Fitzgerald, John Fitzedmund (1528-1612) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 19
Fitzgerald, John Fitzedmund (1528-1612)

by Robert Dunlop

FITZGERALD, Sir JOHN Fitzedmund (1528–1612), dean of Cloyne, son of Edmund Fitzjames, born in 1528, was a devoted loyalist, being almost the only gentleman of note who refused to join in the rebellion of James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald [q. v.] in 1569, whereupon he was appointed sheriff of the county of Cork, and for his good services in that office was 'so maliced and hated of the rebels, as they not only burned all his towns and villages to the utter banishing of th' inhabitants of the same, but also robbed and spoiled and consumed all his goods and cattle, and thereby brought him from a gentleman of good ability to live to extreme poverty, not able to maintain himself and his people about him in the service of her majesty as his heart desired.' His petition for compensation was supported by Sir Henry Sidney, who declared that he well deserved the same both for the losses he had sustained as also for his honesty and civility. On the outbreak of Desmond's rebellion he again threw in his lot with the government, and was again exposed to the attacks of the rebels, insomuch that he was obliged to take refuge in Cork. In January 1581 his condition was described to Burghley as truly pitiful, and in May 1582 the queen gave order that he should receive an annuity of one hundred marks and a grant of one hundred marks land of the escheats in Munster. In 1586 he strenuously opposed the bill for the attainder of the Earl of Desmond, and by trying to maintain the legality of the earl's feoffment almost made shipwreck in one moment of the reputation gained by a long life of loyalty. Being charged with conniving at the marriage of Florence MacCarthy (whose godfather he was) and Ellen, daughter of the Earl of Clancar, he denied it, declaring to Burghley that on the contrary he had done his best to prevent it; while, as for his action in regard to Desmond's deed of feoffment, it was with him a thing of conscience and honesty before God and the world, and not a thing desired by him. His loyalty was confirmed by Justice Smythes, who wrote that he was a gentleman 'wise and considerate in all his doings, of great learning in good arts, and approved loyalty in all times of trial, just in his dealings, and may serve for a pattern to the most of this country' (Ham. Cal. iv. 46).

During the rebellion of the Sugan Earl [see Fitzgerald, James Fitzthomas] he more than once proved himself 'the best subject the queen had in Munster,' and in order 'to requite his perpetual loyalty to the crown of England, as also to encourage others,' Lord Mountjoy, while visiting him at Cloyne (7 March 1601), on his way from the siege of Kinsale to Dublin, knighted him. The castle of Cloyne had originally been the palace of the bishops of Cloyne. The way in which it came into the possession of Fitzgerald very well illustrates the general laxity in ecclesiastical matters prevailing during Elizabeth's reign. In order to make leases of bishops' lands valid it was necessary to have them confirmed by the dean and chapter, the church thus having, as it were, double security that its estates should not be recklessly given away. In order to obviate this difficulty Fitzgerald, though a layman, got himself appointed to the deanery of Cloyne, after which he filled, the chapter with his dependents. Thereupon Matthew Shehan, bishop of Cloyne, in consideration of a fine of 40l., leased out on 14 July 1575, at an annual rent of five marks for ever, the whole demesne of Cloyne to a certain Richard Fitzmaurice, one of Fitzgerald's dependents. The dean and chapter confirmed the grant, and Fitzmaurice handed over his right and title to his master. The castle, which stood at the south-east angle of the four crossways in the centre of the town of Cloyne, was repaired by Fitzgerald, and only disappeared in 1797, having been recovered for the church in 1700. He married Honor O'Brien, niece of the Earl of Thomond, by whom he had three sons: Edmund, who married the widow of John Fitzedmund Fitzgerald [q. v.], seneschal of Imokilly; Thomas (d. 1628), who married Honor, daughter of O'Sullivan Beare; James (o.s.p.), and two daughters, Joan and Eleanor. He died on 15 July 1612, and was buried with his ancestors in the cathedral of Cloyne. Two months later he was followed by his eldest son. 'In the N.-E. angle of the north transept of the cathedral,' says the late Rev. James Graves, 'was erected, doubtless during his lifetime, a very fine monument in the renaissance style, originally consisting of an altar-tomb, above which was reared a pillared superstructure crowned by an ornamented entablature; whilst, from the fragments still remaining, it would appear that two kneeling armed figures surmounted the first-named part of the monument.' According to the epitaph he was 'hospitio Celebris, doctrina clarus et armis.'

[The principal references to Fitzgerald's life contained in the State Papers have been collected together in the Unpublished Geraldine Documents, ed. Hayman and Graves, pt. ii. He must be carefully distinguished from his relative the seneschal of Imokilly. See also the Life and Letters of Florence MacCarthy Reagh, by Daniel MacCarthy, bishop of Kerry, and Dr. Brady's Clerical and Parochial Records of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross, vol. iii.]

R. D.