Fitton, Edward (DNB00)

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FITTON, Sir EDWARD, the elder (1527–1579), lord president of Connaught and vice-treasurer of Ireland, was the eldest son of Sir Edward Fitton of Gawsworth, Cheshire, and Mary, daughter and coheiress of Guicciard Harbottle, esq., of Northumberland (Ormerod, Cheshire, iii. 292). He was knighted by Sir Henry Sidney in 1566 (Cal. Carew MSS. ii. 149), and on the establishment of provincial governments in Connaught and Munster he was in 1569 appointed first lord president of Connaught and Thomond (patent, 1 June 1569; Liber Hiberniæ, ii. 189). Arrived in Ireland on Ascension day he was established in his office by Sir H. Sidney in July. On 15 April 1570 he wrote to Cecil: 'We began our government in this province at Michaelmas, from thence till Christmas we passed smoothly … but after Christmas, taking a journey into Thomond, all fell upside down' (State Papers, Eliz. xxx. 43). Ere long he found himself so closely besieged in Galway by the Earl of Thomond and the sons of the Earl of Clanricarde that Sidney was obliged to send a detachment to extricate him from his position. With their assistance and that of the Earl of Clanricarde, 'and such others as made profession of their loyalty,' he made a dash at Shrule Castle, a place of strategical importance, which he captured. An attack on his camp by the Burkes was successfully averted; but during the conflict he was unhorsed and severely wounded in the face. His conduct was approved by the deputy, who wrote that 'he in all his doings, both formerly since these troubles began, and otherwise in following the same, hath shewed great worthiness, as well in device as in attempt, and of good counsel according to the success and state of things' (ib. xxx. 56). The short period of calm that followed served only as the prelude to a fresh storm. O'Conor Don. whom he held in Athlone Castle as security for the good conduct of his sept, having escaped one night he next morning marched against his castle of Ballintober, which he speedily captured. But the Burkes were up in arms and were vigorously supported by a large body of Scots. Notwithstanding all his exertions he gradually lost ground during 1571–2, and believing that the Earl of Clanricarde was secretly instigating his rebellious sons he arrested him and clapped him in Dublin Castle. His conduct in the matter led to a quarrel with Sir William Fitzwilliam [q. v.], who had succeeded Sidney as deputy. Fitzwilliam complained that Fitton had imprisoned Clanricarde, and refused to reveal the nature of his offence, either to the council or to himself as in duty bound, which, he declared, 'implieth an accusation of me. ' When called upon to explain, Fitton could only say that the proofs of the earl's guilt, though satisfactory to himself, were not likely to weigh much with the council. After six months' imprisonment Clanricarde was allowed to return home, when he endeavoured to signalise his loyalty by hanging his own son, his brother's son, his cousin-german's son, and one of the captains of his own galloglasses, besides fifty of his followers that bore armour and weapons; but he never forgave Fitton the injury he had done him. Meanwhile the lord president, cooped up within Athlone, prayed earnestly that fresh reinforcements might be sent him, or that he might be relieved of his government. In midsummer 1572 the rebels burnt Athlone to the ground, and his position becoming one of extreme peril he was shortly afterwards recalled, and the office of president allowed to sink for the nonce into abeyance.

