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James FitzThomas FitzGerald

James FitzThomas FitzGerald Eldest son of Sir Thomas Fitzgerald

Eldest son of Sir Thomas Fitzgerald
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Eldest son of Sir Thomas Fitzgerald
A.K.A. The Súgán Earl of Desmond, Thomas Roe, Tomás Ruadh, Red Thomas
Gender male
Death 1 January 1608
The details

James FitzThomas FitzGerald, the Súgán Earl of Desmond (d. 1608), was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Fitzgerald, commonly called "Thomas Roe", "Tomás Ruadh" or "Red Thomas."


James FitzThomas FitzGerald was the son of Tomás Ruadh and Ellice le Poer, daughter of Richard, Baron le Poer. Tomás Ruadh, was bastardised and disinherited by his father, James FitzGerald, 14th Earl of Desmond. Tomás Ruadh and Ellice le Poer had at least two other children, John FitzThomas, and a daughter, who married Donald Pipi MacCarthy Reagh. Inclined to dispute the claim of his father's younger, legitimate brother Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond, the current of politics proved too strong against James FitzThomas. Toward the end of his short life, the putative earl of Desmond eventually sank into obscurity.

Marriage and children

James Fitzthomas FitzGerald married Ellen, widow of Maurice FitzGibbon, elder brother of Edmund FitzGibbon FitzGerald, the White Knight, but had no issue.

Claims to the earldom

When of an age to understand his position as heir to a contested title, James Fitzthomas repaired to court to petition Elizabeth for a restoration of his rights. At first, his petition was regarded with favour. The crown offered slight encouragement and promised him a yearly allowance. Consequently, during the rebellion of his uncle Gerald, both he and his father remained staunch allies of the English crown. After the death of the 15th Earl and the suppression of the rebellion in 1583, James FitzThomas and his father looked for their restoration to the earldom. Their petitions however, no longer found favour at Elizabeth's court, for Munster was to be denuded of its native population, "planted" with Englishmen, and re-established as a settlement colony of England.

Attempts to secure the earldom

In 1598, instigated by his brother John FitzThomas, and by Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, Munster, in the words of the Irish annalists, again became "a trembling sod." James FitzThomas assumed the title of Earl of Desmond, and before long found himself at the head of eight thousand clansmen. On 12 October 1598, realizing that he would obtain little if any justice, "to maintain his right, trusting in the Almighty to further the same," James FitzThomas stated both his grievances and intentions in response to the expostulations of the Earl of Ormonde.

The younger FitzGerald's struggle lasted three years. In October 1600, while withdrawing his forces from the open into the woods of Aharlow, he was surprised by Captain Richard Graeme and the garrison of Kilmallock. From that day the Geraldines never rallied again to any purpose. Dismissing his followers, the earl took to the woods for safety, where, in May 1601, Sir George Carew was informed that he was living "in the habit of a priest," but determined "to die rather than to depart the province, retaining still his traitorly hopes to be relieved out of Ulster or out of Spain." Carew made several attempts to procure his capture or death, but without success, for "such is the superstitious folly of these people, as for no price he may be had, holding the same to be so heinous as no priest will give them absolution." Eventually, on 29 May 1601, he was captured by Edmund FitzGibbon FitzGerald, the White Knight, while hiding in "an obscure cave many fathoms underground" in the neighborhood of Mitchelstown. FitzGerald was placed in irons to prevent a rescue, "so exceedingly beloved of all sorts" was he, and conveyed to Shandon Castle, where he was immediately arraigned and adjudged guilty of treason.

For a time Carew hoped to make use of James FitzThomas against a still greater rebel, Hugh O'Neill. However, on 13 August, finding FitzGerald to be after all but a "dull-spirited traitor," Carew handed him over to Sir Anthony Cooke, who conveyed FitzGerald to England, where, on his arrival, he was placed in the Tower of London.


Later life and death

Of his life in prison there remains only the following pathetic notice: "The demands of Sir John Peyton, Lieutenant of Her Majesty's Tower of London, for one quarter of a year, from St. Michael's day 1602 till the feast of our Lord God next. For James M'Thomas. Sayd tyme at 3l. per week, physicke, sourgeon, and watcher with him in his Lunacy." Historians conjecture that FitzGerald died sometime in 1608, and was buried in the chapel of the Tower.

After FitzGerald's capture, his brother John FitzThomas FitzGerald, who had shared with him in the vicissitudes of the rebellion, and who indeed seems to have been the prime instigator of it, escaped with his wife, the daughter of Richard Comerford of Dangenmore, Kilkenny, into Spain, where he was styled the Conde de Desmond, and where he died a few years afterwards in Barcelona. His son Gerald, also known as the Conde de Desmond, entered the service of the Emperor Ferdinand, and was killed in 1632. As he left no issue, with him ended the male heirs of the four eldest sons of Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Desmond.

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