Pirates 6: Grace O'Malley

Ellie Brigida: Welcome to Sweetbitter season two, where we explore the untold history of women and queer pirates. We’re your hosts, Ellie Brigida…

Leesa Charlotte: …and Leesa Charlotte.

EB: This episode, we’re focusing on Irish woman pirate queen, Grace O’Malley.

LC: But before we get into that, let’s welcome our resident pirate expert, Alyse, for a quick game of Fact or Fiction. Hi, Alyse.

Alyse Knorr: Hi, friends.

EB: I’m so excited. What do you have for us today, Alyse?

AK: I have a fashion question.

LC: Fashion! Oh my goodness.

EB: Things that I am–that Leesa and I are very much known for: our fashion.

AK: Oh, you say, here in our, like, hoodies–your pirate fashion.

EB: Yeah. So let’s see.

AK: All right. Did pirates really wear tri-cornered hats?

EB: Okay, so just to clarify, a tri-corner hat is just like the standard pirate hat that you would see?

AK: Is it though?

EB: Okay, but that’s like–

AK: Is it? It’s what we see in costumes.

EB: The pirate costume–just to clarify what a tri-cornered hat is?

AK: Totally. It’s the hat with three points that you see a lot in costumes and movies. 

LC: Okay, I’m gonna go with fiction because I just feel like it feels like something Disney might have created. Ellie?

EB: Alright. And I’m going to go with fact because we have to pick different ones.

LC: We don’t have to.

EB: Let me see why. Now I want to just like create a “why” that I think is true.

LC: You’re like the guy in class who’s like, “I’m just gonna play devil’s advocate for a minute.”

EB: I’d say, tri-cornered hats–they’re better for the wind. So when they’re on the ship, their hat won’t fall off because it’s perfectly aerodynamic. And that’s why they have the tri-cornered hats.

LC: That feels completely the opposite of how it would be. It feels like they’d blow off way easier. But I mean, now that I’ve said that you’re probably right, Ellie.

EB: I don’t know. I’m like, I’ve worn one of them before for a costume. Like, they don’t really fall off that easily.

AK: Were you wearing a costume on a ship on the high seas?

EB: Yes, yes. And it did not blow away, so.

LC: What’s the answer?

AK: Wait, are those your final answers?

LC: Yes.

EB: Final answer, for sure.

AK: I just watched Slumdog Millionaire. So now I’m like, remembering that.

LC: Oh my god, I watched that the other day, too. That movie is so good.

AK: Really?

LC: Yeah. I don’t know why. It just came up, like, as a suggestion on Hulu. And I was like, I haven’t seen that movie since it came out.

AK: It’s so good, but I’m teaching it in screenwriting and my students don’t remember Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? So they’re like, “What is this show?”

LC: Oh my god.

EB: Oh my god, that hurts my soul.

LC: When we had to watch what was on TV and not just, like, what’s on streaming services?

AK: Yeah, they were like six when Slumdog Millionaire came out.

LC: Oh my god. We’re old.

AK: Anyway. So the tri-corner, yes, is a fact.

LC: Is it because of the aerodynamics?

EB: Was I right? Because of the aerodynamics?

AK: Okay, so that’s an interesting question. So, first of all, the tri-corner hat was the pirate hat mostly just because it was, like, the hat during the 18th century. Everyone wore these hats.

LC: Okay, so it wasn’t a pirate hat. It was just a hat.

EB: It was a hat, yeah.

AK: Well, yea, so like everyone wore them. It first started with aristocracy and people in the military. And there was a weather-related reason for it being in the military, which is that–

EB: Knew it.

AK: –it was like an early umbrella, because the rain would sort of trickle away from your face and go down off the corners of the hat.

LC: Ah.

EB: Brilliant.

AK: And then everybody was wearing them.

LC: Oh, you know what’s really way more fun than that? When I was in Beijing, it was raining and all that we could find was those umbrella hats that you put on. We got rainbow ones. So there’s this picture of me and my brother in these ridiculous rainbow umbrella hats. And I just think that’s a way cooler option than the tri-corner hat, but here we are. What a missed opportunity. Pirates I think would have looked a lot fiercer with those.

EB: With umbrella hats.

LC: With the umbrella hats. 

EB: And ponchos, like tourists at Disney.

LC: Totally.

AK: Yeah. So they started out with these broad-brimmed hats that Spanish soldiers would wear, and then people started just pinning up the brim. And then it just became, like, the look that everyone had, but to get back to the wind, Ellie, if you wore it properly, the tri-corner would be facing out, and then the wind would knock it right off. So pirates tended to wear it sideways.

LC: Ahhh.

AK: Whereas the flat part of the hat was in front.

LC: Ellie nailed it.

AK: No, no.

EB: But no, because if you wear it–

AK: But you didn’t. Yeah.

EB:  Yeah, ‘cause if you wear it the right way, it’s the opposite of aerodynamic.

LC: No, but pirates obviously turned it to wear it the way that worked for pirates. So you’re not wrong.

EB: I’m not wrong.

LC: I think it’s a win.

AK: Basically they were, like, when bad boys turn their hat–like Luke on the Gilmore Girls–when bad boys turn their hats around backwards. You know, like their baseball caps? They turn them around backwards. That’s what pirates were doing in the 18th century.

EB: With their tri-corner hats. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

AK: I know, I love that for them.

EB: Do they also have feathers in their tri-corner hats? Is that a thing?

AK: I think that would have been like an aristocracy thing, right? Because having fancy feathers, you know, that would have cost a lot of money. And pirates were kind of just grabbing whatever they could.

LC: But pirates had parrots. Did they not just be like, “Hey, parrot friends, can you please loan me a feather?”

AK: They had parrots, yeah. A lot of the captains of these ships would have been former gentlemen or gentlemen, so they might have had that. And then the sort of working class guys on deck. They also wear things like sashes around their heads, just to protect them from the sun.

LC: Oh, you see that in pirate movies, too.

AK: Yes, exactly. Yeah, with the kind of work-a-day sailors wearing those that keep their shirts kind of loose and open. But then underneath that they’d wear a sash around their waist to sort of support their lower back with all of the hard lifting they were doing and to wick away sweat so they could stay cool.

LC: I’ve had this conversation with people about the undershirt, the idea of the undershirt. I always just find it’s way worse, but a lot of people like an undershirt when it’s hot, and I’m like, aren’t you dying? But I can’t deal with being hot. I just turned on my heat. And it’s, like, 35 degrees Fahrenheit, like 2 degrees Celsius. And I just turned on my heat yesterday. I was just walking around the house.

EB: And Alyse is sitting here in a beanie and a puffy vest.

LC: It’s probably colder in Denver, though, no?

AK: It’s, like, 40 degrees out today. But yeah, I’m a wimp. I keep my thermostat at 72.

LC: Oh my god, no! I can’t.

EB: We like it hot. I agree.

