Gascoigne, Bernard (DNB00)
|←Gascar, Henri||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 21
GASCOIGNE, Sir BERNARD (1614–1687), military adventurer and diplomatist, whose real name was Bernardo or Bernardino Guasconi, belonged to an ancient family settled at Florence, where he was born in 1614, being son of Giovanni Batista di Bernardo Guasconi and Clemenza di Lorenzo Altoviti. When he was four months old he lost his father, and he was brought up under the care of his maternal uncle, Alessandro Altoviti. He became one of the men-at-arms in the service of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and distinguished himself in an action in Casentino, from which place he took his title on being made a nobleman of the province. Afterwards in his capacity as a uomo d' arme he served in Lombardy, Piedmont, and Germany. Then, coming over to England, he took up arms for Charles I. He obtained a commission in Colonel Nevil's regiment of horse, and on 4 Aug. 1644, when the king was at Liskeard, he surprised and captured a party of parliamentarian officers while they were carousing in Lord Mohun's house, which was within two miles of the Earl of Essex's headquarters. In 1647 he drew up for the instruction of Ferdinand II, grand duke of Tuscany, an account of the recent occurrences in England. He had the command of one of the regiments of horse which took possession of Colchester on 12 June 1648, bore a part in the ineffectual attempt made on 15 July to break through the beleaguering forces, and was taken prisoner when the town was surrendered to Fairfax on 28 Aug. He was condemned to be shot on the following day with Sir Charles Lucas and Sir Charles Lisle. His life was spared at the last moment, because the council of war feared that if they shot a distinguished foreigner their friends or children who visited Italy ‘might pay dear for many generations’ (Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion, bk. xi.) On 3 Dec. 1649 Charles II renewed to him a grant of a pension of 1,000l. a year, originally made to Gascoigne by Charles I, which for the time could not be paid.
In 1650 Gascoigne was at Florence. He was in England again soon after the Restoration, and in or about September 1660 he petitioned the king that in lieu of his pension he might become the tenant of the Steel Yard in London, promising to dispose of the tenements to English merchants. A bill for Gascoigne's naturalisation was read a first time in the House of Lords on 26 June 1661, but was not further proceeded with (Lords' Journals, xi. 289; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. 146). On 17 Oct. following the king leased to him the manor of Red Cross in Bristol for forty-four years at the rent of 20l. In the same month he and Sir Charles Berkeley, jun., had a grant from the king of the extra-parochial tithes of the Earl of Bedford's level and other levels, reserving to the crown a fourth part thereof, as well as 600 acres already in lease. In that month also he obtained a patent of denization by the name of Sir Bernard Gascoigne of Florence. On 13 Oct. 1662 he had the royal warrant for a grant of the extra-parochial tithes in Long Sutton and other places in Lincolnshire and Norfolk, reserving a fourth part thereof to the king. This was to be in lieu of his pension of 1,000l. An order was made on 27 July 1663 for a warrant to pay him a pension of 600l. a year, he having received no benefit from the pension of 1,000l. granted to him by ‘the late king’ (i.e. Charles I), nor from a grant of extra-parochial tithes in Lincolnshire, on which he had expended 1,500l. The grant passed the great seal on 6 Aug., and on 2 Nov. a warrant was issued on his petition for the effectual payment of his pension, as he was then returning to his own country. He had a pass to Tuscany for himself, his servants, and nine horses, on 4 Jan. 1663–4.
In 1664 he wrote from Florence to Secretary Bennet, afterwards Earl of Arlington, informing him that he had agreed with an intelligencer at Venice for 100l. a year, and that he believed that Abbot Vittorio Siri, the historiographer, would, in consideration of 3,000l. a year, be willing to impart to the English government secret intelligence concerning affairs at the French court. John Kirton, writing from Florence, 1 March 1664–5, to Sir Ralph Verney, says: ‘Sir Bernard Gascon hath got the palto of the tobacco, for which the Jews offer him 20,000 crowns’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. 460). In June 1665 he wrote to Bennet's secretary from Rome, requesting a pass for a ship of his from Holland. When Sir John Finch (1626–1682) [q. v.] went to Florence in 1665 as English minister, he was entertained in Gascoigne's house.
