High King of Ireland

The High Kings of Ireland (Irish: Ardrí na hÉireann [ˈaːɾˠd̪ˠˌɾʲiː n̪ˠə ˈheːɾʲən̪ˠ]) were sometimes historical and sometimes legendary figures who had, or who are claimed to have had, lordship over the whole of the island of Ireland.

High King of Ireland
StyleArdrí na hÉireann
Rí Érenn Uile
Imperator Scottorum
First monarchSláine mac Dela (mythical)
Last monarchRuaidrí Ua Conchobair
Formation1934 BC?
Abolition12th century AD
ResidenceHill of Tara
High kings were traditionally installed on the Hill of Tara. The Lia Fáil (pictured) shouted the rightful king's name when he placed his foot on it, according to tradition.

Medieval and early modern Irish literature portrays an almost unbroken sequence of High Kings, ruling from the Hill of Tara over a hierarchy of lesser kings, stretching back thousands of years. Modern historians believe this scheme is artificial, constructed in the 8th century from the various genealogical traditions of politically powerful groups, and intended to justify the status of those groups by projecting it back into the remote past.[1]

The concept of national kingship is first articulated in the 7th century, but only became a political reality in the Viking Age, and even then not a consistent one.[2][3][4] While the High Kings' degree of control varied, they never ruled Ireland as a politically unified state, as the High King was conceived of as an overlord exercising suzerainty over, and receiving tribute from, the independent kingdoms beneath him.[5]