(14th E. Desmond)

Acceded: 1536

Died: 27 Oct 1558, Askeaton, Limerick, Ireland

Buried: 1 Nov 1558, White Friars Abbey, Tralee

Father: John FITZGERALD (13° E. Desmond)

Mother: Maud (Mor) O´BRIEN

Married 1: Joan ROCHE (dau. of Maurice Roche, Lord Fermoy)


1. Thomas Ruadh FITZGERALD of Conna (Sir)

2. Joan FITZGERALD (d. 1596)

3. Eleanor FITZGERALD (d. 1569)

Married 2: Mór O'CAERBHAILL (d. 1548) (dau. of Sir Maolrony McShane O'Carroll, lord of Ely O'Carroll)


4. Gerald FITZGERALD (15° E. Desmond)

5. John FITZGERALD (Sir)

6. Margaret FITGERALD




Married 3: Catherine BUTLER (C. Desmond) BEF Feb 1549

Married 4: Evelyn Mór McCARTHY(dau. of Donald MacCarthy Mor)


10. Eleanor FITZGERALD

11. James FITZGERALD (Sir) (d. 1580)

James Fitzjohn Fitzgerald, fourteenth Earl of Desmond, second son of Sir John James Fitzmaurice Fitzerald, de facto thirteenth Earl of Desmond by his wife Mór O'Brien. Immediately on the death of his grandfather in Jun 1536 assumed the position and title of Earl of Desmond, and in order to support it united himself with the head of the discontented party in Ireland, O'Brien of Thomond. He is called by English writers the "Traitor Earl".

The English govenment, which had just suppressed the rebellion of Thomas Fitzgerald, tenth Earl of Kildare, could not brook such insolence, and accordingly on 25 Jul the Lord Deputy, Leonard Grey, marched against him, and having come tro the border of Cashel encamped in the field three days excpecting his coming, as he had promised the chief justice, with the intention of separating him from O'Brien, "so as we might have entangled but with one of them at once". Not keeping his appointment, the Deputy marched forward and took possession of his castle in Lough Gur, the doors and windows of which had been carried away and the roof burnt by the rebels themselves, which was then entrusted to Lord James Butler, who made it defensible.

But Fitzgerald had no intention of imitating his unfortunate kinsman, the Earl of Kildare, and, although he refused to place his person within the power of the Deputy, "he showed himself in gesture and communication very reasonable", offering to deliver up his two sons as hostages for his loyalty, and to submit his claims to the Earldom to the decision of Lord Grey. Though renewed in Dec nothing for the nonce came of the proposal. "And as far as ever I could perceive the stay that keepeth him from inclining to the King's grace's pleasure is the fear and doubt which he and all the Geraldines have in the Lord James Butler, both for the old malice that hath been betwixt their bloods, and principally for that he claimeth title by his wife to the Earldom of Desmond" (State Papers, Hen. VIII, ii. 404)., wrote Grey to Cromwell in Feb 1537. Grey argued in favour of the acknowledgment of his claims, and in Aug Anthony St. Leger, who was at the time serving on the commission 'for the order and establishment to be taken and made touching the whole state of Ireland', was advised by Cromwell "to handle the said James in a gentle sort". Accordingly on 15 Sep he was invited to submit his claims to the commissioners at Dublin; but suspecting their intention he declined to place himself in their power, though signing articles of submission and promising to deliver up his eldest son as hostage for his good faith. The negotiations continued to hang fire.

In Mar 1538 the commissioners wrote that "he hath not only delivered his son, according to his first promise, to the hands of Mr. William Wyse of Waterford to be delivered unto us, but also hath affirmed by his secretary and writing all that he afore promised". Nor was he without good reason for his cautious conduct. The Ormonde faction in the council, violently opposed to Grey and St. Leger, were assiduously striving to effect his ruin by entangling him in rebellious projects. In Jul 1539 John Allen related to Cromwell how the "pretended Earl of Desmond" had confederated with O'Donnell and O'Neil "to make insurrection against the King's majesty and his subjects, not only for the utter exile and destruction of them, but also for the bringing in, setting up, and restoring young Gerald (the sole surviving scion of the house of Kildare) to all the possessions and pre-eminences which his father had; and so finally among them to exclude, the King from all his regalities within this land".

