MEYRICK (MERRICK), Gelly (c.1556-1601), of Gellyswick, Hascard, Pemb.; Wigmore Castle, Herefs.; Gladestry, Rad. and Essex House, London.
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Family and Education
b. c.1556, 1st s. of Rowland Meyrick, bp. of Bangor, by Catherine, da. of Owen Barret of Gellyswick. m. 1584, Elizabeth or Margaret, da. of Ieuan Lewis of Gladestry, wid. of John Gwynne of Llanelwedd, Rad., 2s. 1da. suc. fa. 1566. Kntd. 1596.
Steward of Welsh lands of Robert, 2nd Earl of Essex c.1587, his receiver gen. for wine impost 1598; j.p. Rad. from c.1591, custos rot. 1598, dep. lt. 1598; lt.-col. under Essex at Cadiz 1596, Azores 1597, marshal of forces under Essex in Ulster 1599.2
Although Meyrick’s immediate antecedents were clerical, his remoter—and perhaps more significant—background was military. The family, of ancient Powys stock, came into prominence when Llywelyn ap Heilyn fought for Henry of Richmond at Bosworth, and his son Meurig ap Llywelyn for Henry VIII in France, receiving as reward a lease of the royal manor of Aberffraw in Anglesey. This dwindled under litigation into the small estate of Bodorgan, and the Anglesey Meyricks remained until the eighteenth century among the smaller gentry of the island. Gelly Meyrick’s father, Rowland, second son of Meurig ap Llywelyn, entered the church, received preferment in the diocese of St. David’s, married into the Pembrokeshire gentry, and, after losing his offices during the reign of Queen Mary, became bishop of Bangor under Elizabeth. On his death his children, still under age, were taken to their mother’s Pembrokeshire estate, and Meyrick became a page in the neighbouring house of Lamphey, then in the occupation of George Devereux, brother of the 1st Earl of Essex. There, from about 1579, Meyrick entered the service of the end Earl, who was brought up at Lamphey. He looked after Essex’s estates in south-west Wales and served him in the field, in the Netherlands, in Portugal, Normandy, Cadiz (where he was lieutenant-colonel and commissioner of stores, receiving his knighthood from Essex at the capture of the city), the Azores and Ireland.
By 1592 Meyrick was the Earl’s principal man of business, and had acquired the reputation of being completely devoted to his patron. His service was well rewarded. In 1595 Essex persuaded the Queen to grant him a joint lease of the honour, manor and castle of Wigmore (which became his principal residence), together with other manors and forests in the counties of Hereford and Radnor, to which he added the castle of Manorbier in Pembrokeshire. After Meyrick’s death, detractors claimed that these were granted only in trust, for the payment of his master’s debts. Meanwhile Meyrick had consolidated his own position and influence in south Wales by marrying into a leading Radnorshire family, thereby acquiring estates and connexions in that county. The marriage which he arranged for his daughter Margaret, with Sir John Vaughan of Golden Grove, also provided him with an entry into Carmarthenshire society. His personal fortune was swollen by the spoils of Cadiz, which caused envious comment.3
Meyrick owed his first parliamentary seat in 1589 to Devereux influence. The 1st Earl of Essex had shown considerable friendliness to the authorities at Carmarthen, in whose parish church he had asked to be buried. By 1593, however, the 2nd Earl of Essex was relying on Meyrick to secure the return of his followers at the Welsh elections. Half the borough seats of the principality—Brecon, Cardigan, Carmarthen, Haverfordwest, Pembroke and New Radnor—returned candidates connected with the Earl’s faction that year. At the 1597 elections both the Earl and his steward were abroad on the Islands voyage but Meyrick was apparently elected for Pembrokeshire in his absence—a striking illustration of the strength of their party in south Wales. Possibly James Perrot, owner of Haroldston and a follower of Essex, who himself represented Haverfordwest in this Parliament, organised local support at the county election. Elsewhere in Wales, however, Essex’s election successes were less striking than in the previous Parliament. Perhaps it was Meyrick’s absence during the weeks before the elections which accounted for the loss of Brecon Boroughs to a local man, and possibly also for a defection at New Radnor. In this Parliament Meyrick sat on two committees, 20 Dec. and 26 Jan., both concerned with soldiers and mariners. If he was back in time he could as knight of the shire for Pembrokeshire have attended committees on enclosures (5 Nov.), poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.), the subsidy (15 Nov.) and Newport bridge (29 Nov.).4
Meyrick was equally assiduous over forming an Essex faction in local government. His attempt in 1598 to control, on his patron’s behalf, nominations for the commission of lieutenancy in Radnorshire was denounced as a challenge to his authority by the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, the president of the council in the marches of Wales, who also opposed Meyrick’s own inclusion on the ground that he held no land in the shire in his own right. Meyrick even traded on his north Wales connexions by pressing the claims of a cousin of his as under-sheriff of Caernarvonshire. Towards the end of Essex’s disastrous campaign in Ireland, Meyrick was sent home with letters, arriving in August 1599, a few weeks before his master. In the following year some of Essex’s friends, who considered Meyrick a dangerous counsellor, brought about his temporary dismissal from the stewardship, but he soon regained his position, and before the rising of 1601 was active in bringing Essex’s supporters to London and providing arms for them. It was he who is said to have given 40s. to the Globe actors to perform the play Richard II on the night before the day fixed for the rising. When Essex rode into London, Meyrick took charge of the barricading of Essex House against the government forces. His execution for treason on 13 Mar. 1601 necessarily meant the dispersion of his estates. His brother, Sir Francis Meyrick, though under suspicion, was never brought to trial, but his daughter Lady Vaughan of Golden Grove, to whom he was said to have conveyed some of his treasure before the collapse, was involved in her father’s attainder. Both she and her surviving brother were restored in blood and name in 1606, and the Meyricks continued to play a part in Pembrokeshire politics till the eighteenth century.5
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Author: N. M. Fuidge
- 1. Folger V. b. 298.
- 2. DWB; Dwnn, Vis. Wales, i. 70, 136-7, 185, 214; HMC Hatfield, viii. 368; APC, xxviii. 500; D. Mathew, Celtic Peoples and Renaissance Europe, 348; PRO Index 4208.
- 3. DWB; Lansd. 69, f. 177; HMC Hatfield, vi. 422; vii. 306; ix. 147; xi. 413; xiii. 195; Arch. Camb. (ser. 3), x. 20 seq.
- 4. Mathew, 340-58; A. H. Dodd, Studies in Stuart Wales, 36, 183-4; Neale, Commons, 80-2, 238; D’Ewes, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561, 565, 575, 588.
- 5. HMC Hatfield, viii. 233-4; xi. 81-2, 113-14, 135; xiv. 195; NLW Cal. Clenennau Letters and Pprs. 121-2; HMC Rutland, i. 367-70; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, pp. 549, 565, 572-3, 582; Arch. Camb. (ser. 3), x. 23-7; CJ, i. 291-2, 300-1; 3 Jac. I, c.28.