Protestant landlord Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891) was the acknowledged leader of the Irish nationalist movement between 1880 and 1882. Known as the “uncrowned king of Ireland,” Parnell formed the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1882, whose legislative agenda was Irish Home Rule and land reform. He was elected president of the Land League and began to encourage tenants to stop paying rent, for which he was sent to Kilmainham Gaol. He negotiated the Kilmainham Treaty with Prime Minister William Gladstone in March 1882, in which he asked his followers’ protests to remain peaceful.
In May 1882, the Irish National Invincibles (a radical splinter group of the IRB) carried out the fatal stabbings of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Henry Burke, two senior British officials. Parnell condemned the killings (which became known as the Phoenix Park Murders) but in 1887 was accused of sympathizing with the Invincibles in a letter that proved to be a forgery. Parnell’s apparently untouchable popularity was destroyed in 1889 when his mistress’s husband Captain William O’Shea filed for divorce. Captain O’Shea had been one of Parnell’s most loyal supporters. The very public scandal tore the IPP apart, and Parnell was replaced as its leader. Parnell married Kitty O’Shea in 1891, shortly before he died.