LC: No, you and Ellie would get along. Ellie remembers staying with me, and our house was freezing cold. Because both me and my roommate are, like, from places where they don’t really have indoor heat like that. Both of us grew up without heat overnight. So even if it’s 30 degrees in Melbourne, like, you didn’t really heat your house overnight. You sort of sleep with it cold and then you heat it in the day. So, it’s what I’m used to. And so when I was living with my old roommate, she was the same. She used to have it at like 72 to 75, even overnight, and I couldn’t sleep.

AK: I mean, I grew up with my stepfather, he religiously kept the house at like 65. And that didn’t acclimate me at all. I was just cold all the time. And I walked around the house.

LC: You’re very small, though.

AK: I have–I think it’s, like, anemia or something. I’m literally always cold. If it’s below 65 degrees, I’m cold.

LC: Yeah. Oh, wow.

AK: Yeah. 

EB: I understand. And yet, we live in Boston and Denver. Stereotypically warm places.

LC: I was gonna say, you guys–when I moved to New York, I totally was like, “Yeah, I want to move to where it’s cold.” Must be my roots.

AK: People are always like, “But you lived in Alaska.” I lived in Alaska for three years, but like, “But you lived in Alaska! How can you possibly ever feel cold again?” And I’m like, “Okay, do you think I just turned into like a different person while I lived there?” My body is still my body.

EB: People in Alaska don’t just like walk around naked in Alaska.

AK: During the winter I would literally wear four layers of pants to work.

LC: Oh my gosh.

AK: It didn’t fix the problem. It made it worse.

LC: Yeah, y’all need to go move more south.

EB: No, I never will.

AK: I would have made a great pirate, because I love the heat and I can tolerate a lot of heat. And so I would have made an excellent pirate. 

EB: You totally would. Yeah.

LC: Not me. I can’t deal with it. I’ve literally, like, had plans every summer to not be in New York because it’s way too hot. I can’t deal with it. And yet, I’m from Australia. So everybody says that. They’re like, “Oh, but you’re from Australia.” Like yeah, I’m from the cold part. Not all Australians like the heat. Anyway, this conversation descended into–

EB: –into weather madness.

LC: It’s the changing of the season. We’ve got to talk about it. But it’s okay.

EB: Thank you so much, Alyse, for sharing this beautiful pirate fashion advice with us. 

AK: Anytime.

EB: Also, for all of you out there right now, we are all wearing tri-corner hats. We just didn’t know it. So thank you so much, Alyse. You look amazing in that hat. We’ll be back after a quick break.

LC: And we’re back. So as we said at the top of the episode, this week we’ll be covering Irish pirate…you’re gonna say it, Ellie?

EB: Grace O’Malley.

LC: And Ellie’s going to be doing an Irish accent for the whole episode.

EB: A horrible Irish accent. I blanked. That was not Irish at all.

LC: It’s bad, because Anne is actually Irish, who is speaking to us for most of the time. So you’re going to have a direct comparison to someone in Ireland.

EB: It’s okay. We’re doing our best. You also may remember lawyer and pirate expert Laura Duncombe from last week. She’s gonna give us a quick introduction, followed by historian Ryan Burns.

Laura Duncombe: I love them all. I love them all so much. But I really love Grace O’Malley because she was a working mom pirate, you know, she had a bunch of boys and I have two boys. So I sort of empathize with, you know, it’s tough to run a hustle when you have little kids running around. She did it all. I have sort of this mental image of her, you know, on a ship with like a baby on her hip, and then like sword fighting with her other hand. And that’s just kind of mom goals for me. So, I’m a big fan of Grace.

Ryan Burns: In thinking about gender and piracy, there’s a couple other interesting case studies that show the ways in which gender dynamics during the early modern period could be blurred, usually owing to aristocratic origins or something like that. So, much like how queens could reign, but would have no female councilors, but nonetheless would, of course, have absolute power in the realm, there were examples of female pirates who essentially were of aristocratic origin, that used their base of operations as a way to achieve plunder and so on. One of the most famous examples of this is Grace O’Malley, the Irish pirate queen, as she’s sometimes described in legends that swirl about her. But she is a noble woman in Ireland. She’s born into the family clan. She ends up achieving the title to her family’s possessions. And she uses that in very interesting ways. She is a clan leader who employs pirates. She sends pirate raids and this is all about augmenting her power much more than it is about defending Ireland from England, as it often is portrayed in later legends about her. Sometimes she sends pirate expeditions in the service of English colonization efforts. Sometimes she sends them against those efforts. But she uses her perch basically to engage in piracy. She’s not leading any of these expeditions herself, but she is the one who ultimately any of her crews answer to.

LC: For the rest of this episode, we’ll be learning more about O’Malley from Anne Chambers, the author of a best-selling biography about O’Malley. I spoke to Anne about how she got interested in Grace O’Malley in the first place.

Anne Chambers: My own interest in Grace O’Malley came from childhood holidays spent on an area, beautiful area, on the west coast of Ireland called Clew Bay. Now Clew Bay–we have lovely bays here in Ireland, as you possibly know, but Clew Bay is very special, and it’s special because there are around 300 smaller islands within the bay. And at its head is the beautiful Clare Island that stands like a sphinx guarding the entrance to Clew Bay. It’s on the wide Atlantic Ocean. And, consequently, we are battered by the huge waves from the Atlantic coming right across from, really, from America. So in that lovely area, in my childhood, it was a great place for holidays. So my family went there every year for a month holiday by the sea. And as a young kid, I heard all these fascinating legends about this pirate queen, who shaved her head, you know, and wanted to be like a man and was better than a man and pirated all over the place. And it seemed like, to a kid, to be a great adventure. And yet when I went to school, there was never a mention of Grace O’Malley in my school history books, no mention whatsoever. And fast forward to about 15 years later, and I was a very young executive in the Central Bank of Ireland. And I had a very famous boss at the time, indeed, I ended up writing his biography, and he’s often referred to as the architect of modern Ireland, Dr. TK Whitaker. And he knew I was from Mayo, and he said to me one day, you know, we were talking about the beautiful coastline and the beauty of the area and I once said to him, I said, “Someday I’m going to find out: did Grace O’Malley really exist?” And I remember him putting up this finger and he said, “Miss Chambers,” he said, “why one day? Why don’t you do it now?” So in my early 20s, I set off in search of this extraordinary woman. I hadn’t a clue how to go about this, you know, I was doing economic research and then I found out gosh, you know, there’s no big difference between economic and historic research. They’re the same disciplines and the same everything else applies. So, when my job was finished at five o’clock in the evening, I was over in the National Library in Ireland, I got hooked on this. And the very first entry in what were known as the Calendar of State Papers, these were the calendars or indexes for the Elizabethan stage papers, and copies of them were held in the National Library in Ireland, of the ones relating to Ireland. And the very first entry–I’ll never forget it–that I found in the Calendar of State Papers, and if I could just read it to you, and it gives a pen picture of Grace O’Malley at the height of her fame. And it was written by Queen Elizabeth’s deputy in Ireland, the famous Sir Henry Sidney, father of the great poet and courtier, Sir Philip Sidney. And he met Grace O’Malley in Galway city in 1577. And this is what he wrote back to Queen Elizabeth about her. And this is the very first thing I ever found. And it said: “There came to me a most famous feminine sea captain called Grace O’Malley, with three galleys and 200 fighting men.” Listen to this. “She brought with her her husband, for she was as well by land as by sea. Well more than missus made with him. This was the most notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland.” Well, now with an inspiration like that, 450 years old, I set off on my own search. So my holidays, boyfriends, tennis–everything I was doing in my early 20s all went by the by, and all my free time went. And it took four years between research here in Ireland, and in the UK, in London, mainly, but also in Hatfield House. And then I was given access to a private collection of manuscripts that had never been accessed before. And I was the first person actually opening these old manuscripts since the first time since their original author put filter parchment, and I can tell you, that was something special. You know, it’s every biographer’s dream to be given access to a private collection that has never been researched before. So between the jigs and the reels, four years later, the first edition of Grace O’Malley came out in 1980, and I have to tell you, 40 years later, I’m still talking about her. It’s an amazing voyage. I’ve written around 12 other books, but I can tell you, every single year I’m doing something or other on Grace O’Malley. And hence today, my chat with you.

