September 18, 2011


Desmond FitzGerald (The Telegraph, 16 Sep 2011)

The Knight of Glin, also called the Black Knight, is one of three ancient Irish hereditary titles dating from the 13th and 14th centuries and recognised by Irish Republican governments. (FitzGerald's kinsman, Adrian FitzGerald, the 24th Knight of Kerry, is known as the Green Knight; Maurice FitzGibbon, who died in 1611, was the 12th and last White Knight.)

The Black Knights descend from a younger or illegitimate son of John FitzGerald, 1st Baron Desmond, grandson of Maurice FitzGerald, a companion-in-arms of Strongbow, the 12th century Norman conqueror of Ireland. Glin, an estate which once encompassed more than 30,000 acres, was granted to this branch of the FitzGerald family in the early 14th century by their overlord at the time, the FitzGerald Earl of Desmond.

Unlike their ill-fated overlords, the Knights of Glin survived both the Elizabethan conquest of Ireland and the Cromwellian and Jacobite wars, even though they were invariably on the losing side. In 1567 the then Knight of Glin, Thomas FitzGerald, was hanged, drawn and quartered and had much of his estate confiscated for his role in the Desmond Rebellion against Elizabeth I. Legend has it that his mother seized his severed head and drank his blood before gathering his body parts for burial. In the Jacobite wars of the 17th century another Knight was told that if he did not surrender, then his six-year-old son (who had been kidnapped and tied to a cannon) would be blown to bits. He replied that as he was virile and his wife was strong, it would be easy to produce another son.

Other colourful ancestors include "The Cracked Knight", who is said to have ridden his horse up the back stairs; "The Big Knight", who took solace in the whiskey bottle; and "The Knight of the Women", who was reputed to have fathered at least 15 illegitimate children, but was forgiven because he was a Gaelic scholar (and native speaker) revered by the local people.

But Desmond FitzGerald would refer to the "general improvidence" of his ancestors. For generations the Knights of Glin kept debt collectors at bay by setting a mob on to them, although the 21st Knight, Richard, spent time in a Dublin prison for unpaid monies. By the time the 24th Knight, Colonel John Bateman FitzGerald, inherited the castle in 1781, the debts could no longer be avoided. The original medieval castle of Glin was a ruin and the Knights had moved into a new "castle" -- in reality a long thatched house overlooking the River Shannon.

Posted by at September 18, 2011 9:03 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus