John De Courcy (c.1150 - 1219):
Conqueror of Ulster
John de Courcy served under Henry II and came to Ireland after Strongbow's death. He moved northwards and seized Downpatrick, and despite attempts to remove him by troops raised under MacDunlevy, de Courcy stood his ground. He allotted portions of Down and Antrim to his followers. Gerald of Wales describes him as being 'of fair complexion' with large, strong limbs. De Courcy married Affreca, daughter of the King of Man and the Isles. She founded many religious establishments, among them for the Cistercian monks, Grey Abbey, County Down. King John would have taken de Courcy prisoner, but he managed to hold his possessions when he defeated the king's forces at Down in 1204. Eventually he was committed to the Tower of London, and it is said that he was sent from there to champion King John in single combat. This he did successfully, and the king restored him to his estates, and to the privilege of standing covered in the royal presence. Apparently he tried to land in Ireland, but was prevented fifteen times by storms, so he retired to France, where he died.