Gerald FitzGerald, 11th Earl of Kildare

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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FitzGerald, Gerald, 11th Earl of Kildare, brother of the preceding, was born 25th February 1525, and was consequently but ten years old at the time of Lord Thomas's arrest. He was then lying ill of the small-pox at Donore, in Kildare, and being the only hope of the family, he was carefully conveyed in a large basket, by Thomas Leverous, a priest and foster-brother of his father, into Offaly, to his sister Lady Mary O'Conor; and when recovered was removed into Thomond, to the care of his cousin James Delahide.

The Irish Council spared no efforts to induce the O'Briens to surrender him; but after using all their diplomacy, they had to confess to the Lord Chamberlain, Thomas Cromwell: "And as to O'Brene, notwithstanding his letters and promises of subjection and obeydens to the Kinges Highness, we coulde neyther gett hym to condescend to anny conformyte according the same, ney yet to delyver the Erie of Kyldare's plate and goodes."

After six months' rest in Thomond, Delahide and Leverous conveyed Gerald to his aunt, Lady Eleanor MacCarthy, at Kilbriton, in Cork. Her son, the MacCarthy Reagh, was tributary to the Earl of Desmond, and the Government endeavoured to induce the Earl to compel the lad's surrender. Royal Commissioners were appointed, and a "most gracious pardon" offered to the lad himself if he would but come in. Remembering the fate of his uncles, and the known anxiety of the King for the extinction of the Geraldines, he wisely declined putting himself into the English power. It appeared desirable that he should seek some safer asylum, and accordingly his aunt, Lady Eleanor, urged by O'Neill and Desmond, consented to a long-talked-of marriage with Manus O'Donnell of Tirconnell, so as to be enabled to offer him an asylum in the north. The marriage took place, and all the plottings and plans of the Government for securing Gerald's person were completely frustrated.

In September 1539 Cromwell was informed by an Irish correspondent: "I ensuere your Lordship that this English Pale, except the towens, and a very few of the possessioners, bee too affectionat to the Geraldynes, that for kynrede, maryage, fostering, and adhering as followers, they coveite more to see a Geraldyn to reigne and triumphe, then to see God come emonges theym; and yf they might see this young Gerotes baner displayed, yf they should lose half their substance, they would reyoise more at the same, then otherwise to gayne great goodes." Later on, in the beginning of 1540, the Council inform the king that "the detestable traictors, yonge Geralde, O Nele, O Donyll, the pretended Erle of Desmonde, O Brene, 0 Connor, and O Mulmoy, continued to destroy the property of his Majesty's subjects, to subdue the whole land to the supremacy of the Pope, and to elevate the Geraldines."

In March 1540 Lady Eleanor O'Donnell, suspecting that her husband harboured intentions of surrendering the young Earl, determined to send him away. "She engaged a merchant vessel of St. Malo, which happened to be in Donegal Bay, to convey a small party to the coast of Brittany. She then gave 140 gold Portugueses to Gerald, and he departed with his tutor Leverous, and Robert Walsh, a faithful servant of his father. He is described as having been dressed in a saffron coloured shirt like one of the natives. The vessel immediately set sail, and arrived safely at St. Malo, where Gerald was hospitably received by the governor. Gerald once in safety, Lady Eleanor reproached O'Donnell for his intended treachery, told him no further inducement existed for her tolerating his company, "and trussing up bag and baggage, returned to hir country."

After Gerald's departure, the Irish league fell to pieces, and O'Donnell, O'Neill, Desmond, and the other Irish princes submitted, and were ultimately pardoned and received into royal favour. The attention young Gerald met with on the Continent, and the reports sent abroad that he was the rightful heir to the Irish crown, created much manoeuvreing and correspondence at the court of King Henry VIII. Francis I. placed him with the young Dauphin for a time; he was next sent privately into Flanders, then part of the dominions of the Emperor Charles V. — the English ambassador keeping a careful watch on his movements. From Charles V. he was passed on to Cardinal Pole at Rome, who settled upon him an annuity of 300 crowns, treated him with affection, and had him educated and trained as a prince of high expectations.

In 1544, when his education had been completed, he visited the Knights of Malta (to which body two of his uncles had belonged), and gathered laurels in an expedition to the coast of Africa. In 1545 he was appointed master of the horse to Cosmo de Medici, with a salary of 300 ducats per annum, besides other handsome allowances.

In June of the same year Lady Eleanor O'Donnell was pardoned for her part in his escape. After the death of Henry VIII. in 1547, he visited London together with some foreign ambassadors, accompanied by his old friend, Thomas Leverous. At a masque given by Edward VI. he fell in love with Mabel Brown, a lady of the court, whom he shortly afterwards married. He was received into favour and restored to his Irish estates by patent of 25th April 1552. [His faithful adherent, Leverous, was appointed Bishop of Kildare and Dean of St. Patrick's, preferments of which he was deprived in 1559 on refusing to adopt the reformed tenets. He afterwards kept a school at Adare, and died about 1577, in the 80th year of his age, at Naas, where he was buried in the parish church of St. David.]

Reinstated in all his father's possessions and titles, the young Earl returned to Ireland in November 1554, and was received with an outburst of delight by the dependents of the Geraldines. If we except one recall to London in 1560, inconsequence of reported machinations between him and the Earl of Desmond, he appears to have been regarded as a loyal and trusted servant of the Crown, and as such often accompanied the Deputy in his expeditions against rebellious Irish chieftains. He is praised by contemporary writers for having presented the Government many times with a number of principall outlawes heades."

In 1562 he accompanied Shane O'Neill on his visit to Queen Elizabeth. On 25th August 1580 he formed one of the party that accompanied the Lord-Deputy, Lord Grey, and was defeated in Glenmalure by the O'Byrnes. Later on, however, Government had occasion to suspect his loyalty, and he and his family were for some time confined successively in Dublin Castle and the Tower of London.

He was eventually liberated, and died in London 16th November 1585; his remains were brought over and interred at Kildare. His wife survived him until 25th August 1610. "He was of low stature and slender figure, and was reputed to have been the best horseman of his day. With many good qualities — honourable, courteous, valiant, affable, and having all the qualifications belonging to a gentleman, he was passionate and covetous. He conformed to the Protestant religion in the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth."

Sources

41. Biographical Treasury: Samuel Maunder, London, 1870. 41a

202. Kildare, The Earls of, and their Ancestors: from 1057 to 1773, with Supplement: Marquis of Kildare. 2 vols. Dublin, 1858-'62.

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