Maurice FitzGerald

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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FitzGerald, Maurice, one of the most prominent of the Anglo-Norman invaders of Ireland, was a son of Nesta, a Welsh princess [See NESTA], and Gerald FitzWalter, grandson of Lord Otho, an honorary Baron of England, said to have been descended from the Gherardini of Florence. [The Gherardini pedigree will be found in the Kilkenny Archaeological Journal for 1877.] His descendants are consequently styled Geraldines, as well as FitzGeralds.

When Dermot MacMurrough was returning home, after having arranged with Strongbow for a descent on Ireland, he was hospitably received by David FitzGerald, Bishop of St. David's. The Bishop proposed to Dermot that his brother Maurice and his half-brother FitzStephen should join him with a body of troops in the spring, and gain a footing in the country, while Strongbow was getting together his larger armament. Dermot gladly accepted the offer, and agreed to give them two cantreds of land, and the town of Wexford. In May 1169 FitzStephen landed at Bagenbun with 400 archers and men-at-arms, and marched against Wexford, which he took by assault. Soon after FitzGerald arrived at Wexford with two ships, having on board 10 knights, 30 men-at-arms, and about 100 archers.

Dermot, having vested his allies with the lordship of the town, marched to attack Dublin with FitzGerald, while FitzStephen remained to build a castle at Ferry carrick, near Wexford. After exacting hostages from the Danish King of Dublin, Dermot, thinking Strongbow had given up his projected expedition, offered his daughter Eva in marriage to FitzGerald or FitzStephen, if they would bring over a force sufficient to subdue the island; but they being married declined the offer, and on Strongbow's arrival at Waterford, Eva was married to him. In 1171 Maurice and Strongbow were in Dublin, when it was besieged by Roderic O'Conor at the head of 30,000 men, and the harbour blockaded by a Manx fleet. FitzStephen was at the same time besieged by the Irish at Ferrycarrick.

At a council of war, Cambrensis represents Maurice as making the following speech: "We have not come so far, comrades, for pleasure and rest, but to try the chances of fortune, and under peril of our heads to meet the forces of the enemy. For such is the mutability of human affairs, that as the setting of the sun follows its rising, and the light in the east dispels the darkness of the west, so we, on whom fortune has hitherto conferred glory and plenty, are now beleaguered by land and sea, and are even in want of provision; for neither the sea brings succour, nor would the hostile fleets permit it to reach us. FitzStephen, also, whose courage and noble daring opened to us the way into this island, is now with his small force besieged by a hostile nation. What should we, therefore, wait for? Though English to the Irish, we are as Irish to the English; for this island does not show us greater hatred than that. So away with delays and inactivity; for fortune favours the bold, and the fear of scarcity will give strength to our men. Let us attack the enemy manfully; though few in number, we are brave, well-armed, and accustomed to hardship and to victory, and will terrify the ill-armed and unwarlike multitude." This advice was adopted. Next morning at daybreak the Anglo-Normans attacked the headquarters of Roderic at Finglas, routed him, and then marched to the relief of FitzStephen — too late, however, to prevent his falling into the hands of the Irish. In April 1172, Henry II., on his departure for England, appointed FitzGerald and FitzStephen Wardens of Dublin, under Hugh de Lacy.

It was FitzGerald who saved De Lacy's life in the encounter with O'Rourke at the Hill of Ward. On the recall of De Lacy in 1173, FitzGerald retired to Wales, in consequence of misunderstandings with Strongbow. In 1176 matters were arranged between them, and he was made a grant of the barony of Offaly, and the territory of Offelan, comprising the present towns of Maynooth and Naas. He was given the castle of Wicklow in return for his share of Wexford, appropriated with other towns by the King. In September 1177 he died at Wexford, and was buried in the Abbey of Grey Friars, without the walls of the town. According to Lodge, his death was "not without much sorrow of all his friends, and much harm and loss to the English interest in Ireland. He was a man witty and manful; a truer man, nor steadfaster, for constancy, fidelity, and love, left he none in Ireland." Cambrensis thus describes him: "Maurice was indeed an honourable and modest man, with a face sun-burnt and well-looking, of middle height; a man well modelled in mind and body; a man of innate goodness; desiring rather to be than to seem good. A man of few words, but full of weight, having more of the heart than of the mouth, more of reason than of volubility, more wisdom than eloquence; and yet, when it was required, earnest to the purpose. In military affairs valiant, and second to few in activity; neither impetuous nor rash, but circumspect in attack, and resolute in defence; a sober, modest, and chaste man; constant, trusty, and faithful; a man not altogether without fault, yet not spotted with any notorious or great crime." One of his sons, Thomas, surnamed the "Great," was ancestor of the Desmond FitzGeralds. [See DESMONDS.]

Sources

202. Kildare, The Earls of, and their Ancestors: from 1057 to 1773, with Supplement: Marquis of Kildare. 2 vols. Dublin, 1858-'62.

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