Gráinne Ui Mháille, Grainne, Granuaile, Gráinne MhaolGrace, That Irish Pirate Queen From the 16th Century…whatever you call her, her life and legacy as a strong, independent, bold, fearless (and yes, criminal) woman doesn’t change.

Statue at Westport House, Co Mayo, Ireland

A lot of Grainne’s life (we call her that, the “Grace” is an anglicized version and didn’t appear until fairly recently, history-wise) has been passed down in legend, myth and song; a lot of sources tell slightly different versions of her story and a lot of telling involves filling in some blanks that history has left open–wohoo! We love doing this!

Stop skimming over her name with no pronunciation in your head:

Grainne was born into a wealthy family in 1530 in what is now County Mayo, Ireland. Her father was a chieftain for the O’Malley clan, her mother’s name was Margaret who came into the marriage with some wealth and property of her own. Her father made his living as a seafaring merchant…and the gray areas of that involved piracy as a side-hustle. Her father taught her the family business and when she was married off at 16 to an O’Flaherty, Donal of the Battle (a lot had nicknames that are as awesomely descriptive as this), she was able to not only give birth to three children, but took over management of her husband’s fleet.

Her ships weren’t exactly like this, but this is a 16th Century Galley ship via wikicommons

A few years after Husband #1 was killed (eventually someone named “Donal of the Battle” would become “Donal of the Lost Battle”) Grainne remarried Richard-in-Iron, (a member of the Burke clan) had another son, and a very long career on the sea. She traveled to Spain, Portugal, England and France, commanded loyal crews in the hundreds, and used the waters of the western coast of Ireland as her home base just like her Papa had taught her.

In the late 1500s Grainne got wrapped up in political violence as the English worked their way across Ireland getting clans to pledge loyalty (and money) to the crown.

Rockfleet Castle (or Carrickahowley Castle…see why we used ‘Rockfleet?”) bholden via wikicommons

In 1593 Grainne traveled to England to speak Queen-to-Queen with Elizabeth 1 about what was really going on in Ireland. As part of that visit, Grainne answered 18 questions (ahem, sorry, “Eighteen Articles of Interrogatory” sheesh, must we be so formal?) Grainne’s answers gave a solid base for future historians to build the story of her life, and they also made Elizabeth curious enough to not only grant Grainne an audience, but also agreed to her requests of protection.

Meeting of Grace and Elizabeth (a live stream of this meeting would have been so fabulous then we wouldn’t have to guess, like this, unknown, artist did.)

She died sometime in 1603.

Of course we fill in all the details in the podcast, offer up some oft-repeated lore and beliefs and toss in a bit of Irish history and trivia because that is our way.

16th Century Galley Ship via The Story of the Barbary Corsairs’ by Stanley  Lane-Poole, published in 1890 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.


Time Travel with The History Chicks

To keep you in the mood, here’s a little ditty for The Dreadnoughts!


Anne Chambers


YA(?) Laura Cook Duncombe

Curiously high number of kids’ books:

Anne Chambers


Emily Arnold McCully


Kathleen Krull Kathryn Hewitt


We should just leave this on every shownote. Jason Porath


Cool map of 1500s Ireland from British Library

18 Articles of Interrogatory and Grainne’s answers from the National Archive

Some ruins of Grainne’s castles are left including Clare Island, Rockfleet Castle, and Achill Island footage (with dramatic music)


Discovery Channel documentary hosted by Lucy Lawless!




Want to discuss Grainne, any of the women that we’ve covered, or find a group of History Chicks and Roosters in your area? Join us in our private Facebook Group: The History Chicks Podcast Lounge (Please answer the entry question when you do. It’s easy. We promise.)

We have a Pinterest board for every episode, here’s Grainne/Grace’s!

End song:  Avenging And Bright (Ireland, Thomas Moore) by Leon Lishner and Friends