Lady Elizabeth FitzGerald, Countess of Lincoln (1527 – March 1590), also known as The Fair Geraldine, was an Irish noblewoman and a member of the celebrated FitzGerald dynasty. She became the second wife of Sir Anthony Browne Jr. and later the third wife of English admiral Edward Clinton, 1st Earl of Lincoln. She was the inspiration for The Geraldine, a sonnet written by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.
Lady Elizabeth was born in Maynooth, County Kildare, Leinster, Ireland, a daughter of Gerald "Gearóid Óg" FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare, Lord Deputy of Ireland, and his second wife, Lady Elizabeth Grey. Her half-brother was Thomas "Silken Thomas" FitzGerald. Her paternal grandparents were Gerald Garret Mor FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare and Alison FitzEustace, and her maternal grandparents were Thomas Grey, 1st Marquis of Dorset and Cecily Bonville. Her maternal great-grandmother was Queen Elizabeth Woodville.
Lady Elizabeth was brought up at the Court of King Henry VIII of England as a companion to the infant Princess Elizabeth Tudor. She first arrived with her mother and one of her sisters in October 1533. In 1534, her father, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London on corruption charges, died on 12 December. In 1537, at the age of ten, she became immortalized by the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey as "The Fair Geraldine" in his sonnet The Geraldine. The poet was said to have been captivated by her childish beauty, and composed it while he was briefly imprisoned for striking a courtier. There is no truth to the rumour that they were lovers as she was only ten years old at the time. Henry Howard's biographer, Jessie Childs, suggests that Surrey's purpose in writing the sonnet was to improve her opportunities of making a good marriage by praising not only her noble ancestry, but also her beauty and virtues.
Her younger brothers were raised alongside Prince Edward Tudor, who would later become King Edward VI of England. She was sent to the household of Princess Mary Tudor at Hunsdon following the execution of her half-brother, "Silken Thomas", and her five uncles for treason. Her eldest brother, Gerald FitzGerald, 11th Earl of Kildare, had escaped to Ireland. In Donegal, Gerald, along with other powerful Irish clans, who were related to the FitzGeralds by marriage, formed the Geraldine League. When that federation was defeated in Monaghan, he sought refuge on the Continent. He returned to England in the reign of King Edward VI, where he was welcomed at Court and his confiscated lands were returned to him.
In 1543, at the age of sixteen, Lady Elizabeth married Sir Anthony Browne Jr. KG, following the death of his first wife, Alice Gage. Lady Elizabeth became stepmother to Browne's eight children, which included Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, Mary Browne, and Mabel Browne, who would later marry Lady Elizabeth's brother, Gerald FitzGerald, also known as "The Wizard Earl".
The Brownes were staunchly Roman Catholic.
On 6 May 1548, Sir Anthony Browne died, leaving Lady Elizabeth a widow at the age of twenty-one. She had two children by Sir Anthony, but they both died young. On 1 October 1552, she married her second husband, Lord High Admiral Edward Clinton, at Sempringham, Kesteven, Lincolnshire. She was his third wife. Clinton was Lord-Lieutenant of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. He was also a Privy Counsellor. He was created 1st Earl of Lincoln in 1572 and served as Ambassador to France.
Lady Elizabeth was a close intimate of Queen Elizabeth I of England. She had been a companion to the Queen when the latter was a baby; their friendship was later renewed in the household of the widowed Queen Consort, Catherine Parr, and her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour, where Lady Elizabeth went to live following Sir Anthony's death. They reportedly got on well together in the brief period they both resided at Chelsea Manor.
In 1553, she and her second husband supported the plot to place Lady Jane Grey upon the throne in lieu of Princess Mary Tudor; Lady Jane also had been a member of Catherine Parr's household, so it is possible that Lady Elizabeth had developed a fondness for the young girl, which may have prompted her to back Jane's claim. When the plot failed, Lady Elizabeth and her husband managed to regain the trust of Princess Mary, who subsequently became queen. Shortly after the ascension of Queen Elizabeth I to the throne, following Queen Mary's death in 1558, Lady Elizabeth was at court as one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting. Elizabeth was one of those who, in 1561, had tried to warn Lady Catherine Grey to confess her clandestine marriage to Edward Seymour to the Queen before the latter discovered the truth from other people. That same year, Lady Elizabeth fell briefly into disfavour with the Queen and was accused of "frailty" and "forgetfulness of duty". These charges were made by the Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker who also declared that she should be "chastised in Bridewell" for her "offences".Tudor historian David Starkey concludes that Archbishop Parker considered Lady Elizabeth to have been a "strumpet".
Lady Elizabeth afterwards regained her former favour with the Queen.
Several years later, in 1569, Lady Elizabeth exercised her husband's rights as Lord High Admiral to seize a ship which had been illegally taken by Martin Frobisher. Frobisher was arrested for piracy and she was allowed to keep both the ship and its cargo.
On an unknown date in March 1590, Elizabeth FitzGerald died at Lincoln in Lincolnshire, England. She is buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. She had no children by her last husband.
By her father's first marriage to Elizabeth Zouche (died 6 October 1517), Elizabeth's half-siblings included:
By her father's second marriage to her mother Elizabeth Grey (c. 1497-after 1548), Elizabeth's siblings included:
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|Ancestors of Elizabeth FitzGerald, Countess of Lincoln|
Elizabeth's portrait was painted in 1560 by Steven van der Meulen. It is currently on display at Agecroft Hall, in Richmond, VA. Another portrait, which can be viewed in the National Gallery of Ireland, was painted in about 1575 by an unknown artist.
Meredith Hamner dedicates his translation of Eusebius' "Ancient Ecclesiastical Histories" (1577) to her.
She is a minor character in Anya Seton's historical romance Green Darkness, which was partially set in mid-16th century England.
She is a minor character in the historical novel The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George
She was also the subject of Karen Harper's historical fiction novel "The Irish Princess" (2011).