The Irish Assassins
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The Irish Assassins

Conspiracy, Revenge, and the Phoenix Park Murders That Stunned Victorian England

Julie Kavanagh

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eBook - ePub

The Irish Assassins

Conspiracy, Revenge, and the Phoenix Park Murders That Stunned Victorian England

Julie Kavanagh

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About This Book

A brilliant true crime account of the assassinations that altered the course of Irish history from the "compulsively readable" writer ( The Guardian ). One sunlit evening, May 6, 1882, Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Burke, Chief Secretary and Undersecretary for Ireland, were ambushed and stabbed to death while strolling through Phoenix Park in Dublin. The murders were funded by American supporters of Irish independence and carried out by the Invincibles, a militant faction of republicans armed with specially made surgeon's blades. They put an end to the new spirit of goodwill that had been burgeoning between British Prime Minister William Gladstone and Ireland's leader Charles Stewart Parnell as the men forged a secret pact to achieve peace and independence in Ireland—with the newly appointed Cavendish, Gladstone's protégé, to play an instrumental role in helping to do so. In a story that spans Donegal, Dublin, London, Paris, New York, Cannes, and Cape Town, Julie Kavanagh thrillingly traces the crucial events that came before and after the murders. From the adulterous affair that caused Parnell's downfall; to Queen Victoria's prurient obsession with the assassinations; to the investigation spearheaded by Superintendent John Mallon, also known as the "Irish Sherlock Holmes, " culminating in the eventual betrayal and clandestine escape of leading Invincible James Carey and his murder on the high seas, The Irish Assassins brings us intimately into this fascinating story that shaped Irish politics and engulfed an Empire. Praise for Julie Kavanagh's Nureyev: The Life "Easily the best biography of the year." — The Philadelphia Inquirer "The definitive biography of ballet's greatest star whose ego was as supersized as his talent." —Tina Brown, award-winning journalist and author

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Year
2021
ISBN
9780802149381

Endnotes

My research has taken me to some wonderful places—whether it was the hamlet of Meenacladdy on the savagely beautiful Donegal coast; the medieval Round Tower at Windsor Castle, where the Royal Archives are kept; or the Cape Town records office, backed by Table Mountain, which was the site of the old prison where Patrick O’Donnell was briefly held. Several libraries have been iconic destinations in themselves: the Gothic masterpiece of Oxford’s Bodleian Library; the breathtaking Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin, through which its manuscript department is reached; the British Library, with its glass and bronze six-story tower housing King George’s leather and vellum tomes. I experienced many goose-bump moments—most memorably in the National Archives at Kew, where among the O’Donnell trial documents I found the two actual torn scraps of paper that the jury foreman had given to the judge. But frustrations are just as memorable. Several dozen of TNA’s O’Donnell papers were destroyed—probably in 1985, when the folder was declassified—and my excitement at finding his Port Elizabeth studio portraits cataloged was dashed when the folders turned out to be empty. In Dublin’s National Archives of Ireland, my request slips with search codes provided by seemingly reliable bibliographies were often returned with the penciled additions “no result” or “not found.” But now, as I write during Britain’s latest draconian lockdown, with every archive and library closed, I realize how blessed I was to have had free access to such extraordinary material during the five years it has taken to complete this book.
In the long list of citations that follows each chapter heading in the Notes below, I credit quotations from other works and provide sources for facts in the text that I myself might have queried were I to start the book afresh. If a book or journal is mentioned only once in the Notes, I give the author’s full name and publication details, but with frequently cited works, I provide only a surname and abbreviated title, reserving full information for the Bibliography. I have incorporated editorial footnotes that digress slightly from the main narrative but that strike me as interesting or illuminating. Below, I list my most important sources for each of the key characters, in alphabetical order. Call numbers for archival material are included either in the list of abbreviations or in the Notes.
JAMES CAREY
Archive
I drew mostly on a fourteen-page printed statement made to magistrate John Curran on February 21, 1883. It is held in Britain’s National Archives and abbreviated in my Notes as “TNA, JC.” In it, Carey describes his initiation into the Fenian organization of the 1860s and recounts the formation of the Invincibles and the gang’s abortive attempts to assassinate William Forster. Details are often highly graphic—“My arm touched Mr. Forster’s”—and Carey’s narrative of the actual murders in Phoenix Park unfolds with the tension and urgent dialogue of a thriller.
Secondary
A leaner, less colorful account is given in the London Times’ coverage of the Invincibles’ trial (see especially the issues of February 19, 20, 23, and 24, 1883). An important find was Carey’s letter to Joe Brady’s mother (Irish Times, September 15, 1883), in which he attempts to exculpate himself by naming other informers in the gang. I could not have written my account of Carey’s funeral without the recollections of the humane South African doctor Frederick Ensor in Gleanings (see Ensor in the abbreviations list), nor could I have discovered what became of Carey’s family after his assassination without the memoir by the family’s minder, the Scotland Yard detective Patrick McIntyre (Reynolds’s Newspaper, March 31, l895).
LUCY CAVENDISH
Archive
Of particular value among the trove of the Papers of Lady Frederick Cavendish included in the Devonshire Collections at Chatsworth are an unpublished diary (vol. 14); the typescript of a biographical essay, “Who Was Lucy Cavendish?” by Jane M. Renfrew; and a long letter from Lord Spencer minutely detailing the last two days of Frederick Cavendish’s life. Further correspondence between Spencer and Lucy is among the Althorp Papers in the Archives and Manuscripts Department of the British Library. The Gladstone Papers, also held in its Western Manuscripts collection, contain several letters to and from Lucy; and there were gems to be found in the papers of Charles Masterman in the Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham. (I used fascinating fragments...

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