Subscribe for Unlimited Access to Turtle’s History Quarter.

Includes content from Vanishing Ireland, Easter Dawn, Dublin Docklands, The Irish Pub, Maxol and many more, as well as Waterways Ireland, the Past Tracks project and hundreds of historical articles on Irish families, houses, companies and events.

Kilkea Castle (5) – The Geraldine Age, Part II (1537-1773) – Resurrection

In this fabulous, three-quarter-length portrait, the Wizard Earl wears etched and gilt Italian armour and holds a sword, with his helmet on a table beside him. His red armband possibly signifies that he fought for the Knights Hospitaller, thus underlining his status as a man of importance in spheres far beyond Ireland. The portrait may have been painted before his return to London in 1549, but is more likely from the 1560s. The artist is unknown but appears to have been Continental. It has been described as the ‘manner of’ the Flemish Renaissance painter Frans Pourbus the Elder (1545-1581), although Pourbus was a boy when Gerald FitzGerald left Italy. “Crum-a-buadh” (Crom-a-boo), the FitzGerald war cry, is written in Irish characters and was probably added later. The portrait hung in the drawing room at Carton before being transferred to Kilkea. Sold at Sotheby’s in 1984, its present owner believes it to be ‘the third oldest portrait in existence of a genuine Irish person, and it is, or was, older than any such portrait in the National Gallery of Ireland’. [1a] The picture is on long-term loan to the State Apartments at Dublin Castle.  (Photo: Myles Campbell)

The FitzGeralds rose from the ashes with the remarkable return of the Wizard Earl of Kildare in the 1550s. Despite a litany of premature deaths, his successors managed to ride out the turmoil of the 17th century intact, extending Kilkea Castle in County Kildare along the way. The castle also served as a Jesuit novitiate for 12 years before being extended in the 1660s. In the 18th century, the great-great-grandson of the Fairy Earl would become the first Duke of Leinster.


For the previous chapter, see here. 


Gerald FitzGerald (1525-1585) – The Wizard Earl of Kildare


The Fugitive


The execution of the six most prominent FitzGerald males in 1537 meant that the fate of the family now lay with a 12-year-old boy. Gerald FitzGerald was the son of the 9th Earl of Kildare and his second wife, Elizabeth Grey. With the beheading of his half-brother, Silken Thomas, he had become the de facto 11th Earl of Kildare. Suffering from severe smallpox, he was not someone to pin high hopes on, but he would prove infinitely stronger than anyone predicted.

When it appeared that Silken Thomas’s rebellion was falling apart, Gerald had been taken under the wing of his tutor, Thomas Leverous, who kept him well hidden from Henry VIII’s spies. An alliance, later known as the Geraldine League, took shape to protect the boy. It comprised of Gerald’s many kinsmen across Ireland as well as senior figures within the Catholic church. However, when Crown forces smashed the fledgling confederacy apart, Gerald’s aunt had him spirited out of hiding in Donegal and shipped to Brittany where he was granted protection by Francis I, King of France. By 1541, he was living with the Bishop of Liège in Brussels, under the protection of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor.


Rome, Sweet Rome


Pietro Carnesecchi was Gerald’s guide to Italy.

Leverous was rightly wary of the threat of kidnap that his young charge faced in Liège. In 1541, he accepted an offer to bring the boy to Rome. The invitation came from Cardinal Reginald Pole (1500-1558), a kinsman of the FitzGeralds and a leading English opponent of the Protestant Reformation. Upon his arrival in Rome, Gerald was given protection by Pope Paul III, who had just given his backing to the new-found Jesuit Order. [1] He subsequently spent time in Padua, Venice and Florence.

He became friendly with the humanist philosopher Pietro Carnesecchi (1508-1567), a favourite at the Medici court, who had been painted as a youth by Puligo (1492-1527). [2] Carnesecchi’s circle included Vittoria Colonna, marchioness of Pescara, and Michelangelo, who was also a good friend of Paul III. Were these the people with whom Gerald mingled in the 1540s? [3]

Gerald’s Italian education provided him with an excellent insight into the mushrooming ideas of the Renaissance. He also mastered Tuscan, which he spoke alongside English, French, Latin and the Gaelic he had learned while on the run as a boy. In Italy, he was known as the ‘Conte di Kildare’ but his reputed interest in the occult would later lead his contemporaries in Ireland to nickname him ‘The Wizard Earl’.

By 1545, the once sickly FitzGerald heir was an 18-year-old of sufficiently warrior-like stature to spend almost a year with the Knights Hospitallers, also known as the Knights of Malta, at their forts in Malta and Tripoli in modern Libya. Under the command of the famous Jean ‘Parisot’ de la Valette, the then governor of Tripoli, he acquitted himself well, participating in raids on various Ottoman Turk settlements along the North African coast.

I am unsure where he was when an Ottoman fleet invaded the Maltese island of Gozo in July 1551, enslaving almost all of its inhabitants, numbering perhaps 6,000 souls. The event was something of a preamble to the Great Siege of Malta in 1565.


Gherardini of Florence


The Mona Lisa depicts a Florentine noblewoman by name of Lisa Gherardini and was painted by Leonardo da Vinci shortly before the Wizard Earl arrived in Florence. The FitzGeralds claim descent from the Gherardini family.

Arms of the Gherardini, colour, from the 4th Duke of Leinster’s private collection.

Upon his return from Malta, Gerald was brought to Florence by Carnesecchi who introduced him to Cosimo I de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Florence. Gerald was appointed Master of the Horse (cavallerizzo maggiore) and placed in charge of the court stables, an impressive feat for which he received a yearly salary of 300 ducats. Many years later, Carnesecchi would be betrayed by Cosimo I de’ Medici and executed by the pope for his reformist beliefs.

This was not the FitzGeralds’ only Florentine connection. Indeed, the family have long claimed descent from an Etruscan or Roman dynasty by name of Gherardini that had been one of the principal ‘Seigniorial’ families of the Chianti region of central Tuscany in the early medieval period. Their decline coincided with the rise of the Florentine Republic. [4] In 1302, their principal fortresses at Montagliari and Val d’Elsa were burned down, their vineyards destroyed and the family cast into exile in Verona. They were joined by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri who would locate the Gherardinis in Paradise’s V Sphere in his celebrated poem, ‘Divine Comedy’.

Upon their return from exile, the Gherardinis ‘renounced the patrician rank’ and became Florentine citizens. They would reach high office in army, church and judiciary within the Florentine Republic, although various branches opted to relocate to France, Krakow, the Canary Islands and, it would seem, Ireland.

The Gherardini and Girolami towers in Florence.

The FitzGeralds are said to descend from Gherardino, a senior member of the family, whose sons Tommaso, Gherardo and Maurizio left Tuscany for France following the death of Matilda of Tuscany in 1115. The brothers joined the retinue of Louis VII (1120-1180), the young king of France, who married the wealthy Eleanor of Aquitaine. After that marriage was annulled, Eleanor married Henry II of England and the brothers apparently moved to England. From here, the story runs, they would go on to lead the Cambro-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. This story does not stack with the general narrative that the FitzGeralds descend from Walter FitzOther, allegedly a son of Otto Gherardini, who became Constable of Windsor Castle during the reign of William the Conqueror. Walter’s third son Gerald de Windsor (c. 1075-1135), also known as Gerald FitzWalter, is regarded as the progenitor of the FitzGerald family in Ireland.

However, where there’s smoke, there’s likely to be fire. The Italian connection should not be ruled out. [5] Claims of a familial link between the FitzGeralds and the Gherardinis run back to at least 1413 when a ‘bishop of Hibernia’ – probably Nicholas FitzMaurice, Bishop of Ardfert – visited Florence in the company of an Augustinian monk named Maurice. The monk met several members of the Gherardini family, headed up by Signor Antonio d’Ottaviano di Rossellino Gherardini.

According to Signor Gherardini’s account, Maurice stated that ‘his ancestors were of the same blood as that of the Gherardini of Florence’. He added that the FitzGeralds of Ireland descended from three brothers who had left Florence ‘on account of civil dissensions and served with the King of England at the time of the conquest of the Island of Ireland’. At the time of Maurice’s visit to Florence, there were living, said Maurice, ‘a descendant of Gherardo, called Gerald Earl of Kildare; a descendant of Tommasso called Thomas Earl of Desmond, and five Barons descended from Maurizio’. [6]

The Wizard Earl’s grandfather would further stoke the fire nearly a century later. In 1507, the 8th Earl of Kildare (see Chapter 4) wrote from Castledermot ‘to all the family of the Gherardini, noble in fame and virtue, dwelling in Florence, our beloved brethren in Florence’. [7] His letter reiterated the shared ‘blood’ of the two families, and he sought further information on mutual ancestors. The Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto referenced both Geraldine earls – Kildare and Desmond – in his epic poem, ‘Orlando furioso’, which first appeared in 1516. [8] Ugolino Verini (1438-1516), who was tutor to Giovanni de’ Medici (later Pope Leo X), also acknowledged the link in verse: [9]

Known as ‘The Fair Geraldine’, Elizabeth FitzGerald was a younger sister of the Wizard Earl of Kildare. Raised as a companion of the future Queen Elizabeth, she married twice and became the Countess of Lincoln. She was also stepmother to the Wizard Earl’s wife Mabel, who lived at Kilkea Castle.

“The House of the Gherardini is illustrious, formerly
It inhabited many Castles in the fruitful hills of Elsa;
And renowned in peace, but still more excellent in arms
It flourished; and Ireland still venerates its name.”

 All this makes it worth reconsidering the Earl of Kildare’s rent table, which, dated 1533, is also said to have been Italian in origin. The connections do not stop then. In 1550, a delegation of Florentine merchants is said to have received a gift from the Earl of Kildare of ‘several sorts of dogs’, which they brought back to Italy. [10]

An apocryphal story claims that a tournament in Florence was the setting when Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, first set eyes upon Lady Elizabeth FitzGerald, a younger sister of Gerald, the future Wizard Earl of Kildare. [11] Lord Surrey, a Renaissance poet, would immortalise her as ‘the Fair Geraldine’ in a sonnet that began:

‘From Tuscane came my lady’s worthy race,
Fair Florence was sometime her ancient seat.’

In December 1542, Lady Elizabeth married Sir Anthony Browne, Henry VIII’s Master of the Horse, further binding the FitzGeralds into this close-knit equestrian-minded community. Sir Anthony’s daughter Mabel would become wife to Gerald.

The most famous member of the Tuscan dynasty was Lisa del Gherardini, now better known as Mona Lisa, whose portrait was painted by Leonardo da Vinci. Married to a wealthy silk merchant, she was the daughter of Antonmaria di Noldo Gherardini, a modest farmer, who lived between a country house at Poggia and a townhouse in Florence. [12] Mona Lisa died in 1542 and it is tantalising to think that the Wizard Earl came so close to meeting her when he arrived in Florence three years later.


In From the Cold


Sir Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, father-in-law of the Wizard Earl. Based on a work by an unknown artist, this copy by George Perfect Harding was painted in 1848 and formerly hung at Carton.

In 1547, Gerald received news from his mother in London: Henry VIII was dead, and his young son Edward VI was on the throne. He returned to England and presented himself to the boy king. It took time but, on 25 April 1552, he was knighted and restored to his ownership of Kilkea and his other castles, manors and lands. He was not restored to his earldom, yet. [13]

At about this time, he attended a masquerade ball in London where he met his future wife, Mabel Browne, the well-educated, superbly connected teenage daughter of the late Sir Anthony Browne and stepdaughter of his sister, Lady Elizabeth. [14] Gerald and Mabel would have three sons, Gerald, Henry and William, and two daughters, named Mary and Elizabeth after the Tudor princesses.

When Queen Mary came to the throne in July 1553, it bade well for Gerald. Not only was she, like him, a Catholic but his mother and sisters had been her ladies-in-waiting when she was a princess in the 1530s. Sir Anthony, his late father-in-law, once went on a Valentine’s Day date with the queen while Mabel, his wife, was now invited to be a lady-in-waiting at her coronation. Moreover, Cardinal Pole, his cousin and former mentor, became the queen’s Archbishop of Canterbury.

Mabel’s brother Anthony Brown was one of Mary’s closest confidantes and, all too soon, an executor of her will. [15] When the queen announced her plan to marry Philip II of Spain in 1554, Anthony was appointed the king’s Master of the Horse. Philip would replace him with a Spaniard before the year was out, for which Anthony was perhaps mollified by his elevation to the peerage as Viscount Montagu.

Queen Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII, from a portrait I saw at Hever Castle.

Gerald earned Mary’s full support in 1554 when he helped suppress a rebellion in England by a courtier named Sir Thomas Wyatt who objected to the queen’s marriage plans. Mary rewarded Gerald by effectively overturning the attainder passed against his family and restoring him to the earldom of Kildare, as well as the barony of Offaly. [16] The long period of disgrace was over.

When the 11th Earl of Kildare returned to Ireland in 1556, he was ‘received with great congratulations and rejoicings of the people’. [17] For beleaguered Catholics in post-Reformation Ireland, it must have seemed like God had finally answered their prayers. Almost 20 years after the obliteration of the House of FitzGerald, this fine young man had surely returned to champion their cause. He was also fabulously well connected to the Catholic elite in London and Rome.

