Fitzgerald, George (1612–60), 16th earl of Kildare , politician, was born 23 January 1612, third but only surviving son of Thomas Fitzgerald, second son of William, 13th earl of Kildare (1536–97), and Frances, daughter of Thomas Randolph, postmaster general in England under Elizabeth I. Fitzgerald's parents both died in 1619; James I granted his wardship to Esmé, Lord Aungier (later duke of Lennox), and Sir William Talbot, and he was raised in Walton-on-Thames in England. In 1620, at the age of eight, Fitzgerald succeeded his young cousin Gerald as earl of Kildare. He became known as the ‘fairy earl’ because of his diminutive size. After Lennox's death in 1624, his widow transferred the Kildare wardship to Richard Boyle (qv), earl of Cork, for £6,600. The young earl matriculated at Christ Church in Oxford, and returned to Ireland in 1630. In August 1630 Kildare's marriage to Cork's daughter, Joan, formalised the links between the Fitzgerald and Boyle families. He was granted livery of his lands on 20 February 1633, and attended parliament in 1634, carrying the cap of state at the opening ceremony. During the 1630s he also rebuilt the family home in Maynooth with the financial assistance of his father-in-law. Committed to jail in July 1637 for contempt of court, after a land dispute with his cousin Dame Lettice Digby (qv), Baroness Offaly, he was released in March 1638 after the personal intervention of the king. The dramatist James Shirley (qv) dedicated his tragi-comedy ‘The royal master’ to the earl when the play was performed in Dublin later that year.
Kildare travelled to England in 1639 to offer his services to the king against the Scots, but returned to Ireland for the opening session of parliament in 1640. At the outbreak of the Ulster rebellion in October 1641, the lords justices appointed him governor of Co. Kildare. He raised three companies of troops, but fled the county in December after the majority of these soldiers defected to the rebels. The insurgents burned his house in Maynooth at this time, forcing the earl to reside on Dame St. in Dublin for the next ten years. In May 1642 he assumed command of the regiment of Sir Charles Coote (qv), and served under the royalist lord lieutenant James Butler (qv), marquess of Ormond. In 1646 both Kildare and Ulick Burke (qv), 5th earl of Clanricarde, provided a recognizance of £10,000 each for the release of Edward Somerset (qv), earl of Glamorgan, imprisoned after the publication of his secret treaty with the confederate catholics. In July 1647 Ormond surrendered Dublin to the forces of the English parliament and left Ireland. Kildare switched his allegiance to the new regime, and acted as deputy governor of the city in the absence of Col. Michael Jones (qv). Two years later he received a government pension, but shortly afterwards was placed under restraint in London for debt. On 1 December 1658 he succeeded his cousin Lettice, Baroness Offaly, as Baron Offaly, under the terms of the creation of her barony in 1620; this succession may possibly have eased his immediate financial worries. He died in 1660 prior to the restoration of Charles II. His wife and eldest son had predeceased him, so his second son, Wentworth, became the 17th earl.