Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Kildare

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Thomas FitzMaurice FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Kildare (c. 1421 – 25 March 1477), was an Irish peer who held the office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He should not be confused with his distant cousin and near-contemporary Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Desmond.


Kildare was the son of John FitzGerald, de jure 6th Earl of Kildare, and Margaret de la Herne. John should have succeeded to the titles and estates of his brother, Gerald FitzGerald, 5th Earl of Kildare, but he was unable to establish his rights in face of a rival claim by the 5th Earl's son-in-law, James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormonde, and he never obtained possession of his inheritance.[1]


Kildare was Lord Justice of Ireland in 1454, and again between 1461 and 1470. In about 1463 he was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland, a post he held until 1468. By decree of Edward IV of England he held the title of Lord Chancellor for life and continued receiving the salary of the position and exercising some of its functions until his death in 1477.[2]

Thomas was still a young man when he succeeded his father, who died about 1434; it took some years before he defeated the rival claim to his inheritance by the 4th Earl of Ormonde. He was appointed Deputy to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Richard, Duke of York in 1455. Thomas succeeded in making an Irish Parliament a reality: he assembled parliament four times and got legislative independence for the parliament assembled at Drogheda in 1460. He was Justiciar of Ireland until 1462.[3]

Both Thomas and his cousin Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Desmond were reasonable and civilised men, who ruled Ireland patriotically. They were joint leaders of the patriot and home rule party. The Earl of Desmond attempted to found a university at Drogheda but failed. In 1468 boh Desmond and Kildare were attainted and their lands forfeited and Desmond was beheaded at Drogheda on 14 February 1468 at the age of 42. Kildare was more fortunate: he escaped to England and that same year his attainder was reversed. Thomas became Lord Deputy again under George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence from 1470 until his death in 1477.[3] He was deeply concerned for the defence of the Pale, the part of Ireland securely under English rule. He is thought to have been largely responsible for the foundation of the Brotherhood of Saint George, a military guild dedicated to the defence of the Pale, in 1474, and was its first captain.[4]

The Earls of Kildare over the next 60 years exercised supreme power in Ireland; the attitude of the English Crown to this situation was expressed in the saying that if all Ireland could not control the Fitzgeralds, nthen they must control Ireland.

The Desmonds on the other hand became completely Gaelised and fought with great enmity against the English Crown, culminating with their own destruction in the Desmond Rebellions of the early 1580s.


Kildare married firstly Dorothy O More the daughter of Owny O More Chief of Leix[5] with whom he got an annulment so that he could marry his kinswoman the Lady Joan, daughter of James FitzGerald, 6th Earl of Desmond.

"Others alledge that Thomas the 7th Earl of Kildare before he came to the Earldom was first married to Dorothy, daughter of Owny or Anthony O'More, Lord of Leix, by whom he had one son called John, but after he attained the Earldom, he turned off and repudiated the said Dorothy and sent her home to her father, which was so highly resented by him that he resolved a severe revenge; and to that end having got together a strong party of his relatives and followers he burnt and destroyed the Earls houses and preyed on all his tenants in the county of Kildare, which although upon a private quarrel, the Earl declared traitors and as such prosecuted till they were all cut off and their estates forfeited. However they said John put aside from his right as eldest son, yet was ancestor to a great many worthy families of the name."[5]

Their children included:

from the first marriage with Dorothy O More

  • John known also as Shane FitzGerald of Osberstown[6]

and from the 2nd marriage with Lady Joan FitzGerald

Kildare died in March 1477.[1]


  1. ^ a b Thomas FitzMaurice FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Kildare
  2. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol.1 p.182
  3. ^ a b Ball p.182
  4. ^ Otway-Ruthven, A.J. History of Medieval Ireland Barnes and Noble reissue 1993 pp.395–6
  5. ^ a b content
  6. ^ content
  7. ^ Lady Eleanor FitzGerald at
Legal offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Worcester
Lord Chancellor of Ireland
c. 1463–1468
Succeeded by
Robert Allanstown
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
John FitzMaurice FitzGerald
(de jure)
Earl of Kildare
before 1436–1477
Succeeded by
Gerald FitzGerald