Ireland’s High Kings – Conn of the Hundred Battles

Tara Stone - attribution - Verdasuno at the English language WikipediaIn the medieval age, each of Ireland’s High Kings enjoyed the ultimate in status and power.

As a king who ruled over other kings, this type of regent (who was installed during a ceremony at the Hill of Tara, as shown at left), needed special skills in order to win (and continue winning) his own “game of thrones”.

For example, in order to attain and hold such a lofty position, an Irish High King generally needed to adopt the most ruthless methods. After all, in the bloodthirsty Early Medieval Age, power could be (and usually was) seized by force alone.

High Kings, such as the legendary Conn of the Hundred Battles, were not averse to doing whatever it took – including murder, in order to ascend the throne and remain ensconced there.

If you’re fascinated by tales of the Emerald Isle’s brave and hardened High Kings, you’ll enjoy learning more about Conn Cétchathach (Conn of the Hundred Battles) and his legacy…

According to legend, Conn was an ancestor of the Connachta, who hailed from the Connacht province of Ireland. Conn and his descendants went on to become dominant forces within the Emerald Isle during the Middle Ages.

Irish Histories often Take on Supernatural Elements

Like most historical accounts of the time period, Conn of the Hundred Battle’s story is embroidered with magical elements. For example, according to the ancient tome, the Annals of the Four Masters, five roads to Tara appeared, out of thin air, on the evening that Conn was born.

In order to ascend the throne and become High King, he killed the reigning High King, Cathair Mor, in cold blood.

This act of vicious power-mongering was then excused, as a coronation stone at Tara roared when Conn trod upon it. According to the old myths, this was the first time the stone roared, since Irish hero Cuchilainn cracked it with his sword (Cuchilainn did this because the stone failed to roar for another High King, Lugaid Raib nDerg).

Following the roar of this supernatural stone, Conn was treated to a plethora of dazzling visions, including dreamy mists, a horseman and a lady sporting a golden circlet. At the end of this series of visions. Conn was told the duration of his reign, and then the names of the High Kings who were destined to follow in his stead.

Conn Enjoyed a Very Long Reign

Conn of the Hundred Battles reigned for as many as fifty years, or as little as twenty (accounts vary). For much of his reign, he warred with the King of Munster, Mug Nuadat. Treaties were eventually made, but, inevitably, new battles needed to be fought, and Conn was typically victorious. The hundred battles that this renowned Irish High King won, including the pivotal Battle of Cnucha, earned him his nickname.

Con sired two sons, Connla and Art. Connla became smitten with a fairy lady who hailed from Mag Mell, and then disappeared with her, into the otherworld. He and his fairy bride travelled to this mystical land while riding in a crystal ship.

All High Kings eventually fell, through misfortune or death. Although the myths paint them as near-immortals, they were, in the end, all too human. Conn died by another’s hand, which was a fitting end, in light of how he rose to power.

Felled by the minions of Tipraite Tirech, the High King of the Ulaid, Conn was tricked and led into disaster. These emissaries dressed as women in order to carry out their murderous plot. Conn’s son, Art, rose to the throne when his father was murdered.

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