The ancestors of Strongbow were descended from the Dukes of Normandy; and came to England with William the Conqueror. They were lords of Clare, in Suffolk, from which they took the name of De Clare; and were created earls of Pembroke, in Wales, Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, being a famous archer, was designated De Arcu Forti, which signifies “Of the Strong Bow;” and his son Richard also bore that name, and the titles of Earl of Pembroke, Strigul, and Chepstow. Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, is described by Giraldus Cambrensis [1] the private secretary of King John, as follows:—

“Earl Strongbow was of a sanguine complexion, freckled in the face, his eyes grey, and features feminine, his voice not strong, neck slender, in stature tall and well-formed. courteous and gentle in manners; what he could not compass by deeds, he would win by good words and gentle speeches; in time of peace he was more ready to yield and obey, than to rule and command; out of the camp he was more like a soldier-companion than a captain; but in the camp and in war, he carried with him the state and countenance of a valiant captain. Of himself he was slow to adventure anything; but being advised and set on, he refused no attempts. In all chances of war, he was still one and the same manner of man, being neither dismayed by adversity, nor puffed up with prosperity.”

Strongbow, as already mentioned, was invited to Ireland by Dermod MacMorough, King of Leinster; who gave him his daughter Eva in marriage, at Waterford, A.D. 1171, with the reversion of the whole Kingdom of Leinster after Dermod’s death. By his wife, Eva, Strongbow had an only daughter, Isabel, who was married to William le Marechal, earl-marshal of England, afterwards Earl of Pembroke. Strongbow died at Dublin, of a mortification in his foot, in the month of May, 1176; and was buried in Christ Church, where his monument still remains. The descendants of the Anglo-Norman chiefs who came to Ireland with Strongbow, were known by the name of “Strongbownians;” some of whom are still among the principal families of the country.


[1] Giraldus Cambrensis: Gerald Barry was born in Pembrokeshire, and was a son of William de Barry, lord of “The Island of Barry,” Wales. Hence he was called “Gerald the Welshman,” or, in Latin, Giraldus Cambrensis. In the MS. Vol. E. 3. 10, in the Library of Trin. Coll., Dublin, there is an entry, stating that it was in 1177 Gerald Barry came into Ireland:

“A.D. 1177, Giraldus Cambrensis venit in Hiberniam, et tunc descripsit breviter cursus benæ Insulæ.”