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Lynch, Elisa Alicia (1835–1886)

Lynch, Elisa Alicia (1835–1886)

Elisa Alicia Lynch (b. June 1835; d. 27 July 1886), Irish mistress of Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López.

Born into impoverished circumstances, Lynch left Ireland at age fifteen when she married Xavier Quatrefages, a French military surgeon. Theirs was evidently a loveless marriage, and within a few years Lynch was on her own in Paris. In 1853, after having lived with several lovers, she met Solano López, son of the Paraguayan president Carlos Antonio López, who was then on an official tour of Europe.

Unable to marry López because of her then undocumented marital status, Lynch nonetheless accompanied him back to Paraguay. She was less than well received by the Paraguayan elites, who regarded her in a scandalous light. López installed her in a sumptuous residence in Asunción, however, and there she attempted to re-create in Paraguay a salon that included musicians, literary figures, and interesting foreign visitors. She introduced the piano in Paraguay, and popularized Parisian fashions. She had five children with López. Upon his accession to the presidency in 1862, Lynch became de facto first lady.

The outbreak of the War of the Triple Alliance in 1864 found Lynch at the front, together with her consort. Detractors later claimed that she was responsible for many of López's excesses, particularly the mass executions at San Fernando in 1868. Two years later, after a long and sanguinary retreat, López was killed in the northeastern region of Cerro Corá. Lynch witnessed his death, as she did that of their firstborn son, an army colonel.

At the end of the war, the Brazilian authorities deported Lynch, but after a few years she returned to Asunción to try to lay claim to lands that had been transferred to her name during the fighting. These legal efforts failed and she returned to Paris, where she died penniless in 1886. In the 1960s, the Stroessner government repatriated her remains.

See alsoLópez, Francisco Solano; War of the Triple Alliance.


Fernando Baptista, Madame Lynch: Mujer de mundo y de guerra (1987).

William E. Barrett, Woman on Horseback: The Biography of Francisco López and Eliza Lynch (1938).

Gilbert Phelps, Tragedy of Paraguay (1975) passim; Elisa A. Lynch, Exposición y protesta (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Cawthorne, Nigel. The Empress of South America. London: Heinemann, 2003.

Rees, Siân. The Shadows of Elisa Lynch: How a Nineteenth-Century Irish Courtesan Became the Most Powerful Woman in Paraguay. London: Review, 2003.

                              Marta FernÁndez Whigham

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