In 1538 he had written to the Pope, declaring that an army of 30,000 Spaniards would ensure the conquest of Ireland, proposing that Ireland should be annexed to the Holy See, and offering to undertake the government as viceroy, paying a revenue to Paul of 100,000 ducats. The expedition would be costly, but the expenses would fall neither on the Pope nor on the Emperor. Desmond, with armed privateers, would seize and deliver into the hands of the Pope the persons of a sufficient number of the the heretical English, whose ransoms would defray the necessary outlay.

In Apr 1540 the council informed Henry VIII that:

"your grace's servant James Fitzmaurice, who claimed to be the Earl of Desmond, was cruelly slain the Friday before Palm Sunday, of unfortunate chance, by Maurice Fitzjohn, brother to James Fitzjohn, then usurper of the earldom of Desmond. After which murder done, the said James Fitzjohn immediately resorted to your town of Youghal, where he was well received and entertained, and ere he departed entered into all such piles and garrisons in the ocunty of Cork as your majesty's Deputy, with the assistance of your army and me, the Earl of Ormonde, obtained before Christmas last"

James Butler, ninth Earl of Ormonde was sent to parley with him, but he refused to trust him. On the arrival of St. Leger, as Deputy, however, he again renewed his offer of submission, and promised, upon pledges being given for his safety, to meet him at Cashel. This he did, and on bended knees renounced the supremacy of the Pope. "And then, considering the great variance between the Earl of Ormonde and him, concerning the title of the earldom of Desmond... I and my fellows thought it not good to leave that cancer remain, but so laboured the matter on both sides, that we have brought them to a final end of the said title" writes St. Leger. The Lord Deputy assured the King "that sith my repair into this your land I have not heard better counsel of no man for the reformation of the same than of the said Earl of Desmond, who undoubted is a very wise and discreet gentleman", for which reason, he said, he had sworn him of the council and given him "gown, jacket, doublet, hose, shirts, caps, and a riding coat of velvet, which he took very thankfully, and ware the same in Limerick and in all places where he went with me".

In Jul 1541 James was appointed chief executor of the "ordinances for the reformation of Ireland" in Munster, and in token of the renunciation of the privilege claimed by his ancestors of not being obliged to attend the great councils of the realm, he took his seat in a parliament held at Dublin.

In Jun 1542 he visited England, where, being admitted to the presence of the King, he was by him graciously received, his title acknowledged, and the King himself wrote to the Irish council "that the Earl of Desmond hath here submitted himself in so honest, lowly, and humble a sort towards us, as he will prove a man of great honour, truth, and good service". Nor did he, during the rest of his life, fail to justify this opinion.

On 9 Jul 1543 he obtained a grant of the crown lease of St. Mary's Abbey, Dublin "for his better supporting at his repair" to parliament.

By Edward VI he was created lord treasurer on the death of the Earl of Ormonde (patent 29 Mar 1547), and on 15 Oct, when thanking him for his services in repressing disorders in Munster, the King offered to make a companion of his son.

During the government of Sir Edward Bellingham he was suspected of treasonable designs, and having refused a peremptory order to appear in dublin, the Deputy swooped down upon him unexpectedly in the dead of winter, 1548, and carried him off prisoner. He was soon released and continued in office by Mary.

In the summer of 1558 he was attacked by a serious illness, and died at Askeaton on Thursday 27 Oct. He was buried in the abbey of the White Friars, Tralee. "The loss of this good man was woful to his country; for there was no need to watch cattle, or close doors from Dun-caoin, in Kerry, to the green bordered meeting of the three waters on the confines of the province of Eochaidh, the son of Lachta and Leinster" (Annals of the Four Masters).

He married four times: first, Joan Roche, daughter of Maurice, lord Fermoy, and his own grandniece, for which reason she was put away, and her son Thomas Roe (father of James Fitzthomas Fitzgerald, the Sugan Earl), disinherited; secondly, Mor, daughter of Sir Maolrony McShane O'Carroll, lord of Ely O'Carroll, by whom he had Gerald, his heir, also John and four daughters; thirdly, Catherine, second daughter of Piers Butler, Earl of Ormonde, and widow of Richard, lord Power--she died at Askeaton, 17 Mar 1553; and, fourthly, Ellen, daughter of Donald MacCormac MacCarthy Môr, by whom he had a son, Sir James Fitzgerald and a daughter Eleanor.

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