The following biography is taken from a chapter of the OFUC, which quotes it as Chapter One from one of the textbooks. In reality I wrote it myself, combining information from several different sources.
Grace O’Malley was born in 1530, the daughter of an Irish chieftain. His clan dominated the Western coast of
When she was fifteen, she was married off to Donal O’Flaherty, another Irish clan leader. It was a political marriage arranged by the two families, and it soon turned out that Donal was shiftless and irresponsible and had no idea how to take care of the lands he held. When it reached the point where the people in his territories were starving, Granuaile stepped in and made a few changes behind the scenes, unofficially taking on most of the management decisions. Though as a woman, she couldn’t legally hold office, she basically took on her husband’s duties as well as fulfilling her own duties as his wife by bearing him three children- two sons, Owen and Murrough, and a daughter, Margaret. Donal eventually got himself killed while fighting a rival clan, the Joyces, and despite the fact that he’d been pretty useless in life, Granuaile immediately and fiercely avenged his death, attacking the Joyces and taking over their stronghold.
But the O’Flahertys ignored the fact that she’d just carried out an impressive military victory in their name and denied her any power over her husband’s holdings. Though they didn’t make her leave, if she had remained on their lands she would have been stripped of all the authority she had wielded as Donal’s wife. So she took the kids, returned to her father’s lands, cut her hair short again, and used the last of her funds to scrounge up a couple ships and hire 200 men who would be loyal to her alone. She won their respect with her intelligence and the fact that even after three kids, she was still as competent on a ship as any sea captain, and then she took them and set up a little business on the side.
Since she had been left with neither money nor political power, she set up a base on Clare Island and used this strategically positioned headquarters to take command of all shipping in that part of the coast. She charged ships for safe passage, hired out navigators, and mercilessly raided any ships that wouldn’t pay the toll. Eventually she took a Norseman who she’d rescued from a shipwreck as her lover, and when he was killed at Doona, she went after his killers and slaughtered them herself.
In 1566, at the age of thirty-six, she married a second time, to Richard-an-Iarainn Burke, her former husband’s nephew. With this marriage, she gained control of all
The British, as you can imagine, were not too pleased with this. She was basically a full-fledged pirate by this time and wielded more political and strategic power than they were comfortable with. They sent a force against her, but she fought back and forced them to retreat. After that, she continued her raiding and pillaging as she had before—only now the British became her favorite targets. A few years later, political necessity forced her to pledge loyalty to the crown, but this was pretty much a token gesture as she didn’t bother to change anything she was doing. Her only real tie to
In 1577, Granuaile was imprisoned after she staged an attack on
When Richard died, five years later, she remained at Rockfleet and continued the rebellion against English rule, using her fleet to transport soldiers and Scottish rebels who supported her cause. By then, Bingham’s reign had escalated in brutality and everyone in the area was caught up in the conflict. In 1586, Bingham captured Granuaile, confiscated her posessions, and took control of her followers. Though Granuaile was released unharmed, her son, Owen, was murdered by his troops, and stripped of all her power on land, she returned to the sea, where she resumed her raiding in order to survive. Bingham hounded her incessantly, and several years later, Murrough sided with him against his own mother in order to maintain his own holdings on land. Granuaile was furious at his treachery, and swept down on his lands with her fleet, burning down his town, stealing his cattle, and killing several of his followers.
In 1593, Bingham impounded her ships and arrested Granuaile’s two surviving sons as well as her brother, Donell O’Piper. Granuaile wrote to the Queen of England, protesting this treatment and offering to end her raiding permanently and use her fleet to eliminate
Though Bingham still hounded her, ordering a company of soldiers to follow her on all her voyages, he was fired two years later and it is believed that she returned to her old habits of raiding ships, though there is only a single report of her being caught doing so. The date and circumstances of her death are unknown, but as she reached her mid-to-late sixties, she returned to Rockfleet, where she lived when she was not at sea and most probably where she died.