Fitzgerald, Gerald (d.1583) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


FITZGERALD, GERALD, fifteenth Earl of Desmond (d. 1583), was the son of James, fourteenth earl [q. v.], whom he succeeded in 1558, doing homage before the lord deputy, Sussex, at Waterford (28 Nov.) Shortly afterwards, attended by 'one hundred prime gentlemen,' he crossed over into England, where he was graciously received by Elizabeth, and confirmed by her (22 June 1559) in all the lands, jurisdictions, seignories, and privileges that were held in times past by his predecessors. Already, during the lifetime of his father, he had become notorious for his turbulent disposition, and for his proneness to private war. In 1560 a dispute arose between him and Thomas Butler, tenth earl of Ormonde [q. v.], about the prize wines of Youghal and Kinsale, which the latter claimed, and certain debatable lands on the river Suir, into which Desmond swore Ormonde had entered by force. The dispute, conducted in the usual Irish fashion, obliged the government to intervene, and the two earls were accordingly summoned to submit their claims in person to Elizabeth. Ormonde alone showed any willingness to obey ; but at last, after alleging many frivolous pretexts for his non-compliance, Desmond appeared at court about the beginning of May 1562, attended by a numerous retinue. Being charged before the council with openly defying the law in Ireland, he answered contumaciously, and refusing to apologise was forthwith committed into the custody of the lord treasurer, a slight confinement, as the queen wrote to his countess, which would do him no harm, and which Sir William Fitzwilliam hoped would have the effect of bringing him to such senses as he had. Though soon released, he was not allowed to return to Ireland till the beginning of 1564, after he had consented to such stipulations as were deemed essential to the public peace (Morrin, Patent Rolls, i. 485). Almost immediately after his return he involved himself in a quarrel between the Earl of Thomond and his rival Sir Donnell O'Brien. In October he and Ormonde were again on evil terms with one another, and in November the latter complained to Cecil that he was continually invading his territories, killing the queen's subjects, and carrying off his cattle, and that in self-defence he must retaliate. The death of the Countess Joan, the wife of Desmond, and the mother of Ormonde, early in 1565, removed the last restraint on his conduct, and on 1 Feb. he entered the territories of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald, viscount Decies, and baron of Dromana, with a considerable body of men in order to enforce his claim to certain disputed arrears of rents and services. The Baron of Dromana, however, being anxious to liberate himself from his feudal superior, had meanwhile enlisted the support of the Earl of Ormonde who, nothing loth, under this plausible pretext of maintaining the peace to revenge himself on his rival, immediately assembled his men and marched southwards. The two armies met at the ford of Affane on the Blackwater; a bloody skirmish followed, in which Desmond was wounded in the thigh with a bullet and taken prisoner. The queen, enraged at this fresh outbreak, summoned both earls to appear before her. On Easter Tuesday Desmond arrived at Liverpool in custody of Captain Nicholas Heron, having suffered much from sea-sickness. Ormonde was already at court. Charges and counter-charges of high treason followed. Eventually the two earls submitted, and consented to enter into recognisances of 20,000l. each to stand to such order for their controversies as her majesty should think good. On 7 Jan. 1566 the lord deputy was informed that the earls were reconciled and licensed to depart into Ireland, but Desmond was not to leave Dublin until he had paid what debts he had incurred. The original controversy between them, however, remained, and seemed likely to remain, undecided. 'I will never,' wrote Sir H. Sidney to Cecil on 27 April, 'unpressed, upon my allegiance, deal in the great matters of my lord of Ormonde, until another chancellor come, or some other commissioner out of England, to be joined with me for hearing and determining of that cause ; for how indifferently soever I shall deal, I know it will not be thought favourably enough on my lord of Ormonde's side.' He protested that he was not prejudiced against Ormonde, only the case had been 'forejudged.' On 12 Dec. he renewed his request, and soon afterwards (27 Jan. 1567) began a tour of inspection through Munster, in consequence of which he was most unfavourably impressed with Desmond's character. At Youghal he entered into an examination of the controversy between the earls, and having found that the disputed lands were in the possession of Ormonde 'at the time of the fray-making,' he gave judgment accordingly, 'whereat the Earl of Desmond did not a little stir, and fell into some disallowable heats and passions.' 'From this time forward, nor never since,' he wrote to Elizabeth, 'found I any willingness in him to come to any conformity or good order,' but, on the contrary, found him to be 'a man void of judgment to govern and will to be ruled,' the cause in short of the turbulent state of Munster. He therefore arrested him at Kilmallock, and, carrying him to Dublin, locked him up in the Castle, leaving his brother, Sir John of Desmond, of whose capabilities he seems to have had a higher opinion, seneschal or captain of the country. In August 1567 Sidney left Ireland, and during his absence, as he himself said, Sir John was by the lord justices inveigled up to Dublin, taken prisoner, sent over to England with the earl, and both of them committed to the Tower. 'And truly, Mr. Secretary,' said he, 'this kind of dealing with Sir John of Desmond was the origin of James Fitzmaurice's rebellion.' The earl and Sir John landed at Graycoite, near Beaumaris, on 14 Dec., and on their arrival in London they were confined to the Tower, where they remained until midwinter 1570, when the state of Sir John's health necessitated his removal. They were then placed under the supervision of Sir Warham St. Leger, at his house at Southwark. In August 1571 St. Leger complained to the council that the earl had refused to accompany him into Kent, and that during his absence he had rashly ranged abroad into sundry parts of London. Next summer he tried to bribe Martin Frobisher, who revealed the plot to Burghley, to assist him to escape by sea. Meanwhile, on 30 June 1569, the question of the prize wines had been settled in Ormonde's favour. In the following year Eleanor, countess of Desmond (the earl's second wife), came to England, where she remained with her husband till his release. The government was undecided what to do with him. Sir John Perrot, then president of Munster, strenuously urged that he