Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Was Mr. Darcy Irish? and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

When you hear someone’s last name which starts with the prefix, “Fitz,” as in Fitzgerald, Fitzsimmons, Fitzpatrick, Fitzhenry, etc., you probably assume you are speaking to someone of Irish descent. So it is possible that Fitzwilliam Darcy was descended from a Hiberno-Norman family. And who exactly were the Hiberno (Irish) Normans (French) by way of England people? This group came to Ireland at the request of Diarmaid Mac Murchadha, aka Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, who had been given the heave-ho by Tighearnán Ua Ruairc. (Try and pronounce that!) These Hiberno-Normans liked what they saw of the Emerald Isle, decided to stay, and freely intermarried with the Irish and became “more Irish than the Irish.”

Richard FitzWilliam, 5th Viscount FitzWilliam (1677 – 1743) was an Irish nobleman and politician. He succeeded to the Viscountcy of FitzWilliam in 1704, and became a member of the Irish Privy Council in 1715. He was elected as a member of Parliament for Fowey, a rotten borough in Cornwall. Now, you’re probably thinking that Cornwall is a long way from Derbyshire. However, that was the beauty of rotten boroughs. You didn’t have to live anywhere near them.

It is possible that this branch of the Fitzwilliam family had come from Ireland and migrated north to Derbyshire where they put down roots. Being of Hiberno-Norman ancestry, they might have intermarried with another Norman family, the Darcys. So it is possible, if not likely, that Mr. Darcy is of Irish descent.
I am making this claim because I am of 100% Irish descent myself. However, I come from a long line of Catholic, Irish-speaking peasants, and so it is unlikely that any of my relations socialized with the Fitzwilliams. Even so, I am pretty sure that we are related. (If Mr. Collins, the heir to Longbourn, the home of Elizabeth Bennet, just so happens to be pastor to Lady Catherine, Mr. Darcy’s aunt, then I can be related to Mr. Darcy.) So let us lift a glass of Guinness to Fitzwilliam Darcy and acknowledge how fortunate he was to have been descended from a Son of Ireland.

Note: Here is an article on the portrait of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy which was auctioned at Bonham's in London for 12,000 pounds, twice the expected price.

P.S. Is Mr. Darcy's coat green or blue. I can't tell because I'm color blind. But if it is green, isn't that more proof that he's Irish?

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