In October he retired to England, and seems to have spent his time chiefly at Gawsworth. In December he was appointed vice-treasurer and treasurer at wars (queen to Fitzwilliam, Ham, Cal. i. 491). On 25 March 1573 he returned to Dublin in charge of Gerald, fifteenth earl of Desmond, and on 1 April entered upon his duties as treasurer. Shortly afterwards a fresh quarrel broke out between him and Fitzwilliam. It arose out of a brawl between his servant Roden and one Burnell, a friend of Captain Harrington, the lord deputy's nephew. It appears that Roden, having broken Burnell's head with a dagger, was himself a day or two after run through the body by Harrington's servant, Meade. Meade was acquitted by the coroner's jury, but found guilty of manslaughter by the queen's bench. Thereupon the deputy stepped in with a general pardon, which coming into the possession of Fitton he refused to surrender it, and was forthwith committed to gaol for contempt. Next day, regretting his hasty action, the deputy summoned him to take his place at the council board; but he, declining to be thus thrust out of gaol privily, complained to the queen, who, evidently without due consideration of the merits of the case, sharply reprimanded the deputy, praised Fitton for his loyalty, and then bade them become friends again. No doubt Fitzwilliam lost his temper, but the treasurer's conduct was exasperating to the last degree (Bagwell, Ireland, ii. 256). On 18 June he was commissioned, along with the Earl of Clanricarde, the archbishop of Tuam, and others, to hold assizes in Connaught. On his return he accompanied the deputy to Kilkenny; but when it was proposed that he should proceed into Munster and endeavour to prevent the disturbances likely to arise there owing to the escape of the Earl of Desmond, he flatly refused to play the part of 'a harrow without pynnes,' protesting to Burghley that 'if I must neuely be throwen upon all desperate reckes (I meane not for life but for honesty and credit) I may say my hap is hard' (State Papers, Eliz. xlvi. 46).

In May 1575 he escorted the Earl of Kildare and his two sons, suspected of treason, into England, but returned in September with Sir H. Sidney, Fitzwilliam's successor, whom he attended on his northern journey. In April 1578 he was the cause of another 'scene' at the council board owing to his refusal, apparently on good grounds, to affirm with the rest of the council that there had been an increase in the revenue. The only governor with whom he seems to have cordially co-operated was Sir William Drury. With him he was indefatigable in his preparations to meet the threatened invasion of James Fitzmaurice. He died on 3 July 1579 'from the disease of the country, ' caught during an expedition into Longford. 'I know,' wrote Drury, 'he was, in many men's opinions, over careful of his posterity, and was not without enemies that sought to interpret that to his discredit; but I wish in his successor that temperance, judgment, and ability to speak in her majesty's causes that was found in him. And for my own part, if I should (as of right I ought) measure my liking of him by his good affection to me, truly my particular loss is also very great' (ib. lxvii. 25).

He was buried on 21 Sept. in St. Patrick's Cathedral beside the 'wyef of his youth, Anne, the second daughter of Sr Peter Warburton, of Areley in the county of Chester, knight, who were borne both in one yere, viz. he ye last of Marche 1527, and she the first of Maye in the same yeare, and were maried on Sonday next after Hillaries daye 1539, being ye 19 daye of Januarie, in the 12 yere of their age, and lyved together in true and lawfull matrymonie iuste 34 yeres, for ye same Sonday of the yeare wherein they were maried ye same Sondaie 34 yeres following was she buried, though she faithfully depted this lyef 9 daies before, viz. on Saturdaie ye 9 daie of Januarie 1573, in wch tyme God gave theim 15 children, viz. 9 sonnes and 6 daughters’ (from a brass in St. Patrick's, of which there is a rubbing in Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 32485, Q. 1).

Sir Edward Fitton the younger (1548?–1606), son and heir of the above, being disappointed in his expectation of succeeding his father as vice-treasurer, retired to England shortly after having been knighted by Sir William Pelham (Ham. Cal. ii. 175; cf. Domestic Cal. Add. p. 25). His interest in Ireland revived when it was proposed to colonise Munster with Englishmen, and he was one of the first to solicit a slice of the forfeited estates of the Earl of Desmond. On 3 Sept. 1587 he passed his patent for 11,515 acres in the counties of Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford; but the speculation proved to be not so profitable as he had anticipated, and on 19 Dec. 1588 he wrote to Burghley that he was 1,500l. out of pocket through it, and begged that his rent might be remitted on account of his father's twenty years' service and his own (Ham. Cal. iv. 87). He was most energetic in his proposals for the extirpation of the Irish, but failed to fulfil the conditions of the grant, and was noted as an absentee. He was M. P. for Boroughbridge in 1588. He married Alice, daughter and sole heiress of Sir John Holcroft of Holcroft, Lancashire, who survived him till 5 Feb. 1626, and who, after his death in 1606, erected a monument to his memory in Gawsworth Church (Ormerod, Cheshire, iii. 295). His daughter Mary is noticed below.

[Authorities as in the text; J. P. Earwaker's East Cheshire.]

R. D.