FitzGerald, James fitz Thomas (c.1459–1487), 9th earl of Desmond , magnate, was son of Thomas fitz James FitzGerald (qv), 8th earl, and Alice Barry, and succeeded to the earldom after the execution of his father (February 1468). His title was challenged on the grounds of legitimacy by his uncle Gerald fitz James, lord of Decies. However, his claims were upheld by the king in the aftermath of the execution, and he was granted livery of his lands even though he was still under age. His mother allied with the O'Briens against fitz James and his allies, the MacCarthys of Carbury. The young earl was captured by the MacCarthys in 1471 but was released the following year, rallied support, and defeated his uncle. He remained aloof from the rest of the Anglo–Irish lordship, although he showed no desire to rebel, preferring to secure his own power in Munster in the face of O'Brien expansion into Limerick. He was given the authority to arrest and try rebels by the parliament of 1473–4, and was appointed constable of Limerick castle in June 1476. In September 1484 he received letters and gifts from Richard III, who promised him a wife if he would take up English manners and customs. He was unmoved by the royal interest: when he did marry, he married Margaret, a daughter of Tadhg O'Brien, lord of Thomond. Although he has been called a Yorkist, there is little evidence that he had any connection to the pretender Lambert Simnel (qv). However, his policy of isolation may have led to conflict with his brothers. He was in conflict with his brother Maurice (qv) (d. 1520) in September 1487, and he was assassinated (December) at the instigation of another brother, John. He was buried in Youghal; as he died without sons, the earldom passed to his brother Maurice.
Ann. Conn; CpapR; CPR; Stat. Ire., 12–22 Edw. IV; C. Ormond deeds, 1509–1547; Otway-Ruthven, Med. Ire.