Fitzgerald (Lennox), Emily (Emilia Mary) (1731–1814), duchess of Leinster , was born on 6 October 1731 and baptised at St George's church, Hanover Square, London, the second surviving daughter of Charles Lennox, second duke of Richmond, who was grandson of Charles II and his mistress, Louise de Kéroualle. Her mother was Lady Sarah (Cadogan) Lennox, daughter of the earl of Cadogan. Emily was a goddaughter of George II, and both her parents were attached to the court. Her early childhood was divided between her father's residences at Whitehall Place in London and Goodwood House in Sussex. As a child she was precocious, lively and sociable, and was generally considered the most attractive of the Lennox sisters.
She was presented at court at the age of thirteen, and in 1745 she became engaged to James Fitzgerald (qv), then 20th earl of Kildare, and from 1766 duke of Leinster, and the senior peer of Ireland. Her parents appear to have been disappointed initially with the match, primarily on the grounds of his Irishness. Nevertheless they were married on 7 February 1747 at Richmond House, the home of her parents. The match was a success and Emily rapidly settled into life in Ireland, surrounding herself with numerous friends and associates at her country residence at Carton House, Co. Kildare. She was extravagant, and over the years ran up large debts. Her tastes included not only silks and the finest of furnishings, but also vast amounts of books, plays, poetry and political pamphlets. Despite her youth when she arrived at Carton, she played a substantial role in redesigning the interior of the house and the demesne, the finest example of eighteenth-century landscape architecture and one of the biggest in Ireland. Visitors, including Arthur Young (qv) in 1776, admired the vast lawn rolling over gentle hills. In a portrait of the family painted by Arthur Devis in 1755, it is Emily who is studying the plans of the grounds (Bence-Jones, 45). She set a trend in decorating her famous Chinese print room with imported hand-painted wallpaper and, as part of her recovery from the loss of her firstborn, George (1748–65), she redesigned a shell cottage in the grounds, which curious visitors flocked to see.
Most of her nineteen children with Kildare were born at their Dublin home, Leinster House, built for Fitzgerald by Richard Castle (qv) shortly before his marriage and which in Emily's time became the most lavish of Dublin's townhouses. As only ten of her children survived into adulthood, she doted on them and openly expressed anxiety at the prospect of loss. Despite these many pregnancies, she managed to keep in close contact with her elder sister, Caroline (wife of the leading whig politician Henry Fox), either through sporadic visits to London or in their regular correspondence, which often featured the political debates of the day. Added to this large family were her three youngest sisters, Louisa (qv) (later Conolly), Sarah and Cecilia, whom she reared after the death of her widowed mother in 1751.
She was an avid reader, as interested in politics as she was in literature, and had radical political sympathies. An enthusiastic francophile, she particularly admired Rousseau's Emile, which profoundly influenced her theories on education. This led her in 1766 to purchase a modest villa at the fishing village of Blackrock, south of Dublin, which was renamed Frescati after its enlargement. Having already lost four children, she saw to it that her children participated in outdoor pursuits and sea bathing. After unsuccessfully trying to recruit Rousseau, who was then living in England, she eventually employed as tutor William Ogilvie (qv), a Scot, of obscure origins but good education. He enthusiastically adapted to Emily's innovative routine, which included gardening, fishing, and regular trips to the theatre.
Increasingly, Ogilvie openly displayed warmth and affection for the children, and soon formed a liaison with Emily. Her last son, George Simon, was born on 16 April 1773, and was most probably Ogilvie's child. At the time of her husband's death in November 1773, it was widely rumoured that she and Ogilvie had already been secretly married. This gossip, which nearly jeopardised the marriage of her daughter Emily to the earl of Bellomont (qv), led her to take decisive action. In September 1774 she handed over Carton House to her son William (qv), the second duke, and moved to France with Ogilvie and nine of her younger children. While she was still officially in mourning, they were married in Toulouse on 26 October 1774 by Rev. John Ellison (d. 1809), a fellow of TCD (1766–81). After spending eighteen months in Marseilles, they settled at the Richmonds’ family chateau in Aubigny. Of her three children with Ogilvie, only Cecilia (b. 1775) and Mimi (b. 1778), both born in France, reached adulthood.
When they returned to Ireland in 1781, Emily's son William secured Ogilvie a parliamentary seat for Gorey, Co. Wexford (1781–3), and later for Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal (1783–90). Ogilvie divided his time between Ireland and London, where Emily settled to help secure husbands for her younger daughters. She became a keen supporter of her nephew, the radical whig Charles James Fox, and entertained many of his circle at her home. A classic example of the sentimentalism of the age, she was emotional, demonstrative, and passionately devoted to her children. Her fifth son, Lord Edward FitzGerald (qv), became her favourite and returned her affection. His effusive letters to her made no attempt to hide his growing political radicalism and, after 1792, open espousal of republicanism. Although resigned to his radical opinions, she grew alarmed at his close association with leading United Irishmen and, as plans for rebellion developed, his imprudent and reckless behaviour. Having by 1796 guessed his plans for a French invasion of Ireland, she interpreted his decision to entrust her with his two-year old son Eddy as a parting gift, the child being a symbolic replacement and compensation for the pain and distress she anticipated. Following his arrest in May 1798, and unaware that he was gravely wounded, she lobbied many of her influential friends but her efforts to delay his trial were futile. He died in prison (4 June 1798) before she was able to see him, his demented state being kept a secret from her. She was shattered by his death, and mourned his loss for the rest of her life.
Emily's later years were spent in London and a summer home in Wimbledon. She died on 27 March 1814 at her home in Grosvenor Place, London, and was buried in the family vault at Chichester cathedral. Numerous portraits of her were painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds (in private collections), Arthur Devis, Allan Ramsay and Sir Martin Archer Shee (qv).