Her Irish name is Gráinne Ní Mháille, and she is known as one of the most tenacious female pirates of the Emerald Isle.
Born of a noble family in 1530, Grace took over the lordship of the Ó Máille dynasty in the west of Ireland after the death of her father, despite having a brother. Not much is known of her childhood, but it is thought that she grew up at her family’s residence on Clare Island. She was most likely formally educated, as were all noble children of her time, and it is known that she spoke fluent Latin.
In 1546, Grace married the heir to the O’Flaherty title, giving her more wealth and power. Her husband, Dónal an Chogaidh had aspirations of one day ruling all of Connacht, the area now known as Connemara. When her husband was killed in an ambush while hunting, Grace returned to her own lands on Clare Island where she established her principal residence. It is believed she took a shipwrecked sailor as her lover. He too was killed, and seeking revenge, Grace attacked the castle of Doona in Blacksod Bay, home to the murderers of her lover the MacMahons of Ballyvoy. She tracked them down and killed them on the nearby island of Cahir. The act earned her the nickname, “Dark Lady of Doona.”
Grace remarried, this time to “Iron Richard” Bourke, the 18thlord of Mac William Lochtar. But, she was still not done with the MacMahons. When she sailed for Ballyvoy this time, she attacked Doona Castle again, but this time took it as her own.
English might steadily grew in 16th Century Ireland, weakening O’Malley’s power. In 1593, her sons and half-brother were taken captive by the English governor of Connacht, Sir Richard Bingham, on the grounds that O’Malley was responsible for ‘nursing’ the Irish rebellions that had occurred for more than forty years.
O’Malley sailed to England to petition Queen Elizabeth I to release them. She showed up at Greenwich Palace dressed in her finest gown and met with the English monarch surrounded by English guards. When the guards searched O’Malley’s person, they found a dagger hidden in her dress. O’Malley stated she carried it for her own safety. Elizabeth nodded her approval, and let O’Malley approach her.
Refusing to acknowledge Elizabeth as the Queen of Ireland, O’Malley did not bow upon meeting the sovereign. Despite the affront, the two had a lively discussion in Latin, and came to an agreement. The prisoners were released, Bingham was removed from his position in Ireland, and O’Malley was to stop supporting Irish rebellions. However, some of O’Malley’s other requests remained unmet, and when Bingham returned to Ireland, Grace returned to supporting the Irish rebellions during the Nine Years War.
The date of her death is not known, but historians speculated it was in 1603, the same year of Elizabeth I’s death.
Catherine of Aragon and Henry had one child, Mary Tudor, who had now reached teenager-hood. While her mother was cast out of Henry’s court, Mary, also stripped of her title of princess and declared a bastard, had been allowed to remain. Until the birth of her baby sister, Elizabeth. Desiring the baby to be raised away from the proclivities of the court, and in the fresh air of the countryside, Anne sent Elizabeth to Hatfield House with a full staff of servants—including the bastard Mary.In 1534, to Henry’s delight, Anne became pregnant again. But when she miscarried a few months later, Henry began discussions with his advisors Archbishop Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell, to start divorce proceedings. Learning that Anne was again pregnant in late 1535, the King relented.
Anne lived with extravagance. She continued to have wild parties long into the morning, and spent incredible amounts of money, which caused further resentment among Henry’s subjects. But, Anne gave the matter little thought. After all, she had every hope to believe she carried a son for the King. She further rejoiced when she learned that Catherine of Aragon had died. Now, nothing stood in her way. Except for the fact that the King had developed a passion for someone else. The young and beautiful Jane Seymour.
In January 1936, while taking part in a jousting tournament, the King was struck from his horse and knocked unconscious. More bad luck ensued when Anne, five days later—the same day Catherine of Aragon was buried—miscarried again. Once the King recovered, he moved Jane Seymour into the royal household. He claimed Anne had seduced or bewitched him, and because of that, the marriage was not valid. He wanted Anne gone.
By April of that year, several men of the court were accused of adultery with the queen, plotting with her to kill the King, and thus, treason. The first, Mark Smeaton, a Flemish musician and a favorite of Anne’s. At first, he denied the charges, but then later confessed—some say under torture. Next, a nobleman and friend of the King, Henry Norris, who’d enjoyed himself at Anne’s many parties. She had been overheard discouraging him from paying her too much attention. He denied the charges and swore to the Queen’s innocence. Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton, and Sir Richard Page were also accused, as well as Sir Thomas Wyatt, a friend of the Boleyn family, and possible sweetheart of Anne in her youth.
The final blow to Anne was the accusation of her incestuous relationship with her brother George, on two different accounts.
