Born: 1528, Maynooth, Kildare, Leinster, Ireland
Died: Mar 1589, Lincoln Chapel
Buried: St. George'S Chapel, Windsor, Berkshire, England
Father: Gerald 'Gearóig óg' FITZGERALD (9° E. Kildare)
Mother: Elizabeth GREY (C. Kildare)
Married 1: Anthony BROWNE (Sir Knight) AFT 1540
Married 2: Edward CLINTON FIENNES (1° E. Lincoln) 1 Oct 1552, Sempringham, Kesteven, Lincolnshire, England
Elizabeth "Geraldine" Fitzgerald, countess of Lincoln
Portrait by Steven van der Meulen, 1560
Elizabeth Fitzgerald was the daughter of Gerald Fitzgerald, 9th E. of Kildare and Elizabeth Grey, she was born in Maynooth, Kildare, Leinster, Ireland. After her father’s death while a prisoner in the Tower of London, Elizabeth was raised at the English court. She and a sister came to England with their mother in Oct 1533. In 1537, the same year her half brother "Silken Thomas" and her five FitzGerald uncles were executed at Tyburn for treason and rebellion, she was sent to Mary Tudor’s household at Hunsdon. Her younger brothers were raised alongside Prince Edward. Her eldest brother Gerald, the 11th Earl of Kildare, had gone on the run in Ireland. In Donegal, Gerald, along with other powerful Irish clans, who were related to the FitzGeralds by marriage, formed the Geraldine League. When that federation was defeated in Monaghan, he sought refuge on the Continent. He returned to England in the reign of Edward VI, where he was welcomed at Court and his confiscated lands returned to him.
Shortly after that, when she was ten or eleven, she was the subject of a poem by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Surrey’s biographer, Jessie Childs (Henry VIII’s Last Victim) suggests that his intent was to improve her chances of making a good marriage by praising not only her noble heritage but her beauty and virtues. In the poem she is called “the Lady Geraldine” and subsequent generations invented all sorts of romantic tales about her.
"From Tuscane came my lady's worthy race ;
Fair Florence was sometime her ancient seat.
The western isle whose pleasant shore doth face
Wild Camber's cliffs, did give her lively heat.
Foster'd she was with milk of Irish breast :
Her sire an Earl, her dame of Prince's blood.
From tender years, in Britain doth she rest,
With Kinges child ; where she tasteth costly food.
Hunsdon did first present her to mine eyen :
Bright is her hue, and Geraldine she hight.
Hampton me taught to wish her first for mine ;
And Windsor, alas ! doth chase me from her sight.
Her beauty of kind ; her virtues from above ;
Happy is he that may obtain her love !."
The truth was, she was an impoverished noblewoman dependent upon the Tudors. Other sources date the poem in Nov 1541 and say Elizabeth was a maid of honor to Catherine Howard at the time, but there is no evidence to support this. She may, however, have been at court while Catherine was Queen.
There is an apocryphal story that Surrey, at a tournament at Florence, defied all the world to show such beauty as hers, and that he visited the celebrated alchemist, Cornelius Agrippa, who revealed to him in a magic mirror the object of his affections. Scott, in his Lay of the Last Minstrel, recounts the tale in five stanzas, of which the following is one:
"Fair all the pageant—but how passing fair
The slender form, that lay on couch of Ind!
O'er her white bosom strayed her hazel hair,
Pale her dear cheek, as if for love she pined;
All in her night-robe loose, she lay reclined,
And, pensive, read from tablet eburnine
Some strain that seemed her inmost soul to find: —
That favoured strain was Surrey's raptured line,
That fair and lovely form, the Lady Geraldine."
In Dec 1542, at the age of sixteen, she became the second wife of Sir Anthony Browne, Henry VIII’s Master of Horse, following the death of his first wife Alice Gage. Browne was a wealthy and influential man. Later his daughter, Mabel, married Elizabeth’s brother, Gerald, 11th Earl of Kildare.
After Sir Anthony’s death, the widowed Lady Browne was part of the household at Chelsea Manor shared by Catherine Parr, the Queen Dowager, by then married to Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour, and Elizabeth Tudor. Later, when Princess Elizabeth was being questioned about her relationship with the Lord Admiral, her custodian, Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, remembered that Lady Browne had gotten along well with the Princess and sent for her to spy on the girl. Lady Browne was not successful as a spy, perhaps by intent, and later became a close friend of Elizabeth Tudor’s when she became Queen.
On Oct 1,1552, Lady Browne remarried, taking as her second husband Edward Clinton, Lord Clinton, who had succeeded Seymour as Lord Admiral. In 1553, both of them were involved in the plot to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne instead of Mary Tudor, but Elizabeth was able to regain Queen Mary’s trust. She may have been part of Elizabeth Tudor's household at Hatfield in 1557-8. She definitely provided a place, a few days before Mary’s death, for the Count of Feria to meet with the Princess.
Lady Clinton was at court as a lady in waiting from the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. In 1561, she was among those who tried to warn Lady Catherine Grey to confess her secret marriage to the Queen before she found out from someone else. Later that same year, Lady Clinton was in some sort of trouble with the Queen herself and accused of “frailty” and “forgetfulness of her duty”. It is not clear what occasioned such criticism, but since the charges were made by Archbishop Parker, who also declared she should be “chastised in Bridewell” for her offense, David Starkey concludes that Parker thought she was a strumpet.
She gave a miniature of herself to Elizabeth Brooke, Marchioness of Northampton, which was willed back to her on Lady Northampton's death in 1565.
Elizabeth "Geraldine" Fitzgerald, countess of Lincoln
by an unknown artist, c.1575
In 1569, records show that she exercised the Lord Admiral’s right to seize a ship that had been illegally taken by Martin Frobisher. Frobisher was arrested for piracy; Lady Clinton kept the ship and its cargo. In 1572, Clinton was created Earl of Lincoln, making Elizabeth a countess. She had two children by Browne, both of whom died young, and no children by Clinton. She is buried in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle with her second husband.
Biography: Oxford DNB entry under "Clinton, Elizabeth Fiennes de." Portrait: by Steven van der Meulen, 1560; a second portrait , is in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.
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