GRACE O’MALLEY, the “Pirate Queen of Connaught,” was thus vilified by those English authorities who tried to bring stubborn, recalcitrant Ireland to its knees in the Sixteenth Century. Twice married, twice widowed, a passionate lover, gambler, pirate, sea captain, politician, mother of heroes, and, above all, a symbol of the indomitable human spirit and Irish independence. She was a force to be reckoned with by anyone – man, woman, even the sovereign of England, who tried to cross her path. AMAZING GRACE swaggered boldly across the world stage for more than seventy years.
These were turbulent times of Henry VIII and “Bloody Mary” Tudor, and Queen Elizabeth – the age if discovery when the remnants of the Middle Ages were dying – except in the provinces of Ireland – and the Renaissance was in full flower – the days of the “discovery” of America by Spaniards, the exploration of Africa and India by Portugal, the launching of the Invincible Armada, and the great schism of two contending forces of western Christianity.
Armed with courage and daring to match that of any man, AMAZING GRACE lived a life “larger than legend.” More sinner than saint, she is remembered throughout westernIreland more than four hundred years after her death, celebrated in story and song. In a time when women were very much “second class citizens,” GRACE O’MALLEY did not need a women’s rights organization – she was her own force, and if you tried to cross her, you’d best beware.
Sir Henry Sidney, the English Lord Deputy of Ireland, said it best: “There came to me a most feminine sea captain called Grace O’Malley, with three galleys and 200 fighting men. She brought with her husband and she was, as well be sea as by land, well more than Mrs. Mate with him. This was a notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland.”