In June 1922, Kitty Kiernan wrote one of her most passionate letters to her fiancé, Michael Collins.
It has led historians to speculate as to whether the pair ever had sex during their brief relationship or abstained from “sins of the flesh” as devout Catholics.
Kitty wrote: “Last night was a real wedding night for you and me. Didn’t you feel the same way, but couldn’t put it into words? I wanted to run away with you That must be how people feel when they run away like that. We had it last night. That was our night. I’m glad today, both for you and for me, that I didn’t go. Is not that right? Tell me. Tu – am I not right? Heaps of kisses that you should have gotten yesterday and heaps of hugs and love and love and hugs and kisses. Your own little pet, Kit.”
A biographer of the Big Fella, Peter Hart, expressed doubts as to whether this passage is really evidence that they had a night of passion.
He wonders why, when they have sex, she sends him “lots of kisses that you should have gotten yesterday.”
Another biographer, James MacKay, took the view from the letters that this love was expressed physically whenever possible.
Kitty was far more open about her feelings than Collins was in the hundreds of letters they exchanged between 1920 and 1922.
In the summer of 1922 she wrote: “I almost shudder at the thought of strength
my love what i do
believe that I am able to feel and that life without you means nothing to me.”
Though his affection for Kitty is evident in his page of correspondence, Collins is perhaps more cautious, knowing the letters could be intercepted by his opponents – and used to embarrass him.
Collins and Kiernan had met in 1917 when his party, Sinn Féin, was running for the Longford South by-election.
Kitty was one of four sisters working at the Greville Arms Hotel in Longford.
Collins was among the Sinn Féin activists staying at the hotel and was initially attracted to Kitty’s sister, Helen.
But Collins’ attention turned to Kitty when Helen declared her affection to a local attorney.
The problem was that Kitty was initially attracted to Collins’ friend and fellow revolutionary Harry Boland, who eventually proposed to her.
To complicate matters, Kitty was also briefly engaged to a third man, Lionel Lyster, but he was dumped.
In the end, it was Collins who won Kitty’s affections while Boland was conveniently in the US.
She wrote to Collins: “Why not marry the one I really love and what cowardice of me to be afraid to marry the one I really love and who loves me as much as anyone else I had thought of to marry ?”
Much of their courtship took place remotely when Collins was in London for the 1921 contract negotiations, and Boland’s position as the loser in the love triangle was not finally settled until late in the year.
The engagement between Kitty and Michael became public under unusual circumstances during the contract debate in early 1922, when Countess Constance Markievicz made the outlandish suggestion that Collins was having an affair with a member of the British royal family, Princess Mary.
Collins replied indignantly in the Dáil: “I don’t know anything about her in any way but the statement may cause her pain and the lady who is engaged to me pain.”
Following this public statement that he was getting married, Collins immediately sent an express letter to Kitty following up on this statement: ‘My dearest Kitty, this will reach you before the letters I sent today. My dear, dear Kitty, look at the references to you and Princess Mary of England.
“My fiancé, my dearest love, Michael.”
In an article in the Jesuit magazine studiesMary Kenny showed how the letters reveal the religious side of Collins and Kiernan.
While in London for the lengthy contract negotiations, he wrote her that he was going to Mass at Brompton Oratory every day and lighting candles for her.
On October 13, 1921, Kiernan wrote to Collins: “No matter what, will you keep your promise to go to confession and communion?” If I thought you would do it, I would feel quite satisfied and satisfied.”
Collins replied: “It’s an odd thing, but I feel very similar (in terms of confession and communion) and I’ve often felt like it took someone like you to get me to appreciate it properly. “
On October 16, Kitty encourages him: “I’m glad you went to mass … and the candle was not forgotten.”
Was it just a pious phase by Collins to impress her?
There were certainly many rumors linking him to other women, including London society hostess Lady Lavery, whose image later appeared on the Irish pound notes.
And Kitty jokingly refers to Collins’ “pretty girl secretaries” in one letter.
Moya Llewelyn-Davies, a Republican supporter who wrote a book for Collins, boasted that she was Collins’ mistress.
According to Tim Pat Coogan’s biography of Collins, Llewelyn-Davies said that on the night Collins learned Éamon de Valera was going to turn down the contract: “He was so upset that I gave myself to him.”
In their letters, Collins and Kiernan reveal their doubts, fears, and insecurities about their relationship.
But had he escaped the ambush at Béal na Bláth on August 22, Collins would in all likelihood have married Kitty Kiernan two months later. The date set was October 20th.
But instead of having a wedding bouquet, she had to mourn the Big Fella’s death with a single white lily left on his coffin.
Within just three weeks, both Collins and Harry Boland were shot dead on opposite sides in the civil war.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/letters-show-michael-collins-was-besotted-by-his-dear-kitty-but-historians-differ-on-whether-they-consummated-their-love-41924565.html Letters show Michael Collins was obsessed with his “dear Kitty,” but historians are divided as to whether they consummated their love