Historians, authors, and movie-makers have had a field day with this historical information. Some believe and or portray the adultery as truth, and some do not. Either way, all the accused, accept Wyatt and Page, were executed, as was Anne in the summer of 1536. In her last speech before her death, she maintained her innocence and spoke nothing but praise of her “merciful prince.”
So, did she or didn’t she? Was Anne so empowered she felt she could have numerous affairs with all these men and not suffer the consequences? Was she so desperate to have a son that she slept with these men—including her brother—to give the King his desired heir? Or, did she suffer her fate because she fell out of favor with the King who had moved heaven and earth to wed her?
Anne Boleyn. Everyone knows her name. Countless books, movies, and documentary films have been written and made about the life of this fascinating woman in history, and her relationship with Henry VIII of England.
But, one of the mysteries surrounding her—which included witchcraft and plotting to kill the King—contributed to the tragic end of this young queen. Her alleged infidelity. Known throughout her life as an incurable flirt, did she betray King Henry by sleeping with other men? And, was she so desperate to give the King a son, that she slept with her own brother in the hopes of getting pregnant?
The actual birthdate of Anne Boleyn is not known. Historians speculate that she was born sometime between 1501 and 1507. Her sister Mary is reported to have been older and her brother George, a few years her junior. Born to Thomas Boleyn and Lady Elizabeth Howard, a couple of the highest nobility, Anne received the finest education and training.
In her youth, she lived in the Netherlands where she received the basic academic education of noble children as well as falconry, archery, dancing, and household management. Her parents then sent her to live in France to attend Queen Mary, Henry VIII’s older sister. While in France she continued her education and also became fluent in the art and study of literature, fashion, religion, flirtation, and courtly love.
In 1522, Sir Thomas brought his daughter home to marry her cousin James Butler, but the marriage did not go through. Anne, now a lady of the court, dazzled people with her brilliance, beauty, and charm. She soon became enamored with Henry Percy, the son of the Earl of Northumberland, and the two became secretly engaged. Henry’s father was not in favor of the match, so broke off the engagement, and Anne went to soothe her wounds at her family’s countryside estate.
After some period of time, she returned to court and entered into the service of Queen Catherine, the Spanish wife of Henry VIII. It didn’t take long for the King to notice the young woman who shined like a diamond in his court. Unlike many women of the court, including her older sister Mary, Anne did not give in to the King’s demands to become his mistress. She kept him enticed for seven years, supposedly not ever consummating the relationship, until their eventual marriage—or shortly before.
The seven years of their courtship proved agonizing for Henry. During that period, he attempted to receive an annulment from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon on the grounds that their marriage was illegitimate and an affront to God, due to their inability to have a son. Before Henry, Catherine had been married to his older brother Arthur. Shortly after they wed, Arthur died before they could consummate their nuptials. Henry didn’t have a problem with this when he married Catherine, it was only after he fell in love with the tantalizing Anne that he decided his marriage to Catherine was sinful, and that he was being punished by his inability to produce a male heir.
Anne, eager to be Queen, but cunning enough to hold Henry at bay until she had a crown, did all she could to intensify the situation. Henry gave her the power to grant petitions, receive important diplomats to her court, and proved to be instrumental in solidifying an alliance with France. She was Queen, albeit without the title, and Henry placed her above all the courtly peers and noblemen. Her father became the Earl of Wiltshire, and her Irish cousin, the Earl of Ormond. Her sister, Mary, one of Henry’s early conquests and mistresses, now a widow, received a generous pension. Mary’s son, reputed to be Henry’s son, received the finest education.
Finally, when they did not receive permission from Rome to have Henry’s marriage to Catherine annulled, Henry—determined to have Anne—broke with the church and declared himself head of the Church of England. They married in secret and Anne soon became pregnant. Four months later, Cranmer, the new Archbishop of Canterbury declared Henry and Catherine’s marriage null and void, and Henry’s marriage to Anne valid.
While popular in the English court when she was attending to Queen Catherine, Anne did not have the same luck with the King’s subjects who remained steadfast in Catherine’s corner. Catherine, stripped of her title and banished from court lived the rest of her days a sad and lonely woman. Although Henry gave Anne a magnificent coronation at Westminster Abbey, the English people showed no love for their new queen, and many referred to her as “the King’s whore.”
But, Anne took comfort in the fact that she carried the King’s child. Both Henry and Anne believed with all of their being that the child would be a boy. When Anne gave birth to a girl, Henry was devastated. He had the celebratory traditional joust and celebration he’d planned for the birth of his child canceled. The couple consoled themselves with the idea that Anne would be pregnant again soon, and this time it would be a boy… (to be continued)
For over 400 years, historians have been trying to discern the mysterious death of Amy Robsart and whether her husband, Robert Dudley, had anything to do with it.
