also must have enough money to support the large amount of people they are keeping. King higher dignity than tuath. The following details of can be found Crith Gablach in the text translated by Eoin MacNeill , Ancient Irish Law: Laws of Satus or Franchise (Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 1923).
Supreme king- twice 7 cumals honor because kings and tuatha are under his power, 30 men retinue in tuath, 700 elsewhere for correction among others.
Superior king-8 cumals, 24 men retinue in tuath, 12 in private, 15 cumals capital, 8 cows house custom.
Tribal king- 7 cumal honorprice, 12 men retinue in tuath, 9 in private, 10 person on sick maintenance, 12 cumal capital from lord and 6 cows for house custom
What king needs for house to show he is king- 4 guards- frontman, henchman, 2 sidesman and they are on the south side of king's house. Next are the vassals, then envoys, guest-companies, next poets, harpers, followed by flute players, horn players, jugglers in the south-east. On the other side in the north- man at arms and man of action to guard the door, next are free clients of the king, then hostages, the judge, followed by his wife, and finally the king.

  • month when accompanied by 3- judge and 2 in servitorship, during month of sowing
  • A man who is proper to make the kings food- man who makes capture in single combat by piercing other man's shield, man who takes other man alive in combat, man who kills a stag with one stroke, one who takes prisoner without aid, man who captures a champion in front of army so that he falls from one thrust.