Lady Elizabeth FitzGerald

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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FitzGerald, Lady Elizabeth, generally known as "The Fair Geraldine," daughter of the preceding by his second wife Lady Elizabeth Grey, was born about 1528, and was still an infant when she was taken by her mother to England. She was brought up at Hunsden, with the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth. When about thirteen she was there seen by the Earl of Surrey, who has immortalized her in several sonnets. There is no reason to suppose that the friendship which existed between them in the following years was anything but Platonic.

"From Tuskane came my ladies worthy race;
Faire Florence was sometime her auncient seate;
The western yle, whose plesant shore doth face
Wilde Cambers clifs, did gyve her liuely heate:
Fostred she was with milke of Irish brest;
Her sire, an Erie; her dame of princes blood:
From tender yeres, in Britain she doth rest
With kinges childe, where she tasteth costly food.
Honsden did first present her to mine yien;
Bright is her hewe, and Geraldine she hight:
Hampton me taught to wishe her first for mine:
And Windsor, alas, doth chase me from her sight.
Her beauty of kind, her vertues from aboue;
Happy is he, that can obtaine her loue!"

There is an apocryphal story that Surrey, at a tournament at Florence, defied all the world to show such beauty as hers, and that he visited the celebrated alchemist, Cornelius Agrippa, who revealed to him in a magic mirror the object of his affections. Scott, in his Lay of the Last Minstrel, recounts the tale in five stanzas, of which the following is one:

"Fair all the pageant—but how passing fair
The slender form, that lay on couch of Ind!
O'er her white bosom strayed her hazel hair,
Pale her dear cheek, as if for love she pined;
All in her night-robe loose, she lay reclined,
And, pensive, read from tablet eburnine
Some strain that seemed her inmost soul to find: —
That favoured strain was Surrey's raptured line,
That fair and lovely form, the Lady Geraldine."

In 1543, when but fifteen, "The Fair Geraldine" married Sir Anthony Brown, K.G., then sixty years of age. After his death in 1548, she became the third wife of the Earl of Lincoln, who died in 1583 without issue by her. She died in March 1589, and was interred beside the Earl, her husband, under a fine monument in St. George's Chapel at Windsor. A fac-simile of a letter written by her, and a photograph from her portrait preserved in the Duke of Bedford's gallery (a copy of which is at Carton) are given in the Kilkenny Archaeological Journal for 1873. The portrait, according to Mr. Graves, "does not represent what would now be called a beautiful woman. She had reddish hair and high cheek bones, and the chin was longer and more pointed than the strict rules of beauty allow; but her eyes were fine, the mouth had a sweet expression, the forehead expansive and intelligent, and brows well arched; altogether we can well imagine that the features . . combined with the delicate complexion which usually accompanies auburn hair, made her a very lovely girl when first she met Surrey's eyes."

Sources

10. Archaeological and Historical Association of Ireland, Journal (1873). Dublin, 1853-'77.

198. Johnson's English Poets: Edited by Alexander Chalmers. 21 vols. London, 1810.

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