Fitzgerald, Gerald (1487-1534) (DNB00)

FITZGERALD, GERALD, ninth Earl of Kildare (1487–1534), son of Gerald Fitzgerald, eighth earl [q. v.], by his first wife, Alison Eustace, daughter and coheiress of Rowland, baron of Portlester, was born in 1487. Sent into England in 1493 as a pledge of his father's loyalty, his youth was spent at court, where he was treated as befitted his rank. In 1503 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Zouche of Codnor in Derbyshire, 'a woman of rare probity of mind and every way commendable.' Shortly after his marriage he was allowed to return to Ireland, and on 28 Feb. 1504 was appointed lord high treasurer. In the same year he accompanied his father, the lord deputy, on an expedition against Mac William of Clanricarde and O'Brien of Thomond. In the battle of Knockdoe on 19 Aug. he commanded the reserve, but 'seeing the battle joining, could not stand still to wait his time as was appointed,' and by his indiscreet valour allowed the Irish horse to capture the baggage train, together with a number of English gentlemen (Annals of the Four Masters, ed. O'Donovan, v. 1277 ; Book of Howth, p. 185 ; Hardiman, Galway, p. 76). The account in the 'Book of Howth' must be received with caution ; Ware prudently remarks regarding Mac William and O'Brien : 'De particulari eorum machinatione non possum aliquid pro certo affirmare' (Annales, p. 71). In May 1508 he was again in England, but for what purpose is not clear (Bernardi Andreæ Annales, p. 115). On 9 Nov. 1610 he obtained from Henry VIII a grant during pleasure, afterwards confirmed in tail male, of the manor of Ardmolghan, co. Meath. His father dying on 30 Sept. 1513, he was elected lord justice by the council pending his appointment as lord deputy. In the following year he undertook an expedition against the O'Moores and O'Reillies, and having slain Hugh O'Reilly he returned to Dublin laden with plunder. For this and other services done against the 'wild Irish' he was rewarded with the customs and dues of the ports of Strangford and Ardglass. As yet nothing had happened to mar the friendly relations between him and his brother-in-law, Piers Butler. In 1514 he presented Sir Piers with a chief horse, a grey hackney, and a haubergeon, and about the same time united with him to frame regulations for the government of the counties of Kilkenny and Tipperary. In June 1515 he crossed over into England to confer with the king about the affairs of the kingdom, and in October he was authorised to summon a parliament, which met in January 1516. At the same time (October 1515) he was, by license of the king, permitted to carry into execution a scheme, originated by his father, for the foundation and endowment of a college in honour of the Virgin at Maynooth, co. Kildare, which, however, was shortly afterwards suppressed with other religious houses in 1538. In 1516 he conducted an expedition against the O'Tooles, who by their constant depredations considerably annoyed the citizens of Dublin. Marching west he next invaded Ely O'Carroll, where he was joined by several noblemen of Munster and Leinster, including Piers, earl of Ormonde, and James, eldest son of the Earl of Desmond. Having captured and razed the castle of Lemyvannan (Leim-Ui-Bhanain, i.e. O'Banan's leap) he marched rapidly on Clonmel, which having surrendered on conditions he returned to Dublin in December 'laden with booty, hostages, and honour.' In March 1517 he held a parliament at Dublin, after which he invaded Lecale, where he stormed and recaptured the castle of Dundrum. Thence he marched against Phelim Magennis, whom he defeated and took prisoner, and having captured the castle of Dungannon and laid waste Tyrone, 'he reduced Ireland to a quiet condition.' Shortly after his return, in October, his wife, whom he dearly loved, died at Lucan, and was by him buried with great pomp near his mother in the monastery of the Friars Observant at Kilcullen, co. Kildare. Hitherto there had been no question made of his loyalty. In 1515, however, Sir Piers Butler [q. v.] succeeded to the earldom of Ormonde, and shortly afterwards the old hereditary feud between the two houses broke out with redoubled violence. (There is a judicious account of this quarrel in the 'History of St. Canice's Cathedral.' Mr. Froude's narrative is distorted by his extreme partiality for Ormonde. On the other hand, the story in Stanihurst, manifestly derived from Geraldine sources, must be received with caution. One noticeable feature is the vehement animosity of the Countess of Ormonde towards her brother.) At the instigation of Ormonde a charge of maladministration was preferred against him in 1518, and early in the following year he sailed for England. The investigation of the charges against him was committed to Wolsey, but Wolsey, either from policy or pressure of other business, continually postponed the inquiry. In 1520 Kildare married the Lady Elizabeth Grey, fourth daughter of Thomas, marquis of Dorset, granddaughter of Elizabeth Woodville, queen of Edward IV and first cousin of Henry VIII. The same year he was removed from office and the Earl of Surrey appointed lord-lieutenant. Polydore Vergil was perhaps not an unprejudiced observer, but he undoubtedly expressed the general feeling when he remarked that in making this change Wolsey was actuated rather by hatred of Kildare than by any love for Surrey (Historia Anglica, lib. xxvii.) In June Kildare accompanied Henry to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, where he was distinguished for his gallant bearing. Fretting, however, under his detention, he seems to have entered into treasonable negotiations with the wild Irish to invade the Pale, but the charge was never brought home to him, and it ought to be noted that the chief witness against him, O'Carroll, was a kinsman of Ormonde's. He was placed under restraint, and though shortly afterwards released, it was not till July 1523 that he was allowed to return to Ireland. In 1521 Ormonde had been appointed deputy to the Earl of Surrey. For a brief period peace prevailed between the two rivals, but in October the feud broke out afresh. In November they consented to a treaty of peace 'for one year only.' But the murder