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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of James FitzGerald, 1st Duke of Leinster

Lieutenant-General James FitzGerald, 1st Duke of Leinster, PC (Ire), Irish nobleman, soldier and politician, is born on May 29, 1722. He is styled Lord Offaly until 1744 and known as The Earl of Kildare between 1744 and 1761 and as The Marquess of Kildare between 1761 and 1766.

FitzGerald is the son of Robert FitzGerald, 19th Earl of Kildare, and Lady Mary, daughter of William O’Brien, 3rd Earl of Inchiquin.

FitzGerald is a member of the Irish House of Commons for Athy from 1741 before succeeding his father as 20th Earl of Kildare in 1744. He is sworn of the Privy Council of Ireland in 1746 and in 1747, on the occasion of his marriage, he is created Viscount Leinster, of Taplow in the County of Buckingham, in the Peerage of Great Britain, and takes his seat in the British House of Lords that same year. From 1749 to 1755 he is one of the leaders of the Popular Party in Ireland, and serves as the country’s Master-General of the Ordnance between 1758 and 1766, becoming Colonel of the Royal Irish Artillery in 1760. He is promoted to Major-General in 1761 and to Lieutenant-General in 1770.

In 1761 FitzGerald is created Earl of Offaly and Marquess of Kildare in the Peerage of Ireland and in 1766 he is further honoured when he is made Duke of Leinster, becoming by this time the Premier Duke, Marquess and Earl in the Peerage of Ireland.

FitzGerald marries the 15-year-old Lady Emily Lennox, daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond and one of the famous Lennox sisters, in London on February 7, 1747. She descends from King Charles II and is therefore a distant fifth cousin of King George III (both of them are descended from King James VI and I). The couple has nineteen children.

FitzGerald dies at the age of 51 at Leinster House, Dublin, on November 19, 1773, and is buried in the city’s Christ Church Cathedral. He is succeeded by his second (but eldest surviving) son, William, Marquess of Kildare. The Duchess of Leinster causes a minor sensation by marrying her lover William Ogilvie in 1774, but continues to be known as The Dowager Duchess of Leinster. She has a further three children by him. She dies in London at the age of 82 in March 1814.

In 1999, Irish Screen, BBC America and WGBH produce Aristocrats, a six-part limited television series based on the lives of Emily Lennox and her sisters. FitzGerald is portrayed by Ben Daniels.

(Pictured: James FitzGerald, 1st Duke of Leinster, by Joshua Reynolds, 1753)


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Death of Lord Edward FitzGerald

lord-edward-fitzgerald

Lord Edward FitzGerald, Irish aristocrat and revolutionary, dies on June 4, 1798 of wounds received while resisting arrest on a charge of treason.

FitzGerald, the fifth son of James Fitzgerald, 1st Duke of Leinster, and the Lady Emily Lennox the daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond, is born at Carton House, near Dublin on October 15, 1763. He spends most of his childhood in Frescati House at Blackrock in Dublin where he is tutored in a manner chiefly directed to the acquisition of knowledge that would fit him for a military career.

FitzGerald joins the British Army in 1779 and in 1781 is aide-de-camp on the staff of Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings in the southern theatre of the American Revolutionary War. He is seriously wounded at the Battle of Eutaw Springs on September 8, 1781.

Fitzgerald is first elected to the Parliament of Ireland in 1783. His enthusiasm for the French Revolution leads to dismissal from the army in 1792. Four years later he joins the Society of United Irishmen, a nationalist organization that aspires to free Ireland from English control. This group appoints him to head the military committee formed to plan an uprising and obtain aid from the French revolutionary regime.

Although the French delay in supplying arms and troops, Fitzgerald’s committee proceeds with its plans for a general rebellion. The insurrection is set for May 23, 1798. In March his co-conspirators are seized by government agents, making him the most important United Irish leader still at liberty. On May 9 a reward of £1,000 is offered by Dublin Castle for his apprehension.

FitzGerald’s hiding place in a house in Thomas Street, Dublin is disclosed by a Catholic barrister and informant named Francis Magan. On May 18 Major Henry Sirr leads a military party to the house where FitzGerald is in bed suffering from a fever. Alerted by the commotion, he jumps out of bed and, ignoring the pleas of the arresting officers Captain William Bellingham Swan and Captain Daniel Frederick Ryan to surrender peacefully, FitzGerald stabs Swan and mortally wounds Ryan with a dagger in a desperate attempt to escape. He is secured only after Major Sirr shoots him in the shoulder.

FitzGerald is conveyed to New Prison, Dublin where he is denied proper medical treatment. After a brief detention in Dublin Castle he is taken to Newgate Prison, Dublin where his wound, which had now become infected, becomes mortally inflamed. His wife, whom the government probably has enough evidence to convict of treason, had fled the country, never to see her husband again, but his brother Henry and his aunt Lady Louisa Conolly are allowed to see him in his last moments.

FitzGerald dies at the age of 34 on June 4, 1798 as the rebellion rages outside. He is buried the next day in the cemetery of St. Werburgh’s Church, Dublin. An Act of Attainder confiscating his property is passed as 38 Geo. 3 c. 77, but is eventually repealed in 1819.

(Pictured: Portrait of Edward FitzGerald by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, 1796. National Portrait Gallery, London.)