FitzGerald, Gerald (Gearóid Óg, Garrett McAlison) (1487–1534), 9th earl of Kildare , magnate and lord deputy of Ireland, was the only son of Gerald FitzGerald (qv), 8th earl of Kildare, lord deputy of Ireland, and his first wife, Alison (Alice) FitzEustace (d. 1495), who was the daughter and co-heir of Roland FitzEustace or Eustace, 1st Baron Portlester (qv), lord treasurer, from one of his three marriages. He had six sisters and seven half-brothers.
Education and early career Between the ages of eight and sixteen, Gerald was detained at the English court as a surety for his father's good behaviour. He was raised in the company of princes Arthur and Henry and received a regular aristocratic English education based on the classics and vernacular Renaissance literature. In 1502 Gerald played a prominent role at Prince Arthur's funeral in Worcester cathedral. His marriage in July 1503 to Henry VII's relative Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Zouche of Codnor in Derbyshire and Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John St John of Bletso, testified to his dynasty's elevated standing at court. Henry granted the couple his manor at Cawston in Norfolk and Gerald's father gave them four manors in Meath and Kildare. Accompanied by his wife and father, Gerald returned to Ireland in August 1503. In February of the following year he was appointed treasurer in the Dublin administration, a post he held till 1513. In August 1504 he participated in his first major military campaign, the battle of Knockdoe, though his inexperience was apparent in his premature commitment of the reserve to battle.
Lord deputy 1513–19 Soon after Henry VIII's accession in 1509, the king granted Gerald the manor of Ardmullan in Meath, to hold at his pleasure. On his father's death in September 1513, Gerald succeeded as 9th earl of Kildare and was elected deputy governor by the Irish council. In November he was confirmed as lord deputy by Henry VIII. Throughout most of the 1510s, Kildare asserted his authority both as overlord and deputy much as his father had done, consolidating and developing existing associations with Gaelic lords throughout the country. Occasionally he resorted to military campaigns against particularly truculent Gaelic chieftains such as Conall O'More (qv) of Leix and Aodh O'Reilly (qv) of Breifne (1514), O'Carroll (qv) of Offaly (1516), and Con Bacach O'Neill (qv) of Tyrone (1517). During the 1520s and early 1530s Kildare continued to engage in similar campaigns into Gaelic areas.
Although Kildare was given free rein in dominating Irish politics down to 1519, the political climate was changing. Like their peers in lowland England, the gentry and merchants of the Pale were becoming increasingly vociferous in criticising over-mighty magnates, notably Kildare, whom they accused of abusing his position and of tolerating increased border lawlessness. In 1515 the earl faced the first serious challenge to his authority. In May, while he was at court to deal with his stepmother's claims to his father's estate, Sir William Darcy (qv), acting as spokesman for Kildare's opponents in the Dublin administration, presented Henry VIII with a list of complaints against the earl. However, Darcy met with an indifferent response from the king, who signalled his continued confidence in Kildare by confirming him as deputy and investing him with generous grants of land and privileges, including a licence to found a chantry college, which the earl established at Maynooth in 1518. It was also in 1515 that a quarrel between Kildare and his brother-in-law, Sir Piers Butler (qv), erupted over the Ormond dynastic inheritance. The resultant bitter animosity between the two persisted throughout the 1520s and early 1530s and had a deleterious affect on Kildare's authority.
Dismissal In 1519, a year after Henry VIII had begun to develop a lively interest in Irish affairs, he summoned Kildare to court to discuss persistent complaints regarding his alleged abuse of authority. On this occasion Kildare's defence did not satisfy Henry, who dismissed him, appointing in his place the English nobleman Thomas Howard (qv), earl of Surrey (later duke of Norfolk). Kildare was detained at court on a charge of maladministration and during his sojourn there he frequently quarrelled with the lord chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. Although bound over not to leave London in May 1520, a month later Kildare was among the nobility of the Tudor realm who accompanied Henry VIII to the lavish Field of Cloth of Gold ceremony. During the period July 1520 to spring 1521 he was on several occasions suspected of inciting his allies in Ireland to undermine Surrey's authority and was briefly imprisoned in 1520. However, by 1522 he was restored to royal favour and married Lady Elizabeth Grey, daughter of Thomas, marquess of Dorset, and Cecily, Baroness Harington and Bonville, his first wife having died in 1517.
