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Thursday, 6 October 2016

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6 October 1731: Emily FitzGerald, Duchess of Leinster was born on this day. She was the daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond & his wife Lady Sarah Cadogan. Charles was a direct descendant of King Charles II but by a liaison outside of marriage. While English by birth Emily was to spend  much of her life in Ireland.

When she was 15 years old she fell madly in love with James FitzGerald, 20th Earl of Kildare. The Fitzgeralds were of a noble and ancient Anglo-Irish family who had been for many centuries influential in the affairs of Ireland. James was in his early twenties and something of ‘a man about town’ so it was decided that the best course of action was to marry them off as soon as possible. After their wedding in London, the couple returned to Fitzgerald's native Ireland, first residing at Leinster House in Dublin and then at their country estate Carton House in County Kildare. It was landscaped under the supervision of Emily in the then very fashionable jardin anglais manner popularised by Lancelot “Capability” Brown. They were to have seventeen children together incl. Lord Edward Fitzgerald who was a prominent member of the United Irishmen in the Rising of 1798 and died of wounds he received when he was captured by the forces of the Crown.

While by eighteenth century standards the union was a relatively successful one there is no doubt that her husband spread his affections elsewhere outside of the marriage bed. Emily though turned a blind eye to her husbands many infidelities and got on with raising her children. Though given her wealthy circumstances (James was one of the wealthiest men in Ireland) she would have had numerous maids and manservants to assist her in their upbringing. After the death of her parents she also helped raise her younger sisters and took them into her household.

Lord Kildare was created successively Marquess of Kildare and then the 1st Duke of Leinster in recognition of his contribution to the political life of his country. After the death of the Duke in 1773 the Duchess caused a minor sensation by marrying  her children's tutor William Ogilvie. He was a dour Scotsman who was a tutor to her children, with whom she had begun an affair some years earlier. To get away from the gossip and scandal associated with marrying someone of a much lower status in Society they got married in Toulouse in France. Despite her remarriage she continued to be known as The Dowager Duchess of Leinster. Ogilvie was nine years her junior, and was the natural father of her youngest son from her first marriage. They returned from France in 1779 &  eventually settled in Ardglass, Co Down where Ogilvie worked hard to develop the village as a going concern. She bore him three children two of which survived till adulthood.

She had three sisters Caroline (1723–74), Louisa (1743–1821), and Sarah (1745–1826) who married prominent men and attracted varying degrees of admiration or notoriety. A fifth sister - Cecilia -died aged 19, and two others in infancy. Emily FitzGerald, Duchess of Leinster died in Grosvenor Square London on 27 March 1814.