EB: Wow, and working that ultimate side hustle, just like working all day. And then just researching about a super cool Irish pirate at night. We are so here for it.

LC: I mean, relatable, totally relatable.

EB: Like we work all day, and then talk about Sappho and pirates at night. We get it, we get it.

LC: We get it, we totally get it. I love the way she came to it. That it was not academic. It was–well, I mean, obviously there’s academic rigor, but it wasn’t like, “Oh, I went to uni and then I learned about this or whatever.” She was just like working at a bank. And her boss was like, “You should just do the fucking thing.” And then, she did.

EB: And then she did the thing.

LC: It’s amazing.

EB: We’re here for it. We love you, Anne. Here’s Anne with some historical context on Ireland during O’Malley’s lifetime.

AC: Well, Grace O’Malley was born in the year of 1530. And she died in 1603. So her life really, really encapsulates a very, very disturbed period of history in Ireland, which really revolved around Queen Elizabeth I in England and her plans to conquer Ireland. Now, people often wonder why England was so interested in Ireland. Well Ireland was always looked on, particularly by the Tudors, as the back door to England by England’s continental enemies. And Ireland at that time, that Grace O’Malley during her lifetime–it was a very, very divided country. It was rather like what the Europeans found in North America, when they went there with all the different tribes. Ireland really was divided into around 30 different tribes, and Grace O’Malley’s own father was chieftain of one of those tribes, and that was the famous O’Malley clan. Now, there was a big difference between the O’Malleys and the rest of the Irish clans, and that has a very significant relationship to Grace O’Malley, because back 2000 years in Irish history, even before pre-recorded history that was legendary, the O’Malleys were always associated with the sea. So by the time Grace O’Malley is born in 1530, we can definitely say that the sea was in her DNA. And it’s the sea really that sets Grace O’Malley apart from every other female leader in history, from Catherine the Great to our great contemporary Queen Elizabeth, to all the great leaders, female leaders, in the world. It’s the sea that set Grace O’Malley apart. So she was the only daughter of her father, she did have a half brother. And very, very early on in her life, she started to move away from the domesticity that was associated with womanhood, like in every culture, and moved into the territory that was more looked on as male-orientated, and that of course was the sea. Because the sea, not just in Ireland but down through history, has always been really a barrier to women. You know, the sea was always looked on as a male preserve, a male environment. Let’s even be honest, even today for all our so-called liberalism, I’ll tell you, the sea is still a bit of a barrier to us ladies. You ask a classload of children, you know, young girls at school–what do you want to be? I doubt that one hand would want to say, “I want to be a fisherman,” or, “I want to be a trawlerman,” or, “I want to be a captain of the ship in the American Navy.” Very, very few women really tend towards the sea. So really, this is what makes Grace O’Malley stand apart, really, from other female leaders in history. Ireland for young women–and indeed for old women as well, all the age groups of women–was surprisingly very liberal. You know, Grace O’Malley, for example, was educated. We know that. People presumed, once upon a time, before my book came out, that she spoke in Latin to Elizabeth, when she didn’t need to speak in Latin because I know from the people who matter, who wrote about her, that she understood English. And again, you go back to the sea here. Even though Grace O’Malley was born in a very remote part of Ireland, the sea was always the great highway to new cultures, languages, fashions, foodstuffs, everything. Grace O’Malley possibly knew more about Spain and France than she did about the center of Ireland. She knew more about the politics, the international politics, and she certainly knew more about languages because we have evidence of Spanish and French trawlers coming to her father and getting permission to fish in his wealthy sea domain off the west coast of Ireland. So you have really a woman that was educated. Now, her education would have come from the abbeys and monasteries that were before the Reformation flourishing in Ireland at the time. They provided all the basic education. You also had her education as a seafarer. She is one of the most intrepid seafarers of her time, and unlike most of them, lived to remember it in the old age. You know, the sea was a very, very difficult mistress and a demanding mistress and a very, very dangerous environment, but Grace O’Malley shows how her seamanship was absolutely second to none. So as I said she moved towards her father’s world of seafaring and politics, rather than towards the more feminine, I suppose, outlets at the time, which would have been marriage, bearing children. But, there’s a huge difference with Grace O’Malley again. As the daughter of a chieftain, she belonged to Gaelic aristocracy. So, therefore, her marriage had to pay political dividends. Now, the old Gaelic law–it was known here as Breton law–it was very, very different and much more liberal to women than, for example, the common law of England. For example, I found that Grace O’Malley had inherited land from her own mother, Margaret, which she held in her own right. Now, when she got married, if she was there by English law, she and her land would become the chattels of her husband. That was the law of England at the time. But here in Ireland, it was so liberal to women that they could hold that land, or any property inherited in their own right. Secondly, divorce was very much part and parcel of the Breton law here in Ireland, and indeed, Grace O’Malley invoked the divorce clause in her marriage to her second husband, but they did reunite after that again. So these are the aspects of the Breton law in terms of women’s rights. They were far more liberal, they never, never acknowledged the idea of having an illegitimate child. A child was a child, regardless whether it was born within a marriage or outside of marriage. So in many ways, it was very, very progressive for the time, but of course, was totally obliterated then in later centuries by the English law here.

EB: I’m just envisioning like a little Grace O’Malley, just sitting, looking at the sea. It feels very much like the intro sequence of Moana.

LC: She was just, like, looking out at the sea, thinking about her future.

EB: Yeah, just looking out at the sea, and then she’s this amazing sea adventurer and her family’s like, “You can’t go out on the sea, because you’re a woman.” And she’s like, “No, I am.” I love that Anne says, “The sea was in her DNA.” She’s like this little, gutsy woman who just was like, “I’m gonna do this. I was born to be on the sea.” And it’s just so cool to me.

