GERARD, Gilbert (by 1523-93), of Gray's Inn, London.
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Family and Education
b. by 1523, 1st s. of James Gerard of Astley and Ince, Lancs. by Margaret, da. of John Holcroft of Holcroft, Lancs.; bro. of William Gerard I. educ. Camb.; G. Inn, adm. 1537, called 1539, ancient 1547. m. Anne, da. and h. of Thomas Ratcliffe of Winmarleigh, Lancs., 3s. inc. Thomas† 4da. Kntd. 5 July, 1579.2
Autumn reader, G. Inn 1554, jt. (with Nicholas Bacon) treasurer 1556.
J.p.q. Beds., Bucks., Cambs., Cheshire and Hunts. by 1558/59, Essex, Herts., Kent, Mdx., Surr. and Suss. by 1561, Norf. and Suff. by 1572, Lancs. by 1587; attorney-gen. 1559-81; eccles. commr. by 1564; steward, duchy of Lancaster, Copt Hall and other manors in honor of Clare 1567-91, Rochdale manor by 1567, Amounderness hundred 1578-91, bailiff, West Derby hundred by 1570, v.-chancellor at Lancaster from c.1571; gov. Harrow sch. 1572; custos rot. Mdx. c.1573; master of the rolls 1581-d.3
The Gerard family with its many branches in Lancashire furnished some leading figures of the Elizabethan period, but none was more successful than Gilbert Gerard whose ancestors had lived at Ince near Wigan since the end of the 14th century. As his father was almost certainly a younger son, Gerard had little prospect of inheriting the family estates in Lancashire and he trained for the law at Gray’s Inn.4
Little has come to light about Gerard’s life before the reign of Elizabeth. He first appears in Edmund Plowden’s Commentaries as an advocate in Michaelmas term 1554, and Dugdale relates that
in the time of Queen Mary (as by credible tradition I have heard) upon the Lady Elizabeth’s being questioned at the Council table, he was permitted to plead there on her behalf and performed his part so well that he suffered for the same in the Tower of London during the remaining term of Queen Mary’s reign.
Although he may have spoken on Elizabeth’s behalf—and the favour he received when she became Queen gives colour to the tradition—Gerard was not imprisoned for long, if at all. In October 1554 he was asked to act as a permanent counsel for the city of London, in 1555 he represented Wigan in Parliament, Plowden noted his appearance in court in Michaelmas 1557, and in October 1558 he was ordered to take the coif, the mandate lapsing on Mary’s death. By 1562 he was legal counsel to Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby, a service he may well have rendered for some time previously.5
Gerard’s return to Parliament for Liverpool and Wigan between 1545 and 1555 may have owed something to his connexion with the earl, but his family’s local standing and his growing reputation as a lawyer were perhaps enough in themselves to procure it; he was generally styled ‘of Gray’s Inn’ or ‘learned in the law’. His patron at Steyning for the Parliament of April 1554 was probably the 12th Earl of Arundel, among whose followers was Gerard’s uncle Sir Thomas Holcroft, himself returned for Arundel to this Parliament. Nothing is known of Gerard’s role in the Commons. As a rising lawyer he might be expected to have had bills committed to him, but he is not named in the Journal in this connexion. Nor did his support of Princess Elizabeth seemingly extend to his aligning himself with the parliamentary opposition: his name is not among those of the Members who ‘stood for the true religion’ in Mary’s first Parliament nor on the list of those who followed Sir Anthony Kingston’s lead in her fourth.
Gerard was to emerge as a prominent legal and political figure under Elizabeth after his appointment as attorney-general in January 1559. Although it must have been a disappointment to him that Thomas Bromley II, the solicitor-general, was appointed lord chancellor over his head, he became master of the rolls in 1581 and for 12 years administered the court of Chancery with meticulous care but without imagination and with insufficient administrative authority. He died on 4 Feb. 1593 and was buried in the church at Ashley, Staffordshire.6