Maurice Fitz-Gerald (Fitzgerald)

DIED A. D. 1177.

From The Irish Nation: Its History and Its Biography

By James and Freeman Wills

THE origin of this illustrious ancestor of a race whose history is for ages identified with that of Ireland, is derived by the heralds from Otho, a noble descended from the dukes of Tuscany, and contemporary with king Alfred. The family are supposed to have come over with the Normans into England, and finally to have settled in Wales. Dugdale, however, affirms that Otho was an English baron, in the reign of Edward the Confessor; but this inconsistency between the two accounts, may be simply due to the confusion of the common name of two different persons, both probably of the same race. Of the latter person of this name, it is said that he was father to Walter Fitz-Otho, who in 1078 was castellan of Windsor, and appointed by William the Conqueror warden of the forests of Berkshire, being then possessed of two lordships in that county, three in Surrey, three in Dorsetshire, four in Middlesex, nine in Wiltshire, one in Somerset, and ten in the county of Southampton.[1] He married the daughter of a Welsh chief or prince, Rywall-ap-Cotwyn, by whom he had three sons, Gerald, Robert, and William.

Of these, heralds have had much discussion, without being able to settle the seniority. "Gerald, the eldest son, in the earl of Kildare's pedigree," observes Lodge, "being made the youngest in the earl of Kerry's, drawn in the year 1615, and attested by Sir William Seager, garter king of arms, who is followed by his successors, Dugdale and Anstis, for which they assign this reason, viz., That the appellation of Fitz-Walter was given to this Gerald, because he was the younger son. To controvert this is to encounter great authority; but we think it deserves an inquiry, how the consequences of his being a younger son, can be drawn from his having the appellation of Fitz-Walter? The custom of that age warrants us to affirm the contrary, and to assert that the eldest son (especially) assumed for his surname the Christian name of his father, with the addition of Fitz, &c., of which, many instances occur in this very family; and this continued in use till surnames began to be fixed about the time of king Edward I."[2] We do not consider the question material to be settled here, and quote so far for the sake of the incidental matter.

On the revolt of a Welsh prince, Fitz-Walter was employed by Henry I. to reduce him to submission; and on his success, was appointed president of the county of Pembroke, and rewarded with extensive grants in Wales. From this he settled there, and married Nesta, the daughter of a Welsh prince. The history of this lady offers a curious illustration of the lax morality of the 11th century. She had been mistress to king Henry I., by whom she had a son; she was next married to Stephen, constable of the castles of Pembroke and Cardigan; and lastly, to Gerald Fitz-Walter. The fortune which united her descendants in the common enterprise which forms the main subject of this period, is not less remarkable; for Meiler Fitz-Henry, Robert Fitz-Stephen, and Maurice Fitz-Gerald, were thus related by the mother's side.

Maurice came over with Fitz-Stephen in 1168, and took a principal part in all the successes and hardships which followed. When Henry paid his visit to the island, at his departure in 1173, he left Maurice as governor conjointly with Hugh de Lacy. In discharge of this important trust he performed many important services. It was during this administration that the occurrence of O'Ruark's attempted treachery and violent death, already related, took place.

The affairs of Henry became, at this time, deeply involved. The repeated rebellions of his turbulent and ungrateful sons were becoming more formidable as they became more influentially connected with foreign politics, and supported by the power and political intrigue of his enemies. He was menaced by a dangerous war, which made it necessary for him to draw away his Irish forces, with the most experienced and trustworthy of their leaders. Among these, Maurice was thus removed from the scene where his wisdom and valour were so much required; and it was not till 1176, that he was again brought back by the earl of Pembroke. From this nobleman he received large grants in Leinster, among which was a renewal of the king's grant of the barony of Ophaly, and the castle of Wicklow.[3]

[1] Lodge, i, 55.

[2] Lodge, note 55.

 [3]Then Wykenlooe.—Lodge.