Daniel O'Connell, known as 'The Liberator' and 'The Emancipator', dominated Irish politics for the first half of the nineteenth century, fighting for Catholic Emancipation and Repeal of the Union between Ireland and Great Britain. Born in Carhan, County Kerry in 1775, O'Connell studied in Douai in France, before embarking on a legal career; he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in London in 1794 and spent a short time at Gray's Inn, before transferring to King's Inn in Dublin in 1796. He was called to the Irish Bar in 1798.
O'Connell was drawn into politics in the early 1790s when the political scene was dominated by the United Irishmen, which was fighting for reform and Catholic Emancipation. While O'Connell agreed with the United Irishmen's principles, he opposed their violent means, which culminated in the bloody Irish Rebellion of 1798. Intent on obtaining equality for Catholics by peaceful means, O'Connell joined the Catholic Committee in 1804, which was replaced by the Catholic Board in 1811, and was a founding member of a new Catholic Association in 1823. O'Connell achieved a major break though in 1828, when he stood in a by-election to the United Kingdom House of Commons for County Clare and won by a majority of 2057 to 982 votes, eventually taking his seat in 1830. In 1841, O'Connell became the first Roman Catholic Lord Mayor of Dublin. He is remembered in Ireland for his success in achieving Catholic Emancipation by non-violent means.
Stephen Catterson Smith was born at Skipton-in-Craven, Yorkshire in 1806, the son of Joseph Smith, a coach-painter and Anne, daughter of Stephen Catterson, of Gawflat, Yorks. Smith trained at the Royal Academy Schools in London and enjoyed a successful career as a portrait draughtsman, patronised by the Royal Family, before moving to Londonderry in 1839. He began exhibiting works at the Royal Hibernian Academy in the early 1840s and became an ARHA in May 1844 and an RHA in the same year. He was elected President of the Academy in 1859. In 1845, Smith moved his practice to Dublin, living first at No. 24 Kildare Street and afterwards at No. 42 St. Stephen's Green. He was appointed portrait painter to the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Bessborough, a position he held under successive Lord Lieutenants for over thirty years. He continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy in London throughout the 1850s and, in 1854, he painted a portrait of Queen Victoria for the Corporation of Dublin in commemoration of her visit to Ireland (now in Mansion House).