Parnell and Katharine O’Shea

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Parnell appears to have been happier with Katharine O’Shea than Abby was with Samuel Abbott, but he and Katharine were constantly trying to deceive her husband, Captain William O’Shea, about the nature of their relationship. In 1881 O’Shea challenged Parnell to a duel and in 1886 he pressured Parnell to obtain a seat in the House of Commons for him. In 1889, when it became clear that Katharine was not going to inherit her aunt’s estate, O’Shea decided to file for divorce, citing Katharine’s adulterous relationship with Parnell. The divorce trial would destroy Parnell’s standing with the Irish people, undo the alliance he had forged with Gladstone and the Liberals and bitterly divide the Home Rule Party. In June 1891 Parnell was at last able to marry Katharine. Three months later, an exhausted Parnell contracted rheumatic fever and died in Katharine’s home, aged 45.


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