James Eustace, 3rd Viscount Baltinglass
James FitzEustace of Harristown, 3rd Viscount Baltinglass (1530–1585) James FitzEustace, the eldest son of Roland FitzEustace, the 2nd Viscount of Baltinglass and Joan, daughter of James Butler, 8th Baron Dunboyne. He was born in 1530 and died in Spain in 1585. Baltinglass's family was traditionally associated with the FitzGerald family, the earls of Kildare, but prudently remained loyal to Henry VIII during the "Silken Thomas" Rebellion of 1534-35. For their loyalty they were granted additional lands. Later in the 1540s Thomas FitzEustace, James's grandfather, was created first Viscount Baltinglass by a grateful king. But like many other old English Pale families, the FitzEustaces later became disillusioned.
Baltinglass's circle included Pale families of Plunkett, Dillon, Aylmer, Fitzsimon, Sedgrave and Nugent. Within this circle discontent increased and the Baltinglass revolt was first conceived. Previously for airing his views James had earned a night in jail, a sermon, a fine and the lasting enmity of Archbishop Adam Loftus of Dublin. James Eustace was educated at Grey's Inn, the most prestigious of the Inns of Court in London, and lived in Rome during the 1570s. James had as his tutor an influential priest, Sir Norman Eustace and became a fervent Catholic who regarded Queen Elizabeth I as an illegitimate heretic. Generally the government viewed James as misguided, but not a threat. They were even dismissive of him, which echoed ironically after his revolt broke.
He married Mary Travers, daughter and co-heiress of Sir Henry Travers of Monkstown Castle,only child of Sir John Travers, by Genet Preston, but they had no children. Henry predeceased his father. Mary died in 1610, having married secondly, in 1587, Sir Gerald Aylmer, Bart., of Donadea, a Catholic loyalist, repeatedly imprisoned, but finally released and knighted, by Elizabeth I and created baronet by James I of England. Sir John Travers of Monkstown (Carrickbrennan), Co. Dublin, was a connection of the Earl of Kildare. He was Master of the Ordnance and a Groom of the Chambers. He married Genet Preston, and during the period 1545 to 1551 received many grants of land, including Rathmore and part of Haynestown (east of Naas), Tomogue, and estates in Co. Carlow. In 1589 Mary petitioned for the return of part of her lands, which must have been extensive. With the assistance of Sir Gerald Aylmer, whom she later married, she obtained the re-possession of the Preceptory of Killerig, Co. Carlow. Soon after her death in 1610 this estate was shared between several grantees, but mainly Monkstown and its estates in seven counties were left to Henry Cheevers, her sister Katherine's second son.
James Eustace knew that he lacked the necessary military muscle, a suitable operational base and martial experience to be successful. He knew that if he acted independently, his revolt would be crushed easily. Baltinglass's partner in rebellion was Feagh - the son of Hugh Mac Shane O'Byrne who had at one time inflicted defeat on Roland FitzEustace, Baltinglass's father, in a border encounter to be celebrated in verse eulogizing Hugh's military prowess. This did not, however, prevent the alliance of their sons.
Feagh O'Byrne and Baltinglass proved useful partners in rebellion, each bringing different qualities and assets beneficial to the rebellion's initial success. Feagh provided the military leadership and drew to his standard much of Gaelic Leinster who viewed him as their protector. Baltinglass's championing of the Catholic cause gave the revolt the extra dimension which the government so feared. Without Baltinglass's involvement and the Catholic element to the revolt, the uprising would have been looked upon purely as a Gaelic outbreak. It would not have received any significant aid from Catholic Palesmen. The coming together of the pragmatic Gaelic malcontent and the idealistic Catholic magnate was a new and dangerous development in the history of rebellion against the Crown in Ireland. What this union symbolized is what frightened the government. It was a sign of things to come.
In 1576, before the death of his father, James Eustace lodged complaints against the persecution of Catholics and illegal taxation of the Lord Deputy, Sir Henry Sydney. He and other leading Catholics were imprisoned in 1577, and he was released only just in time to assume his title the next year. Much of their resentment was directed against policies pursued by the Elizabethan officials. To finance military campaigns against Gaelic lords and rebellious Anglo-Irish magnates, the government levied a military tax, known as the cess, upon Palesmen. Troops were also billeted upon their lands. This drew increasingly vociferous complaints from both the Pale's gentry and the towns' merchants. Before Baltinglass's rebellion their discontent was rife. This Pale community opposed government demands on their assets to maintain its military policy. Viscount Roland, James's father, was a prominent leader. With other leaders, he was imprisoned in the closing years of the 1570s by the Elizabethan administration who viewed their opposition as little short of treason. Such action on the government's part only increased its unpopularity. The predominant Pale faith was Catholic.
In Catholic eyes there was a growing threat from the Protestant-dominated government, a perception supported by their marked decline in participation within the kingdom's government. English-born Protestants increasingly occupied positions of authority. These government officers found the concept of being Catholic and loyal irreconcilable. Tension was fuelled by Pius V's excommunication of Elizabeth in 1570. With growing regularity sons of Catholic Pale families withdrew from English universities and pursued their education in Catholic Europe. Within the walls of these continental colleges, Catholic Counter-Reformation dogma and doctrine dominated. Young Palesmen were profoundly affected by their exposure. Their education made them more militant on their return.
In 1579, Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond, took up arms in Munster for a second time against the Queen, who appointed Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond to deal with the rebellion. This he eventually did, but with ruthless and terrible severity. During the summer of 1580, James Eustace, Viscount Baltinglass, apparently prompted almost entirely by religious motives, collected rebel forces in County Wicklow, with the goal to assist Desmond. His allies included many influential Catholics, some of them his own relatives, and large numbers of Irish clansmen led by Fiach McHugh O'Byrne. News of this soon reached the ears of Ormonde, James Eustace’s brother-in-law, (Edmund Butler, brother of the Earl of Ormonde, had married Eleanor Eustace, Baltinglass's sister) who must have sent him a severe warning, for we have Baltinglass's defiant reply, later produced in evidence against him.
