Cennétig The Ambition of an Irish King

When we think of medieval times, we think of Camelot and long dresses, fairs and some established movies and series. But, what about Ireland?

The Meaning Of Medieval

Cennétig the ambition of an Irish king ready to sacrifice everything for a glimpse of ultimate power. However, his campaign must start somewhere and we must understand it to follow his life.

Medieval Times is equivalent to saying Middle Ages. The medieval period was a long one in the history of Europe. It dates back to the sixth century AD (500s) to the sixteenth century (the 1500s) AD.

A millennium that continues to inspire artists of all ages and kinds, but how? The Middle Ages is determined by the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Ottoman Empire.

What About The Dark Ages

The Dark Ages is tied to the beginning of the Middle Ages, located in western Europe. Some might prefer specific dates such as 476 to 800 *CE. That historic period marks a time where there was no “Holy Roman” emperor in the western world.

Another way to pinpoint the Dark Ages was 500 to 1000, when warfare was higher than ever in Europe. The disappearance of regular life occurred to make space for a hierarchy. It determined the period of “barbary” found in Huns, Goths, Vandals, Bulgars, Alani, Suebi, and Franks.

Goths People
Goths People

However, while not too long-ago historians used the term Dark Ages to pinpoint a specific era, now it’s frowned upon. Due to the term being quite condemnatory to entire civilizations, Dark Ages is now falling into oblivion.

The term’s usage was synonymous with a period in time that reflects much darkness, stagnation, and barbarity.

Ireland In The Middle Ages

Ireland had royalty divided into kingdoms in the early Middle Ages, not unlike England. One of its ambitious kings was Cennétig mac Lorcáin of the Dál gCais or Dalcassians. He was also the king of Tuadhmhumhain.

The kingdom of Tuadhmhumhain is of Gaelic Ireland and called, Kingdom of Limerick. Limerick was the homeland’s heart of the Dál gCais people who resided near, like the Norse Limerick.

Kingdoms of Ireland - 900s
Kingdoms of Ireland – 900s

It resulted from a collapse in the twelfth century of the Kingdom of Munster rivaling the Ó Briain and the Mac Cárthaigh.

Cennétig mac Lorcáin raised a powerful dynasty and challenged the throne for Munster itself. The high king fathered the iconic Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland, in the year 1002.

A Life Of Fortunate Events

Lorcáin mac Lachtna was Cennétig’s father who ruled over the Dál gCais. Cennétig’s family branch belonged to the house of Uí Thairdhealbhach, which had little relation to the Uí Bhloid. The Uí Bhloid house reigned over the Dál gCais and the Uí Oengusso.

In 934 AD, Cennétig’s father was the first of his house, the Uí Thairdhealbhach, to become king following Rebeachan Mac Mothla. Lorcáin, Cennétig’s father, ruled over the Dál gCais and Abbot of Tuam Greine.

Middle Ages Crown

The queen was the daughter of King Urchadh mac Murchadh of Iar Connacht. Queen Beibhinn married Cennétig as a political arrangement as it was custom. Cennétig went on to have several wives, but the only one cited by name is Beibhinn.

Cennétig Versus Cellachán

Cennétig was a lower king in the hierarchy, and ruling over the Dál gCais had him lead his army exterior to his jurisdiction. He led pillages alongside the River Shannon as far south as Athlone.

In the mid-tenth century, Cennétig launched a series of wars targeting the Munster royal dynasty, the Eóganachta. Cennétig desired the crown for himself. To solidify his plan, Cennétig left nothing to chance.


The wannabe High King went as far as marrying his daughter, Orlaith, to the High King Donnchad Donn to create an alliance. The agreement was between the Dál gCais and the Uí Neill to come together against Cellachán Caisil, the King of Munster at the time.

In 944, two sons of Cennétig lost their lives in Mag Dúin at the Battle of Gort Rotacháin. Dub and Finn lost their lives for their father’s desire to rule over Munster. Cennétig lost to King Cellachán. However, in An Leabhar Muimhneach or The Book of Munster, the king wrote that Cennétig won in Saingleann or Singland, Limerick.

It’s The Munster Mash

Cennétig was restless when it came to Munster. In the 950s, Cennétig went after the High King Congalach Cnogba. Sadly, the Dál gCais King lost again two sons, Donncuan and Echthighern.


However, the conflict didn’t stop, and Congalach marched against Cennétig with Leth Cuinn’s fleet at his side belonging to the northern half of Ireland.

Congalach pillaged along the River Shannon to mark his determination that a portion belonged to Cennétig.

The Bloodline Of An Irish High-ish King

Father to many children from different wives, Cennétig secured his bloodline. Eleven to twelve sons seem quite a pool of heirs to choose from. However, only five of those sons locked a legacy, Brian, Mathgamain, Donncuan, Echthighern, and Anlón. Opposed to them were seven sons who did not secure a descendant, Lachtna, Finn, Dub, Marcán, Flann, Conchobar and an unknown one.

Medieval Castle
Medieval Castle

Órlaith, Cennétig’s only daughter—or so it is written, was offered in marriage to the High King Donnchad Donn. However, the poor queen suffered execution in the year 941 by order of her husband. The High King ordered her death after accusations of adultery between her and her stepson, Óengus.

The High King chose death over repudiation showing that Cennétig wasn’t as high of a king he thought he was. On the other hand, the successfully arranged marriage proves Cennétig was levelling up in nobility.

Munster Kneeled Before Brian Boru

Lachtna succeeded his father Cennétig but died in the year 953 at the hands of Uí Chearnaigh and Uí Floinn. His brother, Mathgamain, took his place.

Brian Boru High King Of Ireland
Brian Boru High King Of Ireland

Killed in 976, Mathgamain left the throne to the last remaining son of Cennétig, Brian Boru. Brian took over the throne over the Dál gCais and would defeat Eóganacht to become the High King of Ireland.

Forgotten sons of Queen Beibhinn, Marcán and Inis Cealtra show in the records and stayed by Brian’s side until his death.

The Death of A High-ish King

Cennétig took his last breath in 951. Remembered as nothing more than the Dál gCais King by the Chronicon ScotorumUlster’s Annals also remembers him as “rí Tuathmumam” or King of Thomund.” Meanwhile, the Annals of Inisfallen refers to him as a potential candidate to the Munster kingship with the title of “rídamna Cassil.”


His death is not a perfect record. Nobody knows who slain Cennétig or if it is the truth. The books of Cogad Gáedel re GallaibThe War of the Irish with the Foreigners and the book of Leinster do state that Cennétig was slain.

It is not far-fetched to believe Cennétig died at the hands of the Vikings of Limerick or that they played a part in his death.

A Historical Conclusion

It is hard sometimes to untangle the lives of those who lived far in the past. Some places are even harder to research and understand.

Cennétig wanted more than anything to become the High King of his people and Munster. He went as far as sacrificing his daughter and at least four sons.


Back then, life was different, but ambitions remained the same. The human race didn’t grow out of desiring power overall. We still see people fighting to remain in control of a country or corporation to this day.

In the end, Cennétig is not that different from other ambitious people today.

The OCD Android
Lexie Wayne

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