1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fitzgerald, Lord Thomas

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FITZGERALD, LORD THOMAS (10th earl of Kildare), (1513–1537), the eldest son of Gerald Fitzgerald, 9th earl of Kildare, was born in London in 1513. He spent much of his youth in England, but in 1534 when his father was for the third time summoned to England to answer for his maladministration as lord deputy of Ireland, Thomas, at the council held at Drogheda, in February was made vice-deputy. In June the Ormond faction spread a report in Ireland that the earl had been executed in the Tower, and that his son’s life was to be attempted. Inflamed with rage at this apparent treachery, Thomas rode at the head of his retainers[1] into Dublin, and before the council for Ireland (the 11th of June 1534) formally renounced his allegiance to the king and proclaimed a rebellion. His enemies, including Archbishop John Allen (of Dublin), who had been set by Henry VIII. to watch Fitzgerald, took refuge in Dublin Castle. In attempting to escape to England, Allen was taken by the rebels, and on the 28th of July 1534, was murdered by Fitzgerald’s servants in his presence, but whether actually by his orders is uncertain. In any case he sent to the pope for absolution, but was solemnly excommunicated by the Irish Church. Leaving part of his army (with the consent of the citizens) to besiege Dublin Castle, Fitzgerald himself went against Piers Butler, earl of Ossory, and succeeded at first in making a truce with him. But the citizens of Dublin now rose against him, Ossory invaded Kildare, and the approach of an English army forced Fitzgerald to raise the siege. Part of the English army landed on the 17th of October, the rest a week later, but taking advantage of the inactivity of the new lord deputy, Sir William Skeffington, Fitzgerald from his stronghold at Maynooth ravaged Kildare and Meath throughout the winter. He had now succeeded to the earldom of Kildare, his father having died in the Tower on the 13th of December 1534, but he does not seem to have been known by that title. In March Skeffington stormed the castle, the stronghold of the Geraldines, which was defended, and some said betrayed, by Christopher Parese, Fitzgerald’s foster-brother. It fell on the 23rd of March 1535, and most of the garrison were put to the sword. This proved the final blow to the rebellion. The news of what is known as the “pardon of Maynooth” reached Fitzgerald as he was returning from levying fresh troops in Offaley; his men fell away from him, and he retreated to Thomond, intending to sail for Spain. Changing his mind he spent the next few months in raids against the English and their allies, but his party gradually deserting him, on the 18th of August 1535 he surrendered himself to Lord Leonard Grey (d. 1541). It seems likely that he made some conditions, but what they were is very uncertain. He was taken to England and placed in the Tower. In February 1536 his five uncles were also, some of them with great injustice, seized and brought to England. The six Geraldines were hanged at Tyburn on the 3rd of February 1537. Acts of attainder against them and Gerald the 9th earl were passed by both the Irish and English parliaments; but the family estates were restored by Edward VI. to Gerald, 11th earl of Kildare (stepbrother of Thomas), and the attainder was repealed by Queen Elizabeth. Lord Thomas Fitzgerald married Frances, youngest daughter of Sir Adrian Fortescue, but had no children.

Bibliography.—Richard Stanihurst, Chronicles of Ireland (vol. ii. of Holinshed’s Chronicles); Sir James Ware, Rerum Hibernicarum annales (Dublin, 1664); The Earls of Kildare, by C. W. Fitzgerald, duke of Leinster (3rd ed., 1858); Richard Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors (3 vols., 1885, vol. i. passim); Calendar State Papers, Hen. VIII., Irish; G. E. C.’s Peerage; John Lodge, Peerage of Ireland, ed. M. Archdall (1789), vol. i.

  1. Fitzgerald was known by the sobriquet of “Silken Thomas,” either from the silken fringes on his helmet, or from his distinguished manners.