The FitzGerald dynasty is a Hiberno-Norman or Cambro-Norman dynasty, and have been Peers of Ireland since at least the 14th century. The dynasty has also been referred to as the Geraldines, from the conquest of large swathes of Irish territory by the sons and grandsons of Gerald FitzWalter of Windsor, the progenitor of the dynasty. In his poetry, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, referred to Elizabeth FitzGerald (1527–89) as "Fair Geraldine".
The main branches of the family are:
the FitzGeralds of Kildare (Earls of Kildare from 1316, later Marquesses of Kildare and from 1766 Dukes of Leinster and Premier Peers of Ireland). Its current head is Maurice FitzGerald, 9th Duke of Leinster.
the FitzGeralds of Desmond (Barons Desmond, later Earls of Desmond).
The progenitor of the Irish FitzGeralds was a Cambro-Norman Marcher Lord, Maurice FitzGerald, Lord of Lanstephan, a female line descendant of the Welsh royal House of Dinefwr, and a participant in the 1169 Norman invasion of Ireland.
The FitzGerald dynasty has played a major role in Irish history. Gearóid Mór, 8th Earl of Kildare and his son Gearóid Óg, 9th Earl of Kildare, were Lord Deputy of Ireland in the late Fifteenth and early Sixteenth centuries respectively. Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare (d. 1537), known as "Silken Thomas"', led an unsuccessful insurrection in Ireland, while Lord Edward FitzGerald (1763–1798), the fifth son of the first Duke of Leinster, was a leading figure in the 1798 Rebellion. The present day seat of the Irish parliament Dail Eireann is housed in Leinster House, which was first built in 1745–48 by James FitzGerald, 1st Duke of Leinster as the ducal palace for the Dukes of Leinster.
The FitzGerald dynasty became so intermingled with the native Gaelic Irish that they were later often described as More Irish than the Irish themselves. The best example of this is Gerald FitzGerald, 3rd Earl of Desmond (1335–1398), who was also known by the Irish Gaelic Gearóid Iarla (Earl Gerald). Although made Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in 1367, Gerald wrote poetry in the Irish language, most famously the poem Mairg adeir olc ris na mnáibh ("Speak not ill of womenkind"). Indeed, although an accomplished poet in Norman French, Gerald was instrumental in the move by the FitzGeralds of Desmond toward greater use of the Irish language.