LC: Yeah, it makes me also think–okay, so my sisters are really obsessed with The Little Mermaid 2. And not only like, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but she’s also looking out at the sea. And it’s the opposite story of Ariel, where she’s like, “I want to go on the land.” Her daughter’s like, “I want to go to sea.” Her parents never told her though, so she doesn’t know why she’s so drawn to the sea anyway. Okay, it’s Disney, it’s everything, it’s amazing for Disney.

EB: Yeah.

LC: One thing I loved about this was that women had so many rights in 16th century Ireland, which I just had no idea. And I guess we don’t think about or talk about it, and maybe you do, because you’re a Bostonian. But like, we don’t really talk about the impacts of colonization on Ireland, in America as much, or like in Australia as much. I’m sure they probably discuss it in Ireland, and I think that was something that came up a lot in our conversation was talking about sort of the colonial impacts on the culture and taking away rights that existed back then. I just thought that was interesting.

EB: I agree wholeheartedly. I mean, I love that women could get divorced. Yes, you have to get married. But if your husband isn’t living up to your expectations, you can divorce him, right? That’s amazing.

LC: Okay, so for the next part, we’re going to go a little bit into what made Grace so special. I mean, even more special than what we’ve already heard.

AC: Well, just to understand the word piracy in relation to Grace O’Malley, we have to be very, very careful here. The idea of the pirate queen really, as her biographer, I wanted to find the woman behind the pirate queen, because the pirate queen kind of gives you the idea of Pirates of the Caribbean and all of that. It wasn’t like that at all. Piracy was part and parcel of maritime life, no matter where you went, be it Cornwall, the South China Seas, wherever. The flotsam and jetsam of the sea was looked on as fair game. Secondly, the big cities here in Ireland, particularly Galway city, which was closest to the O’Malley lands and to where Grace O’Malley operated from, had closed their gates, really, to the original, native Irish in terms of doing trade there. The Irish had to pay exorbitant costs, taxes, on trading their goods there. So the O’Malleys consequently, with their ships, were able to take these goods directly to markets in France and Spain. So that is how they became powerful. Now, she added another dimension to that. She lived during a very, very disturbed time here in Ireland as the Tudor conquest of the country, which began at the beginning of her life and was completed by the time she died. So she’s in a terrible–think of Afghanistan today, think of Syria today. That’s what was happening in Ireland during Grace O’Malley’s time. So consequently, she had to do two things. She became a mother very, very young. She was married in a politically arranged match with an O’Flaherty chieftain. They were the neighboring clan and it was a very, very good marriage in terms of politics, but not very successful on a personal basis for Grace O’Malley. But she had three children with Donal O’Flaherty. Her chieftain husband, Donal O’Flaherty, was typical of the Irish Gaelic chieftains then. Headless chickens, most of them, couldn’t see the bigger picture, couldn’t unite against a much more powerful and invasive enemy that was coming across the Irish Sea towards them. They prefer to have their intertribal feuds and grudges, fighting over things like cattle, boundaries of territory, and even over marriage dowries. So when her husband was killed in one of these tribal feuds, Grace O’Malley came back to her father’s territory. And it’s here the legend of the pirate queen takes place, because she had to find a way to support her children and to support herself. And she based herself on Clare Island, and it from there she started to take tolls on the shipping that were going into Galway city, because she reckoned if the Galway merchants were charging or overcharging her and her family and her clan for the goods they traded there, she was going to take tolls for them to go through what she considered O’Malley sea domain. And that’s where the idea of this pirate queen comes in. Now there’s also a little bit of plundering on the side for most people who were involved in seafaring at the time and if you had a row with somebody where you went in and lifted some of their capital or lifted some of their stuff or took money from them or whatever, that was all part of the seafaring. But trading was also a more legitimate part of it. And the fourth aspect of Grace O’Malley’s career by sea is the importation of Scottish mercenary forces. They were called the famous gallowglass. And they were hired by the Irish chieftains. We also always hear about the Fighting Irish, but I can tell you in the 16th century, they got the Scottish mercenaries to do most of the fighting for them. And these were professional soldiers that were hired by the Irish chieftains during the fighting season between May and October, and it was Grace O’Malley who had a huge business, really, bringing in these Scottish mercenaries, giving them over to whatever chieftains employ them, and then they would be brought back on her ships at the end of the fighting season. So she had a lot of arrows, really, in her chief of armory, and became a very, very wealthy woman.

LC: What a hustler.

EB: This woman–amazing. Seriously, it’s similar to what we heard at the beginning of the episode from Laura of the single mom who’s just like, “Alright, I’m going to figure out whatever I can do to support my kids. What’s that going to be? I’m going to be a pirate, so let’s do it. In whatever way I can.”

LC: Just like, taking tolls from people.

EB: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

LC: Employing mercenaries. I love it. It’s so good. She’s a girlboss. That’s what she is. I mean, that’s offensive to Grace O’Malley, but like–

EB: The ultimate pirate queen, really. This Irish pirate queen.

LC: Exactly.

EB: So what was the political context for all that was happening with Grace O’Malley? Anne’s gonna tell us more.

AC: Now we have to go back to what was happening politically. The chieftains had no flag. There was no flag of Ireland. There was no ideological motivation for anybody in Ireland during that time. And that’s what the English took advantage of. So the divide and conquer policy that they pursued against the Gaelic chieftains worked very, very well. So when I said to you that I never heard of Grace O’Malley or read about her in my school history books, that was one of the reasons, because later generations of Irish historians wanted to show, like every country, that their heroes were heroes, you know. That they were fiercely nationalistic, were motivated by patriotism, and they had an ideology like fighting for freedom. None of that applies to the 16th century. It’s survival, something we can all understand now with the recent pandemic–it’s all about survival. And that’s what Grace O’Malley and her contemporaries were about. It wasn’t until the end of the century that some chieftains in the north of Ireland, O’Neill and O’Donnell, began to see the bigger picture and try and arrange a confederacy of chieftains, but it was too little too late when it occurred. So Grace O’Malley has to operate within that. So consequently, that’s how I found that she met a lot of English administrators who were sent by Queen Elizabeth to try and conquer the country either by military takeover, but preferably because Elizabeth was always very penny-pinching and if she could pardon somebody, she prefered to do that rather than engage in war. And you’ll have Grace O’Malley meeting at a very high political level. These very experienced Machiavellian politicians that were sent to Ireland. And it shows Grace O’Malley as a fantastic political strategist. She knows what’s happening in England, she knows what is happening politically on the wider level. She’s well able to manipulate that and she’s as Machiavellian, really, as the people she is up against. So consequently, I found a lot of little deals she would have done with individual English administrators to get them off her back, to preserve her lands, to preserve the lands of her dependent followers and her family. So you have this great matriarchal woman beginning to emerge in this maelstrom of politics that is going on, particularly in the latter half of her life. So I found that extremely interesting, that this woman was so politically aware, as well as being the intrepid seafarer and just a bit of a pirate and plunderer and British tradeswoman and all of that, she was so politically clued in, it is quite extraordinary, really. And that in a way let her eventually to make the biggest journey, or the most dangerous journey, should I say, of her career, and that was eventually to meet up with Queen Elizabeth I, in Greenwich, in 1593.

