The Fitzpatricks – Barons of Upper Ossory

Brian Oge Mac Giolla Phádraig, 1st Baron of Upper Ossory (c1485-1575)

Brian, also known as Barnaby Mac Giolla Phádraig (Mac Gilla Patraic), was a crafty leader of the clan.  Sensing a change in the political winds, he sent an envoy to Henry VIII and offered to submit the King of England.  In a controversial move, he became the first Gaelic chief to surrender his lands to the crown. In this bold move, he also gave up the rights of all members of the Mac Giolla Phádraig clan …”who of course were not consulted as to this act of treachery towards them.”  Henry VIII regranted the lands back to Barnaby under a royal charter making him the first Baron of Upper Ossory after he swore loyalty to him.  Additional expectations included wearing English-style clothes, speaking English, following English laws and customs and conversion to the new Anglican Church. Very few Irish chiefs actually left the Catholic church for the Anglican Church. The Gaelic name Mac Giolla Phádraig was “normanized” to Fitz-Patrick or Fitzpatrick.  While many of not most members of the clan continued to use the name Mac Giolla Phádraig or Mac Gilla Patraic; he is officially became Barnaby Oge Fitz-Patrick, 1st Baron of Upper Ossory in June of 1541. He also had the distinction of becoming the first native Irishman to sit as a member of the Irish parliament. In 1543, he traveled to London to be knighted by Henry VIII in person.

As part of the submission, Baron Barnaby Fitz-Patrick also sent his oldest son, Barnaby Fitz-Patrick to become the “companion and bedfellow” of the future king, Edward VI.  This political move would have a tremendous impact on the history of the clan Fitzpatrick.

Baron Fitz-Patrick also realizes that he needs to align the family with their powerful historic enemies, the Butlers, the Earls of Ormond.  First he sends his younger brother, Diarmaid (Dermot) Mac Gilla Patraic to Earl Pierce Butler because he had murdered one of Butler’s sons. According to one source, he was held “in fetters and was never heard from again” and according to another source he “died a cruel death.” To further cement his relationship with the Butlers, he married Margaret Butler, the daughter of Pierce Butler, the eight Earl of Ormonde. This union produced seven sons and one daughter:

• Barnaby (Brian) Fitzpatrick
• Domhnal (Donal) Fitzpatrick (see story of Gortnaclea Castle)
• Fingbin (Florence) Fitzpatrick- would become the 3rd Baron
• Geoffrey Fitzpatrick of Ballyamlaebh
• Tadig Fitzpatrick- sent to Dublin by his father under “trumped up” charges and hanged for crimes in 1546
• Turlogh Fitzpatrick
• Callogh Fitzpatrick
• Grainy (Grace or Grizzel) FitzPatrick- married Edmond Butler, 2nd Viscount Montgarret who was her first cousin

What happened to Lady Margaret Fitz-Patrick is unknown but Brian Oge Fitz-Patrick Phadraig later married Elizabeth O’Connor. This union would have profound affects both from her influence and her children. This union produced at least one daughter, which may have been Graine Fitzpatrick (see above).  His story is intertwined with that of his son and is completed in the section under his son.

Gortnaclea (Grantstown) Castle (built before 1556)

The ruins of Gortnaclea Castle stands on the edge of the Gully River which separates the edge of Ossory from Laois.  The earliest mentioned occupant was Donal Fitzpatrick, a younger brother of Barnaby Fitzpatrick, 2nd Baron of Upper Ossory and later Florence Fitzpatrick, 3rd Baron of Upper Ossory.

Ruins of Gortnaclea Castle in County Laois
Ruins of Gortnaclea Castle in County Laois

This ruin is described as a “massive” building that is 31 feet square externally with an eastern wing that is now destroyed.  The walls are 8-9 feet thick.

The most notable event in this history of this castle was the imprisonment of the Black Earl of Ormond.  He was taken prisoner by Owney O’Moore on 10 April 1600 at Corrondogh near Ballyragget.  The O’Moores did not have a strong enough castle and he was conveyed to the Fitzpatrick castle as the Fitzpatricks and O’Moores were allies at that time.  Owney O’Moore later was nervous about this location and moved him to the woods of Laois before eventually moving the prisoner to Dempsey’s Castle at Ballybrittas.  The Black Earl of Ormond was eventually released on 12 June 1600 for £5,000.

