The Fitzmaurice family were established in Kerry c.1235. Next Sunday 28 April 2019, Lixnaw Heritage & Historical Group are holding a conference, examining the history of this important clan. I am currently researching and writing a book provisionally titled The Fall of The Fitzmaurices: The Demise of Kerry’s First Family, and I will be one of the speakers at the event. As I am still at the writing stage, compiling research, I will be giving a summary on Sunday:
By 1818, after five hundred years as Kerry’s foremost family, through a combination of extravagance, irresponsibility and reckless living, their titles and estates were no more From inheriting a great fortune, built up by the Fitzmaurice family over the generations, the last three Earls proceeded to spend and squander, resulting in the demise of the Fitzmaurice lineage, their wealth and their lands
The Fall of the Fitzmaurices describes the extravagance of Thomas, 21st Lord of Kerry, Baron of Lixnaw, enobled as an Earl in 1723, who having made a remarkable marriage to Lady Anne Petty, daughter of Sir William Petty, proceeded to live a feudal life style at the ancient seat of his Norman ancestors, the Old Court in Lixnaw. There he developed a spectacular demesne amidst historic ruined castles and ring forts. Re-building and furnishing a large mansion, planting, enclosing and improving; canals, deer parks, formal gardens, orchards and plantations, no money was spared to show the importance and symbolism of Thomas and his family in the hierarchy of Kerry.
Thomas was followed by William his eldest son as 2nd Earl. William who heading the family for only seven years, had already drained much of the Fitzmaurice patrimony through gambling, ‘wenching’ and court cases. His most outrageous achievement was his ‘marriage’ to an impoverished Dublin widow, which would not be recognized as a marriage to-day and resulted in both a libel action and his excommunication from the Church of England.
William was followed by his son Francis, 3rd and last Fitzmaurice Earl of Kerry. Inheriting the family fortune and title at the age of seven, Francis lived mostly in Dublin at Kerry house, Molesworth St. Lixnaw and the Old Court were abandoned and allowed to deteriorate. Francis was left in the guardianship of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Although graduating from Trinity College at the age of 15, thereafter he enjoyed a lazy and indulgent lifestyle among the top echelons of 18th century Dublin aristocratic society. As a titled and wealthy young man, it would be expected that he would make a brilliant marriage. However, he fell in love with a married a lady twenty years older than himself, a Catholic. Francis’ nephew, William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne and former British Prime Minister, said of Francis ‘he fell in love with a married lady twenty years older than himself, the daughter of an eminent Roman Catholic lawyer, and she having obtained a divorce, married her- [she was] an extraordinarily vain person. Having their way to fight up into good society, and having no children, they sold every acre of land that had been in our family since Henry II’s time’.
The Fall of the Fitzmaurices describes the spendthrift, aristocratic life style enjoyed by Francis and his wife Anastasia in London, in the spa town of Bath and later in Paris, before fleeing for their lives during the French Revolution, not to mention a racy adultery case, and a divorce enabled by an Act of Parliament. A powerful combination of power, wealth, land, money, sex and the Irish aristocracy in the 18th century. Both Francis 3rd Earl of Kerry and his wife Anastasia are buried in an impressive tomb in Westminister Abbey.
Kay Caball ©