FitzGerald Family History

The FitzGeralds descend from the Norman Maurice FitzGerald, a companion-in¬ arms to Strongbow. They were mercenaries who left Wales and came to Ireland at the request of King Dermot MacMurrough to help him with his wars to subdue his subjects in the 1170s. Thomas FitzGerald was granted land in West Limerick and built his first Norman castle at nearby Shanid around 1200. ‘Shanid Abu’ translated means ‘Shanid forever’ and was always the Desmond Geraldines war cry. The family has been in County Limerick ever since, marrying into the local Gaelic aristocracy and into the ‘old English’ families in the area. You can see their war cry on the back of the hall chairs, on the coat-of-arms on the ceiling, and on many pieces of silver in the house.

The present castle of Glin is basically a plain Georgian house with later castellations and many windows. Locally they used to say there was a window for every day of the year! The property has been in the family of the Knights of Glin since the early 13th century. The Alice in Wonderland title ‘the Knight of Glin’ dates back to the 14th century when three branches of the great Norman FitzGerald family became Gaelicised and the distinction is akin to a Gaelic chieftainship. In the middle ages the title was often known as ‘the Knight of the Glen’ or ‘the Knight of the Valley’, indicating their extensive lands along the valley of the river Shannon between Limerick and the sea. He was also known as the Black Knight, his kinsmen was known as the Green Knight (The Knight of Kerry) a title still in existence, and also the White Night, a title that is now extinct.

Surrounded by history

Several colourful characters have held the title, including Edmund, Knight of Glin, whose son was taken hostage by Elizabeth I invading troops at the famous Siege of Glin in 1601. He was tied to the mouth of a cannon but was later set free. The 25th Knight was known as “The Knight of the Women” he built Gothic lodges for each of his mistresses. The 26th Knight was known as“Crack’d Jack” – it was said he once rode his horse up the flying staircase to bed.

The 29th and last Knight, Desmond, was perhaps one of the most colourful of all. A respected scholar of Irish art, he also kept the FitzGerald tradition of entertaining and hospitality alive in the castle, something which continues to this day. His grandson will become the 30th.