A Storm Blows and Europe Changes: An Experiment With Enhanced Butterflies in 1170 Ireland

Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke was sailing to Ireland to claim the Overlordship of the Kingdom of Leinster granted to him by his Majesty, Henry II. That Henry II did not own Leinster to portion out was irrelevant to Richard's mind. He intended to seize the Norse-Gaelic port towns of Dublin and Waterford to secure his supply lines back to England and then join forces with Darmait Mac Murchada to march on the forces of Ruadri Ua Conchobair, High King of Ireland.

His mind was filled with thoughts of Grand Battles to decide the fate of his overlordship of Leinster, where he'd bring the light of civilization to the backward Irish who seemed stuck in the ways of the last century. He would go from a Count with a Marcher Lordship, to the Overlord of a kingdom all in 1 fell swoop. True it was an Irish Kingdom, which was little better than 1 of the numerous small German or Italian Duchies on the continent, even if much less developed, but prestige was prestige.

He was so enraptured with his thoughts of conquest and elevated standing that he almost didn't hear the Captain of his ship call out to him. The man was usually more composed than he was acting, dashing forth from his spot on the aft deck of the cog they were sailing on.

"Milord! A storm's coming, get below deck!" Shouted the Captain.

Richard de Clare looked up and frowned. The sky was painted a deep crimson from the sunrise, a very lovely picture. He'd have thought a storm would bring black clouds.

"Are you certain? I see naught but the sunrise." He asked.

"Aye, milord. Red sky at night, Sailor's delight. Red sky at morn, Sailors be warned. A storm'll hit us before the day is through, milord, mark my words. From the looks of the sky, it'll be a bad 1 too." Affirmed the Captain.

"Hmm. I will get below decks when it is time. I refuse to cower in the face of a potential storm." Intoned Richard de Clare.

Indeed, 6 hours into their journey, the red sky turned to blue, then gray, then a stormy black as the waters grew troubled and choppy. Thunder rolled and snarled as the rain came down in sheets as thick as lead. Richard de Clare abandoned his position on the deck of his transport for the safety of his cabin. Unfortunately, it would not avail him of safety.

Just after noon, on the 23rd of August, 1170, some 75 nautical miles off the coast from Waterford, a freak storm stirred up out of the west and ravaged Richard de Clare's invasion fleet. 21 military cogs had set sail from Milford Haven, bearing 200 knights, 400 men at arms, and 2,000 soldiers. After the storm, only 2 cogs managed to limp to the Irish coast near Waterford and disgorge 210 soldiers and 10 knights with very few supplies.

This force was soundly defeated by a force of 100 mounted men at arms and 250 soldiers led by Ragnall Mac Gilla Muire, Norse-Gaelic Lord of Waterford as they attempted to make camp that evening. The cogs, arms, and what little supplies they came with were seized and the survivors captured. Richard de Clare was not among them.

His body would be found washed up on a beach near Tramore Bay a few days later. . .


With the large number of reinforcements from England not having arrived, Darmait and his Norman allies held a war council on what to do next in the weeks after his death. Ruadri had an overwhelming superiority in numbers and with arms and equipment seized from what stores that the survivors of Richard de Clare's fleet managed to limp ashore, a higher proportion would be better equipped than the rabble they had fought at Wexford last year. All told, they had only 2,100 men under their command, only 200 of which were men at arms, 100 were knights and 1,000 were proper soldiers. The rest were levied peasants, archers, and other less well-drilled or equipped troops.

"Our scouts have reported back. Ruadri's army has merged with that of Ragnall Mac Gilla Muire's Waterford Troops and Ascall meic Torcaill's Dubliners. They've assembled at Tulach Mhor and are preparing an invasion of Leinster." Noted Maurice de Prendergast, Leader of a sizable contingent of the Norman Forces.

"How many men do they have?" Questioned Darmait.

"The scouts report 2,100 in the Dubliner contingent, 1,900 in the Waterford Contingent, and 6,000 under Ruadri. Normally, I wouldn't be concerned about the sort of rabble that usually passes for soldiers in these lands, but the Dublin contingent has a suspiciously high proportion of well-armed and well-drilled troops. 750 of their men seem to be as well drilled and well equipped as the soldiers that Richard was supposed to bring over, 200 look to be similar enough to our men at arms to be concerning, and 50 look to be on the level of our knights." Frowned de Prendergast.

