The Kildare Title, estates and castles were restored to Gerald Fitzgerald, the 11th Earl of Kildare in 1552. He has escaped to Florence with the help of the Geraldine League some years previously. He only came back when Mary Queen of Scots was on the throne, though they lacked the power they once had. He was also known as the ‘Wizard Earl’, probably due to his interest in alchemy and astronomy. His death was supposedly due to magical reasons. His wife asked him to show his magical powers. He did so, and turned himself into a blackbird. At that moment, the devil appeared in the form of a black cat, and the Earl disappeared in a puff of smoke, never to be seen again. It is said the ghost of the earl haunts Kilkea castle, another Fitzgerald castle in south Kildare.
In 1620, George became the 16th Earl of Kildare at the ripe age of 8 years old. In 1629, Richard Boyle, the Earl of Cork, bought the wardship of the young Earl for £6,000. This essentially meant that Boyle controlled the castle until the Earl was of age to do so himself. He married his daughter to George, guaranteeing his link with the castle. He spent thousands of pounds remodelling the castle, building his house into the inner curtain wall, as well as building a round tower on the grounds, and decorative arches still seen today. Only seven years after completing all the works of the castle, internal wars began which effectively ruined the castle. The Old English and Gaelic Irish had an shaky alliance together against the New English coming to settle. The castle was taken twice in 1641 by locals, in 1643 by royalist forces, and in 1646 also. In 1647 Owen Roe O’ Neill’s army took the castle and effectively destroyed it. The Earl may have lived on there until his death in 1656, but by 1682 it was considered a ruin.
In the early 18th Century, the 19th Earl Robert thought about restoring the castle, but instead moved his residence to Carton, east of Maynooth. They changed their title in 1766 when James, Robert’s son, was made Duke of Leinster (actually pronounced ‘Linster’). Stories about the Dukes of Leinster shall be left for another day, but their Country home was Carton, and their town house in Dublin was Leinster House, now where the Dail sits. Now Maynooth Castle is managed by the OPW since 2001. So there you have it: a brief history of Maynooth castle in three parts.
Sources: Ma Nuad by Mary Cullen
OPW Maynooth Castle Visitor’s Guide