Barnaby (Brian) Fitzpatrick, 2nd Baron of Upper Ossory (c1535-1581)

Barnaby was the eldest son and heir of Brian Mac Giolla Phádraig.  He married Joan Eustace, the daughter of Sir Rowland Eustace, viscount of Baltinglas by whom he issued one daughter, Margaret Fitzpatrick who married James, Lord Dunboyne.

A young Barnaby was sent to London to be raised as a courtier and increase the court influence of the family.  Barnaby grew into his role readily and served as the “proxy for correction” or “whipping boy” of Prince Edward, the son of Henry VII.  Whenever, Prince Edward made a mistake, Barnaby would be punished.  He became fast friends with Prince Edward and was later made one of six gentleman-in-ordinary of Edward’s privy chamber.

In 1547, he was selected as one of the henchmen for Henry VIII’s funeral and Barnaby carried a banner of ancient arms during the funeral procession.  He was successful in submitting a petition on behalf of his father for Leix Abby to become part of the family holdings.  He spoke English fluently and he was the first of our clan to sign his name as  “Fitzpatrick” in the English manner.  When Henry VIII died, the new King Edward VI, continued to take a kindly interest in him and sent him in 1551 to France to continue his education.  He was introduced by the lord admiral, Lord Clinton to King Henry II of France and he was appointed a gentleman of his chamber.  On his departure from France on 9 December 1552, he was commended for his conduct by King Henry II and the constable Montmorency.  Much of the correspondence between Barnaby and King Edward VI survives and has been printed in the “Literary Remains of Edward VI (pages 63-92).  Barnaby would also change the family coat of arms to reflect his experience in the French court (story to follow).

The “Chronicle of Queen Jane” records that in 1553, that Barnaby was involved in a street brawl with a priest outside of a pub.  The exact wording of this event is as follows:  ‘the Erle of Ormonde, Sir (blank) Courteney Knight and Mr. Barnaby fell out in the night with a certain priest in the streate, whose parte a gentyllman coming by chance took, and so they fell by the eares; so that Barnabye was hurte.  The morrow they were led by the ii sheryves to the counter in the Pultry, where they remained (blank) daises.

Barnaby returned to Ireland in 1554 to his father and new step mother Elizabeth (O’Connor).  Barnaby was unhappy in that his father and Elizabeth had loosened their ties to England and he quickly became disgruntled.  He disliked Elizabeth and called her “the most naughty and malicious creature alive.”  In 1556 Barnaby was chosen to lead a band of Mac Giolla Phádraig horsemen and kerne (lightly armed foot soldiers) against the Scots in Ulster.  After successfully completing this mission for the King of England, he was then appointed to a permanent position in the royal forces as captain of 40 kerne.  He eventually recruited many additional soldiers and horsemen for his armed force.

Barnaby became increasingly influential and powerful at the expense of his father and members of the clan Mac Giolla Phádraig were moving in support of him to the point that in 1559 he staged a coup d’etat and his father was deposed as clan leader.  The family felt that it would be more advantageous to be ruled by Barnaby since he was close to the British throne.  His father Brian spent the rest of his life confined to Upper Ossory as a virtual prisoner of son.  In 1566, Barnaby declared his father to be old, frail, impotent and incapable of leadership.  The crown conferred him with regency powers and Barnaby was granted his father’s estate.  In that same year he was knighted by Sir H. Sidney. He became the official 2nd Baron of Upper Ossory after his father’s death in 1575.

Baron Barnaby Fitzpatrick was quick to take advantage of his influence in the court of England.  He solicited at least three estates situated across the Nore River during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  These three estates would later be lost to Edmund Butler by 1622.  Unlike his father, Barnaby did not cooperate with the Butler family and he had a continuous feud with Thomas Butler, the “Black Earl of Ormond.”

