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Grace O'Malley

Grace O'Malley (1530?-1603?) is the Anglicized version of the Irish name Grainne Ni Mhaille, nicknamed Granuaile. Born in Ireland in about 1530, she developed an early interest in the sea and sailing. About 1546 she married Donal O'Flaherty, to whom she was to bear three children. After her husband's death, she took over the defense and recapture of his castles, and ended up largely in control of the Clew bay. She solidified her control by marrying, and then divorcing, Richard "Iron Dick" Burke (under Brehon law) - and, on the divorce, keeping his castle of Rockfleet.

Granuaile used her position to sponsor a wide ranging business in trading and piracy. Frequently she accompanied missions - probably of both sorts. She was captured and imprisoned for her raiding activities in 1577, but soon, for whatever reason, released. This was to become a pattern of raids and rebellions, captures and ransoms and releases.

However, when two of her sons and her brother were taken captive by a local English ruler, Granuaile sailed to England to petition Elizabeth I of England for their release. The petition was granted, and Granuaile returned to her former ways, though theoretically directing her raids against enemies of England. She died in Rockfleet around 1603.

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