William Fitz-Adelm

DIED A. D. 1204.

From The Irish Nation: Its History and Its Biography

By James and Freeman Wills

THE lineage of De Burgo is derived from a noble Norman race, descended from Charlemagne. The first ancestor whose name occurs in history, John De Comyn, general of forces, and governor of chief towns in France,--whence, says Mr. Burke, the name "De Burgh."

Their descendants are yet numerous, and, like the race of De Courcy and St. Laurence, have spread into many houses of high respectability, among whom may be reckoned the Burghs, the Bourkes, and Burkes, --the last of which names has been rendered illustrious by the genius and virtue of the first of orators and statesmen, Edmund Burke. It will be needless to inform the reader that the name of De Burgo is in the direct line represented by the Marquess of Clanricarde, of Portumna Castle, in the county of Galway.

The subject of our present notice was descended from Arlotta, mother of William the Conqueror, by a first husband, Hanlowen De Burgho. Their son Robert, earl of Cornwall, was father of two sons, John and Adelm--the latter of whom was father to this deputy; while from the other came the family of De Burgho.

William Fitz-Adelm was sent with De Lacy to Ireland, by Henry II., to receive the submission of Roderic O'Connor, and was made governor of the city of Wexford, and generally the king's deputy in Ireland,--a charge for which he seems to have possessed no capacity. He commenced his government by a progress of inspection. A meeting of the clergy was assembled at Waterford, when Pope Adrian's bull was read, and the king's title formally proclaimed under the formidable salvo of ecclesiastical denunciation,--a sanction of small power over the native mind, but enforced against the Norman conquerors by the superstition of the medieval church.

But the weapon which the actual state of the country required was wanting. The chiefs quickly perceived that the sword was wielded with a feeble hand, and soon began to make bolder and more successful efforts for the recovery of their power. Fitz-Adelm seemed to have little inclination or ability for resistance against the common enemy; but he had come over to the country with a prejudiced mind, and exerted his authority for the oppression of those whom he wanted spirit to protect. One object only seemed to animate his conduct--extortion and circumvention, which he exercised on the English chiefs with a wanton freedom and indifference to the forms of justice, which could not have long been endured. The death of Maurice Fitz-Gerald left his sons exposed to the crafty influence of this governor; he prevailed on them to exchange their quiet residence in the fort of Wicklow, for the castle of Ferns, which was a kind of thoroughfare for the inroads of the native chiefs. In the same manner Raymond, Fitz-Stephen, and others, were, by a train of fraud and violence, as occasion required, compelled to make such exchanges as suited the rapacity or designs of the governor. The consequence was a spreading of discontent among the English of every rank. The leaders displayed their contempt and hate; the soldiers became turbulent and mutinous; while the Irish chiefs--who discovered in the venal governor a new and easy way to effect their objects--crowded round the court, where they found in the vanity, feebleness, prejudice, and corruption of the governor, the advantages over their old enemies, which they could not gain in the field. Every cause was decided in their favour; and it is alleged that Fitz-Adelm was induced by bribes to demolish works which had been constructed for the protection of the English in the vicinity of Wexford.[1]

Such a government could not continue long under a monarch so watchful as Henry. Fitz-Adelm was recalled. They who wish to temper the statements which we have here abridged, with an appearance of historical candour, say little of a redeeming character; and we cannot but think that the general dislike of his historians, is of itself warrant enough for all that we have repeated from them. He founded and endowed the monastery of Dromore. But it brought forth no historian to repay his memory with respect.

He was recalled in 1179, and Hugh de Lacy substituted. He received large grants in Connaught, and was the ancestor of the illustrious family of Clanricarde; and of the still more illustrious name of Burke--the noblest and most venerable in the annals of Ireland, if the highest claim to honour be acceded to the noblest intellect adorned with the purest worth. He married a natural daughter of Richard I., by whom he left a son--whom we shall have to notice farther on--and, having died in 1204, he was buried in the abbey of Athasil, in Tipperary, which had been founded by himself.


[1] Cox says, "This governor, Fitz-Adelm, was very unkind to Raymond, and all the Geraldines, and indeed to most of the first adventurers. He forced the sons of Maurice Fitz-Gerald to exchange their castle of Wicklow for the decayed castle of Fernes; and when they had repaired that castle of Fernes, he found some pretence to have it demolished. He took also from Raymond all his land near Dublin and Wexford."