Monday 22 January 2018

'After 700 years, I'm the last of the Irish knights'

Tradition to die out with no male heirs

Luke Byrne

HE is the last knight. With no son to inherit his title, Adrian FitzGerald is the last in a line that stretches back 700 years.

The 71-year-old will also be the last among a group of Irish families that passed on heraldic titles since the Norman times. The titles have passed from father to son for seven centuries years and included the Knights of Glin, White Knights and the Knights of Kerry.

On Wednesday Desmond FitzGerald (74), the 29th Knight of Glin, died in Limerick from cancer. He had three daughters but the title died with him because he had no son.

Maurice Oge Fitzgibbon, the 12th and last White Knight, died way back in 1611, meaning that Mr FitzGerald will be the last hereditary Irish knight.

He is the 24th Knight of Kerry -- a title also known as the Green Knight.

Despite sharing a second name, the Knights of Glin and Kerry were not closely related.

"I was his 24th cousin or something like that, in the 18th Century we had been more closely connected," Mr FitzGerald told the Irish Independent.

"It's very sad, I knew Desmond pretty well and he was a friend of mine.

"We shared an interest in history, I didn't see enough of him and the last time was a year or two ago.

"The Knight of Glin was the only one of the three families to stay on the lands they always had."

Mr FitzGerald is saddened that he is the last remaining out of the three lines of knights.

"Nobody knows the origin of the titles, there are a number of professors of medieval history trying to crack it," he said.

One theory is that King Edward bestowed the titles on three men following the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333, where an English army defeated a Scottish force. Mr FitzGerald believes that was unlikely.


The most accepted theory is that an Earl of Desmond granted the titles to three of his illegitimate sons in the 14th Century.

"You have to go through papers like legal documents to trace back early appearances of the title," he said.

Mr FitzGerald was born during World War Two in Britain, where his father, George FitzGerald, was an army officer.

His grandparents were born in Ireland and he splits his time between his estate in Co Waterford and London.

Mr FitzGerald had a colourful career as a Conservative Party politician and served as mayor of Kensington for a brief period in the 1980s.

He often lectures about his family history, and said there had been a renewed interest in late and early modern Irish history as the country moved past an emphasis on republicanism.

He said there was one hope that the lineage of Irish knights might not come to an end.

Because it is not clear who bestowed the titles, and whether there was a direction that it could only pass to a male heir, it is possible that a daughter could fight for the title of Knight of Glin. "I'm not certain how she'd go about it," he said.

Irish Independent

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