The FitzMaurices were always uneasy vassals of the earls of Desmond, although both were Geraldines and settlers of Kerry around the year 1200. The English of the sixteenth century remembered this old antagonism when they set about subjugating the Earl of Desmond.
To complicate matters, the FitzMaurices were intermarried with the earls. One such marriage was that of Thomas FitzMaurice, 16th Baron Kerry and Lixnaw, – though some slight confusion reigns about the mothers of his children. Thomas was an extraordinary man. According to Lodge/Archdall (1789), “He was the most beautiful man of that age, and of such great strength that within a few months before his death, although then eighty-eight years old, not three men in Kerry could bend his bow”. Thomas had learned the trade of arms during his youthful sojourn in Milan. He returned to Clanmaurice in 1550 to claim his inheritance. He married a number of times. If Lodge/Archdall and Mary Hickson are to be believed, the wife who was the mother of his children was Margaret “the Fair”, sister of the “Rebel” Earl of Desmond. The Rebel Earl was Gerald or Garrett, killed at Glenageentha in November 1583. If she was the mother, then the Shelburne-Lansdowne landed magnates, and many others in Kerry, have a very illustrious rebel ancestry indeed. The new Dictionary of Irish Biography says that Margaret was “probably the mother” of his four sons and daughter Joan. Burke’s Peerage is an important dissenting voice, positing Thomas’s second wife for the honour. She was Catherine, daughter of MacCarthy Mór (Earl of Clancar)’s brother Teige. There the problem rests. MacCarthy Mór and FitzMaurice intermarried a number of times also, which is not surprising in view of their shared hostility to the earls of Desmond. During the rule of our subject, Thomas the 16th Baron, the forces of Desmond attacked the FitzMaurice inheritance, Clanmaurice. This had the effect of driving Thomas into the arms of the English. It was a temporary alliance, for intermarriage with the family of the Earl outweighed the temporary advantages of cooperation with the English. Thomas died in 1590 and the English refused to permit burial in Ardfert Abbey. He was buried instead in the Cathedral.
His heir, Patrick, participated in the second Desmonds rebellion against Elizabeth. The Earl was dead by 1584 when the English undertook the Survey of the vast Desmond possessions, which prepared the way for the Munster Plantation, by families like Denny, Herbert, Blennerhassett and others. But a new uprising in 1598 overthrew the plantation. The overthrow was made possible by the Nine Year War in Ulster when Hugh O’Neill, created Earl of Tyrone by the English, defeated the English in that province. O’Neill then looked south. He wanted to raise all of Ireland, which is why he sponsored a new earl of Desmond, the so-called “Súgán” Earl, and a new leader of the MacCarthy Mór people around Killarney – a better MacCarthy than the one who helped the English defeat the Earl of Desmond in the first Desmond rebellion. This turned out to be Florence MacCarthy, of Carbery, who had married MacCarthy Mór’s daughter. The war in the South, inspired by the victories of O’Neill, brought another wave of destruction to Munster. North Kerry was one of the principal theatres of that war, and the sieges of Glin Castle, Carrigafoyle and Listowel Castles among their outstanding episodes. It all ended in tears with the defeat of the Irish and their Spanish allies at Kinsale, and before she died in 1603 Queen Elizabeth presided over the defeat of the Northern Earls and the Irish of Kerry.
The FitzMaurices, under Patrick, had been drawn into the second Desmond insurrectionon the side of the Desmonds. When Patrick died in 1600 he was buried with the MacCarthys in Muckross Abbey. His son and heir, Thomas, had also participated in the insurrection. Thomas surrendered to the English and won the return of his lands. He died in 1630.
King James I was now on the throne. He presided over the reestablishment of the Munster Plantation, and though the climate now was distinctly anti-Irish, Thomas was restored to his lands as part of a policy to conciliate the Irish in the wake of the defeat of Desmond. The Flight of the Northern Earls in 1607 decapitated the Irish of their native leadership and exposed the North of Ireland to plantation, while in Munster the new President, Donough, fourth Earl of Thomond, was an energetic promoter of the Crown policies. Thomond had been educated at court, and we learn in Frost’s History of Clare that he had participated at Kinsale – on the side of the English. The FitzMaurices of Lixnaw were intermarried with the house of Thomond, and we find the FitzMaurices among those forgiven by the English in this period and restored to their estates. From 1618 England was drawn into a very bloody international conflict known as the Thirty Years War. James’s daughter Elizabeth, married to the Count Palatine, became the Winter Queen when her husband’s Protestant army, attempting to confirm him as the Holy Roman Emperor, was defeated by the Catholics at the Battle of the White Mountain in Bohemia in 1620. Elizabeth then settled in The Hague in the land of that other great Protestant power, the United Provinces, modern Holland.
James’s reign produced many Catholic martyrs. From exile the Irish Franciscans sent Michael O’Cleary and others back to Ireland to collect histories and genealogies. These formed The Annals of Ireland. However, all regions of Ireland were now covered by the reach of English law and English arms.
Bibliography. James Frost, The History and Topography of the County of Clare, 1893.