LOWTHER, Gerard I (d.1597), of Lowther, Westmld. and Penrith, Cumb.
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Family and Education
2nd s. of Sir Hugh Lowther of Lowther by Dorothy, da. of Henry, 10th Baron Clifford. educ. L. Inn 1556, called 1565. m. Lucy, da. of Thomas Dudley of Yanwath, wid. of Albany Featherstonhaugh.1
J.p. Cumb. rem. 1587;2 sheriff 1593-4; ‘auditor and surveyor’ Dacre lands in Westmld. from 1589.
A younger son of one of the most eminent families on the northern border, and related to the Cliffords and Dudleys, Lowther became knight of the shire for his county while still a student at Lincoln’s Inn. That he had attained his majority some years previously is apparent from the grant to him in May 1560 of a 21-year lease of property in Bampton, Westmorland, paying for it more than £348. His attitude towards the religious legislation of his first session in the Commons may be inferred from subsequent events. Writing to Lincoln’s Inn on 10 May 1569 the Privy Council named him amongst several who were to be expelled from the Inn and disbarred because they did not attend church and receive the Holy Communion but instead used rites and services forbidden by the laws of the realm. Given time to produce a certificate of his conformity from the bishop of London, and failing to do so, he was expelled in the following year ‘without hope of re-admission’, by which time he was in even greater trouble. He had allied himself to the Duke of Norfolk, becoming, as Lord William Howard wrote later, the Duke’s ‘sworn servant’, ‘fee’d counsellor’, and ‘in great trust with him’. When Mary Queen of Scots crossed into England he, with his elder brother Richard, embraced her cause and took a prominent part in the treasonable activities of the Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland, fleeing, when the northern rebellion collapsed, into Scotland, where he remained, hoping for pardon and occasionally venturing across the border to visit friends and relations. During one such visit in 1570 he ‘greatly lamented’ to Lawrence Banester ‘his unhappy chance to enter then into trouble when he had spent so many years at his book and could not receive the fruit thereof’.3
Following a plea on his behalf from the Regent of Scotland to Burghley, Lowther was pardoned in 1574. His influence over the sheriff of Westmorland, John Middleton, Richard Lowther’s father-in-law, brought hostile comment from Huntingdon, president of the council in the north, who expressed disapproval of Gerard Lowther’s pardon and urged Burghley to check the Lowthers’ pretensions to power. In the autumn of the same year Gerard was involved in a ‘riot’ with servants of a neighbour, Richard Cliburn, and was indicted for murder before Huntingdon’s council: he seems to have pleaded his pardon and the charge against him was dropped. Possibly by this time he had married Lucy Dudley, a second cousin once removed of the Earl of Leicester, a widow since the end of 1573, and sister to the Earl’s steward.4
In May 1575 Lowther, on producing the requisite testimonials to his religious conformity, was re-admitted to Lincoln’s Inn and resumed his practice as legal adviser to the Howards, successfully maintaining their hold on the Dacre lands. By 1586, however, and apparently at Leicester’s instigation, he had turned against his clients and was setting up the Queen’s title to the property, with promise of reward from Leicester. Thenceforward he appears in Lord William Howard’s account of the long-drawn proceedings as ‘that soulless fellow’, a ‘treacherous sycophant’, ‘cunning turncoat’, ‘cursed son of Belial’, the ‘sole author nostrae calamitatis’, and one of those ‘viperous beasts’ whose base behaviour lent force to the ‘ancient observation’ that ‘those which do follow the advice, counsel, and direction of a Lowther, do never thrive nor prosper’.5
Lowther was buried near the south door of Penrith church on the night of 14 July 1597. At this time the two Lowthers were helping their kinsman, Thomas Carleton, in his struggle with the 10th Lord Scrope, Scrope ruefully admitting that he was ‘an unequal match for "old Belzebub" Gerard Lowther', whose nephew and namesake inherited 'his bad gotten goods'.6
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. Vis. Westmld. 1615 , pp. 13-14; Vis. Cumb. (Harl. Soc. vii), 3, where his name is wrongly transcribed from the manuscript as Edward — see Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. n.s. ii. 9 n.
- 2. Lansd. 121, f. 71.
- 3. L.I. Black Bk. i. 371, 372; CPR, 1558-60, p. 292; 1560-3, p. 380; Household Bks. of Ld. Wm. Howard (Surtees Soc. lxviii), app. 1; HMC Hatfield, i. 458, 468; Murdin, State Pprs. 132, 133, 140, 147.
- 4. CSP Scot. iv. 640; Lansd. 19, f. 130; APC, viii. 294-5, 316, 322, 334-5, 336; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. iv. 415; Wills and Inventories (Surtees Soc.), i. 395-7.
- 5. L.I. Black Bk. i. 389-91; Cath. Rec. Soc. Misc. xii. 101; Household Bks. of Ld. Wm. Howard, app. 1; CSP Scot. ix. 636-7; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 702; Add. 1580-1625, pp. 226, 287, 351, 366.
- 6. Border Pprs. ii. 92, 269, 361, 573; Par. Reg. Penrith (Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc.), i. 143, 146; Household Bks. of Ld. Wm. Howard, 390.