Cover image for The wild Irish
The wild Irish
Maxwell, Robin, 1948-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow, [2003]

Physical Description:
393 pages ; 24 cm
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The glorious, turbulent sixteenth century is drawing to a close. Elizabeth, Queen of England, has taken on the mighty Spanish Armada and, in a stunning sea battle, vanquished it.But her troubles are far from over. At home she is challenged at every turn by the brilliant but reckless Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, whose dangerous mix of passion and political ambition drives the aging queen to distraction. Just across the western channel, her colony Ireland is embroiled in seething rebellion, the island's fierceuntamed clan chieftains and their "wild Irish" followers refusing to bow to their English oppressors.

In the midst of the conflict is Grace O'Malley, notorious pirate, gunrunner, and "Mother of the Irish Rebellion." For years, the audacious Grace has plotted and fought against the English stranglehold on her beloved country. At the height of the uprising Grace takes an outrageous risk, sailing up the River Thames to London for a face-to-face showdown with her nemesis, the Queen of England.

The historic meeting of these two female titans --perfectly matched in guts, guile, and political genius -- sets the stage for the telling of the little-known but crucial saga of Elizabeth's Irish war, a conflict at the very root of every subsequent Irish uprising. No one breathes life into these strong and pugnacious women as does Robin Maxwell in this captivating novel, a rousing tale that makes historygloriously real.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Maxwell interweaves the strands of three individual stories into a stunning tapestry of love, loyalty, and betrayal. When Grace O'Mally, passionate clan chieftain and legendary Irish pirate, visits the court of Elizabeth I to plead for the release of her imprisoned son, the two most extraordinary women of their time find they have much in common. As Grace relates her incredible life and times to Elizabeth, the aging Bess also revisits her own often tragic past. Caught between these two powerful and magnetic females, Elizabeth's favorite courtier and one-time lover, Robert Devereaux, earl of Essex, is inexorably drawn into the tangled web of the Irish rebellion. His is no match for the emotional and political forces that swirl about him; Essex's ill-fated attempt to lead an uprising against the queen eventually results in his execution. Superbly crafted, this dynamic tale brings a host of historical characters vividly to life. --Margaret Flanagan Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Two powerful women of indomitable will-Elizabeth I and the sea-loving Irish pirate, Grace O'Malley-collide in this vivid but ungainly historical drama. Maxwell (The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, etc.) introduces the fabulous queen at 60, her face white with alum and eggshell paint and her red wig ablaze. Twice the age of her confidant, the brilliant Robert Devereaux, earl of Essex, she is brittle and bitter, loath to show any weakness or mercy. Determined to stamp out the ongoing unrest in Ireland, she calls on the notorious O'Malley for counsel. O'Malley's son and brother are in the custody of the English, and it is for their sake that she agrees to appear before Elizabeth. In an extraordinary private conference late at night in the queen's rooms, the Irishwoman tells her own story, which is the history of an island nation at war with England and itself as well as of a woman who has lived a long and turbulent life. Moved by her tale, Elizabeth grants her wishes, but soon finds herself sending Essex to destroy the rebellion raging in Ireland. Ravaged by syphilis and outnumbered two to one, Essex is persuaded by O'Malley that there is no shame in asking for a truce, and he makes peace with the Irish. Though he rushes back to Elizabeth hoping for her blessing, he falls from favor and desperately engineers a hopeless uprising. Maxwell's double portrait of two aging women is warmly drawn ("Look at us," says Grace. "Two old birds fightin' for the same feckin' worm"), but the novel's pacing is erratic, its leaps from England court intrigue to Irish battle scenes jarring. Agents, Kim Witherspoon and Marie Massie. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Never one to disappoint in her treatment of strong females, historical novelist Maxwell reveals for us a very complex, passionate, and remarkable woman in Grace O'Malley, the legendary 16th-century pirate. As the novel opens, Grace is in London to petition Elizabeth I for relief from the brutal occupation of her beloved Ireland. Unexpectedly, Elizabeth asks Grace to provide an account of her personal history. Grace complies in great detail and color. Her story comprises nearly a third of the novel, which also examines Elizabeth's campaign in Ireland, that country's determined rebellion, and the tragic fall of Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex. While fans of Maxwell's earlier novels will be enthralled with Grace, they may be disappointed in the Elizabeth presented here. In Virgin, Maxwell portrayed Elizabeth as a lovesick teenager. She is now aging and cranky, still powerful and still vain in spite of her decline but often rash in her decisions. Still, this is a most satisfying novel. Highly recommended for most public libraries.