EB: Wait, Leesa, you were on this interview, right? Can you clarify this? Yes, she met with Queen Elizabeth, the queen?

LC: She totally did. But wait, there’s more to this story. So just be patient, Ellie, be patient. I’m sorry.

AC: Before that happened, and the reasons why it happened, depend on perhaps the biggest obstacle that Grace O’Malley ever encountered in her life, was the governor of her Province of Connacht, where County Mayo was situated, and that was Sir Richard Bingham. Now Bingham was a very straight-laced, a very good administrator, quite honest. But he absolutely hated the Irish. He hated them for being, as he called them, papists and rebels. And he couldn’t really, like other English administrators whom Grace O’malley met, adapt a little bit and move back off when it was time to back off, and leave the Irish to their own. He couldn’t do that. He had to overcome them. He said the Irish will only ever be overcome by the sword. And secondly, he just took an instant hatred of Grace O’Malley, perhaps because she was a powerful woman, for he thought women should not be. Perhaps because she was successful, perhaps because she knew who his own enemies were in the Elizabethan service. They weren’t all very, all together. You know, they had their own divisions and their own dislikes among themselves. And she was able to manipulate that. Three times she led rebellions against Richard Bingham in Connacht. She managed to bring together all the warring Gaelic chieftains in the locality to unite against Bingham. And you know, she was beginning to see the bigger picture herself, that all the Gaelic chieftains of all of Ireland should really unite against English, but they weren’t prepared to do that. In the end, Grace O’Malley was, I suppose, stopped in her tracks, by, I suppose, what every woman in the world will know and that is motherhood. Because when her son, her youngest son by her second marriage to Richard Iarainn Burke, which–this is the guy she was supposed to have divorced, but I found they actually got together after the divorce. And they were a very, very formidable couple. She really was the one who got her second husband, Richard Iarainn, to ascend one of the most prestigious titles in Irish history at the time, which was the Mac William of Connacht, and he became that and with that went a lot of property–castles. A lot of tributes and rents from under chieftains, chieftains who served under him. So they were a very, very powerful couple. And when he died, the English set up a false Mac William to take over his title, the divide and conquer policy was extended into that, and all hell broke loose in Connacht at that time. And that is where they had one child and his name was Tibbott Iarainn, he was born aboard Grace O’Malley’s own ship, and indeed the legend which I found some proof indeed for, in an old Latin document in the Royal Irish Academy here in Dublin, it was said that the day after she gave birth to Tibbott on board her ship, that her ship was attacked by Algerian pirates. Now everybody always thought this was another British, you know, romantic-type legend. But actually, in fact, the Barbary Coast pirates often made it up the west coast of Ireland, and there are loads of instances where they attacked villages and headlands and castles. And that Grace O’Malley encountered one of these the day after her son was born. The pirates attacked her, she was down in the cabin after giving birth. The battle went against her crew, because they were without her leadership. And she stormed up on deck and said the words, “May you be seven times worse this day twelvemonth, who cannot do without me for one day.” She shouted her troops into battle format again, overcame the Barbary Coast pirates, and sent them packing. And that is actually written in an old–confirmed in an old Latin document in the royal Irish Academy. It’s amazing how legend–by Irish historians ignored Grace O’Malley–legend and folklore preserved her memory for over 400 years. And you know, that itself shows what an impact she must have made on her own time, that from fireside to fireside, for 400 years, the stories and legends about Grace O’Malley were told and retold from generation to generation.

EB: Alright, so that’s amazing.

LC: We talk about maternity leave being bad in this country, but I think that that even tops American maternity care. She has a baby and then she has to fight off Algerian pirates.

EB: Yeah, she couldn’t take time off. They’re just, you know, they forced her to go back into battle. What are we gonna do?

LC: When I think about the trauma women’s bodies go through, and then having to fight pirates after–seriously?

EB: Seriously.

LC: There’s enough respect on her name. How have I not heard of her before?

EB: So impressive. Well, I mean, clearly, if you’re in Ireland, I feel like this is a person that everyone talks about.

LC: But the thing is, I don’t know if that was necessarily true before Anne wrote this book. It’s kind of the same way we came to Sappho, like, why is this name not in everybody’s mouth? People didn’t know about her enough. And that’s why Anne wrote this book. So yeah, it’s just criminal. It’s just criminal.

EB: And here we are talking about her again, because she’s amazing.

LC: Exactly.

EB: But I still want to hear about the meeting with Queen Elizabeth.

LC: Yes, yes, we’ll get back to that. Let’s go. Ellie, I know you just want more information about this meeting between these two women.

