Kerry became the most westerly outpost of the Angevin empire about thirty years after the initial Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in the 1160s. The Geraldines were among the leaders of the invasion when they set foot in Wexford, and they were related by marriage to the monarch who presided over it. This was Henry II (r. 1154), the first of the Angevin kings of England, whose ancestor Nesta, the Welsh princess, was mother of Maurice, the first Irish Geraldine and part of the invasion in 1169, from whom the Geraldines of Kerry descended. Kerry’s incorporation did not take place immediately, as King Henry II had first to secure the South East of Ireland; he came personally to visit that region and put some restraints on his knights, chief among whom was Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow. Henry was the master of extensive territories in France, having inherited most of them and acquired others with his wife: Anjou (hence Angevin) from his father Geoffrey of Anjou, Normandy from his mother Mathilda (daughter of King Henry I of England), and Aquitaine with marriage to Eleanor. The Pope had issued the bull Laudabiliter authorising Henry to put himself in charge of the Irish church, which was believed to be charting its own course independent of Rome, and effect was given to Henry’s control in 1172 at the Synod of Cashel, where the convener was Christian O Conarchy, later Bishop of Lismore, later still member of the Cistercian community at Abbeydorney where he died.
The son of Maurice the invader was Thomas, but the founder of Tralee, including the Dominican Abbey of the town (1243), was Thomas’s son, John FitzThomas, who from Newcastle and Shanid in Co. Limerick pressed the limits of Anglo-Norman power into Kerry. He was very well connected, having Margaret FitzAnthony for a wife, who brought him a large slice of her father’s inheritance of Decies and Desmond. England and Europe had plenty to distract the current king of England, Henry III (r. 1216-1272), FitzThomas’s overlord. Cities and towns, as well as universities, were beginning to sprout up, and the Crusade to the Middle East continued to attract the nobility. We are uncertain if John FitzThomas felt this attraction, or how old that Crusade foundation in Tralee known as Teampall an t-Soluis is, and if it was put there by him. (The site continues a church, the present St. John’s on Ashe Street.) Henry III had additional preoccupations, including the struggle with his own barons for a share in the governance of the realm. And he was preoccupied with trying to regain Normandy. He promoted his heir, Prince Edward, to the government of Gascony (Bordeaux) to protect it from the ambitions of Alfonso X, ruler of Castile. Alfonso had his heart set on obtaining Gascony, but the contending monarchs patched up an agreement part of which was the marriage of Edward to Eleanor, Alfonso’s daughter. John FitzThomas would not live to see the glorious reign of Edward. He was killed at the battle of Callan, near Kilgarvan, in 1261 when he tried to extend Anglo-Norman control into South Kerry. At Callan also fell his heir, Maurice. Maurice’s infant son was now the heir, and the Geraldine territorial acquisitions in Kerry faced years of pressure – not only from the possibilities of faction during a minority, but decades of MacCarthy incursions into Geraldine territories north of the rivers Maine and Laune following the defeat at Callan.