Thanks so much for inviting me to the blog today! I’m so excited to see the release of Duchess of Sin, the story of Lady Anna Blacknall and Conlan McTeer, her wild Irish duke. I loved meeting Anna in Countess of Scandal and was very nervous to see everything work out for her in her own HEA. It’s been quite an adventure keeping up with the Blacknall sisters of the Daughters of Erin series!
Anna’s story takes place against the background of a very tumultuous moment of change in Irish history. The hotly contested Act of Union was actually two acts, the first passed as an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain on July 2, 1800 and the second an Act of the Parliament of Ireland on August 1, 1800. The two acts officially united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which came into effect on January 1, 1801 (the time of Duchess of Sin). In the Republic of Ireland, the first Act was not repealed until the passing of the Republic’s Statute Law Revision Act in 1983.
Before these Acts, Ireland was already in personal union with England since 1541, when the Irish Parliament passed the Crown of Ireland Act proclaiming Henry VIII as King of Ireland. (England and Scotland were united into a single kingdom in 1603 with the accession of King James I). The Parliament in Dublin had gained a measure of precious independence by the Constitution of 1782, and its members guarded this hard-won freedom fiercely (one of the most notable being Henry Grattan, the hero of the anti-Unionists—he makes a brief appearance in this story at the debates!). They rejected a motion for Union in 1790 after the upheaval of the Rebellion by 109 votes versus 104. (Not that the Irish Parliament was a truly democratic body, open to all Irishmen—only Anglican landowners of a certain class could become Members of Parliament and the biggest landowners often controlled the boroughs and thus the vote). But Britain was scared—the Revolution in France and the Irish Rebellion made them fearful and determined to make the wild Irish settle down once and for all. The final passage of the Act in the Irish Parliament was achieved in large part by determined bribery, such as awarding peerages, estates, and money to get the needed votes. The measure passed 158 to 115 amid riots and protests.
A few good sources on the Act of Union and this period in history are: Alan J. Ward’s The Irish Constitutional Tradition: Responsible Government and Modern Ireland, 1782—1992; WJ McCormack’s The Pamphlet Debate on the Union of Great Britain and Ireland; Edward Brynn’s Crown and Castle: British Rule in Ireland, 1800-1830; Patrick Geoghan’s The Irish Act of Union: A Study in High Politics, 1798-1801.
Duchess of Sin, book 2 in the Daughters of Erin series, will be published in December 2010 by Grand Central Publishing. For excerpts, more historical background, and a great Christmas contest, please visit my website at http://laurelmckee.net