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16th Century Female Pirate: Grace O’Malley Part 2

To solidify her hold on the west coast region of Ireland, Grace took Richard Burke as her second husband. Following the passing of Donal, she had already accumulated five castles and several islands in Clew Bay. However, acquiring Rockfleet Castle located in the northeast side of the bay would strengthen her presence in the region. Castle Rockfleet happened to be owned by Richard Burke.

Legend says Grace made her way to the castle, knocked on the door, and made a marriage proposal for one year , telling him that their union would allow both clans to overcome an inevitable English invasion, who had been making strides in dominating surrounding Irish lands. After one year had passed (to the exact day), Grace supposedly said to Richard, “I release you,” giving him the option to end their union. Over the year, Richard had become quite taken by his bride and the two remained a couple until his death about 17 years later.

Grace and Her Children

In between her pirating exploits, Grace found the time to give birth to four children. With Donal, she had three children: two boys (Owen and Murrough) and one girl (Margaret). Her marriage to Richard produced one son, Tibbot (also known as Theobald). By the time 1593 rolled around, Grace had endured several hard years of fighting with the English. As a result, the English forces were successful in capturing her brother and son. In an attempt to make peace and ask for the release of her child and brother, she paid a visit to Queen Elizabeth.

Fighting with the English had certainly taken a toll on Grace, who was able to maintain her independence longer than most of her Irish peers. However, the pressure increasingly mounted as the years lingered. She was now 56 years old and became the captive of Sir Richard Bingham, a ruthless governor the Queen put in charge to keep former Irish territories in line. As soon as he was granted his appointment, he sent guards to arrest Grace so that she could hang for her activities.

Apprehended, members of her clan joined Grace in jail with a scheduled execution. With determination, Grace held her head high during the wait. In a last-minute plea, Grace’s son-in-law offered himself as a hostage in exchange for her life and promise that she would not turn to her rebellious nature. Bingham released Grace, but held a grudge , wishing to make life as miserable for her. He wanted to leave her powerless. Some of the things he did as punishment was take away her cattle and send her into a life full of poverty. Bingham also planned to take the life of her oldest son, Owen.

To find out what happened to Grace, read the last part of the article titled: “16th Century Female Pirate: Grace O’Malley.”