should be detained for another year or two, but that Sir John should be allowed to return. However, in March 1573, after signing articles for his future good conduct (Cal. Carew MSS. i. 430), he was permitted to return to Ireland, to Perrot's disgust, who marvelled much that her majesty should so act in regard to 'a man rather meet to keep Bedlam than to come to a new reformed country.' The Irish government thought with Perrot, and on his arrival in Dublin on Lady-day they rearrested him ; but on 16 Nov. he managed to escape, and within a month afterwards he had destroyed almost every trace of Perrot's government in the province. Elizabeth was now anxious to recapture him, and a certain Edward Fitzgerald, brother of the Earl of Kildare, and presumably persona grata, was in December commissioned to remonstrate with him. The attempt failed, as did also the intervention of the Earl of Essex in June 1574. Desmond was profuse in his protestations of loyalty, but refused to surrender unconditionally. Required to consent to the abolition of coyne and livery, the surrender of certain castles and other things embodied in the articles of 8 July, he declined, and his conduct was approved by his kinsmen, who bound themselves by oath (18 July) 'to maintain and defend this our advice against the lord deputy or any others that will covet the earl's inheritance' (this combination, printed in Morrin's Patent Rolls, ii. 109, and the deed of feoffment that followed, have an interesting history. See Wallop to Burghley, Ham. Cal. iii. 63). Thereupon he was proclaimed, a price set on his head, and in August Fitzwilliam and Ormonde advanced into Munster, attacked Derrinlaur Castle, captured it, and put the garrison to the sword. Convinced of the necessity of temporising, Desmond appeared at Cork and humbly submitted himself (2 Sept.) ; but on 10 Sept. he made over all his lands to Lord Dunboyne, Lord Power, and Sir John Fitzedmund Fitzgerald of Cloyne [q. v.], in trust for himself and his wife during their joint lives, with provision for his daughters and remainder to his son James (Carew MSS. i. 481). This feoffment, though suspicious, does not necessarily imply that he had, when he made it, any premeditated intention of rebelling. In March 1575 James Fitzmaurice [q. v.] left Ireland for the express purpose of soliciting foreign aid, but whether he did so, as MacGeoghegan asserts, with the connivance of the earl is extremely doubtful. Certain it is that during the government of Sir H. Sidney (1575-8) he manifested no rebellious intentions, though occasionally resenting President Drury s arbitrary conduct, and he even revealed to the deputy the nature of Fitzmaurice's negotiations on the continent. 'This and other good shows in the Earl of Desmond,' wrote Sidney to the queen, 'maketh demonstration that his light and loose dealings (whereunto he runneth many times rashly) proceedeth rather of imperfection of judgement, than of malicious intendment against your majesty.' 'I hold him,' he added, 'the least dangerous man of four or five of those that are next him in right and succession . . . being such an impotent and weak body, as neither can he get up on horseback, but that he is holpen and lift up, neither when he is on horseback can of himself alight down without help, and therefore, in mine opinion, the less to be feared or doubted, if he would forget himself, as I hope now he will not.' Sidney's is probably the most correct, as it is the most charitable, explanation of his subsequent foolhardy conduct. On the arrival of Fitzmaurice (17 July 1579) Desmond rejected his overtures to join with him in re-establishing the old religion, notified the fact to Drury, protested his own loyalty, declared his intention of marching against the invader, and did what he could in that direction. The death of Fitzmaurice, of whom he seems to have been extremely jealous, and the representations of Sanders exercised a prejudicial effect upon him. His conduct aroused the suspicion of Drury, who on 7 Sept. 'restrained him from liberty' for two days, until he promised to send his son as hostage for his conduct to Limerick. Fascinated by the rhetoric of Sanders and yet unwilling to risk everything by openly rebelling, he Endeavoured to temporise. Warned by Malby that he was suspected, he refused to take the only safe course open to him, and on 1 Nov. he was proclaimed a traitor. Compelled to act, he marched against Youghal, which he sacked, while the Earl of Clancar did the same for Kinsale. This did little to add to his strength. In March 1580 Pelham captured the castle of Carrigafoyl, and in April Askeaton and Ballyloughan, his last fortresses, shared the same fate. On 14 June he and Sanders narrowly escaped being surprised by Pelham, and in August he was reduced to such extremities that he sent his countess to the lord justice to intercede for him. About the same time he applied to Admiral Winter, who was cruising in Kinsale waters, to transport him to England to beg his pardon personally from the queen. After the destruction of the Spaniards in Fort-del-Ore the government of Munster was entrusted to the Earl of Ormonde, while Captain Zouche with 450 men was deputed to hunt him down. On 15 June 1581 he was surprised in the neighbourhood of Castlemange and obliged to fly in his shirt into the woods of Aharlow. During the winter he was compelled to keep his Christmas in Kilquegg wood, near Kilmallock, where he was nearly captured by the garrison stationed there. In September 1582 he was reported to have two hundred horse and two thousand foot under his command. In January 1583 he had two remarkable escapes. All attempts to capture him seemed useless. The Munster officials were at their wits' end. Fenton suggested that he should be assassinated, while St. Leger advised the queen to adopt a policy similar to that which her father had found useful in the case of 'Silken Thomas.' Meanwhile Ormonde, by more legitimate means, was bringing him to the end of his resources. On 5 June his countess left him, and a proclamation of pardon deprived him of most of his followers. Deserted by all except a priest, two horsemen, one kerne, and a boy, he wandered about helplessly from one place to another. On 19 Sept. he was nearly captured on the borders of Slievloghra. On Monday, 11 Nov., just as day was breaking, he was surprised in a cabin in the wood of Glanaginty by five soldiers of the garrison of Castlemange, led on by Owen MacDonnell O'Moriarty, whose brother-in-law had just been plundered by the earl. Fearing a rescue, his head was cut off by Daniel O'Kelly and sent into England. His body was conveyed, according to tradition, through the byways of the hills to the little mountain churchyard of Kill-na-n-onaim, or the 'Church of the Name.' In 1586 an act of parliament declared his estates forfeited to the crown.

