Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fitzgerald, Maurice (d.1176)

FITZGERALD, MAURICE (d. 1176), English conqueror of Ireland, was the son Nesta, daughter of Rhys the Great, king of South Wales (Exp. Hib. p. 229). He was thus half-brother to Robert Fitzstephen [q. v.] and Meiler Fitzhenry [q. v.], and brother of David II [q. v.], bishop of St. David's (ib. ; Girald. Itin. Cambr. p. 130 ; Earls of Kildare, p. 3). His father Gerald, according to later genealogists, was grandson of Walter Fitzother, who figures in 'Domesday' as a tenant at Windsor and elsewhere, and lord of manors in Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire, Middlesex, and Buckinghamshire. In the early years of the twelfth century his father was steward of Pembroke Castle. He was probably dead by 1136, in which year the Welsh annals show that Nesta's second husband, Stephen, and the 'sons of Gerald' were fighting against the Welsh prince, Owen (Domesday, 30 a 1, 36 a 1, 61 b 1, 130 a 1, 151 a 1 ; Ann. Cambr. pp. 30, 34, 40).

In 1168, when Dermot, king of Leinster, was in South Wales seeking for aid to re-establish himself in his kingdom, Rhys ap Griffith had just released his three-year prisoner, Robert Fitzstephen, on condition that he should help him against Henry II. Robert's half-brother, Maurice Fitzgerald, now petitioned that he might carry his kinsman to Ireland instead; for Dermot had promised to give the two knights Wexford and the two adjoining 'cantreds' in return for their services (Exp. Hib. p. 229 ; Ann. Cambr. p. 50). Robert crossed at once (May 1169), but Maurice did not land till some months later, when he reached Wexford with 140 followers. Here Dermot came to meet him, and led him to his royal city of Ferns. In the expedition against Dublin, Maurice commanded the English contingent, while Robert Fitzstephen stayed behind to fortify the rock of Carrick, near Wexford (Exp. Hib. pp. 229, 233, 245 ; Regan, p. 56 ; cf. Ann. Cambr. p. 52 ; Annals of the Four Masters, sub 1169, 1170 ; Annals of Boyle, p. 28). Dermot had already fulfilled his promise as regards Wexford, and when the Earl of Clare did not come according to his engagement, he offered his daughter, with the succession to the kingdom, to Robert or Maurice, an offer which both declined on the plea that they were already married (Exp. Hib. p. 246). Earl Richard at last landed at Waterford, 24 Aug. 1170. The town was taken next day, Maurice and Robert arriving with Dermot in time to save the lives of the nobler captives (ib. p. 255).

Next year Maurice was present at the great siege of Dublin. His anxiety for the safety of his half-brother Robert, whom the Irish of Wexford were besieging in the turf fort of Carrick, led him to propose the famous sally from the city, when some ninety Norman knights routed King Roderic's army of thirty thousand men. Though the English started southwards on the day after the victory, they were too late to relieve Robert Fitzstephen, who had surrendered on receiving false news as to the fall of Dublin (ib. p. 266, &c.)

Henry II's arrival seems to have brought the temporary downfall of the Geraldines. The men of Wexford attempted to curry favour with the king by giving him their prisoner ; and, though Robert was soon set free, he and Maurice were seemingly deprived of Wexford and the neighbouring cantreds (ib. p. 278). Henry kept Wexford in his own hands, entrusting it to William Fitzaldhelm before he left the country, but now, or a little later, Earl Richard gave Maurice 'the middle cantred of Ophelan,' i.e. the district about Naas in Kildare (ib. pp. 286, 314; Regan, pp. 146-7). On leaving Dublin, Henry charged the two brothers, at the head of twenty knights, to support the new governor of this city, Hugh de Lacy; and it must have been shortly after this that Maurice, forewarned by his nephew's dream, saved his leader's life from the ambush set for his destruction at his interview with O'Rourke, the 'rex monoculus' of Meath (Exp. Hib. pp. 286, 292-4).

