Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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FitzGerald, Gerald, 9th Earl of Kildare, son of the preceding, was born in 1487. He is said to have been one of the handsomest men of his time. The Irish annalists call him "Geroit Oge," or "Garrett MacAlison," after his mother. In 1496 he was detained by Henry VII. at his court as a hostage for his father's fidelity. In 1503, when but sixteen, he married Elizabeth Zouche, and was soon after permitted to return to Ireland. Next year lie was appointed Lord High Treasurer. In August 1504 he commanded the reserve at the battle of Knocktuagh, where his rashness and impetuosity were the cause of some loss. On the death of his father in 1513 he succeeded to the title, and was by the council chosen Lord-Justice.

Henry VIII. soon afterwards appointed him Lord-Deputy. Some of the Irish chiefs at the end of 1513 having ravaged parts of the Pale, the Earl, early in the following year, defeated O'More and his followers in Leix, and then, marching north, took the Castle of Cavan, killed O'Reilly, chased his followers into the bogs, and returned to Dublin laden with booty. This energetic action was so highly approved by the King that he granted the Earl the customs of the ports in the County of Down — rights repurchased by the Crown from the 17th Earl in 1662. In 1516 the Earl invaded Imayle, and sent the head of Shane O'Toole as a present to the Mayor of Dublin. He then marched into Ely 0'Carroll, in conjunction with his brother-in-law the Earl of Ormond, and James, son of the Earl of Desmond. They captured and razed the Castle of Lemyvannan, took Clonmel, and in December he returned to Dublin "laden with booty, hostages, and honour."

In March 1517 he called a parliament in Dublin, and then invaded Ulster, stormed the Castle of Dundrum, marched into Tyrone, and took Dungannon, "and so reduced Ireland to a quiet condition." On the 6th October of the same year his Countess died at Lucan, and was buried at Kilcullen. Next year, 1518, his enemies having accused him of maladministration, he appointed a deputy and sailed for England. He was removed from the government, and the Earl of Surrey appointed in his stead. He appears to have accompanied the King to France in June 1520, and was present at "the Field of the Cloth of Gold," where he was distinguished by his bearing and retinue. On this occasion he met the King's first-cousin, Lady Elizabeth Grey, whom he married a few months afterwards, and thereby gained considerable influence at court. Reports now came from Ireland that he was secretly striving to stir up the chieftains against the new Deputy. After inquiries, the King wrote to Surrey that, as they had "noon evident testimonies" to convict the Earl, he thought it but just to "release hym out of warde, and putt hym under suretie not to departe this our realme without our special lisense."

He was permitted to return in January 1523. About this date he founded the College of Maynooth, which nourished until suppressed in 1538. He signalized his return to Ireland by an expedition into Leix in company with the Mayor of Dublin. Having burnt several villages, they were caught in an ambuscade, and after considerable loss retreated with some difficulty to Dublin. In consequence of disputes and misunderstandings between the Earl of Kildare and Ormond, now Lord-Deputy, they appealed to the King, accusing each other of malpractices and treasons. Arbitrators were appointed, who ordered that both the Earls should abstain from making war without the King's assent, that they should cease levying coigne and livery within "the four obeysant shires — Meth, Urgell, Dublin, and Kildayre," that the two Earls should persuade their kinsmen to submit to the laws, and that they should be bound by a bond of 1,000 marks each to keep the peace for one year. Before long, however, their mutual hatreds blazed forth again in consequence of the murder of James Talbot, one of Ormond's followers, by the retainers of Kildare.

