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Fitzgerald, Lord Edward

Fitzgerald, Lord Edward (1763–98). Irish patriot. Fitzgerald was born into one of the wealthiest and most esteemed families of the Irish aristocracy: his father was James, 1st duke of Leinster. He was MP for Athy in the Irish House of Commons (1783), transferring in 1790 to Co. Kildare. An enthusiastic Francophile and more radical than most of his parliamentary contemporaries, he came to regard Parliament as unreformable, and turned instead to the United Irish Society: after several years of close communication with its leaders, he was inducted into the society in 1796. He narrowly escaped capture when troops raided the meeting-place of the United Irish executive in March 1798. Although this venture enhanced his reputation within the movement and left him as its military leader, he proved to be highly indecisive. He was eventually arrested and mortally wounded on 19 May: his death on 4 June simultaneously freed Dublin castle from its most charismatic opponent, and the United Irish Society from the shackles of caution.

Alvin Jackson

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Fitzgerald, Lord Edward

Lord Edward Fitzgerald, 1763–98, Irish revolutionary; son of James Fitzgerald, 20th earl of Kildare and 1st duke of Leinster (see Kildare, James Fitzgerald, 20th earl of). After an early career in the army and the Irish House of Commons, Lord Edward, attracted by the French Revolution, went (1792) to Paris and was expelled from the British army for his avowed republicanism. Returning home, he joined the United Irishmen, whom he pledged to assist as commander in chief of their rebel army. In 1796 he went to Basel to negotiate French aid for the planned Irish uprising. On the eve of the rebellion of 1798 he was betrayed by an informer and arrested; he died of wounds sustained at his arrest.

See biography by T. Moore (1831); S. Tillyard, Citizen Lord (1998).

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Fitzgerald, Lord Edward

Fitzgerald, Lord Edward

Most famous as the intended commander in chief of the Irish rebels in 1798, Lord Edward Fitzgerald (1763–1798) was arrested before the rebellion broke out and was mortally wounded by his captors; he became a legendary figure in Irish history in subsequent generations. Lord Edward was the younger son of the duke of Leinster, the premier Irish peer, and was the nephew (through his mother) of the earl of Richmond and the first cousin of Charles James Fox. The Fitzgeralds, like their English relatives, were prominent Whigs, and when he entered the Irish parliament in 1790, Lord Edward was firmly on the side of the reformist opposition. By that time he had served in several regiments of the army and had traveled extensively in Europe and North America. In the early 1790s he expressed support for the French Revolution (he had been educated in the principles of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau), and he was expelled from the army in 1793 for having attended a revolutionary banquet while on a visit to Paris in 1792. In 1796 he joined the United Irishmen, which by that time had become a secret revolutionary and republican organization. He was briefly involved in their negotiations with France for an invasion of Ireland. Following the failure of the French expedition to Bantry Bay at the end of 1796, Lord Edward remained active in the movement, and in 1797 and early 1798 he was a prominent member of the Dublin leadership. In the late spring of 1798 he was among those who planned the details of the rebellion that eventually broke out on 23 May. He was frequently in contact with the spy Thomas Reynolds, and it was through information garnered from their network of spies that Dublin Castle arrested several United Irishmen leaders, Lord Edward included, shortly before the appointed date of the rebellion. He was captured on 19 May and died on 4 June from the wound he received on that occasion.

SEE ALSO Eighteenth-Century Politics: 1778 to 1795—Parliamentary and Popular Politics; Eighteenth-Century Politics: 1795 to 1800—Repression, Rebellion, and Union; United Irish Societies from 1791 to 1803

Bibliography

Moore, Thomas. The Life and Death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, 1763–1798. 2 vols. 1831.

Tillyard, Stella. Citizen Lord: The Life of Edward Fitzgerald, Irish Revolutionary. 1997.

Daniel Gahan

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