Early Irish Kingship and Succession
By Bart Jaski
Early medieval Ireland was ruled by a large number of lords, kings, and overkings. In a complicated network of affiliations, the Irish kings and the dynasties to which they belonged played a never-ending game of prevail or perish. Most kings had to deal with jealous relatives, unruly sons, dissatisfied noblemen, and ambitious overkings. On the sideline, clerics and poets were keeping a critical eye on their rule. On the basis of a wide range of written sources (laws, sagas, poetry, annals, genealogy, hagiography), Early Irish Kingship and Succession - now available in paperback - provides new insights about the place of lords and kings in early Irish society. The book analyzes the relationship with their subjects, by which means they ruled, and their strategies of survival in a competitive society. This is set in a context of the early Irish ideology of rulership, which combined Celtic ideas about sacral kingship with Christian concepts about proper behavior and heavenly punishment. A lord or king had to be qualified for his office. Considerations - such as descent, seniority, dignity, wealth, supporters, and physical and mental capacities - were all taken into account when a new lord or king was chosen. This study re-evaluates the rule of succession, its origins, and its expression in narrative literature, and it examines the meaning of the kingship of Tara and the titles rigdamna and tanaise rig. It sketches the background of the medieval Irish polity, with its expanding and fragmenting dynasties, and it explains why none ever gained permanent rule over the whole island.
Publication Date: 6/30/2013