Eustace Families Association

John FitzEustace



The largest and best known is that in Kildare, Ireland of whom the first recorded is John FitzEustace. He crossed the Irish Sea in Henry II’s expedition of 1180 and has been connected with Eustace le Poer. It now seems likely that he was one of the family related to the de Lacis and went to Ireland originally with Hugh de Laci. Hugh de Laci was appointed justiciar jointly with Eustace le Poer and when the former was assassinated in 1186it would have been natural for the presumably young John FitzEustace to transfer to the service of his late master’s colleague.

There is little doubt that the FitzEustace descendants settled in County Kildare and made it their own. Castlemartin and Kilcullenbecame their primary seats. Both were held by Arnold FitzEustace le Poer in 1317 and in 1462 Sir Rowland FitzEustace was made deputy to the Duke of Clarence, Viceroy of Ireland. He was later created Lord Portlester. A nephew of the first Lord Portlester was made Lord Kilcullen, and later Viscount Baltinglass. In 1480Alison Eustace who had married the Earl of Kildare was buried at Kilcullen.

The third Viscount Baltinglass JamesEustace, was a leader in the Earl of Desmond's rebellion in favour of Mary, Queen of Scots, as a Catholic against Protestant Elizabeth I, Desmond was defeated but the Eustaces fought on in the hills for over a year and practically a whole generation was wiped out. The viscount and his two surviving brothers escaped abroad but died within a year or so. Their children must have been spared as the family has survived to the present day when they are probably numerically the strongest of any of the name. Their titles and land were forfeit under attainder, some land was restored but no titles. William Eustace of Naas was pardoned by Elizabeth's successor James I andlived in London as Viscount Baltinglass but was not entitled to it in law.

Rowland the son of William of Naas, married Elizabeth Bigland, daughter of Mary Strickland who was one of the four Marys attendant on Mary, Queen of Scots. A drinking cup given by that unfortunate queen to Mary has been handed down through that branch of the family.

Throughout the religious troubles that have marred the history of Ireland the Eustaces have suffered whichever faction gained power. Catholic, Protestant, Puritan, they all plundered one or other of the family. Sometimes there was a reversal of fortune and lands were recovered but more often not.

Perhaps the most tragic and barbaric story is that of Maurice Eustace, whose father Sir John of Castlemartin wanted him to be a soldier in the family tradition. The son, however, resolved to become a priest and was secretly ordained. The secret was revealed by a younger brother and a servant. Maurice was hanged at Dublin on his father's orders in 1581. He is recorded in the official list of martyrs.

The Rev. Charles Eustace petitioned in 1839 for the restoration of the title and apparently established proof of his descent. The attainder was not, nor is likely to be, reversed although there is some doubt on the legality of the attainder and it is almost, if not the only one of these attainders that has not been upset.

This family had an illustrious record in the Army during the nineteenth century producing two generals, Sir William Cornwallis Eustace d.1855 and Sir John Rowland Eustace d.1864. In this century there have been prominent members of the Indian civil adminstration but their most continuous record of public service has been that of sheriff of County Kildare; no less than twenty two have held the office. The town of BallymoreEustace, the 'Great Town of the Eustaces', on the Kildare-Wicklow border in Ireland, commemorates the memory of this once powerful and influential family.

Many of the Irish family now live in England. In fact, something like half of those bearing the name in England today appear to be of Irish connection.