Countess Kildare

MABEL BROWNE

(c.1528-August 25, 1610)

The daughter of Sir Anthony Browne (June 27, 1500-May 5, 1548) and Alys Gage (d. March 31, 1540).

Her marriage to the brother of her stepmother, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, on May 28, 1554 made her Countess of Kildare.

Mabel had five children:

Gerald, Lord Offalay (c.1559-1580)

Henry, 12th earl of Kildare (1562-August 1, 1597)

William, 13th earl of Kildare (d. April 1599)

Mary

Elizabeth.

Her father’s half brother, William FitzWilliam, earl of Southampton, left her an annuity of £100 in his will, dated September 10, 1542. Mabel Browne was probably named after Southampton’s wife, Mabel Clifford. She was in Mary Tudor’s household before 1552, possibly as a maid of honor.

Gerald Fitzgerald (February 25, 1525-November 16, 1585) had been living in exile following the execution for treason of most of the other Fitzgerald men. He was restored to the title on May 13, 1554.

The notes in Mary Anne Everett Green’s Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies, contain the claim that Mabel met Gerald at a masked ball at court and fell in love with him. After her marriage, Mabel was a gentlewoman of the privy chamber. She was less welcome at court under Elizabeth. Living primarily in Ireland by the 1570s, Mabel’s recusant leanings were very apparent. She may have had no direct role in treason, but her oldest son’s tutor was a suspect and she harbored a number of priests within her household.

Her husband was committed to Dublin Castle in December 1580 and later was incarcerated in the Tower of London. He was released in June 1583. According to Vincent P. Carey, author of Surviving the Tudors: The ‘Wizard’ Earl of Kildare and English Rule in Ireland, 1537-1586, Mabel “maintained a refuge and library for the Jesuit missionary Robert Rochfort.

She also kept the priest Nicholas Eustache, a relative of the rebel Baltinglass, as her private chaplain, and hired the suspected Father Compton as a tutor to her younger children.” She was innocent of the charge that she intended to have one of her sons taken to Spain to be brought up with the duchess of Feria, but she was a close friend of the duchess (Englishwoman Jane Dormer) from the time they were both at court under Mary Tudor. Another story, one with even less foundation in fact, attributes the death of the “Wizard” earl and the “enchanted sleep” that legend maintains followed it, to an accident while the earl was giving his wife a demonstration of his magical powers.

In fact, the earl died in his bed. After his death and the death of their youngest son in 1599, Mabel joined her granddaughter, Lettice Fitzgerald, Lady Digby, in pressuring the new earl for Mabel’s jointure rights and lobbying for Lettice, as heir general, to be granted the title baroness Offaly.