Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Grace O'Malley: The Pirate Queen

Reversal of Fortune

In 1577, Grace was captured by the Earl of Desmond, sentenced by Lord Justice Drury and imprisoned in Dublin for eighteen months before being released.

Lord Justice Drury
Lord Justice Drury

Grace returned to Connaught and managed to keep a low profile for a short time. Seeds of rebellion were springing up throughout the area. Her husband, Richard was one of the rebel leaders. Grace knew that it was a losing cause. She urged Richard to stop being involved and to submit a pledge of loyalty to England.

Fortunately, the chieftain of the McWilliamship died. Grace put her all of her efforts into helping Richard to become The McWilliam. Unfortunately, Richard did not hold the title long. He died of natural causes in 1583, two years after being knighted and titled. Richard was the last person to hold title to The McWilliamship.

It was 1584 and the pirate queen was fifty-four years old. She had returned to what she did best, sailing and pillaging. Her children were now all grown. Margaret had married quite well within the clan. Owen and Murrough and Tibbot were sailing at their mother's side, sharing in her plundering. Grace knew this was the only way she could provide for her clan, because of the political situation. Spain and England were at each other's throats and war seemed imminent.

England's Queen Elizabeth was already sending her privateers to harass and plunder Spanish ships. She also feared the Irish siding with Spain. Some of the Ulster chieftains had already joined forces with the Spaniards. There was no love of England among them.

Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I