Gerard, Charles (1659?-1701) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
 
Jump to: navigation, search

GERARD, CHARLES, second Baron of Brandon in Suffolk, Viscount Brandon, and Earl of Macclesfield (1659?–1701), the eldest son of Charles Gerard, first Earl of Macclesfield [q. v.], by Jane, daughter of Pierre de Civelle, was born at Paris about 1659, and naturalised by act of parliament in 1676–7 (Coll. Top. et Gen. viii. 12; Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. 80, 83; Lords' Journ. xiii. 47 b, 71 a). His earliest recorded achievement was the killing in his cups of a footboy belonging to a certain Captain With by a box on the ear in St. James's Park on the night of 17 May 1676. He absconded for a time, but was not brought to justice (Hatton Corresp. Camd. Soc. i. 127; Reresby, Memoirs, ed. 1813, pp. 318–19). He was returned to parliament for the county of Lancaster on 9 Sept. 1679, and again on 22 Feb. 1680–1. As one of the grand jury that presented James, duke of York, as a popish recusant at Westminster in 1680, he fell under suspicion of entertaining treasonable designs against the government, was committed to the Tower on 8 July 1683, and only released on 28 Nov., on entering into his own recognisances for 10,000l., with four sureties for 5,000l. each. The trial took place in the following February, and resulted in an acquittal. Having, however, taken part with his father in entertaining the Duke of Monmouth, he was presented jointly with him by the grand jury of Cheshire on 17 Sept. 1684 as disaffected to the government, was committed to the Tower on 31 July 1685, indicted at the king's bench of high treason on 14 Nov., convicted, mainly on the evidence of Lord Grey de Werk, of complicity in the Rye House plot on the 25th, and sentenced to death three days later. The king, however, granted a reprieve, and in January 1686–7 released him on bail. He received the royal pardon on 31 Aug., and obtained a reversal of the attainder which had followed his conviction on 26 Nov. in the same year (Clarke, Life of the Duke of York, i. 590; {{sc|Rapin}, ii. 713; ‘Proceedings upon the Bailing of Lord Brandon Gerard,’ Brit. Mus. Cat.; Luttrell, Relation of State Affairs, i. 265, 292, 301, 355, 363, 392, 407, 421; Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. App. 270, 7th Rep. App. 501 b; Bramston, Autobiogr. Camd. Soc. 215; Somers Tracts, viii. 406). On 17 Jan. 1688–1689 he was returned to parliament for the county of Lancaster, which he continued to represent until his elevation to the peerage. In January 1689–90 he was appointed custos rotulorum for Cheshire, and on 23 May following lord-lieutenant of Lancashire. He was an intimate friend and a connection by marriage of Lord Mohun [q. v.], for whom he became bail in 1692, on that nobleman's being committed to stand his trial for the murder of Mountfort. On 24 Jan. 1693–4 (his father having died on the 7th) he took his seat in the House of Lords. In the following February he was appointed to the command of a regiment of horse, and a few weeks later advanced to the rank of major-general. He took part in the unsuccessful attack on the outworks of Brest (8 June), in which General Talmash received a mortal wound, and on the fleet returning to Plymouth he was appointed Talmash's successor. In this capacity he accompanied Lord John Berkeley throughout his cruise along the northern coast of France, in the course of which Dieppe and Havre were bombarded (July). In March 1695–6 he was appointed lord-lieutenant of North Wales. He was accredited in June 1701 envoy extraordinary to the court of Hanover to present the electress-dowager Sophia with a copy of the Act of Succession. Toland, the freethinker, who with Lord Mohun accompanied him to Hanover, and who wrote an account of the mission, says that he was appointed solely from his father having been known in the court of Bohemia. The envoys left England early in July, and returned in the autumn. Toland describes their reception as extremely cordial. Gerard was presented by the electress with her own picture and an electoral crown, both set in diamonds, and by the elector with a huge basin and ewer of solid gold. He returned about the end of October, and had hardly communicated the results of the mission to the lords justices when he caught a fever, of which on 5 Nov. he died. