The Celtic Pirate Queen
Logline: Written out of the pages of history, legendary pirate Grace O'Malley has spent her entire life defending her right to sail on the open seas. But when one man threatens to destroy both her freedom and the world she knows, Grace will go to the woman above his head: Queen Elizabeth
The year is 1593 in Greenwich, England. GRACE O’MALLEY, a vigorous and passionate sixty year old woman with a long history of pirating and rabble-rousing, waits outside Greenwich Castle for an audience with QUEEN ELIZABETH. Fed up with waiting, Grace quickly pushes past Elizabeth’s guards and bursts into Elizabeth’s court. All eyes look between the two women in rigid astonishment. Elizabeth, also a tenacious woman, asks Grace about the nature of her visit and Grace replies that she is “here to address the letters” that she sent to her. Elizabeth displays a look of understanding and leads her into another room. Though Elizabeth maintains a reserved demeanor in sharp contrast to Grace’s unapologetically bold one, the two make an effort at conversation and Elizabeth asks Grace how she gained her fame on both land and sea.
Grace recounts to Elizabeth her life story, remembering back to when she was just seven years old. Grace’s father, DUBHDARA “BLACK OAK” O’MALLEY is a notable Irish chieftain skilled in trade and seafaring. Young Grace, being highly intelligent, charismatic, and strong-willed, reveals a strong aptitude and desire for seafaring and tries to hide aboard her father’s ship on one of his many trading excursions. Though she is strongly rebuked for her “unfeminine desires”, Black Oak sees the strength and potential in Grace and he begins training her in all manners of trading and seafaring. Grace falls in love with the wildness and freedom of the sea and vows to herself to follow in her father’s footsteps.
Grace finishes recounting the early portion of her life to Elizabeth and, though she is amazed by Grace’s unconventional upbringing on the sea, she asks Grace how she has managed to hold onto her freedom for so long. Grace recounts the next part of her life to Elizabeth with more solemn reflectiveness. While still a teenager, Grace is given in marriage to DONAL O’FLAHERTY, a proud and warmongering Irish chieftain. English rule begins to infiltrate Ireland at this time, crushing traditional Celtic life in an attempt to “civilize” what they believe to be a savage people. Grace and Donal have three children together, but their relationship is constantly strained as their strong wills clash. Donal is a reckless man; warring with neighboring tribes, gambling away his inheritance, and creating trouble for his clan.
Grace befriends Donal’s rough-edged clansmen and wins their respect and admiration through her gambling prowess, personal magnetism, and wit. Donal continues in his ways and, seeing the incompetency and possible danger he could cause their children, Grace coerces half of his men to join her in overseeing Donal’s business dealings. Donal commandeers the fortress of the Joyce clan who in turn launch a reconnaissance attack on Donal and his remaining men. Despite his relentless attempts, Donal is killed but Grace rises and joins in the fight against the Joyce clan. She fights so fiercely that the Joyce clan retreats, but their retreat is only followed by an attack from a clan in Galway.
. Once again, Grace consumes her enemies like fire and she pours hot lead over their heads and they retreat. Elizabeth marvels at Grace’s accomplishments, but she strikes a nerve in Grace as she points out her losses. Grace launches into a somber recollection of her tragic life events. She recalls, after her victory over the attacks on the Joyce fortress, the death of her beloved father. To honor his memory and distract herself from her sorrow, Grace then begins her official career of seafaring, pirating, and pillaging with her crewmen. One day, as Grace and her men are sailing, they discover an English shipwreck. While investigating the wreck for spoils, Grace finds a handsome and injured young man named HUGH DE LACY, a kind-hearted and adventurous soul.
She learns that Hugh is the son of an English merchant and, despite her hatred of English rule; she decides to nurse him back to health. As they get to know one another and find that they both share a love for seafaring and adventure, they fall in love. Hugh regains his strength and goes out deer hunting. As he is hunting he is mercilessly attacked and killed by the McMahon clan. Grace is heartbroken once again and so furious that, in unquenchable revenge, she finds and wipes out all who are responsible for Hugh’s death. As Elizabeth listens to these new accounts, she remarks to Grace what a warlike bunch the Irish are and jests that perhaps Ireland would have been better off “sunk into the sea”. Sparks fly within Grace and she rises from her chair as the guards close in near her. She now calls to mind all the past harm done to her and her homeland by the English. English rule continues to stifle Celtic society and Grace begins to fear for her freedom to sail.
