Gráinne Mhaol, pirate queen of Connacht: behind the legend
Vilified by her English adversaries as ‘a woman who hath imprudently passed the part of womanhood’, Grace O’Malley was ignored by contemporary chroniclers in Ireland, yet her memory survived in native folklore. Nationalists later lionised her as Gráinne Mhaol, a warrior who would come over the sea with Irish soldiers to rout the English. She finally became an icon of international feminism, both as an example of a strong and independent woman and as a victim of misogynistic laws. Nevertheless, this subject of verse, music, romantic novels, documentaries and an interpretive centre remains shrouded in mystery. Gráinne Ní Máille’s mythical status is a double-edged sword that, while ensuring that her name survived, has obscured the reality of the woman behind the legend. She was an extraordinary woman who lived, loved, fought and survived during a pivotal period of Irish history that saw the collapse of the Gaelic order and the ruination of Ireland’s ruling élite.
Source: History Ireland