KILDARE (County of), an inland county of the province of Leinster, bounded on the east by the counties of Dublin and Wicklow, on the north by Meath, on the west by the King's and Queen's counties, and on the south by Carlow. It extends from 52° 51' to 53° 26' (N. Lat.), and from 6° 30' to 7° 12' (W. Lon.); and comprises an area, according to the Ordnance survey, of 392,435 acres, of which 325,988 are cultivated ground, and 66,447 are unprofitable mountain and bog. The population, in 1821, amounted to 99,065, and in 1831, to 108,424.
This county, in the time of Ptolemy, was inhabited by the Coriundi, whose territory lay to the west of the rivers Liffey and Slaney, being bounded on the north and west by the Boyne and the Barrow, and having the tribes of the Cauci and Menapii on the east, the Eblani on the north, and the Brigantes on the south. It formed part of the district of Caellan, or Galen, which included the greater part of the present county, together with a part of those of Wicklow and Carlow; the county of Kildare portion being bounded on the east by the Wicklow mountains, on the south and west by the Barrow, and on the north by the Liffey and the bog of Allen. This latter name also signifies the woody country, by much the greater part having been an extensive forest, many traces of which are still discernible in the bogs. The native chieftains of the district were the heads of the family of Hy Caellan, or McKelly, whose principal residence was at Rath-Ardscull, near Athy. The last aboriginal owner of this fortress, Gicrode Crone McKelly, defended it against the efforts of the English during his life. After his decease the country was possessed by the Fitzgeralds, the Fitz-Henrys, and the Keatings. The territory of the O'Tothils or O'Tooles, who ruled over the southern part of the county of Wicklow, extended into this county, Tristledermot, or Castledermot, being one of their places of residence. After the landing of the English and the death of Dermod McMurrough, last king of Leinster, which occurred soon after, this county devolved upon Strongbow, in right of his wife Eva, as part of the kingdom, or, as it was called by the English, the palatinate, of Leinster; and is generally considered to have been one of the twelve counties into which the part of the island that acknowledged the British jurisdiction was divided by King John, although it was not till the end of the reign of Edw. I., in 1296, that an act was passed for separating a large district from the county of Dublin, and more especially for constituting Kildare, which had been a liberty appendant to the county of Dublin, a county of itself, discharged from the jurisdiction of the Dublin sheriff, and having county officers of its own. In the general division of the county among the first English settlers, by Strongbow and his heirs, Carbery was given to Meyler Fitz-Henry; Naas Offallia, to Maurice Fitzgerald, from whom the three great families of Kildare, Kerry, and Desmond, descended; Narragh was given to Robert, and Adam Fitz-Hereford had Salt, with its appendages. On the division of the palatinate of Leinster among the five coheiresses of William Marshal, who inherited in right of his wife Isabel, Strongbow's only daughter, the county of Kildare was given to the fourth daughter, Sibilla, who married William de Ferrars, Earl of Derby. William de Vesey succeeded in right of his wife Agnes, the only daughter of this marriage, but he lost the property shortly after in consequence of his fleeing into France to avoid a single combat with John Fitzgerald, who had charged him with treason, and his possessions were bestowed on his accuser. In 1234, Richard Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, the successor of William, having united with the O'Conors against the English government, was killed in a battle on the Curragh or Kildare by the Lord Justice, aided by the Fitzgeralds, De Laceys, and Burghs. The power of the Fitzgeralds, or Geraldines, from this period became paramount in the county; insomuch that, in l264, Richard de Rupella, Lord Justice, was made prisoner, together with the Lords Theobald Butler and John Cogan, by Maurice Fitzgerald, who had come with. him to a conference at Castledermot, in order to put an end to a dispute between the Geraldines and Burghs.
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