AC: Well, one of the most famous legends relating to Grace O’Malley was always–and, indeed, I heard them myself as a child–was her meeting with Queen Elizabeth I of England. Now the legends always said that this great pirate queen, the queen of Connacht, went over to the Queen of England and banged on the door of Greenwich Palace and said, “I am the queen of Connacht, and I want to see Queen Elizabeth of England.” Well now you know, today, if you wanted to see Queen Elizabeth II, you wouldn’t approach it in that way. You would have to go through certain protocols. Very, very difficult ones, and it was exactly the same in 16th century. Queen Elizabeth I received very few visitors. And certainly one that was a pirate and a rebel would not have been very high on the list. Grace O’Malley knew all that. When Governor Richard Bingham captured her youngest son Tibbott who was born aboard her ship, and had him arrested for the trumped up charge of treason, which in the 16th century meant the death penalty, the mother in Grace O’Malley was to the fore. And she knew that she had to try and save her son, but she didn’t rush off and sail up the Thames without firstly doing her homework. She knew that the Irish Earl of Ormond was a cousin of Queen Elizabeth I and was one of her favorites. The fact that he was good-looking helped as well. Grace O’Malley went down to his castle in Munster, and from him she got a letter of introduction to the Queen’s famous Secretary of State, William Cecil Lord Burghley. Armed with that, she then sailed to England, and that was really her letter of introduction was also her letter of protection. She already had been established, there was a price on her head. As she sailed up the Thames, she would have seen the fate given to 16th century pirates that were hung up on cages over the River Thames. They’ve died of thirst and starvation, and they weren’t taken down again until their bones were picked clean by the birds. And she would have seen that as she sailed along. She knew all that. She went with her letter of protection from Queen Elizabeth’s most famous and most beloved courtier at the time, the Earl of Ormond. Eventually, she hung around the court, like everybody who wants to get to see the Queen. And eventually, in July 1593, Lord Burghley had become very interested in her and I found her letters to him. And what I found fascinating is that this famous statesman, you can see him doodling on the letter that she sent him, and he’s trying to work out her family tree. And he’s writing that she was married to Donal O’Flaherty, and she was married to Richard Burke, and she had three sons with this guy, and she had one son with this guy. And it’s amazing. You could imagine this famous statesman, you know, with a candle burning maybe in the middle of the night, with all the missives coming in from all the spies and all the information coming in for his royal mistress. And he’s worried over this measure from this pirate queen from the west of Ireland: “We are now going to see Queen Elizabeth.” In the end, he sent her 18 questions, and I found them in the state papers, and it was like filling in a form. “Who was your mother and father? Where are you from? What do you own? Dah, dah, dah, dah.” And she answered the 18 questions. So in a way, she left me a patent autobiography of her own life, but I have to tell you, it’s done with great caution, and great intrigue. She only gives so much information. There’s a lot of information that she doesn’t give Burghley, either. So in July 1593, Queen Elizabeth always left the city of London because of the summer weather brought with the plague and other diseases, indeed, which attacked her on numerous occasions. And she went down to Greenwich. And it was there, in 1593, that these two iconic women met. Now they did not meet, as the legend says, as young women. They met as elderly women. Both were in their 60s, which in the 16th century, was like somebody being in their 90s now today, because the life expectancy, as you know, of women in the 16th century was very low, I think it was around 35 average. And they met there. And one of the highlights of my research was finding that letter that Queen Elizabeth wrote about that legendary meeting to confirm that it actually occurred. And that I found in Hatfield House in the home of Lord Burghley. And the letter was there, I have it reproduced in the book. And it’s lovely, it shows that Queen Elizabeth, you know, she says, has pity on this poor aged woman. She’s older than Bingham, but I love the word “aged,” because she was exactly the same age as Grace O’Malley, but there was only a difference between a layer of makeup on the part of the Queen. And I suppose the lash of every wind and every wave was clear to see on Grace O’Malley’s face, whereas Elizabeth tended to cover up with, of course, the rice powder and the rouge, and I’m sure they looked at one another. And I think they saw a sister spirit, you know, regardless that they came from such different backgrounds, that they really, I suppose, came from opposing cultures as well, which were in the grip of war at the time. But Elizabeth gives everything that Grace O’Malley asks for. Her son was released, restored to his lands, and the Queen orders Bingham to back off and to allow her to return to the sea, which Grace O’Malley calls her trade of maintenance by land and sea, which was rather a nice cover up for all the little bits of piracy and plunder she was doing as well. So that famous meeting did take place and I’ve just finished a play, actually, that is going to be Zoomed soon. And I call it Matriarchs. You know, as a biographer, you have to stick very closely to the facts and very little of yourself really can go into that, you know, you’re trying to be as honest to your subject and to your potential reader. So it was lovely in the play to be able to let my imagination run a little bit more, and I have–this play is called Matriarchs: The Pirate Queen and the Virgin Queen. And they’re talking about all the things from female empowerment, from motherhood, Queen Elizabeth had to give up so much to be a powerful woman, while Grace O’Malley, on the other side, seems to have had it all. She was a mother. She was a wife, she was a widow, she was a lover, she was a grandmother, she was a great-grandmother, while Elizabeth had to give up so much to hold on to her power to be queen. So you have them talking about issues that affect all of us women today, from a career before marriage, from male chauvinism and bias, female empowerment and female ageism, which can be a problem for a lot of women as well. And, you know, when I was writing that play, I said, “My goodness, the relevance of what these women were saying and what they went through is so relevant for us women today.” You know, the 400 years seem to disappear when I was writing that play.

LC: I do. I want an entire episode about this one meeting, to be honest. So I have a few fun facts about it. Firstly, the whole meeting was spoken in Latin because the Queen only spoke English and Grace O’Malley only spoke Gaelic. And so they just did the whole thing in Latin.

EB: Makes sense.

LC: We don’t do languages enough anymore. I remember this interview between, I think it was–it was between Foucault and somebody. And they were conducting this interview and it was in English and they were at an English school, and then Foucault is like, “My English isn’t great. So I’m just gonna reply in French and then I’ll speak English and French.” You should find the interview, it’s great. This is like–you think about these things, it’s just, we’re so limited these days in not being able to do that.

EB: I saw a TikTok the other day that was like, “Here’s what English sounds to people who don’t understand English.” And it was just like, people just like saying random syllables that sounded like English, but like, made no sense. And I was like, holy shit, like, yeah, that makes sense.

LC: Yeah. It’s probably like what Gaelic sounds like to us.

EB: Yeah, exactly.

LC: Another fun fact is that Grace sneezed and she was given this ornate lace handkerchief from the Queen, and she just threw it into the fire when she was done.

EB: Yeah, because, who knows, you know, she needed it to blow her nose and that’s it. Now she’s done with it.

LC: Yeah, she was like, I’m done with you. There’s no way this could be recycled. I’m just gonna throw it into the fire.

EB: Yep.

LC: In the meeting–and like, this is just women, right? I don’t know how big Grace’s boobs were, but women who are a bit bustier, she carried a knife in her bosom. I carry everything in my boobs, like I relate to this a lot. There’s a lot of space in there. She brought a knife in her bosom and the Queen saw it, she’s like, “I needed to protect myself.” And the Queen was like, “Fine. I get you.”

EB: Isn’t this, like, one of the very few meetings between two female leaders?

LC: Yeah.

EB: In this time, right? So I feel like there’s an understanding, right, where the Queen is like, “You know what? I have a lot of men around me. I understand that you might need some protection. Keep it.”

LC: Yeah, you’re good. Keep it, boo.

EB: “I trust you. Because you’re another woman.” Like, that’s it?

LC: Yeah. And then the last fact–so when she was in the meeting, her only request was that Bingham be fired. And everybody was like, “Sure. If you say he’s a dick.” It’s like, women solidarity together, you know. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, but I’ve definitely been in situations where I’ve gone into a networking event or like a meeting or a job and there’s a woman who is just like, “Yo, that dude. Yep, watch out for him. He’s a sleazeball.” And I just feel like this is exactly what was going on here. She’s like, “You’re a Bingham.”

EB: She’s like, “I just met you, Grace. But if you say this guy sucks, I’ll fire him. That’s it.”

LC: We love this. We love this.

EB: I am obsessed with this meeting between these two powerful women in their 60s. But I mean, since Grace’s time, she also has a lasting legacy. So Anne’s gonna tell us more about Grace’s lasting legacy.