But then, just like that, the world shifted course again. In late 1558, the astonishing news broke that, in the midst of a terrible influenza epidemic across London, both Queen Mary and Cardinal Pole had died on the same day, 17 November 1558.

When Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne and set herself on the Protestant path, Gerald sagely conformed to secure his titles and estates. His wife, a devout Roman Catholic, remained true to her faith, despite the fact she was one of the queen’s oldest friends. In any event, with the Protestants back in charge of both London and Dublin, Gerald would be on the back foot again for the remainder of his life.



A Reclusive Earl


The White Tower at Kilkea Castle, the upper storey of which was where the Wizard Earl had his workshop. Photo: Elaine Barker.

Life under Queen Elizabeth started quite promisingly for Gerald FitzGerald, as he had the support of Sir Henry Sidney, the queen’s powerful Lord Deputy. He spent much of the 1560s campaigning on the Crown’s behalf and maintaining order within the Pale. However, his influence at court was tempered by the queen’s admiration for his traditional enemy, Black Tom Butler, Earl of Ormond. After all, the queen was herself part Butler.

Moreover, there was considerable doubt in both Dublin and London as to Gerald’s loyalty to the Crown, not least when he hosted a visit to Kilkea Castle by Shane O’Neill, the rebellious chief of the O’Neills, shortly before the latter’s murder in 1567. Two years later, he seemingly gave his support to James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, an alluring swordsman, who led a rebellion against the Tudor plantations in Munster. In 1571, things began to slide when Sidney resigned and passed the reins of government to Sir William Fitzwilliam, a Butler ally.

Gerald remained governor of the Pale’s south-western border. Perhaps he dreamed of his younger days in the Mediterranean. In the autumn of 1565, he would have learned how the Knights Hospitaller, led by his old commander, De La Valette – now the order’s Grand Master – had successfully repulsed the mighty Ottoman Empire’s attempt to conquer Malta, after one of the most astonishing sieges in history.

In Ireland, he was disillusioned by the faction fighting that constantly tore the country asunder. He was also dismayed by the Crown’s abolition of coyne and livery, an ancient privilege by which aristocrats such as Gerald maintained a private army, with retainers, a large stud of horses and several packs of hounds. Traditionally such a right allowed him to billet his army upon local farmers and landowners, at their expense, but henceforth he would have to cover the costs for such accommodation.

Vowing ‘to make my own way’, he became increasingly introverted as the 1570s got underway. As part of this new departure, he abandoned the principal residence of Maynooth to alternate between Kilkea and Rathangan. [18] Located in the extreme south of County Kildare, Kilkea’s added charm was that it was his furthest Pale possession from Dublin Castle. In about 1573, he embarked on considerable works at the castle. The Great Hall was extended, with a new fireplace installed. The White Tower was raised by a floor to incorporate a chamber-suite that is now variously known as the Wizard Earl’s Workshop or the Haunted Room. This is where Gerald – an amateur alchemist – is said to have practiced black magic and dark arts, although it’s more likely he was simply developing his knowledge of the natural sciences that he had studied in Italy.[19]

The rumours of Gerald’s alchemy may be connected to the historian Richard Stanihurst (1547-1618), a kinsman of the Barnewall family, whom he and Mabel had employed to tutor their young sons. Stanihurst had already published what was the first major exposition of Aristotle’s logical system ever printed in England. [20] He also contributed a good deal to the Irish section of Holinshed’s Chronicles, a comprehensive history that gave an especially good account of the FitzGerald family. Stanihurst was known to conduct alchemical experiments during the 1570s and would go on to become one of the best alchemists of his age, producing chemical medicines while in exile in the Spanish Netherlands in later life.

As well as his legitimate children, Gerald fathered numerous natural ones by other women, both Gaelic and English. His promiscuity earned him disapproval from his wife’s more pious friends and colleagues leading his biographer, Vincent Carey, to propose that such behaviour was, quite literally, beyond the Pale.


The Great Fireplace


A drawing of the FitzGerald symbol from Gerald’s 1573 chimney piece.

When restored to his earldom in 1554, Gerald was also permitted to use the motto ‘Crom-a-boo’, the feudal war-cry that his grandfather had been banned from using by an act of parliament 60 years earlier following his support of Perkin Warbeck’s failed coup. [21]

In 1573, he undertook extensive renovations at Kilkea Castle. He revamped the Great Hall wherein he placed a large, imposing chimney piece, made of limestone, parts of which survives. Its entablature was inscribed with the FitzGerald and Browne family crests, as well as the FitzGerald monkey beneath the words ‘Sidiv plet Cromabo 1573’ (i.e. ‘If you please, Crom-a-boo.’)

Most of the fireplace went missing during the various sales since 1949 but some of the stones may be in the graveyard in Kilkea. [22]


A Trial of Treason


“I long for nothing so much in this world as to enjoy your sight and company.”
Mabel to Gerald, 1576.


While Kilkea’s distance from the heart of the Pale gave Gerald a degree of freedom from the government, it was also his most remote and sometimes his most precarious outpost. London still expected Gerald to do its bidding in terms of keeping control of the Irish clans that were prone to rise up. In 1572, for instance, he actually united with Black Tom Ormond to quell an uprising by the O’Mores and the O’Connors. That war concluded when he invited Rory Óg O’More to Kilkea Castle for a conference. Talks lasted through the night, during which Rory Óg voiced his strong objections to the brutality of the new ‘planter’ families in Queen’s County (Laois), as well as the government in Dublin. Nonetheless, the O’More chief accepted that the plantations were here to stay and expressed his desire to be part of the new order.  [23]

Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria, was one of Mabel FitzGerald’s closest friends. They were both ladies-in-waiting to Queen Mary, while Jane would go on to champion the cause of exiled English Catholics in Europe.

Things had become very dicey by May 1574 when Gerald sent an envoy to London to advise Lord Burghley, the queen’s chief advisor, that there were a thousand Irishmen ready bracing for war along the frontiers by Kilkea. [24] “The Earl has no force to withstand such a number except his household servants,” warned his envoy. Many of his tenants had already been ‘murdered and spoiled’ by the O’Connors, the O’Mores and their allies. In the old days, the earl would simply have sent his own private army into battle but that practice had been banned by Tudor lawyers.

Thus, as Gerald’s envoy complained, the earl was at the mercy of the Lord Deputy, who, being his old enemy, Sir William Fitzwilliam, refused to send any soldiers south to help. As such, Gerald’s only option was to ‘dwell upon the enemy’s borders at his houses at Rathangan and Kilkay [sic] for the defence of his tenants, who otherwise would have been spoilt by the enemy’.  [25]

In May 1575, Lord Deputy Fitzwilliam pounced and arrested Gerald ‘on suspicion of being implicated in treasonable acts’.[26]  He was lodged in the Tower of London, where his father had died 40 years earlier. At his ensuing trial, John Walsh, one of his chamber servants, told how Meyler Hussey, the earl’s steward, had met with two O’Kelly rebels for a ‘conference in a little park, or close, at Kilkea’ the previous year. Hussey asked Walsh ‘to fetch them into the Castle and to make them supp’, which they ate in the cellar. Walsh said that Hussey then brought the O’Kellys to see the earl, ‘with whom they had a long conference’. Walsh also claimed he had been ordered to bring meat from the earl’s table directly to Hussey’s chamber at Kilkea, where the steward was harbouring a fugitive named Edmund Boy Sayes who had stolen 24 ponies from Garret Sutton. [27]

Another charge against the earl was that James Hickey, his Irish-speaking harbinger *, had orchestrated various cattle raids. Christopher Kelly, the earl’s butcher, claimed that when Thomas Enos [Ennis], the earl’s falconer, was deemed a rebel, Hickey ‘slew’ him and then, reminiscent of Mexico in more recent times, brought his head to the earl, ‘who was neither glad nor sorry’. [28] The falconer was not Hickey’s only victim. In March 1575, Hickey and a man named Richard Barry ambushed and killed a man named Shane Keating within two miles of Kilkea, allegedly ‘by command of the Earl’. The following day, the duo went to ‘Castledermot wood’ and killed Meyler Keating, thought to have been Shane’s brother. Their heads were also presented to the earl. [29] One wonders if and how the two dead men were related to Richard Keating, a gentleman who was granted the old St John’s priory-hospital in Castledermot on 18 June 1576, along with all its lands and possessions, including three acres in Kilkea.

[* Harbinger – the man entrusted with announcing his lord’s approach and securing ‘harbourage’ or lodging and entertainment for him. [John, please add as footnote at bottom of page.]

The only contemporary depiction of Ruairí Óge Ó Mórdha comes from John Derricke’s “Image of Irelande” – 1581 (3/4 years after his death) – “Ruairí Óge in the Company of Wolves”.

Perhaps the most serious charge laid against Gerald was that he had hosted meetings at Kilkea Castle between 1572 and 1575 with Aodh O’Byrne, lord of Glenmalure, and Rory Óg O’More, the two most wanted men in Ireland at this time. Gerald denied it all, but eyebrows were raised when Richard Stanihurst, his son’s tutor, declared that rebels such as Kedagh O’Connor and Lord Louth had been frequent visitors to Kilkea. One would have thought Gerald’s fate sealed when it emerged that Kilkea had also welcomed the Catholic mercenary Thomas Stucley. Reputed to be an illegitimate son of Henry VIII, Stucley was known in Spain as the Duke of Ireland. [30] He had come to Ireland from his home at Santander and seems to have made a beeline for Kilkea on the basis that Countess Mabel was a sister of his close friend, Charles Browne.

At the time of his visit, Stucley was involved in an extraordinary Vatican-backed plan to install Don Juan of Austria, an illegitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor, as king of Ireland. The plan was subsequently aborted. Nonetheless, Gerald equipped Stucley and another wanted man, Phelim O’Connor, with two fine saddle-horses before they caught a boat from Wexford to Rome, the heart of Catholic Europe. When the Protestant elite learned of Stucley’s visit to Kilkea, they understandably wondered whether the ‘Duke of Ireland’ was carrying treasonable correspondence from Gerald to allies in Rome.

As for Mabel, she is said to have harboured the Jesuit missionary Robert Rochfort at Kilkea during this time. She certainly had Catholic priests in her household, while Stanihurst, her son’s tutor, was a protégé of Edmund Campion, the Jesuit scholar who was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in 1581. She was also close friends with Jane Dormer who, as Duchess of Feria, became one of the most prominent English Catholic exiles in Spain.

The Earl and Countess of Kildare were clearly up to something but Gerald’s cross-examiners in London could find no clear evidence of treason. Countess Mabel had also put her extensive network of contacts to good use to regain the queen’s favour and, in January 1576, she and Gerald had been permitted ‘to lye together’, while he remained under house arrest. Gerald was exonerated a few weeks later but ordered to remain in London. Mabel returned to Kildare where, over the next eight months, she proved very adept at holding the fort and supervising the family estates, just as she did whenever her husband was on campaign. She specifically refused to rejoin her husband in London because, if she did, ‘all your doings here wold ron to wrack’. [31]  He was finally allowed back to Ireland in May 1577, by which time Rory Óg had launched a fresh wave of attacks on the Pale.

It is not known where Gerald was on New Year’s Eve 1578 when Lord Deputy Sidney’s men hosted a peace conference in the old ringfort at Mullaghmast, a few miles north of Kilkea Castle. The event was attended by prominent representatives from most of the area’s leading families, including the Seven Septs of Leix (O’Moore, O’Lalor, O’Kelly, O’Doran, O’Dowling, McEvoy and Devoy), as well as the O’Dunne, O’Molloy, O’Connor and O’More clans. Rory Óg did not appear, which was as well for him because the conference transpired to be a hideous ploy by the Crown forces. All of the Irishmen were massacred, with the exception of Harry Lalor of Dysart, who arrived late and managed to fight his way to safety. Tradition states the dead were buried within the fort. Rumours that they were pitched into a well appear unfounded as there is no record of a well on the site.

Rory Óg was himself killed six months later.

Sidney stepped down as Lord Deputy in May 1578 and was replaced by Sir William Drury. Gerald seems to have served Drury loyally, helping to suppress the rebellion of James FitzMaurice, an ally of Stucly. One imagines he was present in Castledermot on 30 September 1578 when Drury and Sir Edward Fyton, the Treasurer, accepted the submission of Hugh MacShawn O’Byrne (father of Fiach mac Hugh O’Byrne) and Teig MacGilla Phadraigh O’Conor.


A War Beyond the Pale


The massacre at Mullaghmast was symbolic of the increasing brutality being perpetrated by both sides as the struggle for control of Ireland intensified. In 1579, Ireland erupted in fresh war when the Earl of Desmond, a kinsman of Gerald, launched a major rebellion against the Crown in Munster. The following year, Desmond received the backing of the clans of Leinster as well as a group of well-to-do Catholics from within the Pale. The leader of the latter group was James FitzEustace, 3rd Viscount Baltinglass, a close associate of Gerald, whose grandfather had briefly served as constable of Kilkea Castle. Nicholas Eustace, private chaplain to Countess Mabel, was a cousin of the viscount.

