Set in Ireland in 1650, The Story of the Pirate Queen takes as its subject the life of the Irish clan chief and pirate Grace O’Malley – or Grainne ni Mhaille – who spent her life fighting the forces of Elizabeth I before sailing up the Thames for a summit meeting with the English queen. In the book, Grace’s ten-year-old great great granddaughter Maude is being told the story of her ancestor by her tutor, Catherine, on the eve of her betrothal to a much older man in an arranged marriage. As Catherine gradually learns why Maude has been summoned to a castle at the edge of the Atlantic, her tales of Grace’s rebellion and bravery take on more urgency. But can Maude resist her father’s will? What will she make of Grace’s meeting with Queen Elizabeth? And is Catherine endangering them both?
Interwoven into these narratives is an extract from a play Catherine has written about the meeting of Grace and Elizabeth. This turns a straightforward pirate story into an exploration of the function of fiction itself: what are stories for? Can – and do – they belong to anyone?
‘Lively, lyrical and engrossing, The Pirate Queen brings to life the tale of the Irish Boudicca, a fearless leader whose story is used by a rebellious governess to inspire her pupil to resist a forced marriage. I found it irresistible.’ – Miranda Seymour, Biographer
‘…A cracking story which seamlessly spans the decades.’ – Dr Gillian Kenny, Historian, Trinity College Dublin
‘A compelling and vividly realised story of solidarity, courage and resistance… a story about the power of stories’ – Fran Lock, Poet