Kildare–Butler rivalry During his absence from Ireland, Kildare adopted the usual strategy of rallying his supporters to stage demonstrations of his indispensability in the hope that Surrey's attempt to govern without his support would fail and precipitate his reappointment as deputy. However, this was not successful. Following Surrey's recall in September 1521, Henry appointed Kildare's rival, Piers Butler, as lord deputy in 1522. Butler soon found it impossible to defend the Pale from his base in Kilkenny, and was compelled to request Kildare's return to defend the king's subjects. On new year's day 1523, having been detained in England for almost three and a half years, Kildare arrived in Ireland, accompanied by his new wife, and bearing instructions to pacify Co. Kildare and cooperate with Butler. However, he behaved as though he were lord deputy, and throughout 1523–4 his feud with Butler intensified. In May 1524 Henry was forced to intervene: he dismissed Butler from the deputyship and appointed Kildare; in July both men were bound over by a peace agreement. Kildare took up his position as lord deputy on 4 August but a month later, hostilities resumed. Each was inciting his Gaelic allies to raid the other's holdings, while they were engaged directly in mutual defamation. In August 1526 Henry again intervened, summoning both parties to court in the hope that he might persuade them to work together in bringing an end to the earl of Desmond's (qv) intrigues with England's continental enemies. However, Kildare's truculence during interrogation by Wolsey resulted in his detention in England for another three and a half years. In July 1528 Kildare instructed his allies, specifically the O'Connors, to resume attacks on the king's subjects. As a result he was imprisoned and narrowly escaped being tried for treason. Again Kildare's contrivance failed to secure his reinstatement, as in August 1528 Piers Butler (now earl of Ossory) was reappointed lord deputy. Kildare was then released on bail, and resided at the duke of Norfolk's home at Newington in Middlesex.
Kildare and Skeffington Following the failure of Ossory's administration and that of the ‘Secret Council’, Henry appointed Sir William Skeffington (qv) to the lord deputyship in June 1530. Two months later, in response to pressure from Kildare's influential in-laws, the Greys, and also from Thomas Boleyn, earl of Wiltshire, and Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk, Henry agreed to allow Kildare to return home under strict instructions to cooperate with Skeffington. He was also pardoned for his role in the 1528 disturbances. On 24 August Kildare and Skeffington landed together in Ireland. The earl was to negotiate peace with border chiefs. Initially their collaboration worked well, but by early summer 1531 relations were strained and the Geraldine–Butler feud resumed. Kildare undermined Skeffington's authority by mobilising support on the Irish council and at court through his influential allies, Norfolk and Wiltshire. In spring 1532 Kildare was summoned to court along with several leading officials, who blamed Skeffington for reigniting the dynastic feud. Skeffington was dismissed and for the last time Kildare was appointed lord deputy on 5 July 1532. While besieging Birr castle in mid-December 1532, the earl sustained a gunshot wound from which he never completely recovered, and thereafter he was forced to rely on his kinsmen to prosecute campaigns on his behalf.
Summoned to court By mid-1533 Henry VIII's secretary, Thomas Cromwell, was compiling a dossier of complaints against Kildare and had begun appointing his opponents to senior positions in the Dublin government. In September Henry again summoned Kildare, Ossory, and other officials to court. Kildare dispatched his wife with a plea to be excused on the grounds of illness owing to his gunshot wound. In the autumn and winter of 1533 opposition to his governance was steadily mounting, both in the Irish council and at court. Fearing that he might again be removed from the lord deputyship, the earl transferred the king's munitions from Dublin castle to his own fortresses, notably Maynooth. However, Henry insisted that Kildare comply with the summons to court, and as a gesture of reassurance he allowed the earl to nominate his own deputy during his absence from Ireland. In February 1534 Kildare held his last council meeting at Drogheda, at which he appointed his son Thomas, Lord Offaly (qv), as his deputy. He then departed for England, where he made his appearance at court in March.
