When one thinks of great kings, and more specifically of great kings of the early medieval period, there are a few names that almost immediately come to mind. Charlemagne is perhaps the first great medieval ruler one may mention. Alfred the Great would likely not be far behind. Both these men represented, for their respective peoples, what a great king should be. The early medieval period was a time of development in thought and in practice for the office of kingship, and the writings and actions of the men of this period would have a profound influence in the following centuries. Most nations can look back at the early medieval period and pick out at least one ruler that symbolized the ideal of kingship, and Ireland is no different. For early medieval Ireland, the king that stood as the ideal was Brian Boru. This thesis will be examining Brian as a model of early medieval kingship. My argument is that Brian's kingship not only represented the ideal of kingship in a comparable manner to Charlemagne and Alfred, but also blended traditional Irish kingship with models of kingship from the rest of Europe that altered the concept of the High King of Ireland. To do this, this thesis will be examining Brian within three regions of Europe, each receiving its own chapter, and how he fits into the respective ideals of kingship for each region. The three regions utilized by this thesis are Ireland, Frankia and England, and Scandinavia. Through this, this thesis will argue of the similarities between the kings of these regions regarding what caused them to be seen as great kings and models of kingship, and how Brian's own kingship fits into the criteria. This research will serve as an analysis of the concept of early medieval kingship outside of the traditional areas of study, comparing them and examining how each influenced the other, using Brian as the lens of focus.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Whittington, Kody, "The Ideal King: Brian Boru and the Medieval European Concept of Kingship" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6735.