Francis Stuart
Henry Francis Montgomery Stuart (1902–2000) was an Irish
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 writer. His novels have been described as having a thrusting modernist
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

 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
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 and Stuart's childhood was divided between his home in Ireland and Rugby School
Rugby School
Rugby School is a co-educational day and boarding school located in the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, England. It is one of the oldest independent schools in Britain.-History:...

 in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, where he boarded.

In 1920 he became a Catholic and married Maud Gonne
Maud Gonne
Maud Gonne MacBride was an English-born Irish revolutionary, feminist and actress, best remembered for her turbulent relationship with William Butler Yeats. Of Anglo-Irish stock and birth, she was won over to Irish nationalism by the plight of evicted people in the Land Wars...

's daughter, Iseult Gonne
Iseult Gonne
Iseult Gonne , was the daughter of Maud Gonne and Lucien Millevoye, and the wife of the novelist Francis Stuart....

. She was seven years older than he and had had a romantic but unsettled life. Maud Gonne's estranged husband John MacBride
John MacBride
Major John MacBride was an Irish republican executed for participation in the 1916 Easter Rising.-Early life:...

 was executed in 1916 for taking part in the Easter Rising
Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War...

. Iseult Gonne's own father was the right-wing French politician, Lucien Millevoye
Lucien Millevoye
Lucien Millevoye was a French journalist and right-wing politician, now best known for his relationship with the Irish revolutionary and muse of W.B. Yeats, Maud Gonne....

, 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
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

 in 1917 and had a brief affair with Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

 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
Irish Civil War
The Irish Civil War was a conflict that accompanied the establishment of the Irish Free State as an entity independent from the United Kingdom within the British Empire....

 began. Unsurprisingly given Gonne's strong opinions, the couple were caught up on the anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army (1922–1969)
The original Irish Republican Army fought a guerrilla war against British rule in Ireland in the Irish War of Independence 1919–1921. Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921, the IRA in the 26 counties that were to become the Irish Free State split between supporters and...

 (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
Imogen Stuart
Imogen Stuart is a sculptor.Born in Berlin, she moved to Ireland in 1951. She was married for a time to Irish artist Ian Stuart, son of writer Francis Stuart.-Works:She works in wood, bronze, stone, steel, clay and terracotta...

. 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
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

) agent Helmut Clissmann and his Irish wife Elizabeth. Clissmann was working for the German Academic Exchange Service and the Deutsche Akademie
Deutsche Akademie
The Deutsche Akademie was a German cultural institute founded in 1925 at Munich, under the Weimar Republic. The controversial geopolitician Karl Haushofer was among the academics associated with it in its initial phases....

(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
Nuremberg Laws
The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were antisemitic laws in Nazi Germany introduced at the annual Nuremberg Rally of the Nazi Party. After the takeover of power in 1933 by Hitler, Nazism became an official ideology incorporating scientific racism and antisemitism...


In July 1939 Stuart returned home to Laragh
Laragh, County Wicklow
Laragh is a small picturesque village in County Wicklow, Ireland. It lies at the junction of three roads through the Wicklow Mountains and is primarily known for its proximity to the monastic settlement of Glendalough...

 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
Seán MacBride
Seán MacBride was an Irish government minister and prominent international politician as well as a Chief of Staff of the IRA....

, 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
Seamus O'Donovan
Seamus O'Donovan was a leading volunteer in the Irish Republican Army.A native of County Roscommon, he was an explosives expert and reputedly invented the "Irish Wallflower" and "Irish Cheddar" devices. He subsequently became IRA Director of Chemicals in 1921...

, 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
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, 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
Operation Dove (Ireland)
Operation Dove also sometimes known as Operation Pigeon, was an Abwehr sanctioned mission devised in early 1940...

 and he agreed although he was later dropped in favour of Frank Ryan
Frank Ryan (Irish republican)
Frank Ryan was a prominent member of the Irish Republican Army, editor of An Phoblacht, leftist activist and leader of Irish volunteers on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War....

. 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 (also sometimes referred to as Irland-Redaktion, "Editorial Ireland" in English) team, reading radio broadcasts containing Nazi propaganda which were aimed at and heard in Ireland. Before deciding to accept this job he discussed it with Frank Ryan, and they agreed that no anti-Semitic or anti-Soviet statements should be made. 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. His passport was taken from him by the Gestapo after this event.

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."


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
Der Stürmer
Der Stürmer was a weekly tabloid-format Nazi newspaper published by Julius Streicher from 1923 to the end of World War II in 1945, with brief suspensions in publication due to legal difficulties. It was a significant part of the Nazi propaganda machinery and was vehemently anti-Semitic...

"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."

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.

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
Roman à clef
Roman à clef or roman à clé , French for "novel with a key", is a phrase used to describe a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction. The fictitious names in the novel represent real people, and the "key" is the relationship between the nonfiction and the fiction...

documenting his life and distinguished by a queasy sensitivity to moral complexity and moral ambiguity.

In 1996 Stuart was elected a Saoi
Saoi , is the highest honour that members of Aosdána, an association of people in Ireland who have achieved distinction in the arts, can bestow upon a fellow member...

 of Aosdána
Aosdána is an Irish association of Artists. It was created in 1981 on the initiative of a group of writers and with support from the Arts Council of Ireland. Membership, which is by invitation from current members, is limited to 250 individuals; before 2005 it was limited to 200...

. This is a high honour in the Irish art world and the influential Irish language poet Máire Mhac an tSaoi
Máire Mhac an tSaoi
-Background:Mhac an tSaoi was born as Máire MacEntee in Dublin in 1922. Her father, Seán MacEntee, a native of Belfast, was a founding member of Fianna Fáil, a long-serving TD and Tánaiste in the Dáil and a participant in the Easter Rising of 1916. Her mother, County Tipperary-born Margaret Browne...

 objected strongly, referring to Stuart's actions during the war and claiming that he held anti-Semitic opinions. When it was put to a vote, she was the only person to vote for the motion (there were 70 against, with 14 abstentions). She resigned from Aosdána in protest, sacrificing a government stipend by doing so. While the Aosdána affair was ongoing, Irish Times columnist Kevin Myers
Kevin Myers
Kevin Myers is an Irish journalist and writer. He writes for the Irish Independent and is a former contributor to The Irish Times, where he wrote the "An Irishman's Diary" opinion column several times weekly...

 attacked Stuart as a Nazi sympathizer; Stuart sued for libel and the case was settled out of court. The statement from the Irish Times read out in the High Court accepted "that Mr Stuart never expressed anti-Semitism in his writings or otherwise". The libel laws in Ireland, as in the UK, place a burden of proof on defendants, a more severe test than that of United States law.

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 Vanquished, 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

States of Mind, Dublin 1984

Faillandia, Dublin 1985

The Abandoned Snail Shell, Dublin 1987

Night Pilot, Dublin 1988

A Compendium 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, Stuart authored many articles in various journals.

External links

See also

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