No saga of personal hardship so captivated the British public in the eighteenth 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 twelve years of age by his uncle, "Jemmy" was shipped from Dublin to America in 1728 as an indentured servant. Only after twelve more years did he at last escape, returning to Ireland to bring his blood rival, the Earl of Anglesea, to justice in one of the epic trials of the century. How, in an age without DNA laboratories or fingerprint records, 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? Bursting with an improbable cast of characters, from a brave Dublin butcher and a wily Scot to the king of England, Birthright evokes in vivid detail the volatile world of Georgian Ireland-complete with its violence, debauchery, ancient rituals, and tenacious loyalties.
Drawing on exhaustive research in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and America-including an intensive investigation of court transcripts and innumerable, rarely seen legal depositions-A. Roger Ekirch brilliantly resurrects an extraordinary family drama of betrayal and loss, but also resilience, survival, and redemption.
A. Roger Ekirch is a professor of history at Virginia Tech and the award-winning author of At Day's Close and of Birthright. He lives in Roanoke, Virginia.