[Lord] Edward Fitzgerald (1763-98)


Life
b. 15 Oct., Carton House, Kildare, fifth son of first James Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, later Viscount, and Duke of Leinster in 1766 (d.1773), with his wife Emily [Emilia Mary], dg. Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond, god-gd. of George II, and sis. of Lady Holland; he was educated along Rousseauesque lines, his mother having considered employing the Frenchman as a tutor, then taken on William Ogilvie, whom she later married; brought up Frascati House, Mount Merrion (Blackrock), in a free atmosphere involving much swimming in Dublin Bay;
 
served in American War of Independence with Sussex Militia, 1779; served under Lord Rawdon, later Marq. of Hastings; admiring of the independent Nova Scotia farmers; made brother and chief by Iroquois Indians; severely wounded at Eutaw Springs, where his life was saved by a runaway slave called Tony Small, 8 Sept. 1781; read Rousseau’s Confessions instead of Blackstone’s Commentaries while preparing to take his seat in parliament as MP for Athy, 1781, acting with Henry Grattan’s opposition; completely his military education at Woolwich;
 
disappointed in his love for Georgina Lennox, later Lady Bathurst, rejoined with army in Canada as major in 54th Regt.; crossed Canada from Frederickstown to Quebec, formally adopted by Bear tribe of Hurons at Detroit, 1789; travelled down Mississippi to New Orleans, and returned to England; affair with Elizabeth (Linley) Sheridan, whom he called ‘Little Woman’, and by whom a child (Mary), who died three months after the death of her mother, 1795; MP, Kildare, refusing command of Cadiz expedition offered by Pitt; intimate with Fox, Sheridan, and other Whigs; stayed in Paris with Tom Paine;
 
cashiered for attending revolutionary banquet in Paris and toasting ‘speedy abolition of hereditary titles and distinctions’ (18 Nov.), abandoning his own, 1792; discussed with Thomas Paine the possibility of an Irish revolutionary coup to be effected by Volunteers, 1792; m. Pamela, dg. of Duc d’Orleans and [protegée of] Mme de Genlis, at Tournay, 27 Dec. 1792, with Louis-Philippe as one of the witnesses; returned to Ireland, Jan. 1793; influenced by Tom Paine; required to apologise at bar of House for violent denunciation of govt. policy;
 
surrendered his child with Elizabeth Linley to her husband’s charge at her death, 1795; joined United Irishmen, only taking the oath in summer of 1796, though associated with them earlier; proceeded to Hamburg with Arthur O’Connor while Tone was in Paris, May 1796; negotiated with the Directory [Hoche at Basle]; proceedings at Hamburg revealed by Samuel Turner, an informer; Duke of York tells Pamela that ‘all is known’; abortive Bantry Bay expedition, Dec. 1796; headed military committee of United Irishmen, with papers indicating that 280,000 men were ready; seizure of conspirators at house of Oliver Bond on information of Thomas Reynolds; Fitzgerald, warned by Reynolds, would not leave the country;
 
martial law imposed, 30 March, 1798; reward offered for Fitzgerald, 11 May; arrest of United Irishmen leaders, 12 May; Fitzgerald hiding in house of Murphy, a feather-dealer on Thomas St.; his hiding-place disclosed by Francis Magan, Catholic barrister (d.1843); a reward paid by Francis Higgins - the “Sham Squire”; Lord Edward arrested by Major Henry Charles Sirr, 19 May, mortally wounding Capt. Ryan while being shot himself; outbreak of Rebellion, 26 May; Lord Edward dies, Newgate (Dublin), of his wound, 4 June; Act of Attainder passed against him but repealed in 1819; his house at Mount Merrion, Frascati, was cleared to make a Supermarket in 1981. DIB ODNB OCIL FDA

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Criticism
  • Charles Hamilton Teeling, ‘Lord Edward’ [Chap. XII], in History Of The Irish Rebellion Of 1798: A Personal Narrative (Glasgow: Cameron, Ferguson & Co. n.d [1828]);
  • R. R. Madden, The United Irishmen (1852); Thomas Moore, The Life and Death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, 2 vols. (London: Longmans 1831), xi, 307pp, 305pp.;
  • Patrick Byrne, Lord Edward Fitzgerald ([q. pub.] 1955);
  • M. McDonnell Bodkin, Lord Edward Fitzgerald (Phoenix n.d.; [1896]), a novel;
  • Gerard Campbell, Edward and Pamela Fitzgerald, An Account of their Lives, compiled from the letters of those who knew them (London: Arnold 1904), ill.;
  • Gerard Campbell, J. W. Whitbread, Lord Edward, or ‘98 (1894), a play;
  • John Lindsey, The Shining Life and Death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald (n.d.);
  • anon., The Life and Times of Lord Edward Fitzgerald [ 24 chaps.], 248pp. [details];
  • Stella Tillyard, Citizen Lord: Edward Fitzgerald, 1763-1798 (London: Chatto & Windus 1997), 240pp., being the sequel to Aristocrats by same author;

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See also Katherine Tynan, Lord Edward: A Study in Romance (London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1916); Oliver Knox, Rebels and Informers: Stirrings of Irish Independence (London: John Murray 1997).

