Meeting of Grace O’Malley and Queen Elizabeth

The meeting of Granie-Ni-Mhaille [Grana Wale] or “Grace O’Malley” and Elizabeth is a circumstance as singular as it is well authenticated. Dressed in the simple costume of her country, with her crimson mantle flung across her shoulders, the Irish chieftainess approached the stately Tudor, seated on her throne, surrounded by her glittering court, and, undazzled by the splendour of the scene, addressed the Queen of England, less as a mistress, than as a sister sovereign:

(From the Irish.)

There stands a tower by the Atlantic side—

A grey old tower, by storm and sea-waves beat—

Perch’d on a cliff beneath it, yawneth wide

A lofty cavern—of yore a fit retreat

For pirates’ galleys; altho’, now, you’ll meet

Nought but the seal and wild gull; from that cave

A hundred steps do upwards lead your feet

Unto a lonely chamber!—Bold and brave

Is he who climbs that stair, all slippery from the wave.

I sat there on an evening. In the west,

Amid the waters, sank the setting sun:

While clouds, like parting friends, about him prest,

Clad in their fleecy garbs, of gold and dun;

And silence was around me—save the hum

Of the lone wild bee, or the curlew’s cry.

And lo! upon me did a vision come,

Of her who built that tower, in days gone by;

And in that dream, behold! I saw a building high.

A stately hall—lofty and carved the roof—

Was deck’d with silken banners fair to see.

The hangings velvet, from Genoa’s woof,

And wrought with Tudor roses curiously;

At its far end did stand a canopy,

Shading a chair of state, on which was seen

A ladye fair, whose look of majesty,

Amid a throng, ’yclad in costly sheen—

Nobles and gallant knights proclaim her England's Queen.

The sage Elizabeth; and by her side

Were group’d her counsellors, with calm, grave air,

Burleigh and Walsingham, with others, tried

In wisdom and in war, and sparkling there,

Like Summer butterflies, were damsels fair,

Beautiful and young: behind, a trusty band

Of stalwart yeomanry, with watchful care,

The portal guard, while nigher to it stand

Usher and page, ready to ape with willing hand.

A Tucket sounds, and lo! there enters now

A stranger group, in saffron tunics drest:

A female at their head, whose step and brow

Herald her rank, and, calm and self possest,

Onward she came, alone, through England’s best,

With careless look, and bearing free, yet high,

Tho’ gentle dames their titterings scarce represt,

Noting her garments as she passed them by;

None laughed again who met that stern and flashing eye.

Restless and dark, its sharp and rapid look

Show’d a fierce spirit, prone a wrong to feel,

And quicker to revenge it. As a look,

That sun-burnt brow did fearless thoughts reveal;

And in her girdle was a skeyne of steel;

Her crimson mantle, a gold brooch did bind;

Her flowing garments reached unto her heel;

Her hair—part fell in tresses unconfined,

And part, a silver bodkin did fasten up behind.

’Twas not her garb that caught the gazer’s eye—

Tho’ strange, ’twas rich, and, after its fashion, good—

But the wild grandeur of her mien—erect and high.

Before the English Queen she dauntless stood,

And none her bearing there could scorn as rude;

She seemed as one well used to power—one that hath

Dominion over man of savage mood,

And dared the tempest in its midnight wrath,

And thro’ opposing billows cleft her fearless path.

And courteous greeting Elizabeth then pays,

And bids her welcome to her English land

And humble hall. Each looked with curious gaze

Upon the other’s face, and felt they stand

Before a spirit like their own. Her hand

The stranger raised—and pointing where all pale,

Thro’ the high casement, came the sunlight bland,

Gilding the scene and group with rich avail;

Thus, to the English Sov’reign, spoke proud “Grana Wale;”

“Queen of the Saxons! from the distant west

I come; from Achill steep and Island Clare,[1]

Where the wild eagle builds ’mid clouds, his nest,

And Ocean flings its billows in the air.

I come to greet you in your dwelling fair.

Led by your fame—lone sitting in my cave.

In sea-beat Doona—it hath reached me there,

Theme of the minstrel’s song; and then I gave

My galley to the wind, and crossed the dark green wave.

“Health to thee, ladye!—let your answer be

Health to our Irish land; for evil men

Do vex her sorely, and have bucklar’d thee

Abettor of their deeds; lyeing train,

That cheat their mistress for the love of gain,

And wrong their trust—aught else I little reck,

Alike to me, the mountain and the glen—

The castle’s rampart or the galley’s deck;

But thou my country spare—your foot is on her neck.”

Thus brief and bold, outspake that ladye stern,

And all stood silent thro’ that crowded hall;

While proudly glared each proud and manly kern

Attendant on their mistress. Then courtly all

Elizabeth replies, and soothing fall

Her words, ana pleasing to the Irish ear—

Fair promises—that she would soon recall

Her evil servants. Were these words sincere?

That promise kept? Let Erin answer with a tear!


[1] Clare: “Clare Island” and “Achill Island” are off the western coast of the county Mayo. Clare Island is still in the possession of Sir Samuel O’Malley, who claims to be the lineal descendant of the “O’Malley” family. At Carrighooley (“the castle in the nook or secret place”) the tourist is shown an aperture made in the seawall of the chamber of Grace O’Malley, through which a cable was passed, fastening her galley at one end, and coiled round her bed-post at the other; by this means our illustrious heroine, who was sometimes called the “Dark Lady of Doona,” was always ready for any alarm.