Many eyes were on Kilkea as the rebellion got underway. Gerald had 100 horsemen on standby at the castle, ostensibly to enable him to secure ‘custody of the north borders of the English Pale’, but would he side with Baltinglass and Desmond?  [32] When pressed to confront the latter’s forces, he replied: “I should heap to myself universally the hatred and ill will of my countrymen, and pull down upon my house and posterity for ever the blame”. And yet, he also refused offers of command from the Catholic crusaders, offers that frequently highlighted his wife’s devotion to the old faith.

1580 was to be another annus horribilis for the FitzGeralds. June brought the sudden and unexpected death of Gerald and Mabel’s firstborn son, Gerald, Lord Offaly, aged 21. He left a young widow, Frances (née Knollys), a daughter of the queen’s treasurer, and a daughter, Lettice. Two months later, the earl’s prevarications on the sidelines and his countess’s covert support of the rebels proved too much for the government. Gerald was arrested and sent back to the Tower of London where he awaited the decision of the queen’s council as to whether or not he had communicated with the rebel James FitzMaurice, as well as the kings of Spain and France.

He was finally acquitted but ordered to remain within 20 miles of London. In 1583, he learned that Desmond had been betrayed and murdered in Tralee, and the rebellion was over. The Tudor Crown would claim half a million acres in Munster as the spoils of victory.

Gerald was permitted to return to Ireland in 1584 and he attended a rare meeting of the Irish Parliament in Dublin in April 1585. He died in London seven months later and was buried at St Bridget’s Cathedral, Kildare. His memory was immortalised in the 30-verse ‘Ballad of the Wizard Earl’, penned by Thomas Greene of Millbrook. [33]

Countess Mabel may well have remained in Kilkea for the next quarter of a century. Accused of further skulduggery during the Nine Years’ War, she managed to survive and continued to reside in Ireland until her death in August 1610. She was buried alongside her husband. [34]


The Ghost of the Wizard Earl


A photograph of the main entrance to Kilkea Castle from 1894. It comprises a high outer arch with an inner pointed arched doorway. The grooves from where the iron portcullis once hung are visible in the outer arch, as are the two square holes into which oakwood beams were drawn as extra security. [Can you still see the square holes?] The portcullis was operated by pulleys from a small chamber above the door. It was sold for scrap in the 1840s. [36]

The 4th Duke of Leinster’s fantastical account of the Wizard Earl’s death appeared in his unpublished 1865 work, ‘Castle of Kilkea’:

“The Countess being very desirous to know some important secret, the Earl, wearied at last by her importunity, agreed to tell it to her on condition that she should undergo three trials; but warned her that if she showed any sign of fear, it would be fatal to him.

They then went into the great room of Kilkea Castle. In a short time, an enormous serpent glided in, and entwined itself round the lady until its jaws were close to her face. She shewed no sign of fear, and the serpent left her.

At a signal from the Earl, the river Greese rose higher and higher, until it flowed in a torrent through the room; but the lady was not alarmed, and it soon subsided.

A knock was then heard at the door, and a gentleman to whom the Countess had formerly been attached entered the room. But she, knowing that he had been dead many years, could restrain herself no longer. She shrieked, when the stranger immediately disappeared, taking the Earl with him and, ever since, the Earl has been compelled, once in seven years, to ride on a white charger shod with silver, from that room to the Rath of Mallaghmast [sic] and will continue to do so, until the horse’s shoes are worn off.” [35]

There are multiple variations of the story. By one account, the shapeshifting earl had transformed himself into a blackbird when a black cat appeared behind him, and his devoutly Catholic wife screamed so loudly that he vanished for seven years. In another version, he rides out on the night of the seventh day of the seventh month every seven years. A ballad has him riding across the Curragh, rather than around Mullaghmast, with a cup in his hand – but should he appear without the cup, ‘his race will become extinct’. Yet another offers the Arthurian-like premise that when his horse’s shoes are finally gone, the Wizard Earl will ‘return to destroy the enemies of Ireland’.

‘And when he comes, oh, then let all
True men and women pray,
That his good wife may meet him at
The castle of Kilkea.’
From ‘The Ballad of The Wizard Earl’.


Henry of the Battle-Axes (1562-1597), 12th Earl of Kildare


The Wizard Earl’s second son Henry na Tuagh (i.e. Henry of the Battle-Axes) succeeded as 12th Earl in 1585, just three years before the Spanish launched its calamitous Armada. Among those who perished when the Armada ships sank was Robert Rochfort, the Jesuit who Henry’s mother Mabel had apparently protected at Kilkea in the 1570s.

Henry served with the Crown during the 1590s, fighting the Ulster Lords O’Donnell and O’Neill who led a war against the Tudors that very nearly overturned the entire plantation project. Henry was fatally wounded in action and died in Drogheda in 1597. He was buried alongside his parents at St Bridget’s Cathedral, Kildare.

He married Frances Howard (here), second daughter of the 1st Earl of Nottingham, who married Henry FitzGerald, 12th Earl of Kildare. Their daughter Bridget married Rory O’Donnell, the last King of Tyrconnell and 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, who was one of the principals in the Flight of the Earls in 1607.


William FitzGerald (c. 1563-1599), 13th Earl of Kildare


In the absence of any sons, Henry was succeeded by his youngest brother William, a friend of the dashing Earl of Essex. The 13th Earl was also unlucky. In April 1599, he was one of 19 prominent Palesmen who drowned while crossing the Irish Sea to help Lord Essex in his war against the O’Neills. His body was never recovered. William was the last of the Wizard Earl’s patrilineal, or male line, descendants.

And so, just as the House of Stuart was about to inherit the throne of England, as well as Scotland, the earldom passed to another Gerald FitzGerald – a son of the Wizard Earl’s younger brother Edward – who became the 14th Earl.


Gerald FitzGerald (d. 1612), 14th Earl of Kildare and the Digby Challenge


Lettice, Lady Digby, was the Wizard Earl’s granddaughter.

In April 1598, Gerald FitzGerald, a nephew of the Wizard Earl, succeeded as 14th Earl of Kildare. However, with four different earls in little more than a decade, his estate was much reduced. The Wizard Earl had settled the manors of Maynooth and Graney on his widow, Countess Mabel, while the widow of his firstborn son Gerald, Lord Offaly, was left Athy and Woodstock in Kildare, as well as Portlester in County Meath. The manors of Rathangan, Kildare and Castledermot were likewise settled on Countess Frances, the widow of the 12th earl, along with lands in the present-day counties of Westmeath, Offaly and Laois.

As such, the 14th Earl’s property was limited to Kilkea and a tower-house at Geashill, County Offaly, as well as the Down and Limerick estates. [37] He faced a stiff, costly and very public legal challenge from his cousin, Lettice, Lady Digby, only daughter of Lord Offaly, who claimed she had been unfairly shunted from her inheritance. [38] The family feud intensified in 1609 when the Lord Chancellor of Ireland dispatched a messenger to Kilkea Castle with a letter urging the 14th Earl to restrain his ‘servants’ from committing acts of ‘violence’ at nearby Woodstock on Walter Weldon, a Digby tenant, and Walter’s wife. The messenger was himself subject to abuse, not least by Sir Christopher St Lawrence, Baron of Howth, a friend of the earl, who ‘rode violently up, seized and made away with the letter written in the King’s name’. The messenger was advised to leave Kilkea, ‘lest worse should befall him’. [39]

To help cover his legal costs, the 14th Earl leased the 403-acre townland of Carton, near Maynooth, to the Talbot family, from whom it would later pass to the Ingoldsbys before being repurchased by the FitzGeralds in 1739.

However, a more lucrative move was the earl’s decision to marry his wealthy first cousin, Elizabeth Nugent, a Catholic. Her father was Christopher Nugent, Baron Delvin, a man of letters who died in Dublin Castle in 1602, on a charge of treason. Countess Elizabeth would have known Kilkea since her earliest childhood because her mother, Lady Mary Nugent, was a daughter of the Wizard Earl.

The death of Mabel, Dowager Countess of Kildare, in August 1610 brought an end to some of the legal trauma faced by her nephew, the 14th Earl. Two years later, the earl went to Dublin to see Baron Chichester, the king’s Lord Deputy. Despite being a Protestant, he ‘spoke boldly and protested warmly’ in favour of Ireland’s Catholics. He denounced ‘the calamities of the people, the extortions of the royal officers, and the murders, rapine and robberies carried on under the name of justice’. Chichester ‘commended his zeal and piety’ and invited him to dinner. Alas, the earl had ‘only drunk the first cup of wine when he felt that he was poisoned … Furious he left the hall in tumult, and hastening to his house at Maynooth called a Catholic priest, confessed his sins with tears, took the holy eucharist and a little before day expired.’ [40]

His only son Gerald, a seven-week-old baby, succeeded as the 15th Earl of Kildare.


Gerald FitzGerald (1612-1620), 15th Earl of Kildare


Gerald, the 15th Earl, was a six-year-old boy when he was taken from his mother in 1618 and made a ward of the king’s favourite, Esme Stewart, Duke of Lenox, chiefly ‘that he might be reared as a Protestant’. However, just two years later, the boy took ill and died in Maynooth. It may have been some consolation to his pious mother that the child had, by personal request, received the ministrations of a Catholic priest on his deathbed. He was buried at St Bridget’s Cathedral, Kildare, as was his father before him.

With the untimely death of her only son, Countess Elizabeth’s status became somewhat endangered but, aided by friends in high places, she successfully petitioned King James who assigned her a third of the Kildare estate in 1621 during the minority of her nephew, the 16th Earl. This included the manors of Kilkea and Graney, with 80 acres known as ‘Halleheise, Donfinnine and Whitston’ as well as ‘a wide oval entrenchment, enclosing a small artificial hillock, said to be chambered’. [41] [Any idea what any of these places are?] Kilkea Castle was to become her principal stronghold.


George FitzGerald (1612-1660) – The Fairy Earl


The Fairy Earl, painted by an unknown artist in about 1632, two years after his marriage to Lady Joan Boyle. (Artist unknown)

Following the death of the 15th Earl in 1620, the earldom passed to his first cousin, George FitzGerald, another young boy. A nephew of the 14th Earl, George would become known as the Fairy Earl on account of his diminutive stature. [42]

Like the 15th Earl, George was initially raised as a Protestant in the Duke of Lenox’s household. Upon the duke’s death in 1624, he was transferred to the household of Richard Boyle, the first Earl of Cork, who swiftly had the young earl married to his own daughter, Lady Joan. They would have three sons and six daughters.

Richard Boyle was an astonishing figure. By his own account, the English entrepreneur arrived in Ireland at the age of 16 with sixpence in his pocket, a diamond ring and the clothes he stood in. An obsessively organized individual, he studied law and began to acquire land titles throughout Munster from disgruntled soldiers. His breakthrough came in 1601 when the bankrupt Sir Walter Raleigh sold Boyle his entire 42,000 acre Irish estate for the paltry sum of £1,500. It was undoubtedly the sale of the century. Boyle put immense effort into developing the agricultural, forestry and mining potential of his new lands. By 1620, he was one of the wealthiest men in the British Isles. Dazzled by his fortune, King James fast-tracked the commoner to the Earldom of Cork.  Boyle’s overriding desire was to be remembered as the founding father of a mighty dynasty. As such, he ensured each of his fifteen children was carefully groomed and educated in a manner befitting an aristocrat. The training paid off handsomely. Five of his eight daughters married earls, while five of his sons became earls or viscounts in their own right. (A sixth son was Robert Boyle, the celebrated scientist and formulator of Boyle’s Law). By the 1700s, the Great Earl of Cork’s progeny were installed in the finest stately homes of the British Isles.

George was Lord Cork’s ward until he came of age in 1633 and moved to the family seat at Maynooth, which his father-in-law had renovated into a Renaissance-style palace at considerable expense. It seems likely Lord Cork also helped boost George’s landholdings which, amounted to almost 40,000 acres by 1641.

Despite Lord Cork’s best wishes, the Fairy Earl remained on good terms with his Catholic kinsmen and tenantry, and took the traditional responsibilities of the lordship seriously. Countess Elizabeth, his aunt, was living at Kilkea Castle at this time. [43] She urged him ‘to prefer your poor friends above strangers’, a nod to Lord Cork’s policy of leasing lands to new entrepreneurs rather than the traditional families who had rented such lands. She declared her eagerness ‘to improve the lands of Kilkea and to make an orchard and garden and such other work the pleasure and benefit whereof shall redound to your lordship.’ She also reminded him that ‘the lessees [should] come to the court and mill of Kilkea, otherwise your mill will be wasted.’ [44]


The FitzGeralds of Castleroe


The ruined medieval church at Kilkea is thought to have been built on the site of St Caoide’s monastery. Fragments of monuments here, some carved, include part of a table tomb for William FitzGerald, who died in 1623, and his two wives. [45] Photo: Elaine Barker.