The courtiers were struck by the earl's feeble state, remarking how he was ‘sick both in body and brain . . . by the shot of a harquebus’ and it was rumoured that ‘there is no hope of his recovery’ (L. & P. Hen. VIII, vii, no. 530). Kildare was examined in council and by the end of May 1534 his liberty jurisdiction over Co. Kildare had been abolished and ‘manifold enormities’ had been proven against him (SP, Hen. VIII, ii, 194). When Henry summoned a council meeting in Dublin, the earl dispatched a messenger to his son, warning him not to trust the king's council since the members would advise him to travel to England where he would be executed. It is not clear whether the ensuing revolt was a deliberate reaction against the Tudor policies of centralisation or an ill-conceived show of strength designed to pressurise Henry VIII into confirming Kildare as deputy. But whatever its cause and intention, Henry was acutely sensitive to all uprisings in the realm, as he wrestled with the royal divorce crisis, and therefore had Kildare arrested on 29 June and imprisoned in the Tower of London. During his incarceration, the earl, who was constantly attended by his wife, Countess Elizabeth, remained steadfast in his support of Offaly's action, invariably praising him and showing ‘great contentment at his present work, only wishing that he was older and more experienced in warfare’ (CSP, Spain, v, no. 87).
Death Kildare died on 2 September 1534, aged forty-seven, and was buried in the church of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower. His son Thomas, then in open rebellion, succeeded him as 10th earl. In May 1536 the 9th earl was posthumously attainted of treason by the Irish parliament. His heir and his five brothers were executed at Tyburn on February 1537. He was survived by six daughters and two sons. In 1554 his eldest surviving son, Gerald (qv) (1525–85), was restored to the earldom.
Wealth and reputation The 9th earl enjoyed an annual income of well in excess of £2,000 Irish, which placed him among the top ten wealthiest members of the Tudor nobility. By 1534 his estates alone were worth £1,585 Irish a year. His family's household and lifestyle clearly reflected that status and had all the trappings of immense riches, not least a vast collection of silver and gold plate. The furnishing and decoration of Kildare's home at Maynooth were in a distinctly Renaissance style and he had a substantial library containing Latin, English, French, and Gaelic texts, some very recently published. A portrait by Hans Holbein the younger (1530) is held in a private collection.
Richard Stanihurst (qv), the Dublin-born chronicler, believed the 9th earl equalled his father in terms of martial prowess, describing him as ‘a wise, deep, and far-reaching man; in war valiant without rashness, and politic without treachery’ (Holinshed, vi, 309). He also praised the earl's great hospitality. Kildare had a reputation as a devout Christian and was a generous patron of both secular and regular clergy as well as a leading patron of Gaelic learning; his Gaelic employees included rhymers, harpers, a physician, a judge, and several captains of his kerne and galloglass. He was particularly assiduous in administering his estates and finances, as evidenced by his compilation in 1518 of the unique ‘Kildare rental’, held in the British Library, which records details of contracts, terms of leases, tributes, duties, fees, and other matters pertaining to his properties. The earl cultivated and developed the Pale's southern and western marches that his father had annexed to the Kildare estates. He also extended and reorganised the military service owed by his tenants in Meath, Kildare, and Carlow.
Traditionally the 9th earl was criticised for failing to equal his father's achievements. However, recent historiography has cast him in a more favourable light, recognising the difficulties he faced in endeavouring to maintain his dynasty's monopoly of the deputyship in an increasingly centralised Tudor realm. Kildare demonstrated considerable adroitness in exercising the dual roles of English courtier and Gaelic provincial chief. However, like several of his counterparts in northern England, his stubborn conviction that he could force Henry VIII to recognise a Kildare claim to the deputyship of Ireland ultimately contributed to his dynasty's downfall.