Earl of Desmond (Irish: Iarla Dheasumhan meaning Earl of South Munster) is a title in the peerage of Ireland[1] which has been created four times since 1329. The title was first awarded to Maurice FitzGerald, 4th Baron Desmond, a Hiberno-Norman lord in Southwest Ireland, and it was held by his descendants until 1583 when they rose against the English crown in the Desmond Rebellions. Following two short-lived recreations of the title in the early 1600s, the title has been held since 1628 by the Feilding family of Warwickshire, England. The current holder is Alexander Feilding, 12th Earl of Denbigh and 11th Earl of Desmond (4th creation).

Earldom of Desmond
held with
Earldom of Denbigh
Image of the coat of arms of the Earls of Desmond, a red cross on an ermine background
Arms of the Fitzgerald Earls of Desmond (for arms of the current Earl, see Earl of Denbigh)
Creation date1329 (1st creation)
1600 (2nd creation)
1619 (3rd creation)
1622/1628 (4th creation)
Created byEdward III (1st creation)
Elizabeth I (2nd creation)
James VI and I (3rd creation and 4th creation (right on reversion))
Charles I (4th creation - confirmation of possession)
PeeragePeerage of Ireland
First holderMaurice FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Desmond
Present holderAlexander Feilding, 12th Earl of Denbigh, 11th Earl of Desmond (4th creation)
Heir apparentPeregrine Feilding, Viscount Feilding
Subsidiary titlesViscount Feilding
Viscount Callan
Baron Feilding of Newnham Paddox
Baron St Liz
Baron Fielding of Lecaghe
Extinction date1582 (first creation)
1601 (second creation)
1628 (third creation)
Seat(s)Newnham Paddox House
MottoCrescit sub pondere virtus (Virtue increaseth under oppression)

Summary of history of the title edit

The Munster Desmonds were a cadet (junior) branch of the powerful FitzGerald dynasty who came to Ireland from Wales as part of the 12th century Anglo-Norman invasion. Over the following centuries, the FitzGeralds famously assimilated themselves in Ireland, and, in the late 16th century Tudor conquest of Ireland, they took arms against the Protestant English Crown in the Desmond Rebellions. As a result, the family's estates were confiscated, the earl beheaded and the title suppressed.

The English government imprisoned James FitzGerald, the eldest son of the last earl, in the Tower of London for decades. However, in 1600, during the Nine Years War, in an attempt to pacify the people of Munster, James was freed and title recreated for him though without right of inheritance. The people of Munster refused to accept the new Earl - a Protestant - and James died a year later in obscurity.

The third creation was in 1619 for Richard Preston, a favourite of James I: Preston had married the daughter and heiress of the 10th Earl of Ormond, neighbour, relative and enemy of the Munster Desmonds. Preston died without male heir and - before Preston's death - James I decided the Desmond title should be subsequently awarded to George Feilding, a nephew of another of the King's favourites. The idea was that George would marry Preston's daughter Elizabeth and thereby inherit lands in Ireland.

Charles I confirmed George Feilding as Earl of Desmond on Preston's death in 1628 (the fourth creation) but George never got to marry the independent-minded Elizabeth. Since 1675 the title, shorn of its traditional Irish estate, has been held by Feilding's descendants as a secondary title to that of the Earl of Denbigh.[2][3]

The FitzGerald Barons and Earls of Desmond edit

The Territory of Desmond edit

Ireland in 1450 showing the FitzGerald Earldom of Desmond. The westernmost part of the former Gaelic Kingdom of Desmond continued as a semi- independent Irish kingdom.

Desmond (Irish: Deasmhumhain, meaning 'South Munster') was a historic kingdom in southwestern Ireland, founded in 1118. It comprised all of what is now County Cork and most of County Kerry. The eastern half of Desmond was conquered by the Anglo-Normans and became the Earldom of Desmond, but the western half of Desmond lived on as a semi-independent Gaelic kingdom until 1596.

Barony of Desmond edit

Shanid Castle, from which the Desmond Geraldines derived their motto, "Shanid abu"

The House of Desmond was a branch of the famous FitzGerald Dynasty (Geraldines) in Ireland which had been founded by Maurice FitzGerald, Lord of Lanstephan in Wales ( c.1105 – c.1176). Maurice was of Anglo-Norman and Welsh descent.

Though the House of Desmond branch was founded by the eldest of Maurice FitzGeralds's sons, Thomas FitzMaurice, Lord OConnello, it became the cadet or junior branch of the family: the senior branch, the House of Kildare, was founded by Thomas's younger brother Gerald, 1st Lord of Offally.