In May of 1573, the Graces of Roscrea ransacked Lord Barnaby Fitzpatrick’s house at Cullahill and kidnapped his wife and daughter.  The Fitzpatricks countered by forcibly entering Foulkescourt Castle and rescuing a prisoner.  The Fitzpatricks also continued to escalate their campaign against the Butlers in Kilkenny, including assaulting their tenants, stealing their livestock, attacking and burning two of the border castles.  The Butlers filed a formal complaint with the Lord Deputy of Ireland, William Fitzwilliam with no known official royal action being taken.  At one point the Earl of Ormonde declared that there was “not a naughtier or more dangerous man in Ireland than the baron of Upper Ossory.”  Queen Elizabeth appointed Lord Henry Sidney as the new Lord Deputy of Ireland in August of 1575 and he was even less sympathetic to the Butler family.  In the spring of 1576, two brothers of the clan Fitzpatrick, Tirlagh and Callough raided areas in northeast County Kilkenny and occupied the Ormond castle in Durrow.  It remained in Fitzpatrick hands throughout the summer.

Lord Barnaby’s younger brother, Geoffrey Fitzpatrick and his camp of followers felt that the Lord Barnaby held too much power and that cooperation with the Tudor dynasty was destroying the family.  Although there are not many details, it is know that he and his followers rebelled against Lord Barnaby in 1578.  In that same year, it is known that Barnaby Fitzpatrick defeated and killed the great rebel Rory Oge O’More.  He had the rebel’s head taken and set up at the castle in Dublin.

In July of 1579 a rebellion against English rule was launched by the FitzGerald dynasty of Desmond in Munster, Ireland when James FitzMaurice FitzGerald landed in Ireland with a force of Papal troops which triggered an insurrection in the southern part of Ireland.  The rebellion was finally put down in 1583 with the death of Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond.  Lord Barnaby Fitzpatrick attempted to steer a course of neutrality but his half-brothers, Dermot and Turlough Mac Giolla Phádraig broke ranks and joined in the rebellion against the Tudors.  The Butlers of Ormond took advantage of this fragmentation of the Fitzpatrick clan and accused Barnaby of treason against the crown.  In January of 1581, he and Lady Fitzpatrick his wife were imprisoned in Dublin Castle on 14 January 1581.  He became sick and never recovered and died on 11 September 1581 in the house of William Kelly, surgeon in Dublin.

The Fitzpatrick Coat of Arms

In all probability, the clan Mac Giolla Phádraig had a Gaelic standard, banner or flag but it has unfortunately been lost in history.  The coat of arms depicted on the previous page is one of nine known major variations of the coat of arms of the Fitzpatrick family.  The first known coat of arms is only known as a sketch and was produced c1600.  It consists of shield with a saltire (cross running horizontally as seen in the more recent version) with a chief (the band above the cross with three sun rays instead of the fleur-de-lis which was added later to the shield as shown in the adjacent image.  The distinctive blue chief with three fleur- de-lis in gold that is present in almost all newer versions of the coat of arms was believed to be awarded by the French to Sir Barnaby Fitzpatrick, Second Baron of Upper Ossory who was King Edward VI’s representative in France from 24 November 1551 to December 1552.

Fitzpatrick Coat of Arms
Fitzpatrick Coat of Arms

The coat of arms also depicts the family crest on top of the helmet.  In addition to increasing the height of the wearer, the crest allowed for easy identification of the wearer in battle.  They were typically made of metal, wood or even boiled leather.  The Fitzpatrick crest demonstrates a green dragon reguardant with a black lion guardant that has the left paw resting on the dragon’s head.

 There are at least two reported family mottos and they may even be versions of each other.   The motto – Fortis sub Forte Fatiscet – can be interpreted as “The strong will yield to the strong.” A second motto, “Ceart ládir abú” is apparently difficult to translate from Gaelic as some authorities translate it to mean “Right and Mighty Forever” while others have translated it to mean “Might is Right.”

Fingbin (Florence) Fitzpatrick, 3rd Baron of Upper Ossory (after 1542-1613)

Florence Fitzpatrick was a younger brother of Barnaby and he became 3rd Baron of Upper Ossory.  He married Catharine, daughter of Gilla Patrick O’More of Leix and they had five sons and a daughter:

  • Thady (Taidg, Teighy) Fitzpatrick
  • John Mac Gilla Patraic (used the old family name)
  • Geoffrey Fitzpatrick of Ballyraghan
  • Brian (Barnaby) Fitzpatrick of Watercastle near Abbeyleix
  • Edmond Fitzpatrick of Castle Flemyg
  • Catherine Fitzpatrick

Florence inherited a clan that was highly fragmented with multiple spheres of influence.  His younger brother Geoffrey Fitzpatrick and his camp of followers continued to have their separate sphere of influence in defiance of the new Baron.  Florence’s half-sister Grainne, who was the daughter of Brain and his third wife Elizabeth also had a separate sphere of influence which further fragmented the power of the new Baron.  Finally, Shane Mac Giolla Phádraig, who was supposedly a bastard son of Brian also had followers antagonistic to the Baron of Upper Ossory.