He married (1) Joan, daughter and heiress of James, eleventh earl of Desmond, widow of James, ninth earl of Ormonde, and mother of his rival, Thomas, tenth earl; (2) Eleanor, daughter of Edmund Butler, lord Dunboyne, by whom he had James, called 'the Queen's Earl' [q. v.], Thomas, and five daughters.

Sir John of Desmond, who had immediately on his landing joined Fitzmaurice, signalising his adhesion by the murder of Captain Henry Davells at Tralee, became, on the death of Fitzmaurice and till the accession of the earl, head of the rebel army. Sharing with his brother in the vicissitudes of the war, he was in December 1581, after having been wounded on several occasions, entrapped by Captain Zouche in the neighbourhood of Castlelyons. His body was sent to Cork and 'was hanged in chaynes ouer the citty gates, where it hanged up for 3 or foure yeares togeather as a spectacle to all the beholders to looke on, vntill at length a greate storme of wynd blew it off, but the head was sent to Dublin, and there fastened to a pole and set over the castle wall.'

[The chief authorities are Hamilton's Calendar of State Papers, vols. i. and ii.; Collins's Sydney State Papers, vol. i.; Calendar of Carew MSS. vols. i. and ii.; O'Daly's Initium, incrementa, et exitus familiæ Geraldinorum; O'Sullevan's Historiæ Catholicæ Iberniæ Compendium; Annals of the Four Masters; Annals of Loch Cé; Morrin's Calendar of Patent Rolls, vols. i. and ii.; Unpublished Geraldine Documents, ed. Hayman and Graves; Thomas Churchyard's A Scourge for Rebels; Bishop Carleton's A Thankful Remembrance of God's Mercy; Kerry Mag. vol. i., where, under the title 'Antiquities of Tralee,' will be found a most excellent discussion on that part of Desmond's life which relates to his rebellion, said to be by the late Archdeacon Rowan; Cox's Hibernica Anglicana, vol. i.; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors, vol. ii.]

R. D.