Thomas, Lord OConello was a key supporter of the Lord of Pembroke known as ("Strongbow") in his 1169 invasion of Ireland. Thomas's son, John FitzThomas, became the first Baron Desmond upon receiving, for his homage and service, a grant in 1259 of the lands of Decies (today's County Waterford) and Desmond from Prince Edward of England. Before passing to Edward, these lands had been held by Thomas FitzAnthony, the father of John's wife Margery FitzAnthony.[1]

Earl of Desmond: first creation edit

The title Earl of Desmond was first created for Maurice FitzGerald, 4th Baron Desmond in about 1329.[4]

Gerald FitzGerald, 3rd Earl of Desmond, married Eleanor Butler. Through her, John FitzGerald, 4th Earl of Desmond and all subsequent Geraldine earls of Desmond could trace descent through Eleanor de Bohun to Elizabeth of Rhuddlan, daughter of King Edward I of England of the House of Plantagenet by his queen, Eleanor of Castile of the House of Burgundy.

Over time, according to English sources, the FitzGerald family became highly assimilated to the local Irish culture. The final Earl of Desmond of this creation was Gerald FitzGerald, the 14th Earl. The FitzGeralds and Fitzmaurices had resisted the Protestant Reformation of King Henry VIII and, after the failure of the first and second Desmond Rebellions, the 14th Earl was defeated and killed by forces loyal to Queen Elizabeth I on 11 November 1583. His title, along with the enormous estates of his family, were forfeit to the English Crown.

Numbering of Earls of the first creation edit

Authors have numbered the earls of the first creation from 1 to 14, 1 to 15, or 1 to 16, depending on whether Nicholas, an "idiot",[5] is included as 3rd Earl, and whether John, the de facto 12th Earl (died 1536) and James FitzGerald, de jure 12th Earl of Desmond (died 1540), are both numbered 12 or are numbered 12 and 13. Wikipedia numbers the earls 1 to 14 omitting the "idiot" and numbering John de facto and James de jure both as 12, following Cokayne (1916)[6] and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).[7][8] Burke (1866), Webb (1878) and the Dictionary of national Biography (1889) admit 15, and Bagwell (1885) 16 earls of the first creation.

Earl of Desmond: Second Creation edit

The second creation was in 1600 for James FitzGerald the "Tower Earl", son of the last (14th Earl) of the first creation. He spent much of his life in captivity in the Tower of London, and was obliged to convert to Protestantism. He was temporarily, but unsuccessfully, restored to the earldom in 1600–01 by the English in an attempt to pacify Munster during the Nine Years War, and to combat rise of the Súgán (pretender, see below) Earl but the people rejected the new Protestant Earl. James was not restored to the lands associated with the title, and was only given the right to the title of Earl of Desmond for life; he was also created Baron Inchiquin with the right to pass that title to his successors, but he did not have heirs and died in obscurity in 1601.

Pretenders to the title edit

James FitzThomas FitzGerald, the Súgán (Irish: straw, i.e. pretender) Earl, attempted, but failed, to regain the title during the Nine Years War.James's claim was based on the fact he was the eldest grandson of the 13th Earl, but he was illegitimate by descent. The 13th Earl's first marriage had to been to his own great-niece: the marriage had been declared invalid due to consanguinity and James's father, the child of the union, had been declared illegitimate (the 14th Earl was the child of a second, legitimate marriage).

James had not joined the rebellion of the 14th Earl and following the 14th Earl's death, James lobbied the English - at first with some success - to be restored to the title. When that failed in 1598 he joined the rebellion and assumed the title of Earl of Desmond, leading eight thousand clansmen. He was captured in 1601 and is believed to have died in the Tower of London in 1608.

James's younger brother John had joined him in rebellion but escaped to Spain. Following the Súgán Earl's death John and his son Gerald continued the pretence to the title. John died in Barcelona [9] and Gerald - Conde de Desmond in Spanish - entered the service of the Emperor Ferdinand, and was killed in 1632.[9] As Gerald left no issue, with him ended the male heirs of the four eldest sons of Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Desmond: this was the effective extinction of the line of the Fitzgerald House of Desmond.

Desmond Geraldine arms and motto edit

Relief of coat of arms of the FitzGerald of Desmond (showing the saltire) in Buttevant Friary

The coat of arms of the Geraldine Earls of Desmond, blazoned ermine a saltire gules,[10] where the ermine tincture is a mark of cadency relative to the senior Kildare branch of the Geraldines (whose arms are more simply blazoned "argent, a saltire gules"). The crest shows a man in armour on horseback, facing to the right.[11]

The motto appearing beneath the Desmond arms was "Shanid abu" (Shanid to victory) a reference to the Desmond stronghold of Shanid Castle.[12]

Earl of Desmond: third and fourth creation edit

The third creation was in 1619 for Richard Preston, 1st Lord Dingwall, who was also created Baron Dunmore.

