Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Meyrick, Gelly

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MEYRICK, Sir GELLY or GILLY (1556?–1601), conspirator, was eldest son of Rowland Meyrick [q. v.], bishop of Bangor, by Katherine, daughter of Owain Barret of Gelliswic. After his father's death in 1565 he spent his youth with his mother on the family estate of Hascard in Pembrokeshire. At an early age he became a soldier and served in the Netherlands, receiving in 1583 the grant of a crest as 'a remembrance of his good deserts.' He soon became acquainted with Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex [q. v.], who owned property in Wales, and thus came into intimate relations with many of the Welsh gentry. He attended the earl to Flushing in 1585, and joined in the campaigns under Leicester in the Low Countries in that and the following year. On returning to England Essex conferred on him the office of steward in his household (cf. Cal State Papers, Dom., 1581-90 p. 696, cf. 1591-1594 p. 9). Meyrick went with Essex on the expedition to Portugal in 1589, and two years later accompanied him to Normandy, but sickness prevented Meyrick from taking much part in the campaign which Essex then conducted in behalf of Henry of Navarre. In 1595 he and another of Essex's followers, Henry Lindley, were jointly presented by the crown, at Essex's suit, with nine parks in the duchy of Lancaster and one in the duchy of Cornwall, besides the manor and castle of Wigmore in Herefordshire and the forest and chase of Bringwood (ib. 1595-7, pp. 9,61-2). He thenceforth made Wigmore Castle his chief country residence; his London house was in St. Clement's parish without Temple Bar (cf. {{sc|Symonds]}, Diary, Camden Soc., p. 262). In 1596 Meyrick accompanied Essex on the expedition to Cadiz, serving as lieutenant-colonel in Sir Conyers Clifford's regiment, and also acting as commissioner of stores. Essex knighted him at Cadiz after the capture of the city. On his return in August, Meyrick was officially reported to have brought home as prize '250 India hides,' valued at 125l.; but some trifling charges of pilfering in connection with the disposal of the goods captured from the enemy were brought against him by Sir Anthony Ashley [q. v.], and he retaliated by accusing Ashley of far more serious peculations. The quarrel ended in Ashley's committal to prison, and Meyrick was left at peace (Archaeologia, xxii. 172-189; Cal. State Papers, 1595-7, pp. 270-84, 528-36). In 1597 he took part with Essex in the Islands Voyage, and was in command of the Swiftsure. In the earl's disputes with Raleigh in the course of the expedition, Meyrick strongly supported his master, and is credited with embittering the relations between the two leaders (cf. Archaeologia, xxxiv. 323; Edwards, Raleigh, i. 223; Markham, Fighting Veres, p. 238). In the spring of 1599 Meyrick went to Ireland with Essex, who was then lord-deputy, and he returned with messages from his master in August, a few weeks before Essex himself arrived in London to meet the charges preferred against his Irish administration. In July 1600 Essex was induced to dismiss Meyrick from his office of steward by friends who represented him as a dangerous counsellor, but he was soon reinstated at Essex House. A month later Essex, once more at liberty, was considering suggestions of rebellion with a view to regaining his hold on the government, and Meyrick freely entertained in his master's mansion all who favoured his master's reckless policy. When in January 1600-1 Essex had decided on raising an insurrection in the city, Meyrick armed many of his country friends with muskets and invited them to London; and he gave 40l. to the actors of the Globe Theatre on condition that they performed, on the night (Saturday, 6 Feb.) before the day fixed for the outbreak, the play of 'Richard II' (apparently Shakespeare's), in order to excite the feelings of the populace by representing the abdication of an English sovereign on the stage. On the following Sunday (7 Feb.), when Essex left for the city at the head of his armed followers, the defence of Essex House was left in Meyrick's hands, and he acted as gaoler to the members of the privy council who had arrived earlier in the day in order to inquire into Essex's movements and had been locked up in the house. Meyrick defended the house when attacked by the royal troops in the afternoon, and only surrendered at Essex's bidding. He was at once lodged in the Tower, but, unlike his fellow-prisoners, when examined by the council disclosed little. Brought to trial on 5 March, with Sir Charles Davers, Sir Christopher Blount [q. v.], Sir John Davis, and Henry Cuff or Cuffe [q. v.], he declined to admit his guilt, but was convicted and sentenced to death. He declared himself 'not unwilling to die,' and explained that he merely acted under his master's orders. He was hanged at Tyburn on 13 March, together with Cuffe, and suffered 'with a most undaunted resolution.' In a short speech at the gallows he expressed the hope that 'such as had unwarily espoused this unhappy cause' might receive a pardon (State Trials, i. 1413-14, 1446-9; Cal. State Papers, Dom., 1598-1601 pp. 546-98, 1601-3 pp. 1-2, 1117). His confiscated goods in Herefordshire were valued at 461l. 10s. 2d.

Meyrick married about 1584 Elizabeth or Margaret, daughter of Ieuan Lewis of Cladestry, Radnorshire, and widow of John Gwyn of Llanelwedd; she inherited the estates of both her father and first husband. By her Meyrick left a son, Roland, and a daughter, Margaret, wife of Sir John Vaughan, earl of Carberry. Both children were subsequently restored in blood, and seem to have been granted out of their father's confiscated estates lands at Lucton and Eyton in Herefordshire. Lady Meyrick died in 1625.

[Lewys Dwnn's Visitation of Wales, 1586-1613, ed. Sir S. R. Meyrick, i. 137; Archaeologia, xxii. 172-89 (by Sir S. R. Meyrick); Williams's Eminent Welshmen; Birch's Memoirs of Queen Elizabeth, ii. 463-6, 492-3; Devereux's Earls of Essex;Cecil's Letters to Carew (Camden Soc.), pp. 73-4; Spedding's Life of Bacon, vol. ii.; authorities cited.]

S. L.