Katharine Wood, also known as Katie or Kitty, was born into an aristocratic, politically active English family. Her granddaughter Sir Matthew Wood served as Lord Mayor of London; her paternal uncle William Page Wood, 1st Baron Hatherley, was Lord Chancellor under Prime Minister Gladstone; another uncle, Western Wood, was a Member of Parliament and prominent in the Liberal Party. Katharine was educated at home as was usual for girls of her day. In 1867, at age 22, she married Captain William O'Shea, a Catholic army officer and later MP for County Clare, but the marriage was unhappy and the couple separated by 1875. She first met Charles Stewart Parnell, an Irish nationalist hero, on a visit to the House of Commons in 1880. Thus began a momentous love affair. They had a child together in 1882 who died shortly after birth. Between 1883 and 1884, she gave birth to two daughters, and the couple began living together permanently in Eltham in 1886. Because of her family connection to the Liberal Party, she acted as liaison between Parnell and Gladstone during negotiations for the First Irish Home Rule Bill in April 1886. The relationship between Katharine and Parnell was a subject of intense gossip in Victorian society and caused great scandal when O'Shea challenged Parnell to a duel (which never took place) and filed for divorce in 1889, naming Parnell as co-respondent. The result was that Parnell was deserted by a majority of his Irish Parliamentary Party and his political life was ruined. When she was free, Katharine married Parnell in a registry office ceremony in June 1891, shocking Catholic Ireland. Parnell died less than four months later at age 45. Katharine published a biography of her husband in 1914 under the name Mrs. Charles Stewart Parnell, but to the public she was always known as Kitty O'Shea. She survived Parnell by 30 years, living in relative obscurity.