Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Grace O'Malley: The Pirate Queen

The Dark Lady of Doona

Grace personally undertook the task of nursing de Lacy back to health, and at the same time, they became lovers. But theirs was a short-lived love affair because Hugh de Lacy was killed by members of the MacMahon clan while on a hunting trip.

A very angry Grace set out to avenge her lover's death. She caught the MacMahons while they were on a pilgrimage at Cahir Island, burned their boats and then killed them all. She then sailed back to their castle of Doona, overwhelmed and defeated its defenders and took possession of the castle. Since that day Grace O'Malley has been known by the nickname "The Dark Lady of Doona."  

Rockfleet Castle
Rockfleet Castle

There was another particular castle that Grace coveted. She needed it to realize her dream of having complete control of Clew Bay. Rockfleet Castle was owned by the chieftain, Richard "Iron Dick" Burke, Grace's nephew by her marriage to Donal. Grace promised him there would be fruitful gains and benefits if they were to marry. The gullible Richard was already so enamored of Grace that it did not take much to convince him to go along with her plan. In 1566, Richard Burke married the widow, Grace O'Malley O'Flaherty, and she and her three children moved into Rockfleet Castle.

Exactly one year after their marriage, Grace used her knowledge of Brehon law to implement the final part of her plan on her unsuspecting husband.  Richard returned home one day to find that his devious wife had locked him out. She had taken command of Rockfleet Castle with her clansmen and loyal followers. She shouted down to him from the castle ramparts that she was dismissing him.

Now, according to Brehon law, this was enough to end a trial marriage at the end of a one year period. Grace got her divorce, gained control of the castle, and still kept an ongoing relationship with her adoring Richard. Throughout the years, Richard Burke remained an integral part of Grace's adventurous life.

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