GERARD, Thomas I (c.1564-1618), of Gerrard's Bromley, Staffs., Astley, Lancs. and Charing Cross, London.
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Family and Education
b. c.1564, 1st (?1st surv.)1 s. of Sir Gilbert Gerard by Anne, da. of Thomas Ratcliffe of Winmarleigh. educ. privately, under a Mr. Thomas Taylor; Caius, Camb. 1580, aged 16. m. (1) Alice, da. of Sir Thomas Rivet, at least 3s.; (2) aft. 1613, Elizabeth (d.1624), da. of Robert Woodford of Burnham, Bucks., s.p. Kntd. 1591; suc. fa. 4 Feb. 1593; cr. Baron Gerard 1603.
J.p. Lancs., Mdx. Northants., Staffs. from c.1592; custos rot. Staffs. from 1601; capt. I.o.M. 1595; knight marshal of the Household May 1597; president, council in the marches of Wales 1616-17.2
Gerard was a soldier, courtier and follower of the Earl of Essex. His early life was presumably spent in the south—he was described as of Harrow-on-the-Hill when he went to Cambridge. His first two returns to Parliament he no doubt owed to his father’s position as vice-chancellor at Lancaster. A regular Parliament man, he is known to have been named to only one committee, on the reform of the penal laws, 2 Nov. 1601, but as knight of the shire he was appointed to the following committees: in 1593, the subsidy (26 Feb.) and a legal matter (9 Mar.); in 1597, enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), the penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.) and the subsidy (15 Nov.); in 1601, the order of business (3 Nov.) and monopolies (23 Nov.). The Gerard family had estates in both Staffordshire and Lancashire, and in 1589 Gerard was returned for both counties, choosing Staffordshire, possibly with the support of the Earl of Essex, who attempted to have him re-elected there in 1593, when Gerard in fact withdrew to avoid a three-cornered contest, and sat for Lancashire instead.3
As a young man, Gerard served with the Earl of Essex, and was knighted by him at Rouen. Appointed captain of the Isle of Man in 1595, the Queen ordered him to reorganize the defences of the island without disturbing the civil government or changing the ‘usual constitutions’. On 5 Aug. he wrote to inform Sir Robert Cecil that he was embarking for the Isle of Man as soon as possible. He took the opportunity to send Cecil ‘an excellent hawk for anything you will fly her at’. Gerard spent the next few years in military activities. In March 1596 he was commissioned by Essex to raise 1,000 men in North Wales, Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire for the Cadiz expedition. The men were to be at the general rendezvous at Plymouth by 28 Apr. Gerard served the expedition, without ‘entertainment’, as the colonel of a foot regiment. However, he possessed a pinnace, and about this time indulged in a little privateering to cover his expenses. The following year he was employed in Northamptonshire and Middlesex to raise and train men against the danger of invasion, and also in Hertfordshire, where in March 1598 he was appointed general surveyor of the county forces. He accompanied the Earl of Essex to Ireland in April 1599. Indeed, Essex appears to have stayed with him at Gerrard’s Bromley on the way north. But it is not clear what Gerard went to do. Essex arrived in Dublin on 15 Apr. and on 20 Apr. Gerard was reported to be anxious to leave that morning. He brought home the Earl’s first despatch, and seems not to have returned to Ireland. Later he was ordered by the Privy Council to send supplies to Ireland from the Isle of Man.4
A Staffordshire man and a young soldier, Gerard had moved almost exclusively in the Essex circle. Even as knight marshal of the Household from 1597 he was subordinate to Essex, the earl marshal. Essex’s disgrace in 1600 put him in a difficult position. Late in April he had been performing his public duties. Then, suddenly, on 9 May he wrote to Sir Robert Cecil to explain that he had gone urgently to the country, without taking leave. ‘Her Majesty’, he wrote, ‘charged me deeply at my coming away, and I vow before God, if I had been guilty, I would never have denied [it]’. The Earl of Rutland had been his accuser, and Gerard claimed to have sent the Queen ‘my Lord’s own hand to the contrary’. The nature of the charge is not disclosed, nor can we be certain that it had any connexion with Essex, but it was evidently serious. ‘How grievous it is unto me’, he wrote in the same letter to Cecil, ‘that I, who have so often and sundry times received her Majesty’s gracious favour, should now be held so base and dishonest a servant ... condemned upon an unjust accusation’. He begged for Cecil’s favour, ‘if by chance you hear her Majesty speak on me, to answer by your good word for me’, promising to repay him for such a service. By the time of Essex’s rising in February 1601 Gerard was again performing public duties and, according to Edward Littleton, one of the first to proclaim Essex and his company traitors. It was he and the lord admiral who brought the earls of Essex, Rutland and Southampton to the Tower at 3 a.m. on 9 Feb. 1601.5
In the new reign Gerard obtained a peerage and was named as one of 13 noblemen with access to the privy chamber. He and Cecil were on friendly terms, sharing an interest in falconry, which now and then features in their letters. Cecil sometimes stayed with Gerard at Gerrard’s Bromley, where on one occasion Gerard promised Cecil—then Lord Salisbury—to keep free from company, ‘that his Lordship may be merry and quiet’. James I also visited Gerard’s ‘poor house’. Built by his father, it was in fact the finest seat in Staffordshire, a stately and magnificent stone mansion whose perpendicular windows recall Longleat.6
Towards the end of Gerard’s life he was appointed president of the council in the marches of Wales. The evidence suggests that he remained at court and did not exercise this office personally. His will, dated 6 Oct. 1617, is lengthy and complex. He owned an immense amount of property. He expressed the wish for Christian burial, in the night without a funeral, in the chancel adjoining the church of Ashley, Staffordshire. The inheritance of his son and heir, Gilbert, is not specified. His wife was left well provided for, and both his younger sons, William and John, received a good share of property. Alexander Standish and Richard Greene were appointed executors, each receiving £50, and Lord Fenton and (Sir) Richard Molyneux II overseers. He also left £50 to his friend Henry Travers and a similar amount to his servant Edward Lloyd. He died 15 Jan. 1618 and was buried at Ashley near Bromley.7