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Celtic & Irish
adventure & exploration
British history

Birthright: The True Story That Inspired Kidnapped

A. Roger Ekirch.
Publisher Norton  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 8.25 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
ISBN 9780393340013
Pages/Publication Date 258/2010
Daedalus Item Code 61200
This item is not available.
No saga of personal hardship so captivated the British public in the 18th century as the turbulent life of James Annesley, the presumptive heir of five aristocratic titles and scion of the mighty house of Annesley. Kidnapped at 12 years of age by his uncle, "Jemmy" was shipped from Dublin to America in 1728 as an indentured servant. Only after 12 more years did he at last escape, returning to Ireland to bring his blood rival, the Earl of Anglesea, to justice. But how could a prodigal hope to prove his identity, let alone his legitimacy, after such a long absence—all the while defying accusations of being a "pretender," the bastard son of a maidservant, plus repeated attempts on his life? With an improbable cast of characters, from a brave Dublin butcher and a wily Scot to the king of England, Birthright vividly evokes the volatile world of Georgian Ireland, with its violence, debauchery, ancient rituals, and tenacious loyalties. Following exhaustive research, including close investigation of court transcripts and legal depositions, Roger Ekirch brilliantly resurrects this extraordinary drama of betrayal, loss, resilience, survival, and redemption.

"The term kidnapping, Ekirch explains, originated in the 17th century to describe seizing a child with the intent of transporting him or her to the colonies to work as an indentured servant. Kidnapping was a misdemeanor under British common law; horse theft was a felony punishable by death. Jemmy's escape, passage to London, and pursuit of his birthright, leading eventually to his vindication at the end of a famous criminal trial, form the backbone of this story. Annesley had to prove his identity with virtually no evidence: he had no scars or distinguishing birthmarks; written records of his birth were nonexistent; and the science of fingerprints, photographs, and DNA was far in the future. Ekirch also illuminates such subjects as the position of wives and mistresses in 18th-century England; the causes of the sharp rise in mortality that threatened the great peerages; and the realities of indentured servitude in the colonies. Ekirch out-kidnaps Stevenson in this thrilling, thoroughly documented story. A perfect mix of true crime and real-life adventure."—Booklist (starred review)

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