September 11 – Barnaby Fitzpatrick, a friend of King Edward VI

On this day in Tudor history, 11th September 1581, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Barnaby Fitzpatrick, 2nd Baron of Upper Ossory, died in Dublin, at the home of surgeon, William Kelly.

Fitzpatrick had been a close friend of Edward VI in his youth and had been educated with him. Historians once believed him to have been the young king’s “whipping boy”.

Fitzpatrick went on to serve the king as a gentleman of the privy chamber. However, he ended his days as a prisoner.

Find out more about Barnaby Fitzpatrick, his life and career, and how he came to such a sad end…


On this day in Tudor history, 11th September 1581, Barnaby Fitzpatrick, 2nd Baron of Upper Ossory, died in Dublin, at the home of surgeon, William Kelly.

In his youth, Fitzpatrick had been friends with Prince Edward (Edward VI) and had been educated with him. He went on to serve Edward as a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber when Edward became king.

Let me give you a few more facts about Barnaby…

  • Barnaby was born in around 1535 and was the oldest son of chieftain and landowner Barnaby or Brian Fitzpatrick, 1st Baron of Upper Ossory, and Margaret Butler, daughter of Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond.
  • In 1541, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Barnaby’s father gave up the Gaelic title “MacGiolla Phádraig”, meaning Son of the Devotee of St Patrick, anglicising it to Fitzpatrick, and gave up his claim to the kingdom of Ossory, being created 1st Baron of Upper Ossory instead, as part of the surrender and regrant, in which Henry VIII sought to extend and secure his control of Ireland.
  • In 1543, to show his loyalty to King Henry VIII, the baron sent Barnaby to the royal court in London to be educated. Barnaby shared lessons with his maternal cousin, Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond, and Henry VIII’s son, the future Edward VI, who was about two years his junior. He became good friends with the prince, serving as one of his nine henchmen.
  • He was once thought to have been Edward’s whipping boy, meaning that he took the punishment for the prince’s wrongdoings, but this idea is challenged by modern historians.
  • In August 1551, Barnaby was sworn in as a gentleman of King Edward VI’s privy chamber, and in autumn 1551 Edward VI sent him to France to finish his education and also to learn about European politics and warfare. He impressed Edward VI’s secretary, Sir William Cecil, and King Henry II of France, who made him a gentleman of his chamber too. While he was away, Barnaby exchanged letters with his good friend, King Edward.
  • In 1552, Barnaby’s father became ill and Barnaby left France for Ireland, visiting the English court to catch up with his friend on the way.
  • His good friend the king died in July 1553 and Mary I became queen. Although, like Edward, Barnaby was a staunch Protestant, he did help to put down Wyatt’s Rebellion in early 1554, but did get involved with a fight involving a priest. The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary records “the Erle of Ormonde, Sir Courteney Knight, and Mr. Barnaby fell out in the night with a certayn priest in the streate, whose parte a gentyllman comyng by chance took, and so they fell by the eares; so that Barnabye was hurte. The morrowe they were ledd by the ii sheryves to the counter in the Pultry, where they remained [blank] daies”. He then returned to Ireland.
  • The queen called him to court in 1555 but he didn’t go as he was in charge of things in Ireland while his father was ill. He was at the Siege of Leith in 1560.
  • At the age of around 25, in 1560, Barnaby married his cousin, Joan Eustace, daughter of Rowland Eustace, Viscount Baltinglass, and the couple had a daughter, Margaret.
  • He was knighted by his friend Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy of Ireland, after supporting him against Shane O’Neill in 1566.
    • In 1568, he sat in the Irish Parliament and in 1569 was made sheriff of Leix-Offaly.
  • In the 1570s, he feuded with Thomas Butler, 10th Earl of Ormond, and accused him of being involved in the kidnapping of his wife and daughter in 1573. He used Piers Grace, a notorious criminal, to steal back his daughter and his wife was later returned unharmed. Butler’s involvement could not be proved, but that didn’t stop Barnaby and his brothers spoiling the earl’s lands as revenge. For his part, Butler accused Barnaby of being disloyal, and Barnaby was summoned before the council in Dublin, but acquitted.
  • In 1575, he succeeded his father as Baron of Upper Ossory and in 1578 he caught and murdered rebel Rory O’More. However, he soon faced fresh accusations of being involved with rebels and was summoned to appear before the privy council in May 1580. Although he appealed to his good friend, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, he and his wife were imprisoned in January 1581 in Dublin Castle due to his brothers’ links with rebels and his father-in-law being involved in a rebellion. Despite the lack of evidence against him and the intercession of men like Sir Henry Wallop, who said of Barnaby “as sound a man to her majesty as any of his nation”, he was not released.
  • Barnaby fell ill during his imprisonment and died on this day in 1581 at the home of surgeon William Kelly while being treated. His friend Sir Henry Sidney wrote “the most sufficient man in counsel and action for the war that ever I found of that country birth; great pity it was of his death.”
  • Barnaby was survived by his wife, Joan, and his daughter Margaret, who married James Butler, 2nd Baron Dunboyne. His brother, Florence Fitzpatrick, inherited his title, becoming 3rd Baron of Upper Ossory.

I’ll give you a link to the “Literary Remains of King Edward the Sixth”, in which can be found letters from Barnaby to King Edward VI –

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