AC: We have been bereft by having our history so male-orientated. And I’m so delighted now that Grace O’Malley–I never heard of her, and that’s what started me off on my voyage of discovery–was the fact that she never appeared in my school history books. Now the children here and around the world–she’s on their school history books, and she is on schools’ curricula. So I am delighted. That is the thing that I feel so happy about. She’s led me all over the world to tell her story from Harvard, to the pirate city of Port Royal in Jamaica, all around everywhere. I’ve been everywhere with her. But the thing that pleases me most is that children now have what I didn’t have. And that is the ability to study her as a historical figure. And I think we are all the better for that, you know, 50% of the population in the world was airbrushed in times gone by. Women couldn’t have been missing all the time. Just like today, when you see them in Afghanistan and Syria, it’s always the women who are left holding the can, you know, for the mess that has been made, usually in a male-dominated society. And it’s the women that have to come up, look after kids, do all the practical stuff that keeps life alive, you know, and it never changes and you see it even today, as we speak. Grace O’Malley’s descendants are possibly scattered around the world. She was married to an O’Flaherty, she was married to a Burke. But the ones that we know for definite lived in Westport House in County Mayo. Beautiful historic house, and her great, great granddaughter, Maude Burke, married John Brown, and the family have kept up the tradition and that is where I got access to the private collection of manuscripts that were there–letters relating to herself and her son. I wrote Tibbott Burke’s biography as well. And I’m just after writing the biography off her eighth great-grandson, Howe Peter Browne, the second Marquess of Sligo, and he is so relevant now because he was, even as a peer of the realm–he took the side of the slaves in Jamaica, and he became known as champion of the slaves in Jamaica when he was there as governor general. And I went out to do some research there, and I found that the first free slave village in the world is named Sligoville, in his honor. So Grace O’Malley’s eighth great-grandson made such an important contribution to the abolition of slavery. And it took me eight years to write his book because–or his biography–because, like we send texts today, Howe Peter sent letters, and he kept copies of all these letters in an atrocious handwriting, may I add, but anyway, I got used to it over the years. And I think 15,000 of his letters I found in archives all around the world, and the book was published just last year. It’s called The Great Leviathan, because he was known derisively by the planters in Jamaica as the Great Leviathan of black humanity. And he is so relevant today, you know, when you hear people involved in the slavery system being pulled down from their plaques all over the world, I’m not sure that that’s a good idea where history is concerned. I think there should have been a plaque erected to him because he’s little known. And he also went to America, and actually helped in the cause of slavery there in 1836, before slavery was abolished in the States. He was there talking to the people who were against slavery at the time. So he’s an extraordinary guy, and he led me on a merry dance, more than his great antecedent, Grace O’Malley. But this guy was all around the place. He traveled, my goodness, if he had–he travelled by horse and carriage and, of course, by sailboat, and it all took such a long time. But for a guy who died when he was 56, he had covered, I’d say, a quarter of the globe–a great story. And it’s not all above board, he was a good friend of Lord Byron. So you can imagine that these two got up to when they were young and out in Greece and Albania and places like that. They got up to all sorts, so he led me a terrific dance. And he was very much part of the Grace O’Malley story. So in a way, she has given me subjects for other books, as well. So it’s never ending, really.

EB: I absolutely love this. I mean, this is the point of our podcast. This is obviously a big thing that we are all about, which is learning about these unsung female heroes of history. So I love that, because of Anne and because of other people who have been talking about Grace O’Malley, now all these kids can learn about the super incredible Irish pirate.

LC: Yeah, I really love what Anne’s done here. And she’s then gone on to write about Grace’s ancestors. I hope that in 40 years, that our Sappho podcast, or this podcast, has like a similar, you know, ripple effect. I think when we started, that was really what we set out to do, was talk about history that people don’t talk about. So I really, really love speaking to her about this. So I really want to end on this last story. And when I tell you that, since Anne told me this story, I’ve told so many people this story. When I talk about the second season of our podcast, this is a story that I tell people to talk about how freaking cool it is. So I’m going to let her go from here, and I hope you love this story as much as me.

AC: We all must associate Grace O’Malley with the west coast of Ireland. But here on the east coast, she made a huge impact. In 1577, she was coming back from one of her voyages, and put it into the port for Dublin which was then called County Dublin. And while she was waiting for her ships to be watered and get in her provisions for the long journey around the north coast of Ireland down into a county into the bay, as a chieftain in our own right, she decided to visit the local lord of the manor. Now Howth in County Dublin was known as The Pale, that was the English part of Ireland which was 30 miles around Dublin City. So Gaelic hospitality and the type of hospitality they had in The Pale differed, but Grace O’Malley went up to Howth Castle, banged on the door and said, “I’m Grace O’Malley, I want to see the Lord of Howth.” And the porter at the gate told her the Lord of Howth was at dinner and could not be disturbed. Because they all was said, of course, when the Lord was sitting at his dinner table, that’s when he was most vulnerable to attack. So Grace O’Malley was absolutely disgusted with, you know, being refused what she would have given any visitor to her castle. So she flounced back to her ship, which was moored down on the beach nearby, and she came upon a little boy being walked by a nurse, and she found out that it was the grandson of the Earl of Howth. So she brought the boy aboard her ship, and being a mother herself, she was very, very nice and everything–raised the sail and set off. And the Earl of Howth then heard that his heir and grandson had been taken by this infamous pirate, and he didn’t know what to do. Now it took three weeks to get through Ireland on horseback at the time. He wasn’t a sailor, he didn’t have a ship. So he had to come by horseback right across Ireland over to Grace O’Malley’s territory, and he met him. And he said what money did she want for the safe return of his grandson. And she scorned his offer of a ransom in money and she said, “This is what I want you to do–that you will always set an extra place at your table for the uninvited guest.” And the Earl of Howth was taken aback and he said of course he would do that, of course. And he gave her a ring as a pledge on their bargain. And she handed over the little boy who perhaps had a wonderful holiday, finally was done with her in the west coast. When I was doing research, I didn’t have a car, I remember, at the time. I remember getting a bus out to Howth, and I went up the same avenue that Grace O’Malley did, unannounced, and I knocked on the door of Howth Castle. The present Earl of Howth, Christopher St. Lawrence, still with us today, came out and I said, “My name is Anne Chambers. I’m trying to write a biography of Grace O’Malley, and I just wonder if her ransom demand is still observed here at Howth.” And he said, “Come in.” He said the only people in the castle are myself and my wife. Well, after dinner, he said, “How many places do we see?” I said, “I see three.” It had been continued for 400 years by his ancestors, that when they ever gave a dinner party, automatically an extra place would be set. And it is still there in Howth Castle today. So that story, you know, was a legend, but to find then, he gave me notes, from the family, to show that this had been kept up for the 450 years. So I think that is a lovely tribute both to Grace O’Malley and indeed to the guests for the St. Lawrence family. And when they were building houses in their domain for people, for workers, they named all the avenues and roads Grace O’Malley Road, Grace O’Malley Avenue. So it’s lovely that she’s remembered in Howth Castle today.

LC: I just love that he’s thinking she wants all these things. She’s like, “No, you just disrespected me. Now I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”

EB: “Just be nice. All I need is for you to be nice next time. Okay, that’s it.” And they’re still doing it today. I think that’s awesome.

LC: It’s wild to me–like I really want to go there. So Anne did go there, and Anne did go. She went there and she knocked on the door and she asked, and they had a seat there for her. Which I just think–wow, wow.

EB: It’s so cool. Yeah. After this, what happened to her?

