Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fitzgerald, John Fitzedmund (d.1589)

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FITZGERALD, JOHN Fitzedmund (d. 1589), seneschal of Imokilly, was the son of Edmund Fitzmaurice Riskard, seneschal of Imokilly and Shylie, daughter of Maolrony O'Carroll. He was a prominent actor in the two great rebellions that convulsed Munster during 1563 to 1583. In 1569, being 'a principal communicator with James Fitzmaurice,' 'arch traitor' [q. v.], he was besieged in his castle of Ballymartyr by Sir Henry Sidney ; but after a stout defence, in which several of the besiegers were wounded, finding the place untenable, he 'and his company in the dead of night fled out of the house by a bog, which joins hard to the wall where no watch could have prevented their escape.' He continued to hold out with Fitzmaurice in the woods of Aharlow till February 1573, when he humbly submitted himself before Sir John Perrot in the church of Kilmallock, and was pardoned. In 1575 he accompanied Fitzmaurice to France, but returned to Ireland a few weeks afterwards. From that time till the date of Fitzmaurice's landing we hear nothing of him with the exception that on 16 Nov. 1576 he complained to the president of Munster, Sir William Drury, that the Earl of Desmond was coshering sixty horses and a hundred horse-boys on Imokilly, an incident quite sufficient to show how the wind was blowing meanwhile. Instantly on the arrival of Fitzmaurice in July 1579 he went into rebellion. An adept in all the stratagems of Irish warfare, and personally brave in carrying his schemes into execution, he became, after the death of the 'arch traitor,' the unquestionable, though not nominal, head of the rebellion. It was against him, and not the Earl of Desmond, that Ormonde mainly directed his efforts. More than once during that terrible struggle he was reported to have been slain. He was, indeed, once severely wounded and his brother killed, but he manifested no intention of submitting. In February 1581 he narrowly missed capturing Sir Walter Raleigh. In May 1583 his aged mother was taken and executed by Thomas Butler, tenth earl of Ormonde [q. v.] But it was not till 14 June, when he was reported to have not more than twenty-four swords and four horse, that he consented to recognise the hopelessness of his cause. His submission was accepted conditionally; but Ormonde, who greatly respected him for his bravery, pleaded earnestly with Burghley for his pardon. He was, he declared, a man 'valiant, wise, and true of his word.' Ever since his submission 'he and his people had been employed in order and husbandry.' Ormonde's intervention was successful so far as his life was concerned ; but as for his lands, that was to be left an open question. Thirty-six thousand acres of good land, which the undertakers had come to regard as their property, were not to be surrendered by them without a struggle. He was represented as the most dangerous man in the province, as 'having more intelligence from Spain than any one else.' Their representations were not without their calculated effect on Elizabeth, who had at first been inclined to treat him leniently. Not suspecting any attack, he was in March 1587 arrested by Sir Thomas Norreys and confined to Dublin Castle, where he died in February 1589 (Ham. Cal. iv. 126, but cf. p. 253), a few days after it had been finally decided that he should enjoy the profit of his lands. He married Honora, daughter of James Fitzmaurice, by whom he had Edmund and Richard, seven weeks old in 1589, and two daughters, Catherine and Eleanor. His son and heir, Edmund, at the time of his father's death being a year and a half old, was found by inquisition to be heir to Ballymartyr and other lands in co. Cork, and was granted in wardship to Captain Moyle. He obtained livery of his lands on coming of age, and in 1647 defended Ballymartyr against his nephew, Lord Inchiquin, when the castle was burnt and himself outlawed.

[The principal references to Fitzgerald's life contained in the State Papers will be found in the Unpublished Geraldine Documents, edited by Hayman and Graves, pt. ii. pp. 1 18-36.]

R. D.