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and Queen Elizabeth I played together as children, but their relationship may have deepened while both imprisoned in the Tower of London by Mary Tudor. While Mary executed Dudley’s father, the Duke of Northumberland, and his brother, Guilford Dudley, for the family’s plot to set Lady Jane Grey on the throne in early 1553, she pardoned Robert in October of 1554. Elizabeth, accused of plotting against Queen Mary, her half-sister, in February 1554 with the Wyatt Rebellion, also miraculously escaped Mary’s wrath. In May, Mary sent Elizabeth to Woodstock where she remained under house arrest for another year. Yet, for four months of their captivity in the Tower, Elizabeth and Dudley had plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company, despite periodic visits from Dudley’s wife of 4 years, Amy Robsart.
When Mary Tudor died in late 1558, Elizabeth acceded to the throne of England. The next morning, she appointed Dudley her Master of Horse. The position suited Dudley, an expert horseman and breeder of fine horses, and put him in close proximity to the new Queen. The position required daily, if not hourly, time in the Queen’s presence. This appointment resulted in Dudley spending months away from his wife, Amy, who lived with friends in different parts of the country, far from court. Elizabeth rarely let Dudley leave her side.
Rumors abounded of an affair between the Queen and Dudley, and Elizabeth often brazenly showed her affection for him. Meanwhile, England needed an heir and Elizabeth’s chief advisor William Cecil pressured her to marry. Several foreign suiters vied for her hand during this time, and while she considered some, she ended up refusing them all.
In mid-1559, Dudley went to Throcking, Hertfordshire for a short time to visit Amy who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Talk at court stated that Elizabeth and Dudley planned to wait until Amy died, and would then proceed with marriage, making Dudley King Consort. Amy, no doubt had heard the rumors, and knew of her husband’s ambition, which must have added to her stress.
Later that same year, Amy traveled to London to visit her husband for one month, but after that never went back to court, or saw her husband again. During her time at court, it is said she ate sparingly, and according to some accounts, “was careful of her food.” Could she have suspected Elizabeth, jealous of anyone’s time with Dudley, of trying to poison her? Or could Dudley be so in love with Elizabeth, or in love with the power he’d gain by marrying the Queen, that he would want Amy dead?
By December of 1559, Amy moved to Cumnor Palace, rented by a family member, Sir Anthony Forster. Amy occupied the upper story of the palace, and supported a large household with the proceeds from her family’s estate. She soothed her worries and loneliness by ordering dresses and finery.
In September of 1560, on the day of the fair at Abingdon, Amy encouraged her servants, Sir Anthony, and his wife to attend the fair. One friend, Mrs. Odingsells, refused to leave the ailing Amy, but later retired to her rooms. When the others returned from the fair, they found Amy at the foot of the stairs with a broken neck.
A messenger from Cumnor dispatched the news to Windsor Castle where Dudley was in residence with the Queen. Dudley called for an immediate inquest. The coroner and a jury of 15 local gentleman called the death an accident. Relieved, but wanting to be sure—or ensuring that no guilt would be placed on him, Dudley called for another investigation. The coroner again assured him, the fall down the stairs caused two head injuries and the breaking of Amy’s bones which had become brittle due to her illness. No evidence could be found of wrong-doing on Dudley’s part.
The mysterious circumstances of Amy’s death haunted Dudley for the rest of his life. Because of the scandal created by Elizabeth and Dudley’s relationship, and his wife’s early demise, it didn’t prove wise for the two to marry. Robert continued to remain close to the Queen.During the next several years, princes and noblemen from all over Europe continued to vie for the hand of England’s Queen. She refused all marriage proposals. Dudley greatly disappointed and angered Elizabeth when he wed Lettice Knollys in 1578. Still, once the anger wore off, Dudley remained among Elizabeth’s closest circles until his death in 1588. At Dudley’s death, Elizabeth went into deep mourning and did not leave her rooms for three days.
History leads us to believe that Robert Dudley could well have been the love of Elizabeth I’s life. Her refusal to marry and share her crown with anyone else proved she had a staunch will, confidence in herself and her rule, and no desire to share the emotional intimacies of marriage.
Did Dudley, or even Elizabeth, impetuously plot to remove Amy from their lives without thinking of the consequences? Had Amy died of natural causes, would history be altered? Would Dudley have shared Elizabeth’s crown, her rule, and her life? Did Elizabeth use her crown and her power to alter the evidence or the outcome in the case? It’s hard to say. Speculation has endured for centuries, but one thing is clear, only she and Dudley knew what truly happened.
For more information on Queen Elizabeth go to Elizabethi.org – click here.