GERARD, Hon. Charles (c.1659-1701), of Halsall, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1659, 1st s. of Charles, 1st Baron Gerard of Brandon, by Jeanne, da. of Pierre de Civelle, equerry to Queen Henrietta Maria; bro. of Fitton Gerard. m. 18 June 1683, Anne (div. 1698), da. and coh. of Sir Richard Mason of Bishop’s Castle, Salop and Sutton, Surr., s.p.legit. styled Visct. Brandon 21 July 1679; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Macclesfield 3 Jan. 1694.
Lt.-col. Ld. Gerard’s Horse 1678-9, col. June-Sept. 1679, Oct.-Dec. 1688, 1694-d.; maj.-gen. 1694.
Commr. for assessment, Cheshire and Lancs. 1677-80, Mdx. 1679-80, Cheshire 1689, Lancs. and Mdx. 1689-90; freeman, Preston 1682; dep. lt. Lancs. 1687-9, Wales 1689-96; j.p. Lancs. Apr. 1688-d., Cheshire by 1701-d.; steward of Blackburn hundred 1689- 90; ld. lt. Lancs. 1689-d., N. Wales 1696-d.; custos rot. Lancs. 1689-d., Mont. 1700-d.; freeman, Liverpool 1690; constable of Liverpool Castle and butler, Lancs. 1691-d.; v.-adm. Cheshire and Lancs. 1691-d., N. Wales 1696-d.; commr. for superstitious uses, Lancs. 1693; col. of militia ft. Lancs. and Denb. by 1697-d.1
Envoy, Hanover 1701.
The Lancashire Gerards were major landowners there and intermittently knights of the shire from the middle of the 14th century. The fortunes of the Halsall line, descended from a younger son of the Elizabethan master of the rolls, were made by Gerard’s grandfather, who acquired the Gawsworth estate in Cheshire by marrying the heiress of the Fittons. Gerard’s father, one of the most prominent royalist commanders in the Civil War, was in exile during the Interregnum. He was attached to the queen mother’s party, and married the daughter of one of her attendants. At the Restoration he became captain of the guard until 1668, when he resigned with ample compensation in favour of the Duke of Monmouth, amid rumours of financial malpractices. His reputation was further clouded by allegations of forgery and intimidation arising out of Alexander Fitton’s claim to Gawsworth. He was a court supporter in the House of Lords as late as 1677, when Shaftesbury described him as ‘vile’.2
Gerard, who was born in Paris, was naturalized in 1660. Embracing the profession of arms, he first saw service under the great Condé. On his return to London he killed a footboy with his bare hands while under the influence of drink, but he was granted a free pardon. By 1679 both Gerard and his father, in spite of innumerable favours from the Court, had become strong Whigs and intimates of Monmouth. Gerard ‘had the honour to be chose in three Parliaments without any opposition either from the gentlemen or freeholders’ of Lancashire. Noted by Shaftesbury as ‘honest’, he was moderately active in the first Exclusion Parliament. On 9 Apr. he was sent to the Lords to desire a conference on their amendments to Danby’s attainder. He was named to three committees, and voted for the exclusion bill. The advancement of his father to the earldom of Macclesfield failed to win him over, and he was one of the Middlesex grand jury which presented the Duke of York as a popish recusant. As Lord Brandon, he was an active Member of the second Exclusion Parliament, with 13 committees, including those to receive information about the Popish Plot and to inquire into abhorring. He helped to draw up the addresses for the dismissal of Jeffreys and Halifax, and to make preparations for the trial of Lord Stafford. In the Oxford Parliament he was named only to the committee of elections and privileges.3
In the summer of 1682 Brandon and his father attended Monmouth on his progress into Cheshire, during which they treated him with quasi-regal honours, and it was reported that they were planning a rising in Cheshire. He was sent to the Tower on the discovery of the Rye House Plot, but no evidence was offered against him, and he was discharged.4
The year 1685 was disastrous for Brandon both in public and private life. In March his marriage broke up, in circumstances which his peers were later to find entirely to his discredit. At the general election court pressure was brought to bear against William Leveson Gower, who contemplated offering Brandon a seat at Newcastle-under-Lyme. None of the gentry except Sir Charles Hoghton and Edward Rigby would endorse his candidature for Lancashire, and he was heavily defeated. At Lancaster the handicraftsmen supported him, but their vote was swamped by the ‘twopenny freemen’ created for the purpose by the servile mayor. On Monmouth’s landing a proclamation was issued for the arrest of Brandon and his father. Macclesfield fled abroad, but Brandon found himself again in the Tower. He was convicted of treason largely on the evidence of Lord Grey of Warke, who implicated him in the Rye House Plot. Brandon was condemned to death, but first reprieved, by what a Cheshire acquaintance described as ‘a pure act of grace, the object not having the least spark of merit in him’, and then in August 1687 pardoned.5
Brandon immediately joined the ranks of James II’s Whig collaborators. He and his henchman William Spencer accepted commissions as deputies to the Roman Catholic Lord Lieutenant Molyneux. Gerard became ‘a violent assertor of the King’s dispensing power to the highest degree’, rallying the nonconformists and bullying the mayors of Lancaster, Wigan and Preston into surrendering their charters. As a reward, his father’s forfeited estates, valued at £2,000 p.a., but encumbered with a great mortgage, were granted to him.6
Macclesfield returned to England with William of Orange in November 1688; but Brandon himself at first miscalculated the situation and appeared in arms for King James. As he later wrote to William:
Sure your Majesty could not think the worse of me for being faithful to a King to whom I owed my life, and whose commission I therefore believed I ought not to refuse when it was offered me. But this I thought myself obliged in honour to be true to my trust. Both my principles and my inclinations were always on your Majesty’s side, and when King James was gone away, I am sure no man came to you with a more sincere intention to serve you than myself.
It is hardly surprising that at the general election of 1689 Lancaster rejected two of Brandon’s officers, in spite of ‘his lordship personally appearing to manage that election’. Brandon’s own election as knight of the shire was for a time in jeopardy, though whether it was his profligate life or his political tergiversations that shocked the nonconformist conscience is not clear. With only 12 committees Brandon was not active in the Convention. In the first session he took part in drawing up the mutiny bill and the new oaths of allegiance and supremacy. The peerage conferred by James II on Alexander Fitton, the rival claimant to Gawsworth, on 1 May perhaps decided William to risk the sincerity of Brandon’s conversion. On 13 May Brandon obtained leave from the House ‘to go into the country, being so directed by his Majesty’, and in the following month, on the resignation of Lord Derby, he was appointed lord lieutenant. A Jacobite invasion from Ireland was thought to be imminent, and, though his list of deputies seems to be directed more to the repayment of old political debts than to efficiency, Brandon was undoubtedly energetic and competent in his defence measures, showing himself ready to harry those Papists whom he had formerly cultivated as allies. He returned to Westminster for the second