When the Irish Crown Jewels were found to be missing shortly
before the visit to Dublin of King Edward VII in July 1907
there was considerable consternation amongst the authorities
at Dublin Castle.
On arrival at the office on 5 July Mrs. Farrell, the cleaning
lady, found the front door of the office of arms unlocked.
But there were even more serious repercussions for the officials
at the Office of Arms, amongst who were two gentlemen, one
from south Kildare, and the other from neighbouring Grange
Con. The Dublin Herald, Francis Richard Shackleton, a younger
brother of the famed Artic explorer Ernest Shackleton, was
born at Kilkea in 1876, while the Cork Herald, Pierce Gun
Mahony, was a nephew of the Ulster King of Arms Sir Arthur
Vicars. Vicars was later to marry a sister of the wife of
the Cork Herald. Edward VII was familiar with Ireland, and
with Co. Kildare. As a twenty-year old he had undergone
military training on the Curragh in 1861, and the reports
of his encounter there with the actress Nellie Clifden were
subsequently to cause his mother considerable distress.
He had attended the races at Punchestown on three occasions,
but now his arrival in Dublin was to be eclipsed in the
press by the reports of the theft of the Crown Jewels.
The Kings annoyance was to be further acerbated when
it was revealed that there was a homosexual ring centred
in the Office of Arms (and in London) which included Vicars,
the chief Herald, his close friend Lord Haddo, the eldest
son of Lord Aberdeen, the Viceroy and Lord Lieutenant of
Ireland; Shackleton and his intimate friend
Capt. Richard Gorges, an instructor at the Curragh Camp;
Francis Bennett-Goldney, Athlone Pursuivant; and most importantly,
another intimate friend of Shackleton, the Duke of Argyll,
who was married to Princess Louise, sister to Edward VII.
The jewels were never recovered, nor the thieves identified.
But there has been much speculation, and Cafferky and Hannafin,
the authors of the recently published Scandal & Betrayal:
Shackleton and the Irish Crown Jewels (The Collins Press.PB
#15), who have described the group as no ordinary
circle of homosexuals, for it included men who came from
some of the most illustrious families in England,
conclude that it remains one of the great unsolved
mysteries of this (sic) century.
They suggest that the theft was a failed Unionist plot intended
to embarrass the government, and that the jewels may have
been returned to the Crown. The British Home Office has
not yet released the files concerning the case, but in his
Will Sir Arthur Vicars, named the real culprit and
thief Francis R. Shackleton (brother of the explorer who
didnt reach the South Pole).
Vicars lost his post after the inquiry into the theft. He
was subsequently murdered by republicans in Co. Kerry.
The authors surmise that Shackleton, who had retired from
the Office of Arms in 1907, was teetering on the edge
of bankruptcy, while his famous brother tried to raise
financing for his South Pole expedition. His business dealings
were dishonest and he suffered only the mildest moral scruples.
Any whiff of scandal could have been disastrous financial
consequences for Frank Shackleton and his brother.
Therefore the conspirators had no trouble bribing or coercing
him to borrow Sir Arthurs keys (from which moulds
He was in later years convicted of fraud, and sentenced
to 15 months hard labour.
On release, changing his name, he opened an antique shop
in Chichester where he died in 1941.
Pierce Mahony remained in office, but he was found drowned
in the lake at Grange Con in 1914.
Capt. Gorges, who sometimes claimed that he had stolen the
jewels, threw himself under a train at Londons Edgeware
Road station, eliciting the comment from a relative that
the least he could have done was to do it at a decent
address like South Kensington station.
His name was deleted from the family tree.
The authors believe that the theft was part of a Unionist
conspiracy to disrupt Home Rule, and that the perpetrators
were high-ranking officials in the Home Office and a junior
Castle policeman, and that the jewels were subsequently
returned to the Crown.
By an extraordinary co-incidence, at a lecturer on the theft
of the Crown Jewels, organised by the Co. Kildare Archeological
Society several years ago, the late Gregory Allen, archivist
of the Garda Síochana, and who had published an article
on the subject in the Garda Review, had in his audience
members of the Shackleton and Mahony families, as well as
a grandson of the cleaning lady, Mrs Farrell!
As might be expected, the subsequent discussion was an interesting
one, though unfortunately not recorded.
Courtesy of the Leinster Leader