They were known as the Ascendancy, the dashing aristocratic elite that controlled Irish politics and society at the end of the eighteenth century—and at their pinnacle stood Caroline and Robert King, Lord and Lady Kingsborough of Mitchelstown Castle. Heirs to ancient estates and a vast fortune, Lord and Lady Kingsborough appeared to be blessed with everything but marital love—which only made the scandal that tore through their family more shocking. In 1798, at the height of a rebellion that was setting Ireland ablaze, Robert King was tried for the murder of his wife’s cousin—a crime born of passion that proved to have extraordinary political implications. In her brilliant new book, Janet Todd unfolds the fascinating story of how this powerful Anglo-Irish family became entwined with the downfall not only of their class, but of their very way of life.
Like Amanda Foreman’s bestselling Georgiana , Daughters of Ireland brings to life the world of a glittering elite in an age of international revolution. When her daughters, Margaret and Mary, were at their most impressionable, Lady Kingsborough hired the firebrand feminist Mary Wollstonecraft to be their governess, little realizing how radically this would alter both girls’ beliefs and characters. The tall, striking Margaret went on to provide crucial support to the United Irishmen in the days leading up to the Rebellion of 1798, while soft, pleasing Mary indulged in an illicit, and all but incestuous love affair that precipitated multiple tragedies.
As the Kingsboroughs imploded, the most powerful and colorful figures of the day were swept up in their drama—the dashing aristocrat turned revolutionary Lord Edward Fitzgerald; the liberal, cultivated Countess of Moira, a terrible snob despite her support of Irish revolutionaires; the notorious philanderer Colonel George King, whose sexual debauchery was matched only by his appalling cruelty; Britain’s cold calculating prime minister William Pitt and its mad ruler King George III.
With irresistible narrative drive and richly intimate historic detail, Daughters of Ireland an absolutely spellbinding work of history, biography, passion, and rebellion.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of History eBook: Daughters of Ireland|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
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|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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Daughters of Ireland
Chapter OneThe Price of a Bride
The spirit of collateral calculation ... -horace walpole
In May 1798 an earl was tried before his peers for the murder of his wife's cousin. The trial of Robert, Earl of Kingston, before the Irish House of Lords proved an extraordinary event in the King family, already torn apart by political difference and personal conflict. It also impinged on a crucial period in Irish and Anglo-Irish history: the Rebellion of 1798.
Robert and his wife, Caroline, were heirs of a dynasty. Long before 1798 their ancestors the Fitzgeralds had become notorious for combining murder, money, feuding and revolt. Through the generations they mingled old Celtic and English blood, becoming a fairly typical, ethnically diverse Anglo-Irish clan. They were especially proud of being descended from the White Knight, who derived his glamorous name from the color of his armor-or from the white scarf with which the English monarch Edward III bandaged his battle wound. The Knight established his castle at Mitchelstown in County Cork.
In the 1650s the Fitzgerald heiress brought the White Knight's inheritance of castle and fertile lands into the hands of the Kings, a Yorkshire family of civil servants whose grateful English sovereigns had rewarded them with Irish property at Boyle in County Roscommon. By this marriage the Kings became masters of thousands of acres in southern and midland Ireland. They liked the glamour of the White Knight and used him in family portraits as they moved up the ranks to become the Barons Kingston.
By the time of James, 4th Baron Kingston, in the eighteenth century, the King estates had been...