Above a vault in the Mortuary Chapel in Kilkea’s graveyard is the tomb of William FitzGerald who died in 1623. He lived in Castleroe, a red castle midway between Kilkea and Maganey. His castle is no more but its square ruins were espied in an old orchard in 1900. William’s three-sided altar-tomb at Kilkea bears representations of the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ. [46] A limestone plaque on the ground depicts the FitzGerald arms and the initials of his two wives, Joan Keating and Cisly Gaydon, with a Latin verse that has been translated as follows:

“I dead still live: the words create surprise!
I died on earth to live again in heaven.
My former life was naught but tears and sighs;
But now to me are pomp and glory given –
A second life, all happiness in heaven.

“Lo! I am Joanna Keating, who did join
With William – he, a pious Geraldine,
Was first Caecelia’s consort, she who came
Straight from Geidon’s stock of famous name,
We three to death’s sharp sting at last succumbed.
And ‘neath this stone together lie entombed.”


The Jesuits at Kilkea (1634-1646)


The Royalist commander Sir Michael Earnley, who captured Kilkea Castle in June 1643. From a portrait attributed to Adriaen Hanneman.

In the decades that followed the poisoning of her husband in 1612, Countess Elizabeth remained at Kilkea Castle, from where she became a formidable champion of the Catholic faith generally and the Jesuit Order specifically. [47]

During the 1620s and 1630s, Irish Catholics enjoyed what the journalist Louis McRedmond called an ‘Indian Summer’ as King Charles I allowed them various concessions, known as ‘graces’, in return for their financial support. In 1634, shortly after the Fairy Earl came of age, Countess Elizabeth offered Kilkea Castle, with all its furniture, as a base for the Jesuits. Their superior in Ireland since 1627 was her cousin, Father Robert Nugent (1577-1652).

Father Nugent was delighted by the opportunity to increase the order’s influence in County Kildare. [48] By 1637, he had begun converting Kilkea into a Jesuit novitiate, supported by a capital investment of 12,000 scudi (coins) given by Countess Elizabeth. In 1638, the novitiate received approval from Mutio Vitelleschi, the order’s Superior General, who also agreed to say a number of masses for the countess. By 1640, Nugent could assure Vitelleschi that ‘we live, God be praised, quietly, without danger, doing our customary work with discretion and care’.

A typical day for the Jesuits at Kilkea during this time likely comprised of celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, preaching, resolving cases of conscience and settling disputes. There may have been a school attached, while Fr Nugent himself was busy writing a history of his order, which had spearheaded the Counter Reformation across Europe. He later buried his manuscript, to prevent it falling into the wrong hands, so perhaps it will emerge from the earth at Kilkea one day.

However, things changed dramatically in October 1641 when Irish Catholics began rising up across Ireland, particularly in Ulster, and slaughtering Protestant planters. This triggered a decade of almost unprecedented violence in Ireland. The Catholic cause would come under the command of the Confederation of Kilkenny, a loose alliance of Irish Catholics who had banded under the slogan ‘Pro Deo, rege, et patria, Hiberni unanimes’ (For God, king, and fatherland, the Irish are united).

The Fairy Earl was assigned by the Crown to protect settlers within County Kildare. He suffered an early blow when Pierce FitzGerald, commander of his garrison in Castledermot, switched sides and joined the Confederation. [49] When the French aristocrat and travel writer François Le Gouz de La Boulaye visited Castledermot at this time, he described it as ‘a little village under the dominion of the Catholics’. [50]

The earl’s castle at Maynooth would be destroyed during the ensuing wars.

In April 1642, a force of English cavalry and troopers attacked and scattered a group of perhaps 700 Confederates who were attempting to rebuild the bridge at Maganey, west of Kilkea. Over the following week, several hundred ‘rebels’ were killed in a battle with the Royalists at Kilrush, 16 kilometres north of Kilkea, while another 70 were hanged. [51]  From Kilkea, Fr Nugent lamented:

“There is no human way of expressing the all-round misery of this kingdom. Nothing is seen or heard of here … than depredations, slaying of children and women as much as men: fires destroying the furniture and all the property of whole families. In short, such is the fury on both sides, the English and our own people, that it could only be pacified by the extinction … of one or the other … Our little flock is dispersed and each lives privately among friends. I have no certain news as to what has happened to ours in Dublin and the Pale: I fear the English may slay them. But God’s will be done.”

The following year, a Royalist foot regiment under Colonel Sir Michael Earnley briefly captured ‘Kilkey’ [sic], described as ‘the old Countisse [sic] of Kildare’s Castle’ and one of the ‘places that most annoyed our convoys and garrisons’. [52] Countess Elizabeth was outlawed for high treason but remained at Kilkea until her death on 26 October 1645. In her will, she bequeathed her estate to the Jesuits, including enough money to support 30 Jesuits after the novitiate closed. She also left two strings of pearls – one containing 106 pearls, the other 110 – which ultimately found their way to Loreto, the pilgrimage site in the Marches of Italy. [53] Her death meant that Fr Nugent was now effectively the master of Kilkea Castle.


Cardinal Rinuccini


Cardinal Rinuccini, the papal nuncio, who stayed at Kilkea Castle for 20 days in 1646.

In 1645, Pope Innocent X sent his papal nuncio, Giovanni Battista Rinuccini (1592-1653), ‘to restore and re-establish the public practice of the Catholic religion in the island of Ireland’. Cardinal Rinuccini quickly asserted himself amongst the Confederation of Kilkenny where he proved a divisive figure. He was, however, friendly to the Jesuits and in October 1646 he arrived at Kilkea Castle to stay as Fr Nugent’s guest.

He was ‘sumptuously and magnificently’ entertained at Kilkea for the next 20 days, during which time Fr Nugent gave him a coach and six horses and apparently lent the cardinal 4,000 pieces of gold, the gift of the late countess, a debt that was never repaid. While he was at the castle, the cardinal met with Thomas Preston and Owen Roe O’Neill, the commanders of the Leinster and Ulster armies of the Confederacy. The two generals also communicated with the Earl of Ormond from Kilkea. [54]

This was at the height of the Confederate Wars and, as Rinuccini was on his way to besiege Dublin, several companies of soldiers were quartered at the castle. [55] Aware that such men would require food, Fr Nugent, ‘with an exact scrutiny computed the number of breads which would suffice both their armies’ and had the necessary supply of corn brought into Kilkea. [56]

The Confederate forces then marched onwards from Kilkea, via Harristown and Naas, to Lucan. Preston’s army was fated for defeat when Michael Jones, the Parliamentarian colonel, annihilated them at Dungan’s Hill in August 1647. The Fairy Earl had by now transferred his allegiance to the Parliamentarian cause and was left in command of Dublin while Colonel Jones marched upon his enemy. Two summers later, Jones crushed Lord Ormond’s Royalist forces at Rathmines. Owen Roe O’Neill, the greatest hope of them all, died in 1649, probably poisoned.


Parliament Captures Kilkea, 1650


Henry Ireton, who captured Kilkea for Cromwell, from an oil painting by Robert Walker.

In 1649, Ormond appointed the Confederacy leaders Sir Robert Talbot and Sir John Dongan custodians of Kilkea. The castle itself was described as ‘a manor house … an invincible place.’ [57] However, things fell apart that same year with the execution of King Charles I and the invasion of Ireland by Oliver Cromwell and the New Model Army.

Part of the Parliamentarian army was commanded by Colonel John Hewson, a shoemaker who had signed the king’s death warrant shortly before Cromwell appointed him Governor of Dublin. In the last days of March 1650, Hewson marched his regiment of foot soldiers towards Kilkea, capturing and dismantling the castles he passed along the way, including Lea (near Portarlington), the Rock of Dunamase and White’s Castle in Athy, as well as Timahoe monastery where the friars were put to death.

When Hewson reached Castledermot on 1 April, he found that his Confederate opponents had already destroyed most of the town walls and holed themselves up in a strong tower, perhaps part of the FitzGerald castle. ‘He caused a great quantity of straw and other combustible materials to be put to the door and set on fire, which forced those within to cry out for mercy.’ A Confederate captain, three friars and ‘divers others’ were taken prisoner, but the others were executed on the spot. [58]

Kilkea held out for 15 long weeks before submitting to forces commanded by Lord Deputy Henry Ireton, Cromwell’s son-in-law, and Sir Hardress Waller, one of Cromwell’s leading generals. A contemporary diarist recorded the events of 21 July 1650:

“We came to Kilka, sidelong of Castledermott. We were waylayd by Sir Walter Dungan, Scurlock, and others, who were neere Bolton hill, drawen up in five divisions of horse. But it pleased God to give us the better in the engagement: we killd one Captain Shartall, and others, and tooke some prisoners, pursuing the rest some miles.”

A week later, having captured Carlow Castle, the New Model Army circled back and camped near Castledermot. Meanwhile, Sir Robert Talbot surrendered Kilkea in a ‘cowardly way’. [59] By the end of the month, the castles at Athy and Castledermot had also fallen. The once thriving Jesuit mission at Kilkea was all but destroyed during this period.


Death of the Fairy Earl


‘Letterbook of George, 16th Earl of Kildare,’ edited by Aidan Clarke and Bríd McGrath was published by the Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, in 2013.

The Fairy Earl had, in his own words, ‘endured much hardship’ during the Cromwellian era. His castle at Maynooth, damaged by the pillaging of 1642, was dismantled by General Preston’s forces four years later. According to a petition he sent to the chief justice of Munster, he and his family were then punished for their ‘constant adherence and faithful affection to the parliament of England’.

He relocated to Kilkea Castle for a time, before moving to Oliver Cromwell’s London. Countess Joan, his wife, was sent back to Ireland, along with some of his servants, to try and raise funds from his estate for his ‘enlargement and subsistence’. There must have been some money coming in from the Barony of Kilkea and Moone at this time because, according to Sir William Petty’s survey of 1659, there were 142 English inhabitants and 1,327 Irish. In any event, properties were sold to bring in funds, including his lordship of Woodstock and Castlemitcel [sic]. [60] In 1657, the manor of Castledermot was leased to William Holme and William Wright. By the close of the century, the once thriving Christian stronghold was little more than an agricultural town lying on the old road from Dublin to Cork.[61]

Countess Joan died in 1656 and was buried in her father’s tomb at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. The Fairy Earl survived her by four years. By some accounts, he died on 29 May 1660, the very day that Charles II returned to London to resume his place on the throne. Perhaps, given his allegiance to Cromwell, the 48-year-old earl took his own life rather than await the consequences.


Wentworth FitzGerald (1634-1664), 17th Earl of Kildare


Following the death of the Fairy Earl, his titles and estates passed to his 28-year-old son, Wentworth FitzGerald. He had been named in honour of Black Tom Wentworth, Charles I’s ill-fated Lord Deputy of Ireland. As it happened, Black Tom was also an uncle of his wife, Lady Elizabeth Holles, the second of 13 daughters born to the Earl of Clare.

With Maynooth Castle all but destroyed, the 17th Earl and his wife moved to Kilkea Castle, which they ‘erected into a manor with a court baron and court leet, with the title of a barony in the county’. [62] These courts were where petty crimes were addressed. The conversion was likely paid for when King Charles II redeemed the FitzGeralds’ grant of the customs of the County Down ports of Ardglass and Strangford, granted to the 9th Earl back in 1515, for which the 17th Earl received £6,500, while his brother Robert received £1,500. [63] A new stair turret was inserted into the north-east of the keep at this time. [64] This may also have been the period in which a low-walled forecourt was added, accessible via wrought-iron gates, with piers and ball finials, although this was all subsequently removed.[65]

The 17th Earl died of a fever on 5 March 1664, ‘universally lamented’, and was buried in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. Countess Elizabeth remained in Kilkea until her death two years later, after which she was buried alongside her husband. [66] A petition she submitted to Charles II in 1665 can be found here. The castle was then leased to a series of tenants over the next four decades before the 19th Earl of Kildare moved into the building in 1707. The families who rented the castle are explored in the next chapter.


John FitzGerald (1661-1707), 18th Earl of Kildare


John FitzGerald, 18th Earl of Kildare by the Dutch artist, William Wissing. (Private Collection).

Elizabeth Jones (1654-1757), a beauty at Charles II’s court, who became Countess of Kildare in 1684, as painted by Wissing.

John FitzGerald was a three-year-old boy when he succeeded to the earldom of Kildare. [67]  He was raised as a ward of his maternal grandmother, the Countess-Dowager of Clare. Charles II, who understood the importance of being prepared for a job at a young age, appointed John as Governor of Kildare at the age of 13.

He was to govern alongside his uncle, Robert FitzGerald, until he came of age, after which he would govern alone. The teenage governor was lucky to make it to adulthood after a nasty tumble from a horse that same year, 1674, an event which he would recall with ‘solemnity’ ever after.

