Eliza Lynch, the Irish ‘Queen of Paraguay,’ is honored each year in her hometown of Charleville, Co Cork.
Eliza Alice Lynch was born in Charleville, Co Cork in 1833 to John, a medical professional, and Elizabeth (nee Lloyd) Lynch.
At the age of 10, Eliza and her family left Ireland to escape the Great Hunger and relocated to Paris, France.
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In June 1850, Eliza married French officer Xavier Quatrefages and shortly thereafter accompanied him to Algeria where he was stationed for duty. At 18 years old, Eliza returned to Paris to stay with her mother after a bout of poor health.
Back in Paris, Eliza - noted for her beauty - met General Francisco Solano Lopez, who was training with the Napoleonic army, in 1854. The two began a relationship and Eliza accompanied him back to his native Paraguay in 1854.
Though they never married, the couple went on to have six children together.
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Eliza became a national heroine in her adopted country of Paraguay. She fought alongside Lopez during the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-1870) in which Paraguay was fighting against Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.
Lopez and the couple’s eldest son were both killed in the war in 1870. Lynch buried them in the jungle with her bare hands.
While some remembered Eliza as a heroine, others hated her. However, in her book 'Exposition. Protest made by Elisa A. Lynch,' Eliza claims to have never meddled in her lover's political affairs.
In 2009, Michael Lillis and Ronan Fanning published ‘The Lives of Eliza Lynch— Scandal & Courage’ which revealed Eliza’s Irish origins and her marriage at the age of 16 to a duplicitous French Army officer. In the book, they reconstructed the systematic invention of her image as a prostitute around her first meeting with Solano Lopez, which occurred in Paris in 1854, the Irish Independent reports.
The commemorative weekend included a seminar on her life by Lillis and Fanning and a screening of a film about her starring Maria Doyle Kennedy.
In 2013, Lynch’s great-grandson, His Excellency Miguel Angel Solano Lopez, the ambassador of Paraguay to Ireland, visited Charleville to visit her birthplace.
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Learn more about Eliza Lynch in this video from the Irish Film Institute here:
*Originally published in August 2014.