Aífe (Aoife, Eva)
What happened to Aífe after Strongbow's death is obscure. Most unusually, as a young widow whose husband had extensive estates in England, Wales, and Normandy, in addition to his acquisitions in Leinster, and whose marriage was now in the gift of King Henry II (qv), she was not remarried. For the duration of her life Aífe was entitled to the income of one-third of her husband's demesne estates; that she did enjoy them is evidenced by mentions of her on a number of occasions between 1176 and 1189 in English royal records, where she is styled ‘the Irish countess’ and ‘countess of Strigoil’. In 1183–4 she was granted an advance of £20 from the king to support herself in the Welsh march, suggesting that she was at that time residing in Chepstow castle. As the Welsh were attacking Glamorgan in that year, Chepstow may have been considered to be in danger of falling into Welsh hands. The payment suggests that she had responsibility for its defence: when a royal custodian was assigned to the castle from 1184 onwards, the annual sum allocated to him was £20. In 1185 a listing of the widows, minors, and heiresses in the gift of King Henry recorded ‘the Irish countess’ in enjoyment of demesne manors in Weston (Hertfordshire) and Chesterford (Essex). Styled comitissa Hibernensis, Aífe issued a charter in favour of a Benedictine nunnery at Ickleton (Cambridgeshire), while in a confirmation for John Cumin (qv), archbishop of Dublin, of lands held in Leinster, she used the title ‘Countess Eva, heir of King Diarmait’.
The date of Aífe's death is unknown, but she was buried in Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, alongside her father-in-law, Gilbert fitz Gilbert (Strongbow was buried in Christ Church cathedral, Dublin). Her son Gilbert, who was 12 years old in 1185, died sometime after that date. In 1189 her daughter Isabella, now Strongbow's heir, was promised in marriage by King Henry to William Marshal (qv) (d. 1219). Once Strongbow's estates were assumed by William Marshal in right of his wife, Aífe's opportunities for independent action would have been severely curtailed. That she had not been remarried up to that date and had issued her own charters in which she described herself as her father's heir suggests that she may have been a strong personality in her own right. If Strongbow gained lands in Leinster in right of his wife, Aífe certainly managed to exploit his estates in England and south Wales. In a noted historical painting by Daniel Maclise (qv) (1806–70), depicting her marriage to Strongbow, she is portrayed as a downcast young girl, symbolically representing Ireland, being reluctantly wed, under the authority of her father King Diarmait, to an overbearing conqueror.