Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pickering, Gilbert

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PICKERING, Sir GILBERT (1613–1668), parliamentarian, born in 1613, was the son of Sir John Pickering, knt., of Titchmarsh, Northamptonshire, by Susannah, daughter of Sir Erasmus Dryden (Nichols, Leicestershire, i. 614; Bridges, Northamptonshire, ii. 383; Burke, Extinct Baronetage, p. 634). Pickering was admitted to Gray's Inn on 6 Nov. 1629, and created a baronet of Nova Scotia at some uncertain date (Foster, Gray's Inn Register, p. 189; Wotton, Baronetage, iv. 346). In the Short parliament of 1640, and throughout the Long parliament, he represented the county of Northampton.

At the beginning of the war Pickering adopted the parliamentary cause, and, as deputy-lieutenant and one of the parliamentary committee, was active in raising troops and money for the parliament in his county (Lords' Journals, v. 583). Then and subsequently he was very zealous in carrying out the ecclesiastical policy of the parliament, and is described by a Northamptonshire clergyman as ‘first a presbyterian, then an independent, then a Brownist, and afterwards an anabaptist, he was a most furious, fiery, implacable man; was the principal agent in casting out most of the learned clergy’ (Walker, Sufferings of the Clergy, p. 91). In the revolution of 1648 he sided with the army, and was appointed one of the king's judges, but attended two sittings of the court only, and did not sign the death-warrant (Nalson, Trial of Charles I, 1682, pp. 50, 52). Nevertheless, he was successively appointed a member of each of the five councils of state of the Commonwealth, of the smaller council installed by the army on 29 May 1653, and of that nominated in accordance with the instrument of government in December 1653. He sat for Northamptonshire in the ‘Little parliament’ of 1653, and in the two parliaments called by Cromwell as protector. To the parliament of 1656 his election is said to have been secured only by the illegal pressure which Major-general Butler put upon the voters (Bridges, Northamptonshire, ii. 383). In the house he was not a frequent speaker; but the speech which he made on the case of James Naylor shows a more tolerant spirit than most of the utterances during that debate (Burton, Parliamentary Diary, i. 64). On 12 July 1655 Pickering was appointed one of the committee for the advancement of trade (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1655, p. 240). In December 1657 he was summoned to Cromwell's House of Lords, and about the same time was appointed lord chamberlain to the Protector, being, according to a republican pamphleteer, ‘so finical, spruce, and like an old courtier’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 152; A Second Narrative of the Late Parliament, &c.; Harleian Miscellany, iii. 477). While in this capacity he employed his cousin, John Dryden, as secretary, and the poet was subsequently taunted by Shadwell with his occupation:

The next step of advancement you began
Was being clerk to Noll's lord chamberlain,
A sequestrator and committee man.

(The Medal of John Bayes, 1682, p. 8; Scott, Life of Dryden, 1808, p. 34). Pickering signed the proclamation of the council of state declaring Richard Cromwell his father's successor, and continued to act both as councillor and lord chamberlain under his government. Though qualified to sit in the restored Long parliament, he took little part in its proceedings, and obtained leave of absence in August 1659 (Tanner MS. Li. 151, Bodleian Library). When the army quarrelled with the parliament, he once more became active, and was appointed by the officers in October 1659 one of the committee of safety, and in December following one of the conservators of liberty (Ludlow, Memoirs, ed. Firth, ii. 131, 173). With the re-establishment of the parliament in December 1659, Pickering's public career ended; and he owed his escape at the Restoration to the influence of his brother-in-law, Edward Montagu, earl of Sandwich [q. v.] Pickering's name was inserted in the list of persons excepted by the commons from the Act of Indemnity for penalties not reaching to life, and to be inflicted by a subsequent act for the purpose. But, thanks to Montagu's intervention, he obtained a pardon, was not exempted from the Act of Indemnity, and was simply punished by perpetual incapacitation from office (Commons' Journals, viii. 60, 117–19; Lords' Journals, xi. 118; Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 155). His death is recorded by Pepys under the date of 21 Oct. 1668.

Pickering married twice: first, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Sidney Montagu; secondly, a daughter of John Pepys of Cambridgeshire (Nichols, Leicestershire, i. 614). He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his son, John Pickering; the title became extinct in 1749. A daughter Elizabeth married John Creed of Oundle, by whom she had a son, Major Richard Creed, killed at the battle of Blenheim, and commemorated by a monument in Westminster Abbey (Dart, Westmonasterium, ii. 90).

John Pickering (d. 1645), the second son of Sir John Pickering, also adopted the parliamentary cause. He was admitted to Gray's Inn on 10 Oct. 1634 (Foster, Register of Gray's Inn, p. 206). In 1641 he was engaged in carrying messages from the parliament to its committee in Scotland (Commons' Journals, ii. 315, 330). He commanded a regiment in the Earl of Manchester's army, fought at the battle of Marston Moor, and was one of Cromwell's witnesses against Manchester (Markham, Life of Lord Fairfax, p. 157; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1644–5, p. 151). On the formation of the new model army, Colonel Ayloffe's regiment was incorporated with Pickering's, and the command given to the latter (Commons' Journals, iv. 90, 123). He took part in the battle of Naseby, the siege of Bristol, and the captures of Laycock House, Wiltshire, and Winchester (Sprigge, Anglia Rediviva, 1854, pp. 116, 127, 135, 140). Pickering died in November 1645 at St. Mary Ottery, Devonshire; and Sprigge, who terms him ‘a little man, but of a great courage,’ inserts a short poem celebrating his virtues (p. 168). A prose character of him is contained in John Cooke's ‘Vindication of the Law’ (4to, 1646, p. 81). Pickering was a zealous puritan, and in 1645 caused a mutiny in his regiment by insisting on giving them a sermon (Gardiner, Great Civil War, ii. 192).

Edward Pickering, the third son of Sir John, is frequently mentioned by Pepys (Diary, ed. Wheatley, i. 104).

[Noble's House of Cromwell, ed. 1787, i. 379; and his Lives of the English Regicides, 1798, ii. 127.]

C. H. F.