Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Kildare

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Thomas FitzMaurice FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Kildare (c. 1421 – 25 March 1478), was an Irish peer and statesman who held the office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland.


Kildare was the son of John FitzGerald, de jure 6th Earl of Kildare, and Margaret de la Herne. John (nicknamed "Shaun Cam", i.e. John the hump-backed) should have succeeded to the titles and estates of his brother, Gerald FitzGerald, 5th Earl of Kildare, but he was unable to establish his rights in face of a rival claim by the 5th Earl's son-in-law, James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormonde, and he never obtained possession of his inheritance.[1]


Kildare was Lord Justice of Ireland in 1454, and again between 1461 and 1470. In about 1463 he was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland, a post he held until 1468. By a decree of Edward IV of England he held the title of Lord Chancellor for life and continued receiving the salary of the position and exercising some of its functions until his death in 1477.[2]

Thomas was still a young man when he succeeded his father, who died about 1434; it took some years before he defeated the rival claim to his inheritance by the 4th Earl of Ormonde. He was appointed Deputy to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Richard, Duke of York in 1455. Thomas succeeded in making an Irish Parliament a reality: he assembled parliament four times and got legislative independence for the parliament assembled at Drogheda in 1460. He was Justiciar of Ireland until 1462.[2]

Both Thomas and his cousin Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Desmond were reasonable and civilised men, who ruled Ireland patriotically. They were joint leaders of the patriot and home rule party. The Earl of Desmond attempted to found a university at Drogheda but failed. In 1468 boh Desmond and Kildare were attainted and their lands forfeited and Desmond was beheaded at Drogheda on 14 February 1468 at the age of 42. Kildare was more fortunate: he escaped to England. Edward IV discovered Ireland ungovernable without the support of the now deceased Desmond, and Kildare's attainder was reversed.[3] Thomas became Lord Deputy again under George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence from 1470 until his death in 1477.[2] He was deeply concerned for the defence of the Pale, the part of Ireland securely under English rule. He is thought to have been largely responsible for the foundation of the Brotherhood of Saint George, a military guild dedicated to the defence of the Pale, in 1474, and was its first captain.[4]


The Earls of Kildare, above all Thomas's eldest son Gerald, the "Great Earl", over the next 60 years exercised supreme power in Ireland; the attitude of the English Crown is expressed in the saying that "since all Ireland cannot control the Earl of Kildare, then Kildare must control all of Ireland." Only when Silken Thomas, the 10th Earl of Kildare, rebelled against Henry VIII did they fall from power; even then, they regained some of their influence under the later Tudors.

The Desmonds on the other hand became completely Gaelised and fought with great enmity against the English Crown, thus eventually bringing about their own destruction in the Desmond Rebellions of the early 1580s.


Kildare married firstly Dorothy O More the daughter of Owny O More Chief of Leix[5] with whom he got an annulment so that he could marry his kinswoman the Lady Joan, daughter of James FitzGerald, 6th Earl of Desmond.[6]

"Others alledge that Thomas the 7th Earl of Kildare before he came to the Earldom was first married to Dorothy, daughter of Owny or Anthony O'More, Lord of Leix, by whom he had one son called John, but after he attained the Earldom, he turned off and repudiated the said Dorothy and sent her home to her father, which was so highly resented by him that he resolved a severe revenge; and to that end having got together a strong party of his relatives and followers he burnt and destroyed the Earls houses and preyed on all his tenants in the county of Kildare, which although upon a private quarrel, the Earl declared traitors and as such prosecuted till they were all cut off and their estates forfeited. However they said John put aside from his right as eldest son, yet was ancestor to a great many worthy families of the name."[5]

His children included:

from the first marriage with Dorothy O More

  • John known also as Shane FitzGerald of Osberstown[5] who married Margaret Flatesbury[7] of Osberstown (the eldest daughter and co-heir of James Flatesbury of Osberstown, Co. Kildare and Elenor Wogan, the property of Osberstown, Co. Kildare came into the FitzGerald family through this marriage) of with whom he had 3 sons 1. Gerald macShawn FitzGerald of Osberstown ancestor of the FitzGerald's of Osbertstown, Co. Kildare, Cullentry Co. Meath and Killeanmore Kings Co etc. 2. Raymond/Redmond FitzGerald ancestor of the FitzGeralds of Rathangan and Timahoe, Ellistown, Nurney, Drinnanstown, Clonbulloge King Co. and Peircetown Co. WestMeath and 3. Richard FitzGerald of Brownestown ancestor of the of Brownestown alias Irishtown, Kildangan, Walterstown Co. Kildare [8]

and from the 2nd marriage with Lady Joan FitzGerald

Kildare died in March 1478.[6]


  1. Thomas FitzMaurice FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Kildare
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol.1 p.182
  3. Wagner, John A. Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses, ABC-CLIO, 2001, ISBN 9781851093588
  4. Otway-Ruthven, A.J. History of Medieval Ireland Barnes and Noble reissue 1993 pp.395–6
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Lord Walters papers, Portfolio 1, papers 18/1 and 19, mss department T.C.D, there is an extract from Roger O Farrell's mss in connection with FitzGerald pedigree, 1709"
  6. 6.0 6.1 Fitzgerald, Walter. "The Fitzgeralds of Lackagh", Journal of the Co. Kildare Archaeological Society and Surrounding Districts, Vol. 1, County Kildare Archaeological Society, Kildare, 1895
  7. Sir Arthur Vicars pedigree of the Flatesburys of Kildare pageg xlvi of the Journals of Kildare Archaeological Society 1903-5
  8. Lord Walter FitzGerald Papers, Mss Room TCD Portfolio 1 papers 9/2-3, 16/1-2, 18/1-4, Portfolio 2 papers 8/1-24
  9. Lady Eleanor FitzGerald at
Legal offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Worcester
Lord Chancellor of Ireland
c. 1463–1468
Succeeded by
Robert Allanstown
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
John FitzMaurice FitzGerald
(de jure)
Earl of Kildare
before 1436–1477
Succeeded by
Gerald FitzGerald