1674 was also the year in which the king awarded him a weekly market in Castledermot, as well as the two annual fairs that had been granted to the de Ridelesford heiresses over four centuries earlier. He was also given the markets and fairs in Rathangan and Maynooth. [68]

John’s first wife Mary O’Brien, a granddaughter of the Earl of Thomond, died young, as did their only son, James. In 1684, he married again. His second bride was Lady Elizabeth Jones, one of the greatest and richest beauties at Charles II’s court. She was the eldest daughter of Richard Jones, 1st Earl of Ranelagh, a man who ‘spent more money, built more fine houses, and laid out more on household furniture and gardening than any other nobleman in England.’ [69]

John had been an ally of the king’s brother James, Duke of York. However, when the duke ascended the throne as James II, the earl faced the same restrictions all Protestants faced under the new order. His estates were sequestered (seized) for a time by the Patriot Parliament in Dublin. This was no small thing because, while his principal residence was in Oxfordshire, John was Ireland’s third biggest landowner at this time. His uncle Robert was also treated with great disdain and hurled into a prison cell in Dublin for a time. Robert would have his day of glory when, following the defeat of James II’s army at the Boyne on 1 July 1690, he accepted the surrender of Dublin on behalf of William III. By way of thanks, the king gifted him a large ‘Japan chest’ that was still on the principal staircase at Carton in 1885. [70] The king’s army then continued south towards Limerick and, while his army stayed in Castledermot on 14 August, William III is said to have spent the night at Belan as a guest of Edward Stratford. [71]

To pay off his debts, the 18th earl secured permission to sell his Limerick estates; Adare was later sold to Thady Quin, the ancestor of the Earls of Dunraven, while Croom was bought by the Croker family. He died in 1707 and was buried in Henry VIII’s chapel at Westminster Abbey, a curious choice given that Tudor monarch had murdered so many members of his family. With no surviving sons, the earldom passed to his first cousin, Robert FitzGerald (1675-1744), son of his late uncle Robert and Mary (née Clotworthy) FitzGerald.


Robert FitzGerald (1675-1743), 19th Earl of Kildare


This oil portrait of the 19th Earl of Kildare originally hung at Carton but was at Kilkea Castle from 1949 until 1960. It was in the FitzGerald family collection in Oxfordshire until 2013. Courtesy of James Adam and Sons.

Robert FitzGerald was 32 years old when he succeeded his first cousin to become 19th Earl of Kildare in 1707. The following year, he married Lady Mary O’Brien, eldest daughter of the 3rd Earl of Inchiquin. She was ‘one of the most shining beauties then in the world’, but he was of such a ‘formal and delicate’ disposition that ‘he would not take his wedding gloves off to embrace’ his bride.

Nonetheless, having grown up at Grangemellon, Robert brought his Countess south to Kilkea Castle where they lived for over three decades. It must have been a time of great sorrow as, of their 12 children, only two survived to adulthood. Perhaps in consequence of this, he began building a new house. His initial plan was to rebuild the old fortress at Maynooth but, when this proved too costly, he opted to buy the lease of the nearby Carton estate for £8,000 from his kinsman, Thomas Ingoldsby. In 1739, he commissioned the architect Richard Cassels (or Castle) to build a new Palladian mansion at Carton in place of an earlier Baroque house. This was to take over from Kilkea as his principal residence.

Meanwhile, builders were also at work in the Kilkea neighbourhood where John Stratford began work on Belan House in 1740, either building it from scratch, or enlarging an existing house. He may have also employed Cassels although Francis Bindon is generally cited as the Belan architect.

While work was ongoing at Carton, Lord Kildare and his family continued to live between Kilkea Castle and their Dublin townhouse on Suffolk Street, near Trinity College. He was at the latter home when he received a letter from the dean of St Ann’s Church on nearby Dawson Street, lambasting him as a blasphemer, scoundrel, gamester and such like, and imploring him to repent of his sins without delay. The 19th Earl, a most pious and generous parishioner, was shocked to receive such a letter but it transpired the dean had actually sent it to Lord Rosse, founder of the Hellfire Club. Rosse, who was dying at the time, noted how the letter was simply addressed to ‘My Lord’, put it into a fresh envelope and instructed a footman to deliver it to Lord Kildare. Rosse died before anybody worked it out.

Cardinal Paul Cullen, archbishop of Dublin, was a son of Hugh Cullen who moved to the parish of Narraghmore from Rathornan, with his wife and family. In October 1795 Hugh took a lease of Prospect which is a subdivision of Mullaghmast, the scene of the massacre of the chiefs of Laois in 1577 and of O’Connell’s monster meeting in 1845. A year later, Hugh’s eldest brother Michael came as parish priest of Narraghmore. Hugh Cullen had sixteen children; his brother Garrett at Craan had seventeen. Paul, third son of Hugh Cullen, was born in 1803 and was to become Cardinal Cullen, archbishop of Dublin. On 10 May 1813 Paul Cullen became a day-scholar at James White’s Boarding School, Ballitore, where he remained four years. This school, better known as the Quaker School, had been founded in 1126 by Abraham Shackleton. Between 1806 and 1825 eight members of the Cullen family had been pupils there. Paul’s elder brother Michael, and Hugh Cullen, possibly a brother or a cousin, had entered there on 10th February 1813, three months before Paul.’ [Mac Suibhne, Peadar, ‘Paul Cullen and his Contemporaries, with their letters from 1820-1902’ (Leinster Leader, 1961)].

Lord Kildare certainly had his fill of the Hellfire Club’s antics, being present at the murder trials of both Lord Santry and Viscount Netterville.

The Kildares seem to have moved to Carton by the end of 1741, although the house was not yet complete by the time the earl died there on 20 February 1744. He was succeeded by his son, James, later the 1st Duke of Leinster. Countess Mary survived him by over four decades, dying at the age of 87 in 1780.

In 1734, the 19th Earl founded Ireland’s first Charter School in Castledermot. The following year, a modern bell with a pull rope was installed in the round tower by St James’s Church (the bell is still in use today). In 1742, a Mr Cummins paid for the school to be extended, while Lord Kildare’s will added another £500 to the pot in 1745. By the time Bishop Richard Pococke passed through in 1752, there were 40 boys there. [72]

Another local school of note was the non-denominational boarding school in Ballitore, 10 kilometres north-east of Kilkea. Founded in 1726 by the Quaker schoolmaster Abraham Shackleton, its alumni would include the philosopher Edmund Burke, Cardinal Paul Cullen and the United Irishman leader Napper Tandy. [73]

After the 19th Earl of Kildare’ death, his monument at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, was the work of the sculptor and monumental mason Henry Cheere. He was appointed ‘carver’ to Westminster Abbey soon after completing this work.

Lady Mary was also an especially generous patron of the church and established an alms fund in Dublin for poor widows.


James FitzGerald (1722-1773), 1st Duke of Leinster


James FitzGerald, Earl of Offaly, Marquess of Kildare, and 1st Duke of Leinster (1722-1773) in a blue robe with fur trim, half-length, attributed to Jean-Baptiste van Loo. (Courtesy of Sotheby’s).

James FitzGerald was MP for Athy from 1741 until 1744 when he succeeded his father to become 20th Earl of Kildare. In 1747, he married the ‘tall, stately’ 16-year-old Lady Emily Lennox, a daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond, a goddaughter of George II and a descendant of Charles II. She was painted c. 1765 by Allan Ramsay (1713-1784) as per here.

Sir Joshua Reynolds painted Duchess Emily in 1775. When Edmund Burke saw the portrait, he remarked: “What a beautiful head you have made of the lady – it is impossible to add anything to its advantage!” Reynolds was unconvinced, replying: “It does not please me yet; there is a sweetness of expression in the original which I have not been able to give in the portrait, and therefore I cannot think it finished.” [74]

In 1745, inspired by his father’s work at Carton, James FitzGerald commissioned Richard Cassels to build him a new Palladian mansion in Dublin. Completed in 1748, and originally called Kildare House, the house would become better known as Leinster House and now houses Dáil Éireann, the Irish parliament. In 1792, the neoclassical mansion inspired the award-winning design of the White House in Washington, DC, by Kilkenny-born architect James Hoban.

When sceptics questioned his decision to build his house on Dublin’s unfashionable southside, the 20th Earl responded: “They [i.e. society] will follow me, wherever I go”. He was certainly revered in Georgian Ireland as someone who stood up to the bullying of the authorities at Dublin Castle. In 1766, his status as the island’s most distinguished and powerful statesman was confirmed when George III raised him in the peerage as Duke of Leinster. As there were no other Irish Dukes at the time, this made him the most senior Irish peer.

That said, it was Duchess Emily who held power within the family, certainly in comparison to the duchesses who followed her in the 19th century. She oversaw much of the work on Carton, her preferred home, where, inspired by Capability Brown, she helped create one of Georgian Ireland’s most prized gardens. Her sister Lady Louisa Conolly lived at nearby Castletown House, while another sister Lady Sarah Napier, the ex-wife of Sir Charles Bunbury, was at Oakley Park, near Celbridge.

The crest of the Duke of Leinster from Arthur Collins’s Peerage of Ireland (1779).

Emily, Duchess of Leinster, , oil on canvas, by Allan Ramsay, 124 x 99cm 1764. (Private Collection).

In 1766, the duke warned his wife that her expenditure on Carton was a “folly, considering the number of children we have”. Emily would eventually bear her husband nine sons and 10 daughters, including Robert, who succeeded as 2nd Duke of Leinster, and the patriot, Lord Edward FitzGerald. James died at Leinster House in 1773, aged 51. Their youngest child, Lord George, may have been Emily’s son by William Ogilvy, the children’s tutor. Emily married Mr Ogilvy ten months after the duke’s death, and she had three more children.

Between 1756 and 1760, the duke commissioned John Rocque, a French Huguenot cartographer, to complete an invaluable survey of his eight Kildare manors, covering about 68,000 acres. The survey, which ran to nearly 170 maps in eight goatskin-bound volumes, included the ‘Manor of Kilkea’ and was delightfully ornamented by the portrait-painter Hugh Douglas Hamilton. The folios, available here,  were kept at Kilkea Castle from 1849 until they were sold privately in the middle of the last century. The Kilkea survey was thought lost until it came up for sale at a London auction house in 2003.




It has been said that this picture was Ruairí Caoch Ó Mórdha (fl. 1554), painted at the Tudor court. In fact, it is a depiction of Rory Óge Ó Mórdha, aka “Rory O’More’, from ‘Pacata Hibernia,’ edited by Standish O’Grady 1896. O’Grady is likely to have based it on the Derricke woodcut of 1581.

[1] In Rome, Gerald stayed in the Hospice of St Thomas, established on the site in Via di Monserrato in 1362 to cater for English pilgrims. See John Francis Allen, ‘The English Hospice in Rome’ (Gracewing Publishing, 2005), p. 207.

[1a] In terms of 16th century portraits of Irish aristocracy, I believe we have:

  1. Garret Og, 9th Earl of Kildare (at Maynooth)
  2. James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond – Holbein Study in Royal Collection, Windsor Castle
  3. Gerald, 11th or Wizard Earl of Kildare (Dublin Castle)
  4. The Fair Geraldine, Countess of Lincoln, Garrett Og’s youngest daughter (National Gallery Ireland) here.
  5. Black Tom Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond (two documented portraits, one via Lady Moya Butler,Countess van den Steen, of Jehay; the other of him in armour which National Gallery of Ireland Dublin brought from the Trustees 2000 for c. £70,000 Irish after it had been on loan to a gallery in the UK)
  6. Donal OSullivan Beare, 1st Count of Berehaven (in Spanish armour, now in Maynooth),
  7. Murrough O’Brien, 1st Earl of Thomond, here.
  8. Adam Loftus – TCD
  9. George Montgomery, Bishop of Meath and wife Susan – ex Howth and now in Ardbraccan
  10. Donough O’Brien and wife – Conor OBrien (?)
  11. Maire Ruaidh –  Grainne Weir?
  12. Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone – Vatican?

For their English / Tudor contemporaries, we have:

  1. Captain Thomas Lee.
  2. Sir Henry Sidney – Petworth
  3. Edward Seymour – Ham
  4. Elizabeth I – NPG
  5. Edward VI – NPG
  6. Mary Queen of Scots – NPG
  7. Tomas Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex
  8. Walter Raleigh and wife – NGI

With thanks to John Kirwan and Christopher Moore.

[2] A. Fitzgibbon, ‘Appendix to the Unpublished Geraldine Documents: The Gherardini of Tuscany Author,’ The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland, Jan., 1877, Fourth Series, Vol. 4, No. 29 (Jan., 1877), p. 249. The art historian Elaine Ruffolo put me in touch with Ross King who consulted works by Martin Kemp and Giuseppe Pallanti for more clues – their book does not mention the FitzGeralds, but it does give some history about the Gherardini, albeit mostly focussed on the father (Antonmaria) of Mona Lisa.

