Ireland has a rich history and the land was controlled by a number of tribes and Kingdoms at the time. This history, particularly history before the Norman conquest is not very well-recorded but is an interesting one nonetheless. That’s not to say Ireland wasn’t invaded before that, and the Viking invasions in the 8th to 11th centuries tend to stand out.
However much like India’s past, Ireland was divided between various rulers who did not exercise enough power to rule over all of Ireland. In Crusader Kings 2 you can choose from a multitude of Irish characters and dynasties. One of them and the most famous one is the Ua Neill Nogiallaich family which claims descent from Niall Noígíallach. Niall is better known in English as Neill of the Nine Hostages.
Here we will talk about the history of this legendary King, and his achievements.
Niall of the Nine Hostages is the first person recorded to be from this dynasty and is believed to be the most well-recorded ancestor of the various Ua Neill families. But even his history is vague and part of legend if not myth.
According to “Annals of the First Masters,” a chronicle of Irish history, Niall ruled from 379 AD till 405 AD when he died. A great number of anecdotes are associated with this man and we will explore his background. In Irish history he is considered to be one of the most well known Irish High Kings.
Niall’s father was Eochaid Mugmedon who is a legendary King of Ireland. Eochaid had two wives (Mongfind and Cairenn Chasdub) and Niall was born to the second. The rest of the four sons are born to Mongfind. These sons are Brion, Ailill, Fiachrae and Fergus.
The first wife, Mongfind, was jealous of Cairenn and mistreated her in a number of ways to ensure Cairenn does not give birth to a healthy child, or one at all.
Niall was born by Cairenn when she was fetching water but is abandoned in fear of Mongfind. He is rescued by a poet who raises him and Niall returns to release his mother from her bondage. Neill begins to be greatly admired among nobles and therefore Mongfind demands Eochaid decide a successor, hoping one or all of her sons will inherit the throne.
But Eochaid gives the task to a druid (druids like priests were highly respected by the Celtic Nations of which Ireland was a part then). A number of tests organized by this druid declare Niall the fittest to be King. Now there are different versions of what happened next and Irish history is erratic that way since there weren’t proper means for the dissemination of information and myth was mixed with reality.
But it is widely accepted that the issue of succession wasn’t resolved when King Eochaid died. Mongfind’s brother Crimthann seized Kingship but when he is in Scotland Mongfind’s sons seize control. Mongfind supports her sons and tries to poison her brother but she is forced to drink the poison herself too by her brother (who demands they both drink) after which both die.
Niall becomes the King of Ireland but his rule isn’t without trouble. His brothers declare themselves local Kings. Eventually his half-brothers, the sons of Mongfind themselves are at war. Brion rules Connacht and Fiachrae fights against him. Fiachre is captured and sent to Niall as prisoner but Fiachrae’s son refuses to yield and eventually kills Brion.
Niall releases Fiachrae at this point and he becomes King of Connacht and Niall’s confidant. Fiachrae then declares war on Munster, defeating Crimthann’s son who has declared himself King there. But Fichrae dies in the battle and the war between Connacht and Munster continues for many more years.
Niall himself is (believed to be by most sources) at war with the King of Leinster. Eochaid (not to be confused with Niall’s father) has a deep hatred for Niall and is his rival. The dispute begins when Niall’s poet refuses Eochaid hospitality. Peace is only declared after Eochaid is surrendered to Niall who attempts to have him assassinated. But Eochaid manages to kill all nine assassins with the chain he is tied with.
From here there are many fantastical events, particularly one account which claims Ua Niall leads an army to the Alps which has no relation to his rivalry with Eochaid whatsoever. But it is agreed by most sources that Niall dies at the hands of Eochaid. All sources agree that he was killed outside Ireland (probably in Roman Britain or Scotland) too.
Niall gained his epithet “of the Nine hostages” because he is said to have received five hostages from the five provinces of Ireland and one each from Scotland, Brittany, Frankia and Saxon lands.
A lot of Kings claim descent from Niall Noígíallach including the Kings of Ailech, Tir Eoghain and Tir Conaill. In Crusader Kings II you can’t play as Niall himself because he died during the 5th century and the games starting date is 769 AD. But you can definitely play as his descendents. Characters you can play as from this dynasty on the 769 AD start date include Chief Congalach of Meath, Chief Donnachad of West Meath, Chief Niall of Tir Eoghain and Chief Domnall of Tir Chonaill.
In 867 AD the signs of decline in this dynasty are evident and you can only play as two Ua Neill Irish chieftains. These are King Aed of Mide and Chief Mail Doraid of Tir Chonaill.