ONE of the country's oldest hereditary titles has ended with the death of the last Knight of Glin who had no son to inherit the title.
Desmond FitzGerald (74) -- who was the 29th Knight of Glin -- died on Wednesday night in Limerick, following a long battle with cancer.
Mr FitzGerald became the 29th Knight of Glin at the age of just 12 in 1949, after his father died. But with no son to inherit the 700-year-old title, the unbroken line of knights who lived at Glin Castle, Co Limerick, has now ended.
The Knight of Glin is an ancient Irish noble title which was handed down by chieftains and has been recognised by successive Irish governments.
Mr FitzGerald could date his ancestors back to 1169 when they arrived in Ireland from Wales as mercenaries and soon ascended through the social classes.
Now, only the Knight of Kerry -- also known as the Green Knight -- remains as the last hereditary knight in Ireland.
Affectionately known by some friends as 'Knighty', Mr FitzGerald had previously said he was not bothered about the title dying with him.
"The Knight of Glin is a romantic title, it's not much use except for the romance of the story," he said.
At one stage, Mr FitzGerald's predecessors controlled 30,000 acres, but lost almost all of it during various wars.
Glin in west Limerick has been home to the FitzGerald family since the 1300s. In 2009, Mr FitzGerald was forced to close Glin Castle, which operated as a hotel in recent years, due to ill health. The recession forced him to auction off some of his family's treasures.
Educated at Trinity College and Harvard University, he was regarded as a leading figure in Irish architecture and represented art auctioneers Christies in Ireland. He served as president of the Irish Georgian Society and has written extensively on Irish decorative and fine art.
Mr FitzGerald is survived by his wife Olda and three daughters Catherine, Nesta and Honor. Catherine is married to The Wire star Dominic West and the couple have three children.
Just over a year ago, Glin Castle -- which was built in the 1790s -- hosted the lavish wedding between Mr FitzGerald's eldest daughter Catherine and the British actor Dominic West.
It is expected that Mr FitzGerald's funeral will not take place until next weekend.
Director of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, Dr Terence Dooley of NUI Maynooth, said the title of the Knight of Glin was "certainly one of the oldest in the country".
He added: "I cannot think of one that survived for more than 29 generations. His ancestors arrived here with the first wave of the Anglo-Normans in 1169. He was the quintessential scholar and was extremely generous with his knowledge," he added.
The Irish Georgian Society said the country had lost one of its greatest champions of the arts and heritage.
- Barry Duggan