Maurice Fitzmaurice FitzGerald, 2nd Lord of Offaly, a Norman in Ireland peer, soldier, and Justiciar of Ireland from 1232 to 1245, dies on May 20, 1257, at the Franciscan Friary of South Abbey in Youghal, County Cork. He musters many armies against the Irish, and due to his harsh methods as Justiciar, he receives criticism from King Henry III of England.
FitzGerald is born in Ireland in 1194, the son of Gerald FitzMaurice, 1st Lord of Offaly, and Eve de Bermingham. He succeeds to the title of Lord of Offaly on January 15, 1204, and is invested as a knight in July 1217, at the age of 33. In 1224, he founds South Abbey, Youghal, the proto-friary of the Irish Province of the Observant Franciscans, dedicated to Saint Nicholas. He is summoned to London to accompany King Henry III of England to Poitou and Gascony in October 1229. He is appointed Justiciar of Ireland in September 1232 and holds the post until 1245. His reputation is marred by rumours that he had contrived the death of Richard Marshal, 3rd Earl of Pembroke in 1234. He meets Marshal at the Battle of the Curragh on April 1, where Marshal is wounded and dies shortly after. It is rumoured that Marshal had been betrayed. FitzGerald then proceeds to London, where he takes an oath before Henry III, that he is innocent of any participation in Marshal’s death. In 1253, he founds Sligo Abbey, a Dominican convent in Sligo, to house a community of monks to say prayers for Earl Marshal’s soul.
In February 1235, the King criticises FitzGerald for his proceedings in office and describes him as “little pleasant, nay, beyond measure harsh in executing the King’s mandates.” The same year, he takes part in the subjugation of Connacht. In the years 1241 and 1242, and later in 1246, 1247, and 1248 he musters armies against the Irish. In 1247, he invades Tír Chonaill and fights the combined forces of Cenél Conaill and Cenél nEógain at the Battle of Ballyshannon. According to various Irish annals, three eminent lords fall in battle against him: Maol Seachlainn Ó Domhnaill, King of Tír Chonaill, An Giolla Muinealach Ó Baoighill, and Mac Somhairle, King of Argyll (a man seemingly identical to Ruaidhrí mac Raghnaill).
In 1245, FitzGerald is dismissed from his post as Justiciar as a result of tardiness in sending the King assistance in the latter’s military campaigns in Wales. His successor is John FitzGeoffrey. That same year he lays the foundations for Sligo Castle. In 1250, he holds both the office of Member of the Council of Ireland and Commissioner of the Treasury. He also founds the Franciscan Friary at Youghal; hence his nickname of an Brathair, which is Irish for The Friar. He is at the English royal court in January 1252, and receives an urgent summons from King Henry in January 1254.
He married Juliana de Grenville and by her, they have four sons:
- Gerald FitzMaurice FitzGerald
- Maurice FitzGerald, 3rd Lord of Offaly
- David FitzMaurice FitzGerald
- Thomas FitzMaurice FitzGerald
In 1257, FitzGerald and his Norman army engage the forces led by Gofraidh Ó Domhnaill, King of Tír Chonaill, at the Battle of Creadran Cille, in Cairbre Drom Cliabh, now the northern part of County Sligo. The two men fight each other in single combat and both are gravely wounded. FitzGerald dies of his injuries at South Abbey, wearing the habit of the Franciscans, on May 20, 1257, aged 63 years. In the Annals of the Four Masters, 1257, his death is described thus: “Maurice FitzGerald for some time Lord Justice of Ireland and the destroyer of the Irish, died.” (In Irish this reads as: “Muiris macGerailt lustis Ereann re h-edh diosccaoilteach Gaoidheal d’écc”.)
Upon FitzGerald’s death, the properties of Lea, Rathangan, and Geashill pass to his grandson Maurice, son of Gerald FitzMaurice, who dies in 1243.
FitzGerald is succeeded as Lord of Offaly by his son, Maurice FitzGerald, 3rd Lord of Offaly, rather than the rightful successor, his grandson, Maurice, son of his eldest son, Gerald.