The astonishing story that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Kidnapped.
In 1728, in the wake of his father’s death, the twelve-year-old heir to five aristocratic titles and the scion of Ireland’s mighty house of Annesley was kidnapped by his uncle and shipped to America as an indentured servant. Only after twelve more years did “Jemmy” Annesley at last escape, returning to Ireland to bring his blood rival, the Earl of Anglesea, to justice in one of the most captivating trials of the century. Hundreds of years later, historian A. Roger Ekirch delves into the court transcripts and rarely seen legal depositions that chronicle Jemmy’s attempt to reclaim his birthright, in the process vividly evoking the volatile world of Georgian Ireland—complete with its violence, debauchery, ancient rituals, and tenacious loyalties.
The dramatic tale of James (Jemmy) Annesley inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped and four other novels. Now Virginia Tech history professor Ekirch (Day's Close) presents the intriguing, complex true narrative of the 18th-century travails of the rightful earl of Anglesea. Ekirch describes young Annesley's near abandonment to the Dublin streets through the greed-induced maneuvering of his father, Baron Altham, and Altham's mistress. Upon Altham's death, Jemmy's Uncle Richard perpetuated the lie that the boy was illegitimate and, later, that he had died. In 1728 Richard had 12-year-old Jemmy kidnapped and transported to the colony of Delaware as an indentured servant. After 13 years of virtual slavery, Jemmy escaped and returned to the British Isles. His claim to gentlemanly birth was endorsed by numerous former acquaintances, but denied by a few key individuals. Eventually, his cause was championed by Daniel Mackercher, a self-made Scottish merchant who dedicated his life to the defense of Jemmy's birthright. Lengthy and sensational legal proceedings resulted in a less-than-timely vindication of the claim. Confusing because of excessive use of frequently changing noble titles, Birthright is nonetheless a fascinating read. 26 illus., 3 maps.