Eliza Lynch (1833-86)


Life
born of Protestant mother and a Catholic father, a doctor in Cork; her mother was widowed and left destitute; m. at 16 to a French Officer in treacherous circumstances; returned to her mother, then living in Paris; became the mistress of Francisco Solano López, son of dictator of Paraguay; travelled to Paraguay with him, 1855 while already pregnant by Lopez whom she gave López seven children; mixed with the unmarried mothers of Paraguay, known as “Golden Combs”, though uninterested in the ameloriation of their social position;
 
López succeeds his father as dictator, 1862; instigates War of Triple Alliance, attacking his neighbours, 1865-70; institutes Tribunals of Death (aka “The Altar of Blood”); Eliza establishes military hospitals but also siphoned off funds and amassed land; named as sole beneficiary in his will, drafted in his last days; gained release from her Brazilian captors after the defeat and death of López by proclaiming her British citizenship; spent her last years in Europe; along with her husband, she was made a national hero by the Paraguayan dictator Gen. Stroessner, 1961; she is the subject of The Pleasures of Eliza Lynch (2002), a novel by Anne Enright (q.v.); there is a documentary on (Eliza Lynch: Queen of Paraguay, 2013), dir. by Alan Giselnan and launched at the Dublin Film Festival in 2013.

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Criticism
Michael Lillis & Ronan Fanning, The Lives of Eliza Lynch (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 2009), 320pp. [reviewed by Sinéad MacCoole, in The Irish Times (3 Oct. 2009), Weekend, p.11].

See further on Anne Enright, The Pleasures of Eliza Lynch (2002) - under Enright > supra.

A trailer for the drama-documentary Eliza Lynch: Queen of Parguay (2013) is available on at Youtube- online.

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Bibliographical details
Michael Lillis & Ronan Fanning, The Lives of Eliza Lynch (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 2009) - publishers’ notice: ‘Her notorious reputation was invented by Paraguay’s enemies in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay who wiped out over ninety per cent of the male population of Paraguay in the War of the Triple Alliance of 1864-70, and by Paraguay’s tiny Spanish elite who hated her glamour and sophistication. “I represent Scandal,” she ruefully admitted. The authors have discovered the truth about Eliza's Irish origins and the cruel deception of her marriage at the age of sixteen to a duplicitous French Army officer. They reconstruct the systematic invention of her image as a prostitute around her first meeting with Solano Lopez in Paris in 1854. Eliza Lynch was a courageous woman who was adored by the ordinary women of Paraguay and who tried to help many victims of an appalling war. The paranoid Lopez, on discovering that his family and colleagues had been conspiring against him, trusted only Eliza and their relationship became a love story of the damned. The book reveals why the Emperor of Brazil, against the advice of his generals, pursued Lopez to his death in 1870; Eliza buried him and their eldest son in the jungle with her bare hands. Eliza defied her enemies in a pamphlet she published in 1875 - here translated for the first time - when she returned to face her enemies in Paraguay. The authors’ exclusive access to the unpublished journals of Eliza’s daughter-in-law shows how scurrilous writers in South America, Britain and the US finally broke her spirit and how she died a ֱburnt-out case” in Paris in 1886. In 1961 a later dictator, General Stroessner, declared her the national heroine of Paraguay.’ [Michael Lillis is an ex-diplomat who played a leading role in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, and has pursued business interests in South America for two decades since then.] See COPAC - online.