Jeffereyes (Jeffries, Jeffereys), Arabella (c.1734–c.1810), landowner and social radical, was born Arabella Fitzgibbon , eldest daughter among three daughters and four sons of John Fitzgibbon and Elinor Fitzgibbon (née Grove); her younger brother was John FitzGibbon (qv), the future earl of Clare and lord chancellor of Ireland. It seems she may have been born at Sidbury, Devonshire, before her family moved to Limerick. She married (5 June 1762) James St John Jeffereyes (qv), a wealthy landowner whose estate included Blarney Castle, Co. Cork, and who was also MP for Midleton (1758–76) and Randalstown (1776–80); they had one son and four daughters.
A proud and flamboyant character, Arabella attempted to make herself a leading figure in Cork society and politics, especially after the death of her husband (September 1780). Her political sympathies were, like everything else about her, unpredictable, and in the late 1780s she supported the Rightboys in Co. Cork, allowing them to meet on her estate. She also wrote letters to protestant and catholic clergy urging them to stop oppressing the people. Such activities drew a stern rebuke from her increasingly powerful brother, John FitzGibbon. Known affectionately as ‘Lady’ Jeffereyes because of her kind treatment of tenants, she attempted to set the tithes for the church of Ireland on her estates, organised church parades, and was involved in an abortive scheme, supported by the Rightboys, to drain the lake near Blarney Castle. Her neighbours regarded her as deeply eccentric, and it was said that she allowed widows to live rent-free until the eldest son came of age. However her social sympathies did not extend to criminals: on 5 June 1784 she was the victim of highway robbery in London, when a diamond pin was stolen, and she testified at the trial on 7 July when Robert Moore was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to death.
Believing herself to be a patron of the arts, Arabella financed the English actress Mrs Frances Abdington, and championed the artist J. D. Herbert, even finding him a position with a London theatre company when he considered abandoning painting for acting. Despite her legacy from her husband she had severe financial difficulties, and was threatened with eviction in 1790 when she was unable to pay for a house she had rented; her brother intervened to spare embarrassment. Later that year Fitzgibbon attempted to secure the post of adjutant general for Col. Stephen Freemantle, the husband of her daughter Albinia, but King George III surprisingly refused. In 1792 her son George Charles Jeffereyes married Anne, daughter of the banker David La Touche (qv), and on 15 August 1793 Arabella married her youngest daughter, Emily, to Richard Butler (qv), the recently restored Baron Caher. Arabella had gone to great expense to arrange the match, rescuing Butler from poverty in France. Her eldest daughter, Mary Anne, had married George Frederick Nugent (qv), earl of Westmeath, in 1784, but the union ended in divorce in 1796 shortly before she married secondly Augustus Cavendish Bradshaw, a British MP. Nevertheless Arabella continued to claim Westmeath as her son-in-law. In his memoirs Lord Cloncurry (qv) accused her of attempting to secure money from him in return for facilitating his release, and this allegation is certainly consistent with her character.
She finally broke with FitzGibbon, now earl of Clare and lord chancellor, in the late 1790s after a quarrel over land. Her son had sold property to the lord chancellor, but had then regretted the sale and Arabella sided against her brother in the dispute. Clare died in 1802 and in his will he disinherited Arabella, denouncing her as a dishonest and corrupt character.
As her financial difficulties worsened in later life she appealed to the Castle for a pension in 1807, claiming she deserved it for saving Clare from a mob in 1795, by disguising herself as a kitchen maid. Although exaggerated, the story was true, but it was discreetly ignored. In 1810 she was involved in an extraordinary court case when she brought a lawsuit against her own son and another man, David Foley, accusing them of libel and blackmail. Sir Jonah Barrington (qv) was counsel for the co-plaintiff, Sophia, countess dowager of Annesley, and it was claimed at the trial that Arabella had murdered two patients at Simpson's hospital some years earlier by poisoning their cake, and then had arranged the murder of another man subsequently to cover up the crime. The case was allowed to drop when an arrangement was reached privately. At this time Arabella was known as ‘Lady Arabella Jeffries Groves’, so it is possible that she had remarried. She drifted into senility, and possibly insanity, in her final years; her year of death is not recorded. In Richard Alfred Milliken's song ‘The groves of Blarney’, written around 1797–8, she is praised as ‘Lady Jeffreys that owns this station/Like Alexander or Queen Helen fair/There's no commander throughout the nation/For emulation can with her compare’ (Field Day anthology, i, 1101). It has been suggested that the praise for Jeffereyes shows that a radical, anti-establishment message was hidden in this otherwise nonsensical verse (Carpenter, 523).