-Jean Langlais, St. Charles P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Wild Irish Chapter One The sun was warm on her face and she wondered, Where were the mists? London was perpetually shrouded in fog, was gray and dreary. And it stank. Or so her father'd said. Owen O'Malley had sailed into London once and only once in his life, but for his two wide-eyed children, the art of his conjuring had forever after painted the city a dank and fetid hole. Yet today Grace O'Malley was blinded by sunlight. The bow of Murrough ne Doe's galley sliced the Thames like a seamstress's scissors through a length of glittering cloth -- a river of diamonds, it seemed. Perhaps, thought Grace, Elizabeth would be wearing diamonds when they met. The Queen of England -- what would she look like? In her portraits the woman had a strange look about her. Cold. Brittle. Sharp beak nose. And the hard gaze of a man. No, 'twould not be diamonds, Grace corrected herself. 'Twould be pearls . The first Elizabeth, it was said, swathed herself in pearls, both black and white, some as tiny as a bead, some large as a goose's egg, the rare black ones her favorite. A din rose from the clutter of docks and warehouses on the river's north shore. The long, narrow waterfront properties were abutted seamlessly together, ships large and small clamoring for their place at the jetties and water stairs. Brawny shoremen grunted oaths as they labored, loading and unloading vessels, hefting plain and exotic cargoes back to high, timbered warehouses. Carts full of wares rumbled away down cobbled streets behind. The loudest ruckus came from the wharf receiving a shipload of wetfish whose odors -- pungent and familiar -- filled her nose. Fishermen were the rowdiest sailors, she knew, more so than merchantmen. Pirates even. She glimpsed seamen hurrying to finish their chores. They'd be keen to be done, to leave the ships they'd crewed for weeks or months and swagger down the planks in boisterous bands for a night of brawling and whoring in the world's mightiest city. Stretched out beyond the waterfront was the endless sprawl of London's squat and storied houses, hundreds of streets. Church spires by the dozens pierced the sky, more in one place, thought Grace, than she'd even seen in Spain. Deep in the city rose the tallest of all the steeples, surely the famous cathedral of St. Paul's. And up ahead was London Bridge, still too far in the distance to see the heads of traitors rotting on their pikes. Commercial landings now gave way to fine residences, each as large as a small castle, broad lawns sweeping down to the river's edge. Those were the homes of the great lords, she knew, some of whom had been wreaking havoc in Ireland. The sight tightened a knot in her gut. She must stifle her hatred. Remember her purpose. But here she was, sixty-three years of age. Her maiden voyage into London Town and she was a passenger on a ship not her own. Sure her colors flew below those of Murrough ne Doe O'Flaherty, but it was humiliating all the same. Infuriating. Well, she had come to remedy that. She would pay a wee call on the queen, at Greenwich, and see about the disturbances. Grace wondered if she was as tall and bony and yellow clackered as they said she was, if the alum and eggshell face paint she wore cracked grotesquely at the corners of her mouth and eyes. If she'd loathe the woman on sight, her enemy for more than thirty years. She would know soon enough, thought Grace, gripping the rail with her strong, sun-browned fingers. Soon enough indeed. Chapter Two The Irish galley brazenly flying her two rebel flags had, but a moment before, sailed beyond sight of the mullioned window at Essex House. Robert Devereaux, second earl of that name, that house, had come to gaze at the river with an eye to calming his frayed nerves. He'd found that the sight of ships and wherries and barges on the wide, moving ribbon of water slowed a racing heart, measured his ragged breaths, even occasionally lifted the dark veil that had, periodically, fallen since childhood like a shroud on his soul. Out there, the sun glinting off the Thames, life appeared simple, mundane, whilst behind him in his study was a roomful of Queen Elizabeth's courtiers -- friends, relatives, admirers (schemers one and all) -- and in their company was every complication of which a man could dream. Twenty-four, and I am already a great lord of England , thought Essex. He'd recently astonished even himself, being granted a seat at the table of the Privy Council. He was Master of the Horse, a Knight of the Garter, and Elizabeth's undisputed favorite. Yet I am poor , he thought bitterly, the poorest earl in the kingdom . This, like his title, was a legacy from his father, Walter, first Earl of Essex. He bemoaned that fact every day of his life and cursed his father, altogether conscious of the sin, but cursed him nonetheless. At age seventeen, with Walter Devereaux dead and disgraced in Ireland, and his mother despised by the queen, Robert had to come to Court a penniless lad. Had he owned an ounce less of character and cunning, he often reminded himself, he'd have been swallowed alive by the beast that was Elizabeth's Court. Instead he had risen more quickly -- nay, shot like a star across the heavens -- than even his benefactor, the Earl of Leicester, had envisaged he might. Yet it had been tooth and claw all the way to this moment, Essex knew, and whilst the Privy Councilship was assured, his military exploits already the stuff of legend, and his popularity with courtiers, beautiful waiting ladies, and the public equally vaulted, much was nevertheless at stake. His very livelihood! The Wild Irish . Copyright © by Robin Maxwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The Wild Irish by Robin Maxwell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.