Saturday, July 1, 2017

Shadows in a Timeless Myth Presents Grace O'Malley Defiant Pirate Queen of Ireland

Castle Carrig-a-Hooly was the stronghold of Grace O'Malley the Celtic Pirate Queen of the island of Clare in Ireland.

The nearby monastery of Burrishoole is said to have been her burial-place, and there her skull was for a long time preserved as a precious relic, but it is also stated that, together with those of many others buried there, her bones were stolen and being carted to Scotland and ground up for manure, enriching the land and used to stop the chinks and keep the wind away.

It was well for the thieves here that they worked and escaped in the night, for such desecration would have resulted in their quick dispatch had the superstitious peasantry caught them.

Many of the latter believe that the skull of the Queen was miraculously restored to its niche in the abbey, but if so it has mouldered into dust long since. However, the skulls still to be seen here are regarded with deep veneration and are often borrowed by the peasantry to boil milk in, which being served to the sick one is a sure antidote for all ills.

This castle of Queen Grace, like so many old towers, is supposed to cover buried treasures, guarded at night by a mounted horseman. There is, however, another scene in her life which, whilst not productive of such results as the one at Carrig-a-Hooly, must have been picturesque and startling in the extreme.

Imagine the court of the great Elizabeth, with the daughter of Henry VIII. on the throne in all the heyday of her fuss and feathers, robed gorgeously and wearing a great farthingale—beneath the hem of her short skirt one notes the jewelled buckles on her high-heeled shoes,—from her pallid face flash a pair of reddish eyes and above her pallid brow her red hair is piled high and adorned with many of the pearls and jewels which have come into her possession from the robbery of her Scottish prisoner by the rebel lords. Huge butterfly wings of gauze rise from the shoulders but give nothing ethereal to the appearance of the sovereign,—Elizabeth was of the earth earthy. Around her are grouped all the splendid of that golden age,—the grave prime minister, Cecil Burleigh, the gallant Leicester, the boy Essex, the splendid Sir Philip Sidney, together with all the foreign diplomats and beautiful women of the court.

In the space before her stands an equally imperious figure,—the sovereign of this island of Clare.
The Queen of England has just offered to make her a countess, and we can imagine the half amazed and wholly amused expression of her majestic countenance when the offer is coolly refused with the remark that "I consider myself just as great a Queen as your Majesty."

Then the Irishwoman went home and did things, short, sharp, and to the point, effective: secured possession of all the fortified castles of the island and all the treasures and men at arms, and then dismissed her husband of only one year.

It had been agreed on her marriage that either party could terminate the matrimonial arrangement at a year's end by a simple announcement to the other. On the day in question the countess observed from one of the loopholes of Carrig-a-Hooly the approach of her liege lord, and thereupon, to surely forestall such action on his part, hailed him and announced that "all was off" between them, making no mention of a return of any of the castles, men, or treasures be they his or not. She should have been Queen of Scotland. She would promptly have settled the cases of each and every rebel lord from Moray down, and John Knox would have heard a truth or two which would have made his ears tingle,—neither could her Majesty of England have meddled so easily in the affairs of the northern kingdom.

Compiled from sources in the public domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

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