Aoife, daughter of Mor O’Toole and Dermot, King of Leinster, was, at fourteen, a beautiful girl. Though she had an older sister, it was the pretty blond child who was taken with her parents to meet Henry II in Aquataine in 1167.
Dermot McMurrough was looking for help from Henry, then King of England, Duke of Normandy, Anjou and Aquitaine, whose realm stretched from the Pyrenees to the borders of Scotland. The Angevin King gave permission to his vassal Richard Fitzgilbert de Clare to assist Dermot in his struggle in Leinster. Part of the deal was that the widower Richard (Strongbow) should not only have the Irish King’s daughter Aoife in marriage, but the kingship of Leinster on Dermot’s death.
Though there was much that was dubious about this arrangement, so it came to pass. Aoife was married to the fifty-year old Strongbow in Waterford in 1170, thus starting a dynasty which ran mainly on the distaff side for several generations. Aoife bore two children before the death of her husband: Gilbert – who died as a baby – and Isabel who became the heiress of her parents’ large estates. She made a ward of the Crown at four and a half years old.
The illustrious William Marshal won her as his wife when she was eighteen. Through her, he became Earl of Pembroke and Lord of Leinster. What her feelings were about being married off to a middle aged warrior, however famous, are not known. However, they became a most loving couple and she bore him at least ten children, five sons and five daughters. Ownership of Leinster fell to his daughters.