John FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Kildare

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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FitzGerald, John, 1st Earl of Kildare. On the death of the 5th Baron Offaly, who left no children, John, descended from the third son of the 2nd Baron, was the only surviving male descendant of the 1st Baron. The story of an ape saving a member of the family from a burning castle, is told of the 1st Earl of Kildare, as well as of one of the Desmonds. When Swift was writing Gulliver's Travels, he had quarrelled with the then Earl of Kildare, and hence introduced the incident of Gulliver being carried off and fed by the Brobdingnagian ape. Whatever may be the truth of the story, the ape was adopted as the FitzGerald crest. [See DESMONDS.] In 1293, in consequence of a dispute between him and William de Vesci, Lord of Kildare. they were both summoned to appear before Edward I. After mutual recrimination, FitzGerald challenged De Vesci to single combat. When the day came, De Vesci fled to France, and the King declared FitzGerald innocent, and added: "Albeit Albert de Vesci conveyed his person into France, yet he left his lands behind him in Ireland," and he granted them to FitzGerald. Having consistently opposed the "Irish enemy," assisted on three occasions against the Scotch, and in 1315 opposed Edward Bruce at Ardscull, in Kildare, he was, 14th May 1316, created Earl of Kildare, and granted the castle and town of that name. He died at Maynooth or at Laraghbryan, 10th September 1316, and was buried in the Grey Abbey at Kildare.

Sources

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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