Lord Charles Fitzgerald 1st Lord Lecale
1756-1810. Born on 30 June 1756, he was one of nineteen siblings, being the third born but second surviving son of James, 1st Duke of Leinster who died in 1773, and of his wife Lady Emilia Mary Lennox, daughter of Charles, 2nd Duke of Richmond. This lady, a great-granddaughter of King Charles II by a mistress, earned some notoriety by moving to France the year after her husband’s death and marrying the family tutor, with whom she had four children. More notorious still was Fitzgerald’s younger brother, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who was a leading United Irishman and died on 4 June 1798 of wounds incurred whilst resisting arrest on a charge of treason. The family was related to Lord James O’Bryen and the Earl of Kildare.
Fitzgerald entered the Navy in 1772 and was commissioned lieutenant on 13 May 1778 as a beneficiary of the King’s fleet review. Serving aboard the Arethusa 32, Captain Samuel Marshall, he was wounded in action with the French frigate Belle Poule 30 in operations prior to the Battle of Ushant on 27 July.
In May 1779 Fitzgerald commissioned the ex-French cutter Tapageur14 and took her out to the Leeward Islands with a convoy at the beginning of the following year, having initially sailed from England with Admiral Sir George Rodney’s fleet. This vessel was reportedly ‘wrecked’ whilst warping into the careenage at St. Lucia in March in the process of delivering despatches to Admiral Sir George Rodney, although it is possible she was later refloated and brought back to service.
He was posted captain of the Sphinx 20 on 23 May 1780, remaining in the Leeward Islands before returning to England with a convoy under the orders of Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker and paying her off in September. During the following month he was appointed to the Sibyl 28 in which he returned to the Leeward Islands with Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood’s squadron. He was present at the capture of St. Eustatius on 3 February 1781, and was sent under the orders of Captain Francis Reynolds in chase of a Dutch convoy that had left the island shortly before the invasion. In April he briefly commanded the Boreas 28 before being succeeded by Captain Henry Savage and rejoining the Sibyl, and later that year he served at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September 1781 prior to returning to the Leeward Islands with Rear-Admiral Hood’s squadron.
Fitzgerald joined the French built Prudente 36 in early 1782 and was attached to Vice-Admiral Hon. Samuel Barrington’s squadron in the Channel fleet, capturing the storeship Aigle on 16 February and the Marquis de Castries on 25 April. His frigate remained with the Channel fleet for the rest of the year before being paid off in November.
During the Spanish Armament of 1790 he briefly recomissioned the Aigle 38.
In December 1793 he commissioned the new Artois 38, serving on the Cork station, and after leaving her in the following year he recommissioned the dull-sailing Brunswick 74 in September, which ship participated in Cornwallis’ Retreat on 17 June 1795. Fitzgerald left her shortly afterwards and did not see any further active service.
He was advanced to flag rank on 14 February 1799, was created the 1st Lord Lecale in the Irish Peerage on 27 December 1800, and was promoted vice-admiral on 23 April 1804.
Severely in debt, not least through electoral expenses, Lord Lecale died of dropsy at the residence he had recently sold to his stepfather, Ardglass Castle, County Down, on 17 February 1810. He left no legitimate issue and was interred at Bright Parish Church.
He married twice, on the second occasion in London on 18 July 1808 to Mrs Julia Carton, widow of Thomas Carton of Dublin. His only issue were the illegitimate Henry Fitzgerald who died as a midshipman whilst boarding a Frenchman at sea off Civitavecchio on 14 September 1803, and a daughter, Anna Maria Fitzgerald.
He was M.P for Kildare County in the Irish Parliament from 1776-90, for Cavan from 1790-98, and for Ardfert from 1798-1801. He also enjoyed several sinecures, and from January-April 1807 was M.P for Arundel in the British Parliament. Fitzgerald did not share the politics of his rebellious brother or indeed most of his family, but was steadfast in support of the British administration of Ireland, being rewarded accordingly with his peerage after the Act of Union.
In 1790 he bought and subsequently rebuilt Ardglass Castle in County Down. During the American Revolutionary War he famously jumped overboard to save a seaman who had fallen from the main-yard.