Lucille Yseult Dudley: The Woman Who Shot Rossa

In 1885, Lucy Coverdale, aka Lucille Yseult Dudley, made an unsucessful attempt on the life of Rossa. She was found to be insane at trial and ended up in a lunatic asylum at Auburn, in New York. Capt. Bedford Pim, Royal Navy, member of Parliament, helped secure her return to England in 1891. Was she a spy or was she insane?

The following is an article from Te Aroha News, Volume II, Issue 97, 11 April 1885, Page 3:

Several of the newspaper*, referring to "Mrs Dudley," who shot O'Donovan Rossa, describe her as the daughter of an ex-military officer now residing in New Zealand. Mrs. Dudley is illegitimate, and was born in the parish of Kingston-on-Thames, on 1st October, 1860. Her true name is Keenan. She is the daughter of Ellen Keenan, a single woman, who was cohabiting at Surbiton with the officer referred to. The prisoner's mother died when she was five years old. In 1862 a Chancery suit was instituted by Miss Keenan for breach of marriage against the officer, and a verdict was given for £3,500, which was appealed against. While the appeal was pending, she died, and the case lapsed.

Lucillo Herself. Whilst in England Miss Dudley assumed several aliases, amongst others — Coverdale, Dudley, Keenan, Boyle, Doyle, Dale and Dureen. A friend of mine, a young doctor named Baldock, who makes a specialty of cases of insanity, knew Mrs. Dudley when she was a sick nurse at an asylum, and speaks very highly of her. He describes her as a very prepossessing ladylike girl, amiable, well-educated, and an experienced nurse. Unfortunately, the suicidal mania, which he fancies must be inherited, was very pronounced in her. Bottles of poison were continually found under her pillow, and in certain moods she required to be most carefully watched. The "fall Mall" speaks of Mrs. Dudley's father as "an officer in ' the army, rich and reckless." Mrs Dudley possesses literary tastes. She has filled volumes of MSS. with verses and stories, adores " Ouida's " novels, possesses considerable histrionic abilities, and is altogether very remarkable. The writer in the •Tall Mall Gazette in a special article says: "At her mother's death, in 18G5, from cancer, induced by riding, the child Lucille was consigned to the care of the rector of a quiet Yorkshire village, on the understanding that a certain sum should be paid yearly, whether by the father or mother seems doubtful, for her support. The money was, we hear, never forthcoming, and the child remained at the rectory as the adopted daughter of the rector and his wife. At this period of her life, she was known as Lucy Dale, a name she changed more than once to suit her purposes. It is at present difficult to say at what age she launched herself in London, and her adventures here are pretty well-known by this time, Endowed with many attractions of face and manner, she seems to have captivated all hearts, and among them that of Mr. " Dudley," whom she first met at Camdentown lodging-house. Those who know "Dudley" prefer to remain silent for the present. One child, which was born at Barnet under the roof of some friendly cottager, was the result of this intrigue; then Mrs. "Dudley" appears to have moved to Walthamstow, then to Stoke Newington, devoting the intervals to nursing. Mr. "Dudley" took himself off one day; the child died, was buried at Southgate Cemetery, and he was heard of no more. Mrs. "Dudley" must for some years have supported herself, but she never seems to have applied herself with tenacity to any single object. She attended a medical school, and obtained several engagements in West End houses as a professional nurse, accepting a case of small-pox, or typhoid, or one of measles, with equal indifference. Vivacious, decidedly clever, with a pretty face and a lissome figure, it is not surprising that Mrs. "Dudley" bethought herself of the stage as a means for gaining a livelihood. She took a few lessons in London, and applied in vain for a London engagement. In Manchester she was successful, and appeared in a pantomime there, Mrs " Dudley " is said by one or two of her friends to have been a facile composer of verses and romance at the early age of eight, and for many years composition has been her chief amusement. She filled reams upon reams of paper, but unluckily none of her effusions have been preserved. "Ouida" was her favourite novelist. Those who know her say thither poisonings were merely little dramas got up for the edification of her friends. On her return to the old country, Lucy Dale, edicts Lucille Yseult Dudley alias: Miss Dorigne, need have no lack of engagements, matrimonial or theatrical.

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Tags: Assassinations, Britain, Irish Freedom Struggle, United States

Comment by Fiona Quinn on September 21, 2017 at 11:15am

Hi Nollaig,

 My son is doing History for his Leaving Cert.  He wishes to do his History Project/Research on one particular aspect of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa's life.  He is interested in the assassination attempt on JODRs life in 1885 by the English woman, Lucille Yseult Dudley.  She was found to be mentally unstable acting on her own delusions.  However, I wish to explore if there was a connection between Lucille Dudley and the British government because from Sean O Luing's book, she was taken from the hospital in Middletown by a gentleman "who is prominent in society and rank" in England (??Henry Labouchere).  Same book has a letter from Henry Labouchere to JODR   "documenting 200,000 pounds New York, Dudley Rossa).

I enjoyed your article, do you know what became of her on her return to England?  Did she stay in a mental institution.  Do you know what her real name was and I could attempt to find her death cert.


Fiona Quinn

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Comment by Nollaig 2016 on September 21, 2017 at 12:16pm

She had several alias' Fiona.  Trove and Old Fulton newspaper sites have a lot of articles on her.  I would suggest you start there.  I will look out for articles too and post here over the next few days if I find any.  B

Comment by Fiona Quinn on September 21, 2017 at 12:33pm

Thank you, was unable to access Old Fulton site, said outside US!  Unfortunately.

Founding Member
Comment by Nollaig 2016 on September 23, 2017 at 12:14pm

Founding Member
Comment by Nollaig 2016 on September 23, 2017 at 12:37pm  The places mentioned in the article match some of the search results.

Founding Member
Comment by Nollaig 2016 on September 23, 2017 at 12:51pm you may find this forum thread interesting

Founding Member
Comment by Nollaig 2016 on September 23, 2017 at 1:01pm Another article which mentions 'Mrs Tyler" the British spy.

Comment by Fiona Quinn on September 23, 2017 at 1:05pm

Dear Nollaig, 

Thank you so much for your help.  Can I ask you about Capt Bedford Pim helping to secure her return to England in 1891.  Do you know what he's contribution to securing her release was?  When I look him up, his date of death is 1886.

Founding Member
Comment by Nollaig 2016 on September 23, 2017 at 1:13pm

Not sure about Cpt Bedford.  I'll try find some references to him.  Hope you solve the mystery.  Good Luck.

Founding Member
Comment by Nollaig 2016 on September 23, 2017 at 1:29pm


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