Maurice FitzThomas, 1st Earl of Desmond (d. 25 January 1356) was an Irish nobleman in the Peerage of Ireland, Captain of Desmond Castle in Kinsale, so-called ruler of Munster, and for a short time Lord Justice of Ireland.
The second son of Thomas FitzMaurice by his spouse Catherine (or Margaret), daughter of John, Lord Barry of Olethan, he was created Earl of Desmond by Letters Patent dated at Gloucester, England, 27 August 1329, by which patent also the county palatine of Kerry was confirmed to him and his heirs male, to hold of the Crown by the service of one knight’s fee.
In January 1330 he was summoned by Sir John Darcy, Lord Justice of Ireland, to fight armed Irish rebels, with a promise of the King’s pay. John Lodge states, of his conduct, that this was the first introduction by this Earl of the extortion of Coigne and Livery with a suspension of English law and government in order to deal with the defection of all Munster and a great part of Leinster which had occurred in the reigns of Kings Edward II and Edward III within the space of thirty years.
Accepting the King’s proposal, in addition to dealing with Munster and Leinster, he routed the O’Nolans and O’Murroughs and burned their lands in county Wicklow and forced them to give hostages. He recovered the castle of Ley from the O’Dempsies, and had a liberate of £100 sterling dated at Drogheda 24 August 1335, in return for the expense he had incurred in bringing his men-at-arms, hobellars, and foot-soldiers, from various parts of Munster to Drogheda, and there, with Lord Justice Darcy, dispersed the King’s enemies.
In 1339 he was engaged against Irish rebels in county Kerry where it is said he slew 1400 men, and took Nicholas, Lord of Kerry, prisoner, keeping him confined until he died as punishment for siding with the rebels against the Crown.
The same year he was present in the parliament held in Dublin. He was summoned by Writ dated at Westminster 10 July 1344, with Maurice, Earl of Kildare, and others, to attend the King at Portsmouth “on the octaves of the nativity of the Virgin Mary”, with twenty men-at-arms and fifty hobellars, at his own expense, to assist in the war against Philip, King of France.
In July 1355 he was appointed Lord Justice of Ireland for life, dying, however, the following January in Dublin Castle.
He was interred in the Church of the Friars-preachers ot Tralee.
The first earl of Desmond married thrice: (1) 16 August 1312, Catherine, fifth daughter of Richard de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, who died in Dublin in 1331. (2) Margaret, daughter of Connor O’Brien, Prince of Thomond, by whom he had no male issue. (3) Eleanor, daughter of Nicholas, Lord of Kerry.
By his first wife he had Maurice, 2nd Earl of Desmond and John, 3rd Earl of Desmond.
By his third wife he had:
Nicholas (described by Lodge as “an idiot”), ancestor to MacRobert of Bellamullin and, say some, to the McKenzies, Earls of Seaforth in Scotland.
Gerald FitzGerald, 3rd Earl of Desmond, ‘The Poet’.