Sitric Silkenbeard was a Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin. His father, Amlaíb Cuarán (d.981), was of Viking ancestry while his mother, Gormlaith (d.1030), was Irish and belonged to the ruling dynasty of Leinster. Sitric probably became king of Dublin in 989 and though there were several interruptions, he enjoyed a very long reign until he abdicated in 1036. The Annals tell us that he died in 1042.

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Conflict in the Dublin Region

Sitric was in regular conflict with various Irish kings in the region. Soon after he came to power, the Uí Néill high-king, Máel Sechnaill, laid seige to Dublin and Sitric was forced to submit to him and pay a huge tribute.

Did you know?  Having control over Dublin and access to its resources and ships, was crucial for an Irish king intent on dominating the whole island.

In the year 999 Brian Boru led his forces north and at the critical battle of Glenn Máma, near Dublin, he defeated Sitric and the Leinster king Máel Mórda. (Máel Mórda was Gormlaith's brother, and therefore Sitric's uncle.) Sitric fled the city only to return soon after and receive the kingship of Dublin again in exchange for his submission to Brian Boru as his new overlord.

Sitric in Clontarf

Over the coming years Sitric and his Dublin forces would often take part in Brian Boru's many military campaigns around Ireland. But in 1013 Sitric and Máel Mórda rebelled against Brian Boru and this led to the Battle of Clontarf the following spring. Some sources say that Sitric remained within Dublin watching from the battlements as the battle raged to the north of the settlement.

Sitric, unlike Máel Mórda, certainly survived the battle. He issued coins in his name, several examples of which have survived.

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Certainly a Christian, after abdicating his throne, Sitric went on a pilgrimage to Rome and has been associated with the establishment of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.

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Robert Cook, intro. and trans., Njal’s saga (London, 2001).

Lars Lönnroth, Njal’s saga: A Critical Introduction (Berkley,1976).

Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson, intro. and trans., Njal’s saga (Harmondstown, 1960).

Harold Mytum, 'The Vikings and Ireland: Ethnicity, Identity, and Culture Change' in James H. Barrett (ed), Contact, Continuity and Collapse: The Norse Colonization of the North Atlantic (Turnhout, 2003), pp 113-137.

Donnchadh Ó Corráin, 'Viking Ireland: Afterthoughts' in Howard B Clarke, Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, and Ragnall O’Floinn (eds), Ireland and Scandinavia in the Early Viking Age (Dublin, 1998), pp 421-452. 

Brian Ó Cuív, 'Personal Names as an Indicator of Relations Between Native Irish and Settlers in Viking Period' In John Bradley (ed), Settlement and Society in Medieval Ireland: Studies presented to F.X. Martin, O.S.A. (Kilkenny,1988), pp. 79-88. 

James Henthorn Todd, ed, intro. and trans., Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh = The war of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, or, The invasions of Ireland by the Danes and other Norsemen (London, 1867).

One of the earliest surviving coins from Dublin is engraved with Sitric's name and his title as 'King of Dublin'.