AC: Grace O’Malley, of course also, was a year in Dublin Castle. She was incarcerated in Dublin Castle, she was found plundering on a very famous man’s lands down in Munster. And she was in Dublin Castle. Now, only the most powerful and important political prisoners were ever put into Dublin Castle. And she’s one of the few political prisoners who actually affected her release. And I have to say that is one thing I never discovered–how she did that. We don’t know how she got out of Dublin Castle and lived to tell the tale. And was in prison there–now imprisonment for Grace O’Malley, particularly, used to the freedom of the sea and the freedom that she had in her own life. I don’t know how she must have felt cooped up in a dungeon for one year, it must have been absolutely horrific. But she did manage to get her freedom. So Grace O’Malley comes back from Queen Elizabeth I, and for the rest of her life, she went back to the sea, which was where she felt free, I think, you know. The land always seemed to bring problems, whereas once at sea, she was really monarch of all she surveyed. And the last entry to her is about an attack she is leading at the great age of 70, on McNeil, on the Island of Barra, off the coast of Scotland, because he had to come down from Scotland and attack some of her relations in north Mayo. So she ends her life as she begins, in a little bit of a mist. She moves out, hopefully into another world that her great prowess and her great personality is still somewhere out there in the spirit world today. I’d like to think that. I think Grace O’Malley’s biggest success was something we can all identify with, and that was survival. To survive both the man and the sea. To survive on the wild Atlantic Ocean as the intrepid mariner and accomplished mariner that she was, but to survive the traumatic decades of a traumatic time in Irish history, to have survived and to remember it in old age is quite extraordinary. And particularly given the fact that she was active as a military leader by land as well as by sea. It just makes her stand out as fighting extraordinaire. She outlived all her enemies and all her allies. That for a female physique, even, to have been able to do that is quite extraordinary. And she did become that great matriarchal figure that Gaelic law allowed, but the incoming English law, sadly, there was no place for a woman like that. She lived to see, I suppose, the total overthrow of the Gaelic way of life into which she had been born and bred and had been in Ireland for 2000 years. And that all finished in the space of around five decades and it was these five decades in which she was very, very active. But I think also for Grace O’Malley, we have to think as well–you know, she really had it all. Grace O’Malley never had to jettison her femininity to be better than a man, at whatever she was doing. Now, most women oftentimes have to, even today we see it, they have to really adapt to male ethos ways, whatever you want to call it. Every reference to Grace O’Malley in the Elizabethan state papers that I found all referred to her as a woman. There’s no saying that she’s more man than woman. No, no, no–she’s a woman, doing these extraordinary things. A most famous feminine sea captain, you know, they don’t say that she’s acting like a sea captain. She’s the most famous feminine–a nurse to all rebellions. I love that. That was another entry in the statement. A woman who overstepped the part of womanhood. I’m sure Queen Elizabeth would agree with that, because she overstepped, so they had a lot in common, as I said before, when they met. But Grace O’Malley really, as I say, seemed to have all lived long enough to enjoy it, and left a legacy that really and truly is so relevant, as I say to us women today, and she is that iconic inspiration. And I hope that my book has helped to make her story kind of move around a bit more, you know, and that people will be as inspired by her as I was.

LC: I feel like this is a theme with these women pirates. They seem to outlast all of the dudes of their time. This is like the third time or something that we’ve spoken about a woman who actually got to live her life out.

EB: Yeah. And to be also 70 years old, and leading these battles. And also 70, in that time, was so old, comparatively.

LC: I know, it’s amazing.

EB: My grandfather is 92 years old. I’m just envisioning, like, him. The lifespan of people, right? It’s like that same lifespan, right? That is like, you are an elderly person, and you are still fighting all these battles. That is incredible.

LC: It’s so good. I’m so happy. I just–it’s been an absolute joy, learning about Grace O’Malley. Anne has some amazing projects coming up related to badass women. And so, we’re going to let her tell you a little bit more about them.

AC: Well, what I’d like to do with Matriarchs is, at the moment, I got it filmed professionally, but it’s done with an amateur cast. And they’re absolutely fantastic. So I would like to take that amateur version first. And I will put it up for streaming, perhaps in autumn. And I would like to link in with some aspect that is associated with the theme in the play: female empowerment, women’s age, something to do with the marine, and raise some funding for that. Wouldn’t it be a fantastic thing to be able to do, and to make Grace O’Malley now, and indeed Queen Elizabeth, it’s about both women, in a practical way to help some cause associated with them. So I’m hoping to do that now in this coming autumn, and finally down the road, I think it would be a fantastic two parts for exceptional female actors of a certain age. You know, there are not too many parts now for women over 60, let’s say, and I’m thinking Helen Mirren, Fiona Shaw, can you imagine what they would do with this? Wow. And you know, there are other women out there as well. I did a biography on Eleanor, Countess of Desmond–my god, she’s a contemporary of Grace O’Malley. Now unlike Grace O’Malley, at least folklore and legends preserved her memory for generations. But Eleanor, Countess of Desmond, maybe the fact that she had a title, I don’t know–she was obliterated. And I just came across her, and how did I come across her? To Grace O’Malley, because it was Eleanor’s husband, who, the only time Grace O’Malley was captured, it was Eleanor’s husband when she came to plunder his lands and that’s how she ended up in Dublin Castle. And she and Eleanor knew each other. Her story is like, ooh…well, that’s for another story.

EB: Thank you for listening to this episode all about Grace O’Malley and Anne. We are so excited for all of her new projects. In the meantime, here’s a taste of what’s to come on Sweetbitter.

Wendy Bracewell: In terms of, you know, what they did–their strategy and techniques–they’re very similar to pirates elsewhere and at other times. They tend to be small-scale rather than large-scale piracy. But that’s part and parcel of the technology of seafaring at the time. They’re not dealing with great, big, round ships. They’re dealing with small and larger trading galleys, especially the small-scale trade up and down the Dalmatian coast. They’re very well equipped to deal with that, to take it on with fairly small boats, barques that will hold maybe 12 to 24 men. So not huge, but very fast, very agile. They’re also very well suited to the landscape, so if you know the Dalmatian coast, it’s dotted with islands big and small. And these small, little Uskok craft are very good at hiding behind rocky promontory or in a bay, and then scooting out really quickly, you know, four or five boats surrounding a larger ship and jumping aboard and saying, “What have you got on you, and who does it belong to?”

LC: Thanks for listening to Sweetbitter. Our next episode will be released on the 23rd of December, just in time for Christmas.

EB: If you enjoyed the podcast, please subscribe, rate, and review us, it really helps. Especially written reviews on Apple podcasts. You can also support us on Patreon, at patreon.com/sweetbitter.

LC: Don’t forget, you can also get bonus episodes on Apple podcasts, especially good if you are going to need some extra content for your family affairs. Sometimes it’s good to just go off in the corner and listen to a podcast.

EB: And listen to a podcast–we’ve got you there. Sweetbitter is an independent production by me, Ellie Brigida, Alyse Knorr, and Leesa Charlotte, in partnership with Three Springs Media, who also manage our audio engineering. Our production assistant is Thea Smith and our artwork is by Istela Illustrated. Thank you to our guests this week, Laura Duncombe, Ryan Burns, and Anne Chambers. You can read more about our guests and where to find them on our website.

LC: You can find us on Twitter and Instagram at @sweetbitterpod, or contact us on our website, sweetbitterpodcast.com.

EB: Now, we want to introduce our sea shanty for the week, by Alyse, with sound by Joshua.