Francis Stuart: Wikis


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Henry Francis Montgomery Stuart (1902–2000) was an Irish writer. His novels have been described as having a thrusting modernist iconoclasm. Awarded the highest artistic accolade in Ireland before his death in 2000, his unwillingness to take a clear moral stance with regard to his years spent in Nazi Germany has led to a great deal of controversy.


Early life

Francis Stuart was born in Queensland, Australia to Irish Protestant parents, Henry Irwin Stuart and Elizabeth Barbara Isabel Montgomery; his father was alcoholic and killed himself when Stuart was an infant. This prompted his mother to return to Ireland and Stuart's childhood was divided between his home in Ireland and Rugby School in England, where he boarded.

In 1920 he became a Catholic and married Maud Gonne's daughter, Iseult Gonne. She was seven years older than him and had had a romantic but unsettled life. Maud Gonne's estranged husband John MacBride was executed in 1916 for taking part in the Easter Rising. Iseult Gonne's own father was the right-wing French politician, Lucien Millevoye, with whom Maud Gonne had had an affair between 1887 and 1899. Because of her complex family situation, Iseult was often passed off as Maud Gonne's niece in conservative circles in Ireland. Iseult grew up in Paris and London. She had been proposed to by William Butler Yeats in 1917 and had a brief affair with Ezra Pound prior to meeting Stuart; this is made ironic by Pound and Stuart's shared belief in the primacy of the artist and the way in which this belief lead Stuart to Nazi Germany and Pound to fascist Italy.

IRA involvement

Iseult and Stuart had a baby daughter who died in infancy. Perhaps to recover from this tragedy, they travelled for a while in Europe but returned to Ireland as the Irish Civil War began. Unsurprisingly given Gonne's strong opinions, the couple were caught up on the anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army (IRA) side of this fight. Stuart was involved in gun running and was interned after a botched raid.

Literary career

After independence, Stuart participated in the literary life of Dublin and wrote poetry and novels. His novels were successful and his writing was publicly supported by Yeats. Yeats, however, seemed to have had mixed feelings for Stuart who was, after all, married to a woman he regarded almost as a daughter and, even, as a possible wife. In his poem Why should not Old Men be Mad? (1936) in which he lists what he regards as provocations to rage he has witnessed, he claims he has seen a

"A girl that knew all Dante once
Live to bear children to a dunce"

The first of these lines is accepted as referring to Iseult and the second to Stuart (Elborn 1990).

Stuart and Iseult had three children, a daughter Dolores who died three months old, a son Ian and a daughter Katherine. Ian Stuart went on to become an artist and was married for a time to the sculptor Imogen Stuart. However, this may not have been a happy time; from the accounts given in his apparently autobiographical novels, both he and his wife struggled with personal demons and their internal anguish poisoned their marriage.

Involvement with the Third Reich

It was also during the 1930s that Stuart became friendly with German Intelligence (Abwehr) agent Helmut Clissmann and his Irish wife Elizabeth. Clissmann was working for the German Academic Exchange Service and the Deutsche Akademie (DA). He was facilitating academic exchanges between Ireland and the Third Reich but also forming connections which might be of benefit to German Intelligence. Clissmann was also a representative of the Nazi Auslandorganisation (AO) - the Nazi Party's foreign organisation - in pre-war Ireland.

Stuart was also friendly with the head of the German Legation in Dublin, Dr Eduard Hempel, largely as a result of Maud Gonne MacBride's rapport with him. By 1938 Stuart was seeking a way out of his marriage and the provincialism of Irish life. Iseult intervened with Clissmann to arrange for Stuart to travel to Germany to give a series of academic lectures in conjunction with the DA. Stuart travelled to Germany in April 1939 and his host in Germany was Professor Walter F. Schirmer, the senior member of the English faculty with the DA and Berlin University. He eventually visited Munich, Hamburg, Bonn and Cologne. At the completion of his lecture tour he accepted an appointment as lecturer in English and Irish literature at Berlin University to begin in 1940, two years after Jews had been barred from German universities by the Nazis' Nuremberg Laws.

In July 1939 Stuart returned home to Laragh and confirmed at the outbreak of war in September that he would still take the place in Berlin. When Stuart's plans for travelling to Germany were finalised, he received a visit from his brother-in-law, Sean MacBride, this meeting followed the seizure of an IRA transmitter on 29 December 1939, which had been used to contact Germany. Stuart, MacBride, Seamus O'Donovan, and IRA Chief of Staff Stephen Hayes then met at O'Donovan's house. Stuart was told to take a message to Abwehr HQ in Berlin. He travelled alone to Nazi Germany, something that was possible because Ireland was neutral in the Second World War, and arrived in Berlin during January 1940. Upon arrival he delivered the IRA message and had some discussion with the Abwehr on the conditions in Ireland and the fate of the IRA-Abwehr radio link. He also reactivated his acquaintance with Abwehr asset Helmut Clissmann who was acting as an advisor to SS Colonel Dr Edmund Vessenmayer. Through Clissmann Stuart was introduced to Sonderführer Kurt Haller. Around August 1940, Stuart was asked by Haller if he would participate in Operation Dove and he agreed although he was later dropped in favour of Frank Ryan. In so far as is known he had no further contact with German Intelligence although he did maintain links with Frank Ryan up to his death and funeral in June 1944.

Time in Berlin

Between March 1942 and January 1944 Stuart worked as part of the Redaktion-Irland ("Editorial Ireland" in English) team, reading radio broadcasts containing German propaganda which were aimed at and heard in Ireland.[1] He was dropped from the Redaktion-Irland team in January 1944 because he objected to the anti-Soviet material that was presented to him and deemed essential by his supervisors.

