Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

August Books 20) Granuaile: Grace O'Malley - Ireland's Pirate Queen, by Anne Chambers

A fascinating account of a shadowy historical figure of varying spellings, an exact contemporary of Elizabeth I, who appears to have used her own resources to prey on shipping along the Atlantic seaboard of Ireland; it's difficult to be sure what is fact and what is fiction - did she really give birth on board one of her own ships, and then a few hours later struggle to the deck to take pot-shots at Algerian raiders? did she really kidnap the son of the Earl of Howth in retribution for a failure of hospitality? - but it adds up to some interesting material, and Chambers is frank about the gaps in her knowledge, as well as giving us some of the primary documents in an appendix.

The first edition of the book was published in 1979, a very different time for stories of Irish feminist heroes who threaten to divorce their husbands and then take handsome young lovers. For me, though, the most interesting point was the ability of Granuaile to appeal over the head of the local English administrators to the royal court, and her straight-faced ability to portray herself as a loyal subject beset by venal officials (and the paranoid and counterproductive reaction of those officials to her approaches). Chambers writes Granuaile into a traditional English v Irish political paradigm, but there is more going on here. I wish I knew more about the access of male Irish chieftains to the court; I feel I don't have enough information to know how unusual Granuaile's treatment was.

Anyway, an interesting read.
Tags: bookblog 2011, tudor history, writer: anne chambers
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