‘A Tudor viceroy: Sir William Fitzwilliam of Milton, 1560–1575, the reluctant lord deputy’ is a study of an Elizabethan governor in Ireland. Fitzwilliam’s reluctance to take the position is considered, as is his performance when governor with respect to military affairs, religious matters, and exchequer reform. The study also considers Ireland in a European context in these years. In April 1572, Lord Burghley informed Fitzwilliam that the Spanish king had his hands full with the Turk, and that the immeasurable exaction of the tenth of all things introduced by the duke of Alba meant that the whole country (i.e. the Low Countries) was ready to revolt.
The study examines as well Fitzwilliam’s service as the crown’s accounting officer for money in Ireland from 1559 to 1573. An attempt was undertaken early in Elizabeth’s reign to reform debased coin in England and Ireland. The study contrasts Fitzwilliam’s performance in Ireland with experiences in England. Fitzwilliam as crown accountant was also required to undergo audits, and fell into debt, even with an advantageous marriage having taken place between Fitzwilliam’s son and a daughter of England’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Walter Mildmay.
Mildred, lady Burghley, informed her cousin Sir William Fitzwilliam in October 1573 that ‘greffe [grief] is comin to all those that deall in Princis affayres, wch I wish my frendes had less cause to know by experience’. By September 1575, the Spanish king Philip II had signed a default decree. By March 1576, Requesens, governor of the Low Countries, was dead. In contrast, with Ireland quiet for the present, Fitzwilliam was able return home to Milton in September 1575, loaded with a debt settlement, but not misliked, and was succeeded as lord deputy by his brother-in-law Sir Henry Sidney.