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Short biography
Maud Gonne was born in Tongham, England, the eldest daughter of an army officer and military attaché of Scottish origins and his English wife. She and her sister were sent to boarding school in France after their mother died when they were children. As an adult, she was six feet tall and considered one of the great beauties of the age. In 1882, she accompanied her father on his posting to Dublin and acted as his hostess. At his death, she received a large inheritance and returned to France, where she fell in love with Lucien Millevoye, a married journalist and politician 16 years her senior. They agreed to fight for both Irish independence and to regain Alsace-Lorraine for France from Germany. In London in 1889, she met William Butler Yeats, who fell hopelessly in love with her and pursued her obsessively for nearly 30 years. She inspired some of his loveliest poetry. In 1890, she went back to France and resumed her relationship with Millevoye. They had two children before parting permanently, a son who died at age 2-1/2, and a daughter named Iseult (Yeats also proposed unsuccessfully to Iseult when he was 52 years old and she was 23). During the 1890s, Gonne travelled extensively through Great Britain and the USA to raise money and support for Irish independence. She also worked to preserve Irish culture and language, founding the organization Inghinidhe na hEireann (Daughters of Ireland). In 1902, she played the title role in Yeats's nationalistic play Cathleen Ní Houlihan at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The following year, she married Major John MacBride, a fellow republican with whom she had a son, Sean. Maud left her husband after Sean's birth and demanded sole custody of the child. When her husband refused, they fought a bitter court case in Paris, at the end of which MacBride was given the right to visit his son twice weekly. MacBride was shot by the British for his participation in the 1916 Easter Rising and Maud then returned to live permanently in Ireland. In 1918, she was arrested in Dublin for revolutionary activity and imprisoned in England for six months. She became extremely ill while in prison and after her release, began a lengthy campaign to improve conditions for Irish political prisoners. She was one of the co-founders of the political party Sinn Féin in 1905. She published her autobiography, A Servant of the Queen, in 1938. Her son Sean MacBride won the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize.
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