Go mbeannai Dia duit.

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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Little Grace...

A short Life & a merry one will be my motto. Robert Boyle, pirate captain.

The Irish hate the English. The English think the world would be a better place without the Irish & the ongoing row in that country is the remains of a long standing dispute that traces its origins back to Henry the VIII; he of the many wives.

Politics is so not my thing & the ins & outs of why the English thought they had any right to be on Irish territory rather escapes me. I am left with the vague impression the English thought the Irish uncouth, ignorant bog~hoppers badly in need of the civilizing influence of the English. The mind boggles when stories abound of mice making permanent homes in the hairs styles of the period!

Anyway Elizabeth inherited the Irish fiasco from her father & any number of her Lords came to grief fighting the Irish in their own bogs but Elizabeth herself met her match in an Irish Sheila, one Grainne ui Mhaille ~ Anglicized to Grace O'Malley ~ Sea Queen of Connaught.

Grace's family, unusually for Irish aristocrats, were sea traders who taxed those who presumed to fish in their waters. Grace grew up around boats & was, if the stories are true, more than a little wild. On being told she could not accompany her father on a voyage to Spain because of her long hair she shaved her head almost bald, shaming him into acquiescing. At any rate they married her off to the Tanist O'Flaherty [tanist=heir] at 16 & she proceeded to bear him 3 children.

The Irish were involved in politics up to their long Irish noses, conspiring against each other & the English foreigners without discrimination & in this regard Grace was very much a woman of her times. She was also far cannier than her husband who had inflated ideas without enough intelligence to make realities of his pipe dreams.

He came to an unmourned end & Grace took on Richard Burke, marrying him under Brehon Law for "one year certain." At the end of the year she was in possession of his castle at Rockfleet, lent out her window & casually dismissed him in the druid way with, "Richard Burke, I dismiss you," effectively ending the marriage while keeping the castle.

She was some lady & over time had inherited her father's fishing fleet as well as other ships & began her long running dispute with the English in her traditional waters, a dispute that led to accusations of piracy. As the Irish have pointed out in another context, when you lose it is treason. If you win you are a freedom fighter. Grace was certainly dabbling in politics. Whether you consider what she was doing piracy & treason or freedom fighting depends on your political affiliations!

What did happen eventually was she drove Bessie mad & they had a surreptitious meeting in 1593 where, by all accounts, they got along like a house on fire, conversing in Latin. I can imagine two like minded, strong willed women ruling amongst ambitious men would have shared a great deal in common.

How & when Grace died no~one really knows. The Ireland of her childhood changed drastically during her lifetime & the bitter legacy of that change is still with us.


Allison said...

You know, I really know so little about non-US history that it is embarrassing. I think most of what I know about England and Ireland has been filtered through films, which obviously are more concerned with the dramatics than historical accuracy.

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

LOL @ bog-hoppers. You really need to write the history books! I coulda learnt something!!

Ganeida said...

Allison: I am probably no better. I have big gaps in my world history. I know very little Asian history & my own country's history bores me to tears. I like my history on the racy side & not necessarily strictly accurate ~ a trait I share with some of the worlds earliest historians. lol

MrsC: see the above comment. The English have always had some choice terms for the Irish ~ many not really publishable on a public forum.:D

Diane Shiffer said...

wouldn't you like to have been a fly on the wall for that visit between miss gracie and the queen? i love the idea of the two of them getting along "like a house a'fire."

i dearly love history, but like allison, my knowledge of non-american history is an absolute embarrassment. amelia is reading books on the french revolution now, and most of what she is sharing i have never learned before. i am determined to teach my own kids more of world history than i was taught.

seekingmyLord said...

And you want to write fantasy books!?!

Ganeida said...

Soupy: I should so have loved to be a fly on that wall!

Seeking: & you think this isn't fantasy?! lol. History is often more fantastical than most people believe.

Sandra said...

I really do enjoy your stories!