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on the 14th. He left no lawful issue, and was succeeded by his brother, Fitton Gerard, who died a bachelor on 26 Dec. 1702, when the title became extinct (Luttrell, Relation of State Affairs, ii. 3, 274, 638, iii. 250, 267, 269, 280–2, 327–8, 331–2, 346, 352, iv. 26, 674, v. 58, 67, 105–6, 250; Lords' Journ. xv. 350 a; Burnet, Own Time, fol. ii. 271; Toland, Account of the Courts of Prussia and Hanover, 2nd ed., pp. 58, 65; Coll. Top. et Gen. viii. 13). Gerard married, in June 1683, Anne, daughter of Sir Richard Mason of Whitehall and Sutton in Surrey. The marriage proved unhappy, and on 2 March 1684–5 Gerard wrote his wife, then on a visit to her mother, a lengthy letter, in which he forbade her to return. While the countess was still living apart from her husband, she was delivered of two children, a girl in 1695, and a boy on 16 Jan. 1696–7, whose births she attempted to conceal. The girl was christened Ann Savage, and was put out to nurse, first at Walthamstow, and then at Chelsea, where she died. The boy was born at Fox Court, Gray's Inn Lane, entered on the register of St. Andrew's, Holborn, as ‘Richard, son of John Smith and Mary,’ and nursed first at Hampstead by a certain Mary Peglear, and then at Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, by a woman named Ann Portlock. Notwithstanding these precautions the facts came to the knowledge of the earl, who accordingly, in the summer of 1697, applied to the court of arches for a divorce a mensa et thoro. The application was strenuously resisted by the countess, and while the suit was still pending the earl in December 1697 instituted proceedings in the House of Lords for a divorce. In opposition, the countess alleged that she had been turned out of her husband's house during his absence by the late earl; that the earl owed his life to her intercession with the king when he lay under sentence of death in 1685; that nevertheless he had secluded her from his bed and board; and she urged that if the bill passed, her marriage settlement ought to be rescinded, and her fortune restored to her. The lords considering that a prima facie case was made out, a bill to dissolve the marriage and illegitimate the children was introduced by the Duke of Bolton on 15 Jan. 1697–8. It occasioned much animated debate, there being no precedent for a dissolution of marriage by act of parliament in the absence of a decree of a spiritual court. On 3 March 1697–8, however, the bill was read a third time, Halifax and Rochester alone protesting, and on 2 April it received the royal assent. It contained clauses settling an annuity on the countess, indemnifying the earl against her debts, and declaring her children illegitimate. That the father of both of them was Earl Rivers had been sworn in the ecclesiastical court; the House of Lords did not pronounce on the question; but while the bill was in progress it was matter of common talk that the boy went by the name of Savage, and that Rivers was the putative father. With this boy, whose history after 1698 is wrapped in obscurity, the poet Richard Savage [q. v.] sought in after years to establish his identity. Savage claimed to have discovered the fact from certain letters of Lady Mason, the mother of the countess, which he had found among the papers of his nurse on her death. The countess married soon after the divorce Colonel Henry Brett [q. v.], with whom she lived, apparently happily and virtuously, until his death. She survived him many years, dying on 11 Oct. 1753, upwards of eighty years of age.

[London Marriage Licenses, ed. Foster; Luttrell's Relation of State Affairs, iv. 323, 332, 336, 362; Lords' Journ. xvi. 224; Parl. Hist. v. 1173–1174; Duke of Manchester's Court and Society from Elizabeth to Anne, ii. 98–9; Gent. Mag. 1753, p. 491; Johnson's Lives of the Poets (Savage). Savage's story is examined ably and in detail in four articles by Mr. W. Moy Thomas in Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vi. 361–5, 386–9, 425–8, 445–8.]

J. M. R.