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Limerick's Historical Connection with Irish Nobility Explored Through Hibernia-Swedish Royalty |

Limerick’s Historical Connection with Irish Nobility Explored Through Hibernia-Swedish Royalty

The recent visit of Swedish warships to Kingstown has sparked reflections on the deep historical ties between Ireland and Sweden, particularly through the lens of Irish nobility. This connection can be traced back generations, with significant intermingling of Irish and Swedish bloodlines. Notably, the Swedish royal family has a unique link to Limerick, shedding light on a fascinating chapter in the annals of both nations.

One remarkable tale of this intersection revolves around the Cléry family, originally hailing from County Limerick. In an intriguing twist, their fortunes took an unexpected turn during the tumultuous times of the French Revolution. Cléry, a prosperous silk manufacturer, sought to elevate his family socially by applying for letters patent of nobility. However, the eruption of the Revolution forced him to abandon this pursuit, highlighting the unpredictable nature of historical events.

The Cléry saga takes a dramatic turn during the Reign of Terror. Despite the chaos, Cléry’s adept financial manoeuvring secured the well-being of his widow and children. However, his son faced peril, finding himself on a list of proscribed individuals. It was at this critical juncture that the youngest Cléry, Desideria, stepped into the narrative.

Life intersected with the legendary figure Napoleon Bonaparte in a most unexpected manner. During a precarious situation involving her brother’s release, Desideria found herself in the same room as Napoleon. This accidental encounter marked the beginning of a relationship that would alter the course of her life.

Napoleon, who had his eyes on Desideria, navigated the complex social and political landscape of post-Revolutionary France to secure her affections. Despite Desideria’s initial engagement to Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s intervention reshaped the dynamics of their relationships. Desideria and Napoleon were soon house-hunting together, behaving like any other engaged couple, showcasing the more human side of the Great Adventurer.

However, Desideria’s reservations about residing in Paris, given its recent history of violence, strained their relationship. Eventually, she broke off the engagement, and Napoleon, ever the pragmatist, moved on. Desideria, in turn, married Bernadette, partially due to her perceived suitability compared to Napoleon.

Bernadette’s loyalty to Napoleon was evident throughout their association, and she played a crucial role in Napoleon’s rise to power. However, Desideria’s aversion to Sweden led her to decline accompanying her husband to his new kingdom, showcasing her attachment to Paris and disdain for Scandinavia.

Desideria’s views on Ireland were shaped by Napoleon’s fondness for MacPherson’s Ossian, with her naming her first son Oscar, after Napoleon’s favourite character from the book. This naming tradition continued within the Bernadette royal family.

In later years, Desideria’s imperialistic tendencies solidified as she became Queen of Sweden in 1829, insisting on a separate coronation. Despite her initial reluctance to embrace Sweden, Desideria’s popularity soared, and she became a beloved figure in the country. Her death at the age of eighty-three was met with national mourning, marking the end of a remarkable life that spanned continents and historical epochs.

Desideria’s legacy, intertwined with the Cléry family’s journey from Ireland to France and beyond, stands as a testament to the intricate web of relationships and events that shape the course of history. Limerick, through the lens of this Hibernia-Swedish connection, remains a crucial node in the rich tapestry of European nobility.

Evening Herald (Dublin) – Wednesday 28 May 1913

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