The first study to examine Irish perceptions of the British monarchy in nineteenth-century Ireland.
Abject Loyalty challenges the view that Irish nationalists were necessarily hostile to the British monarchy. During Queen Victoria's reign royal visits to Ireland were in fact generally met with great enthusiasm. Indeed, the strength of the opposition of some Irish nationalists, especially republicans, to monarchy was a sign of the purchase which it seemed to have on the allegiance of many people within nationalist Ireland. By the 1880s, however, the monarchy had become the focus for British imperial identity in England and the denial of constitutional legitimacy to those in Ireland who wished for home rule. It began to face increasing opposition in Ireland both because nationalist politicians feared its influence might indeed reconcile Irish people to the Union with Britain and because enthusiasm for monarchy in Ireland was used to feed a British discourse which saw Ireland as a country which could be appeased by concessions short of home rule and which did not take nationalist demands seriously.
The book traces Ireland's interactions with the British monarchy from King George III to Queen Elizabeth II but focuses on the reign of Queen Victoria. It deals with its topics on several levels: Queen Victoria's interactions with Ireland, her, mostly private, influence on British policy towards Ireland and Irish perceptions of the monarchy. Queen Victoria's views and actions have been subject to historical analysis, but no previous study has seriously explored how she was perceived in Ireland or the subtleties of nationalism's attitude towards monarchy. Abject Loyalty makes a significant and original contribution to the political and cultural history of Ireland and will be of interest to those concerned with the understanding of historical development of Irish identity.