[3] The historian Bill Wallace suggested that Michelangelo (MB) might have felt intimidated by FitzGerald if they met. He opined in an email of 2 February 2023: ‘If FitzGerald knew Pole and Carnesecchi, then he probably also met MB.  I have never come across the name, but that is probably because there was little beyond a brief encounter/s.  After all, MB felt very inadequate in that group of learned persons.  It is only with Vittoria Colonna that he felt comfortable enough to open up, share poetry etc.  He was in awe of persons like Pole.  And Carnesecchi:  didn’t he end up murdered by the church for his heretical stance?  This sort of thing caused MB to suppress his relations with compromised persons  – MB being very cautious of compromising, especially political, entanglements.  Thus, for example, he had extensive relations with the Strozzi of Rome but managed to keep most persons — even Vasari — largely ignorant of the relations because it would compromise relations with the Medici.’ Any evidence / documentation of a FitzGerald / Michelangelo connection would be BIG TIME and much welcome by the many persons who have tried to trace MB’s relations with the church reformers (e.g. Maria Forcellino).

[4] The following remarks are from the opening pages of an unpublished document entitled ‘Account of the Gherardini of Florence’ and dated 1843, a photocopy of which was loaned to me by Colette Jordan in 2022.  It should be read in conjunction with an essay by A. Fitzgibbon entitled ‘Appendix to the Unpublished Geraldine Documents: The Gherardini of Tuscany Author,’ The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland, Jan., 1877, Fourth Series, Vol. 4, No. 29 (Jan., 1877), p. 247.

The origin of the family of the Gherardini is not known; but it is supposed to have been indigenous in Italy and to be either Etruscan or Roman. This family was one of the Seigniorial or Baronial families, on whose fall the Florentine republic was formed. It had estates in various parts of the Florentine territory – particularly in the Val D’Elsa; where it had several fortified castles. Afterwards being obliged like other families of equal importance to settle in Florence, the Gherardini dwelt in the first circle of the city, near the “Ponte Vecchio,” where their tower still exists, now united with the “Palazzo Barto:domic [?] [Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni?], and next to that of the Girolani [sic, Girolami], the highest of any.   See image here. The very ancient church of Saint Stefano was partly built at the expense of the Gherardini, who also had their “Loggia” or gallery, the ruins of which may still be seen in the “Mercato Nuovo” at the corner of the “Borgo d’Apostols” on one of the capitals of which is a shield containing the primitive arms of the family.

The first account we have of the  Gherardinis is as far back as the year 910, in the work of Gammurini, in which he treats of the ancient families of Tuscany and Umbria; and particularly in the chapter that relates to the family of the Gherardini, in which he gives the descent down to the year 1050, when it joins the account that exists in the “Regio Archiviv  delle Riformagisni e Nobilta” [sic], agreeing with that preserved by the family actually living in Florence. This family florist among the aforesaid “Famiglie Grandi e Magnitudi” [sic] till the year 1430 when the popular faction prevailing drove the patrician and noble families into exile. The Gherardini with many others in order to remain in their country, and to keep their properties, renounced the patrician rank, and only retained that of citizens, joining the popular faction. But afterwards under the principality they were restored to their ancient honours.

The Gherardini were very rich until between 1300 and 1400, and they are constantly mentioned with great honour in the history of Florence. Many of them were “Gentalonini [sic]” and “Prion” [sic] and three of them were Consuls of the Republic – Ugucciomi in 1197, Cece [or Ceasar] in 1210 and Octaviano in 1213. Many of them were “Capitani” and “Condottieri” of the armies of the Republic, among whom Cece distinguished himself and fell in the battle of Montaperti [1260] in defence of the standard of the Republic; and also Lotheringo, who died in defence of the people of Florence in the Via Vacchereccia during the “Fazioni di Corso Donati;” and was buried in the church of St Stefano in 1303.

But the return of the “fazioni” entailed great persecutions, confiscations and very heavy expenses, impoverished the Gheradini; who also sustained great loss by the destruction of their property in the fire of Florence in the year 1303, which the historian Villani describes, mentioning particularly the losses suffered by the Gherardini at that time.

At different periods many individuals of this very numerous family emigrated. Some past into Ireland, from whom sprung the FitzGeralds. Others into Cracovia [Kraków], but this branch is extinct. [Note 1: Jan 1766] Others into the Canary Islands. [Note opposite: Camillo di Camillo Gherardini, nephew of Baccio Gherardini, Bishop of Fiesole, went to Cracovia. And about the year 1400 Giovanni Gialberto d’Anton … did Naldo Gherardini settled in the Canaries.] Others into France, from whom the Girardinis descend, and were dispersed over Italy as Berardinis, who was enrolled among the Venetian nobility in 1652; and others in Lombardy, where they acquired titles and riches and still flourish as the Marchesi Gheradini. [Note 2: Extinct in the male line.]

Of those that remained at Florence, some families are extinct; others very nearly so [Note 3: All are now extinct];  but those that descend from Piero di Antonio d’Ugolino still exist and they’ve fallen from their former riches have all maintained themselves honourably, some serving in the army; others at the bar, of whom many have been “Giuris consulti, Gindici” and “Magistrati”; others in the church have been “Vescove, Canoni and distinguished ecclesiastics; and others as literati of whom have been “Consoli della Accademia ***intinio.”

The family of the Ahmadei [Amidei] which through the murder of the Bondelmonte [Buondelmonte de’ Buondelmonti, a young Florentine nobleman, slain on his wedding day in 1216] gave rise to the wars of the Guelphs and Ghibbellins [Ghibbelline], and which is now extinct, was a branch of the Gherardini for Octavius di Ugnacurno [sic], who was living in the year 1100, had two sons Gherardo and Amades. The descendants of the first retained the ancient surname of the Gerardini and those of the second took that of the Amadei. Hence it arose that these two families prospered [?] equally in the “fondi” and “patronati” of the parochial churches, and were always allied. There still exists, though now in ruins, a fine castle called Montanto, that belonged to the Amadei, and probably originally to the Gherardini. It is situated on the torrent Grassina near the bridge at Ema, four “miglia” from Florence.

Now to speak of those that emigrated into Ireland, it should be noted that Maurice, Gherardo, and Thomas, three brothers, sons of Gherardino, in consequences of misfortunes suffered during the factions, repaired into Normandy and were there with the king of France. But soon after, the king of England having determined to make the conquest of Ireland and not trusting in his own generals, desired to have some foreigners, and entrusted to the enterprises to the three brothers, who, as it is stated in some [word unclear] were recommended to him by the king of France. He is having performed prodigies of valour, particularly Maurice and having conquered the island, obtained the title of viceroy, with great honour and [unclear], and gave rise to the great families of the Earls of Kildare and Desmond, and the family name, to suit the language of the country, was changed from Gherardini to Gerald and they call themselves FitzGerald.

All this was still known to the Florentines in 1440, as may be seen in the letter (dated the 1st of June 1440) that the Republic ordered to be written by [Leonardo Bruni, Secretary of the Florentine Republic] to Jacopo di Gherardini, Conte di Simon (James, Earl of Desmond] in send Ireland, to serve as an introduction to Giovanni Betti di Gherardini, who intended to pass into Ireland.

Finally it several times happened that the FitzGeralds put themselves in communication with the Gherardini of Florence to give an account of themselves. [This account continues for more pages.]

[5] A. Fitzgibbon, ‘Appendix to the Unpublished Geraldine Documents: The Gherardini of Tuscany Author,’ The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland, Jan., 1877, Fourth Series, Vol. 4, No. 29 (Jan., 1877), p. 250. Fitzgibbon states that the FitzGeralds bear the same arms as the Florentine dynasty, which he deems as ‘indubitable evidence’ that the two families were of the same blood but, am I missing something because the arms don’t look the same to me.

[6] The letter of 1440 is quoted in full in ‘Account of the Gherardini of Florence’ (Unpublished, 1843), p. 10-12. The record of it is also carried in A. Fitzgibbon, ‘Appendix to the Unpublished Geraldine Documents: The Gherardini of Tuscany Author,’ The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland, Jan., 1877, Fourth Series, Vol. 4, No. 29 (Jan., 1877), p. 247. The other family members were Ottaviano di Cacciatino and Papi di Piero di Cacciatino de Gherardini.

[7] The letter of 1507 ‘from our castle of Castledermot’ is quoted in full in ‘Account of the Gherardini of Florence’ (Unpublished, 1843), p. 12-16.

[8] ‘Now see the Irish, next the level land,
Into two squadrons ordered for the fight.
Kildare’s redoubted earl commands the first;
Lord Desmond leads the next, in mountains nursed

A burning pine by Kildare is displayed;
By Desmond on white field a crimson bend.’
Orlando Furioso (“Orlando Enraged”) by Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533).

[9] A. Fitzgibbon, ‘Appendix to the Unpublished Geraldine Documents: The Gherardini of Tuscany Author,’ The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland, Jan., 1877, Fourth Series, Vol. 4, No. 29 (Jan., 1877), p. 249.

[10] A. Fitzgibbon, p. 249; ‘Account of the Gherardini of Florence’ (Unpublished, 1843), p. 9.

[11] 4th Duke of Leinster, p. 125-126.

[12] Martin Kemp and Giuseppe Pallanti, ‘Mona Lisa – The People and the Painting’ (Oxford University Press, 2017), p. 9-18; Frank Zollner, ‘Leonardo’s Portrait of Mona Lisa Del Giocondo,’ Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 121 (1993), S. 115-138. Mona Lisa’s married name was Lisa del Giocondo.

[13] p. 171-173 of Some account of the ruinous ecclesiastical edifices, forts, castles etc., with notes of modern events connected with the Queen’s County and County Kildare. (M. C. Carey, Maryborough, 1901).

[14] In 1540, Sir Anthony Brown was sent by Henry VIII to report back on Anne of Cleves. He later remarked that he was never more dismayed in his life, “lamenting in his heart to see the Lady so far unlike that which was reported”.

[15] Cardinal Pole was the last Catholic to hold the office.

[16] The attainder was not formally repealed until 1569. The repeal is detailed in an appendix to the Duke of Leinster’s history, p. 315.

[17] Charles William FitzGerald, p. 200.

[18] As Ciaran Brady put it, he began ‘devoted his time to more covert and more dubious means of consolidating his power within his locality.’ Ciaran Brady, ‘The Chief Governors – The Rise and Fall of Reform Government in Tudor Ireland 1536-1588’ (Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 191.

[19] The room has been much altered since but, in his day, consisted of a chamber, with a circular turret-room attached. The turret room is now part of a circular stone stair-case running from the ground floor up to the roof. According to Lord Walter, the little fireplace in the Haunted Room has ‘a projecting  chimney in the south-west  wall;  one  of  the  stone  brackets  it  rises  from  on  the outside  consists  of  a monkey  clinging  to  the  stone,  having  a collar  round  the neck  to  which  is  attached  a chain  running down  its  back.’

[20] Richard Stanihurst, or Stanyhurst, became tutor to the Wizard Earl’s children in 1573. In 1575, together with his wife, Janet Barnewall, he accompanied the young heir, Garret FitzGerald, Lord Offaly, to London, where he spent the next few years. While in London, he was asked by Raphael Holinshed to complete the Irish portion of his Chronicles of England, Scotlande and Irelande, which had already been written up to 1509. Holinshed’s Irish Chronicle was published in 1577. Stanihurst’s young wife died in childbirth in 1579, and his pupil Garret FitzGerald died in 1580. See: John Barry and Hiram Morgan (eds.), ‘Great Deeds in Ireland: Richard Stanihurst’s De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis’ (Cork University Press, 2013).

[21] The act abolishing ‘Crom-a-Boo’ and ‘Butler-a-boo’ is appendixed in the 4th Duke of Leinster’s history, p. 297.

[22] The three stones were:

(1) The Family Crest :- A monkey, statant, proper, environed about the middle with a plain collar, and chained, or. Below the monkey, in three lines, is incised SI DIV PINT, CROM ABO, 1573.
(2) The second stone bears a shield with the family coat of arms – Argent, a saltere gules.
(3) On the third stone is the crest of Countess Mabel’s family, the Brownes – Upon a ragged staff, or, a Cornish chough, wings expanded, proper, resting on a perch. The sculptures are all carved in relief.

My bird expert colleague Sue Walsh tells me the chough is the national bird of Cornwall.  Legend holds that when King Arthur was killed, he was transformed into a chough, which not only explains the birds’ blood-red beak and legs, but also why it is bad luck to kills a chough.

[23] Emmett O’Byrne, ‘War, Politics and the Irish of Leinster, 1156-1606’, Four Courts, 2003, p. 187.

[24] He estimated that the O’Connors had 200 men and the O’Mores had 300, while the McShanes, O’Byrnes, and O’Tooles comprised 600 men.

[25] Charles William Fitzgerald, Duke of Leinster, ‘The Earls of Kildare, and Their Ancestors: From 1057 to 1773’ (1862), p. 110. ‘Though he had the ‘head and raising’ of the county of Kildare, he may not now command any men without the Governor’s permission. He had formerly the Captainship of the Annaly, which was taken from him by Sir H. Sydney, when he was Lord Deputy. He had also divers horsemen and kerne, and divers others of his own tenants at coyn and livery, which had been abolished by statute.’

[26] Lord Walter Fitzgerald, Kilkea Castle, Journal of Kildare Archaeological Society, Vol 2, p. 14.

