Clare County Library
Clare People
Home | Search Library Catalogue | Foto: Clare Photo Collection | Search this Website | Copyright Notice

William Vesey Fitzgerald

William Vesey Fitzgerald, Irish statesmen, was the son of James Fitzgerald, of Ennis, Barrister and Member of Parliament, by his wife, Catherine Vesey. He was born in the year 1783 and educated at Christ Church College, Oxford. Although he had a brilliant career there and established a reputation for his intelligence and ability, he seems to have led a fairly wild life and was involved in the scandalous affair of Mary Anne Clarke and the Duke of York.

To save the situation his father brought him back to Ireland and, resigning in his favour, had him made Member of Parliament for the Borough of Ennis. Instead of doing him harm, the Clarke scandal reacted in his favour, for he wriggled out by giving evidence and bringing to light facts which the Commission of Inquiry was anxious to obtain. As a reward he was appointed a Lord of the Irish Treasury and a Privy Councillor. Mrs. Clarke published “a letter to the Rt. Hon. William Fitzgerald,” impugning his motives for giving evidence, but she was, unable to prove what was probably a fact and was imprisoned for nine months for libel.

Continuing in favour, Fitzgerald was appointed a Lord of the English Treasury, first Lord of the Irish Treasury and Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, which offices he held until their amalgamation with the English Treasury in 1816. In 1820 he was appointed Minister to Sweden, but, failing in his mission, he was recalled in 1823, in what looked suspiciously like disgrace. In 1826 he was back in favour and was made Paymaster-General to the Forces, and in 1828 President of the Board of Trade. This latter post necessitated a seat in Parliament but he was defeated in the great Clare Election of that year by Daniel O’Connell.

A local ballad-writer of the day sang:—

“All hands aloft,” the Sheriff cries, the least is for poor Vesey.
O what a slap was on their pride, which set the landlords crazy.
But now the day is just at hand, that we so long remember,
When Vesey must jump and scratch his shins and consent to a Papist member.

And another ballad-monger wrote a song with the chorus: “Down, down, poor Vesey, lie down.”

However, a seat was engineered for Fitzgerald in England and he held it until he retired from office in 1830. In 1831 he was again returned for Ennis and held the seat until his mother’s death when he became an Irish Peer.

In 1835, Sir Robert Peel rewarded his faithful services to the Crown with an English Peerage, Lord Fitzgerald of Desmond and Clangibbon, and in 1831 he entered on his last public office, President of the Board of Control. He died in Belgrave Square, London, on 11th May, 1843, and was, at the time, a Trustee of the British Museum, President of the Institute of Irish Architects and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. His English title died with him for he had no children, but his Irish title, which he had inherited from his mother, passed to his youngest brother, Henry*, the Dean of Kilmore.

Source: Robert Herbert, ‘The Worthies of Thomond, II’, Limerick, 1944

[*This youngest brother Henry is the Very Rev. Lord Fitzgerald and Vesey listed as landlord in the Griffiths 1855 Valuation of numerous Clare townlands in the parishes of Kilkeedy and Ruan. In Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland p.285 is devoted to FOSTER-VESEY-FITZGERALD formerly OF MOYRHEA. The Rt.Hon.James Fitzgerald had a second child who is listed as follows: Henry, 3rd LORD FITZGERALD and VESCI (Very Rev.), Dean of Kilmore, m. Elizabeth, dau. of Standish Grady, of Elton, Co. Limerick, and had issue, several daus. He s. his brother William in the Irish honours of the family, and d.s.p.m. ( = died without male issue ) 1860, when the title became extinct.]

Back to Clare People