Gascoigne had a pass to return to England on 11 March 1666–7, and on 20 June 1667 he was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society of London. On the last-mentioned day a royal warrant was issued for the assignment of the yearly pension of 600l. granted to him in 1663, with 2,250l. arrears due thereon, to be paid from the impost of 5s. a tun on French wines, and on 8 Aug. 1667 there was a reference recommending to the treasury commissioners Gascoigne's petition for the lease of the imposition of 5s. per ton on all French vessels at the rent of 1,000l. a year. Gascoigne was in constant attendance on Cosmo, prince of Tuscany, during his visit to England in 1669. In the following year he took part in a frolic at Audley End, where the queen, the Duchess of Richmond, and the Duchess of Buckingham disguised themselves as country lasses and went to see the fair. Gascoigne ‘on a cart-jade rode before the queen,’ who was unluckily recognised, and ‘thus by ill-conduct was a merry frolick turned into a pennance’ (Ives, Select Papers, p. 40; Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. 367).
In 1672 Gascoigne was sent to Vienna as English envoy to conduct the negotiations for a marriage of the Duke of York with the daughter of the Archduke of Austria. Eventually the negotiations were broken off, and in May 1673 orders were sent to Gascoigne immediately to take his leave and retire from that court (Letters addressed to Sir Joseph Williamson, edited by W. D. Christie for the Camden Soc. i. 12). His name occurs on 3 Dec. 1678 in a list of papists found in the liberties of Westminster who were respited, upon certificates produced, for further consideration. In 1686 he received two several sums of 125l. of the royal bounty. He died in the Haymarket, in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, on 10 Jan. 1686–7.He wrote: 1. ‘Relazione della Storia d' Inghilterra del mdcxlvii, scritta dal Colonello e Residente in Londra Bernardino Guasconi ed inviata a Ferdinando II in Firenze,’ Florence, 1886, 4to, with a brief notice of the author by G. Gargani. 2. ‘A Description of Germany: its Government, Manner of Assembling Diets, Ceremony of Electing and Crowning the King of the Romans: as also an Account of their present Imperial Majesties Houshold.’ This was sent to Charles II in 1672, when Gascoigne was envoy at Vienna. It is printed in T. Brown's ‘Miscellanea Aulica, or a Collection of State Treaties,’ London, 1702. His portrait, from a drawing in the king's copy of ‘Clarendon,’ was engraved by R. Cooper. [Ackerman's Secret Service Payments (Camd. Soc.), 138, 141; Ayscough's Cat. of MSS. p. 226; Life of Mrs. Aphra Behn, prefixed to her novels (1718); Biog. Brit. iii. 2140 n.; Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion; Hist. of Colchester (1803), i. 241, 245; Cooper's Annals of Cambridge, iii. 533; Ellis Correspondence, i. 232; Ellis's Letters, 3rd ser. iv. 271; Evelyn's Diary (1850), ii. 48, 118; Fairfax Correspondence, iv. 47; Gargani's Memoir of Guasconi; Gent. Mag. ccxviii. 616; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 5th edit. iii. 51; Grey on 3 Neal, p. 326; Hist. MSS. Comm. vii. 514, xi. pt. ii. 69; Morant's Colchester, i. 58, 61, 66–8; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. vi. 447, vii. 15; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Charles II (1660–1), 249, 291, (1661–2) 113, 131, 132, 133, 515, (1663–4) 218, 232, 325, 430, 530, 607, (1664–5) 319, 436, 437, 543, (1665–6) 169, (1666–7) 51, 68, 556, (1667) 67, 72, 108, 116, 215, 370; Strickland's Queens of England (1865), iv. 442; Symonds's Diary, p. 48; Thomas's Hist. Notes, p. 581; Thomson's Hist. of the Royal Society, Append. p. xxv; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Winstanley's Royall Martyrology, p. 89; Wood's Fasti Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 102.]