Fitzgerald, Maurice (1772–1849), 18th knight of Kerry and politician, was born 29 December 1772, eldest son of Robert Fitzgerald, 17th knight of Kerry and MP, and his third wife, Catherine, daughter of Lancelot Sandes, MP. Succeeding his father as knight of Kerry in 1781, he served as a page in Dublin castle to the duke of Rutland (qv) in 1785, before being sent to school at Harrow (1786–9). He entered TCD in 1789, but was not a diligent student and left without taking a degree. In 1792 he entered Lincoln's Inn, but was not called to the bar, and he preferred the lure of politics to the practice of law.
Eager to enter parliament, he successfully stood for election in Co. Kerry at the by-election following the death of Sir Barry Denny (qv), and took his seat on 21 April 1795. He became close friends with Robert Stewart (qv), later Viscount Castlereagh, and Arthur Wellesley (qv), later 1st duke of Wellington, important influences on his later career. A firm supporter of a legislative union, he spoke in its defence on 22 January 1799, and received the office of commissioner of customs as a reward. Convinced of the necessity of catholic emancipation accompanying the measure, when the government collapsed in 1801 on that issue he acted as agent to the lord lieutenant, Cornwallis (qv), in transmitting the details to the catholic leadership.
Elected to the new united parliament as MP for Co. Kerry (1801–31), he was appointed commissioner of the Irish treasury (1801–7) and an Irish PC. His parliamentary attendance declined sharply after the first year, however, and he spent most of his time in Dublin or Kerry, increasingly disillusioned with the union. He used the collapse of the ministry of Lord Grenville (qv) in 1807 on the catholic question as a pretext to retire from office without suffering any embarrassment. Freed from the restrictions of office, he opposed the new government consistently.
In the 1810s his indifference towards parliament increased and he retired more and more to his estates at Glanleam, Ballinruddery, and Valentia Island, Co. Kerry. He occupied many positions of local importance and was a DL and JP of the county and a lieutenant-colonel of the Kerry militia. Determined to improve the area, he began to develop a huge slate quarry on Valentia, which was also financially profitable. Due to his friendship with Lord Lansdowne (1780–1863), he returned to office in 1827 as a commissioner of the treasury until January 1828, and was appointed vice-treasurer of Ireland in 1830. He did not seek reelection to parliament in 1831, and was appointed lord of the admiralty in December 1834, resigning in April 1835. When he stood for reelection in 1835 he suffered a surprise defeat.
He died 7 March 1849 and was believed to be the last surviving member of the Irish parliament. He married first (5 November 1801) Maria (d. 13 November 1829), daughter of David La Touche (qv); they had six sons and four daughters. He married secondly Cecilia Maria, widow of George Knight. His eldest surviving son, Peter Fitzgerald (qv), succeeded him as 19th knight of Kerry.