[27] I have heard that the Husseys were traditional stewards to the earls at this time, and that Meyler’s son, or father, or both, may also have had the post. Charles William Fitzgerald, Duke of Leinster, ‘The Earls of Kildare, and Their Ancestors: From 1057 to 1773’ (1862), p. 137. ‘In July 1574, Edmund Boy Sayes stole Garret Sutton’s “24 garrans” [?], after which he ‘was kept 2 days and 2 nights close in Meyler Hussey’s chambre, and in the wardrobe at Kilkay by the said Meyler.” John Walsh added that he was instructed to bring meat from the Earl’s table to Edmund ‘as long as he was concealed.’

[28] These heads would likely have been left at the outer gate to the bawn, rather that brought to his bedchamber, but who knows?! The historian Patrick O’Kelly (c.1775–1858) would name Gerald as the murderer of his ancestor Fergus O’Kelly of Luggacurren Castle in 1579. In fact, O’Kelly’s murderer was more likely a natural son of the Wizard Earl who was also, confusingly, called Gerald. (In other words, he was not the earl’s firstborn son, Gerald, Lord Offaly.) He lived in a tower house at Morett Castle, near Emo, and had seemingly stayed with O’Kelly for ‘some weeks.’ Now utterly vanished, the O’Kelly mansion is said to have been near the site of Luggacurren chapel. Gerald then invited O’Kelly to join him at his castle, which Patrick O’Kelly claimed to have been Kilkea but the Wizard Earl’s biographer, Vincent Carey, thinks this highly unlikely and more likely folkloric. O’Kelly was apparently ‘being conducted to the top of the castle, as if to view the country around’ when ‘he was instantly beheaded by assassins, already placed there for that purpose.’ The story runs hat after his severed head reached Queen Elizabeth, the FitzGeralds were rewarded with O’Kelly’s lands and so this Gerald FitzGerald became ancestor of the FitzGeralds of Morett, Mountmellick, Ballyteskin and Timogue. Not that he got much out of it himself as he was slain by the O’Mores in June 1580, at which time Morett Castle was also burned. For more, see Patrick O’Kelly, ‘General History of the Rebellion of 1798, with Many Interesting Occurrences of the Two Preceding Years: Also, a Brief Account of the Insurrection in 1803 Will be Subjoined’ (1842), p. 309; ‘Some account of the ruinous ecclesiastical edifices, forts, castles etc., with notes of modern events connected with the Queen’s County and County Kildare. (M. C. Carey, Maryborough, 1901), p. 171-173.

[29] William Lennox Lascelles Fitzgerald Baron De Ros, ‘Memorials of the Tower of London’ (J. Murray, 1866), p. 107-111. Richard Barry stated that they murdered Shane Keating at a place called ’Ballendrome … being a highe waye and grett playne upon bothe the sydes therof.’ Shane had arrived alone, mounted on a black horse. He drew his sword and dismounted, but was overpowered and beheaded. The next night, Hickey and Barry went to Castledermot wood and found Meyler Keating on a sorrel horse. He too was killed and the heads of the two Keatings were then presented to the earl. When Hickey confessed to these murders, he said that the earl had offered to pardon him for “the preying of Herbert” [ie: cattle raids] if he killed the Keating brothers. The earl denied this and insisted he had asked for both men to be taken alive. However, Gerald was then summoned to Dublin to meet Sir William FitzWilliam, the Lord Deputy, who ‘thanked the Earl for slaying Shane and Meyler, and desired to see their heads which were delivered to the Constable.’

[30] Was Stucley related to Walter Peppard of Kilkea? Juan E. Tazón, ‘The Life and Times of Thomas Stukeley (c.1525-78)’ (Routledge, 2017).

[31] Carey, Dr Vincent P., “What’s Love Got to Do With It”: Gender and Geraldine Power on the Pale Border” in Thomas Herron and Michael Potterton, eds., Dublin and the Pale in the Renaissance (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2011).

[32] There were also 100 footmen at Athy under Captain Thomas Morice Wingfield in 1580. James Hardiman, ‘Irish Minstrelsy, or Bardic Remains of Ireland’ (London: Joseph Robins, 1831), Vol. 1, p. 188.

[33] ‘The Ballad of The Wizard Earl’ by Thomas Greene of Millbrook can be found either here [text] or here in the 1899 Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society, pps. 29-30.

[34] Bizarrely, a number of the Kildare graves were destroyed when they were restoring St Bridget’s Cathedral in the 1870s and no traces of Gerald or Mabel’s tomb survive.

[35] Quoted by Rev. John Finlayson, ‘Inscriptions on the Monuments, Mural Tablets, &c at Present Existing in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin: The Names (so Far as They Have Been Ascertained) of Persons Buried Within that Church, But of Whom No Monumental Records Exist, to which are Appended Brief Annals of the Cathedral from the Foundation to the Present Time, with Notes and Observations’ (Hodges, Foster, & Figgis, 1878), p. 23-24. See also: Rev Canon, ‘The Legend of the Wizard Earl of Kildare’, in Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society, Vol. 6., p. 408. An account in the J. K. A. S. Vol. VI states that, after conducting the first three tests, the earl told his wife to close her eyes and said: ‘do not open them until you hear me give three stamps on the floor; but remember, if you show any fear, you will see me no more. She did as she was directed; and when she heard the signal, she opened her eyes, and the Earl was not visible, but there was a little bird perched on her shoulder and singing beautifully. In an instant a large black cat crept out from under a piece of furniture and  sprang at the bird. The Countess fainted from fear, and the Earl was seen no more.’

Mary Leadbeater provided another version:

‘In the castle of Kilkea, about a mile from Ballitore, there is a small room of a singular shape, called the enchanted chamber, where a former Earl of Kildare, to whom the castle belonged, was said to pursue the study of the black art. I had heard the tradition in my childhood, but being desirous to be fully informed on the subject, I applied to an old man to tell me the story of the Earl of Kildare and Kilkea Castle. As well as I can recollect his words I shall give them:

“The Earl of Kildare! Why, he was an enchanter, because he was nursed by a fairy.
He was a likely, personable man, and married a fine young lady. She begged of him to show her some of his enchantments, and turn himself into another shape. He
warned her not to ask the like, for if she was frightened, he would be obliged to leave her for ever. She said let him take ever such a shape she would not be afraid, and begged him again and again to show her his art. Then he turned himself into an eel, wound himself round the castle, and looked at her through the window of the enchanted chamber. The face of the eel was so frightful that the lady screeched out, and away flew the earl, and never more was seen in the Castle of Kilkea, but was obliged to ride round and round the Curragh of Kildare, on a white horse with silver shoes, till the shoes should be worn out; and when that happened he would return to the castle.”
When I heard the story first, full fifty years ago, it was said the shoes were by that time worn to the thinness of a sixpence. Another old man added the story of a smith who was bringing a load of coals across the Curragh, and when night came on he lay down beside the rath to rest. By and by the ” good people” (alias fairies) came to get him to examine the shoes of the earl’s horse. Had one nail been loose, he would have regained his liberty; all were fast, and he was obliged to ride on ! And this is the legend of the Castle of Kilkea.’ (Letter from Mrs Leadbeater, LXXXVIII, Ballitore, 3 March 1822, quoted in Mary Leadbeater, ‘The Leadbeater Papers – The Annals of Ballitore’ (Bell and Daldy, 1862), Volume 2, p. 321-322.

[36] Lord Walter: ‘This  entrance  consists  of  a high  outer  arch,  and  an inner  pointed  arched  doorway.  Formerly  a portcullis  hung  in the  outer  arch ; the  grooves  it  slid  down  in  can  still  be  seen, as  well  as  two  square  holes outside  of  them  again  that  contained beams  of  timber  which, as  an  extra  precaution  for safety,  could  be  drawn  out across  the  entrance  and  inserted in  like  holes  on  the  opposite side,  now,  unfortunately,  built up  ; an  appliance  inside  the castle  prevented  their  being shoved  back  from  the  outside. At  the  time  of  the  restoration old  oak  beams  were  in  these long  holes,  but  were  made  away with. The  portcullis  was  also hanging,  but  it  too,  through  negligence,  was  taken  away  and sold  for  old  iron.  From  a description  of  it  given  by  old  Michael O’Shaughnessy,  who  was  employed  as  one  of  the  masons  during the  restoration,  and  who  saw  it  in  position,  it  was  a frame- work of  iron  to  which  were  fastened  stout  oaken  planks,  and the  whole  was  worked  on  pulleys  from  a small  high  arched chamber  above  the  door. Whether  this  was  an  ancient  portcullis,  or  one  put  together  owing  to  the  troubles  of  ‘98,  is now  impossible  to  say.  The  stone  vaulted  ceiling  of  the  hall was  removed  at  the  restoration,  in  order  to  add  to  its  height.’

[37] On 28 October 1558, a patent was passed granting the 11th Earl of Kildare (i.e. the Wizard Earl) and his Countess Mabel, and their heirs male, the demesnes of the late Priory of Inch, the Monastery of Down, the Priory of St John, that of St John and St Thomas of Down, and the Monastery of Saul, all in County Down. The rectories and tithes belonging to them were assigned to Cardinal Pole. The lands reverted to the Crown on the death of the Countess in 1610. 4th Duke of Leinster, p. 202.

[38] Charles William FitzGerald, 4th Duke of Leinster, “The Earls of Kildare and Their Ancestors from 1057 to 1773,” Volume 2, by (Hodges, Smith & Company, 1862) p. 332

[39] In December 1609, the Lord Chancellor (Thomas Jones) wrote from Dublin to the King stating: “A tenant of Sir Robert Digby, of the manor of Woodstock, having presented a petition complaining of violence done to him by the retainers of the Earl of Kildare, he (the Chancellor) addressed to the Earl at his manor of Kilkay, by a messenger of sufficiently honourable condition, a letter requiring him to restrain and correct his servants. When the messenger presented himself at Kilkay, where the Lord of Howth was at the time, access was denied to him; and when he, having intimation of the Earl’s coming forth, awaited him upon the way and respectfully tendered the letter, Lord Howth rode violently up, seized and made away with the letter written in the King’s name, the messenger being warned by the leader of the Baron’s men to take himself away, lest worse should befall him.” [Calendar of State Papers, Relating to Ireland: Preserved in the Public Record Office, Volume 6, 1874, p. 331]

[40] Relatio Geraldinorum p 313, quoted on p. 359; 4th Duke of Leinster, “The Earls of Kildare and Their Ancestors from 1057 to 1773,” Volume 2.

[41] ‘In an Inquisition taken in Athy on the 6th of September, 1621, it was found that a portion of the Manor of Kilkea belonging to the Earl of Kildare, consisted of “Halleheise, Donfinnine, and Whitston, 80 acres.”  A wide oval entrenchment, enclosing a small artificial hillock (said to be chambered), is still traceable.’ JKAS.

[42] George’s father was the 14th earl’s younger brother Thomas (died 1619) and his wife Frances (1576–1618), daughter of Thomas Randolph.

[43] Countess Elizabeth wrote at least one letter to him from ‘Kilkeae’ [sic] on 1 June 1629, as per the 4th Duke of Leinster, p. 237.

[44] Jane Ohlmeyer, ‘Making Ireland English – The Irish Aristocracy in the Seventeenth Century’ (Yale University Press, 2012). p. 161.

[45] ‘MEDIEVAL CHURCH. Shrouded in trees SE of the castle. C13 ruin of roughly coursed limestone. Only the E gable and the attached chapel to the N, as well as a fragment of the W wall, survive to any height. Narrow chancel almost the same length as the nave, with fine hammer-dressed three-light E window. Two-light window in the chapel, which has a pointed doorway to the W. A scattering of cut stone, including chamfered door jambs and an octagonal FONT. The FitzGerald mortuary chapel was to the W, and there are fragments of several monuments, some with fine figurative carving, possibly part of a table tomb of William FitzGerald +1623 recorded here. On the ground is an associated limestone PLAQUE with the FitzGerald arms and the initials of FitzGerald’s two wives: IK 1630 SG. Notable among the other fragments is a block inserted into the W wall with a very fine carving of a chained and collared dog (or possibly a rendering of the heraldic FitzGerald monkey).’ [Tierney]

[46] “HALF-WAY between Kilkea Castle and Maganey station, picturesquely standing in an old apple-orchard, are the ruins of an ancient square “pile” or castle, on which a more modern addition, also in ruins, has been built. This is Castleroe (Caislen ruadh ), or, as the name  implies, “ the  red  castle,” where a branch of FitzGeralds lived. The burial-place of this family, since settling down at Castleroe, was the old churchyard of Kilkea.  Attached to the west end of the Church ruins, is a Mortuary Chapel, now [1900] also in ruins, containing a vault above which stands a three-sided altar-tomb bearing representations of our Lord’s Passion and Crucifixion.” Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society. (1891), p. 229; Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society. (1899-1903), p. 243.

‘MEDIEVAL CHURCH. Shrouded in trees SE of the castle. C13 ruin of roughly coursed limestone. Only the E gable and the attached chapel to the N, as well as a fragment of the W wall, survive to any height. Narrow chancel almost the same length as the nave, with fine hammer-dressed three-light E window. Two-light window in the chapel, which has a pointed doorway to the W. A scattering of cut stone, including chamfered door jambs and an octagonal FONT.’ (Tierney).

