Kenealy, Edward Vaughan Hyde (1819–80), lawyer and politician, was born 2 July 1819 at Nile St., Cork, eldest son of William Kenealy, merchant, and Katherine Kenealy (née Vaughan). Educated locally, he entered TCD and the King's Inns in 1835; he graduated BA (1840) and LLB (1846). In 1838 he went to London and entered Gray's Inn, and was called to the Irish bar in 1840. Returning to Ireland to practise on the Munster circuit, he was unable to build a successful practice, but became friends with Fr Theobald Mathew (qv) and was involved in the temperance movement. He published Brallaghan, or the Deipnosophists (1845), but it was largely ignored.
Unable to control his temper, Kenealy could not include discretion amongst his virtues. He attacked a monument to Thomas Davis (qv) on the grounds that the ‘dog-faced demagogue’ did not deserve it (IBL, xi (1919), 4), and drew much censure for these and similar comments. Called to the English bar (1847), he attempted to canvass support for his election to parliament as a repeal candidate over the next three years, but little was forthcoming. Practising on the Oxford circuit, he developed a reputation as one of the finest, if most erratic, defence lawyers of the day. In 1850 he was convicted of beating his 6-year-old illegitimate son, Edward Hyde, and was imprisoned for a month; this appears to have been a legacy of his own childhood beatings at school, which left him seriously ill. The year 1850 was the lowest of his life, and he contemplated suicide. Instead, he began his autobiography and published a lengthy poem, Goethe: a new pantomime (1850). He dedicated the second edition (1863) to Benjamin Disraeli, who had described it as ‘a work of great, of rare, and of sustained genius’ (Allibone). A hostile review of this work led Kenealy to prosecute unsuccessfully for libel. His translation from the Irish of Matthew Horgan's (qv) long poem, Cahir conrí, was edited by John Windele (qv) and published in 1860. His Poems and translations were published in 1864.
In 1867 he defended the Fenian prisoners Richard O'Sullivan Burke (qv) and Patrick Casey (qv), but resigned the brief after the Clerkenwell explosion (13 December 1867) killed twelve people; he believed that his clients had been aware of the escape attempt. He became QC the following year, and was defeated for election at Wednesbury, where he stood as an independent candidate. In 1873 he accepted the defence of the Tichborne claimant; this became his most notorious case. Kenealy always insisted that his client was Roger Tichborne, but overwhelming evidence suggested that he was in fact Roger Orton, an impostor. Kenealy founded The Englishman, a satirical newspaper, to champion his client, and was vicious in his attacks on the chief justice and solicitor general. After a heated, and often bizarre, defence (he spoke for twenty-four days, wilfully misstated evidence, and insulted the judge and witnesses with impunity) Kenealy lost the case, and was disbarred for his unprofessional conduct. He founded the Magna Charta Association to seek reparation and was elected for Stoke in 1875. Attempting to continue the fight in parliament, he moved for a royal commission of inquiry, but the motion was defeated by 433 to 2.
Seriously ill with diabetes for the last years of his life (some have blamed this for his extreme behaviour), he lost his seat in the 1880 general election (3 April). He died 17 April 1880 at his home at 6 Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury. His publications included Poetical works (3 vols, 1875) and several eccentric works such as Edward Wortley Montagu (1869), a fictitious autobiography, and a series of apocalyptic tracts such as The book of God: the apocalypse of Adam Oannes (1860) and Enoch, the second messenger of God (1872) which appeared regularly during the 1860s and 1870s. Though he was a learned scholar and noted linguist, the instability of his temperament prevented what could have been a glittering career. He married (29 November 1851) Elizabeth Nicklin; they had twelve children. His daughter Arabella Kenealy was a medical doctor and novelist, and published a biography of her father that included his incomplete memoirs.