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
FitzEustace daughter of Roland and Margaret d’Artois,
with whom he had at least three children:
FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare; 1487-1534 of whom follows;
Fitzgerald; died 1542; she married Piers Butler, Earl of Ormonde;
married Elizabeth St. John of County Kildare and had a further five
1. Sir James
Fitzgerald of Leixlip
Fitzgerald of Fassaroe
4. Sir John
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
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).