John FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Kildare
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The eldest son of Thomas FitzMaurice FitzGerald (died 1271) and Rohesia de St. Michael, he is noticed in 1291 in serious dispute with William Vescy, Lord of Kildare, Lord Justice of Ireland, about whom there were many complaints of oppression and neglect of the country's defences. As champion of the complainants John Fitzgerald, by then 4th Lord of Offaly (having succeeded to the title in 1287, upon the death of his uncle Maurice FitzGerald, 3rd Lord of Offaly), their paths crossed and instead of addressing the issues Vescy charged Fitzgerald with minor charges of slander and libel. Fitzgerald appealed to King Edward II, who, to examine and judge the matter impartially, summoned them both to London to hear the cases, where it appears FitzGerald had the advantage, challenging the Lord Justice to clear his name by combat, which was accepted. However, Vescy fled to France, whereupon the King pronounced Lord Offaly innocent, and settled upon him Vescy's lordships and manors of Kildare, Rathangan, &c., which were forfeited to the Crown. His Lordship returned home to great jubilation.
In 1296 and 1299 he was summoned to fight for the Crown in the Scottish campaigns of Edward II. With John Wogan, Lord Justice, and others he went a third time to war in Scotland in 1301-2.
In 1307, with his son-in-law Sir Edmund Butler, he dispersed rebels in Offaly who had razed the castle of Geashill and burnt the town of Leix. In 1312 he was sent as General at the head of an army into Munster to suppress armed Irish rebels. On May 25, 1315, Edward Bruce, brother to King Robert the Bruce of Scotland, entered the north of Ireland with 6000 men, was crowned King of Ireland at Dundalk, and wasted the country. Lord Offaly, among others, commenced vigorous sporadic warfare to resist Bruce, leaving "great slaughter" of Scots and the Irish irregulars in his service. Edward Bruce was eventually defeated and killed in the battle of Dundalk.
As a reward for his services King Edward II created Fitzgerald Earl of Kildare by Letters Patent dated May 14, 1316, the year in which he founded the friary at Adare, county Limerick.
He had married Blanche de La Roche, daughter of John de La Roche, Lord Fermoy and Maud de Waleys, by whom he had two sons and two daughters:
- Gerald (d.1303)
- Thomas FitzGerald, 2nd Earl of Kildare, his successor.
- Joan FitzGerald, married in 1302 to Edmund Butler, Earl of Carrick.
- Elizabeth FitzGerald, married to Nicholas Netterville, ancestor of Viscount Netterville.
- Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1889). "Fitzthomas, John". Dictionary of National Biography 19. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Cokayne, George Edward, ed. (1892). Complete peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, extant, extinct or dormant (G to K) 4 (1st ed.). London: George Bell & Sons. p. 368. Retrieved 27 December 2011.
- Lodge, John, & Archdall, Mervyn, A.M., The Peerage of Ireland, Dublin, 1789, vol.1, p. 77-9, where a full transcription of Kildare's Letters Patent appears on p. 78n.
|Peerage of Ireland|
|New creation||Earl of Kildare