of Robert Talbot, a retainer of Ormonde's, suspected of spying upon Kildare, by James Fitzgerald, in December, at once led to further acts of hostility on both sides. A new charge of treason was preferred against Mm, but by the influence of the Marquis of Dorset the commission of investigation was appointed to sit in Ireland, with the result that in August 1524 Ormonde was removed from office and Kildare established in his stead. Immediately afterwards he was ordered to arrest the Earl of Desmond, believed to be engaged in treasonable negotiations with Francis I, 'but whether willingly or wittingly he omitted the opportunity, as being loath to be the minister of his cousin Desmond's ruin, or that it lay not in his power and hands to do him hurt or harm, he missed the mark at which he aimed' (Russel, Narrative). On his return he advanced into Ulster to the assistance of his son-in-law, Con O'Neill, assailed on one side by O'Donnell and on the other by his rival, Hugh O'Neill. In May 1525 he held a parliament at Dublin, and shortly afterwards 'crucified' Maurice Kavanagh, archdeacon of Leighlin, for the murder of his kinsman, Maurice Doran, bishop of Leighlin (Dowling, Annals). The same year the charge of treasonable practices was renewed against him by the Earl of Ossory {he had recently resigned the earldom of Ormonde to Sir Thomas Boleyn [q. v.]) on the ground that he had wilfully neglected to arrest the Earl of Desmond and that he had connected himself by marriage with the 'Irish enemy.' Accordingly, in compliance with a summons from Henry he passed over next year into England, and was immediately clapped in the Tower. As to the story told by Stanihurst of his trial before the council and of Wolsey's abortive attempt to have him secretly executed, it can only be said that there is perhaps a grain of truth in it. But that Wolsey's hatred should have led him to commit such an egregious piece of folly is incredible, if indeed it is not absolutely disproved by state documents (State Papers, Hen. VIII, ii. 138). However this may have been, he was shortly liberated on bail and went to reside at Newington in Middlesex, a seat of the Duke of Norfolk's. His detention proving irksome, he, in July 1528, sent his daughter Alice, lady Slane, to instigate his Irish allies to invade the Pale ; but his intrigues being suspected he was again confined to the Tower, and the office of deputy transferred to Ossory. In 1530, on the appointment of Sir W. Skeffington, he was allowed to return to Ireland, and in 1531 accompanied him on an expedition against O'Donnell. But he regarded the appointment with unconcealed dislike, and Ossory, ever ready to strike a blow at him, combined with the deputy. Once again was he compelled to appear in England, but this time he acquitted himself so successfully as to obtain Skeffington's removal and his own appointment. On his return in August 1532 he received an ovation from the populace of Dublin and forthwith proceeded with little ceremony to remove his enemies from office. In May 1533 he held a parliament at Dublin, and afterwards went to the assistance of his son-in-law, O'Carroll (son of Mulrony), whose position was challenged by the sons of John O'Carroll ; but during the siege of Birr Castle he received a bullet wound in his side, which partially deprived him of the use of his limbs and speech (Cox's assertion that he was wounded in the head is without foundation in fact). Meanwhile Ossory, Archbishop Allen, and Robert Cowley were busily complaining of his conduct to the king, and in consequence of their representations he was again summoned to England. Suffering acutely from his wound he, on 3 Oct., sent his wife to make his excuses, but the king was resolved on his coming, and gave him permission to appoint a vice-deputy. Accordingly, having held a council at Drogheda in February 1534, at which he delivered up the sword of state to his son and heir, Thomas, lord Oflaly [q. v.], he shortly afterwards set sail on his last and fatal voyage (his speech before the council recorded by StaniStanihurst, has every appearance of being apocryphal). On his arrival in April he was examined before the council, and his reply being deemed unsatisfactory, he was committed to the Tower, though so ill both in brain and body, according to Chapuys, that he could do nothing either good or evil. He would have been put there immediately on his arrival, says the imperial ambassador, 'had it not been that the king always hoped to bring over and entrap his son.' On being informed of Lord Thomas's rebellion he did not care to blame him, but showed himself very glad of it, 'only wishing his son a little more age and experience.' About the beginning of September he was allowed somewhat greater liberty, his wife being permitted to visit him freely, there being some proposal when he got a little better to send him into Ireland to influence his son ; but he died before the month expired, and was buried in St. Peter's Church in the Tower. Valiant even to rashness, beloved by his friends and dependents, a faithful husband, a lover of hospitality, he was by no means a match for his rival in diplomacy, and whatever of treason there may have been in his actions it was due rather to imprudence than to premeditated disloyalty. The office of deputy he regarded as the prerogative of his house. By the admission of his enemies he was 'the greatest improver of his lands' in Ireland. Methodical in his habits he in 1518 commenced an import ant book called 'Kildare's Rental' (edited by H. Hore in 'Kilkenny Arch. Soc. Journal,' 1859, 62,66), which affords us a curious glimpse of the peculiar relations existing between landlords and their tenantry at this period. His picture, painted in 1530 by Holbein, is preserved in the library at Carton, Maynooth, co. Kildare.

[There is a serviceable but rather uncritical life in The Earls of Kildare, by C. W. Fitzgerald, late Duke of Leinster. The chief authorities are the State Papers (printed), Henry VIII, vol. ii., supplemented by Mr. Gairdner's admirable calendars ; Sir James Ware's Annals ; Annals of the Four Masters ; Annals of Loch Cé ; Lodge's Peerage (Archdall).]

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