The Earl of Desmond

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXIII

The eighth Earl of Desmond, Thomas, was made Viceroy in 1462. He was a special favourite with the King. In 1466 he led an army of the English of Meath and Leinster against O'Connor Faly, but he was defeated and taken prisoner in the engagement. Teigue O'Connor, the Earl's brother-in-law, conducted the captives to Carbury Castle, in Kildare, where they were soon liberated by the people of Dublin. The Irish were very successful in their forays at this period. The men of Offaly devastated the country from Tara to Naas; the men of Breffni and Oriel performed similar exploits in Meath. Teigue O'Brien plundered Desmond, and obliged the Burkes of Clanwilliam to acknowledge his authority, and only spared the city of Limerick for a consideration of sixty marks.

The Earl of Desmond appears to have exerted himself in every way for the national benefit. He founded a college in Youghal, with a warden, eight fellows, and eight choristers. He obtained an Act for the establishment of a university at Drogheda, which was to have similar privileges to that of Oxford. He is described by native annalists—almost as loud in their praises of learning as of valour—as well versed in literature, and a warm patron of antiquaries and poets. But his liberality proved his ruin. He was accused of making alliances and fosterage of the King's Irish enemies; and perhaps he had also incurred the enmity of the Queen (Elizabeth Woodville), for it was hinted that she had some share in his condemnation. It is at least certain that he was beheaded at Drogheda, on the 15th of February, 1467, by the command of Typtoft, Earl of Worcester, who was sent to Ireland to take his place as Viceroy, and to execute the unjust sentence. The Earl of Kildare was condemned at the same time; but he escaped to England, and pleaded his cause so well with the King and Parliament, that he obtained his own pardon, and a reversal of the attainder against the unfortunate Earl of Desmond.