Fitton, Sir Alexander (1635/6–1699), Baron Fytton , lord chancellor, was the eldest surviving son of William Fitton of Gawsworth in Cheshire. His great-grandfather Sir Edward Fitton (qv) was a high-ranking Tudor official in Ireland, and his grand-uncle, also Sir Edward (qv), was an undertaker in Munster whose estates included Knockainy, Co. Limerick (which appears to be identical with the Aney, Awny, Awrice or Aronee mentioned by different authorities). The last-named Sir Edward had a younger brother, Alexander, an army captain who purchased some of his estates at Knockainy and married Jane, daughter of MacBryen O'Connogh. Their elder son, William, married Eva, daughter of Sir Edward Trevor of Brynkinallt in Denbighshire. The latter couple had two sons: an elder son, who was alive in 1641 but dead by 1663, and Alexander.
Alexander Fitton entered Gray's Inn in 1654 and the Inner Temple in 1655, and was called to the English bar in 1662. He himself soon became involved in a legal dispute of great complexity and duration, and some notoriety. His second cousin Sir Edward Fitton, successor in the direct line to their great-grandfather, died in 1643, apparently leaving his estate at Gawsworth to Alexander's father. However, the inheritance was disputed by another cousin, Charles Gerard (c.1618–1694), Baron Gerard of Brandon. William Fitton until his death, about 1663, and subsequently his son Alexander, disputed a will produced by Gerard. However, Gerard was successful, and Alexander suffered imprisonment first for his costs and then, after questioning the authenticity of the will, for libel. The forger and informer Abraham Granger, Gerard's principal witness, was later claimed to have retracted his evidence, but this did Fitton no good.
Fitton is usually said to have remained in prison for most of the reign of Charles II. On the other hand, there is some evidence that he retained connections with Ireland, where he may have been born, and with the English inns of court: for example, he appeared as a debtor on the Dublin statute staple in 1666 as of ‘Awney, Co. Limerick’, and in 1675 as of the Inner Temple. Fitton was almost certainly connected with the publication in 1669 of a play – Pluto furens & vinctus; or, The raging devil bound: a modern farse – attacking Gerard. The latter, a royalist commander in the civil war, subsequently became a strong whig; by the end of Charles's reign, Gerard had been made earl of Macclesfield but had lost royal favour. On the accession of James II (qv) Fitton resumed litigation for the estate, which he said was worth £2,000 a year, though again without success; his legal counsel in 1685 included Richard Levinge (qv). Fitton about this time probably came to the attention of the king and appears to have become a catholic.
In February 1687, when the earl of Tyrconnell (qv) became lord deputy, the king appointed Fitton a privy counsellor and lord chancellor of Ireland, abruptly dismissing Sir Charles Porter (qv), who had been appointed just ten months earlier. Thomas Sheridan (qv), who was appointed secretary to Tyrconnell at the same time, claimed that he and Fitton were both selected by the king to be restraints on the lord deputy, but stated further that the new chancellor, owing to his temperament and the lack of any support but his office, was incapable of independence. For Fitton's benefit, the lord chancellor's salary was increased from £1,000 to £1,500, and he received a payment of £1,250 from the secret service fund. He was also knighted about the time of his appointment. He was one of the lords justices of Ireland while Tyrconnell was at Chester in the autumn of 1687, and again on Tyrconnell's death in August 1691.
While Fitton was in Ireland, Macclesfield, who had fled England under James II, returned with William of Orange (qv), on whose accession to the English throne he promptly (in March 1689) initiated new proceedings in the English house of lords. Fitton of course could not attend, but he retained several counsel who, notably, included Porter. The case was referred to the English court of chancery, but was probably superseded by the Williamite outlawry of Fitton in autumn 1689.
Fitton was created Baron Fytton of Gosworth, Co. Limerick, on 1 May 1689 and presided in the house of lords in James's Irish parliament. Porter was reappointed lord chancellor in December 1690 by William, and the Williamite and Jacobite appointees functioned in their separate spheres until Fitton followed James to France, probably in the autumn of 1691.
He remained titular chancellor in exile and James's will nominated him to be one of the advisory council during his son's minority, but he predeceased his king, dying at St Germain on 9 November 1699, aged sixty-three. He married about 1655 Anne, daughter of Thomas Joliffe of Cofton in Worcestershire and of Margaret Skinner; she died in Dublin on 7 October 1687. They had one child, a daughter, Anne, whom Joliffe asserted in 1689 had always lived with him and had been brought up a protestant. She nonetheless appeared at St Germain where, after abjuring the protestant faith, she married a Captain Miles Magrath in 1696 and died in April 1700. In December 1700 Magrath, still at St Germain, was said to be starving and offering to inform on fellow Jacobites in return for permission to enter England where he had relatives. Another of Fitton's companions in exile at St Germain was Baskerville Polewheele (fl. 1689–1712), said to be his nephew, who served him as pursuivant in the court of chancery. Polewheele sat for Carysfort, Co. Wicklow, in James II's Irish parliament of 1689 and was clerk to that assembly.
Fitton ranked high in Irish protestant demonology, during and after his period in office. The merits of his lawsuits cannot now be determined, and the fluctuations of court politics certainly did much to shape the fortunes of both Fitton and Macclesfield. Yet James II's choice for one of the highest offices of state, of a recent convert to the catholic church, who had served long periods in prison, was not reassuring for Irish protestants, and was said to have surprised even Irish catholics. Prominent among his critics was Bishop William King (qv), whose depiction of Fitton as an extreme catholic partisan and an incompetent lawyer was repeated by later whig writers. In the nineteenth century, on the other hand, J. R. O'Flanagan (qv) examined the records of chancery (since destroyed) and declared Fitton's management of that court to be satisfactory.