Elizabeth has appointed a new governor, SIR RICHARD BINGHAM, to oversee the English affairs in Ireland. Realizing she needs an ally, Grace decides to propose marriage to a member of the Lower MacWilliam Burke clan named RICHARD BOURKE, a strong, silent, and steadfast man. Grace assures Richard that their marriage would be under Brehon Law (only last for one year) and she also makes it clear that she wants control of his castle, Rockfleet. Though taken aback by her proposal of an alliance of their clans through marriage, Richard is both attracted to and intrigued by Grace and he agrees. Throughout the year, Grace and Richard strengthen their clans and actually form a unique friendship. Richard’s attachment runs far deeper than Grace’s and, after a year, she says he is released from their union and she moves her and her men into Rockfleet Castle.
Richard protests the dissolution of their marriage and confesses that he wishes to stay with Grace because he has fallen in love with her. Grace soon learns that she is pregnant with her fourth child and while she is off at sea with her men, she gives birth to a son whom she names TIBBOT. The day after giving birth to Tibbot, Grace and her men are attacked by fearsome and barbaric Barbary pirates. Grace’s men struggle to fend off the highly skilled attackers and, though fatigued from labor, Grace rises from underneath the ship and relentlessly fights off the pirates with her men until they retreat. When they are ashore again, Grace reunites with Richard and introduces him to his son. Grace helps Richard achieve a higher rank in his clan and continues sailing and pirating. As she is on one of her many conquests, she is captured and imprisoned by the EARL OF DESMOND who turns her over to the current English governor in power. Rising to Grace’s defense, Richard creates a rebellion so strong that the governor releases Grace to curb Richard’s anger.
Grace and Richard continue working together as the English continue to rise in power. Richard and Grace hire Scottish mercenaries to join in their rebellion against the English and the English concede to allowing Grace and Richard to maintain their power. After Richard gains the highest rank in his clan, he unexpectedly falls ill and dies. Still mourning his loss, Grace remains determined to maintain both Rockfleet Castle and her freedom. Back to the present day in Greenwich Castle, Grace ferociously fires back that “Ireland would be better off sunk into the sea than to ever be subject to English tyrannies” Elizabeth is astounded by Grace’s audacity as Grace’s thoughts return to her battles after Richard’s death. Being a vicious and unyielding man, Sir Richard Bingham becomes darkly obsessed with destroying what he believes is the greatest obstacle to the English in Ireland: Grace O’Malley. Bingham executes Grace’s oldest son, OWEN and, being crushed by this event, she arranges to meet with Bingham to discuss a truce.
When she arrives to meet him, Bingham takes her prisoner and sentences her to death. Not short on loyalty, chieftains in Grace’s town arrange for her son-in-law to take her place as ransom. When she is free, Grace along with her son Tibbot and Irish Chieftains and Bishops, attempt to form an alliance with the Spanish Armada. They launch their best rebellion against the English only to learn that the Spanish Armada has been defeated at sea by the English. Bingham then persuades Grace’s other son, MURROUGH, as rebellious as his mother but as reckless as his father, to ally with him. Infuriated at her son’s betrayal, Grace attacks Murrough’s town with her crewmen. Bingham cracks down harder, infiltrating Grace’s land, taking her produce, cattle, and sea territory. Realizing she’s almost finished, Grace decides to write to Queen Elizabeth stating her charges against Bingham and all of the “undue” heartbreak and terror he has caused her family and her land. As a final blow, Bingham takes Tibbot prisoner and sentences him to death.
In boldness and desperation, Grace sails to meet with Elizabeth in person. Presently, at Greenwich Castle, Elizabeth is incensed and outraged by Grace’s behavior and demands that the guards take her away. As the guards remove her, Grace says to Elizabeth that she believed a woman of her greatness “would understand what it means to triumph in a world of ironhanded men”. The words stay with Elizabeth and she begins to recall her own struggles as a young woman thrown into a position of power. She rereads Grace’s letters and discovers how similar they are as women. Grace waits in a London apartment, not ready to give up on saving her family and her land. A messenger appears at Grace’s door summoning her to Elizabeth’s court once again.
Steadfast, Grace makes her request again to have Tibbot released and for Bingham to be removed from her land, stating that her quarrel is specifically with him. Lastly, she requests that she may return to her “trading” on the sea. In kind admiration, Elizabeth states that she sees how alike they are as women and she grants all of Grace’s requests. Tibbot is released and, in shame, Bingham is removed from power in Ireland. Grace joyously returns to Ireland and is met by Tibbot. They set sail as Grace looks over the helm of her ship contented with victory.