Bibliographical details
[Anon.], The Life and Times of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, 24 chps. [248pp.], appendix, ‘The execution of Clinch [2 June 1798]’ [249-56]; with The Life And Times Of Thomas Francis Meagher, 160pp. [Bound together with sep. pagination, no auth[ors], no publ., no date, though well printed], the last-named ending with short Chap. IX, Did Meagher belong to the Fenian Organisation? The question has been often asked. I am free to answer it in the negative. To demand did he sympathise with a movement which professed to have the good of country for its aim would be to insult his memory ... Meagher never took an oath binding himself to be true to the land for which he had dared all and suffered much ... But he did not look on Fenianism with an unfavourable eye ... &c. [159] [Pamphlet in Library of Herbert Bell, Belfast.]

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Commentary
W. J. Fitzpatrick, The Secret Service Under Pitt (1892): ‘[...] Major Swan told him quietly that he had a warrant for his arrest; his resistance would be useless, but he would be treated with the respect due to his rank. Lord Edward cared nothing for his rank. He had abjured his title six years before in Paris, and in Dublin among the initiated he was called Citizen Fitzgerald. But below his citizenship ran the fierce wild blood of the Geraldines. Springing from his bed, he levelled a pistol at Major Swan’s head. The pistol misfired, and he leapt on him with a dagger, and stabbed him through and through. It was the work of a moment. Captain Ryan had followed at his best speed, and when he came in found Swan bleeding on the ground and Lord Edward striking at him. Ryan, too, snapped a pistol. The flint-lock failed him. He had a sword case, and made a lunge with the blade, which bent on Lord Edward’s side, and forced him back upon the bed. In an instant he was up again. Ryan closed with him. Lord Edward ... hurled him to the ground, rolled upon him, plunged his dagger into him again and again and again with such fury that in a few seconds he had given him fourteen wounds. / Then he sprang to his feet and attempted flight. Major Sirr, now entering, met Lord Edward struggling towards the door, endeavoring to extricate himself from the grasp of the two officers, who, though lying on the floor, with the blood streaming from them, still clung to his legs. / Major Sirr’s pistols were in better condition than his comrades’. He fired. Lord Edward fell struck heavily in the shoulder and surrendered. A guard of cavalry was sent for, and he was conveyed to Newgate through a silent, sullen crowd. Major Swan recovered. Captain Ryan died of his wounds in a few days.’ (pp.32-33; quoted in Cheryl Herr, For the Land They Loved, Syracuse UP 1991, as infra.)

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R. R. Madden, the chief biographer of Edward in his career as United Irishman, calls him ‘a man singularly amiable, estimable, and lovable.’ (United Irishmen, NY Catholic Publ. Soc., 1916 edn.; Vol. 4, p.172.)

J. S. Le Fanu, on the death of Lord Edward, ‘The day the traitors sould him and inimies bought him,/The day that the red gold and red blood was paid – / Then the green turned pale and thrembled like the dead leaves in Autumn/And the heart an’ hope iv Ireland in the could grave was laid.’ (‘Scraps of Hibernian Ballads’, Dublin University Magazine, XIII, 78, June 1839, p.754; quoted in Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, Vol 1, 1980.)

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Roy Foster, Modern Ireland (1988) [Biog. as supra], ‘After the United Irishmen’s reconstruction in 1794, and the arrest of many of its members, the liberal Francophile middle class were much less prominent in the Society. Their place was taken by glamorous figures like Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the epitome of radical chic, and Arthur O’Connor, who translated the ideas of Swift and Molyneux into the rhetoric of the 1790s ... the influence of men like Fitzgerald stressed the French connection (He had romantically married a supposed daughter of Phillipe d’Égalité) and breaking the connection with England ... . [&c]’ (p.268).