In his radio broadcasts he frequently spoke with admiration of Hitler and expressed the hope that Germany would help unite Ireland. After the war he maintained that he was not drawn to Germany by support for Nazism, but that he was fascinated by wartime Germany as a dark spectacle of the grotesque and as a celebration of destruction. Stuart described one such event at the Berlin Olympic stadium in June 1939 as: "A most amazing thing. Such a spectacle and organisation."[2]


Stuart is known to have read only one piece of what might be considered anti-semitic propaganda for Redaktion-Irland: his first, and even then it was a single sentence. Whilst enthralled with the macabre spectacle of wartime Nazi Germany, he is also on record via his letters as deploring much of what he saw around him. He was able to recognise anti-semitic propaganda as it appeared in the magazine Der Stürmer:

"These are mostly pages from newspapers - especially The Sturmer [sic], the special anti-semitic one."

But in the same letter he remarked:

"I have heard something of the Jewish activities prior to 1933 here and in cooperation with the communists - they were in many instances appalling."[2]

However, Stuart did write the following in a 1924 IRA pamphlet (discovered by Brendan Barrington, see Bibliography):

Austria, in 1921, had been ruined by the war, and was far, far poorer than Ireland is today, for besides having no money she was overburdened with innumerable debts. At that time Vienna was full of Jews, who controlled the banks and the factories and even a large part of the Government; the Austrians themselves seemed about to be driven out of their own city.[3]

Post World War II

In 1945 Stuart decided to return to Ireland with a former student, Gertrude Meissner; they were unable to do so and were arrested and detained by Allied troops. After they were released, Stuart and Meissner lived in Germany and then France and England. They married in 1954 after Iseult's death and in 1958 they returned to settle in Ireland. In 1971 Stuart published his best known work, Black List Section H, a roman à clef documenting his life and distinguished by a queasy sensitivity to moral complexity and moral ambiguity.

In 1996 Stuart was elected a Saoi of Aosdána. This is a high honour in the Irish art world and the influential Irish language poet Máire Mhac an tSaoi objected strongly, referring to Stuart's actions during the war and claiming that he held anti-Semitic opinions. Ultimately she resigned from Aosdána in protest, sacrificing a government stipend by doing so. While the Aosdána affair was ongoing, Irish Times columnist Kevin Myers attacked Stuart as a Nazi sympathizer; Stuart sued for libel and the case was settled out of court. The libel laws in Ireland place a burden of proof on defendants, an unusually severe test by international standards.[4] Subsequent research by Brendan Barrington (see Bibliography) has examined Stuart's role in Nazi Germany more clearly, and perhaps the Irish Times would now have a stronger case.

Francis Stuart died of natural causes at the age of 97 in Ireland.


Francis Stuart wrote many novels including Black List Section H (1971) ISBN 0-14-006229-7, his most well known work which is heavily autobiographical. Most of his writing is now out of print.

We Have Kept the Faith, Dublin 1923
Women and God, London 1931
Pigeon Irish, London 1932
The Coloured Dome, London 1932
Try the Sky, London 1933
Glory, London 1933
Things to Live For: Notes for an Autobiography, London 1934
In Search of Love, London 1935
The Angels of Pity, London 1935
The White Hare, London 1936
The Bridge, London 1937
Julie, London 1938
The Great Squire, London 1939
Der Fall Casement, Hamburg 1940
The Pillar of Cloud, London 1948
Redemption, London 1949
The Flowering Cross, London 1950
Good Friday's Daughter, London 1952
The Chariot, London 1953
The Pilgrimage, London 1955
Victors and Vanquised, London 1958
Angels of Providence, London 1959
Black List Section H, Southern Illinois Univ. Press 1971
Memorial, London 1973
A Hole in the Head, London 1977
The High Consistory, London 1981
We Have Kept the Faith: New and Selected Poems, Dublin 1982
Statres of Mind, Dublin 1984
Faillandia, Dublin 1985
The Abandoned Snail Shell, Dublin 1987
Night Pilot, Dublin 1988
A Conmpendium of Lovers, Dublin 1990
Arrow of Anguish, Dublin 1995
King David Dances, Dublin 1996

Nationality and Culture, Dublin 1924
Mystics and Mysticism, Dublin 1929
Racing for PLeasure and Profit in Ireland and Elsewhere, Dublin 1937

Men Crowd me Round, 1933
Glory, 1936
Strange Guests, 1940
Flynn's Last Dive, 1962
Who Fears to Speak, 1970

Additionally, many articles in various journals.


  • Elborn, Geoffrey (1990). Francis Stuart: a Life. Dublin: Raven Arts Press. ISBN 9781851860753.  
  • Hull, Mark (2003). Irish Secrets. Blackrock: Irish Academic Press. ISBN 0716527561.  
  • McCartney, Anne (2000). Francis Stuart. Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University. ISBN 0853897689.  
  • Stephan, Enno (1963). Spies in Ireland. London: Macdonald.
  • Barrington, Brendan, ed. (2001). The Wartime Broadcasts of Francis Stuart, 1942-1944. Dublin: Lilliput Press. ISBN 1901866548.  
  • Kiely, Kevin (2007). Francis Stuart: Artist and Outcast. Dublin: The Liffey Press. ISBN 1905785259.  


  1. ^ Also sometimes referred to as Irland-Redaktion.
  2. ^ a b Hull, p.310
  3. ^ Colm Tóibín, "Issues of Truth and Invention" (Part II), London Review of Books, 1 September 2000, on
  4. ^ Michael Foley, "Ireland's Libel Laws Muzzle A Free Press", on the Committee to Protect Journalists Website

External links

See also

IRA Abwehr World War II - main article on IRA Nazi links

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