Fitzmaurice, Gerald Henry (1865–1939), consular official and linguist, was born 15 July 1865 in Dublin, son of Henry Fitzmaurice, tea and commission agent, of Howth, Co. Dublin, and Margaret Fitzmaurice (née McKenny); he had one younger sister. He was educated at University College, Blackrock, receiving his BA in Greek and Latin from the RUI in 1887.
Fitzmaurice was admitted to the Levant consular service of the British foreign office as student interpreter in 1888, after passing the competitive entrance examination. The service provided career officers for posts in the Ottoman empire, Egypt, Persia, and Morocco. From 1888 to 1890 he attended the foreign office's consular training establishment at Constantinople, passing out first in the final examinations, which included Turkish, Arabic, and law. After service as consular assistant in Van, Erzurum, and Constantinople, he was promoted to vice-consul in 1895, and posted to Smyrna. In 1896 he was ordered by the British ambassador in Constantinople to accompany as British delegate the commission reluctantly set up by the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid to reconvert to Christianity those Armenians who, in the course of earlier, severe disturbances, had embraced Islam in order to save their lives. Fitzmaurice's reports were included in the parliamentary blue-book recording the crisis and the work of the commission, and his efforts were acknowledged with the CB, a signal distinction for a junior consular officer of less than ten years service.
In 1897 he was appointed third dragoman at the British embassy in Constantinople. The embassy dragomanate, or secretariat, was the principal conduit for communications between the ambassador and the Ottoman government, and drew on the best Turcologists in the Levant consular service. Between 1902 and 1905 Fitzmaurice was chosen to replace one of the two British boundary commissioners who, with their Turkish counterparts, were demarcating the border between the British Aden protectorate and the Turkish province of Yemen. For his work in difficult and dangerous conditions he was made CMG.
In 1905 Fitzmaurice returned to Constantinople as second dragoman, becoming chief dragoman in 1907. With the exception of six months in Libya in 1912, he remained in the dragomanate until he left Turkey in 1914. For some years, his knowledge of Turkish and of the Turkish political scene made him a formidable influence on the shaping of British policy towards Turkey. According to a junior colleague in the dragomanate, ‘it was a great pleasure to hear him talking high-class Turkish with a perfectly authentic accent.’ But Fitzmaurice's Turkish was by no means limited to the upper register: another contemporary reports that he ‘knew Turkish dialects; he had a multitude of Turkish friends of every class, from pashas to porters’.
After the deposition of Sultan Abdul Hamid in April 1909, Fitzmaurice backed and actively intrigued for the liberal constitutionalists against the revolutionary Young Turks. He was alarmed by their leanings towards Germany, Great Britain's main rival in the Near East. At first Fitzmaurice's strategy prevailed; then, however, the political successes of the Young Turks, their liberal support in Britain, and a temporary thawing in relations between London and Berlin during the Balkan crises of 1912 and 1913 combined to bring about his fall from favour. At the beginning of 1914 he was recalled to London, ostensibly on grounds of ill-health, but probably in deference to the Turkish government, who resented his hostility towards the Young Turks. It has been suggested that, with Fitzmaurice's departure from Constantinople, to which he never returned, went the only chance that there had been of discovering the existence of the secret treaty of alliance between Turkey and Germany.
For the remainder of his official career Fitzmaurice was based in London. In 1915 he was sent to Sofia in a fruitless attempt to keep Bulgaria out of the war. He then worked in the intelligence branch of the admiralty, and retired from the Levant consular service in 1921. Unmarried, he lived in rented accommodation in London until his death in a nursing-home on 23 March 1939. Fitzmaurice is buried in Kensal Green cemetery, London. The executor of his estate was his friend and fellow Irishman John Pius Boland (qv), nationalist MP for Kerry South (1900–18).
Extant correspondence reveals Fitzmaurice to have been an enthusiastic adherent of imperial preference. At the same time, he was a vehement supporter of home rule for Ireland, and a fervently patriotic Irishman. His obituary records that in retirement he engaged in ‘good works among Irish seamen in the East End’; in his will he stipulated that £2,000 of his estate be contributed towards the cost of decorating St Patrick's chapel in Westminster cathedral as a memorial to the Irish regiments. Some memorabilia of Fitzmaurice, including his CMG, are kept at Blackrock College, Co. Dublin.