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Book review: 30th anniversary edition of Ireland’s legendary sea Queen

16th March 2009

This is the story of one woman’s quest for survival and fulfilment, leading daring seafaring expeditions and defeating aristocratic lords with style and panache. In an era of huge social and political upheaval, dominated by male chauvinistic bias, Grace O’Malley, femme extraordinaire, circumvented all obstacles and surmounted all challenges to earn her place in the annals of Irish history. In Granuaile, the original international bestselling biography, author Anne Chambers draws Ireland’s Pirate Queen in from the fringes of myth and folklore, weaving together historical evidence to present the reality of one of the world’s most extraordinary leaders.

Breaching boundaries of gender imbalance and bias, Granuaile rewrote the rules to become one of the most documented trailblazers and mould breakers.

Born in the 1530s to a Gaelic Irish chieftain, legend has it that as a young girl she wished to go on a trading expedition to Spain with her father. On being told her long hair would catch in the ship’s ropes, she promptly chopped her golden tresses to embarrass her father into taking her. Her fiery spirit was to stand her in good stead for the rest of her days. At the tender age of sixteen she married the heir of the O’Flaherty title, an astute political match which garnered her   numerous land title deeds and also bore three children. As a wife, she confounded conventional norms, superseding her husband as chief and also avenging his death while her second husband was scorned by a very public   divorce. 

While Gaelic law spurned her as female chieftain, she had a loyal following of over two hundred men and assumed the role of matriarch for neighbouring clans, leading them into battle against English military lords.

She skilfully navigated her way through the political and economic chaos precipitated by the Tudor conquest, ensuring the survival of her extended    family and dependent clans, through daring feats and savvy political tactics. Indeed, she boldly went so far as to sail to England for negotiations with her contemporary and perceived enemy Queen Elizabeth 1 at Greenwich Palace, thus ensuring the security of her interests until her death in 1603.

This 30th anniversary edition, complete with textual additions and the inclusion of new transcriptions of contemporary 16th-century manuscript material, deciphered by the author, adds an extra dimension to a spellbinding account of this nation’s maritime icon. Team

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