The Old Countess: Did Catherine Fitzgerald Really Live to 150 Years Old?

By | August 10, 2018

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People in the Middle Ages just didn’t live very long. Disease, war, bacteria, famine, and those pesky plagues did a number on mortality rates. Folks were lucky to make it to fifty years old. How is it possible, then, that Catherine Fitzgerald, the Old Countess, lived to 140, or more? This tough-as-nails old gal skewed the mortality rates with her longevity and proved that staying fit and active can help keep Father Time at bay.  

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Childhood home of Catherine Fitzgerald

Catherine Fitzgerald was born in the 1460s

Medieval birth records are hit or miss, but by all accounts, Catherine Fitzgerald was born in County Waterford, Ireland, in the early 1460s. She was the daughter of Sir John Fitzgerald, a second Lord of Decies, and Ellen Fitzgibbon.

She is known to have married her husband, Thomas “the Bald” Fitzgerald, her cousin, sometime during the reign of Edward IV, which was between 1461 and 1483, minus six months in 1470-1471 when he was disposed from the throne, then reinstated. The Countess even claimed to have danced with the future King Richard III at court. Thomas was in his seventies when he was named the 11th Earl of Desmond in 1529, putting his birth year in 1464, approximately the same year as his wife. When he died in 1534, he was in his mid- to late-seventies, a remarkably old age for people at the time, but nothing compared to Catherine’s age.