"It could be that our raids into Dublin in spring last year spooked meic Torcaill into using the time since to drill and equip his forces. While we were raiding Osraige, it seems meic Torcaill has been preparing for a fight. I wonder where he got the money?" Queried Robert FitzStephen, another of Darmait's main Norman Allies.

"Does it matter? It's bad news either way. What of Waterford and Ruadri's forces?" Pressed Darmait.

"Waterford has a better margin for us. 460 soldiers, 10 knights, and 120 men at arms. The rest are more of the usual lightly equipped and drilled rabble. Militia, archers, levies, and kerns, you know the sort. Ruadri's contingent appears to both be the strongest and the weakest at the same time. He has 6,000 men, but only 750 of those are soldiers with another 350 men at arms and 100 knights. That's only a little over a sixth of his forces drilled and equipped to a reasonable standard, but is also more than any of the other 2 have." Summarized de Prendergast.

"They could crush us with just their well-equipped troops, perchance we should attempt to negotiate?" Suggested FitzStephen.

"Mayhaps we should. Without Richard's reinforcements, we seem quite outnumbered." Agreed de Prendergast.

"We cannot negotiate. Ruadri will not consent to it. Not now when he has victory close at hand. Not when meic Torcaill and Gilla Muire have vengeance on their minds after we raided the hinterlands of their territories. We must fight." Insisted Darmait.

"You must fight, you mean. Robert and I could simply sail back to England. No, we've gained a decent amount of plunder in the past year and a half, and with Richard dead, this whole enterprise has shifted into dubious legality on our end. We can simply take our troops and leave as rich men." Shot back de Prendergast.

"The legality of this enterprise was dubious from the start. I had a letter last night from your king, Henry. He says he gave no explicit approval for this adventure from the start and wishes the two of you returned to England to answer charges of insolence, negligence, and treason. No, my lords, for better or worse, your fortunes are tied with mine." Revealed Darmait, producing a parchment with the seal of Henry II stamped on it in red wax.

The 2 Norman lords looked at the parchment, then at each other, before turning back to Darmait.

"It seems we have a choice then. Kings in Ireland or criminals in England, I choose the former." Ground out de Prendergast.

"Indeed. Let's not wait for them to attack, either. We should march to Tulach Mhor while they are still preparing for their invasion. If we catch them by surprise, it may be our only shot at victory." Affirmed FitzStephen.

"Then it is settled. We march to Tulach Mhor! Summon the troops, I wish to be on the move by tomorrow!" Ordered Darmait.

Sink or swim, the fates of them all, and Ireland itself would be decided on the field of Tulach Mhor. . .


AN: Just a little something that's been on the back burner for a while. The basic premise is what if instead of Ireland going full Anglo-Norman after Richard de Clare landed and took Waterford and Dublin, instead the Normans were defeated. How would that change history? If it did change history, could those changes cause butterflies that would utterly change Europe down the line?

Here the main POD is that a storm sunk most of de Clare's invasion force. There are some smaller PODs, like Dublin deciding to get real serious about the Normans after they raided the hinterlands of Dublin in 1169. How they did so will be revealed in the future, but suffice it to say, it involves the Earl of Orkney, Ascall meic Torcaill's eldest son Godraidh, and a wedding.

IOTL, the Earl of Orkney was friends with Ascall, so I don't think a bunch of military aid as a dowry is all that unreasonable.

As for Henry II's missive, de Clare's invasion actually wasn't sanctioned IRL because Henry had found out that Darmait, de Prendergast, and FitzStephen had gone back on their word to Ruadri the year prior and raided Osraige. He didn't want to drag England into a war in Ireland when he had other issues to deal with, such as the Welsh managing to push back against English conquests in Wales. However IOTL, the Normans were winning, so he was content to let them go.

That isn't the case ITTL.

At any rate, the next chapter will be the battle of Tulach Mhor, which is the site of modern Tullamore in Ireland. I'm not sure how often I'll write for this though.
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