On the bookshelves of my Dublin home in the 1950s, there rested a valued copy of Dorothy Macardle’s The Irish Republic, which had been donated to a relative by Mr De Valera himself. The Macardle history of Ireland from the 1916 Rising to the foundation of the State in 1923, and beyond, was considered a very important work, for it was the official version of these events as sanctioned by De Valera and his followers. It upheld the sanctity of the idea of an Irish Republic, and disparaged the more compromised Free State. The historian Joe Lee has called Macardle the ‘hagiographer royal to the Republic’, and others have said of the lady, born in 1889 into a well-to-do brewing family, that she was so smitten by De Valera that she could never look at another man. Her biographer, Nadia Clare Smith, suggests that Dorothy Macardle may have been more inclined to be drawn to women than men: she never married, as it says pointedly in Daily Telegraph obituaries.
Macardle was, undoubtedly, a significant figure: one of that swathe of women of the late-Victorian generation who came from English–Irish backgrounds – her mother was an Englishwoman of Unionist and Imperialist persuasion – and who threw themselves, with absolute abandon, into the romanticism of the Irish republican cause. Macardle was