Fitzgerald, John fitz Edmund (d. 1589), landowner and rebel, was the son of Edmund fitz Maurice Fitzgerald, 6th seneschal of Imokilly, and Shylie, daughter of Mulroney O'Carroll, lord of O'Carroll Ely. He succeeded his father as seneschal, in which office he played a key role in the administration of the earl of Desmond's lands in the barony of Imokilly, Co. Cork; he resided in his castle at Ballymartyr. He should not be confused with his neighbour, the loyalist John fitz Edmund Fitzgerald (qv) (d. 1612) of Cloyne.
In June 1569 he supported the rebellion of James fitz Maurice Fitzgerald (qv), joining him in an attack on Kerrycurrihy. Later that year he claimed that he would hold Ballymartyr against any force. The lord deputy, Sir Henry Sidney (qv), took up the challenge and besieged the castle before destroying part of the wall with cannon fire. The fort was no longer defensible and, as Sidney was unlikely to be merciful, fitz Edmund and his men escaped over a bog during the night. In October 1569 he was captured near Clonmel by loyalist Fitzgeralds, but by March 1571 he was free and in rebellion, taking a castle near Youghal. At about this time, he and fitz Maurice sacked Kilmallock. The two men brought the rebellion to an end on 23 February 1573 when they submitted amid the ruins of Kilmallock.
Gerald Fitzgerald (qv), 15th earl of Desmond, had been imprisoned by the crown before the fitz Maurice rebellion, but in November 1573 he escaped, made his way to Munster, and reasserted his authority there against the crown. In the same month fitz Edmund besieged and forced the surrender of the royal garrison that had been installed at Ballymartyr. In July 1574 he signed a document urging Desmond to resist the crown's demands and pledging his military support if it was wanted. However, further conflict was averted, as Desmond and the government came to terms. The settlement was not to fitz Edmund's liking, and a near contemporary source states that he advised fitz Maurice, who was also discontented, to appeal to foreign powers for military aid. In March 1575 he accompanied fitz Maurice into exile in France, but he returned to Ireland in July. He claimed that they had gone to appeal to the king of France to persuade Queen Elizabeth to support their claims to certain lands. Given that fitz Edmund held over 36,000 acres of land, this struck many as an unconvincing explanation, but no action was taken against him. Fitz Edmund appears to have been more in sympathy with the radical catholic views of fitz Maurice, whose daughter Honora he married, than with the self-interested wavering of his overlord Desmond. During the late 1570s Desmond cultivated good relations with the crown and sought to rein in his kinsman, reimposing his traditional taxation in kind upon fitz Edmund's lands, which gave the latter further cause for discontent.
Fitz Maurice's return to Ireland in July 1579 sparked another uprising, of which fitz Edmund became one of the mainstays, winning the respect of his enemies for his resilience. On 15 November he participated, alongside Desmond, in the brutal sack of Youghal. Within a month royal forces under Thomas Butler (qv), 10th earl of Ormond, entered Imokilly and devastated the area, killing fitz Edmund's brother; fitz Edmund himself was lucky to fight his way out, though he was wounded in the process. After another narrow escape in January 1580 at the siege of Stancally castle in Co. Waterford, he raided Ormond's territories in March, burning Nenagh and twelve other towns before being wounded again in heavy fighting in Kerry in April. At the start of 1581 he launched a series of ambushes against royal forces and in February nearly killed Sir Walter Ralegh (qv). In July he participated in a massive rebel raid on the Decies and in October rampaged through Cashel. Following the death of Sir John Fitzgerald (qv) of Desmond in January 1582, fitz Edmund became the leading rebel commander.
Later in 1582, probably in spring, fitz Edmund joined Desmond in an attack on Ormond's territory, where the raiders were pursued by a much larger force of Butlers. However, at Knockgraffon fitz Edmund suddenly turned and led a charge that surprised and scattered the Butlers, winning a remarkable victory. He continued to cause havoc throughout east Munster for the duration of 1582, and twice attempted to take Youghal. In late 1582 Sir Warham St Leger (qv) captured an illegitimate son of fitz Edmund's and attempted unsuccessfully to use this leverage to broker a peaceful end to the war. In November 1582 Ormond was reappointed general of the royal forces in Munster. Although Desmond was also at large with his own forces, Ormond focused meticulously on hunting down fitz Edmund, many of whose followers, including his mother and young son, Ormond killed. On 11 June 1583 fitz Edmund submitted to Ormond. The news that he had been allowed to surrender on terms led to a flood of submissions by other rebels, effectively ending the uprising, though Desmond was not finally caught and killed until November.
Ormond, who had more time for his Irish aristocratic foes than for the lowborn English soldier-officials, who seemed poised to take over Munster, appealed on fitz Edmund's behalf to London, securing his pardon on 14 May 1585. Nonetheless, royal officials regarded him with suspicion believing that he communicated with the Spanish. He became involved in a dispute with the government over land in Imokilly that was assigned to English settlers under the Munster plantation, and in 1585–6 twice refused to meet royal officials when summoned. Worried about reports of a Spanish fleet heading for Ireland and eager to neutralise potential opposition to the plantation, the government arrested him in March 1587 and imprisoned him in Dublin castle. On 21 January 1589 he was told that he would receive his rent for the period of his imprisonment, presumably as a prelude to his release, but by 26 January 1589 he had died.
With his wife, Honora, fitz Edmund had two sons, Edmund, who succeeded to most of his lands, and Richard, and two daughters, Catherine and Eleanor. After his death Honora married Edmund, eldest son of Sir John fitz Edmund Fitzgerald of Cloyne.