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'Granuaile, Ireland's Pirate Queen' - Author, Anne Chambers

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Author Anne Chambers is in to talk about her work, primarily her first book, 'Granuaile, Ireland's Pirate Queen' which is now 25 years old but still providing her with work, and her latest offering, 'Finding Tom Cruise and Other Stories'

About the Author
Anne Chambers

Formerly a senior executive officer in the Central Bank, Anne Chambers has been penning historical biographies since her first foray into the genre in the late 70's when she charted the life of Grace O'Malley, 'Granuaile', fearless leader by land and sea.

Over 25 years after Granuaile was written, the book has never gone out of print and Anne's life is still, to some degree, revolving around Granuaile as she has now been asked to work on a script for a movie about Granuaile for Wicklow Films who hope to make it with a Hollywood studio.

Anne has also written historical novels, a collection of short stories, several film screenplays and a stage drama. She was short-listed for the GPA Irish Book Awards and the 2005 Hennessey Literary Awards.

Anne is eager to remind people of the brilliance of Grace O'Malley, Granauile, and wants to impress how much of an important historical figure Grace O'Malley was.

Grace O'Malley Facts
Grace was born into early 16th Century Ireland, in 1530 when Henry V111 was on the throne. Under the policies of the English government at the time, the semi-autonomous Irish princes and lords were left mostly to their own devices. However this was to change over the course of her life and the Tudor-re-conquest gathered pace.

Grace was the daughter of Owen Dubhdarra O'Malley, chieftain of the O'Malley clan. The O'Malleys controlled most of what is now the barony of Murrisk in South-West Co.Mayo and recognised as their nominal overlords the gaelicised Anglo-Norman Burke or de Burgo family who controlled much of what is now that county. Unusually among the Irish nobility of the time, the O'Malleys were a great seafaring family and taxed all those who fished off their coasts, which included fishermen from as far away as England.

Their leader bore the ancient Irish title of The O'Malley.
According to Irish legend, as a young girl Grace wished to go on a trading expedition to Spain with her father, and on being told she could not because her long hair would catch in the ship's ropes, cut off her hair to embarrass her father into taking her, and thus earning her the nickname "Gráinne Mhaol" meaning "bald" or having cropped hair); the name stuck.

Grace was married in 1546 at a young age to Donal an Chogaidh (Donal of the Battle) O'Flaherty, tánaiste or heir to the O'Flaherty title. Grace bore three children during this marriage.  Donal was killed in Battle and Grace later married a second time to Richard-an-Iarainn Burke.

In the later 16th century English power steadily increased in Ireland and Grace's power was steadily encroached upon. Finally, in 1593, when her sons, Tibbot Burke and Murrough O'Flaherty, and her half-brother, Donal-na-Piopa, were taken captive by the English governor of Connaught, Sir Richard Bingham, Grace sailed to England to petition Elizabeth 1 for their release. Elizabeth apparently took to Grace, who was three years older, and the two women reached sufficient agreement for Elizabeth to grant

Grace's requests provided Grace's support of many Irish rebellions and her piracy against Great Britain ended. Their discussion was carried out in Latin as Grace spoke no English and Elizabeth spoke no Irish.

Despite the meeting, Grace later returned to her old ways, though nominally directing her raids against the "enemies of England" during the Nine Years War (Ireland). She most likely died at Rockfleet Castle in 1603, the same year as Elizabeth, though the year and place of her death are disputed.

Meeting with Elizabeth
Elizabeth 1 famously sent Grace a list of questions, which Grace answered and returned to Elizabeth. Grace then came to England (as previously stated) to petition the release of her sons and half-brother. She met with Elizabeth at Greenwich palace, wearing a fine gown and the two of them surrounded by guards and the members of Elizabeth's royal Court.

Grace refused to bow before Elizabeth because Grace did not recognize Elizabeth as the Queen of Ireland, and wished to show Elizabeth this. It is also rumored that Grace had a dagger concealed about her person, which guards found upon searching her.

Elizabeth's courtiers were said to be very upset and worried, but Grace informed the Queen that Grace carried it for her own safety--Elizabeth accepted this and, though the dagger was removed from Grace's possession, did not seem to worry. Some also reported that Grace sneezed and was given a lace-edged handerkerchief from a noblewoman. Grace apparently blew her nose into the handerkerchief and then threw the piece of cloth into a nearby fireplace, much to the shock of the Court. Grace amusedly informed Queen Elizabeth and her court that, in Ireland, a used handkerchief was considered dirty and was destroyed.

Grace and Elizabeth, after much talk, agreed to a list of demands. For example, Elizabeth was to remove Richard Bingham from his position in Ireland, and Grace was to stop supporting the Irish Lords' rebellions. Grace sailed back to Ireland, and the meeting seemed to have done some good, for Richard Bingham was removed from service. However, several of Grace's other demands (that the cattle and land Bingham had stolen from her were returned, for instance) were unmet, and within a rather short period of time, Elizabeth had sent Bingham back to Ireland. Upon Bingham's return, Grace realized that the meeting with Elizabeth had been useless, and went back to supporting Irish rebellions.

As in life, her death is somewhat of a mystery.  It looks like she died at Carraighahowley Castle but the exact date is unknown

Anne's latest book
'Finding Tom Cruise and Other Stories', is published Linden Publishing Services and is priced at €10.99