GERARD, Charles, Visct. Brandon (c.1659-1701).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1679 - Mar. 1681
1689 - 7 Jan. 1694

Family and Education

b. c.1659, 1st s. of Charles, 1st Baron Gerard of Brandon and 1st Earl of Macclesfield, by Jeanne, da. of Pierre de Civelle, equerry to Queen Henrietta Maria; bro. of Hon. Fitton Gerard*.  educ. G. Inn 1674.  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 from 21 July 1679; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Macclesfield 7 Jan. 1694.1

Offices Held

Lt.-col. of horse Ld. Gerard’s regt. 1678–9, col. June–Sept. 1679, Oct.–Dec. 1688, 1694–d.; maj.-gen. 1694; envoy to Hanover 1701.

Freeman, Preston 1682, Liverpool 1690; steward, Blackburn hundred 1689–90; ld. lt. Lancs. 1689–d., N. Wales 1696–d.; custos rot. Lancs. 1689–d., Mont. 1700–d.; constable, Liverpool castle and butler, Lancs. 1691–d.; v.-adm. Cheshire and Lancs. 1691–d., N. Wales 1696–d.; commr. superstitious uses, Lancs. 1693.2


A man of strong opinions and a fiery temper, Brandon was undoubtedly the most controversial figure in Lancashire politics between the Revolution and the death of William III. Although he had been a prominent advocate of Exclusion, Brandon enthusiastically collaborated with James II’s attempts to repeal the Penal Laws and Test Acts, co-operation no doubt given in grateful acknowledgment of the pardon he had been granted following his conviction in 1685 for complicity in the Rye House Plot, and when William of Orange landed in England Brandon appeared in arms for James. He soon reconciled himself to the new regime, however, and when William, 9th Earl of Derby, refused the lord lieutenancy of Lancashire in 1689 William III appointed Brandon to the post. Brandon’s advocacy of Exclusion and recent support for James II meant that his appointment was greeted with anger by the predominantly Tory gentry of Lancashire, a reaction which led him into efforts to establish an alternative interest among the local Whig gentry and Lancashire’s Dissenters. These efforts increased Tory resentment of Brandon, and attitudes towards him became the decisive factor in the conduct of Lancashire politics in the 1690s.3

Despite being included in a black list of extreme Whigs who had sat in the Convention, Brandon was returned unopposed for Lancashire in 1690 and at the opening of the Parliament was listed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). His concern with disaffection and the Jacobite threat, particularly in relation to Lancashire, soon became apparent. On 15 May he was in the House to hear claims that Lancashire Jacobites had been gathering arms for a rebellion, for which they were said to have received commissions from James. Brandon was ordered to escort the informer to the lord chief justice for a formal deposition to be made, and he was appointed to the committee formed the same day to draft a bill to secure the King and Queen from such plots. This concern led him into the pursuit of Jacobite conspirators in Lancashire, being ordered by the King to ‘seize all disaffected persons to the government’ in the county, and it seems likely that this responsibility was the motivation for Brandon’s attempts in the autumn of 1690, ultimately unsuccessful, to gain control over nominations to the Lancashire bench. Brandon was not an active Member, and when on 8 Nov. he attended the elections committee to support Robert Harley’s* petition upon the New Radnor Boroughs election he was included in a list of ‘persons of quality who seldom attend committees’. His only significant appointment in this session was on 18 Dec., to a conference with the Lords upon an estate bill. More pressing were the allegations, made by Lord Preston (Sir Richard Grahme†) that Brandon had been involved in Jacobite plotting and, though Preston later withdrew his allegations, admitting they were based upon ‘hearsay and report’, Brandon appears to have felt that doubts over his allegiance to the new monarchs were prejudicing his prospects of military advancement. He wrote to the King complaining that he had been ‘misrepresented to your Majesty at your first coming to England’. Brandon assured William that, although he had served James out of gratitude for his pardon, ‘both my inclinations and my principles were always on your Majesty’s side’ and that

my great ambition is to serve you in the army, because I think I can there do you most service and I hope you will place me in the post you consider the most suitable . . . I do but justly mention my pretensions and then submit wholly to you and as I cannot but expect all kind of rights from your justice and so I assure you that when I have once a position in the army in such a rank as you think fit, I will never ask to be raised higher, till you yourself judge it for your service to do so.

