LAKE, Gerard (1744-1808), of Aston Clinton, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. 27 July 1744, 2nd s. of Lancelot Charles Lake of Flambards, Harrow-on-the-Hill, Mdx. by Letitia, da. and coh. of John Gumley†, glass manufacturer and army contractor, of Isleworth, Mdx. educ. Eton 1755. m. 26 June 1770, Elizabeth, da. of Edward Barker of St. Julians, Herts., 3s. 5da. cr. Baron Lake 1 Sept. 1804 Visct. Lake 31 Oct. 1807.
MP [I] 1799-1800.
Ensign 1 Ft. Gds. 1758, lt. and capt. 1762, capt. and lt.-col. 1776; brevet col. 1782; a.d.c. to the King 1782; maj. 1 Ft. Gds. 1784; maj.-gen. 1790; lt.-col. 1 Ft. Gds. 1792; col. 53 Ft. 1794, 73 Ft. 1796; command in Ulster 1796-8; lt.-gen. 1797; c.-in-c. Ireland Apr.-June 1798; command in Leitrim June 1798-9; col. 80 Ft. 1800; c.-in-c. India Oct. 1800-July 1805, Bengal July-Oct. 1805, India Oct. 1805-Feb. 1807.
First equerry and commr. of stables to the Prince of Wales 1780-6, 1787-96; gent. attendant to the Prince 1796-d.; receiver-gen. of duchy of Cornwall Mar. 1807-d.
Lt.-gov. Berwick-upon-Tweed 1793-4; gov. Limerick 1794-7, Dumbarton Castle 1797-1807, Plymouth 1807-d.
Lake entered the army at the age of 14 and served with distinction in Germany from 1760 to 1763. A member of the Prince of Wales’s household from its establishment until his death, he was one of the few singled out by Wraxall as exceptions to the generally scurrilous characters who surrounded the young Prince. He was probably selected by the King in the hope that he would exert a beneficial influence on the Prince; and when he departed for service in America in 1781 he warned the Prince against becoming the political dupe of designing factions, and trusted that ‘you will not write any more letters to a certain sort of ladies’. Their relationship was close, at least during the early years, and in 1782 the Prince wrote of himself, his brother Frederick, and Lake as ‘our old triumvirate’.1
After several years devoted chiefly to the management of the Prince’s stables, when his passion for gambling was given full rein, Lake, who had been elected to Brooks’s in 1783, contested his neighbouring borough of Aylesbury at a by-election in February 1789 against a nominee of the Marquess of Buckingham. He was defeated, but continued to spend heavily in the town and was returned unopposed at the general election of 1790 and again in 1796. He voted with the Whig opposition on the Oczakov question, 12 Apr. 1791 and 1 Mar. 1792, and was reckoned a supporter of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in April 1791. In December 1792 he was listed among those Members who were ‘supposed attached’ to the Duke of Portland, with an additional acknowledgment of his connexion with the Prince. He was invited to a meeting of the ‘third party’ on 17 Feb. 1793 but did not attend, and on 26 Feb. he led a brigade to the Continent. He returned, after a severe illness, in October 1793 and resumed his command for a brief period in 1794. He spent the next two years in England, but is not known to have voted with opposition or to have broken his silence in the House. According to their electoral survey of 1796, ministers were hopeful of his support in the new Parliament, but he spent all except a few months of it on active service, with senior commands in Ireland, where he dealt ferociously with the rebels in 1798, and later in India, where he won a series of brilliant victories against the Mahrattas. He formally gave up his Commons seat at the dissolution of 1802.
The Prince of Wales’s revocation of Lake’s reversionary claim to the receiver-generalship of the duchy of Cornwall for Sheridan in 1804 was excused on the ground that Lake’s absence invalidated the patent, but it was said that in truth the Prince had been ‘greatly wounded’ by Lake’s behaviour towards him in some unspecified respect. Lake was granted the office for life, however, on his return from India in 1807. He was reputed to have brought back a fortune, but massive accumulated gambling debts had to be met and on his sudden death, 21 Feb. 1808, which appears to have caused the Prince genuine distress, he left his family in straitened circumstances. Government proposed and carried an annuity of £2,000 for his son and the two succeeding heirs, but the King, who was said to have rejected the initial proposal to give Lake a peerage in April 1804, ‘not having read up his Indian services’, expressed his hope that ministers would ‘admit this instance as a further proof of the impropriety of granting peerages where there is not any property to support the rank’.2
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: David R. Fisher
See H. Pearse, Mem. Visct. Lake (1908).
- 1. Wraxall Mems. ed. Wheatley, v. 383-4; Prince of Wales Corresp. i. 34, 35, 53, 55, 63.
- 2. Sheridan Letters ed. Price, ii. 213-15; iii. 21; Colchester, i. 481-2; Prince of Wales Corresp. vi. 2463, 2466; Lord Melbourne’s Pprs. 48; Farington, v. 28-29; Parl. Deb. x. 786; Add. 37415, f. 202; Geo. III Corresp. v. 3607.