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


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Death of Maurice FitzThomas FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Desmond

fitzgerald-coat-of-armsMaurice FitzThomas FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Desmond, Irish nobleman in the Peerage of Ireland, Captain of Desmond Castle in Kinsale, so-called ruler of Munster, and for a short time Lord Justice of Ireland, dies at Dublin Castle on January 25, 1356.

FitzGerald is the second son of Thomas FitzMaurice FitzGerald, 2nd Baron Desmond by his wife Margaret. His father dies in 1296 when he is still a child. He succeeds his elder brother Thomas FitzGerald, 3rd Baron Desmond as 4th Baron Desmond in 1307, and also inherits great wealth and large estates.

By 1326 FitzGerald’s influence is such that there are rumours of a conspiracy to make him King of Ireland. Modern historians tend to dismiss the story, on the ground that the alleged conspirators were other magnates who were more interested in increasing their own power than aggrandising FitzGerald.

FitzGerald is created Earl of Desmond by Letters Patent dated at Gloucester, England, August 27, 1329, by which patent also the county palatine of Kerry is confirmed to him and his heirs male, to hold of the Crown by the service of one knight’s fee. This is part of a Crown policy of attempting to win the support of the magnates by conferring earldoms on them.

In January 1330 FitzGerald is summoned by Sir John Darcy, Lord Justice of Ireland, to fight armed Irish rebels, with a promise of the King’s pay. It is FitzGerald who introduces the practice of Coigne and Livery, the quartering of troops on the inhabitants of the district they are sent to protect.

Accepting the King’s proposal, in addition to dealing with Munster and Leinster, FitzGerald routs the O’Nolans and O’Murroughs and burns their lands in County Wicklow and forces them to give hostages. He recovers the castle of Ley from the O’Dempsies, and has a liberate of £100 sterling dated at Drogheda August 24, 1335, in return for the expense he has incurred in bringing his men-at-arms, hobelars, and foot-soldiers, from various parts of Munster to Drogheda, and there, with Lord Justice Darcy, disperses the King’s enemies.

In 1331 there are further rumours of an attempt to make him King. Although there seems to be no foundation for them, the Crown takes them seriously enough to imprison FitzGerald for several months. He is released when a number of fellow nobles stand surety for his good behaviour.

In 1339 FitzGerald is engaged against Irish rebels in County Kerry where it is said he slays 1,400 men, and takes Nicholas, Lord of Kerry, prisoner, keeping him confined until he dies as punishment for siding with the rebels against the Crown.

The same year FitzGerald is present in the parliament held in Dublin. He is summoned by Writ dated at Westminster July 10, 1344, with Maurice, Earl of Kildare, and others, to attend the King at Portsmouth “on the octaves of the nativity of the Virgin Mary,” with twenty men-at-arms and fifty hobelars, at his own expense, to assist in the war against Philip V of France.

FitzGerald, who has long been acting “with a certain disregard for the niceties of the law” now decides on open rebellion. In 1345 he presides at an assembly of Anglo-Irish magnates at Callan, County Kilkenny, ignores a summons to attend the Irish Parliament and attacks Nenagh. He is a formidable opponent, and for the next two years his defeat is the main preoccupation of the Crown. He surrenders on a promise that his life will be spared. He is imprisoned and his lands forfeited. He is allowed to go under guard to England to answer the charges against him.

By no means for the last time, the Crown evidently decides that it can not govern Ireland without the magnates’ support. In 1348 FitzGerald is released, and pardoned in 1349. His loyalty does not seem to have been in question during the last years of his life.

In July 1355 FitzGerald is appointed Lord Justice of Ireland for life, dying, however, the following January in Dublin Castle. He is interred in the Church of the Friars-Preachers in Tralee.


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The Battle of Knockdoe

battle-of-knockdoeThe Battle of Knockdoe, a battle between the forces of two Anglo-Irish lords — Gerald FitzGerald, Earl of Kildare, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, and Ulick Fionn Burke, lord of Clanricarde, takes place on August 19, 1504 at Knockdoe, County Galway.

Gerald FitzGerald becomes concerned that Ulick Burke’s attempt to gain supremacy in Connacht could simultaneously threaten the Crown’s interests in that province and his claim to be the paramount magnate in Ireland. He tries to persuade Ulick to acknowledge his authority by giving him his daughter Estacia in marriage. Ulick Burke, however, resists all attempts to have his power subordinated by the Earl of Kildare, forming an alliance with O’Brien of Thomond and the magnates of Munster. The Burkes of Mayo, on the other hand, join forces with Kildare with the aim of suppressing their dangerous neighbour.

