Thomas FitzWilliam, 1st Viscount FitzWilliam
Thomas FitzWilliam, 1st Viscount Fitzwilliam (1581–1650) was an Irish nobleman.
He was born in Dublin, probably at Merrion Castle,eldest son of Sir Richard FitzWiliam, Constable of Wicklow, and Jane Preston, daughter of Christopher Preston, 4th Viscount Gormanston. The FitzWilliam family are recorded in Dublin from about 1210, and by the time of Thomas' birth were among the wealthiest and most influential in the Pale.
In 1608 he narrowly avoided entanglement in the rebellion of Sir Cahir O'Doherty, having stood surety for the good behaviour of O'Doherty, who had married his aunt Mary Preston. A messenger arrived at Merrion Castle ordering FitzWilliam to produce the person of O'Doherty; fortunately FitzWilliam was not at home. No doubts seem to have been entertained about his own loyalty to the Crown, then or later, and in 1629 Charles I created him Viscount FitzWilliam in recognition of his family's long record of service to the Crown. It appears that a good deal was expected in return for the title, and Thomas made substantial gifts to the Crown. This put a particular burden on his estates since he was involved in litigation with his numerous brothers and sisters over a period of years, over his father's breaking of an entail on the estates, which benefitted Thomas but not his siblings.
Civil war and last years
When the Irish Rebellion of 1641 broke out, FitzWilliam, unlike many of the nobility of the Pale, remained loyal to the Crown, despite strong pressure from his mother's family, the Prestons of Gormanston, to join the Irish Confederacy. He was one of three nobles to offer their assistance in the Royalist defence of Dublin, and a garrison was placed in Merrion Castle. It was betrayed in June 1642 and thereafter FitzWilliam only lived there for short periods. He went to London to offer his services to the Crown, but was rebuffed, and thereafter took no part in the fighting. In his last years he led an unsettled existence, sometimes at Merrion, sometimes with his eldest son at Howth, and sometimes at Louth. At times he seems to have been almost destitute, and wrote to the Marquis of Ormonde in 1647 asking for repayment of a debt. In 1648 he was promised a pension of £100 a year, but it is unclear if he ever received it.
Due perhaps to the confused conditions of the Civil War, little seems to be known about the date and place of his death. Even the year has been disputed, but is generally stated to be 1650. He was certainly dead before 1655 when his second and eldest surviving son Oliver was allowed to inherit a part of the estates, though the majority were not restored until 1663.
- Ball, F. Elrington History of Dublin Alexander Thom and Co. Dublin 1902-1920 Vol.2 p.11
- Ball, p.12
- Cockayne Complete Peerage 6 Volumes Reissue 2000 Vol.5 p.527
- Ball, p.13
- Ball, p.16
- Ball, p.18
- Cockayne Complete Peerage, p.527
- Ball, p.13