Thursday, March 15, 2018

Daniel O’Connell, "The Liberator" of Ireland

The issue of emancipation for Catholics consumed England for many decades, beginning in the 18th century and continuing until the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829. Prior to that, Catholics could not, among other things, hold public office nor serve in Parliament. Ironically, the Prince Regent opposed Catholic Emancipation even though he married (illegally) Maria Fitzherbert, a twice-widowed Roman Catholic, who was arguably the love of his life. He did not, however, veto the new law in 1829, which was pressed by the Whigs and opposed by the Tories.

Daniel O’Connell, who in the 1810s and 1820s was one of the leading barristers in Ireland, led the campaign for emancipation and won the title “The Liberator.” 

He stood for election in 1828 in County Clare in Ireland, and though he was elected, could not take a seat in the House of Commons until the change in the law in 1829. He was a moderate and a brilliant voice speaking for the Irish in a way that England could not ignore.

Though a Deist in his youth, after an infamous duel in 1815, where he killed John D'Esterre, a leading member of the Protestant Ascendancy who had challenged him, O’Connell returned to his faith and became a devout Catholic, to the great joy of his wife.
 
In 1817, he stated,

My political creed is short and simple. It consists in believing that all men are entitled as of right and justice to religious and civil liberty…I have taken care to require it only on that principle which would emancipate the Catholics in Ireland, would protect the Protestants in France and Italy, and destroy the Inquisition, together with inquisitors, in Spain. Religion is debased and degraded by human interference; and surely the worship of the Deity cannot but be contaminated by the admixture of worldly ambition or human force.”

Daniel O’Connell was a tall, handsome man with a head of dark curls and shinning blue eyes. I like to think my hero, the fictional Morgan O’Connell who is Daniel’s cousin, had the same appearance. Daniel O’Connell did have a Protestant cousin and Protestant friends, so it’s possible. In his younger days before he married, when he was training in England, Daniel was quite the rake. Perhaps my fictional Morgan O’Connell was one as well, that is until he met Rose Collingwood.

Get in the mood for St. Patrick's Day with... 
 
The Shamrock & The Rose

A stint playing Portia at the Theatre-Royal at Haymarket in London, a dropped valentine and a dangerous desire lead gentle-born Rose Collingwood into the arms of Irishman Morgan O' Connell whose love will hazard all she knows and is. 99¢ on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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