Elizabeth Grey, Countess of Kildare
|Countess of Kildare|
|Spouse(s)||Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare|
|Father||Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset|
|Mother||Cecily Bonville, Baroness Harington and Bonville|
|Occupation||Maid of Honour|
Elizabeth Grey, Countess of Kildare (c.1497- after 1548), was an English noblewoman, and the second wife of Irish peer Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare. Her father was Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset.
Family and early years
Lady Elizabeth Grey was born in about 1497, a daughter of Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset, and Cecily Bonville, Baroness Harington and Bonville, one of the wealthiest heiresses in England in the latter half of the 15th-century. Elizabeth's paternal grandmother was Elizabeth Woodville, Queen consort of King Edward IV of England.
Elizabeth had 13 siblings, including her eldest brother Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset, who succeeded their father when he died in September 1501, when she was about four years old. Two years later, their mother, Cecily married Henry Stafford, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, which caused many quarrels over their inheritance. On one occasion, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was forced to intervene on behalf of King Henry VIII of England, and he ordered both Cecily and Thomas to contribute to the dowries of Elizabeth and her three surviving sisters.
She was appointed one of the Maids of Honour to Princess Mary Tudor in 1514, and accompanied her to France when the princess set out to marry King Louis XII. She remained at the French court when Queen Mary's other English ladies were sent home, and stayed on to serve Mary's successor, Queen Claude, consort of the new King Francis I, in the same capacity. Elizabeth's fellow English Maids of Honour, who also were allowed to remain behind in Queen Claude's household, were Anne Boleyn, and Mary Boleyn.
Marriage and issue
She married Gerald "Gearóid Og" FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare in London in about 1522. His first wife, Elizabeth Zouche had died, leaving him a son, Thomas, and three daughters. By his marriage to Elizabeth, who was Henry VIII's cousin, Gerald gained much influence at court. Elizabeth was styled as the Countess of Kildare. The match, while advantageous to Gerald, was also partially based on the physical attraction the couple had for one another. Historian Mary Anne Everett Green described Gerald as having been quite handsome in appearance, and he in turn was pleased by Elizabeth. He had been a kindly husband to his first wife, and his second marriage was also happy. According to historian Barbara Jean Harris, Elizabeth married Gerald against her father's will; however in 1527 her mother forgave her by granting Elizabeth a dowry of £1000. She added the following as means of explanation for the money: "forasmuch as the said marriage is honourable and I and all her friends have cause to be content with the same".
In 1523, Elizabeth returned with her husband to Ireland, where he served as Lord Deputy of Ireland (1524–1525, 1532–1534), and as Deputy to the King's Lieutenant of Ireland (1533). Extant letters she wrote home to England, show that Elizabeth had taken a keen interest in the Irish political situation.
Together Gerald and Elizabeth had at least six children:
- Lord Gerald FitzGerald, 11th Earl of Kildare, known to history as "The Wizard Earl", (25 February 1525- 16 November 1585), married Mabel Browne, by whom he had issue.
- Lady Elizabeth FitzGerald, known as "The Fair Geraldine" (1527- March 1590), married firstly, Sir Anthony Browne (d.1548), by whom she had two children who both died young; and secondly Edward Clinton, 1st Earl of Lincoln. Her last marriage was childless.
- Lord Edward FitzGerald (17 January 1528 – 1597), married Agnes Leigh, by whom he had issue, including Gerald FitzGerald, 14th Earl of Kildare.
- Lady Mary FitzGerald, married Richard Nugent, 3rd Baron Delvin, by whom she had issue.
- Lord Thomas FitzGerald
- Lady Cecily FitzGerald (died after 7 April 1547)
In October 1533, Elizabeth brought her daughter, Elizabeth FitzGerald to the English court. The girl, aged six, became a companion to the infant Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King Henry VIII, and Elizabeth Grey's erstwhile companion at the French court, Anne Boleyn, whom the King had married in January of that year.
Later, Elizabeth Grey was allegedly part of the conservative faction at court who plotted against Queen Anne.
Elizabeth's husband, the Earl of Kildare, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London on charges of corruption and plotting rebellion in Ireland, died in 1534. Elizabeth had remained with him, nursing him throughout his imprisonment from July 1534 until his death on 12 December. The Earl had received a gunshot wound at the end of 1532 in an attack he had led against the O'Carroll clan at Birr.
Rebellion in Ireland
Elizabeth's stepson, "Silken Thomas" and her five brothers-in-law were executed for rebellion at Tyburn in 1537. Her own brother Leonard Grey, 1st Viscount Grane, the incumbent Lord Deputy of Ireland had put down the rebellion. Her eldest daughter, Elizabeth was sent to the household of Princess Mary at Hunsdon, and it was during that time that the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey would immortalise the ten year-old girl as "The Fair Geraldine" in his sonnet, The Geraldine which he wrote while he was briefly imprisoned for striking a courtier.
Her eldest son, Gerald, who could not succeed to the earldom of Kildare as a result of its having been forfeited to the Crown, immediately went on the run in Ireland, where in County Tyrconnell, along with other disgruntled clans, formed the Geraldine League. When the federation was defeated in Monaghan in 1539, he fled to the Continent. As a result of Gerald's successful escape, Leonard Grey was attainted and executed for High Treason in July 1541 at the Tower of London by the orders of Henry VIII. Gerald first went to France, and then Italy, where he would remain until his return to England in 1548, in the company of Elizabeth's chaplain. He was received at court by the new King, Edward VI, who returned his confiscated lands. He succeeded to the title of 11th Earl of Kildare in 1554 in the reign of Queen Mary. After a career of fluctuating fortunes, he died in London in 1585, technically a free man but forbidden to return home to Ireland.
Elizabeth Grey died on an unknown date sometime after 1548.
- Harris, Barbara Jean. English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp.114-115.
- Fraser, Antonia (1992). The Wives of Henry VIII. New York: Knopf. p.121. ISBN 0-679-73001-X
- Marquis of Kildare, The Earls of Kildare and their Ancestors: from 1057 to 1773, 1864, chapter 85, Google Books, retrieved 23-11-09
- Emerson, retrieved 4 October 2010
- Lennon, Colm Sixteenth-century Ireland- the Incomplete Conquest Gill and Macmillan 1994 p.78
- Harris, p.58
- Kathy Lynn Emerson, A Who's Who of Tudor Women, sourced from Elizabeth Grey's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, retrieved on 23-11-09
- http://www.the Peerage.com
- Emerson, A Who's Who of Tudor Women
- Earlymodernengland, 20 October 2007, accessed 23-11-09