The remainder of Maurice's life is obscure. During the great rebellion of the young princes (1173-4) Henry had to withdraw the greater part of his own retainers from Ireland; but there seems to be no evidence that Maurice accompanied his half-brother Robert to the king's assistance in England and Normandy. When Earl Richard was restored to power, an attempt was made to consolidate the English interests by a system of intermarriage. It was now that Maurice's daughter Nesta wedded Hervey of Mountmaurice, the great enemy of the Irish Geraldines; while Maurice's son took Earl Richard's daughter, Alina, to wife. This alliance procured a grant of Wicklow Castle and the restoration of Naas, which had seemingly been confiscated, but which was henceforward held as a fief of the earl. The rest of Ophelan in North Kildare was divided between Maurice's kinsmen, Robert Fitzstephen and Meiler Fitzhenry (ib. p. 314; Regan, pp. 146-7).

Some three years later, Maurice Fitzgerald died at Wexford (c. 1 Sept. 1176), 'not leaving a better man in Ireland.' The death of Earl Richard and the appointment of William Fitzaldhelm as governor caused the momentary downfall of the Geraldines, who soon forced Maurice's sons to give up Wicklow Castle in exchange for Ferns (Exp. Hib. pp. 336-7).

Giraldus Cambrensis has described Maurice's personal appearance and his character. His face was somewhat highly coloured but comely, his height moderate, 'neither too short nor too tall,' and his body well proportioned. In bravery no one surpassed him, and as a soldier he struck the happy mean between rashness and over-caution. He was sober, modest, and chaste, trustworthy, staunch, and faithful; 'a man not, it is true, free from every fault, but not guilty of any rank offence.' He was little given to talk, but when he did speak it was to the point. It would seem that when he crossed over to Ireland he was fairly advanced in life, since the same author applies to him the epithets 'venerabilis et venerandus' (ib. p. 297). He was buried in the Grey Friars monastery outside Wexford, where, in Hooker's days (1586), his ruined monument was still to be seen 'wanting some good and worthy man to restore so worthy a monument of so worthy a knight' (Holinshed, vi. 198).

Maurice Fitzgerald left several sons and a daughter, Nesta. His wife is said to have been Alice, granddaughter of Roger de Montgomery, who led the centre of the Norman army at Hastings (Earls of Kildare, p. 10). She was living in 1171, as Giraldus tells us that she and some of Maurice's children were with Fitzstephen when the Irish were laying siege to Carrick (Exp. Hib. p. 266). Of his sons two, Gerald (d. 1204) [q. v.] and Alexander, greatly distinguished themselves in the sally from Dublin (ib. pp. 268-9). Alexander seems to have left no issue (Nat. MSS. of Ireland, pp. 125-6), and Gerald, 'a man small of stature, but of no mean valour and integrity,' succeeded to his father's estates, and became, through his heir, Maurice Fitzgerald II [q. v.], the ancestor of the Fitzgeralds of OfFaly and Kildare (Exp. Hib. p. 354). Nesta married Hervey of Mountmaurice; William, another son, must have died before, or not long after his father, as he can hardly be the William Fitzmaurice who died about 1247 A.D. (Sweetman, i. No. 2903, cf. Nos. 89, 94). The Irish genealogists, however, make him succeed his father in Naas, but die without a son. They also assign Maurice another son, Thomas the Great, who, marrying Eleanor, daughter of Sir William Morrie, acquired extensive property in Munster, and became the ancestor of the earls of Desmond, the White Knight, the Knight of Kerry, &c. (Earls of Kildare, p. 10). A Thomas Fitzmaurice (d. 1210-1215) appears not unfrequently in the Irish rolls (Sweetman, i. Nos. 406, 529; cf. Earls of Kildare, p. 10, where his death is assigned to 1213) [see Fitzthomas, Maurice, first Earl of Desmond].

[Giraldus Cambrensis, Expugnatio Hibernica, ed. Dimock (Rolls Series, vol. v.); Anglo-Norman poem on the Conquest of Ireland, ed. Thomas Wright, London, 1841, cited as Regan; Annales Cambriæ, ed. Williams ab Ithel (Rolls Series); Annals of the Four Masters, ed. O'Donovan; The Earls of Kildare and their Ancestors, by the Marquis of Kildare (Dublin, 1858), represents the popular genealogy, &c., of the Geraldine family at the time the book was written. See also Sir William Bethel's Pedigree of the Fitzgeralds, printed in the Journal of the Hist. and Archæolog. Society of Ireland for 1868-9 (3rd ser. vol. i.); Holinshed, ed. 1808; Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland, ed. Sweetman, vol. i.; Sweetman's Cal. of Documents, vol. i.; Annals of Boyle, ap O'Conor, vol. ii.; Nat. MSS. of Ireland, ed. Gilbert.]

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