FITZGIBBON, Hon. Richard Hobart (1793-1864), of Mount Shannon, co. Limerick.
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Family and Education
b. 2 Oct. 1793, 2nd s. of John, 1st Earl of Clare [I], by Anne, da. of Richard Chapel Whaley, MP [I], of Whaley Abbey, co. Wicklow. educ. Harrow 1802-5; by Rev. John Smith at Woodnesborough, nr. Sandwich 1805. m. 11 July 1825 at Dunkirk (and again at St. James’s, Westminster 9 Jan. 1826), Diana, da. of Charles Brydges Woodcock of Brentford Butts, Mdx., div. w. of Maurice Crosbie Moore, 1s. d.v.p. 3da. suc. bro. John as 3rd Earl of Clare [I] 18 Aug. 1851.
Usher and registrar of affidavits in Chancery [I] 1810-36.
Ensign 1 Ft. Gds. 1808; capt. 2 Ceylon regt. 1811, ret. 1814; col. co. Limerick militia 1818-d.
Gov. co. Limerick 1818, ld. lt. 1831-48, 1851-d.
Fitzgibbon was the younger son of the lord chancellor of Ireland whose fanaticism in support of the Union was matched only by his virulent opposition to Catholic emancipation. On Lord Clare’s death in 1802, his widow took over the management of the family interest in Limerick and it was chose entendue between her and government that her son Richard should represent the county when he came of age.1 Fitzgibbon meanwhile served in the Peninsula and in 1810 received a lucrative chancery sinecure worth £4,550 p.a. His elder brother John, the 2nd Earl, informed the chief secretary in 1814 ‘I have not the smallest doubt on my mind of the eventual success of my brother’, but found cause to complain of government’s inclination to resist his bid ‘to monopolize all the county honours’.2 On 12 Jan. 1816 he remonstrated with Peel:3
I feel and know that I am the son of a minister to whose exertions when in office the English government were indebted for the preservation of Ireland, and you cannot be surprised that I think it somewhat extraordinary after all I have heard of the wish of government to support me that every one and every claim is attended to before mine.
Fitzgibbon headed the poll, with government support, at the election of 1818: he became, moreover, governor of the county and colonel of the county militia. He proved a disappointment to ministers. He was in the majority for the reform of the criminal law, 2 Mar. 1819, and voted for the repeal of the Irish window tax, 5 May. He was in the government majority against Tierney’s censure motion on 18 May, but appeared in the minorities against the foreign enlistment bill, 10 and 21 June. On 22 June he was in the majority for the extension of the Penryn franchise. Worse still, as the Irish secretary informed the premier, 17 Feb. 1820:4
Colonel Fitzgibbon did not attend the House at all in the short sitting before Christmas. He was in town ten days before the opening of Parliament and perhaps was there the whole time. I wrote him a public circular, which he answered from Savile Row, saying that circumstances would not allow him to attend. I wrote him again a private letter, which he did not acknowledge. He was offended because the lord lieutenant had not given a living to some gentleman for whom he and Lord Clare are interested. He was very desirous to bring me to a negotiation on this point in the summer and resented my declining it. Now it strikes me and indeed strikes us all here [Dublin], that the government should not regard Fitzgibbon as a friend. To fail us at so critical a period for so shabby and miserable a reason, was very bad; and if such conduct is not marked the government will only expose itself to the suspicion of weakness. Fortunately, government is now strong enough to show its sense of such desertion, and therefore I should propose that we no longer regard Fitzgibbon as a friend.
Friend or not, Fitzgibbon was in no danger of losing his seat and in general supported government. No speech is known before 1820. As anticipated, he was a supporter of Catholic relief. He was later described as one of ‘that numerous body of Irish jobbers who support the government de facto for loaves and fishes’.5 He died 10 Jan. 1864.