The fourth creation happened while Preston was still alive, in 1622 for George Feilding, 1st Viscount Callan, second son of the Earl of Denbigh and nephew of James I's favourite and lover, George Villiers. The eight-year-old Feilding was given the right to the title Earl of Desmond as and when Preston died without a male heir. Preston had also been a favourite and probably lover of James I; he had a daughter who, the plan was, George Feilding would marry, but this did not happen. In 1628 Preston died and George was made Earl of Desmond by Charles I (Preston's Scottish Lordship of Dingwall passed to his daughter Elizabeth, the Duchess of Ormond).[13]

George Feilding's eldest son, the second Earl of Desmond, also inherited the title of third Earl of Denbigh after his uncle, the second Earl of Denbigh, died childless. The title Earl of Desmond has descended subsequently with the title Earl of Denbigh and the current holder is the twelfth Earl of Denbigh and eleventh Earl of Desmond.

List of Barons and Earls of Desmond edit

Barons Desmond (1259) edit

A memorial at the site of the Battle of Callann, where John FitzThomas FitzGerald, 1st Baron Desmond and his eldest son fell in 1261 while fighting against Fínghin Mac Carthaigh, King of Desmond.
Dominican Priory of North Abbey, Youghal, founded in 1268 by Thomas FitzMaurice FitzGerald, 2nd Baron Desmond

Earls of Desmond, first creation (1329) edit

White Rose of York, from a manuscript of Edward IV of England. In 1462, Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Desmond, won a Yorkist victory in the Battle of Piltown, the only battle of the Wars of the Roses fought in Ireland.
Desmond Castle, built in Kinsale about 1500 by Maurice FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Desmond.
Carrigafoyle Castle, a Geraldine stronghold during the Second Desmond Rebellion, captured by the English in 1580
The cannons of Reginald's Tower helped repel the forces of Perkin Warbeck and Maurice FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Desmond from Waterford in 1495.[14]
Lismore Castle, where the Book of Lismore, owned by Catherine FitzGerald, was discovered.

Pretenders to the first creation (1598-1632) edit

  • James FitzThomas FitzGerald, the Súgán Earl, died in Tower of London c. 1607 (illegitimate grandson of 13th Earl)
  • John FitzThomas FitzGerald - brother of the Súgán Earl, died Barcelona (brother of preceding)
  • Gerald FitzJohn FitzGerald - son of John, known as Conde de Desmond, died in service of the King of Spain, 1632 (son of preceding - no heirs)

Earls of Desmond, second creation (1600) edit

Earls of Desmond, third creation (1619) edit

Earls of Desmond, fourth creation (1622/28) edit

For subsequent Earls of Desmond (title held with the title Earl of Denbigh), see List of Earls of Denbigh and Earls of Desmond.

Notes edit

  1. ^ a b Cokayne 1916, pp. 232–258
  2. ^ Unpublished Geraldine Documents: The Gherardini of Tuscany Author(s): A. Fitzgibbon Source: The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland,Jan., 1877, Fourth Series, Vol. 4, No. 29 (Jan., 1877)- page 257 "Unpublished Geraldine Documents: The Gherardini of Tuscany" (PDF). JSTOR 25506713.
  3. ^ O'Clery, Michael (3 November 2023). "The Annals of Ireland of Michael O'Clery, Cucogry O'Clery, Philip MacDermott, - page 531".
  4. ^ Cokayne 1916, pp. 237–240
  5. ^ Cokayne 1916, p. 243: "Nicholas (Fitz Morice), next br. [brother] and h. [heir], aged 19 or 20 at his brother's death. He was an idiot ..."
  6. ^ Cokayne 1916, p. 232–254.
  7. ^ Cokayne 1916, p. 252: "14. GERALD FITZJAMES (FITZGERALD), EARL OF DESMOND, called the Rebel Earl ..."
  8. ^ McGurk 2004, p. [1].
  9. ^ a b Webb, Alfred. A Compendium of Irish Biography. Dublin: 1878.
  10. ^ Cokayne 1916, p. 237, note (a): "The arms of the earls of Desmond were, Ermine, a saltire Gules."
  11. ^ Walter FitzGerald: Buttevant—The Franciscan Abbey. In: Journal of the Association for the Preservation of Memorials of the Dead in Ireland. Vol 6, 1904–1906, p. 443.
  12. ^ Webb 1878, p. 136, right column: "The war cry of the Desmonds was 'Shanet-a-boo!' 'Shanid [castle] to victory!' "
  13. ^ "275" . Page:The Complete Peerage Ed 2 Vol 4.djvu – via Wikisource.
  14. ^ "Reginald Tower (Closed at present for essential maintenance)".

References edit