Again the Earls appealed to the King, and again commissioners were sent over, who conducted an inquiry at Christ Church, Dublin, in June 1524. Their decision was in the main in favour of Kildare, and an indenture was drawn up, by which the Earls agreed to forgive each other, to be friends, and to make common cause for the future. Soon afterwards Kildare was reappointed Lord-Deputy. He took the oaths at Thomascourt, his nephew, Con Bacagh O'Neill, carrying the sword of state before him. He then entered into an indenture with the King not to grant pardons without the consent of the council, to cause the Irish in his territories to wear English dress, to shave their "upper berdes," and not to levy coigne and livery except when on the King's business, and then only to a specified amount, not exceeding 2d. a meal for horsemen, 1 ½d. for footmen, and 1d. for horseboys, with 12 sheaves per day of corn for war horses, and 8 for pack horses. Next year, 1525, Kildare and Ormond were again at daggers drawn. They appealed to the King concerning a disputed sum of £800 in account between them, accusing each other, as before, of sundry enormities and malfeasances. About the same time Kildare, in accordance with a royal mandate, assembled a large force, and marched into Munster to arrest the Earl of Desmond, making a show of great eagerness, but sending private instructions to the Earl how to keep out of the way. He next turned north, and by diplomacy and force pacified the O'Neills and O'Donnells.

In 1526 he was ordered to England to meet the charges of the Earl of Ormond (now Earl of Ossory through surrender of the higher title to the King) of having secretly assisted the Desmonds, and having murdered many good subjects because they were adherents of the Butlers. On arrival in London, he was for a time committed to the Tower, and was retained in England for four years; and when he was brought before the council, a violent altercation ensued between him and Wolsey, which is reported at full length by Holinshed.

Wolsey is said to have obtained an order for his immediate execution, which his well-wisher, the Constable of the Tower, frustrated by exercising a right (still inherent in the office) of demanding a personal interview with the King. Liberated on bail for a time, Kildare was recommitted on the discovery of his intriguing with the Irish princes to induce them to commit assaults on the Pale, so as to make his return appear necessary. Liberated again, he was one of the peers who in 1530 signed the letter to the Pope relative to the divorce of Queen Catharine.

The same year, to the joy of his retainers, he was permitted to return to Ireland with Skeffington, the new Lord-Deputy. On his arrival he marched against the O'Tooles to punish them for ravages on his tenantry in his absence, and then accompanied the Deputy against the O'Donnells. The friendship of the Deputy and Earl did not last long, and they sent letters and messages to the King accusing each other. The Deputy, as might be expected, was supported by the Butlers. Nevertheless, the Earl appears to have cleared himself, and to have been appointed to succeed Skeffington as Deputy to the Duke of Richmond. Landing at Dublin in this capacity, in August 1532, Kildare was received with great acclamations. But lengthened peace appeared impossible. He insulted the late Deputy, degraded Allen, Archbishop of Dublin, wasted the territories of the Butlers, was accused of forming alliances with the native chiefs, and in 1533 the council reported to the King that such was the animosity between the Earls of Kildare and Ormond that peace was out of the question so long as either of them was Deputy. At this period, Kildare had partially lost the use of his limbs and his speech, in consequence of a gun-shot wound received in an attack upon the O'Carrolls at Birr. He was again summoned to court; and in February 1534, at a council at Drogheda, in an affecting speech, he nominated his son Thomas, Lord Offaly, as Vice-Deputy, and then, embracing him and the lords of the council, set sail for England.

On his arrival in London he was arraigned on several charges, and was committed to the Tower, where he died of grief, 12th December 1534, on hearing of his son's rebellion, and perusing the excommunication launched against him. He was buried in St. Peter's church in the Tower. He is described as valiant and well-spoken, "nothing inferior to hys father in marshall prowesse," hospitable and religious, beloved by his friends and dependants. He strengthened and kept in repair several castles — Rathangan, Rheban, Kildare, Woodstock, Athy, Kilkea, Castledermot, and Carlow. His likeness, painted by Holbein in 1530, is still preserved at Carton; while a book containing his rent-roll, and lists of his horses, plate, and furniture, is in the British Museum. From it we learn that his library consisted of 31 Latin, 37 French, 22 English, and 18 Irish books.

The war cries of the time — "Crom-a-boo" (from Croom Castle, and "a buaid," to victory) of the Kildares, "Shanet-a-boo" (from Shanid Castle) of the Desmonds, and "Lamhlaider-a-boo" ("the strong hand to victory") of the O'Briens, as well as the other Irish war cries — were declared illegal by Henry VII.

Sources

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

42. Biographical Dictionary: Rev. Hugh J. Rose. 12 vols. London, 1850.

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