The Red Wedding in Game of Thrones was perhaps some of the most shocking tv this year. Killing off several central characters with that level of brutality was always going to cause controversy. Brutal as it was though, if you’ve listened to the podcast series you’ll know medieval Irish history can match this. While its not a wedding the following is one historical event which can more or less match the Red Wedding in terms of brutality and treachery.
In the early 14th century the Anglo-Norman Lords Piers de Bermingham and John Fitzthomas were engaged in an increasingly bitter conflict against some of the Gaelic Irish families in the midlands. They did however maintain relatively good relations with the O’Connors one of the leading families in the region. De Bermingham strengthened these ties with personal connections acting as godfather to Masir O’Connor. In this context when de Bermingham invited the ruling elite of the O’Connors to his castle for a feast in 1305 there was little to fear.
However in an act not fully understood de Bermingham without warning turned on the O’Connors. Perhaps fearing he could no longer rely on their support he massacred his guests at the feast. In an act of particular barbarity, he had his godson Masir thrown from the battlements of the castle. His wife also participated in the massacre. According to the Annals of Inisfallen she ‘used to give warning from the top of the castle of any who went into hiding‘.
Unsurprisingly de Bermingham became one of the most hated figures in Gaelic Ireland, being cited in the famous remonstrance which was a complaint to the pope in 1317. Alternatively he was seen in quite different terms by the Anglo-Norman authorities. One obituary described him as the ‘noble tamer of the Irish‘. Incidentally the massacre had little effect in pacifying the midlands as the annals of Inisfallen reflected the mood in the following years ‘woe to the Gaedel who puts trust in a king’s peace or in foreigners after that’