by Steve Flanders
John de Courcy personified the classic image of the Anglo-Norman Knight. This tall, fair man with a strong physique and bold temperament led his men from the front and skilfully conquered a new kingdom, echoing the spirit of William the Conqueror a century before. From noble birth, but with bleak prospects of inheritance, John fought his way to the notice of King Henry II who is said to have laughingly granted him Ulster “provided he could conquer it by force”. John seized his opportunity in February 1177, leading a small band of fellow knights north from the Dublin garrison to a stunning victory against King Rory MacDunlevy at the Battle of Downpatrick. Following his success he set about establishing a new Norman lordship across Ulster, centred on his magnificent castle at Carrickfergus. His eventual demise at the hands of a devious King John brought to a close a tale of medieval adventure still surrounded by myth and legend. John de Courcy carved out his own kingdom and made himself a Prince. This is his story.