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Gerald Gearoid Mór Fitzgerald;

the 8th Earl of Kildare (d. c. 3 September 1513;

known variously as Garret the Great or the Great Earl

Gerald Gearoid Mór Fitzgerald, the 8th Earl of Kildare (d. c. 3 September 1513, known variously as Garret the Great or the Great Earl, was Ireland’s premier nobleman. He served as Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1477 to 1494, and from 1496 onwards. He is described as a man of fine stature, manly beauty and goodly presence of his race and a man of strict piety.

Family: Gearoid Mór (meaning Big Garret) was the son of Thomas Fitzgerald, 7th Earl of Kildare and Jane Fitzgerald, the daughter of James Fitzgerald, 6th Earl of Desmond. The Anglo-Norman Fitzgeralds had risen to become the premier Old English peers in Ireland. Gearoid Mór Fitzgerald married Alison FitzEustace daughter of Roland and Margaret d’Artois, with whom he had at least three children:

1.Gearoid Óg FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare; 1487-1534 of whom follows;

2.Margaret Fitzgerald; died 1542; she married Piers Butler, Earl of Ormonde;

3.Eleanor FitzGerald;


He later married Elizabeth St. John of County Kildare and had a further five children:

1. Sir James Fitzgerald of Leixlip

2. Oliver Fitzgerald

3. Richard Fitzgerald of Fassaroe

4. Sir John Fitzgerald

5. Walter Fitzgerald.

The five FitzGerald brothers were executed in 1537 along with their nephew "Silken Thomas" FitzGerald.

Politics: During the fifty years preceding the Reformation, the office of Lord Deputy of Ireland, was filled with a few broken intervals, by Gearoid Mór Fitzgerald and his son Gearoid Óg. Gearoid Mór was appointed Lord Deputy in 1477, but was replaced by Lord Grey on the supposition that an Englishman could do the job better. The lords of the Pale set up a breakaway parliament in protest, and Edward IV was forced to re-install Gearóid Mór. He inherited the title of Earl of Kildare in 1478.

Through alliances of blood-relationship, he obtained great influence among the great Irish houses, old and new. He became a close friend (and later son-in-law) of Roland FitzEustace, Lord Portlester who became Lord Chancellor of Ireland. They were the two most powerful men in Ireland and together they supported the Yorkist cause . As Lord Deputy, he convened the famous Parliament of Naas which refused to recognize the King’s representative, Lord Henry Grey. Fitzgerald managed to keep his position after the York dynasty in England was toppled at Bosworth in 1585 and Henry VII became king. Kildare and Portlester regarded Henry VII as an illegitimate Welsh adventurer. Fitzgerald blatantly disobeyed King Henry on several occasions; he supported the pretender to the throne of England and the Lordship of Ireland, Lambert Simnel, while defeating another pretender, Perkin Warbeck in battle in Galway. However, Henry needed Fitzgerald to rule in Ireland, and at the same time couldn't control him.

He presided over a period of near independence from English rule between 1477 and 1494. This independence ended when his enemies in Ireland seized power and had him sent to London as a traitor. He suffered a double blow: he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and his wife Alison FitzEustace died in 1495 from what was described as a "broken heart". She was buried at New Abbey near Kilcullen. He was tried in 1496, and used the trial to convince Henry VII that the ruling factions in Ireland were "false knaves". Henry immediately appointed him as Lord Deputy of Ireland, saying "All Ireland cannot govern this Earl; then let this Earl govern all Ireland." Gearóid returned to Ireland in triumph.

He ruled with an iron fist. He suppressed a rebellion in the city of Cork in 1500 by hanging the city's mayor. He raised an army against rebels in Connacht in 1504, defeating them at the Battle of Knockdoe. On an expedition against the O'Carrolls, he was mortally wounded while watering his horse in Kilkea. He was conveyed back to Kildare, where he died on or around 3 September 1513.

Citations: Charles Mosley, editor, Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke’s Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 2, page 2298. Hereinafter cited as Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition; Seumas McManus; The History of the Irish Race, The Devin-Adair Company, Old Greewich, CT (1978).


These pages © Ronald Eustice, 2009