Few seventeenth-century Irish sculptors have been identified. Rather  than individual recognition, the medieval premise of non-associated or group practice appears to have persisted well into the seventeenth century, with those practitioners who carved headstones and tomb monuments for graveyards and churches not always named. The work is mostly in relief form. Both high and low relief, among which early examples are the O’Kerin altar tombs and that of William Fitzgerald, C. 1623, in the grounds of the old church at Kilkea Castle, Co. Kildare. [Andrew Carpenter, general editor, art and architecture of Ireland, in five volumes: mediaeval, painting, sculpture, architecture and 20th century. Published for the Royal Irish Academy and the Paul Mellon Centre by Yale university press, 2014.]

[47] Loeber, Rolf, and Terry Clavin, ‘Elizabeth Fitzgerald (d. 1645), Countess of Kildare’ (Dictionary of Irish Biography, 2009).

[48] Robert Nugent was a kinsman of Lord Inchiquin and I suspect another cousin was William Lamport, the man who inspired Zorro. See: Some account of the ruinous ecclesiastical edifices, forts, castles etc., with notes of modern events connected with the Queen’s County and County Kildare. (M. C. Carey, Maryborough, 1901),  p. 171-173.

[49] FitzGerald had served in Flanders with Owen Roe O’Neill. ‘On the breaking out of hostilities in 1641, George Earl of Kildare, as Governor of the county, appointed Pierce FitzGerald of Ballyshannon to command the garrison of Castledermot and for that purpose furnished him out of the royal stores with arms and ammunition for 100 men. Being provided by the Earl with a warrant to the Rev John Walsh to deliver to him the castle, he, in December, seized all Mr Walsh’s property within and without the castle and, carrying it off as booty, joined the army of the Confederation at Kilkenny, and was there appointed Colonel of a regiment. For this he was proclaimed a traitor and a price of 400 put upon his head.’ Gilbert.

Randal McDonnell states: ‘The table that was in the dining room is the same one on which the Confederation of Kilkenny was signed and had been brought to Kilkea from Carton.’ I’m not sure we can stand over this?

[50] François de La Boullaye de la Gouz , ‘The tour of the French traveller M. de La Boullaye Le Gouz in Ireland, A.D. 1644,’ p. 3.

[51] ‘A Full relation, not only of our good successe in generall, but how, and in what manner God hath fought his own cause miraculously, manifesting his mighty power by delivering the Protestants, miserably distressed under a cruell and most inhumane adversary. As also, the names of the chiefe commanders and officers in this late expedition of 3000. foote and 500. horse, under the command of the Earle of Ormond, lieutenant generall, and others mentioned more particularly in the relation. Published to prevent false and erronious copies which too often are set forth with mighty disadvantage to the truth it selfe.’ (London: Printed by G. Miller for W. Bladen, 1642), here.

[52] Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society, Vol. II (1896-1899), p. 18.

[53] ‘These were brought to Italy by Richard Archdekin [alias McGillacuddy], the author of a famous treatise on theology and presented by Robert Buckley the English Penetentiary in Loretto.’  [4th Duke of Leinster, “The Earls of Kildare and Their Ancestors from 1057 to 1773,” Volume 2, p. 359-360.]

[54] p. 171-173 of Some account of the ruinous ecclesiastical edifices, forts, castles etc.,with notes of modern events connected with the Queen’s County and County Kildare. (M. C. Carey, Maryborough, 1901). ‘The civil war broke out in 1641, and became a three-sided contest between the native Irish, the Catholic Royalists and the Puritans. Though the castle itself does not seem to have had a part in the struggle, yet this neighbourhood all around it was the scene of conflicts and suffered greatly. In 1646, “My Lord Nuncio, &c,, came to Kilkea to salute his proper General (Owen Roe O’Neill)).” In October, the Nuncio was still at Kilkea.

[55] John Lynch, Alithinologia, p 74.

[56] After the papal nuncio had met with General Thomas Preston and general Owen O’Neill, and concocted their plan to lay siege to Dublin,

“…The first grounds of the enterprize being thus layd, the nuncio with his council the more to free themselves from the concourse and importunity of suitors, went to Kilkay, one of the manor houses belonging to the earles of Kildare, then in the possession of father Robert Nugent, provincial of the Jesuits, by the grant of the countess dowager of Kildare, who dyed not long before having bequeathed him for the use of the societie all her goods, of which he gave to the nuncio by way of loane, to the value of fifteen hundred pounds [in] plate, which, together with some moneyes the nuncio borrowed of Don Diego da la Torre, resident from the Spanish king, was employed in advancing this expedition. While they remained here [Kilkea] preparing such things as they conceived necessary for carrying on the great work they had undertaken, father Nugent, in pursuance of the zeal he expressed to the nuncio’s ways, both by being very instrumental in rejecting the peace and by contributing so considerablie in his late loane, gave the council and congregation to understand that he meant to ease them of the greatest part of their care; for having descended to all particulars, and with an exact scrutiny computed the number of breads which would suffice both their armies, and considered both the quantitie of corn to be brought in by the adjacent counties, and the wayes to be taken for the making of it into bread, and the carriage necessary for conveying it to the campe, he would himself assume that charge and doubted not to render satisfactory account of his employment; to which, with many thanks from the nuncio for his offer, he applyed himself immediately.

The two generals likewise, during the nuncio’s abode at Kilkay, came thither. Of those, the general of Ulster [O’Neill] had, avowedly, by acts of hostility disclaimed in the peace; for rising from the place where he sat encamped near Kilkenny, he advanced with his army into Leix and the parts of the county of Kildare contiguous to it where he took the fort of Marieborough, Athy, Grange-Emellan, Ballie Adams, Stradbally, by composition … [and eventually Desart].” [Sir John Thomas Gilbert, editor, ‘History of the Irish Confederation and the War in Ireland, 1641 [-1649] Containing a Narrative of Affairs of Ireland’ (Joseph Dollard, 1890), Volume 6 p. 22-23.]

[57]Sir Robert Talbot lived at Carton, County Kildare, while Sir John Dongan was from Castletown, Celbridge, County Kildare. See: Some account of the ruinous ecclesiastical edifices, forts, castles etc., with notes of modern events connected with the Queen’s County and County Kildare. (M. C. Carey, Maryborough, 1901), p. 171-173.

[58] ‘From Ballysonan, [Colonel] Hewson took the road to Castledermot. Diverging somewhat from the straight road he took Harristown lying between Naas and Kilcullenbridge. Then Lea near Portarlington was dismantled. The confused masses of towers and broken arches show the merciless havoc then made. Dunamaise was next taken and blown up. Tradition points out the site of the old corn mill at the corner of the mill field as the spot where the battery was erected. The monastery of Timahoe was seized and the friars found there massacred. The place where they were put to death is still called the road of murder.

When he reached Castledermot he found his provisions exhausted and was obliged to return to Dublin. After three days rest he set out again for Castledermot and Kilkea taking with him provisions for fourteen days. When he came before the former place he found that the enemy had burnt down a great part of the town pulled down the walls and betaken themselves to a strong tower. He caused a great quantity of straw and other combustible materials to be put to the door and set on fire, which forced those within to cry out for mercy. In the tower were taken Captain Shirlock, “a bloody Tory”, three friars and divers others. Shirlock had received a shot through the breast with a brace of bullets before he yielded. Shirlock and the friars were taken prisoners; the others were saved or executed as was thought fit’.

Denis Murphy, ‘Cromwell in Ireland: A History of Cromwell’s Irish Campaign’, (M. H. Gill & son, 1885) p. 289

[59] Diaries of the proceedings of the forces in Ireland under Sir Hardress Waller and the Lord Deputy Ireton, from 20th July, 1650, to 5th November, 1651, by officers in the Parliamentary Army in Ireland.

Sunday, July 20 1650. I left Dublin with a convoy of horse and foote and quartered neere Kill, about two miles from the Naas.

21. We came to Kilka, sidelong of Castledermott. We were waylayd by Sir Walter Dungan, Scurlock, and others, who were neere Bolton hill, drawen up in 5 divisions of horse. But it pleased God to give us the better in the engagement: we killd one Captain Shartall, and others, and tooke some prisoners, pursuing the rest some miles.

Monday, 22. We came to the army before Catherlagh Carlow, where Sir Hardresse Waller (Major-Generall of the foote) commaunded in absence of the Lord Deputy, who had litle before goune from the leaguer at Catherlagh towards Waterford, which had beene long kept in by garrisons and guards, so as the place thereby and by the sicknes therein raageing was greately distressed. This day began our battery at Catherlagh on the Castle on the bridge. A passage over the Barrow was by one bridge of bullrushes and another of timber.

Tuesday, the 23. The enemy parlied with others {⬌}. This night was Colonel Cromwell sent to the Lord Deputy with the articles of surrender and to understand his Lordships further pleasure concerninge.

Friday, July 26. The guarison of Catherlagh marched away according to the capitulation. They were in number about 200 foote. We placed there part of Colonel Ewers regiment.

Saturday, 27. We removed our quarters to other side of Catherlagh, about halfe a mile from it towards Castledermot.

Sunday, the 28. We marched towards Athy, and quartered at Grange Mellon, proposeing to viewe Athy and to consider of fortifying the place, and to do for it as should be convenient.

Monday, the 29. By order from My Lord we were carred and marched back towards Catherlagh, and passing over the newe bridge we went towards Loghgrenan, (now fortefied and guarrisond,) and that night quartered beyond Leighlin bridge, neere John Sothewell’s house.
Sir Robert Talbot, ‘a partisan of Ormonde’s’ had been in charge of the Callan garrison. After he lost the town, ‘he got the command of Kilkea castle in the county of Kildare and later of Tecroghan both of which he surrendered in an equally cowardly way.’ (Murphy, p. 264)

[60] The buyer was Alderman Daniel Hutchinson. See JCKAS (1895), Vol 1., p. 107.

[61] The 16th Earl’s agent was Valentine Payne, who, in 1629 wrote, ‘l have builded chapello from tho ground for your Lordship,’ in reference to Oldcourt Chapel in Strangford, County Down. See picture of it in Northern Whig, 18 September 1929,  here.

[62] Kilkea Castle, Anthologia Hibernica: Or Monthly Collections of Science, Belles-lettres, and History, Volume 4 (R. E. Mercier, and Company, October 1794). P. 241-242.

[63] 4th Duke of Leinster, p. 253.

[64] Cóilin Ó Drisceoil, Archaeological Assessment: Kilkea Castle and Demesne, (Kilkenny Archaeology, May 2013, p. 62.

[65] Tierney.

[66] Elizabeth Kildare’s last will and testament, written at Kilkea Castle and dated 29 April 1666, appeared in ‘A Collection of the State Letters of Roger Boyle, the First Earl of Orrery,’ visible here.

[67] ‘Under the Act of Settlement of 1662, it was enacted that the Earl of Kildare should have the pre-emption of any forfeited lands, which were held by any tenure under George or Wentworth, Earls of Kildare, and also of any lands surrounded by, or intermixed with, his estates. This provision being thought to obstruct the settlement of the country, was repealed by the Act of Explanation, when it was enacted that the Commissioners for the execution of the Act were to “set out unto John, Earl of Kildare, as much undisposed forfeited lands as would amount to the yearly value of £500, which lands were to be contiguous to his lordship of Kilkea.” This provision being unfulfilled, a petition was presented to the King on the part of the Earl, stating that he was under age, and praying that lands to the stated amount might be settled upon him. Accordingly, by a letter dated the 18th November 1670, a commission was ordered to be issued to inquire into his Majesty’s title to certain lands in various counties, which, to the aforesaid amount should be settled on him and his heirs of entail. Whether any or what lands were thus acquired does not appear.’ The 4th Duke of Leinster, p. 255.

[68] In 1672 the Earl received from the King a grant for a weekly market at Rathangan and, in 1678, the weekly market and two yearly fairs at Maynooth. The 4th Duke of Leinster, p. 256.

[69] J.M. Gray [ed.], Memoirs of the Secret Services of John Macky, 1895, p.67.

[70] ‘Notes on the Pictures, Plate, Antiquities, &c., at Carton, Kilkea Castle, 13, Dominick Street, Dublin, and 6, Carlton House Terrace, London’ (Dublin: University Press, 1885), p. 11.

[71] ‘An Impartial History Of The Wars In Ireland’ by George Warter Story, quoted by the 4th Duke of Leinster, ‘Residences,’ p. 98.

[72] Richard Pococke, ‘Pococke’s Tour in Ireland in 1752’ (Hodges, Figgis, 1891), p. 165.

[73] Some interesting names from the area at this time include Garter Farm – the earliest record I have is 1732 – and a part of Ballaghmoon called Gotham Quarter in the barony of Kilkea which was held by Edward Conyers in 1743.

[74] ‘Notes on the Pictures, Plate, Antiquities, &c., at Carton, Kilkea Castle, 13, Dominick Street, Dublin, and 6, Carlton House Terrace, London’ (Dublin: University Press, 1885),’ p. 25.