Iseult Lucille Germaine Gonne, the daughter of the Irish republican revolutionary Maud Gonne and the French politician and journalist Lucien Millevoye, dies on March 22, 1954. She marries the novelist Francis Stuart in 1920.
Maud Gonne conceives a child, Georges, with her French Boulangist lover Lucien Millevoye. When the baby dies, possibly by meningitis, she is distraught, and buries him in a large memorial chapel built for him with money she had inherited. She separates from Millevoye after Georges’ death, but in late 1893, she arranges to meet him at the mausoleum in Samois-sur-Seine and, next to the coffin, they have sex. Her purpose is to conceive a baby with the same father, to whom the soul of Georges would transmigrate in metempsychosis. Iseult is born in France as a result on August 6, 1894. She is educated at a Carmelite convent in Laval, France. When she returns to Ireland she is referred to as Maud’s niece or cousin rather than her daughter.
In 1903, Maud Gonne marries John MacBride. Iseult’s half-brother Seán MacBride is born in 1904. The couple separates in 1905. With Gonne fearing that Seán’s father will seize him from her, her family mostly lives in France until John MacBride’s death in the 1916 Easter Rising. In a separation settlement, MacBride is granted a month’s summer custody, however, he returns to Ireland and never sees his child again. Iseult’s relationship with her stepfather is tainted by an allegation by William Butler Yeats, who writes to Lady Gregory in January 1905, the month MacBride and Maud separate, that he had been told MacBride had molested Iseult, who at that time was ten years old. However, many critics have suggested that Yeats may have fabricated the event due to his hatred of MacBride over Maud’s rejection of him in favour of MacBride. The divorce papers submitted by Gonne make no mention of any such incident – the only charge against MacBride that is substantiated in court is that he was drunk on one occasion during the marriage and Iseult’s own writings make no mention of the allegation.
In 1913, Iseult meets Rabindranath Tagore. Inspired by his poetry, she begins to learn Bengali in 1914, tutored by Devabrata Mukerjea. Together, in France, they translate some of Tagore’s The Gardener into French directly from the Bengali. Tagore leaves it to Yeats’ discretion to decide the merit of the work, but Yeats does not feel sufficiently fluent in French to judge them. The translations are never published. Iseult is widely considered a great beauty, and temperate, able to speak her mind. She attracts the admiration of literary figures including Ezra Pound, Lennox Robinson and Liam O’Flaherty. Her most infamous association is with Yeats, who had long been in love with her mother. In 1916, in his fifties, Yeats proposes to the 22-year-old Iseult who refuses his advances. He had known her since she was four and often referred to her as his darling child. Many Dubliners suspected that Yeats is her father.
In 1920, Iseult elopes to London with 17-year-old Irish Australian Francis Stuart, who becomes a writer, and the couple later marries. Their first child, Dolores, dies in 1921 of spinal meningitis at three months old. The couple has two other children, Ian and Catherine.
Iseult makes headlines during World War II when she is brought to trial for harboring Hermann Görtz, a German parachutist, a crime to which she confesses but is acquitted.
Maud Gonne dies on April 27, 1953, and does not acknowledge Iseult in her will, possibly due to pressure from Séan who does not want to reveal Maud’s relation to Millevoye. Iseult dies at the age of 59 from heart disease less than a year later, on March 22, 1954. She is buried in Glendalough, County Wicklow.
(Pictured: Iseult Gonne, c. 1910)