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F the Irish Geraldines—whose great ancestor was
a favourite of Edward the Confessor, whose
English possessions were numerous, and whose successor was treated after the Conquest as a fellow-countryman of the Normans, and who, moreover, put the copestone to his prosperity by marrying a daughter of a prince of North Wales, as did his son by wedding the daughter of a prince of South Wales—here are three noteworthy histories.
First is John Thomas Fitzgerald, who nearly lost his life in an accidental conflagration. In his infancy he was in the Castle of Woodstock when there was an alarm of fire. In the confusion that ensued the child was forgotten; and on the servants returning to search for him, the room in which he lay was found in ruins. Soon after a strange voice was heard in one of the castle towers; and upon looking up, they saw an ape, which was usually kept chained, carefully holding the child in its arms. The Earl, afterwards, in gratitude for his preservation, adopted a monkey for his crest; and some of his descendants, in memory of it, took the additional motto, 'Non immemor beneficii.'
The life of the child thus miraculously preserved abounds in romantic adventures. He was at variance with William de Vesci, lord of Kildare, a baron much esteemed by the reigning monarch, Edward 1.; their disputes arising from the contiguity of their estates. De Vesci, who was Lord Justice of Ireland, openly declared that John Fitzthomas was the cause of the existing disturbances, and that he was ' in private quarrels as fierce as a lyon, but in publicke injuries as meeke as a lambe.' This having been reported to Fitzgerald, he, in the presence of the Lords of the Council, replied: "You would gladly charge me with treason, that by shedding my blood, and by catching my land into your clouches, that but so neere upon your lands of Kyldare, you might make your sonne a proper gentleman.' “A gentleman !' quoth the Lord Justice; thou bold baron, I tell thee the Vescis were gentlemen before the Geraldines were barons of Offaly; yea, and before that Welsh bankrupt, thyne ancestaur, fethered his nest in Leinster;' and then accused him of being a supporter of thieves and upholder of traytours.' 'As for my ancestor,' replied the baron, • whom you term a bankrupt, how riche or how poore he was upon his repayre to Ireland, I purpose not at this time to debate; yet this much I may boldly say, that he came hither as a byer, not a beggar. He bought his enemies' land by spending his blood; but you, lurking like a spider in his cobweb to entrappe flies, endeavour to beg subjects' livings wrongfully by despoiling them of their lives. I, John Fitzthomas, Baron of Offaly, doe tell thee, William Vesci, that I am noe traytour, noe felon; but that thou art the only battress by which the king's enemies are supported.' Both parties being summoned to the royal presence, Fitzgerald maintained the same bold language, accusing the justiciary of corruption, and saying that, while the nobility were excluded from his presence, 'an Irish cow could at all times have access to him. But,' continued Offaly, ‘so much as our mutual complaints stand upon, the one his yea and the other his nay, and that you would be taken for a champion, and I am known to be no coward, let us, in God's name, leave lieing for varlets, bearding for ruffians, facing for crakers, chatting for twatlers, scolding for callets, booking for scriveners, pleading for lawyers; and let us try, with the dint of swords, as it becomes martial men to do, our mutual quarrels. Therefore, to justify that I am a true subject, and that thou, Vesci, art an arch-traitor to God and to my king, here, in the presence of his highness, and in the hearing of this honourable assembly, I challenge the combat.' De Vesci accepted the challenge amidst the applauses of the assembly; but either he doubted the goodness of his cause, or feared to contend with so formidable an adversary. Before the appointed day he fled to France, whereupon the king declared Offaly innocent; adding, 'Albeit De Vesci conveyed his person into France, yet he left his lands behind him in Ireland ;' and he granted them to the Baron of Offaly, who subsequently, in many a
hard-fought day, showed himself no less true than valiant. For his good services the English monarch, Edward 11., created him Earl of Kildare, and assigned to him the town and castle of that name.
We now pass over many illustrious chiefs of this house to come to Gerald eighth Earl of Kildare, called the Great, who was constituted, on his accession to the peerage, lorddeputy to Richard Duke of York. In 1480 he was reappointed lord-deputy; and again, upon the accession of Henry VII., deputy to Jasper Duke of Bedford, the Lordlieutenant. Upon the arrival, however, of Lambert Simnel,
his tutor Richard Simon, an Oxford priest, in Ireland, the lord-deputy, the chancellor (Thomas Fitzgerald, the deputy's brother), treasurer, and other nobles in the York interest, immediately acknowledged the impostor, and had him proclaimed in Dublin by the style of Edward vi.; and the lord-deputy assisted with the others at his coronation in Christ's Church, May 2, 1487, where the ceremony was performed with great solemnity; the chancellor, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Earl of Lincoln, Lord Lovel, Jenico Mark, Mayor of Dublin, and several other persons of rank attending. The crown was borrowed from the image of the Virgin Mary. John Pain, Bishop of Meath, preached the coronation sermon; and the pretender was subsequently conveyed upon the shoulders of Darcy of Platen, a person of extraordinary height, to the Castle of Dublin, amidst the shouts of the populace. In the engagement which afterwards decided the fate of Simnel, near Stoke, the chancellor
Fitzgerald fell; but the lord-deputy had the good fortune to make his peace with the king. And well, both by his fidelity and his talents as a statesman and a soldier, did this great man repay the king's confidence.
Perkin Warbeck, on his landing at Cork in 1497, was successfully opposed by the Earls of Kildare and Desmond, and narrowly escaped being taken prisoner. For this good service King Henry conferred on Kildare several manors in the counties of Warwick and Gloucester. With a strong hand, too, the Earl controlled the unruly native chieftains ; and if he could not entirely extinguish the spirit of revolt, rebellion was instantly put down.
This unquiet spirit, however, showed itself in formidable array against the king's authority amongst many of the most powerful native chiefs under the Lord of Clanricarde, who had married Kildare's daughter, but had so neglected her as to excite much ill blood between the lady's husband and her father. Never had the Earl's son Gerald's preeminent skill and courage been more severely tested. When he came in sight of the rebels, they were drawn up in full force under Knock Taugh, or the hill of axes, now called Knockdoe, about seven miles from Galway. Many of the lords of the Pale began to be alarmed for the result, the enemy having collected the largest army ever seen in the country since the invasion of 1169. They would have persuaded the Earl to offer terms of peace, but the stout old soldier refused to listen for a moment to such timid counsels. Having drawn up his men in