True crime fans, assemble! The Heiress and the Heist is a fascinating three-part documentary series that premiered Thursday, July 27 on AMC+ and Sundance Now. It's a truly jaw-dropping story you'll want to make sofa time for.
It follows the life and exploits of Rose Dugdale, an Englishwoman from an upper-class family who became an unlikely revolutionary. As a debutante introduced to English high society in the late 1950s, Dugdale quite literally curtseyed in front of Queen Elizabeth II. Her entire childhood was defined by privilege — she was educated at a posh London girls' school, then the University of Oxford — but she took a very different path as an adult. After becoming involved in student politics, her own views became increasingly radical and she was drawn to the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.
In the early 1970s, Dugdale joined the Provisional IRA, a revolutionary organization that sought to end British rule in Northern Ireland so the province could be reunited with the Irish Republic. Dugdale played a key role in several Provisional IRA protests and direct actions, including a robbery at her own family home, but The Heiress and the Heist focuses on the notorious Russborough House heist of 1974.
Russborough House, a grand Downton Abbey-style country estate in County Wicklow, Ireland, was home at the time to British Conservative Party politician Sir Alfred Beit. It was also home to a seriously impressive art collection including paintings by Gainsborough, Rubens, Vermeer, and Goya. It was these works that Dugdale and her associates sought to steal in a raid that made headline news. But if anything, the fallout from the theft was even more bizarre, as this gripping documentary series explores with insights from key witnesses, crime reporters who covered the case at the time, and the police officer who eventually arrested Dugdale.
Dugdale, who is still alive today, aged 82, is a undeniably controversial yet compelling figure. The director of The Heiress and the Heist, David Harvey, said in a recent interview: "She was committed, a rebel. It’s just very odd that somebody like her would find a cause like this would be to her liking. She resented her privilege. Why? I don’t know."
He also said of her radical affiliations, quite intriguingly: "Particularly given the fact that the IRA was a notoriously secretive organization, she was a most unusual and exotic creature to join the IRA."
The three-part series premiered as a full-season binge on Thursday, July 27 on AMC+ and Sundance Now. If you love being an armchair detective, you can also check out our Summer of Mystery Collection and these gripping British crime dramas to watch after Happy Valley.
To whet your appetite for The Heiress and the Heist, check out synopses for each episode below:
To rebel against her privileged background and family wealth, Rose Dugdale organizes the robbery of her family home. The possibility of her committing any further criminal acts is deemed “extremely remote” but her radicalization is only beginning.
The night of April 26, 1974, Dugdale leads a raid on Russborough House to steal paintings kept in the stunning Palladian mansion. Under her specific instructions, the gang steal 19 works of art valued at around $90 million today.
The paintings are recovered and Dugdale is sentenced to prison. Months later, Eddie Gallagher and Marion Coyle kidnap Dutch businessman, Tiede Herrema, to force the release of Dugdale and two other IRA members. After 19 days, Herrema is released.
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