How Ancient Irish People were Governed

Jeannette Holland Austin
4 min readJun 7, 2022

Did you ever wonder why so many Irish came to America even before the 1844 famine? Here is a bit of information about how they were ruled over by their kings and masters.

Anciently, kings were of various grades, according to the extent of the country or district they ruled over. The highest of all was the king of Ireland, who lived in the royal palace at Tara. He was called the Ard-ri [ard-ree], i.e., ‘High king’ or Over-king, because he claimed authority over all the others. There was also a king over each of the five provinces — Leinster, Munster, Connaught, Ulster, and Meath — who were subject to the Ard-ri. The provinces were divided into a number of territories, over which were kings of a still lower grade, each under the king of his own province. If the district was not large enough to have a king, it was ruled by a chief, who was subject to the king of the larger territory in which the district was included.

“The king was always chosen from one particular ruling family; and when a king died, those chiefs who had votes held a meeting, lasting for three days and three nights, at which they elected whatever member of that family they considered the wisest, best, and bravest. After this a day was fixed for inaugurating the new king, a ceremony corresponding in some respects with the crowning of our present monarchs. This Inauguration, or ‘making’ of a king as it is called in Irish, was a great affair, and was attended by all the leading people, both clergymen and laymen. There was always one particular spot for the ceremony, on which usually stood a high mound or fort, with an ‘Inauguration Stone’ on top, and often a great branching old tree, under the shade of which the main proceedings were carried on.”

“The new king, standing on the Inauguration Stone, swore a solemn oath in the hearing of all, that he would govern his people with strict justice, and that he would observe the laws of the land, and maintain the old customs of the tribe or kingdom. Then he put by his sword; and one of the chiefs, whose special office it was, put into his hand a long, straight, white wand. This was to signify that he was to govern, not by violence or harshness, but by justice, and that his decisions were to be straight and stainless like the wand. Several other forms had to be gone through till the ceremony was completed; and he was then the lawful king.”

The old Irish kings lived in palaces great style, especially those of the higher ranks, and kept numbers of…

Jeannette Holland Austin

Author of 100+ genealogy books. Owner of 8 genealogy websites available by subscription.