At first the revolt was remarkably successful, and on 25 August 1580, a severe defeat was inflicted upon the troops of the Lord Deputy at the Pass of Glenmalure in the Wicklow Mountains on the Baltinglass lands. The Annals of the Four Masters states that "the entire extent of country from the Slaney to the Shannon and from the Boyne to the meeting of the Three Waters became one scene of strife and dissension.”
But Baltinglass never coordinated his efforts with those of Desmond, and in any case had started too late. There was desultory fighting for nearly a year, but with no large engagement, and the Baltinglass troops overran a large area doing great damage, but were then hopelessly overpowered. A force of Spaniards and Italians had landed at Smerwick, Co. Kerry, in order to assist the Catholic cause, but when they had completed the long march of 150 miles to Naas were taken prisoner and were massacred. The scene of this massacre, on the southern edge of the town, is still called Spaniards Cross or Foad Spaniagh.
Defeat & Exile
Baltinglass and his followers were outlawed and forty-five of them were hanged in Dublin. James Eustace escaped to Munster, where Desmond was still in revolt, and thence to Spain. He was well received, and only just failed to persuade King Philip II of Spain to provide sufficient troops and ships to invade Ireland. He died there childless in 1585. The fates of his five brothers were as follows:
- 1.Edmund Eustace had married Frances, daughter of Robert Pipho, and secondly Joan, daughter of Richard Walsh of Carrickmines, who afterwards married Dermot Kavanagh of Knockangary. In 1583 he escaped to Scotland and thence to Spain, where he was created “4th Viscount" by the Pope. He served against England in the Armada in 1588, and died childless in Portugal in 1597.
- 2.Thomas Eustace was executed in 1582.
- 3.William Eustace was certainly believed to have been slain in battle in 1581, for it was officially reported to Sir Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State in London, "Head of William Eustace, another of the Baltinglass brethren, taken this morning." It is, possible however that this report was untrue and that he was the ancestor of the Eustaces of Robertstown whose distinguished line will be dealt with later. The Complete Peerage reports that William (4th son) was "slain in rebellion, 21 Apr. 1581." Burke's Extinct Peerage1883 reports that William (3rd son) "had not been engaged in rebellion ... (and was) ... living as Viscount Baltinglass, in 1610.”
- 4.Walter Eustace was captured in 1583 and executed.
- 5.Richard Eustace was in Paris at the time of the rebellion, engaged in arranging for the dispatch of ammunition and supplies to assist his brothers. He became a priest in Rome.
Among the other Eustaces from County Kildare who took part were Maurice of Castlemartin and Thomas of Kerdiffstown (near Sallins), who were both executed, and John of Newland and Oliver of Blackhall, Clane, who were eventually pardoned, as was Maurice FitzGerald of Osberstown, Naas, who was the husband of Baltinglass's aunt Janet.
In 1585, the Statute of Baltinglass was passed by Parliament, but against considerable opposition. Under this Act, the title and arms were attainted, and all the vast Baltinglass possessions were forfeited, as was normal then, with retrospective clauses voiding all transfers of property that had taken place during the previous twelve years. The Eustaces of Harristown, once Lords of Portlester, Kilcullen and Baltinglass were thus virtually obliterated. James and his brothers had fought for what they were convinced was right, but they had failed, and for their failure they paid dearly. Whether James Eustace and his followers were traitors or martyrs, they were certainly brave men. At the time of the attainder, the Dowager Viscountess, once a proud Butler, but now the mother of “the six traitorous brethren," petitioned (rather pathetically, and with what result we can well imagine) to be allowed to retain her jointure or alternatively to be granted somewhere to live.
Almost all the forfeited estates were granted to Sir Henry Harrington who had been active in quelling the rebellion. He sold them in 1617 to Sir Charles Wilmot, from whom they passed, via Sir James Carroll and Sir Thomas Roper, to the Viscounts (later Earls) of Aldborough. Harristown, Rochestown and Calverstown were granted in about 1590 to John Eustace of Castlemartin. The Baltinglass, house in Dublin and a lease of New Abbey, Kilcullen, were granted to Edmund Spenser, the poet, who was Secretary to the Lord Deputy, Arthur Grey, 14th Baron Grey de Wilton. Rathfarnham Castle and much of the land around Rathfarnham also belonged to the Eustace family of Baltinglass. However, this property was also confiscated for their part in the Second Desmond Rebellion of 1579-83. Rathfarnham castle and its lands were then granted to the Loftus family.
The title was revived in 1685, when Colonel Richard Talbot, of Carton, was created Viscount Baltinglass, but he died without an heir six years later. It was again revived in 1763, when John Stratford was created Baron of Baltinglass, but he was advanced in 1776 to Viscount Aldborough and this title became extinct in 1875. The Eustaces of Castlemartin and Harristown were connected with his family twice. His father had married (as his second wife) Penelope née Eustace, one of the three co-heiresses of Sir Maurice Eustace, the Lord Chancellor. His great-great-granddaughter, Louisa Saunders of Saunders Grove, married in 1860 Thomas Tickell, descendant and heir of Clotilda, Penelope's sister and another of the co-heiresses.
- Tickell, Sir Eustace F; The Eustace Family and Their Lands in County Kildare; (1955); Journal of the Co. Kildare Archaeological Society; Vol. XIII, No. 6; pp. 284–287.