It is clear from a note which Maclise jotted down on an envelope, that he wanted to portray this event in a highly dramatic manner:
The marriage is celebrated in a field of battle – amid scenes of desolation. The triumphant banners of the Conquerors are displayed [.] Submission of the Irish Chieftains [.] Mourning over the fallen [.] Burial of the dead. The historic circumstances of a marriage celebrated in a battlefield afforded an opportunity of exhibiting the contrasts of cheerfulness and gloom characterised by Irish temperament and Irish music. (Victoria and Albert Museum, Forster Bequest, MS 48.E.19, f.126.)
This dynamic composition places the main event, the marriage ceremony, at centre stage with various groupings of figures, such as the bridesmaids, the fallen Irish, the Anglo-Norman soldiers, arranged in an oval shape around the main characters.