Countess Markievicz is not a name that is forgotten easily. So much more than a muse of a poet – a nurse, a seamstress, a countess, a rebel leader. You might’ve heard her name mentioned in the Wild West of Ireland, or she may have been someone you came across when previously checking out our blog. We thought we’d take you on the highlights of her journey. A mini-tour about a lady who was larger than life, if you will.
The light of evening, Lissadell,
Great windows open to the south,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.
But a raving autumn shears
Blossom from the summer’s wreath;
The older is condemned to death,
Pardoned, drags out lonely years
Conspiring among the ignorant.
~ W.B. Yeats, “In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz”.
Here comes a Wild West History Highlight:
Constance Markievicz [nee Gore-Booth] was not your average supposed aristocrat. She’s someone you’d find filed under the dictionary definition of “fighting Irish spirit”; or a character straight out of Downtown Abbey. Turning her back on a wealthy upbringing, she preferred speedy steeds to pinafores and practiced poses. Imagine a woman so defiant she omitted the typical marriage vows that state she’d be obedient to her husband- a shocking adjustment to the ceremony in her time. Also shocking was her repeated refusal of the advances of W.B. Yeats, whose work and heart were both filled with a constancy of Constance.
Using her status and her ferocious love of country, the Countess elbowed her way into the circles of the Irish Rebellion. She taught young men how to fire guns and advised young ladies to “dress suitably in short skirts and strong boots, leave your jewels in the bank, and buy a revolver.” She remained rebellious even in the times of unease in Ireland. She defied the English king who’d come to visit by waving a black flag to oppose the Union Jack. A nearby supporter of the monarch saw fit to snap his Union Jack flag across her shoulders, where it symbolically broke in two.
The Easter Rebellion was where Constance was at her most involved. When she wasn’t attending to wounded, she was acting as a courier or sewing flags in the initial stages of the conflict. She even led a small group of citizen soldiers to the fateful St. Stephen’s Green. Once in the thick of it however, Madame Markievicz, as she preferred to “Countess”, became a sniper. While she and the those who fought during the Easter Rebellion did their utmost, unfortunately, it did not all go to plan.
Constance was imprisoned as opposed to executed unlike her fellow rebels. She was also let go, imprisoned, and let go in a cycle for quite a bit after that – so often in fact that she was even elected for parliament as one of the first women in the world to be elected to a governmental office – British Parliament, in fact.
Her acts of bravery and cleverness were ahead of their time – one notable story being that of Constance concealing important rebel documents in a briefcase and leaving the bag [with an outrageously high price tag] in a secondhand shop. Nobody bothered to buy it due to its price, thus it remained – secure as could be – until someone came to recover it.
As fierce and determined as she was, Constance was also generous and supportive of her community – one such recollection being that in the dead of Winter, after learning all she could about mechanics and coal prior, Constance Markievicz drove out to retrieve coal for the elderly – just one of her many acts to assist Dublin & overall Ireland’s poor.
She spent the majority of her later years dedicating herself to bettering Ireland anywhere she could. She passed away penniless, so great was her generosity to the struggles of Ireland and her people. Constance certainly left her mark as a mover and shaker on the nation – and the world.
In fact, you are most likely to encounter a memorial to Constance on our Heart of Ireland’s Wild West Tour, in the form of the statue erected in her honor – and learn more details of her story as told by local Wild West Irish Tours’ guides and teachers around town.
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Until next time, be well!
Wild West Irish Tours
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