Ancient Irish Hierarchy

In the ancient times, during the government by kings; the country was divided into various territorial sub divisions. The whole county was divided into five provinces such as Leinster, East Munster, West Munster, Connaught and Ulster. With the course of time, the divisions modified.

The two Munsters, East and West gradually ceased and Munster was regarded as a single province. With the course of time, a new province called Meath was also formed in the second century of the Christian era by Tuathal the Acceptable, the king of Ireland. Now that we have got a brief description of the ancient times of Ireland, we will start our journey of discussing the ancient Irish hierarchy or the social structure that was prevalent at that time.

There were generally five classes of people, which structured the society. The classes were:

  • Kings of several grades
  • Nobles, which also included kings
  • Non-noble freeman with property
  • Non-noble freeman without property
  • Non-free classes

The first three classes such as the kings, nobles and the Non-noble freeman with property were considered as the privileged classes.

Ancient Irish Hierarchy
Ancient Irish Hierarchy


  • The government of the whole country as well as of each division and the sub division were in the hands of the king or the chief.
  • The usual name for a king in the ancient times was righ. A queen was called as rioghan.
  • In the earlier days, there used to be an over king, who was considered as a distinguished king all over the Ireland. But, consequently after the death of the last over King Roderick O’Conor, the supreme monarchs depleted and the provinces and the smaller kingdoms were ruled by the native kings separately.
  • There existed a king over each of the five provinces and this particular system was known as Pentarchy.


  • The Nobles were the people who have their own properties and who did not have to pay any rent for them.
  • They were the owners of the lands.

Non-Noble Freeman With Property

  • These classes of people have no land property of their own. Their property only consisted of cattle and they took land for rent from the Nobles.
  • They were called as Boaire.
  • As in the case of Nobles, there were also several classes of Boaires depending upon the amount of property that they owned.

Non-Noble Freeman Without Property

  • These classes of people were also called as free tenants.
  • They didn’t have any of the property of their own.

Non-Free Classes

  • All the above classes of the ancient Irish hierarchy that we have discussed belonged to the category of Freemen.
  • The non-free people were the people who did not possess the rights as that possessed by the free people without property.
  • Some people of this class also worked as salves for the nobles.

As a conclusion, it can be said that the first three classes of the ancient Irish hierarchy were namely the kings, nobles and the non-noble freemen. The people belonging to these classes served as administrative members of the law.

Know more about Irish Political Hierarchy Click here