Page:The Ancestor Number 1.djvu/167

This page needs to be proofread.
119
THE ANCESTOR


THE ORIGIN OF THE FITZGERALDS

'IN the land of Hetruria there flourished once a mighty vine thither translated from the desolated plains of Troy. Florence claimed this beauteous plant her own; and well might she glory in it, for "its branches stretched forth unto the sea, and its boughs unto the river." From the banks of the Arno and the shores of the blue Tyrrhene Sea the branches of that great tree extended themselves to the far off land of Erin. That tree was the noble race of the Geraldines, who, under the shadow of Tuscan banners, penetrated regions whither Roman legions never dared to venture. … The history of this Florentine family has been my special study; for it is intimately associated with that of my religion and country; and fondly does she cherish the memory of the Geraldines.' So wrote Father Dominic o'Daly to their eminences Antony and Francis Barberini, cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. To them he dedicated his history of the Geraldines, Earls of Desmond, written about the year 1655.[1]

With rapid hand the learned Dominican sketched in a few sentences the early history of the house:—

Ten years' siege had destroyed the glorious city of Ilium, and cut off all its leaders, with the single exception of Æneas, who, being compelled to fly, assembled about him a trusty band of youths, who had outlived their country's overthrow, foremost of whom in dignity and bravery was the founder of our Geraldines.[2] … Æneas soon afterwards divided the land of Italy amongst his followers, assigning to each his portion; and in the distribution he bestowed on the great ancestor of our Geraldines that region of Hetruria where Florence now stands.

When did the Geraldines come to England? When did they settle in Ireland? Father o'Daly was perfectly clear in his answers to both questions; they came to England with William at the Conquest; and they went to Ireland under Henry II. He had moreover a dim conception of the true facts of the case. He said that William gave them 'the castle and lordship of

  1. Translated and edited by C. P. Meehan (1878 ?).
  2. The writer omitted to mention that Æneas only fled when the house of his Irish neighbour O'Callaghan (Virgil, in his southern tongue, made it 'Ucalegon') was already in flames.