After the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, James VI of Scotland came south and accepted the crown of England as King James I.  King James I appointed Sir Arthur Chichester as the new Lord Deputy of Ireland.  Under his administration, in 1605 judges decided that the freeholders of Upper Ossory were now out from under the feudal powers of Florence Fitzpatrick which was a death blow to the old ways and power of the family.  After 1605-1606, Upper Ossory ceased to be ruled even nominally by the traditional overlord.

Florence, 3rd Baron of Upper Ossory tried to deprive his eldest son, Thady of his birthright and to make John the heir of his possessions.  Ultimately, the estate was partitioned with the share allotted to Thady to be known as Manor of Cowlchill and the shared allotted to John being called the Manor of Castletown-Offerland.  Florence Fitzpatrick is buried in Aghamacart in County Laois.

Thady (Taidg, Teighy) Fitzpatrick, 4th Baron of Upper Ossory (?-1627)

Thady Fitzpatrick, the 4th Baron of Upper Ossory married Joan Butler, the daughter of Sir Edmund Butler of Cloughgrenan.  They had had least one son:

  • Barnaby FitzPatrick

He inherited a much smaller inheritance and weaker family but still held the title off Baron of Upper Ossory.  In 1622, the king’s favorite, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham was involved in a land grab in Upper Ossory.  Under the euphemism of “surrender and regrant,” there was a confiscation of much of Upper Ossory.  The 4th Baron of Upper Ossory had to surrender their control of 25,000 acres and were only regranted 10,500 acres while the Duke of Buckingham was given 10,788 acres.  This made the Fitzpatrick family one of the poorest peerages in all of Ireland.

 Castle Clonburren

Clonburren Castle in County Laois
Clonburren Castle in County Laois

The ruins of Castle Clonburren are located on remote farmland between Rathdowney and Johnstown in County Laois.  It is almost 50 feet high and was the principle stronghold of Thady Fitzpatrick, the 4th Baron of Upper Ossory.  According to one source, it was known to be abandoned by 1647. 

Barnaby FitzPatrick, 5th Baron of Upper Ossory (?-c1638)

Barnaby FitzPatrick had at least one son:

  • Barnaby (Brian) Fitzpatrick

Castle Grantstown (before 1653)

The ruins of this castle are located in County Laois and is to the west of Ballycolla, in a field just southwest of Granststown Lough.  It was built by one of the Lords of Upper Ossory but the exact date is unknown.  It is known that in 1653 the castle was held by Gilbert Rawson but by 1696 it had been granted by William III to Richard and Edward Fitzpatrick.

Ruins of Castle Grantstown in County Laois
Ruins of Castle Grantstown

This is only Fitzpatrick castle that is a circular tower.  It is five stories high.  At the wall walk level there are two surviving machicolations (floor opening between the supporting corbels of a battlement, through which stones, or other objects, could be dropped on attackers at the base of a defensive wall)

Barnaby (Brian) Fitzpatrick, 6th Baron of Upper Ossory  (?-c1666)

Barnaby FitzPatrick had at least one son:

  • Barnaby (Brian) Fitzpatrick

Barnaby (Brian) Fitzpatrick, 7th Baron of Upper Ossory (?-1696)

Barnaby, the last Baron of Upper Ossory was a captain in Early Clancarty’s Regiment.  He married Margaret Butler and had three sons:

  • Brian Fitzpatrick- died childless
  • Keran Fitzpatrick- died young
  • John Fitzpatrick- married but only had daughters

The seventh baron was attainted since there was no male heir and the barony forfeited on 11 May 1691.  This is the end of the first reincarnation of the Baron of Upper Ossory but not the last.


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