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Fitzgerald, James (1570?-1601) (DNB00)


FITZGERALD, JAMES, commonly called the Tower Earl, or the Queen's Earl of Desmond (1570?–1601), was elder son of Gerald Fitzgerald, fifteenth earl of Desmond (d. 1583) [q. v.], by his second marriage with Eleanor, daughter of Edmund Butler, lord Dunboyne. He was born in England about 1570, and the queen was his godmother.

When his father renounced his allegiance to the English crown in 1579, the child seems to have been resident in Ireland. His mother, to dissociate him from his father's ill fortune, delivered him up to Sir William Drury, an acting lord justice, who sent him to Dublin Castle. On 28 Aug. 1582 the countess bitterly complained to Lord Burghley that his education was utterly neglected, and petitioned for better treatment (Hayman and Graves, 91). On 17 Nov. 1583, and on 9 July 1584 his gaolers applied to the English authorities for his removal to the Tower of London. Their second petition was successful, and before the close of 1584 the lad was carried to the Tower, to remain a prisoner there for sixteen years. On 17 June 1593 he wrote pathetically to Cecil that 'only by being born the unfortunate son of a faulty father, [he] had never since his infancy breathed out of prison.' Between 1588 and 1598 innumerable accounts are extant detailing payment in behalf of 'James Garolde,' as the prisoner was called, for medicines, ointments, pills, syrups, and the like, particulars which suggest a very feeble state of health. The 'wages' of the youth's schoolmaster appear in the accounts, and many letters are extant to testify to the thoroughness of the teaching as far as it went.

Fitzgerald's condition underwent a great change in the autumn of 1600. Tyrone's rebellion was still unchecked. In Munster the Geraldine faction was united by Tyrone's influence against the English government, in the support of James Fitzthomas Fitzgerald, the Sugan Earl [q. v.], who, being the heir of the disinherited elder son of James, fourteenth earl of Desmond, had been put forward by the rebel leaders as the only rightful earl of Desmond. To break the union between the Geraldine faction and the other rebels, Sir George Carew, president of Munster, suggested that the imprisoned James Fitzgerald should be sent to the province, and paraded as the genuine earl of Desmond. It was confidently expected that the Geraldine faction would at once transfer their allegiance to the youthful prisoner. Elizabeth disliked the scheme. Cecil doubted its wisdom, but finally gave way. Fitzgerald was to assume the title of Earl of Desmond, and a patent passed the great seal, with the proviso that if the earl had an heir, the heir should bear the title of Baron Inchiquin. The new earl was to have none of his father's lands restored to him, and was to be in the custody of a governor, Captain Price, together with a gentleman named Crosbie, and the protestant archbishop of Cashel, Miler Magrath. Captain Price was ordered to indoctrinate his charge with the necessity of supporting the queen, of adhering to the protestant religion, and of maintaining a very frugal household. Cecil directed Carew to leave Fitzgerald all the appearances of liberty, but he was to be closely watched and placed under restraint if he showed the slightest sign of sympathy with the government's enemies. The party left Bristol for Cork on 13 Oct. 1600. The earl suffered terribly from sea-sickness, and was landed at Youghal. The Geraldines welcomed him with enthusiasm, although the mayor of Cork was not very courteous. The earl travelled quickly to Carew's headquarters at Mallow, and thence to the centre of the Geraldine district at Kilmallock (18 Oct.), where Sir George Thornton, the English commander, provided him with lodging. The people still treated him with favour, and although he found his position irksome, he faithfully preached to them Elizabeth's clemency and the desirability of making peace with her. But on Sunday, the 19th, while his followers were expecting him to join them at worship in the catholic chapel, he ostentatiously made his way to the protestant church. This act broke the spell, and the people's acclamations changed to hooting. On 14 Nov., however, Thomas Oge, an officer in the service of the Sugan Earl, who held a fortress called Castlemang, surrendered it to the new earl, and the latter dwelt with pride on the victory in a letter to Cecil (18 Dec.) But this was Desmond's only success. Cecil saw that his presence in Ireland had no effect on the rebellious population, and his guardians found him difficult to content with the narrow means at their command. He resented living on 500l. a year, the allowance made him by the government, and desired to marry a certain widow Norreys, to which Cecil objected. Cecil held out hopes that a more suitable marriage could be arranged in England. At the end of March 1601 he came to London with a letter from Carew highly recommending him for a grant of land and a settled income in consideration of his loyalty. On 31 Aug. 1601 he appealed to Cecil for aid, and for some of the lands lately held by the Sugan Earl. He described himself as penniless, despised, and without the means to present himself at court. Chamberlain, writing to Carleton, 14 Nov. 1601, says that 'the young earl of Desmond died here [i.e. London] the last week' (Letters temp. Eliz., Camd. Soc., 122) ; but it was not until 14 Jan. 1601-2 that the privy council formally announced his death, and released the persons who had accompanied him to Ireland from the charge of attendance upon him. On 17 Jan. 1601-2 one of these persons, named William Power, appealed for pecuniary assistance in behalf of the earl's four sisters, who were suffering greatly from poverty. Irish writers suggest that the earl was poisoned, but there is nothing to support the suggestion.

[Hayman and Graves's Unpublished Geraldine Documents, pt. ii. pp. 80 et seq. ; Pacata Hibernia, 1633, i. cap. 14, p. 800 ; Gent. Mag. 1863 pt. ii. 414-25, 1864 pt. ii. 28-39 ; Cal. State Papers (Domestic), 1601-3, pp. 13, 134; Cal. Carew MSS. 1600-1.]

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