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Cheryl Herr, For the Land They Loved (Syracuse UP 1991), gives an account of arrest of Lord Edward: ‘Returned from America with a black servant called Tony; joined Jacobin Club in Paris, 1792; renounced his title while banqueting with Thomas Paine and others; relieved of his commission; served in the Irish Parliament. Married to Pamela, foundling adopted by family of Phillipe d’Egalité, gaining entre to society of Mme. Genlis and Mme Sillery in Paris and Hamburg; tried to convince French Directory to invade Ireland, 1796; Provincial Director of Leinster, in 1798; died on the eve of the Rising. Froude’s account of the arrest of Lord Edward (englishin Ireland, p.348-50) is ‘violently antagonistic’. Quotes W. J. Fitzpatrick, The Secret Service Under Pitt (1892), as supra. Further: ‘W. J. Fitzpatrick identified the perpetrator [...] as Francis Magan, a highly placed attorney and one of the three remaining members of the Leinster Directory, working with Francis Higgins, then proprietor of the Freeman’s Journal. Fitzpatrick says of Lord Edward in parliament that he was ‘undistinguished by talent, but conspicuous for the violence of his language.’ See Secret Service under Pitt, p.58, 1. Quoted in Herr, op. cit., p. 47.)

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References
Encyc. Britannica [biog. as supra; Bibl. as infra], ‘small stature and handsome features; winning personality, warm, affectionate and generous nature, made him greatly beloved by his faily and friends; humorous, light-hearted, sympathetic, adventurous; entirely without the weightier qualities requisite for such a part as he undertook to play in public affairs. Bibl., Martin MacDermott, ed., rev. edn. of Moore’s Life and Death, entitled The Memoirs of Lord Edward Fitzgerald (1897); RR Madden, United Irishmen, 7 vols. (Dublin 1842-46); C H Teeling, Personal Narrative of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 (Belf. 1832); W. J. Fitzpatrick, The Sham Squire [1872] and The Secret Service Under Pitt (1892); J A Froude, The English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century (3 vols. 1872-74); Ida A Taylor, The Life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald (1903) [for bibl. of Pamela, see RX infra]. NOTE that he is not included in Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (1821).

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2, p.241 [George Sigerson, ‘Our attention has been repeatedly invited to the fac that the social position of Irish insurgents has greatly fallen since Lord Edward Fitzgerald’s time, and even since the less brilliant period of William Smith O’Brien. This the public has been asked to accept as an arguemtn that Fenianism is more vulgar, and therefore less formidable ...’]; 267, 277 [Isaac Butt, ‘The attempts of Tone and Fitzgerald, and later of Emmet, to overthrow English rule were powerful arguments in favour of granting emancipations to the Catholic; and John Keogh and O’Connell reaped to some extent the fruits of Emmet’s and Fitzgerald’s and Tone’s sacrifices’]; 481 [G B Shaw, ‘The Protestant leaders, from Lord Edward Fitzgerald to Parnell, have never divided their devotion’]; 482n. [err.], 799 [Yeats, ‘[Was it] for this/Edward Fitzgerald died ...?’]; 807 [Yeats (‘Sixteen Dead Men’], ‘For these new comrades they have found/Lord Edward and Wolfe Tone’]; 854 [Yeats, ‘When strangers murdered Emmet,/Fitzgerald, Tone,/We lived like men that watched a painted stage’]; 869 [ref. in Lady Morgan’s O’Briens and O’Flahertys, ‘Edward Fitzgerald sent to his brother Leinster to beg he would put off the private play at Carton’].

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Notes
Portraits: figure of Lord Edward included in engraving of House of Commons of 1790, now preserved in Bank of Ireland (College Green) [as figure No.38 in key]; also Lord Edward Fitzgerald, from studio of Hugh Douglas Hamilton; see Anne Crookshank (Ulster Mus. 1965) quoted in Herr, For the Country They Loved, 1991, p.25).

Fitz-character: Novels in which Lord Edward figures as a character incl. Lady Morgan’s Florence Macarthy (1818) [as Lord Walter Fitzwalter]; M. L. O’Byrne, Ill-Won Peerages or an Unhallowed Union (Gill 1884); James Murphy, The Shan Van Vocht (Gill 1889); Patrick C. Fahy [John Hill], ’98, Being Recollections of Cormac Cahir O’Connor (London: Downey 1897); Robert Williams Buchanan, The Peep O’ Day Boy (Dicks 1902); Matthew McDonnell Bodkin, Lord Edward Fitzgerald (Chapman & Hall 1896);Rupert Alexander, Maureen Moore ([London:] Burleigh 1899); George Gilbert [Mary Lucy Arthur], The Island of Sorrow (London: Long 1903) [List supplied by Eileen Reilly, Hertford College, Oxford.] The fate of Lord Edward, alias Fitzwalter, is mentioned in Maria Edgeworth’s Ennui [132]

Lady Louisa Conolly’s letter concerning the last hours of Lord Edward Fitzgerald was sold by Sotheby's (London) as part of the Phillipps collection of manuscripts and acquired by the National Library of Ireland in 1972.

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