Hey all! This is the first post of a new series that I thought would be interesting, “Go Figure!” This will be a collection of various figureheads from our collection that are not on display at this time. Our first figurehead is called the Irish Queen, and is the torso of a woman with ornate details.
This particular figurehead has an interesting and mysterious past, and her origins are still being tracked down. Given the name Irish Queen because the detail on her belt resembles clovers, it is still unknown if she is in fact from Ireland (some say it represents Wales). There are currently three possibilities of who this woman is and/or what she represents 1) it’s personification of Ireland, 2) the pirate queen Grainne O’Malley, or 3) none of the above (i.e. no idea). What we do know is that who ever had created her, paid close attention to detail.
When referring to the Irish Queen has Hibernia (Latin for Ireland) a lot of research argues that ornaments on her belt aren’t even clovers at all! Aside from the clovers, there is nothing else on the figurehead to suggest Ireland, so therefore is not plausible. On the other hand when thinking of our figurehead as a pirate queen (which I personally vote for), then sources say that Grainne O’Malley lived in the 16th century. Here’s where things get tricky, our figurehead is from around the 1840’s… 200 years after Grainne O’Malley had lived. Why would someone create a figurehead for a pirate queen two centuries later? Not to mention, that a pirate queen would be a little more roughened up than our sea beauty.
Through trying to find this woman’s whereabouts, research has brought the museum to stumbling across several similar figureheads, all beautiful women with ornate hair, dress and features. With this being said, it became necessary to find the figurehead’s creator. In doing so, a captain of a cruise ship, Royal Viking Sea, came forward with images of a nearly identical figurehead from a French ship, that dates back to 1732, which is now displayed on Royal Viking. The original French ship was found off the coast of Ireland, which draws the connections to Hibernia and Ireland even closer.
While still more connections need to be made and research to be done, the Irish Queen is still one of our most beautiful figureheads (in my opinion). Continue to check back for some more figureheads, more interesting stories, and chances to see pieces of the Mariners Museum collection that you cannot catch on display.