The alternative interpretation stems from the fact that the painting was executed as part of a commission for the new Houses of Parliament in London, and it was favourably received by the public when exhibited at the Royal Academy. It seems improbable that the Fine Arts Commission would have endorsed a painting even vaguely critical of British actions in Ireland. Maclise was a successful artist in England – why would he risk his career and reputation? Is it more likely that this historical event provided Maclise with the perfect opportunity to indulge his love of drama and spectacle? History painting had been concerned with grand displays of notable events from history. Maclise’s expansive composition adheres to this tradition, and certainly succeeds as a impressive piece of entertainment.
Another convincing interpretation is that Maclise was very familiar with Thomas Moore’s work, including Irish Melodies (1807-1834) and History of Ireland (1847). These publications, replete with romantic imagery of Ireland’s ancient past, were very popular in England; such sentimental nationalism would not have been perceived as threatening. Maclise’s imagery was certainly informed by Moore’s writing, in particular his description of the marriage of Strongbow and Aoife in History of Ireland:
The still reeking horrors, therefore of the sacked and ruined city [Waterford] were made to give place to a scene of nuptial festivity. (Thomas Moore, History of Ireland, 1847, Vol. II, p.227)