#OTD in 1891 – Death of Charles Stewart Parnell, champion of tenants rights and co-founder of the Land League; often called the “Uncrowned King of Ireland”.

Irish Nationalist political leader, Charles Stewart Parnell dies in Brighton, England. Parnell is one of the tragic characters of Irish politics. The disclosure of a long running affair with Katherine (Kitty) O’Shea, wife of Captain William O’Shea, who had been a Parnell supporter ended his political career and effectiveness. The 1889 divorce action and resulting scandal destroyed Parnell’s reputation and effectively forced him out of politics.

In 1875, Charles Stewart Parnell was elected to the House of Commons, as a Home Rule League Member of Parliament (MP) for County Meath. The protestant Parnell was a hugely popular and effective leader of the Irish land League and Home Rule movement. Parnell encouraged obstructionism (basically filibustering) in Parliament and encouraged Irish peasants to stop paying rent to landlords. Parnell’s activities prompted Prime Minister Gladstone to introduce the first Home Rule bill in 1886. The bill failed to pass.

O’Shea’s marriage to wife Kitty had been in name only for many years. It was public (though not publicised) knowledge that Parnell and Kitty O’Shea were lovers. She bore three of his children. O’Shea filed for divorce in 1889 citing Parnell as co-respondent. Parnell’s career was in ruins as Catholic Ireland and Victorian England reacted in horror to the public outing of his relationship. Just a few months after the divorce was finalised, a desperately ill Parnell married Kitty O’Shea. He only lived for another four months.

Parnell made his final public appearance at Creggs, Co Galway on 27th September speaking to his supporters in torrential rain. Already in poor health, the drenching rain effectively proved fatal. He returned to his home in England and died aged but forty-five accompanied by his beloved Kitty O’Shea.

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