Mrs. Katherine Parnell

Life
1845-1921 [née Bradwell; Mrs. O’Shea, afterwards Mrs. Parnell; - fam. “Katie”; in pop. trad. “Kitty O’Shea”; ]; b. 30 Jan. Braintree, Essex; dg. of a Sir John Page Wood [2nd Bart.]; sis. of Field-marshall Sir Evelyn Wood; m. Capt. William H. O’Shea (1840-1905), Brighton, 1867 - O’Shea being Nationalist MP of Galway; companion to Mrs. Benjamin Wood; visited House of Commons to see Charles Stewart Parnell; induced to invite Parnell to the O’Shea dining-table by her husband when their marriage was already in trouble; O’Shea challenged Parnell to a duel, 1881; Katherine acted as a secret go-between with Gladstone for Parnell in preparing the Home Rule Bill of 1886; Parnell moved to her home in Eltham, Surrey, Summer 1886; she bore Parnell three children (a first, who died, 1882; Claire, 1883-1909, and Katharine, 1884-1947); O’Shea petitioned for divorce in 1889, instigating a private investigation into Parnell’s affair with his wife; decree nisi, issued 1890; m. Parnell, 25 June 1891; at his death in Nov. 1891, she placed on his coffin the red rose presented to her by him at their first meeting; suffered recurrent mental breakdowns; attended in latter years by Henry Harrison, MP; d. Littlehampton, Sussex; never visited Ireland. DIB DIH

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Works
Charles Stewart Parnell: His Story and Political Life, 2 vols. (London: Cassell & Co. 1914), and Do. [rep. as The Uncrowned King of Ireland, Charles Stewart Parnell: His Love Story and Political Life (London: Nonsuch Press 2005), 192pp.

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Criticism
Margery Brady, The Love Story of Parnell and Katherine O’Shea (Cork: Mercier Press 1991), 144pp.; Mary Rose Callaghan, “Kitty O’Shea”: A Life of Katharine Parnell [Valiant Women Ser.] (London: Pandora 1989), [190]pp.; Joyce Marlow, The Uncrowned Queen of Ireland: The Life of Kitty O’Shea (NY: Saturday Review Press 1975); Jane Jordan, Kitty O’Shea: An Irish Affair (Stroud: Sutton 2005), 288pp.; Elisabeth Kehoe, Ireland’s Misfortune: The Turbulent Life of Kitty O’Shea (Atlantic Books 2008), 606pp., ill. [12 photos.]

See also Henry Harrison, Parnell Vindicated: The Lifting of the Veil (London: Constable 1931) and F. S. L. Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell (OUP 1977), &c.

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Commentary
Michael Valdez Moses, ‘Dracula, Parnell, and the Troubled Dreams of Nationhood’, in Journal X: A Journal in culture and Criticism, 2, 1 (Autumn 1997), pp.66-11, writes: ‘Like [Kitty] O’Shea, Mina becomes the morally compromised but nonetheless powerful female medium at the centre of the political crisis that is international in scope.’ (p.87.) Further, ‘Parnell shares with Dracula a fatal destiny in which an English woman [viz., O’Shea, Mina] who is the object of the hero / The villain’s obsessive attentions proves to be the instrument of his undoing’ (p.88); ‘Like Anna Parnell, Lucy and the female vampires at Castle Dracula are infected by the violent spirit of the man they follow and to whom they are related by blood.’ (p.89.)

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Notes
Captain O’Shea was the son of a lawyer who made shrewd land-purchases in post-famine Ireland; the family lived in Paris; O’Shea was educated by the Jesuits in England and purchased a commission in the 18th Hussars; he was returned as MP for Co. Clare; O’Shea - who was a spendthrift and a gambler - called on his wife to entice Parnell to accept a dinner-invitation, setting in motion their tragic relationship. (See Rory Brennan, review of Jane Jordan, Kitty O’Shea: An Irish Affair, Sutton 2006, 288pp., ill. [8pp.], in Books Ireland, Sept. 2006, p.188.)

Bio-variants: dg. of a vicar [Books Ireland, Summer 2008]; dg. of Lord Mayor of London, who started as an apprentice and was afterwards raised to peerage [q. source].

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