ELEANOR COUNTESS OF DESMOND 1545-1638 The life of Eleanor Butler FitzGerald, Countess of Desmond is testimony to the struggle of a courageous, spirited, enduring and gritty woman who refused to abandon hope in the face of an inexorable fate which sucked more powerful than she into its maw. And while it may appear that she failed ultimately in her goal to save her husband, her family, her home and her inheritance, her failure is heroic, her path towards it a triumph of the human spirit. One can only stand and applaud in amazement and admiration this forgotten heroine of the Tudor wars in Ireland.
While Eleanor may have lived 500 years ago, the personal trauma she experienced by the violent and systematic destruction of the fabric of her native society and way of life has reverberations and relevance today. Women in Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and elsewhere, the mothers, wives, grandmothers, widows, sisters and daughters of the indigenous population, have lived and continue to live through political, military and social upheaval, their lives torn asunder by forces, both foreign and local, over which they have little or no control. And yet despite such insurmountable odds, in the midst of such a hostile environment, these unsung heroines continue to protect, nurture and provide for their families and keep hope alive.
And it is to these brave women this book is dedicated.
New Edition Published, February 2011
Set in a period of invasion, military conflict, social and political chaos perpetrated by the Tudor conquest of Ireland, the story of Eleanor Countess of Desmond recounts the heroic efforts of a woman to protect her family against insurmountable odds.
Aristocratic, educated, intelligent and able Lady Eleanor Butler’s destiny was as a wife and mother. But marriage to Garret FitzGerald, the powerful Earl of Desmond, hurls her headlong into a maelstrom of invasion, rebellion, intrigue, appalling cruelty, double-dealing, confiscation plantation, famine, social and political meltdown, as she and her husband become embroiled in a struggle to the death against the formidable, Machiavellian government of Queen Elizabeth I of England.
Enduring imprisonment, exile, poverty, hunger and deprivation, her only son held hostage in the Tower of London, her mission to save the House of Desmond, her husband, her children and herself from annihilation becomes Eleanor’s obsession and for which she will sacrifice anything, including herself. When all seems lost, like some latter-day phoenix, she rises, time after time, to bravely confront each new challenge.
The life of Eleanor Countess of Desmond is the story of the triumph of the human spirit against the most horrific adversity.
In this vigorous and deeply moving biography that has all the constituents of a Shakespearean tragedy, sourced from primary contemporaneous manuscripts, including the Countess of Desmond’s own letters, Anne Chambers, author of the best-selling Granuaile, vividly brings the life of this neglected heroine to light against the backdrop of one of the most convoluted and traumatic periods in Irish history.
’Chambers writes with the assurance of someone who has saturated herself in the social and political atmosphere of Elizabethan Ireland...She skilfully brings all her main characters to life...The background to Eleanor’s life is richly detailed and often thought-provoking...This is an enthralling book. ’ Dervla Murphy Irish Times
’A truly marvellous story - one in which truth is more brave and more resourceful than fiction.’ Irish Post
’Anne Chambers is one of the rare exceptions. She has that quality, even in historians rare, of seeing, feeling and understanding the period she writes about as if she were a contemporary.’ Irish Independent.
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