UCD Archives Document of the Month: May 2017

Letter from Lord French to General Maxwell, 3rd May 1916

In the early hours of the morning on 3rd May 1916 the first executions of the 1916 Easter Rising leaders took place in Kilmainham Gaol. The execution of Pádraic Pearse, Thomas Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh was carried out by firing squad in the Stonebreaker’s Yard.

This holograph letter was written by Lord French to General Maxwell on 3rd May 1916 and in it he refers to the execution on that day of Pearse, Clarke and MacDonagh, “The P.M. expressed himself as ‘surprised’ at the rapidity of the trial & sentences. I pointed out that you were carrying out your instructions exactly & correctly and in strict accordance with Military and Martial Law. He quite understands but asked me to warn you not to give the impression that all the Sinn Feiners would suffer death. I told him that the fact of 3 of them having been awarded a much less severe sentence was evidence enough of the attitude you were adopting towards them and that I thought it much better to [leave] you [alone] to your own discretion. He agreed to this…”

This letter is from a file in the Eamon De Valera Papers (P150/512). To find out more and read the letter in full click on the following links.




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