Edward FitzGerald, 7th Duke of Leinster

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Arms of the Duke of Leinster

Edward FitzGerald, 7th Duke of Leinster, etc. (6 May 1892 – 8 March 1976), known as Lord Edward FitzGerald before 1922, was Ireland's Premier Peer of the Realm.


Leinster was the youngest of the three sons born to Gerald, 5th Duke of Leinster, and his wife, the former Lady Hermione Duncombe.

He inherited the Dukedom in 1922, upon the death of his eldest brother, Maurice FitzGerald, 6th Duke of Leinster, who never married and was confined to a mental institution at the time of his death.[1]

An addicted gambler, Leinster had already signed away his possible reversionary rights to the family's ancestral seat, Carton House, near Maynooth in County Kildare, not expecting that he would inherit the property and the title. He chose to live in England and his estates remained in the possession of the beneficiary, Sir Harry Mallaby-Deeley, 1st Baronet, during the Duke's lifetime.[1]

In 1936, Leinster testified at a bankruptcy hearing that he had travelled to the United States in 1928 in order to find an heiress to marry and that during his trip he "entertained lavishly on borrowed money in efforts to find an American wife who would pay off his debts".[2] Two heiresses appeared to be interested but both eventually declined to become Duchess of Leinster.[2]

Unable to repay his debts, the duke spent the final years of his life living in a small bedsit in Pimlico.[3] He died by suicide in 1976 by taking an overdose of pentobarbital.[4]

Personal life[edit]

The Duke of Leinster married four times, his wives being:[5]

  • May Juanita Etheridge [2] (4 August 1892 – 11 February 1935), a chorus girl nicknamed the "Pink Pajama Girl", whom he married, in London, on 12 June 1913. She was the daughter of Jesse Edward Etheridge, a salesman, and his wife, the former Theresa Grace Harriett Ann Summerell. They separated in 1922, whereupon the duke paid his estranged wife approximately $50 a week, "on condition that she live in retirement and make no effort to communicate with her son".[6] The duke sued the duchess for divorce in 1926, citing a George Frederick Newell as co-respondent.[7] The couple finally divorced in 1930, with Stanley Williams, "a young chef", being named as co-respondent.[6][8] After the end of her marriage, the duchess took the name May Murray by deed poll.[3]. In 1935 she committed suicide by an overdose of sleeping draught.[9] The Leinsters had one child, a son,
  • (Agnes) Raffaelle Van Neck (14 December 1902 — 28 December 1993, London), an American socialite, who was the former wife of Clare Van Neck and the only child of Robert Davidson Kennedy and his first wife, the former May Nutting.[4] The Duke and Mrs Van Neck married in London on 1 December 1932; they divorced in 1946, after some years of living in Scotland, the duke saying, "She said she could not live with black-faced sheep and lochs, and I saw a certain amount of truth in that".[11]
  • Jessie Wessel, a former actress and music-hall performer, known professionally as Denise Orme (1884-1960). Born Jessie Smither, she was the former wife of Danish diplomat Theodor William Wessel, the former wife of The 3rd Baron Churston, and a daughter of bartender Alfred Smither; Leinster married her on 11 March 1946. The duchess was a grandmother of Aga Khan IV. By this marriage, the duke of Leinster had seven stepchildren.
  • Vivien Irene Conner, a waitress (19 February 1920 – Brighton, Sussex, 1992), the former wife of George William Conner and a daughter of Thomas Felton.[12] She and the duke married in 1965. By this marriage the duke had a stepson, Tony Conner.

The duke had an illegitimate son by Yvonne Denison Percy Probyn (later known as Yvonne FitzGerald), daughter of Col. J. Percy Probyn:

  • Adrian Dighton Desmond FitzGerald (born 1952), who wed
    • Colleen Theresa Cross, married 1972, divorced 1975, and had one child,
      • Kirsty FitzGerald (born 1973), wife of Andrew Keetch
    • Linda Jane Harris Clark, married 1982, divorced 1992


  1. ^ "Co Kildare Electronic History". County Kildare Library. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Heiress Hunt Is Told by Duke of Leinster", The New York Times, 15 October 1936
  3. ^ "The Duke of Leinster". The Daily Telegraph. 12 July 2004. Retrieved 6 October 2012.  Obituary for the 8th Duke of Leinster, Edward FitzGerald's son
  4. ^ Scriven, Marcus (2009). Splendour and Squalor. Atlantic Books. 
  5. ^ Edward FitzGerald, 7th Duke of Leinster - website ThePeerage.com
  6. ^ a b "Divorced Duchess Dies in Bungalow", The New York Times, 13 February 1935
  7. ^ "Leinster Sues Wife in Edinburgh Court", The New York Times, 6 January 1926
  8. ^ "Divorce from Actress for Duke of Leinster", The New York Times, 29 June 1930
  9. ^ "Modern Fairy Story Ends in Tragedy", The Australian Women's Weekly, 29 June 1930
  10. ^ The 7th Duke, however, claimed, in a letter, that his only legitimate son was the result of an affair between May Etheridge and "a Jewish moneylender called Witkowski". See http://www.scotsman.com/news/dna-test-the-latest-twist-in-aristocratic-tale-of-a-cowboy-a-gambler-and-a-web-of-deceit-1-833625
  11. ^ "One Thing and Another", The New York Times, 12 December 1943
  12. ^ Suzy Knickerbocker, "Duke and Duchesses and Their Bankruptcies", St. Petersburg Times, 1 January 1968

External links[edit]

Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
Maurice FitzGerald
Duke of Leinster
Succeeded by
Gerald FitzGerald