Eleanor Countess of Desmond
Garrett Fitzgerald’s practices had made him a foe to many, and one by one, the 15th Earl of the House of Desmond‘s allies were forsaking him. His vast inheritance of over a half a million acres of land in Munster provided much incentive for this hatred as did his seemingly perfect match with his wife, Eleanor, Countess of Desmond.
Garrett and Eleanor were married in 1565. At first, it had seemed that they were an unlikely couple ,considering that she was from the rivalling house of Butler. However it was not long before Eleanor had displayed her true worth by bringing to the marriage a number of qualities-skill in diplomacy and coolness, which to a certain extent made up for her husbands often unbalanced nature.
The Earl’s outlook was widely known to be both vain and aristocratic. He saw political change and awareness merely as a threat to his customary rights and privilege, vowing that he would fight for the rights of his ancient house until the day that he died. Somehow Garrett seemed drawn to a doomed ending Eleanor however in all her persistence and political awareness saw it as her duty to ensure the preservation of his earldom intact for his son and heir.
With her skill and determination, the capable countess set about her difficult task. Whilst her volatile husband threatened and raged, she counselled diplomacy. On numerous occasions she mitigated the ill effects of his rash and at times irresponsible behaviour.
As well as trying to maintain her persistence, she also had to contend with threats to the peace and stability of the House of Desmond. From time to time, much trouble erupted, mostly from power hungry lords who were envious of the Earl’s wealth. Other arose with a ruthless and dictative Tudor Monarchy.
New Ireland was slowly but surely coming to light despite both the honourable and dishonourable efforts made by several Gaelic Kinsmen. This new Ireland had provided no future for the archaic world that the clansmen had evolved in. This was, we must remember, the world that deemed them important, and this was the world which was now, falling to pieces.
Eleanor’s efforts it seemed had now amounted to nothing but this was not true, considering that she had almost single-handedly fought a diplomatic battle against this new Ireland, while her more archaic relatives failed in their more physical attempts.
Long after her home had been destroyed, her children scattered and her husband driven out as a hunted fugitive, Eleanor continued in her attempts to reconcile both the old and the new worlds, but ultimatley,she failed to do so.The task that she had persisted in,was honourable but virtually impossible, but it would be one of the few challenges that he would not succeed in. She outlived Garrett for more than half a century, and proved herself to be the valiant warrior that she was in many other successful challenges.