The name Fitzpatrick is very popular today in Ireland and around the world. It originated in Ireland and is unique in that it is the only native Gaelic name with the prefix Fitz.
All other names with the prefix Fitz are of Norman origin, and in these cases the Fitz means ‘the bastard son of’.
The name Fitzpatrick evolved independently of the Normans, and is the English translation of the ancient Gaelic name Mac Giolla Phádraig.
Giolla Phádraig was the King of Ossory, a territory that is now known as Leinster. His name means a follower, Giolla, of St Patrick, Phádraig.
He ruled Ossory for around 20 years in the 10th century until he was killed in battle. His two sons carried the name Mac Giolla Phádraig, with the Mac meaning the son of Giolla Phádraig. Despite the death of Giolla Phádraig, the family remained powerful and still held much territory.
In the 12th century, the Normans invaded Ireland and many powerful families were forced to give up their land. The name Mac Giolla Phádraig became Anglicised to Fitzpatrick.
Negotiated a peace deal with Henry VIII
The Fitzpatricks remained powerful despite the military force of the Normans. They were one of the first major Irish families to relent to Henry VIII. They shrewdly backed down from the King’s attack, and negotiated a peace deal for the long term benefit of the family.
Henry allowed the Fitzpatricks to keep much of their territory and in 1541, Brian Fitzpatrick was given the title Baron Upper Ossory, a position that came with a seat in the Irish House of Lords.
The Fitzpatricks held their position of relative power in Ireland under the British rule for around a century, until they lost most of their territory due to their support of James II.
When the dynasty was destroyed, members of the Fitzpatrick family spread across Ireland and integrated into communities all across the country.
The name has now become common in most English speaking countries around the world, after many Fitzpatricks were forced to emigrate from Ireland to America, Europe and Australia to survive the ‘Great Famine’ of the 19th century.
World Cup winner and the ‘fifth smartest athlete’
Some of the more notable Fitzpatricks from history include Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, who was the son of an Irish judge in Cape Colony. After his father died he went on to play a major part in the political formation of South Africa in the early 20th century.
Major Thomas Fitzpatrick, known as ‘Broken-Hand’, was the key mediator between the US government and the various American Indian tribes that agreed the peace deal of the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1851.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is an NFL quarterback who has played for the Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills. He was also named the fifth ‘smartest athlete in sports’ by Sporting News magazine in 2010.
Sean Fitzpatrick was a New Zealand rugby union international who helped his side win the World Cup in 1987. He played 92 times for his country and is widely regarded as one of the best players of his generation.
Inspiration for scene in The Godfather
Richie Fitzpatrick was an American gangster in the late 1800s and early 1900s whose cunning method of eliminating his enemies was the inspiration behind one of the most famous movie scenes in history.
Fitzpatrick would arrange to meet with members of a rival gang and allow himself to be searched to show he had no weapon. He would then explain that he wanted to join forces, before excusing himself to use the bathroom.
In the bathroom Fitzpatrick would retrieve a gun that had been planted earlier and return to kill his unsuspecting rivals.
Fitzpatrick’s ploy was the inspiration for the scene of the same nature in the Godfather film.