It may be that Brandon’s feelings of neglect by the new regime led him into opposition, as in April 1691 Robert Harley listed him as a Country supporter.4

If Brandon had flirted with the opposition at the end of the 1690–1 session it was only a momentary lapse, as for the rest of his Commons career, with only two exceptions explicable in relation to his Whiggish instincts, he remained loyal to the Court. The first of these exceptions came on 3 Nov. 1691 when Brandon joined other Whigs in attacking the Cabinet Council for the military disappointments of the previous summer. This was Brandon’s first parliamentary act in a month which saw a notable increase in his parliamentary activity. That Brandon continued to support the ministry can be seen by his inclusion in a list of Court supporters compiled by Carmarthen after the end of the 1691–2 session, where it was also noted that he was ‘leader of some Lancashire and Cheshire Members’. Despite this support for the ministry the hopes Brandon harboured in August 1692 of being appointed master-general of the Irish ordnance were disappointed. The 1692–3 session may have seen Brandon’s frustration at being overlooked for this post combine with his Whig loyalties when he opposed the Court over the triennial bill in early 1693, most notably on 7 Feb. when he clashed with Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, in a committee of the whole over Seymour’s opposition to this measure. Such opposition seems, however, to have been an isolated incident, and in the spring of 1693 Brandon was again included in a parliamentary analysis as a Court supporter. This loyalty finally reaped its reward in June 1693 when the 2nd Earl of Sunderland recommended that Brandon’s military ambitions should be satisfied, arguing that Brandon needed to be secured to the Court interest as ‘without excepting any man, none can do more good or hurt than he’. The value of Brandon’s support probably stemmed from the interest Brandon was thought to have in Lancashire and Cheshire elections, and in January 1694 he was given one of the new regiments of horse, and the following month appointed major-general. Brandon’s presence in the Commons ended, however, when he succeeded to the earldom of Macclesfield on 7 Jan. 1694.5

Macclesfield continued to be a controversial figure in Lancashire politics for the remainder of William’s reign. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the prosecution of those accused in the Lancashire Plot of 1694, and in later years made repeated attempts to remodel the Lancashire magistracy, being most successful in the aftermath of the Assassination Plot when the Earl of Stamford, who had been tried with Macclesfield for treason in 1685, assisted Macclesfield’s attempts to remove prominent Tories and replace them with political allies. He continued to exert his influence in the Lancashire boroughs in favour of Whig candidates, in 1698 describing Wigan’s Tories as a ‘party who profess themselves for King James’, but his efforts in this area were less successful than he either hoped for or boasted of. His divorce of 1698, coming three years after separation from his wife, became notorious as the first divorce bill to pass without a decree from an ecclesiastical court, and though he did not remarry he was reported in 1701 to be courting the daughter and heiress of William Harbord*. The same year saw him appointed as envoy to Hanover, and in the summer he travelled to the electorate to present a copy of the Act of Settlement to the Electress Sophia and to invest her son, the Elector George Lewis, with the Order of the Garter. Macclesfield returned to England in the autumn, but died on 5 Nov. and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His will was something of a surprise. Instead of leaving his estates to his brother Fitton and his sisters and their heirs, Macclesfield left his entire estate, save for some personal bequests, to Lord Mohun, husband of one of his nieces, with the instruction that ‘in what relates to the public he will take the advice of the Earl of Orford [Edward Russell*] and the Lord Somers [Sir John*]’. The terms of the will were challenged by Macclesfield’s relatives, including the husband of another of Macclesfield’s nieces, and Lancashire’s leading Tory, the Duke of Hamilton. The dispute led to the duel between Mohun and Hamilton in November 1712 in which both men were killed.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


  • 1. Baines, Lancs. ed Croston, iv. 376–7; DNB.
  • 2. Preston Guild Rolls (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 180; Wahlstrand thesis, 58; Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 125; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 89; xix. 457.
  • 3. Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, cxxxvi. 45–47; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 278; HMC Kenyon, 213.
  • 4. A. Browning, Danby, iii. 168; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 45; Glassey, 279; HMC Portland, iii. 451; HMC Finch, iii, 309; Dalrymple, Mems. ii(2), 182–3.
  • 5. H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 70; Browning, iii. 183; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 1350, [–] to [Portland], 9 Aug. 1692; Luttrell Diary, 408; Eng. Hist. Docs. 1660–1714, ed. Browning, 258.
  • 6. Glassey, 281–3; Luttrell, i. 355; Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss 371/14/L22, Macclesfield to Somers, 21 May 1698; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 376; 1700–1, p. 89; HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 57–68; PCC 149 Dyer; HMC Cowper, ii. 446; Durham Univ. Jnl. lvii. 159–65; HMC Portland, x. 486–8; Baines, 377.