In 1503, Ulick Burke attacks and destroys the castles of O’Kelly, Lord of Hymany, at Monivea, Garbally, and Castleblakeney. O’Kelly complains of this to the Lord Deputy.

For political and possibly for personal reasons, the Lord Deputy is eager to help O’Kelly weaken the prestige of Clanrickarde. Both sides gather a large contingent of lesser magnates and their armies. The Lord Deputy’s forces include contingents from Leinster, Ulster, and Connacht, among which are the armies of Red Hugh O’Donnell and Art Óg Ó Néill, the McDermotts and Morrisroes of Connacht, and a contingent provided by O’Kelly. Facing them are the forces of Burke and his allies – the O’Briens of Thomond, the McNamaras, the O’Kennedys, and the O’Carrolls.

The armies meet on the slopes of Knockdoe, almost a mile to the north of Lackagh Parish Church, with heavily armed Gallowglass playing a large part on both sides. It is said that firearms are employed in the course of the battle, an early instance of their use in Ireland. The battle apparently lasts all day, with the heaviest fighting taking place along the River Clare in the townland of Ballybrone. The precise number of casualties is unknown, though contemporary observers are impressed by the extent of the slaughter. Around the summit of Knockdoe are many cairns where the dead are said to have been buried, with one in particular being pointed out as the resting place of the two sons of O’Brien of Thomond.

The Lord Deputy, though victorious, has many among the slain. His army remains the night on the field as a token of victory, then marches to Galway, looting Claregalway castle en route and taking as prisoners the two sons and daughter of Ulick Burke. They remain in Galway for a few days and then travel to Athenry.

The Clanrickarde Burkes fade into obscurity for some decades, with their rivals, the Mayo Burkes, gaining influence as a consequence.


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Gearóid Mór FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, Arrested

coat-of-arms-sir-gerard-fitzgeraldThe personal rule of Gearóid Mór FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, is brought to an end on February 27, 1495, when he is arrested in Dublin by the Lord deputy Sir Edward Poynings and sent to the Tower of London to await trial for treason.

FitzGerald is Ireland’s premier peer and serves as Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1477 to 1494 and again from 1496 to 1513. His power is so great that he is called “the uncrowned King of Ireland.”

Gerald FitzGerald is appointed Lord Deputy in 1477, but is replaced by Lord Grey of Codnor on the supposition that an Englishman can do a better job. The Lords of the Pale set up a breakaway Parliament in protest, and Edward IV is forced to re-install FitzGerald. He inherits the title of Earl of Kildare in 1478.

FitzGerald manages to keep his position after the York dynasty in England is toppled and Henry VII becomes king, but FitzGerald blatantly disobeys King Henry on several occasions. He supports the pretender to the throne of England and the Lordship of Ireland, Lambert Simnel. However, Henry needs FitzGerald to rule in Ireland but, at the same time, he cannot control him. Simnel’s attempt to seize the throne ends in disaster at the Battle of Stoke Field and many of his supporters are killed. Henry, now secure on his throne, can afford to be merciful and pardons both Simnel and Kildare. Kildare is shrewd enough not to commit himself to the cause of the later pretender, Perkin Warbeck, despite Henry’s caustic comment that the Irish nobility would crown an ape to secure power for themselves.

FitzGerald presides over a period of near independence from English rule between 1477 and 1494. This independence is brought to an end on February 27, 1495 when his enemies in Ireland seize power and Lord deputy Sir Edward Poynings has him sent to London as a traitor. With FitzGerald’s absence, the way is cleared to end the independence of the Irish Parliament. Poynings directs the Irish Parliament, which is sitting in the town of Drogheda, to pass legislation making it subordinate to the English Parliament in Westminster. This marks the end of medieval Ireland and the commencement of the period of Tudor rule.

FitzGerald suffers another blow when his wife Alison dies soon after his arrest. He is tried in 1496, and uses the trial to convince Henry VII that the ruling factions in Ireland are “false knaves.” Henry immediately appoints him as Lord Deputy of Ireland and allows him to marry Elizabeth St. John, a distant cousin of the King. FitzGerald returns to Ireland in triumph.

He rules Ireland with an iron fist. He suppresses a rebellion in the city of Cork in 1500 by hanging the city’s mayor. He raises up an army against rebels in Connacht in 1504, defeating them at the Battle of Knockdoe. In 1512, after entering O’Neill of Clandeboye’s territory, capturing him and taking the castle of Belfast, FitzGerald proceeds through to utterly ravage the Bissett family’s lordship of the coastal Glens of Antrim.

The following year, while on an expedition against the O’Carrolls, he is mortally wounded while watering his horse in Kilkea. He is conveyed back to Kildare where he dies on or around September 3, 1513.