Gerald FitzGerald, 11th Earl of Kildare
Gerald FitzGerald, 11th Earl of Kildare (1525–1585), also known as the "Wizard Earl" (a sobriquet also given to Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland), was an Irish peer. He was the son of Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare and Elizabeth Grey, Countess of Kildare.
FitzGerald became the sole male representative of the Kildare Geraldines at the age of twelve, after his half-brother, Silken Thomas, the tenth earl, was executed at Tyburn in 1537 with five of his uncles. He spent the next few years on the run in Ireland and spent some time in Donegal, under the guardianship of his aunt, Lady Eleanor McCarthy, the wife of the O Domhnaill chief. The short-lived Geraldine League, a federation including the O'Neills, the O'Donnells, the O'Briens of Thomond, and other powerful Irish clans related to the Geraldines through marriages, formed around FitzGerald's claim to the Kildare Earldom. The League came to nothing, however, after the principal members were badly defeated in Monaghan following a raid into The Pale in August 1539.
FitzGerald escaped Ireland with a few loyal servants and was protected from Henry VIII and his agents by both Francis I of France and Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. He was educated at a monastery in Liège, and spent time with the Bishop of Verona, the Cardinal of Mantua, and the Duke of Mantua. Due to his time in the duke's court, FitzGerald was fluent in Italian and experienced the court culture of Renaissance Italy. From there, he then moved on to Rome, and for three years studied under the guidance of his kinsman, Cardinal Reginald Pole.
During his exile from Ireland, FitzGerald fought with the Knights of Rhodes against the Turks and travelled as far as Tripoli in Libya, then held by the Knights of St. John. Following the death of Henry VIII in 1547, he travelled to England and was received at the court of Edward VI. The young king restored the Kildare lands to him at this time.
During the reign of Mary I, FitzGerald assisted in suppressing the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt in 1554. He was then restored as Earl of Kildare and Baron of Offaly. He returned to Ireland soon after.
FitzGerald had a keen interest in alchemy, which caused much speculation among those living around Kilkea Castle. He was rumoured to possess magic powers, and thus earned the nickname "the Wizard Earl". He was a highly intelligent and cultivated man, " a product of the Renaissance", but he seems to have lacked the political skills of his grandfather Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, who virtually ruled Ireland for 35 years, and in the increasingly turbulent political atmosphere of the 1560s and 70s was increasingly vulnerable to attack, especially since he openly professed the Roman Catholic faith.
His restoration as Earl of Kildare aroused the hostility of many, both Old English and New English, and successive Lord Deputies, and throughout his career he was frequently accused of treason, and was twice imprisoned in the Tower of London. He owed his survival to the personal regard of Elizabeth who twice dismissed the charges of treason against him. In his last years although technically free he was forbidden to leave London, save that he was permitted to take his seat in the Parliament of Ireland meeting in Dublin during April–May 1585.
FitzGerald died in London, still in a condition of semi-captivity, on 16 November 1585.
FitzGerald was said to have been married to Ellinor O'Kelly by Thomas Leverous (later Bishop of Kildare) in 1545. However, because of the machinations of the 11th Earl's brother, their son, Gerald FitzGerald of Moret, was outlawed and stigmatised. For several years, the boy was concealed and brought up by his mother's family. During this period, the report of illegitimacy was given credence.
While at the court of Edward VI, FitzGerald met Mabel Browne, daughter of Sir Anthony Browne, Master of the Horse and his first wife Alice Gage; after Alice's death Anthony became the first husband of FitzGerald's sister, Elizabeth FitzGerald. They married during the reign of Mary I on 28 May 1554, in the Chapel Royal.
- Lady Elizabeth FitzGerald (d. 12 January 1617), married Donnchadh MacConchobhair O'Brien, the 4th Earl of Thomond, by whom she had issue.
- Lord Gerald FitzGerald, Lord Offaly, Lord Garratt (28 December 1559 – June 1580), married in October 1578, Catherine Knollys, a granddaughter of Mary Boleyn. They had a daughter Lettice Digby, 1st Baroness Offaly who married Sir Robert Digby. These were the direct ancestors of the celebrated 19th-century adventuress Jane Digby.
- Lord Henry Na Tuagh FitzGerald, 12th Earl of Kildare, (1562–1597), married Lady Frances Howard, by whom he had female issue.
- Lord William FitzGerald, 13th Earl of Kildare (d. April 1599), died unmarried.
- Lady Mary FitzGerald (d. 1 October 1610), married Christopher Nugent, 6th Baron Delvin, by whom she had issue.
Mabel died in 1610, much troubled in her last years by a lawsuit brought by her grand-daughter Lettice, claiming that the Earl's will had been fraudulently altered.
Gerald FitzGerald appears in The Irish Princess by Karen Harper, a fictional portrayal of the life of FitzGerald's sister, Elizabeth FitzGerald.
|Ancestors of Gerald FitzGerald, 11th Earl of Kildare|
- Surviving the Tudors – The 'Wizard' Earl of Kildare and English Rule in Ireland, 1537–1586 Author: Carey, Vincent. Four Courts Press, 2002.
- Lennon, Colm Sixteenth-century Ireland- the Incomplete Conquest Gill amd Macmillan 1994 p.151
- Who's Who in British History. ISBN 1-85585-771-5. p 320.
- Lennon p.173
- Carey Surviving the Tudors
- Lennon p.192
- Moody, T. W. et al., ed. (1989). A New History of Ireland. 8: A Chronology of Irish History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-821744-2.
- Finnegan, David (2004). "Fitzgerald, Gerald, eleventh earl of Kildare (1525–1585)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9557. Retrieved 19 February 2013. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- Dix's Fitzgeralds of Queen's County. Author: Dix, M.L. 1934.
|Peerage of Ireland|
(forfeit in 1537)
|Earl of Kildare